Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa
Serving it up at Manenberg Primary!

Friday, January 20, 2017

All About Namibia

Happy inauguration day, everyone! Regardless of which candidate you voted for, I hope you have found peace and hope for the upcoming four years. Being outside of the US has definitely aided in that process, despite being frequently challenged and asked to defend American politics.

Also, a brief aside - my access to Wifi in Namibia is quite limited, which has made publishing blog posts quite difficult. Thanks for your patience, and hopefully better wifi is yet to come!


Had you heard of Namibia before? I hadn’t heard of it prior to preparing my application for the Keegan Fellowship. This blog post is to establish some background information on Namibia, before we jump in on its school feeding program.

Namibia: The basics, and clarifying the misleading basics
Namibia is located on the coast of southwestern Africa, right above South Africa. Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990, and had been a colony of South Africa since the end of WWII. The country has strong German, Dutch, and Afrikaans influence.

A Brief History
Namibia is home to at least 11 ethnic groups, with beautiful languages and cultures. The San, also called Bushmen, are the most famous cultural group in Namibia and are believed to be the oldest tribe in human history. The various ethnic groups traveled through and thrived in all terrains of Namibia.

Germany colonized Namibia (then called Deutsch Südwestafrika, or “German Southwest Africa”) in 1884 and maintained control until WWI. After Germany lost the war and its territories, the League of Nations “gave” Namibia to South Africa.  

During their time in Namibia, the Germans caused a lot of bloodshed; the Herero and Namaqua wars in the early 1900s wiped out 50-70 percent (24,000 to 65,000 people) of the Herero cultural group and 50 percent (10,000) of the Nama cultural group. In contrast, 150 German soldiers died.

The relationship between German South-West Africa and South Africa was … contentious. South Africa clung onto South-West Africa until war broke out in the late 1980s. The opposition party responsible for igniting the revolution, SWAPO, is still in power today. For a detailed look into the relationship between South Africa and Namibia, take a look here.

Despite being a large country, the population of Namibia is only 2.3 million citizens. The population density of Namibia is only 2.78 persons per square kilometer. In contrast, neighboring Angola has a population density of 20.07 persons per sq km, and the US is 20.35 persons per sq km. Most Namibians live in the northern part of Namibia, called the Caprivi Strip, or in the capital, Windhoek. A significant portion of Namibia’s geography is desert, which partly explains why the population is so concentrated in northern Namibia.

The Economics of Namibia
If you were to google “Namibia,” many websites would list Namibia as an “upper middle-income” African country. However it is important to clarify that while it is upper middle-income, wealth disparity is extreme in Namibia. In 2015, it had the highest GINI index in the world, meaning that its wealth polarization was higher than any other country. Wealth polarization is somewhat correlated with skin color; though White people take up only 6 percent of the population, they own almost 30 percent of all land in Namibia. This is likely reminiscent of Apartheid in Namibia when it was controlled by South Africa. Though locals have said that Namibia did not experience Apartheid as severely as South Africa, Namibian townships (the locations where Black people could legally live during Apartheid) carry disproportionate levels of poverty.

Image result for gini index

Currently, 27.6 percent of Namibians live in poverty, and 35 percent of Namibians live on less than $1 per day. Poverty tends to be more concentrated in rural areas, though major cities do have I’ll be writing about this later, but this wealth disparity creates an environment where Namibia’s school feeding programme can have a significant impact on breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

School Lunch Political Cartoons

Hi everyone!

I occasionally make internet searches of the US's National School Lunch Program because I want to make sure that I don't miss any news that come out about school lunches. It's amazing how being abroad can skew one's access to news!

While I was doing the good ol' Google search "school lunches," I noticed a Google suggestion that I hadn't noticed before ... "school lunch political cartoons." Oh ho ho.

I love political cartoons. How had I not thought to search this earlier?! Here are a few of my favorites, as well as the accompanying blog posts that discuss similar issues portrayed in the cartoons.

[This cartoon was the most perplexing to me ... This cartoon was made in 2012, around the time when  modern nutritional standards were beginning to be established... if you understand what this picture is getting at, please comment below!]

[This one was tough to see, but sadly I can't disagree with it. While Michelle Obama's changes to school lunches have been wholly needed, I believe we are still missing the equilibrium of "healthy" and "realistic;" almost all children will prefer highly processed, fat and sugar-laden meals, the challenge is creating a school and home environment that make eating healthily mainstream.]

[No words necessary!]

[I LOVE this cartoon!!]

[Big Ag = Big Agriculture or Agribusiness]

Aren't these wonderful, yet equally disheartening? It is easy to be cynical about big business's role in governmental spending. But, given the immense amount of work that has been done on school meals in the last 8 years, there is definite hope for the welfare of this welfare program. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone! Happy New Year! I hope you had a very merry holiday season (“Frohe Weihnachten” - “Merry Christmas” in German). I have been here in Germany for the holidays, but have also been a bit all over the place over the last month.

The Christkind und ich!

I haven’t written a blog post in awhile, mainly because I’ve been exploring different parts of Europe, and that I haven’t had consistent wifi over the last week. (It’s amazing how reliant I have become on wifi!). Expect some blog posts in the near future, as I’ll be in a stable place in a few days! But to recap over the last few weeks...

I was in London for a few weeks, which was absolutely amazing. I visited a few schools, worked with a few different organizations that are tangentially related to school lunches, and guzzled liters of delicious tea. I’ll write about this in a future blog post, but the UK has been wonderful for my research experience - I believe it is the most similar to the US program out of all of the European programs I’ve studied. I met some amazing Vanderbilt alumni, got back into soccer, and really just enjoyed being. Just being.

My best friend, Emily, came to visit me less than two weeks before Christmas, and we spent the majority of our time in the Balkans. I’ll also be posting a short blog post about my time in the Balkans, as it has been my favorite region of all Europe to be in.  It’s a historically-rich and tumultuous place. Emily and I specifically went to Podgorica, Kotor and Budva in Montenegro; Skopje, Macedonia; and (on accident), Belgrade, Serbia.

Downtown Skopje, Macedonia

When I say, “on accident” … we really were not supposed to be in Belgrade! A word to the wise if anyone is considering traveling in the Balkans: if the bus website says there is an overnight bus online, don’t believe it until you have the ticket in your hand!

The bus website said that there was a bus going from Budva to Skopje. However, when we arrived to purchase our tickets, the receptionists shot us a “... really?” look and told us there was no bus until three days later. Woof. The only way out of Budva for the next few days was to go to Belgrade.

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On a bus! I would wager that we spent about 5 hours flying on this trip, and 25 hours on bus rides.

I wasn’t too upset with going to Belgrade, though, it is my favorite European city! Once we made it down to Skopje, we were in the land of the statues. I kid you not, there are statues all over Skopje. We saw at least two hundred statues in our 2.5 day visit. While on a walking tour of the city, the tour guide said that the Macedonian government has “a very serious condition: copy/paste syndrome.” The mayor of Skopje and other governmental officials copied monuments (such as the Spanish Steps, bull statues from other European capitals, etc.) and pasted them in Skopje. It was both amusing and eery to see monuments “resurface” in Macedonia.

We flew back to London, Emily left, and I then went to Germany. I landed in Köln (Cologne) and visited the beautiful Christmas markets!

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The entrance to the Christmas Market!

Köln’s character is incredibly fun and funny. The tour guide said that the goal is get by in life while doing the least to do so! Call it laziness, call it being clever, but this concept manifests itself around the city! The government discovered ancient Roman ruins while installing a parking garage, and wanted to build a museum to highlight the ruins. Rather than build a building and move the ruins into the building, they just took away a few parking spaces in the parking garage and put on the “exhibit” there. Bahaha it was really fun listening to the Colognese culture - and have you heard of Carnival?

Next, I ended up in Straubing, Germany, a village in Bavaria. For those who do not know much about Bavaria, it was a separate country up until 1871. Even though it’s been merged with Germany for hundreds of years, it is incredibly patriotic to its Bavarian roots.

Bayrisches Familienfoto mit Dirndl & Lederhosen
Oktoberfest, dirndls, lederhosen, are all Bavarian!

Though I didn’t buy one, I did get the opportunity to try on a dirndl or two!

The Bavarian accent is also quite difficult to understand, which made for equally amusing and confusing conversations. I stayed with my American friend Monika, and her Bavarian boyfriend’s family in Straubing. It was so amazing. The food was delicious, Deutschmama and Deutschpapa (“German mom” and “German dad”) were so kind and fun to talk to, and being with loved ones during the holidays was really meaningful for me.

 Homemade Plaetzchen ("Christmas cookies")

"Downtown" Straubing

And then came the post-Christmas shopping. :) The temperature in Munich, Germany is pretty cold right now, about 20 F throughout the day. On January 3rd, I’ll be in Windhoek, Namibia, which is experiencing summer temperatures of 80+ F. I basically purchased a new wardrobe, which isn’t that many clothes to begin with! ;) A few shirts, a pair of pants, some new socks. Traveling light is helpful.

Tonight, I’m leaving Munich, where I’ve been at for the last few days, to go to Windhoek, Namibia. Everything about traveling to southern Africa feels like starting a new chapter. It’s a new year, a new continent, and I’m halfway done with my fellowship. It’s a bit strange, I feel like I’ve been gone from the United States for a really long time, but it also feels like things are moving more quickly. Though I still have half of my Fellowship to complete, I sense that the latter half will fly by.

Since I am halfway done, I want to take this time to thank you for following my blog. Even though I don’t know personally who is reading my blog, it is encouraging to know that you care about my journey. Traveling without a consistent community is difficult, so the small things - such as seeing that people are reading my posts - quite helpful for feeling like y’all are with me.


I got to use a squatty potty for the first time!