Namibia: Observations #1

I’ve spent 1 week in my new assignment site which means I’ve been almost on my own for as long. My supervisor and the PCV I’m replacing, Elizabeth, and the other PCV in town, Chris, introduced me to far more people than my poor old brain can remember. But someone once said the joy is in the effort, so I’m trying very hard to remember at least the important people, like the vice mayor and the many town council members. But I need to also remember Ooma, the little energetic woman who cleans the council offices, and Silas, the junior library librarian.

There are things here that don’t require an effort to remember because I see it so often. That will be the premise behind my “Observations” posts. In them I’ll describe the people, scenes, and whatever I encounter routinely. Small things that may not warrant a mention otherwise.

For instance…

There’s a guy who’s business is washing cars. There’s a spigot near a parking lot. Every morning (I do mean every morning) I see him lug an old patched up garden hose, buckets, a shop vac and other car cleaning paraphernalia to the lot. He then sweeps out the area of dust and debris, sets up the hose, buckets and so on, then waits for customers. And he gets them. There aren’t many cars in Arandis, at least not by American standards. Most folks can’t afford them, but those who can line up to get their car cleaned, both inside and out. He doesn’t speak much English and my Afrikaans is still too poor to engage in a meaningful conversation, but I’ve introduced myself to him and I’ve made up my mind to help him improve his business if he’ll allow it.

There’s a beautiful elderly woman dressed head to toe in traditional clothes that’s a carry over from colonial times when native woman were required to wear the body covering style of the day so as not to excite the men. She wears this and a wool scarf even thought it’s 80 degrees (F) and I’m sweating in a t-short and shorts. I see her most mornings. She walks many of the smaller kids to school. They are not her kids, nor are they related to her. She does it to be sure they are safe. No, I don’t remember her name either, but she’s talkative and very nice. She has a native given name which I cannot can’t pronounce even if I could remember it, but I will see her again and I will remember her name.

There’s also an extremely intelligent woman who is the assistant to the town council CEO. Her name is Emsee (pronounced M-See). I’ve had the pleasure of running into her several times and always marvel at how well she speaks English. She uses phrases like, “Come again?” and, “Too cool!” Because most Namibians I’ve met so far can speak English, but with a heavy accent, hearing Emsee express herself always catches me by surprise.

Namibians take pride in their mastery of languages, and they should. Even those who have left school early can speak at least 2 languages, and most speak at least 3; their mother language, Afrikaans, and English, which is taught very early in school. Even before they are school age, many Namibian children watch kids shows on TV and those shows are routinely delivered in English. So it’s normal for a kid as young as 3 to be able to at least understand the basics of 3 languages.

Speaking of kids, many little kids here go barefooted. This in a rocky, dusty environment where broken glass is common. It’s amazing to watch. Not only do they seem to not feel the heat from the sand or pavement, or the pointed pebbles, and rocks embedded in the ground, their feet seems to be cut free. They actually run like that. I have to believe it’s something akin to fire-walking where people psych themselves into strolling on red hot embers and come away unburned (usually). It’s another mystery I must unravel while here.

Who needs shoes??

That’s it for this posts. The Observations posts will be intentionally short. I’ll include photos where and when I can.

By the way, now that I’m more settled and have a bit more time on my hands, feel free to comment and ask questions. I’ll try answer what I can.

Gratuitous landscape shot: Spitz Koppe Mountains in the distance. A World Heritage site that holds rock paintings that are thousands of years old.

Stay tuned

Vern Seward

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