An Impromptu Dinner Party and a Night on the Town

I was cooking a big dinner of curry, brown rice, and lentils when Shunying decided she’d take a shower after her long journey and Princess laid down for a nap before dinner. Joanne knocked on the door. She knew it was around dinner time and was preparing to join us.

She was frustrated at her lack of internet access the day before when we landed, and her inability to reach Edwin Tijramba, who had suggested stopping by the day we landed. Joanne looked at the phone Jan Weiss left for us on the counter. “Does anyone know about this phone?” she said while holding it up. Suddenly, the phone began to vibrate in her hand.

“It must be Scobie,” referring to our new friend and driver who took us to the airport, and to go shopping. She handed the phone over to me.

“Hello,” I answered. I was greeted with a different Namibian accent than I knew Scobie to have. The person on the other line who was obviously confused by finding my voice at the other end. I asked him who he was trying to reach. “I am trying to reach Joanne,” I recognized the voice from hearing an audio sample he had sent along with Paula Leitz from her last visit as Edwin – our main contact and narrator for the film. “Is this Edwin?” I asked and proceeded to introduce myself. He told me he was right outside our gate. I told him great, and that Joanne would meet him up there to greet him.

I woke up Princess and told Shunying we had a guest and frantically cleaned up our modest cabin in an attempt for it to appear presentable to visitors. I briefly fretted my appearance before giving that up in favor of the task at hand. Princess emerged, groggy but excited to make Edwin’s acquaintance. Someone texted Maurice, attempting to rouse him from his jet lag nap. Edwin appeared at our door, with a smile on his face at seeing us all the first time.

Edwin receives his gifts of chocolate and coffee. From left to right: Joanne Lisosky, Princess Reese, Edwin Tijramba, Shunying Wang. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Edwin receives his gifts of chocolate and coffee. From left to right: Joanne Lisosky, Princess Reese, Edwin Tijramba, Shunying Wang. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

I awkwardly attempted the customary handshake and introduced myself, and we went down the line. I invited him to stay with us for dinner, and we offered him a glass of Pinotage, a distinctly South African red wine. He took us up on the offer.

Conversation was easy and friendly with Edwin. Having the large amount of background information provided to us by the Leitz’, as well as our extensive research on Namibia and the relationship between PLU, made the evening go smoothly and it began to inform the direction we would take in crafting interview questions and revising our story arc. 

Edwin Tijramba and Maurice Byrd shake hands after dinner. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Edwin Tijramba and Maurice Byrd shake hands after dinner. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

The hours passed easily, and soon it was time for us to see what Windhoek at night was like. Shunying tested her phone by calling Scobie, and somehow, Princess found out from him that there was a party that evening – a 1950s party at the Warehouse Theatre, a popular hangout for young Namibians. Scobie said he’d be happy to take us if we were ready in half an hour. 

Edwin stayed around while the three of us haphazardly put together “50’s” outfits. When we emerged, Edwin insisted taking a picture with the beautiful young women, and said he’d join us for a short while. 

All of us, dressed for a night out. Left to right: Shunying Wang, Andrea Capere, Edwin Tijramba, Princess Reese. Photo Credit: Joanne Lisosky

All of us, dressed for a night out. Left to right: Shunying Wang, Andrea Capere, Edwin Tijramba, Princess Reese. Photo Credit: Joanne Lisosky

We strolled up to the gate, where we noticed the dapper young Scobie – dressed in jeans, a blazer, and a scarf. 

We arrived at the Warehouse Theatre, a popular lounge and bar with young Namibians. It was 9:00pm local time and the place was packed with bodies. We were surrounded by beautiful, trendy people laughing and greeting one another warmly. This is in stark contrast to where Princess and I hail from where people look through and past you in a crowded room, barely acknowledging others’ existence. I find myself feeling more in touch with humanity and that there are so many of us when I am here. 

Scobie De Wet and Shunying Wang having fun at the Warehouse Theatre. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Scobie De Wet and Shunying Wang having fun at the Warehouse Theatre. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

We were struck by the friendliness, kindness, and affection that these people expressed to one another and to new friends. The touchiness and familiarity that the locals have with strangers is almost unnerving to a foreigner who might come from a more reserved or individualist society.  People are so friendly in fact, that they kept introducing us to more and more people, and asking where we were going next to join us. Windhoek is also a small city in terms of population – about 50% more in terms of population than my hometown, Tacoma, Washington. When they answered a call from a friend inquiring about where they were heading to next and who they were with, they said, “I’m going to Vibe with Scobie and the Americans.” Windhoek is also a very cosmopolitan, international city. Beyond its long history of colonization and numerous indigenous ethnic groups, people from all over visit and move there

Kapana is a spice and a traditional way of preparing beef. In the Township of Katatura, Ovambo men still share pieces of a cow they buy together to grill the meat and sell in the Single Quarter, an open air market. This tradition is seen all around Windhoek.

Kapana is a spice and a traditional way of preparing beef. In the Township of Katatura, Ovambo men still share pieces of a cow they buy together to grill the meat and sell in the Single Quarter, an open air market. This tradition is seen all around Windhoek. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

We eventually found ourselves with the assistance of Scobie at a nightclub called Vibe, a two story building with two bars, a dance floor, and pool boasting American hip hop and South African house music. We danced late into the night until we all fell asleep on our feet at about 2:00am. We marveled that locals regularly stay out until 5:00am with no difficulty. 

We hugged Scobie goodbye when he dropped us off in Pioneerspark, Windhoek – ready to embrace sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. 

A/V in Namibia

Today I had the pleasure of David Muller’s (production assistant to us for much of Melannie’s work during the UNAM graduation) company when we went to ConSoAV – a local audiovisual business that specializes in equipment rental and lighting, conference A/V, and local production (such as concerts and shows). ConSoAV had agreed to rent us lights for the during of our time shooting in Namibia and opened its doors to David and I today to switch out the previous lighting kit for something smaller and more suitable for quick set up and breakdown for our interviews of The Nine.

An employee at ConSoAV in the organized workspace. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

An employee at ConSoAV in the organized workspace. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

When we arrived, I met Brian, owner of ConSoAV. He led us through a winding labyrinth of nearly-empty shopping mall. The only business that was open at the time was a place that sells “take-aways” a South African colloquialism for “take out” in the United States. It was across from a field and near an industrial area. A small family was selling fruit under a tree.

We arrived in the large storage unit turned garage and my heart sang. The detritus of cannibalized stage lighting intermixed with sophisticated live-switching hardware felt like so many public television stations and theater back stages and that felt like home to me. I could have spent all day there fixing decrepit fresnels and fashioning sets of barn doors. It reminded me of the necessity of resourcefulness in any kind of creative endeavor. 

Boxes of gear oragized according to type. Shooting in Namibia and need light? Here's your place! Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Boxes of gear organized according to type. Shooting in Namibia and need light? Here’s your place! Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Production Assistant David Muller looks at some of the lights that are available. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Production Assistant David Muller looks at some of the lights that are available. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

The deft fingers of Brian and his coworkers quickly replaced broken parts with found materials. “This is Africa,” Brian said. “If it doesn’t work, we make it work.” I admired that ingenuity and silently hoped some of that would rub off on me.

We all work together to get the light kit set up properly. Photo Credit: David Muller

We all work together to get the light kit set up properly. Photo Credit: David Muller

FILMMAKERS EXPLORE THE VALUE of EDUCATIONAL CONNECTION ACROSS TIME AND CONTINENTS

N E W S    R E L E A S E

For immediate release

June 4, 2014

CONTACT: Andrea Capere [capereak@plu.edu]

FILMMAKERS EXPLORE THE VALUE of EDUCATIONAL CONNECTION ACROSS TIME AND CONTINENTS

What is the value of a college education to nine Namibians, to their country, to the world?

A group of documentary filmmakers from Tacoma, Washington USA are in Windhoek, Namibia during the month of June to uncover what higher education meant to a group of Namibians who studied in the U.S nearly 20 years ago. The filmmakers, made up of alumni, faculty, staff and students from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) in Tacoma, will unearth the stories of nine Namibians who left their homes to obtain degrees in higher education in the U.S. and the profound impact this experience has had on their lives, careers, and nation.

“Namibia Nine” will be narrated by Edwin Tjiramba, Director for Communications and Marketing for the University of Namibia, who as part of a select group of 100 Namibians was awarded the opportunity of a lifetime in the late 1980’s–to study at various universities in the United States of America.  They left Namibia as part of a post-apartheid strategy by the Namibian Lutheran Churches in collaboration with their American and German counterparts to give promising young leaders the opportunity to obtain college degrees that were not previously available to them in their home country.  Tjiramba began his journey in higher education, along with eight colleagues, at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.  

“I was born in Namibia,” Tjiramba said. “But my future began at PLU.”

Over the years, a total of nine have graduated from PLU and returned to their homeland. Now, almost 20 years later, Tjiramba graduated from the University of Namibia this year with a degree in law. His PLU alumni colleagues have been equally successful in their careers, from forensics to foreign relations, education to environmental policy making. The US filmmakers are exploring the deep relationship these Namibians have with each other and the university they call their “home away from home.”

“Namibia Nine” is sponsored by the Wang Center for Global Education at Pacific Lutheran University. The project is being supervised by Professor Joanne M. Lisosky, Ph.d. and Melannie Denise Cunningham, M.B.A. and Director of Multicultural Recruitment at PLU.

The project has a broad focus with a presence on Facebook (Namibia Nine), WordPress (www.namibianine.wordpress.com) and Instagram. Most unique for PLU, the project has developed a crowdfunding site (www.indiegogo.com/projects/namibia-nine).

The filmmakers:

Andrea Capere: PLU graduate (2014)

Princess Reese: PLU graduate (2014)

Shunying Wang: PLU student

Maurice Byrd: PLU student

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Visuals attached

President Reike with the Namibian Students in the 1980s.

President Reike with the Namibian Students in the 1980s. (Courtesy Doug Page)

Google Translate Teaches Human New Tricks

Andrea Capere

We have had the pleasure of meeting another Namibian who shares the Pumula Accommodations with us. Meet Sammy, our new production assistant:

Sammy the Yellow Lab

Sammy, a Yellow Labrador. Always has a smile on his face, always a team player. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Sammy often keeps us company in the afternoons and evenings when we hang around working. He lays on the kitchen floor keeping us company when we cook, hoping we’ll disobey the house rules of never feeding him (we always supply him with a big bowl of water when he comes by). When we’re feeling homesick, he’s always ready to lend a slobbery kiss or giant puppy hug.

Princess and Shunying with Sammy in the Cabin. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

Princess and Shunying with Sammy in the Cabin. Photo Credit: Andrea Capere

I noticed when trying to tell Sammy to sit, stay, and shake he was not responding. Confounded, and also knowing our hosts are Afrikaaners, I put these words into Google Translate. I found that skud means shake in Afrikaans. I looked at Sammy and said, “skoood!” and he presented his paw to shake as his tongue hung out of his mouth. 

It’s been a lot easier working with Sammy now.

Cuddles!

Sammy and I cuddle for the camera. Photo Credit: Shunying Wang

A New Adventure

Andrea Capere

It’s almost unbelievable that in less that 48 hours I’ll be on a plane headed to a completely different country, continent, season, and hemisphere. Just yesterday I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University, following in the same steps of Edwin and the others. It is surreal to be beginning a new challenge so suddenly. I have my passport and my itinerary. I have a phone with a Namibian number and power adaptors; these are the mundanities that make it real. So, I know I’m not imagining things.

Graduated!

Me, hugging one of my surrogate moms after graduating. Something Edwin, Penda, and the others probably did two decades ago. Credit: Nathan Roemmich

I am so fortunate and privileged to have this opportunity, and I only hope that I can learn from their life histories and I can help to tell their story respectfully. Filmmaking has always been a love of mine, and I think it is necessary to do so with social justice at the heart of it. That is the power of documentary film that I find so arresting – the power to help make the world a little more thoughtful and contemplative.

Nothing gets me more impassioned than a meaningful story. I still remember when Joanne asked me if I wanted to be a part of this thing. She knows how to make the pitch. She makes the hardest work sound phenomenal (and it usually is!). I am not one to turn down an adventure like the one I am about to embark on. This is the stuff independent filmmakers dream of.

When I think about the obstacles that The Nine faced I know there are few stories that are more meaningful to us now than equity, education, and social change. I never faced the realities of coming of age in a newly independent country that codified laws keeping Black Namibians out of higher education. However, I am not so naive to think that the United States has not had similar legal structures in place to disadvantage those of darker skin. After all, it’s not that long ago that the Brown v. Board of Education case was heard in our Supreme Court. We still feel the aftermath of education tracking even now in this country. This is a story not only meaningful to Namibia, but all over the world.

Pre Production

All of us, at the second to last meeting before flying out. Left to Right: Joanne Lisosky, Princess Reese, Andrea Capere, Maurice Byrd. Credit: Shunying Wang

So, no pressure.

I am feeling a lot of excitement mixed with a healthy dose of self-doubt. No complex storytelling project dependent upon technological and narrative skills is devoid of that. But I do know that nothing beats a hardworking, committed, enthusiastic, and open-minded team. And my fellow filmmakers have those qualities in spades.

Here’s to 20+ hours of plane travel, jet lag, learning, and a lot of the unknown.

❤ Andrea

About Namibia Nine

Namibia Nine is about the power of collaboration across borders, and the role that access to education plays in creating a more just world.

Edwin Tjiramba was a young man when he left post-apartheid Namibia for an education in the United States. Under apartheid rule, Black Namibians were barred from higher education. When the opportunity to study abroad at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA arose in the early 1990’s, he took it. “I was born in Namibia,” Tiramba said, “but my future was born at PLU.” Eight other students joined him throughout the decade.

Almost twenty years later, he is graduating with a law degree from the University of Namibia. Training in the field of law is fundamental to the shaping of young Namibian leaders. It provides the background necessary to ensure better opportunities than were available 30 years ago. ensuring that illegal rule never happens again in his country. His cohort are now working in all sectors, from forensics to foreign relations, changing the world for the better. It is a story about the power of education, and the agency of those who use it for good.