Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In Africa, We Share

On Sunday I began my trek from the North of Namibia to a touristy beach town called Swakopmund.

I woke up early on Sunday morning to begin the trip. I had to grab some clothes that were drying overnight off the clothesline, and noticed something very different about the sky. In my two months in the North, I have never seen a cloudy sky. The day I left Okahao, though, the sky was covered in a blanket of clouds, not an inch of blue to be seen. It was fitting, it seemed, for my last few hours in my beloved village. My roommate noted, "Namibia is giving you a proper farewell!" Little did I know the sky would not be the only "proper" farewell from Namibia...

I had been lucky (ha) enough to arrange a ride with a colleague's brother and his father who were from Walvis Bay, just 30 km from Swakopmund. I was excited to be able to avoid the crowded and chronically late kombis and ride with a familiar face. Little did I know...

I left Okahao around 7 AM and arrived in Ondangwa after 2 taxi rides around 9 AM. We had agreed to meet at 9 AM in the Shop Rite parking lot. In true Namibian style, they did not arrive until 11 AM.

When Tuafeni and Mr. Ndaamakele arrived in a bakki (pick-up truck), I had no idea what the next day of my life would hold. I lugged my belongings (a large duffle bag and backpacking backpack - all of the possessions I brought to Namibia) toward the bakki. As I approached, I saw women piling out of the back of the truck. I then looked into the back and saw a stuffed truck bed - bags, food, blankets, whatever. They began to make space for my bags (though I don't know how they managed) and shoved it to the back. After some rearranging, it was time for us to get in and start our journey.

In the back of a stuffed bakki was me, and three memes who became my sisters by the end of the 10 hour long trip! I have one special photo to keep with me to show what it looked like at the start of our drive...we were practically laying on top of each other for the next several hours. Our legs were entangled, and our hot sweaty bodies sticking to one another. The heat of the hot African day made the temperature close to unbearable in the back, and fortunately there was a cooler full of cool drinks and beers.

This was a prime example of "In Africa we share", a motto I've lived by here and will bring home with me in my life in the USA. All of the food, drinks, anything they had - they shared with me, a perfect stranger. We sipped on cokes and beers to stay cool, they shared their lunches with me, without question. It was expected that if they offered me something, I would take it.

Mostly they spoke in Oshiwambo - a language a love listening to. We spoke some of the time, me attempting Oshiwambo and they getting very excited! I told them about my recently given Owambo name, "Dapandula", which means "Thank you", and they loved this. From that point on, that was the name by which I was called. I showed them photos on my iPad, and answered their questions about the USA. We passed the time talking, sleeping, and sweating. We stopped at every larger city, and they took the chance to stock up on food, further packing the bakki. It was as if there was no recognition that the back already had too much stuff in it!

At one point a friend called on the cell phone, and the meme talked in Oshiwambo, of course. Then she switched to English to tell me, "I was telling her that we are just driving with our sister from the North, Dapandala!" And handed me the phone, where I proceeded to chat with her friend!

For the duration of our 10 hour car ride, these women welcomed me with open arms and treated me like family. This is how life is in Namibia - and Namibia gave me this farewell so that I won't soon forget "In Africa, we share."

1 comment:

  1. I was shocked when I was in Botswana and two people offered me there cars (Mercedes) while mine was out of commission. Thanks for the message: In Africa, we share!