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Story of Earth, Story of Us: Namibia, Africa


  • Ritter Safaris Namibia (map)

Overview: In partnership with Xavier's Study Abroad, this expedition takes us to the edge of Namibia's Kalahari. With Dr. Leon Chartrand as our primary guide and instructor, we live on a 40,000 acre safari ranch for eight days, hosted by the Ritter Family and Ritter Safaris. In addition, we visit 1,000 year old human footprints via ATV safaris. We hike to the top of a massive sand dune and reflect upon the resiliency of life and how it makes a living here. We walk with San bushmen on a foot safari to learn about medicinal plants and animal-tracking. We learn from indigenous Namibians by working alongside them in gardens and with cattle. We also will take vehicle safaris to see giraffes and elephants, and stand behind an earthen blind to observe lions feeding.

Large mammal migration, Namibia

Large mammal migration, Namibia

Credits: 6 CORE Credits. THEO 332: "Sacred Ground and the New Cosmology" (counts as THEO 200-Theo Perspectives OR Gen Humanities Elective, ER/S, Enviro Science, Peace Studies, Gen Humanities or Free electives) and THEO 388: "Wilderness & Religious Imagination" " (counts as THEO 200-Theo Perspectives OR Gen Humanities Elective, ER/S, Enviro Science, Peace Studies, Gen Humanities or Free electives). 

Enrollment: Max 14 | Adventure Level: 2

Security Deposit: To secure spot, a $1000 nonrefundable deposit is due Jan 8, 2018, but the earlier deposit is submitted the better, as spaces are limited. Also, note deposit is included within Program Fee. Once deposit is applied, $1000 will be deducted from Program Fee listed below. 

Costs: $6,328 Program Fee is all inclusive. It includes 6 credit hours of tuition, which is approximately ~$2,778 ($463/hr x 6 hrs) + $3,550 all inclusive travel, which includes commercial airfare, lodging, ground transportation, safaris, lion-feeding, Khoisan/San guide fees, wildlife preserve fees, meals, beverages, travel insur., etc. Note: 2018 costs are approximate. Estimates based on 2017 increases/year and are subject to +/- 1% change. Security deposit will be deducted from total Program Fee amount once deposit is submitted.  

Where do we go? Southwest Africa: Namibia: Windhoek, Woltemade Ranch, Etosha National Park, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei. To learn more about these places, click here

What will we do? May 12—Depart Cincinnati for WIndhoek. May 13—Windhoek. Arrive and shuttle to lodge in Katutura, outside of Windhoek. Katutura Township Tour by car or bicycle on May 13. Meet Ritter family early morning of May 14 and follow to Woltemade Ranch. May 14-19—Woltemade Ranch. Arrival, game drive and sundowner on top of the towers. May 15: Students will be divided among the 4 main activities at the Homestead: 1. Butchery, 2. Garden, 3. Workshop and Maintenance and 4. Kitchen. They will rotate activities throughout the day. May 16: Cattle tracking/work with San people. May 17: Field expedition, which plants can be eaten, which have healing benefits, which are poisonous, animal tracking etc. May 18: Hunting and Culture Lessons and Garden Work. Poitjie cooking competition for the students in the evening. This is where they cook outside over the fire and a poitjie is a stew in a big pot with all kinds of veggies and meat etc. May 19 Departure. May 19-21—Etosha National Park. May 19, check into Lodge. May 19-20, explore Etosha via foot/Vehicle wildlife safaris. May 21 departure. May 21-23—Swakopmund. May 21, check into Hotel and explore where Desert meets the Atlantic Ocean in the evening. May 22, quad bike tour in the desert and in Walvis Bay to visit sites where the Khoisan peoples, elephants and rhinos used to live. Visit sites of skeletons in the desert and thousand-year old human footprints. May 23 departure. May 23-25—Sossusvlei. May 23, check into Lodge. Namibian sunset “in the middle of nowhere”. May 24, Namibian sunrise, followed by hiking in Death Valley and climbing up the highest dune to learn about how life “makes its way” in such harsh climates. May 25 departure. May 25-26 Depart Windhoek. May 26, Dinner, return vans, depart from Windhoek to Cincinnati. May 27—Arrive in Cincinnati.

What courses are offered?

1. Sacred Ground and the New Story. Professor: Dr. Leon Chartrand
[THEO 332: 3 credits undergrad, THEO 200 CORE, E/RS, Enviro Science, Peace Studies, or general humanities/free elective) / 3 credits grad] Since our beginning, we've been storytellers. Stories have helped us make sense of the world, of its mysterious phenomena and powers. They've expressed how creation came to be and defined our role within creation. Above all, creation stories penetrate into the depths of the psyche and inform behavior, especially when it comes to how we treat others and the world around us. But, creation stories can lose their effectiveness over time. If new knowledge contradicts or discredits a creation myth, then that story can lose its functional role. That is our great challenge today. We are in trouble now because we are, as Thomas Berry says, in between stories. Not only is the current story being discredited by science, but our current story does not provide the guidance we need for dealing with environmental devastation. It places the human at the pinnacle of creation instead of, as evolutionary and cosmological knowledge reveals, as a derivative of creation. And yet the new scientific story does not yet provide a meaningful context because it deals primarily with how the physical-material world came into being and does not deal with the Universe's psychic-spiritual dimension manifested so eloquently in and through human consciousness. For this reason, a new cosmogonic myth must be shaped, one inclusive of creation stories of our past as well as the empirical knowledge we now have about our universe. It is part of the great work of the human species as we transition from this terminal phase of the Cenozoic Era, the last 65 million years of Earth history, into an Ecozoic Era, where humans become a viable presence. This course, therefore, aims to help us see how a new cosmogonic myth, one that deals adequately with the sacredness of creation within the framework of the evolutionary story, is being revealed by the earth community. 

2. Wilderness and Religious Imagination. Professor: Dr. Leon Chartrand [THEO 388/575: 3 credits undergrad, CORE THEO 200 credit, E/RS, Enviro Science, Peace Studies, general humanities/free elective) /  3 credits grad] Discover the Earth community as primarily a wilderness community that will not be bargained with or made into an object of any kind. Awaken to our sacred Earth by entering into the revelatory power of wilderness. Let your imagination "run wild" on the shores of a quiet alpine lake or on a bear-tracked trail within a seemingly endless pine forest. This course includes lessons, discussions and reflections in some of the world's most wild places. Throughout this course, we will explore how the Paleolithic world of mystery and power brought religious ideas to life in the human mind. We will, at the same time, explore how, even today, the landscape invokes religious imagination and how that imagination plays a fundamental role in how we may address the ecologial crisis. We will also discern how religion imagination has fostered and continues to foster an intimate, viable relation between the human and more-than-human world. We will ask the following: how can religious imagination contribute to a new era of conservation? How does religious thinking (limit thinking) inspire humans to recognize the intimate connection between preserving mystique and safeguarding the earth community? This course can be taken for graduate level credit. 

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