"South & East Africa 2011" story # 27

Rundu, Namibia           August 24, 2011

Continuing on towards Tanzania, I traveled to northern Namibia.
     I was beginning to feel anxious to arrive in Tanzania, to settle down there and stop moving for a while. But, after trying to see a seal colony in central Namibia, I was still very far from Tanzania. I was still even on the wrong coast!
     "Good-bye, Atlantic," I said after a skinny-dip. The skinny-dip had made me feel less anxious and better. Skinny-dips always made people feel good.
     I also came up with an idea to dance myself, naked, into a trance in the nighttime desert. But, I left this area too soon to do it.
     Heading inland (and northward), Namibia's empty desert became a desert with grass which became dry savannah hiding behind shrubs and hills. In one place, a mother elephant with two cubs ... pups? ... a Jumbo with two Dumbos ... stampeded across a dirt highway. They disappeared into shrubs. And then, suddenly, a giant bull came lumbering from the same side they'd come from, his trunk swaying as he came. I photographed him crossing the puny road.
     In another place, my driver, white James a young tour guide, stopped the car and announced, "I'm going to ... make sure the animals have enough water." It took me a moment to realize he was just going to pee.
     Later, we saw giraffes. They just looked like tall poles, from a distance. Up close, their skin was a dirty peanut-brittle color. Their skinny legs were so tall I could've stood under them.
     When they ran, their legs first rippled with motion, and then their crooked necks rippled. Awkward creatures! I would've thought they'd easily step over a three-foot barbed wire fence, but they clanged into them (and maybe cut their legs) as they lazily stepped over. These two headed from the roadside to two smaller (baby?) giraffes in the bush.
     Soon afterwards, James dropped me off. Continuing northwards, I was about to enter a NEW kind of Africa: an Africa that was very hot ... an Africa where everyone, unless stated otherwise, was black ... an Africa with malaria. A government worker named Nangolo drove me to northern Namibia.
     We passed flat land full of dry-soiled villages and people who lived in straw huts among trees.
     In Nangolo's car labelled "Department of Land Management and Resettlement", we debated.
     He said the government had provided northern Namibians with land to farm on. Their farms were small, though, and their free-roaming animals contracted disease. He was currently working on a project to turn the land into fenced-in commercial farms, so it would then be able to export meat.
     I, of course, didn't like this plan. I asked Nangolo if the northern Namibians were currently hungry; he didn't say they were. I figured, the proposed commercial farms would probably be owned by the rich, their exports would benefit the government, and their labor force would be the poor. I said, "Would the poor be better off with low monthly salaries, or with their own farms and animals?" Nangolo surprised me by saying, "With low monthly salaries."
     He added that the commercial farms would be government-owned, and that they'd allow the poor to keep bits of land for their personal interests. "Okay," I said.
     Our conversation turned to the enormous farms owned by whites in central and southern Namibia. Small Nangolo became so angry he could hardly contain himself. He was "pisted off" that the whites didn't want to share! He made threatening comments that suggested the blacks would one day expel the whites from Namibia.
     I agreed that the Namibian whites weren't very caring. But, I disagreed when Nangolo said:
     1. that it was peoples' right not to care about others.
     2. that there would always be rich and poor.
     3. that Namibian whites didn't work hard.
     I asked him about the history of colonial rule in Namibia. He said the education of blacks had been limited to the Bible: "Thou shalt not steal", etc. He was the second person (the other being German) to say Germany had practiced genocide of blacks in Namibia. He said the blacks' independence struggle had begun in the 50s; guerrilla warfare began in 1966; and black independence was attained in 1989.
     Just now, we noticed a large bushfire brewing in the distance. It hadn't been begun by the farming villagers; it had been begun by bushmen.
     Nangolo, again, became furious. He hated bushmen. "They don't want to work! They don't have anything!" I tried not to laugh at the irony of his words. He was saying about them the same things whites said when condemning blacks.
     He continued. "We build them houses, they sleep outside. They just want to go to the bush and look for little deer."
     He said they didn't want to bury their dead. They received food handouts. (The government couldn't deny them food!) He said bitterly, "If they don't want to farm, why can't they work in an office?"
     It surprised me he could have such anti-white sentiments and anti-traditional sentiments at the same time. I said, he was trying to tell the bushmen they must live like Europeans.
     He would then make a good point. He said the traditional Himba people of Namibia farmed and supported themselves. He added that the country's Wambo majority - though not traditional - was hard-working.
     I was quiet for a moment. And then, like a devil, I asked, "Isn't the current, black government just the same as the colonialists?"
     He thought hard and said, "Yes."
     He added, "... but the colonialists were IMPOSING policies. We're merely consulting."
     In closing, I told Nangolo I understood he was trying to get projects done and was becoming disappointed. He dropped me off in the northern town/city of Rundu.
     I was never able to call Nangolo to have coffee together that weekend. So, instead, I would like to dedicate to him his country's version of MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! This list would evaluate the San bushmen of the east, the Tamara and Herero people of the south and center, the Himbas of the northeast, the northern Wambos, the Kavango people of Rundu, and the Namibian Germans and Afrikaners ...
     The Top 5 Best Things about Namibia!:

     I never got to see these traditional people, among Africa's most interesting, but I saw pictures of the women. They smeared their brown bodies with a clay mixture that turned them red; this mixture protected them from the sun, or mosquitoes, or the heat, or everything. They wore skirts, and nothing from the waist up. Their wrists and ankles and necks were decorated with red and black bracelets and necklaces. Their long braids were coated with thick, red wax. Their round boobs dangled. They sat beside their red huts and their red children, confident in their tradition.


HONORABLE MENTION included: CREAMY MOSSEL SOUP and "CLICK" LANGUAGES. (Tamara people seemed to include three wonderful "clucks" and "clicks" per sentence.)
     To save Nangolo stress, I wasn't going to tell him about The Top 5 Worst Things about Namibia!:


     A black girl, Senobia, said this sadly. I'd say Namibians often seemed paranoid and unwelcoming.


With a MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! fenced off and ready for export, I prepared to enjoy Rundu.
     Rundu lied on the opposite side of the muddy Kavango River from Angola. Angola was another country I'd always wanted to visit. I hoped I'd get to experience some of its culture here, including the couples dance called "quixomba".
     My first taste of Angolan culture had come weeks before, in Walvis Bay. A woman named Malu had invited me to her home. She cooked food from her country: yellow chunks of a mandioca tuber; a mandioca paste thick and gooey like glue; moist and tasty, ground mandioca leaves; the mandioca itself ground into rocky "farinha" powder, eaten with sweet brown beans; seared black fish; and prawns. We ate it all mixed together, yum!
     In Rundu, a stout gray-haired Angolan loved conversing with me. He gesticulated with strong hands. He beautified his Portuguese speech with flowery analogies. To express that governments needed to identify problems' sources before they could solve them, he said: "If I have a long beard, and it's on fire, I know I have to throw water on it."
     That night, a light-skinned Namibian girl made sure we danced quixomba. She took me to a tin shack of a bar in her "location", a.k.a. ghetto. A dimpled girl with small-worm-sized dreadlocks, and with the name of XJ, she put money into the jukebox. In the dark bar, we held each other tightly and bounced our hips to the circus-quick music. We danced many times, with little rhythm.
     And on my last day in Rundu, I watched the sun set over Angola from a beach. The Kavango River I swam in was aqua-green; the opposing reeds and land were a crocodile brown-and-green; the sun bright orange, pink, and purple.
     But, I would never get to Angola ...

I headed west instead of north, through the Caprivi Strip towards Zambia.
     People in the rural Caprivi Strip used to hunt and fish - sometimes getting attacked by lions. The tribes used to manage their own resources. Now, nature conservancies told them during which months they could fish.
     People lived in stick houses, often protected from the wind by stick or reed fences. The houses reminded me of tree forts I would've built with my mom's Abel cousins. People were out collecting branches. They probably just considered their natural surroundings, when they needed something, then went out to find then make it. What nice, peaceful lives!

Good-bye, Namibian friends.
Modern Oddyseus.

Thanks to James; Lemmy; Nangolo; Clement Mandla; and Mwita & Danny for rides!
Much thanks to James & Janni; Emmanuel; and XJ, her mom, Victoria, & Annie for places to sleep!

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