It saddens me how quickly I have come to accept stereotypes in the country as fact. Since stepping foot off the plane in Namibia, I have been constantly told that many of the men in the country are players. They will try to sleep with you. They have many girlfriends, and cheat on the ones they do have. This was told to me constantly. I admit, they did it for my safety. They wanted all of us female volunteers to be prepared for the onslaught of attention we would receive from the men.
We would get approached on the streets. Strangers would come up and ask to marry us. Introduce us to their friends as their girlfriends or wives. It was easy to believe the stereotypes; it happened so often to me and my friends. I learned early on to never go out at night without a male friend around. It just wasn’t safe. My host mom even thought it was funny when a strange man started being very forward with me. He told me that his car was across the street and he had a house in town. I didn’t know him.
So, after months of hearing these stereotypes, and even worse, seeing them and experiencing them with my own eyes, I started to believe that all men were pigs. I was at a wedding, which was an affair that lasted all weekend. I had met this amazing family: a girl my age, her longtime boyfriend, son, father, and mother. I had spent the weekend with them, and had been thrilled and awed to hear about how the parents had been together for almost twenty years and were planning a giant anniversary party around Christmas. It made me happy to see an honest man willing to love one woman.
I had exchanged numbers with the daughter, excited to make a local friend. The next night I received a text from the father, asking if we could get to know each other better. My happiness was shattered. This man wasn’t what I had hoped he had been. He was just like all the rest.
So, I started to believe that every man I saw was a cheater willing to sleep with anyone. That they left their wives and children to move to ‘greener pastures’. Until I was hiking back to my home one afternoon. I was sitting in the back of a baki (truck), when this family joined me. It was a father, mother, and their two young children. They all looked nice, so it seemed they had spent the afternoon in town. The father sat down, and his children climbed in his lap to take a nap. For the next hour, he was making sure the sun wasn’t on them and that they were comfortable. He was so concerned about them. He would stroke his daughters hair absentmindedly as well.
I realized then that I had given in to the stereotypes of the country. I had believed upon first sight that this man was like the rest. But spending an hour with him, watching him interact with his children made me realize that not all men were like I had been told. Not all of them were like I had seen. It made me both ashamed of myself and ecstatic that there were exceptions to the stereotype.
I can’t wait to see what other horrible stereotypes are false as well!