Windhoek Day 2: Tour of the Town and Orientation

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
Trip End Jul 17, 2013

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Today I hit the snooze button a few too many times evidently and missed breakfast by about two minutes. Although last night supper was served by simply ordering whatever one wished, this was not the case for breakfast as it was a buffet. Lesson learned. Breakfast is served from 7:00-9:00 a.m. I then returned hungry to my room, where I waited until about 10:45 for Sophia to show up (to think, I could have had about an hour and a half more of sleep!!). We then went into town, picked up KFC for me (yup, they have it here... bit different, but essentially the same), picked up razors for me and went to the ATM for the first time so I could have the opportunity to buy goods from the merchants. 

We then walked through the merchants that were lined in a parking lot, and I got an idea how much certain things were going for and what I might want to bring home. One I have my sights on is a wood carving of the heads of "The Big 5": elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo, and leopard. Statues range in size and start at around 300 Namibian dollars (30 USD). Small figurines have also caught my attention, as they are much smoother and more cohesive (also cheaper!). I think I will probably wait until my last weekend in Windhoek and when I get to Zimbabwe before I buy souvenirs. I do think that soon I will buy one of the Namibian dolls though, as one of the malls in town have some with the traditional style clothing that is unique to Namibia. Among the merchants that we ran across today were some Himba women. I feel very odd asking people if I can take pictures with them, especially since in this particular case it is their lack of clothes and the paste they apply to their skin. I mean, I know how uncomfortable I have been feeling when people come up to me to take pictures with me because of my distinct American features (I'll get to that later), so why should I expect these women to feel comfortable with me wanting to take pictures with them, regardless on my monetary offering. Point is, I didn't have enough courage to ask, even though Sophia told me that they accept money for their photos and that I should as it is part of Namibian culture. I'm hoping I run across some Himba again and didn't mess up the only opportunity I will have to get pictures with them. 

After the street-side merchants, Sophia took me to the other side of town. She informed me that where we were was the more upper class part, and that we were heading to the other side, as I should know all of Namibia, the people, the culture, and the life. When we were entering the "lower class" part of town, we stopped at a food market.  We wandered and I examined the spices, etc. Sophia pointed out a bowl of what I thought to be caterpillars for sale. She informed me that those were the worms that I was advised to try. They weren't cooked, so she said don't eat them now, but that is what I will be eating when I find cooked ones. Definitely not as appetizing as I hoped... Maybe they magically transform when prepared.

Before checking out the other side of the market, we wandered to where merchants were selling clothing and other material items. Sophia suggested I get a picture in front of the native clothing and kindly asked the woman permission. It was granted and Sophia took a few photos of me.  As she was taking photos, I heard a man to my left say, "Cheese!". After that he began asking if he could get a photo with  me and he was quite insistent. I wasn't sure what this was all about, so I ignored him and looked at Sophia who told me it was okay and told him to go ahead (I was concerned he was going to try to steal my purse and this was his way to get around me, hence my uncomfortable "is this really happened? What do I do? Should I smile? Okay I'll smile." smile). He, in fact, did just want a picture with me, even though he didn't have a camera of his own. Later in the car I asked why this was. Sophia informed me that in the poorer parts, the people rarely see Americans. Since they think of America as Heaven, it's a big deal to even be able to be near me like that, let alone have their picture taken with me. It makes me sad to think that somebody can want to be somewhere else so badly that they get excited just to be in the presence of someone from that location.  

Sophia took me to the other half of the market, which turned out to be a meat section. The whole scene caught me off guard.. Cow heads and feet in the walk way, freshly butchered meat out on the tables, insects swarming, meat being taken off of the table and cooked on a grill the length of half of the market, and the huge line waiting for the meat to be cooked and served. I literally stopped walking and told Sophia I wouldn't wake towards the heads and meat anymore. I think she was as surprised at my reaction as I was the sight. Finally, I regained sanity and continued to move around the market, avoiding all carcasses. A man with a rifle (I think) stepped out in front of me. Again, this was unexpected, as I just assumed he was a civilian, and I was kind of alarmed, but I continued walking. Sophia asked if I wanted to try any of the meat. I of course informed her that was not happening. We walked to the other side, and I'll be darned if there weren't more heads. Quickly I found the exit to the market. 

When we got into the car I asked her about the man carrying the gun, and she informed me he is a market security guard. We proceeded to more of the rundown area of town. Petrus (that, not Pedros, is the man who picked me up from the airport... I learned his real name today) had told me about the side of town where people didn't have houses, but I never would have imagined the multitude he was talking about. Small shacks made of scrap metal had cut outs for doors and serving purposes as well as just one wall open for merchants.  Places of business included barbers, carry out restaurants, a western bar, and a dj bar. Soon a large hill (maybe it was one of the mountains) came into view, and Sophia told me that all of the shacks as far as I could see up the hill were people's homes. The people don't have jobs, electricity, water, or anything really. They simply built a shelter out of scrap metal. She said often times five people squeeze into one of these tiny homes.  

On our way back to the hotel for lunch, all I thought about is how blessed I am. I can't imagine not having the power to choose and work towards my own destiny. I can't imagine how helpless I would feel, knowing that somewhere in the world people do have that right, and I do not.  

Sophia told me that I must go to the Namibian coast sometime, about a 3 hour drive. I am assuming this would be the Skeleton Coast, as she talks about the sand dunes meeting the ocean and mentioned that it is the only place in the world that is like this. She said I may be able to organize a day trip with other volunteers at N/a'an Ku Se. I inquired about how much gas is here, and she said about $10 a liter, her car takes about 45 liters, so it would cost about $450 (Namibian). I asked how much gas it took to get to and from the coast, she said she could probably do it in one tank, maybe one and half. I suggested that we should go together  and I would pay her for gas. She said she will have to consider it due to the fact we would have to leave on a Friday and that would mean a day off of work for her. I hope she says yes, I really do love her company!

Sophia and I grabbed lunch: salad, delicious chicken thigh and leg, and rice with, of course, Grapetiser. We then went to the Polytechnic of Namibia for my orientation, where I thought I would meet many other study abroad students. WRONG! It was just me... apparently I'm the only one (not sure if that's for the entire program or just for the wildlife portion). Sophia told me that we only leave N/a'an Ku Se on the weekends, and even then we only go to the mall in Windhoek. She also told me there is one little shop that is only open on Monday and Thursday, so we should get me snacks before we leave. I also received a cell phone at orientation that Dr. Sanders (my contact for the trip) left for future students, we just have to get a SIM card now. Sophia also made sure she told EVERYONE about my reaction to the cow heads at the market... at least everyone found me entertaining!

After orientation, we came back to the hotel so Sophia could get my delayed luggage information to the front desk of my hotel. She also sent it to someone back at the university. The woman called and nobody answered the luggage service desk at JoBerg. Sometime tonight a man that drives for Polytechnic is supposed to swing by and grab the paperwork from the front desk. He is going to the airport around 5 in the morning and will check to see if it is there. If it is not, we will go on our way to N/a'an Ku Se tomorrow morning a little later. If it's not there, this girl is going to be REALLY unhappy. I do NOT want to be on the refuge without my 98% deet bug spray. Not at all. Plus I'm already low on clothing items from my carry on. 

Then we were off for shopping my snacks. Sophia had some work to catch up on and planned on leaving, but it was only 4 (supper isn't until 6), and I didn't want to spend two extra hours in my hotel without any company, so I convinced her to spend more time with me. We went to the mall connected to the grocery store first, and I primarily assisted her in picking out clothing items and a purse. She informed me during our shopping spree that she wished I was here on a holiday and not study... let's just say that made my day. Glad to know that she's as fond of me as I am her. I told her that I will come back and make sure we have more time. I also told her that she should come to the States. She informed me that she didn't know anyone there, and I said she did now and that I'm sure I could have a place to stay for her. I think my coast trip is looking more promising, now that I know she really does enjoy my company. Yesterday Sophia picked up some seasoned, crunchy peanuts called Crusties and we both got hooked. When we returned today (I was seriously going to buy out the whole store), there were no more. Since I wasn't sure what kind of snack foods would be available, I loaded up on nuts and raisins, couple of bags of chips, some cookies, and some Belgium chocolate that Nuno got me started on and Germany got me hooked on. 

Sophia then dropped me off at the apartment, as it was a little after 6:00 and supper time. I requested that my food be delivered to the room and ordered the T-Bone. I could definitely get used to the food here. I also paired it with my new two favorite drinks: Fanta Pineapple and Grapetiser. 

Tomorrow morning I will be up early enough for breakfast, packing, and traveling. Not looking forward to saying goodbye to Sophia, but, if all goes well, we see each other when we go to the coast. Also, now that I have a cell phone we discussed getting together when I come into town on the weekends.

Not sure how often I will have internet access after tomorrow morning, but I do know that I am supposed to submit a midterm, final, and final project via internet, so there has to be some somewhere on the refuge. Things are about to get totally new, totally scary, totally dangerous, totally challenging, and totally AWESOME.

But all of those totally's are going to have to wait, but I am one tired chicky. And I'm in for a long day tomorrow and a long upcoming four weeks. Good night world!
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