I woke up for the day at 03h30 this morning. Handily my Canadian loves were up and happy as clams to visit away the hours. Of course around seven my body decided to get sleepy and I stole another two hours of sleep before heading to the trough for my “included breakfast”.
Coffee, two pieces of anemic toast and a hard-boiled egg were my welcome. Acceptable until I found out that powdered milk was all that was available to doctor my coffee. Quelle dommage! When I asked if they would be able to sell me a shot of Amarula (I was standing in front of no less than three signs declaring that they were legally obligated to not sell alcohol before 10AM) and she said, “Yes, but it will cost you twenty dollars.” I nearly fell over. My brain engaged mid-jaw-drop and quickly pointed out that she must mean Namibian dollars (1CAD = 10.5ND). I’ll admit that changing countries and currencies regularly is tricky from a language perspective (pula, US dollars, rand, Namibian dollars have been the currencies I’ve had to bounce around in thus far) but excellent for mental math gymnastics.
I spent breakfast watching BBC World News, updating myself on the global plastic problem, the Mars landing!, Texas Senate election, and Ukraine/Russia tensions. There are two things I’d like to add to my life when I get home: I would like to be signed up for YouTube on my television (however one does that, Aidan?) and subscribed to Adrienne’s Yoga feed and hang out with her once a day; AND I would like to watch BBC World News once a day (not sure how to get that on my television either, but I have faith if I ask it will happen). Oh, and I’m replacing Bailey’s with Amarula. So, major changes I would say, major changes.
Some comparing and contrasting (risky but give me the benefit of the doubt here) I’ve noticed over the last month:
- Zimbabweans have the best English.
- Namibia seems to have much more of a middle class (even though its GDP per capita is 3000$ less than Botswana).
- Nowhere in Africa, that I have been, has seemed as poor as Bolivia.
- African towns, especially in Botswana, seem bizarrely spread out, given that few people have cars and it is excruciatingly hot much of the year. They seem organized more like NAm urban sprawl cities, compared to Chile and Bolivia where people built up and kept their homes close to resources since they have to travel by foot. (I’m not suggesting cleverness or the lack of, I’m sure there’s a reason for it, I just can’t figure out what it is. And it sure does affect amenability to the Backpacking traveller.)
What a difference a few/ten degrees and a (cool-ish!!) breeze can make. I’m walking around! Outside! Between the hours of eleven and three! AND do not feel like I’m going to die.
I visited the National Art Gallery which had a student exhibit on display. I was a bad person and took a few photos.
I know it’s wrong! It’s just.. most of the “African” art we see reinforces an image of crude or basic.. without sophistication, craft or depth. These installations, and the many I wasn’t brave enough (alone enough) to steal a photo of, were modern and varied and very sensitive to the current realities of Namibia.
Anyhow, from there I went to the National Museum of Namibia. Mmm. I would say it is a must visit, but not exactly for the reasons one might assume. It is in abysmal shape and much of it is print outs and tape, with the occasional gratuitous diorama. In fact, when I visited, much of the museum was in the dark, because they couldn’t afford to replace the light bulbs. BUT it confronted the slave trade and it’s association with ivory unflinchingly:
More recently, and therefore more impressively, it narrated the obliteration of the San people and the subsequent commercialization of a static (historical) image of the San culture for tourism. The exhibit even tried to outline some of the complexities associated with the popularization of historical San culture: it helps propagate (barbaric, inaccurate, racist) ideas about the San peoples’ place in human evolution, however, many San people are commercializing their history as a way of increasing their income. “A fine line between exploitation and empowerment”. I would like to see the National Museum of Canada describe so baldly our relationship with Native Americans.
In particular I appreciate the possibilities of this last paragraph. Acknowledging the intellectual property of indigenous wisdom holds huge promise for marginalized people around the world.
The obligatory spin around Christuskirche:
And off to find lunch at Lonely Planet’s recommended Craft Café. Food: delicious, not cheap exactly, but cheap for what you get. All patronage was European, and the vast majority of tourists in Windhoek thus far have been German. I’m not sure if the above is the cause, but the service was surly at best.
Spent a bit of time in the craft market below and around the Craft Café. There have been shifts in what is on offer at the craft stalls in the different towns/countries. Botswana was heavy in the textiles, with lots of wood carving, and a few stone and sheet metal offerings. Zimbabwe was really heavy on the stone and wood carvings with some textiles that resembled those in Botswana as well as some leather and bone offerings. Namibia has a lot of jewellery (ostrich shell beads, glass beads, clay beads; metal smithing and gemstones), some fabric but lots of it is quite different from what was in Botswana and Zim, including embroidery, some carvings but more carvings associated with tools (ie bottle openers and stuff), paintings and photos, and lots of leather and fur goods. Interesting. I’m pleased I didn’t fill my bag in Botswana.