Swakopmund, Swedes and a safari

The long break in blogging is due to my first real dip after coming here. First me, and three days later my thesis colleague, went down with both high fever, loss of appetite and thirst, as well as stomache aches. It all culminated with last Thursday spent in the hospital on a drip. The time we were ill didn’t seem much to document but here are some pictures from the things we managed to do before that.

In the taxi on the way to Swakopmund

On our way to our first trip outside Omaruru, to the city of Swakopmund at the Atlantic coast. The roads were asphalted and arrow straight for miles. We caught sight of an ostrich and some giraffs on the way! Swakop is Namibia’s second largest town with 42 000 inhabitants. Where the roads end in Swakop the desert and the great sand dunes start. Later we will return and try some sand-boarding.

The Atlantic coast

The air in Swakopmund was surprisingly cold with a constant wind blowing from the Atlantic ocean. Despite the water being freezing we saw some brave ones defying the chilly waves. In the evening we found a restaurant by the sea where we watched the sunset and feasted with champagne and oysters and the famous Namibian beef steaks which cost next to nothing. The evening continued with a bar and a night-club where we for the first time had a chance to talk to all kinds of local people.

White Flag Day at the cemetary in Omaruru

Last week it was White Flag Day in Omaruru, a day on which former Kings of the Herero tribe are honored and commemorated. With no information anywhere as to when the program would begin we took a random stroll to the cemetery and found us in the middle of a ceremony commemorating the now passed former Herero King Wilhelm Zeraua, unveiling the tomb stone of the recently deceased last king and announcing the name of the new King. People from all around Namibia had come to the celebrations. Most of the women were dressed in traditional outfits, white for the Hereros from Omaruru (therefore the name white flag day), green and red for Herero women from other parts of the country.

The whole of last week the Swedish delegation from Vanersborg was in Omaruru to work on their partnership project on NGO collaboration. We tagged along and got to accompany them on a safari outside Omaruru at a German wildlife farm called Immenhof. We got to see a lot of antilopes, exotic birds and giraffs and also Bushmen rock paintings, allegedly approximately 3 000 years old.

Bushmen rock paintings

On Wednesday there was a field trip to the neighboring larger city of Otjiwarongo where we met some municipal representatives and visited a multipurpose help centre supporting HIV-positive people, orphans and other children with school and everyday matters. Since having HIV is still stigmatized,the thought behind the help centre is that since the centre works on many different issues, it is not too apparent in what purpose people visit the centre.

Visit to Otjiwarongo municipality and the multipurpose help centre

Above is the Swedish delegation, me and my thesis collegue, some NGO-representatives and lastly people from the Omaruru municipality. The women are wearing traditional Herero dresses. Behind us, there is a oven working with only solar energy, a “sun oven”. Some bread loafs were baking inside it, although it was too cloudy for the moment to generate any electricity.

After the visit to the center it was time for lunch at a crocodile farm, first looking at crocodiles and then eating them.

That was all for now. Until next time!

Tiina

“We are all Africans”

It is easy to shake your bum to Shakira’s song “Waka waka” and to get a feeling of affinity, global equality and hope for mankind. This message, it seems, has not yet reached the former German colony of South-West Africa, nowadays called Namibia – an internationally low-profile country from where very little news reach global consciousness.

Airport landing strip outside Omaruru

According to guidebooks and people I’ve spoken to prior to my departure, Namibia is supposed to be a land so breathtakingly beautiful, peaceful and safe that not falling in love with it is virtually impossible. What I see is rich (mostly European originated) people restricted to live  in houses with their guard dogs barricaded behind 3 meter-high brick walls and electric fences, who do not dare walk on the street past sunset and drive around in enormous jeeps. Call me naïve (which I most definitely still am), but where is the safety in that? I also see people belonging to ethnic groups whose history in the area date back to hundreds and thousands of years, living in other suburbs in smaller houses without fences. In those suburbs people walk around on the streets, they hang out in cafes and bars. A young blond woman as myself, however, is ill-advised to visit this place alone, even during day-light. There, I hear music, people talking and the motor sounds of the swag white jeep I’m traveling in. Walking around in the rich suburbs I hear nothing, except for dogs barking as I pass the spiky iron gates they are guarding. Yes, the nature is amazing – but this inequality is ugly.

I am a student at the School of Public Administration at Gothenburg University and I am going spend 10 weeks in Namibia writing my Master’s thesis about a municipal partnership project between Omaruru and Vanersborg. In my blog I am going to write my honest impressions about everyday life here in the small rural town I live in and other places I visit. Here are some country facts:

Size: Twice the size of Sweden

Population: 2 million people

Languages: Officially English, in practice Afrikaans and local languages Oshivambo, Oshiherero, Damara and others.

Political system: Democracy since independency from South Africa in 1990. The same party S.W.A.P.O. has been in power since. The first president, Sam Nujoma, was in power for two electoral periods. The second president, Hifikepunye Pohamba, is on his second term now. The next presidential and national assembly elections will be held in 2014.

Deserts: two big ones, Kalahari and the coastal Namib desert, whose climate resemble that of the Atacama desert in Chile.

Now the hostel owner is urging me to close to computer, so with this picture of an aeroplane landing strip I say good night for now!

//Tiina Puurula