Namibia was such a change of pace from Morocco and Spain. Life moves so slowly there! Namibia is about the size of Texas with the population of Rhode Island… I think. In any case, it is very sparsely populated. The towns I visited—Walvis Bay and Swakopmund—were both so small that most businesses were closed on the weekend. We were there over the weekend, so that was kind of a bummer, but I spent most of my time in the desert anyway. But I am getting ahead of myself. Coffee first. My first cup of coffee was in the middle of the desert. It was most likely instant coffee powder and hot water, but it was the conversation that made it so good. I got my second cup of coffee in Swakopmund at a restaurant called Ombo. I had a café latte with sugar after eating ostrich for dinner! My third and last coffee was at a small German café in Walvis Bay with the most impressive coffee menu I have ever seen. I asked the server what she recommended and she pointed to the Amarula Coffee. I had no idea what it was, but after I got back to the ship and looked it up on Wikipedia, I was so glad I ordered it! Amarula is a cream liqueur kind of like Bailey’s, but it is specific to southern Africa. The coffee was espresso, amarula, steamed milk, and fresh cream. The amarula gave it a sweet, fruity taste and the fresh cream made it so thick. It was amazing, and it was a coffee drink I cannot get anywhere else in the world! The conversation over that cup was pretty good as well. But that was my last day in Namibia. I need to start back at the beginning.
When we first docked in Walvis Bay on Valentine’s Day we had some diplomats aboard the ship to welcome us and let us know about the current political and economic conditions there. Then we were free to get off the ship and explore Namibia! There was a choir of girls down on the pier, singing and dancing for us as we filed off the ship. They could sing! Some looked as young as five and they were dancing much better than anything I can do. After finding a bank to exchange some cash, I returned to the ship for lunch to find the girls from the choir getting a tour of the MV Explorer. One of the girls came up to me, took my hand, introduced herself, and asked to see my room. I took her on a quick tour of the ship until she ran off to find another girl to latch onto. The girls were all so curious and not shy at all. Their dance group is part of an after school program for orphans, and you could tell they loved doing what they were doing. After I grabbed lunch I boarded my 4x4 and headed off to the desert for camping and stargazing in the desert. My driver’s name was Rolly and since everyone else in the van fell asleep, I asked him all the questions I wanted and got my own personal tour guide. The drive there was beautiful. The sand dunes literally run right up to the coast. Some joke that Namibia has the largest beaches in the whole world, because the sand just never stops. It’s so true! Soon the desert turned from sand dunes to a flatter, rockier landscape and it was there that I saw a springbok, an animal native to Namibia that kind of looks like an antelope. Finally we made it to the where we would be camping for the night. It was near the moonscape, a vast, grey, rocky landscape that looks like the moon on earth. Where I camped the rock formations were taller and more sand colored, kind of like the Black Hills but bigger and with fewer plants. Rolly told me the landscape was once volcanic and was later shaped more by glaciers. We climbed the rocks for a while before sitting in the shade under the food tent to wait for dinner. An a cappella group of five Africans came and performed for us, playing drums, singing, and making all kinds of rhythmic sounds like whistles and clicks. They sang In the Jungle, of course, and The Lord’s Prayer, among other songs. Then it was time for dinner—rice and a kind of stew made with lamb. After dinner we were supposed to look at stars but there were clouds so we sat around and talked. This is when I had that cup of instant coffee. First I talked to one of my friends from Columbia and she told me all about the civil war in Columbia. I was fascinated because I didn’t know anything about it. Then I talked to one of our professors who has not lived in any country for longer than a year and a half besides the United States. He was full of amazing stories and has pursued so many different career paths. It was encouraging to talk to someone who did amazing things with his life but never settled on one interest! I am so interested in so many things; I can’t pick just one to follow my entire life. I slept so well that night. I always do when I am camping.
The next morning I wandered around and took some pictures before we got back in our 4x4s to drive back to Walvis Bay. Again, everyone in my van fell asleep so I had the guide to myself and he pointed out the moonscape and Dune 7, the largest sand dune in Namibia. After we made it back to the ship I met up with a few friends and took a taxi to Swakopmund. We browsed the shops there for a while and I talked to a lot of the shop keepers and learned all about the different wood carvings and paintings they do as well as what their families and homes were like. Down by the beach we found a place to grab some lunch and I got fried eggs. It was definitely comfort food and oh-so-tasty. Namibia was once a German colony so they are big fans of hearty food, which makes me a big fan of Namibian food. I washed that down with some sherbet and wandered around the street craft market a bit more and bartered for a few souvenirs. Later that evening we met up with a few more people and headed to Ombo for dinner and had ostrich! It’s kind of strange to eat because ostrich is a red meat, but it is definitely a bird. It is very good for you because it is so lean. We had it in ravioli, in minced meat form (like ground beef), and on steak kebabs. It was after all of this that I had that café latte. That night we went out dancing and actually found a salsa club. It was fun to use what we had learned in Spain!
My last morning was spent around Walvis Bay. This is when I got the Amarula Coffee. Over the coffee, I asked my friend from Cuba about Che Guevara because a lot of the locals were wearing t-shirts with his face printed on them. The conversation that followed was a crash course in the Cuban revolution, and again, I was hanging on her every word. The more I learned, the more I felt so uneducated about the world. Anyway, we also found some lunch before I headed back to the ship to get ready to go on my tour of the townships. We went to Kuisebmund, a township near Walvis Bay. When the German’s controlled Namibia, all the black people were made to live in what are now the townships. It was much cleaner that I thought but the houses were still small and you could see the poverty. The people were so friendly and wanted to pose for pictures. First we saw a bunch of shops selling food, clothing, cigarettes, etc. I got to try a kind of energy drink made out of fermented… something. It wasn’t too good and had pieces of what looked like grass or splinters in it, but at least I tried it. We passed a bunch of men playing a game similar to mancala, but it was much larger and it had four rows. We passed through a market where they were selling all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables and all kinds of barbecued meats. Barbeque is a Namibian specialty. They call it Braai. We stopped by the house of a herero (Namibian tribe known for cattle farming) woman who taught us some of the !khoisan language, the click language. Finally we stopped at a shebeen (basically a bar in a township) where we were presented with some traditional Namibian dishes, one of which was caterpillars. Yes, caterpillars. Of course, I had to try one! It was in a kind of spicy sauce which made it taste like I was eating a sausage, but it was crunchy. Honestly, I tried not to think before I ate it because I know I would have talked myself out of it and I tried not to think while I was eating it because I knew I would make myself sick. But I did it! And I washed it down with a Coke. I needed something to get the taste out of my mouth! And that was my last experience in Namibia.
I learned so much in Namibia. Through learning about the histories and current conditions of Columbia and Cuba and all of these countries that I am visiting, I have realized how small my world view is and how much I want to change that. So this is me encouraging you to pick up a book or a newspaper and learn a little bit about a foreign country. There is so much going on out there, and right now! Take a look at the economic situation in Zimbabwe and you won’t feel so bad about our current economic “crisis,” or if you are upset about unfulfilled promises from our government, learning a little bit about South Africa’s Mbeki might make you feel better.
Ok, I will get off my soap box now. I’m going to try to post my South Africa blog soon but man, it is going to be a hard one.
Tomorrow we dock in Mauritius. I’m excited for a little relaxing on the beach and some fresh seafood!