Motherhood

17 Surprising Things About Parenting in Namibia

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

It’s that time of year again! We’re so happy to kick off our fifth annual Motherhood Around the World series with Kaylan Reid Shipanga in Namibia. Kaylan, a freelance writer, lives with her husband, Elago, and their two-year-old son, Lance, in the city of Otjiwarongo. Here, she shares 17 surprising things about living in Namibia, including big responsibilities for young kids and the hard-to-make food that her son loves…

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

The capital city of Windhoek

On first impressions: In 2010, I moved from New York to Namibia for a year to teach English and computer classes to high school students. I arrived in the capital, Windhoek, at night. When I woke up the next morning and opened the blinds, I was taken aback by how stunning the landscape was. The city is surrounded by tall mountains, and the air is so fresh. I also noticed the beautiful, rich reddish-brown hue of the soil here. I picked up a few stones that first day that I still display at home.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On meeting her husband Elago: I originally signed a contract for one year in Namibia, but I already knew I wanted to stay longer. Still, I never thought I’d meet my husband overseas! Six months after I arrived, Elago (his name means ‘lucky’ in his mother tongue, Oshiwambo) became an English teacher at my school. We started chatting during breaks, and soon enough we were inseparable. Even though he grew up in a rural village community with huts and I grew up in New York City with skyscrapers, we felt so similar and really connected.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

A traditional hut in Elago’s home village

On dating: When Elago and I met, we were teaching in a small town near his family’s village, and people started telling his mother that they’d been seeing her son around town with ‘the American teacher.’ She initially didn’t approve since casual dating was not common in her tribe. But after we decided to get married, Elago brought me to his village for a few weeks. The language barrier was awkward at first — his mother knew only a bit of English and I knew only a bit of Oshiwambo. But after we announced we were engaged, she took me under her wing and we became close. We got married in 2014, and had our son exactly nine months later.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On pregnancy: In the U.S., people will often offer a pregnant woman their seat or hold the door open, but in Namibia, they’re less catered to. You’ll see very pregnant women working in the fields, carrying heavy loads on their heads or walking long distances under the hot sun. Private healthcare is expensive, so most local women go to public hospitals that have shortages of staff and equipment. It’s also not uncommon for pregnant women from rural areas to sleep in tents outside hospitals near their due dates, so they don’t have to travel so far when they go into labor. For these reasons, my husband and I decided to go to New York when I was five months pregnant to have the baby there. It was a huge privilege to have that option.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On welcoming Lance: When we first brought our son Lance to my husband’s village (which is five hours from the city where we live now) to meet my mother-in-law, the family performed two Aawambo tribe rituals. The first was something they do for anyone coming into the home for the first time or after a long time away: they put a paste-like substance on his forehead in the shape of a cross, a symbol of welcome. Then Elago and his cousins went into the fields where all the animals were grazing and picked a goat to slaughter for a big family meal in honor of the first born-child. It was a wonderful day. My son is now considered the son of everyone in the tribe. Whenever we visit, men, women and children will take him right out of my lap.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

Kaylan visiting the Himba tribe

On diversity: One of the things I love most about Namibia is being exposed to so many different cultures. There are about 13 major tribes in the country, and they have different languages and customs. For example, my husband’s Aawambo tribe (the largest in Namibia and also called the Ovambo or Owambo) revolves around planting and harvesting a grain called ‘mahangu,’ while the Herero and Himba tribes revolve around cattle/livestock. Despite their differences, they all live pretty peacefully side by side. There are also many people from other African nations living in Namibia. It’s a true melting pot.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On home life: We live in a modern apartment complex with hot water, electricity and Wi-Fi. We have two bedrooms, so although Namibians are much more into co-sleeping, we decided to buy a crib. But it ended up not fitting through our front door, so Lance is still in our bed! I speak English to Lance; at his daycare they speak English and Afrikaans; and my husband also speaks his mother-tongue Oshiwambo to him. There’s no shame around breastfeeding here, and I feel comfortable feeding my son in public. I often see women walking down the street with a breast exposed as their children nurse.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On toys: Before I became a parent, I imagined pushing my child on the swings at a park, but playgrounds just aren’t a thing here. Sometimes it’s challenging to come up with activities, but we often hang out at the local tennis court while our son throws a ball around. The toys they sell in our city are similar to American toys, but the kids in my husband’s rural village play with whatever is lying around — sticks, sand and nuts on the ground. When Lance visits, he does what his cousins do. I really like that it’s more relaxed; it’s such a different vibe from city life.

On entertainment: Our city is pretty small. Part of me wishes it were as developed as the capital, where there are spoken-word events, natural hair meet-ups, race car driving, a movie theatre, malls and nightclubs. But the other part of me appreciates its cozy simplicity. Our town’s parks are just grassy areas along the main road. There are no benches, so people bring blankets. We buy grilled meat from the street vendors and find a shady spot together. Eating meat, talking and having a beer or a soda in the grass is a classic Namibian thing.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

Kaylan with her husband’s grandmother

On date nights: We haven’t had a date night since our son was born, but before parenthood, we would go to boxing matches or to the local open market for barbecued beef. Dating activities are simple in Namibia, but you realize you don’t need that much to enjoy each other. We also just go on walks. Our very first date was a walk through the small town just outside of Elago’s home village. As we walked he greeted people he knew and told me about who they were. We ended up sitting under a huge Baobab tree and chatting – it was such a relaxed and special date.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On traditional porridge: The staple food in my husband’s tribe is a porridge called oshifima, made with a type of millet called mahangu. The flavor is pretty plain, but we all love it. It’s eaten daily for lunch and dinner — usually served with meat and sauce — and sometimes for a child’s breakfast when mixed with a yoghurt-y milk. For a long time, my mother-in-law gently encouraged me to learn how to make it (she would leave the flour with me when she went to work), and I finally got the hang of it. I always wanted her to give me measurements, but nobody uses them, so I learned through trial and error. You just boil water and keep adding flour while stirring, but it’s super challenging because the porridge quickly becomes very thick. There’s a whole art to it. You need a lot of arm strength!

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On beef: Staple foods vary depending on the tribe, but the one common denominator across Namibia is beef. This is a beef-obsessed nation; it’s like a national pastime. You’ll find people selling barbecued beef on streets all around Namibia — the smell is intoxicating. Before I moved here, I wasn’t a big meat person, but it’s so delicious that I’ve been converted. They slaughter the cow right before they cook it, so it’s much fresher and tastier than any meat I’ve had in the States. My son loves it, too. When he was just six months old, a relative gave him a beef bone to suck on. I had just started him on solids and wasn’t totally comfortable with it, but in the name of being polite I let it slide. He loved it, of course, and has loved meat ever since.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On children’s jobs: Many children are given big responsibilities at young ages. In my husband’s tribe, young boys are expected to tend to cattle, and girls help with cooking and housework. I’ve seen young boys at work rowing a canoe through an alligator laden river. I’ve seen boys driving donkey carts all on their own and I’ve seen little girls carrying babies and helping their mothers pound flour into the ground. My husband and I have talked about it, and we want Lance to take part in doing things for the village. It’s the culture of his Namibian side — they live off the land. The last time we went to the village, my son had just learned to walk, so Elago took him to get cattle in the fields. With girls, they start with small things, and they just fall into it. By the time they are 13, they can make the porridge.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On feeling special: Weddings are a big deal in my husband’s tribe, so we got married in his hometown. During weddings, the women of the tribe sing and ululate, which is a high pitch trilling sound. Also, a week before our wedding, we had to officially announce that we were getting married during the town’s Sunday church service. My father and my best friend came from the States, so everywhere we went in town that week, women would recognize us and start ululating, at restaurants or just walking down the street. It was so beautiful and made me feel really special. It was like a welcoming.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On having a Namibian wedding: Namibians often get married around holidays but there is only one church in town, so we had to share it with three other couples. I was initially worried about that, but it ended up being fine. Our wedding pastor was a dynamic woman who gave sermons in both English and Oshiwambo. Then we went to my husband’s village and were greeted by his family elders, who performed a ceremony to officially welcome us. People stuck spears into the ground, each one representing a cow they had given us. Then we sat under a large tree to pray and receive gifts from guests. Finally, we entered our reception tent, which was very similar to a wedding back in the States, with music, dancing, American-style side dishes, meats and fish, and of course, the traditional porridge!

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On the police: As a black mother, there is a sense of ease that I feel here that I don’t in the States. For many African Americans in the U.S., the fear of a police stop ending badly feels very real. In Namibia, the black people I know aren’t scared when they’re stopped by cops. Race relations are far from perfect (before its independence in 1990, Namibia was formerly a part of apartheid South Africa), but worrying about my husband and son during routine police stops isn’t a fear of mine.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

On moving back: I miss my friends and family in New York, but I think we’ll be in Namibia for at least a few more years. It’s more affordable and there’s a lot of work opportunity here for us right now. I’m also happy that Lance has such a rich culture to experience, and, as a person of African descent, I love embracing the traditions of my husband’s tribe. The value of knowing one’s tradition and culture is immeasurable.

Motherhood Around the World: Namibia

Thank you so much, Kaylan! If you’d like to read more, Kaylan is the editor-in-chief of African American in Africa, a site that chronicles the experiences of African Americans living across the African continent.

P.S. The full Motherhood Around the World series including moms in Norway and India.

(Photos courtesy Kaylan Reid Shipanga. Interview by Megan Cahn.)

  1. A says...

    Late to comment but loved this post so much. So much to reflect upon–particularly the thoughts about growing up with strong cultural roots and the support of a community. Really beautiful.

  2. I loved reading every single sentence of this. So beautiful. Esp this part : “I love embracing the traditions of my husband’s tribe. The value of knowing one’s tradition and culture is immeasurable.”

  3. heather says...

    Wow, I think I must say this every time, but this is one of my favorite Motherhood posts! (I had to google where Namibia was!)

  4. Lauren says...

    What a beautiful family and what an amazing mother Kaylan is. Thank you for sharing their story and the rich culture of Namibia. . (I also LOVE the doc “Babies”.)

  5. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story and photos! What an adventure your life has been so far.

  6. What a great and interesting post to read. I wish them all the best and many more great memories to share with the world.

  7. Amy says...

    I love this! The video of them being welcomed into the video made me tear up a little, so nice to see the whole village support the marriage. Thanks for sharing your story Kaylan!

  8. Staying connected with your roots is necessary in this era. Great post.

  9. Liana Da Silva says...

    I got a chance to visit lovely Namibia this year. It’s such an extraordinary country with breathtaking scenery and rich culture. Thank you, Kaylan, for sharing your beautiful story with us.
    I’m hoping to go back to Namibia really soon, as I fell in love with the country!

  10. RT says...

    I am thrilled this series is back! Loved this!

  11. Johanna says...

    Thank you so much for sharing her story! I loved it! It’s so hard for Americans to hear real stories from Africa that don’t involve violence or atrocities. Loving, wonderful people are everywhere and I’m so thankful that you shared this story!

    I was especially taken aback by the comment about police in Namibia. Not that it doesn’t seem reasonable, it’s just still startling and sad to hear.

    Thank you!

  12. Amy says...

    I love this series and this post!!! It is fascinating to get the slice of life from all over the world. Please let me know if you’re interested in what it’s like to be a parent in Hong Kong :) I have been here for 10 years and my three girls were born here, in the hospital on the Peak; one during a T8 typhoon…

  13. Kirsty says...

    So happy this series is back! This was au Jc an interesting read, and the whole family have such beautiful smiles :)

  14. I love that you started this series again. I love it ! love it!

  15. Emma says...

    “Even though he grew up in a rural village community with huts and I grew up in New York City with skyscrapers, we felt so similar and really connected.” – Beautiful

  16. Ack, Kaylan! Damn you autocorrect

  17. I loved this one so much. Kalyan and her family just look so HAPPY, in every single photo. Amazing. And Lance is one seriously cute little guy. From all the way over here in Italy, you warmed my heart!

  18. deborah matalon says...

    Beautiful! The police issue broke my heart! C’mon AMERICA!!!

    • Liz says...

      Mine too :-(

    • Kristin says...

      Yes!

  19. Wow, Kaylan’s account of her life here is fascinating. I’ve loved this annual series; it is always so interesting to hear other mothers speak from their hearts about their lives and parenting experiences. Thank you.

  20. Emily says...

    How beautiful. I love reading these stories from mother’s living around the world!

  21. GRN says...

    Yaaaaay. So glad this series is back!!

  22. Mandy Winter says...

    So beautiful! Please keep these posts coming :)

  23. Such a lovely life-affirming story. I had to go make porridge after reading. It was a good thing to do :)

    • LOL! I love that you went and made porridge! Porridge is always a good thing :)

  24. Renee says...

    As always, I loved this Motherhood Around the World! Thanks for sharing.

  25. I don’t have a child, but am enthralled with everything about this series. This article was particularly interesting! Thanks!

  26. Jane says...

    I’m so happy this series is back! It’s like the anti-instagram – something that feels real and in-depth. Her story is so interesting too!

  27. What an incredible family.
    I so love this series!

  28. What a radiantly joyful family, beautiful story, and touching post! I love what Kaylan writes about “The value of knowing one’s tradition and culture is immeasurable.” It breaks my heart, though, to read the reality of race-based fear of living in the US… I hope that Kaylan and her family, as well as all people, are safe and able to thrive wherever they are. Thank you, Cup of Jo team, for another delightful Motherhood Around the World post!

  29. Jenny says...

    What a wonderful post, this series is by far my favorite. Thank you so much!!

  30. What an amazing post! I loved hearing about her experience (even if I did have to google where in Africa Namibia is…). I especially loved hearing about the different traditions in the various tribes. So fascinating! Thank you, thank you for sharing all of this!!

    • :-) That’s okay, a lot of people (including me before I moved here) have to google where Namibia is! It doesn’t get much attention around the world!

  31. Bethley says...

    What a lovely family! My brother’s name is Lance. When we were kids in the 80s, we joked that there were only 100 Lances in the world. I love that people are still using that name.

  32. Bethany says...

    My favorite series, and I loved this post. Bravo for being frank about the fear of police in the U.S. vs not so much in Namibia. Thank you for sharing this rich life that you live, Kaylan!

  33. It’s infuriating that fear is part of the American experience for African Americans. Racism is such a scourge.

  34. Yulia says...

    I’m glad to see this series expanding to new parts of the world. It’s not easy to transplant your life to a new country, but Kaylan seems to have done it with grace. Her son is lucky to be close enough to his family’s village that it is still a part of his life even though Kaylan and Elago don’t live there.

  35. Love her simple lifestyle. Need to do a better job of living this way.

  36. Lauren E. says...

    What a gorgeous family! Fascinating read. Thank you for this!

  37. Blair says...

    I love reading about Kaylan’s connection with Elago—when you know, you know. ❤️❤️

  38. adriane says...

    I’m so happy this series is back. What a wonderful way to raise a child!

  39. Kelly says...

    What a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing!

  40. This was such a great read!!
    I love that you shared this with us! What an experience!

    Maria

  41. Gretchy says...

    I love this series!! Thank you for continuing it this summer.

  42. I love this series soooo much!

  43. Cynthia says...

    I love this series! So great to learn about the world and different cultures using motherhood as the lens. Lance is a darling little guy.

  44. This is seriously the best series on the internet. THANK YOU for bringing it back every year. I love hearing how women raise their families in other cultures.

  45. Ann M Hanson says...

    I love these Motherhood posts and look forward to them. Kaylan has such a beautiful family. It broke my heart to read that she can be at ease with routine police stops in Namibia…but not in her home country. That needs to change.

  46. Colleen says...

    Wow, loved this!

  47. Nina says...

    Thank you for sharing your story and impressions! I’m glad to have learned and seen more about life in Namibia.

  48. I love the story of their first date!

  49. Jenny says...

    Yay I’m so happy this is back! This is one of the highlights of my week…. the articles are just so interesting and make me want to travel!

  50. Kim Vukovich says...

    I loved this! It was so interesting. What a beautiful family!

  51. Stephanie says...

    This is my absolute favorite series. Thanks for bringing it back!

  52. Kelly says...

    Wow, Kaylan, you have such an infectious smile!

  53. Rebekka says...

    I LOVE that series! Thank you!!

  54. Lisa says...

    I love this series. Each mother’s individual relationship to the country she is raising children in is unique and captivating. This one, however, stands out as incredibly special. Thanks for sharing!

  55. Liz says...

    Great series, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Kaylan’s life. Any chance you could interview her for a post on outfits? Love her style.

    • My wardrobe is pretty boring to me! I’m faaar from a fashionista!! I’ve been thinking I needed to improve it actually and that I fell off after becoming a mother lol! But thank you :) This comment lifted my spirits!

  56. Liz says...

    Great series, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Kaylan’s life. Any chance you could interview her for a post on outfits? Love her style.

  57. Chelsea says...

    So fascinating! And her son is so adorable!

  58. joe says...

    YEY!!!!
    it’s back!!
    Love love love this series!!!

  59. Michelle says...

    A beautiful family! This post prompted me to look through the previous posts and I would echo another comment that it would be great to have some follow up posts from some of the previous posters how they’re getting along/any new insights from spending even longer in a place.

  60. Adrienne says...

    Thank you for bringing this series back. It is my favourite!

  61. Meg says...

    Wonderful. What a good life you are making together. And what a beautiful boy!

  62. Egle says...

    absolutely love these serious!!! well done girls and am so excited for more stories and getting to know what the life is in other countries :)

  63. What a wonderful read, sitting in the comfort of my own home and reading about Namibian motherhood.

  64. Lee Ann says...

    This series is such a beautiful way to educate and experience cultures from across the globe. If only more people were exposed to other ways of living and growing; Its the realization that we are of one shared humanity all striving for the same basic goals! Love, family, friendship.

    What you do is lovely for us, Jo.

  65. Jenny says...

    Ahh, yes, my favorite series! This post was fascinating. I was lucky enough to visit a good friend in Namibia while she was working there as a Peace Corps volunteer about 7 years ago, and it was as beautiful and warm as Kaylan makes it seem. I’m also inspired to adopt a more simplistic parenting style after reading this. It’s all too easy to get caught up in obsessing over everything kid-related (feeding, sleep, pre-school, etc.) here in the US, so it’s very helpful to be reminded that parenting looks different all over the world, and that there are many, many ways to be a good parent.

    • So glad you were able to experience Namibia’s beauty!

  66. Farah says...

    Beautiful post. Beautiful family.

  67. Nat says...

    Beautiful family. Thank you for sharing! Hoping you soak in and cherish that simple life as much as possible:)

    • I am reminding myself to appreciate it because at times I admittedly get frustrated/bored. Then other times I bask in it :)

  68. Wendela says...

    Great post–loved reading about this woman’s interesting life. I kind of wanted to travel and meet someone and start a new family/life abroad but was scared about being so split (with people I love scattered so far across the globe). Instead I moved across the US and have a 3000 mile split between my daily life and people I love back home. I loved experiencing this expat parenting life vicariously. It would be really interesting to follow up with this woman (and others in the series) a few years down the road. Kaylen seems like someone I’d want to be friends with, which makes the world seem like a smaller, friendlier place than it sometimes otherwise does!

    • Yes, the distance from family is challenging! So happy you find me friend-worthy :) Lovely comment!

  69. Nadia says...

    This series is so affirming. I love hearing all the ways parenting can differ around the world and appreciate the generosity of the participants’ being so open with their experiences. Thank you!

  70. Lindsay says...

    Africa seems like an exotic place out of a movie! How exciting to be able to experience a completely different environment, culture and lifestyle. Enjoy your time there.

    • Jill says...

      I would just be careful about referring to it as ‘Africa’. She lives in Namibia and Africa is not a country.

    • AnnieLoops says...

      It’s reductive when you take a story about a single nation and then refer to it as an entire continent. Perhaps you mean Namibia sounds like a place out of a movie? Maybe. But it’s surely no more exotic to them than the US is to you.

    • Just like USA is not America. America is a continent, not a country. A brasilian is also an american, so is a mexican, the same way a french person is also european.

    • jules says...

      Jumping all over people to over-educate/lecture them rarely has the desired effect. Should the word “exotic” be thrown out of the language? It’s contextual by definition.

    • Agnes says...

      I find it a little churlish for 3 people to jump on Lindsay for this comment. Africa as a continent is surely fairly exotic for most people who aren’t from there, and Namibia is in Africa. I don’t think she means any harm. I hope your well wishes are received in the spirit they were intended, Lindsay.

    • MrsD says...

      I agree, Lyndsay :) I love “meeting” these women and learning a bit about different cultures. Her life there looks so different from what I experience in the US. That does make it seem exciting, brave, daunting…..all those things….to move so far from home and start a new life! I can nearly feel the warmth and happiness coming from Kaylan in this post! One of my favorites!
      It really makes me want to travel more!!
      -Also, it would be fun to follow up with her after/if she moves back to New York.

    • AL says...

      Jules, I agree that over-educating people rarely has the desired effect. Lindsay is clearly well-intentioned, and that’s what matters here. Nevertheless I can tell from the responses of this thread that the word “exotic” and the idea of conflating the cultures of an entire region can be triggering to many. We each bring our own experiences to the table; many might say I’m being oversensitive, but I have to admit that it does bother me when others use “exotic” to refer to me, my ethnicity or my culture…

  71. Janine says...

    This is the best series. So glad that its back. Keep it coming!

  72. This was enthralling. I love reading about couples who embrace one or the other’s country and culture. I married an Iranian man in the early 1970s and so enriched my life by living there and becoming part of his family. How sad that politics now make returning a near impossibility.

    • Vale says...

      ❤️

    • My mom (American) married my dad (Iranian) in the early 80s! Luckily, we’ve been able to go back and forth many times without any issues. It’s a beautiful place and I traveling there is always a treat.

    • Your cross-cultural experience sounds fascinating! Definitely something I’d love to read about!

  73. Susan says...

    Gorgeous family! What an amazing childhood!

  74. Nan says...

    My jaw is dropping – they’re such a beautiful family and Kaylan’s story is like a wonderful fairy tale. This was a very moving read, and it’s my favorite of the whole series! I hope she writes a book based on her life, just putting that out there, hint hint. :-)

    • Thanks so much! I really want to write a book, and now that I’m (kinda) settled into motherhood I hope to begin writing. Thank you so much for the needed encouragement!

  75. Aislinn says...

    This has to be one of my favorite segments on your site. While I’m not a parent (and don’t plan to be for a very long time!), I dream of raising my children with a wide open world view and traveling with them or living outside of the U.S. at least for some time, even if it is a short stint. I love reading about parenting in other cultures!

  76. Jac says...

    LOOK. AT. THAT. FAT. BABY. Squish! This sounds wonderful.

    • LOL Yes, he was a big chubby boy as an infant :)

  77. Lisa says...

    Such an interesting article – really glad this series is back. I’ve always wanted to visit Namibia (as a South African, I think of it as a neighbour) and it was great to be able to learn so much.
    I third the suggestion of beauty around the world!

    • Lauren S says...

      Yes! Beauty around the world, please!

  78. Holly says...

    What an absolutely beautiful family! This was by far the most interesting post of the series to me. I loved how Kaylan embraced her husbands culture, so wonderful.

  79. k says...

    Hi Joanna,
    K here. I know I’ve said this before on your site but you have a fantastic book here. Just fascinating information and such a broad perspective on parenting and how many “right” ways there are to do it. One title idea would be “Profiles in Parenting” A world view. I really hope you will put this together at some time. A truly original idea and provocative concept you have presented which not only educates and enlightens but reminds us that parenting is one of the universal human activities that binds us no matter what part of the world we live in. Thank you Joanna for such brilliant work!
    k

    • B says...

      I second this! Oh man, a big. beautiful coffee table book! The type of one that guests pick up and peruse… and learn something fascinating and new that they take away with them (like I do with every post in this series ☺️)! I’d certainly gift that to everyone I knew 🙌🏼❤️

    • Jen says...

      Yes! A book please!!

    • I agree, this series would make a fantastic anthology!

  80. Libbynan says...

    Thanks so much for this series. I just love it and recommend it to my daughter and all her friends. It shows so many differences and similarities all over the world. In the end, all parents just want happy, healthy children.

  81. Such a beautiful family!

    Fascinating Q&A — thanks for sharing, Kaylan.

  82. Alice says...

    Ah it’s back, my summer is complete!!!
    Loved this so much. It was a really tender, loving, profile of a life and culture that Kaylan has clearly become a part of. Really beautiful way to kick the series off this year – thank you!

  83. Maria says...

    I really loved this post, it was very inspiring. To get the whole picture, I have also wondered how Kaylan percieves the relationship between men and women in Namibia, and how it affects her and the son she raises. Would have been interesting to know!

    • Carolin says...

      I wondered the very same thing! Traditions are such a strange thing and can be wonderful and so restricting at the same time. I imagine it must be difficult to navigate when you want to be/ have to be part of the family/ community and still have your Western uprbringing in your mind? Have to click on her site right away to find out more!

  84. This one totally made me tear up at my desk! I love this series so much… Signed, A Very Single Non-Mom

  85. As a Namibian reader of CoJ can you imagine how many times I blinked after reading the post title?!? Thanks for publishing an awesome reflection on living in Namibia. Made my heart glow.

  86. Jennifer says...

    I always love tho series, but this one is really touching, and her photos really come alive! I’d love to walk in her shoes for a bit 😁

    Love this blog!

  87. Tanya B says...

    Yay!! I am so happy this series is back. It is what originally brought me to the sites, and I look forward to it every summer. Thanks for putting this together!

  88. Katy says...

    Lovely story. I love this series. LOVE IT. Keep it coming!

  89. Leigh says...

    Fantastic post!

  90. Alexis says...

    Can Kaylan also do a beauty routine post?!
    Her skin is flawless and would love insight to products she uses in Namibia.

    • Amy says...

      I would love that, too! Even though they may not be things we can buy in the US, it would still be so interesting to learn about! Actually, a “Beauty Around the World” version of this series would be so cool!

    • Lily says...

      Beauty around the world is a brilliant idea BTW, I am all about my Indian mother-in-law’s old school Ayurvedic face care and would love to see the latest from South Korea, for example!

    • Katie says...

      I wondered this, too! Would be interested to know how/if she adjusted her style, fashion, and beauty routines after moving there. And her skin is flawless!

    • B says...

      YES! Beauty around the world!! Who knows what interesting tips we could get from other cultures and generations!! 🙌🏼

    • Emily K says...

      Beauty around the world! Yes please! Do it!!

    • Kimberley says...

      Yes yes yes! Beauty around the World! I can only imagine how fantastic it would be :)

    • Aya says...

      Second the request for “Beauty Around the World” and specifically Kaylan.

    • Wow, this is so heartwarming for me to hear because I was literally just complaining to my best friend the last week about how I thought my skin wasn’t looking great. The climate here is very dry and I’ve been feeling like I don’t have access to the products I’d like to use to moisturize it and just frustrated with the dryness. But truthfully all I need to do is drink more water!

      My skin care routine is extremely simple. I have been using Neutrogena Acne Free Wash for years. I wash my face every morning. And I wear MAC concealer to brighten up under my eyes…rarely foundation only because I haven’t found a brand I really like yet. I don’t even rinse off my make-up every day (embarrassing)! I think my iPhone camera and the natural light also makes things look more flawless than they really are LOL

      Thank you all so much for the kind words! I will stop scrutinizing my skin so much!

  91. mm says...

    Great post. Many blessings to this wonderful family

  92. Amelia says...

    I think this is my favorite entry in the series so far! So moving to see intimate moments in creating a cross-cultural family. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Kaylan – you have a beautiful family!!

  93. yveline says...

    thank you Kaylan for a new article. All the best to you and your family. please stay in Namibia, USA is not there yet when it comes to race relation and the idea when a cop stops you. thank you again

  94. Maywyn says...

    Fascinating! The closeness of the community is wonderful, and heart warming.

  95. Elizabeth says...

    This is an interesting post and Kaylan and her husband seem really happy. I do wonder, though, about how she’ll approach the divide in jobs based on gender as her son gets older. Maybe there is nothing that needs to be done about it? I don’t know. But it would trouble me a bit to have my son doing only “male” jobs in the village, although of course I wouldn’t expect her to disrupt how things are and have been done there…. It just raises a lot of interesting questions!

    • Julie says...

      I think it’s beautiful that they just “are” , living the simple ways without being bogged down with notions of what societal pressures bring in the more developed world.

    • Blandine says...

      Sorry Julie but I don’t think that societal pressure ceases to exist outside developed countries. It takes forms that are specific to the local context but it definitely exists, hence the gender roles that are described. Like Elizabeth, I was wondering if this is something Kaylan would have an opinion on, as regards to her son doing only one sort of thing/tasks/duties.

    • Lisa says...

      I thought about the same thing, but then I realised that kids are so adaptable and perfectly fine with “this is the way we do it at the village” and “that other way is how we do it at home”. I think it’s a beautiful way of showing respect and teaching you child about different ways of life and cultures.

  96. This is my favorite series and this profile was really lovely. The story of how Kaylan met her husband is really sweet and their son is adorable.

  97. Scarlett says...

    Wow!! This is so cool. This has to be my favorite installment of the series yet. What a beautiful melding of cultures. I love how the people live off the land. And I’m so impressed by the responsibility the kids have!

  98. Katie says...

    So interesting, what a great read. Her little boy could not be any cuter!

  99. Logan G says...

    Yay, yay, YAY!!!! This is my FAVORITE series y’all do, and it’s the reason I initially started reading Cup of Jo. Can’t wait for more of these!

  100. Jessica says...

    THIS IS THE BEST SERIES EVER! THANK YOU

  101. Cindy Fried says...

    Wonderful. And what a cute boy. Love how in villages they play with what is around – toys do most of the work of the imagination imho. Really want to visit Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe but hubby comes from that part of the world and has so many other places on his list I may have quite the wait.

  102. Anna says...

    Oh my goodness… this is possibly my favourite from the series so far. I absolutely love how Kaylan has so genuinely embraced the culture of Namibia and her husband’s tribe. What a beautiful read. Thank you for sharing, Kaylan!

  103. yay!! great to see this series back on your blog x

  104. Lea says...

    Yay for this series being back!

  105. Kari says...

    I LOVE this series!!! They are so fascinating and beautiful. Thanks for keeping ’em coming!

  106. Lisa says...

    I’m so happy this series is back! And what a beautiful family, I loved reading about their story. Thank you!

  107. Wow! What a life! This is absolutely beautiful! My great grand father is from Tanzania and my dream is to one day visit and try to meet my family there. This is my favorite post from the series. Loved it!

    • Kay says...

      I visited Tanzania two years ago and I cried leaving. It is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth and the people were just the loveliest. I’m not Tanzanian, but I guess I look Tanzanian because so many people stopped me and would start speaking in Swahili. When I told them I wasn’t Tanzanian, they would kindly respond, “You are still one of us. “

    • Jessica says...

      Kay, that is so touching!

    • MrsD says...

      So, I had to google Tanzania and look at some pictures. Stunning.
      My goodness….I love Mama Earth.

  108. Aw thank you. Transported to another world, reminded of the value and hope in humanity.

  109. d says...

    I love this series- what a beautiful post.
    For the first time in this series though, it reads as if the subject is truly loving the place she lives, without judgement or preconceived notions of how things should be done. That’s something that has bothered me about many of the posts- a sense of American way of things being done being superior. Kaylan’s embrace of her husband’s tribe and their way of doing things (including sharing her wedding ceremony!) shows remarkable maturity and a genuine desire to be a part of where she is.
    Her commentary on being black in Namibia vs in the US though is truly a sad reflection on race relations in this country. Everyone deserves to feel safe, but as a person of color, I understand the sentiment!

    • KS says...

      loved reading this comment!

    • Anna says...

      Agree, and thank you so much for pointing this out. I currently live in China and have conflicted feelings about the “expat community” here for precisely this reason. One of the tremendous privileges of living abroad is the opportunity to expand one’s definition of what is normal and good, to see through a lot of the assumptions we are raised with and imagine different possibilities. I strongly believe that living and parenting abroad in a different culture has helped me become a better person and a better parent. And Kaylan’s commentary about not fearing for her husband’s safety really pains me. I want to say I’m proud to be an American, but this reality of living in America — I have to believe that one day it will stop, that it will get better. Living in fear is NOT freedom, despite what some may say.

  110. Kayla says...

    A great addition to a great series. I always look forward to reading these…

  111. Annie Green says...

    Fascinating. A million miles away from anything I have ever experienced but it seems such a happy and busy life. Simple, too.

  112. lauren says...

    I love this! One of my favorite documentaries is Babies (It’s on Netflix!) and one of the babies lives in Namibia. I was so excited to see this! He lived in a rural tribe, it looks like the Himba tribe from her photos. He seemed like the happiest little baby in the documentary and was a clear favorite. Now that I have a 4 month old, this motherhood series is even more interesting. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Kaylan! Your little guy is ADORABLE

    • Alexis says...

      Ah yes! Babies is one of my favorites! I’ll watch it sometimes just for a mood-boost :) Fun to see Namibia featured here.

  113. Eline says...

    This series is my favorite. So happy it’s back!

  114. caitlindoubled says...

    This is such a moving, inspiring, original post! Thank you! Keep ’em coming!