2 November 2009
Two years ago today, I landed in Namibia. Woo hoo! Namiversary! Now though, most of Nam27 is looking forward instead of backwards. We’re all wondering where we’ll go next, if we’ll have a job, if we’ll get into graduate school, or if we’ll ever see our nam-homes again.
For the last part of October, I spent more time away from Khorixas than in it. I got called to Windhoek for the Peace Corps required Close of Service Medical. They basically just make sure we haven’t contracted some horrible disease in the past two years – which I haven’t… or at least they haven’t told me if I have. Same difference. Either way, it was nice to spend a week in Windhoek to finish a lot of things I needed to do on the internet. Unfortunately, I also spent the time going on Namibian-craft shopping sprees. My Peace Corps bank account is significantly smaller but I do have some beautiful new earrings and a shirt that says “Howzit?” so it was worth it.
After my COS medical, my brother came to visit Namibia. He rented a car and we drove to Swakopmund first. When I took my trip to Sossusvlei in August, I realized that I hate climbing sand dunes. I really love the view at the top of sand dunes but climbing them is one of my least favorite activities. So when my brother and I went to Swakop, I had a one sand dune limit. We climbed dune 7, took some picture and then went out to pizza. It was the perfect amount of sand climbing, if you ask me. The next day, we went out kayaking in the Atlantic to visit the seals and dolphins. It was really fun – we saw a lot of dolphin fins and played with a few seals. Afterwards, our guide drove up the broad side of a sand dune so that we could see the salt evaporation pools nearby to where we were kayaking (I bet if you google-earthed Walvis Bay you could see a pretty decent view of the same salt evaporation pools. The pools are pink because the salt-loving bacteria that live in them is also pink. Flamingos live nearby and eat the bacteria to get their pink color too. Interesting, huh?). After we took in the view at the top of the dune, our guide decided scare the bejeezes out of us and take the car down the not-so-broad side of the sand dune. Totally awesome! … after it was over :)
Later that same day, my brother and I took a self-guided tour of the desert. Outside of Swakop is an area called The Moonscape. It’s a really bizarre looking area that is completely beautiful (in a scarred-earth and complete-emptiness sort of way that Namibia really specializes in). Along the drive, I also got to see my first Welwitchia mirabilis!! A Welwitchia is a plant that some people call a living fossil because it grows for a thousand years or more. Khorixas actually used to be named “Welwitchia” because so many of the plants grow so close to the city – that’s why it’s strange that it took me two years to see one. They are specially adapted to live in the desert and are cone bearing plants. The plants grow only a few meters apart in patches in the desert. When you come across one of the patches, it looks like aliens with green tentacle are trying to break they’re way out of the sand. One of the last Welwitchias we saw on our drive is thought to be 1500 years old. In order to protect it, the Ministry of Tourism put up a fence around the plant and then built a viewing platform because it was so big!
After Swakop, we drove to Khorixas for some good ol’ Damara fun. The school choir gave us a nice long concert so that we could record their singing. After I go home, I’m going to miss hearing the learners sing so it is nice that I got most of their songs recorded. We also visited the squatters’ camp, almost got run over by a donkey cart (twice), and climbed the hill that that the cell phone tower is on top of. Visiting the orphanage with Jill was one of the most fun things we did. It’s hard not to have a good time when you’re hanging out with a group of kids that share and take care of each other and appreciate any small thing you do for them. We also had a lot of fun when the lady who does our wash came over with her kids (Tu-o and Emma and Katrina – all pictured numerous times in previous months). I wrote in a previous post about how Emma likes to make gang signs when she sees us on wash days. Emma is 7 and she is a tough cookie (who likes to wear ruffles) so my brother taught Emma to say “gangsta”. It’s probably the one of worst acts of cultural imperialism I’ve done in my time here but, at the same time, no one has ever said “gangsta” as cute as Emma does.
English: “Say ‘Gangsta’.”
Khoekhoegowab: “‘Gangsta’ mi re.”
On Friday morning of my brother’s visit, we drove to Etosha Game Park. Before we even got to the first waterhole, there was an elephant directly on the side of the road just munching on a tree. Then, just a few more kilometers in, we saw a male lion taking a mid-morning nap by the side of the road. He got up long enough to move with the shade of the tree before he plopped down again to resume his laziness. However, in those few steps I think “OH MY GOSH” and “HOLY CRAP” were the only things said in the car. All in all, the trip to Etosha was very successful. We saw ostriches, oryx, kudu, giraffes, zebras, jackal, and thousands of springboks. Saturday morning we drove to the Cheetah Conservation Fund to see the work that they’re doing there. I’ve only been out to the CCF once before and all the cheetahs were lazy and hard to see. This time, I’m sure we saw every cheetah in the place. At one point in time, we joined up with another family and took a walking tour around some of the Cheetah enclosures. Cheetahs, like most cats, could generally care less if you are there or not. However, when we were taking this walking tour, the family that we were with had their small daughter with them. From across the enclosure, all the cheetahs focused in on this small girl and came running up to the fence at full speed. It was a bit creepy to have such a focused predator run at full speed directly towards us. Luckily there was a fence between predator and prey. One of the workers at the CCF explained that the cheetahs were so focused on the little girl because she was the same size as the prey they normally stalk in the wild. As we continued walking along the fence, the cheetahs kept pace with us, all the while staring at this little girl. The mother of the family finally put the little girl on top of her shoulders and the cheetahs lessened their intense stares. The little girl didn’t seem to be bothered too much by it but as a parent I don’t think I’d ever want to hear the phrase “the cheetahs are stalking your daughter”.
My brother flew out of Windhoek on Sunday morning and I hiked back to Khorixas. It was sad to see him go but I was glad that he got a good tour of Namibia in such a short amount of time. It was a payday weekend so everyone was crazy with money. There were hundreds of cars on the road but no one could seem to spare the time to stop and pick me up. I finally made it to Otjiwarongo late in the day but there wasn’t a taxi in the whole town going to Khorixas. I decided standing on the side of the road and looking helpless might score me a ride home. It didn’t. But luckily, as I was ease dropping on a conversation two people in parked cars were having, I heard “Khorixas” muttered. I was begging for a ride before I remember my dignity. Thankfully, they were really generous and allowed me to sit in the back of their bakkie the 200km to Khorixas for free. As it turns out, the driver is a good friend of the principal at my school so we’re all just one big happy family now. This stuff happens in America too, right?