WET OR DRY : JUST BLAME IT ON THE NAMIB MOUNTAINS

Dried Expectations

I have often dismissed those Stephan Segal type movie scenes when car/truck/bike-chase-plane-with-occupant–scrambling-on- board-to-Stop-The-Pilot, as pure smoking mirrors.  But, there I was, (with a colleague of mine who can attest), on board the courtesy taxi-bus at the crack of dawn, on the runaway chasing after what seemed like a phantom SA-Express plane. The driver seemed incapably of finding our ride. Eventually he found a real “live” one, which he raced, and true to the movies…..the bus won.  Surreal.  Having now traversed the runaways from international  back to domestic, keeping in mind that [i]O R Tambo International is now as big as Dubai’s, we finally stopped to disembark from the bus and board a plane called…….The Congo Express. I prayed that I would not land up somewhere in the middle of the equatorial forest, surrounded by [ii]“Pygmies”.

Why it’s called the SA or Congo Express is beyond my overactive brain. Its name belies its speed….. Especially if one is additionally delayed by fourty five minutes due to a plane not being fuelled.  Perhaps we were meant to push the plane to its destination?  Finally gassed, as the “Americans” would say, and with control tower, according to Mr Pilot, now having allotted us with a new departure slot, we conversely sashayed the runaways like the taxi-bus. However I swear we continued to the [iii]R21, met up with the N1, forked with the N14 to eventually depart from [iv]Lanseria. But, as I am normally in Eyes Wide Shut mode during the entire take-off and landing process, to prevent my psychosomatic predilection for alleged travel sickness, I would not be able to raise my right hand to truthfully recount what felt like an outer body experience to Speed 3.  Or perhaps I just felt Terminal due to the delayed claustrophobic hole-up.

Seated at the emergency exit the flight attendant obliging explained, in fast-forward Greek, the steps and processes to adhere to as anointed door attendant, in the event that we should land in the sea or on a mountain top.  Perhaps I would have understood if she had spoken in Japanese, as I still don’t know, and don’t think I’ll ever do; and, if ever faced “In case of an Emergency”, I think I’ll just ……..Break-the-Glass. We had finally taken off on the Congo Express. I still envisioned myself being captured on disembarkation, suspended above a big three legged, cauldron pot, hoping that Tarzan would eventually come to my rescue.   By now we were a full one hour behind schedule, with SA-Express.

Furtive Peeks

The advantage of soaring the African skies on a smaller plane is that one does fly lower.  Peering from my window seat, once the seat belt signs had been switched off, reclining and spreading my legs to further enjoy the ride, which I had expected to be rough but surprisingly found it quite gentle, I was dumbfounded by the endless miles and miles and miles of nothingness.  Dry river beds, dry sparse fauna, dry agricultural circular fields (I mean WHAT do they farm).  Suddenly a [v]Manyi question came to mind. Why on heaven’s earth, in 2011, has no one “invented”, or if they have, implemented, the construction of habitable, irrigated green cities (like in the movies) within these environs, to ease overcrowding in others? I arrested my thoughts for fear of being accused of incitement, and proverbially landing in that three legged, boiling cauldron.

As the captain announced our descent, I furtively peeked through the window. (Remember I descend with eyes closed). I breathed a sigh of relief. There was neither a rain-forest afoot nor a poison-pipe blowing pigmy in sight, which meant that we probably would be landing somewhere in Namibia. I braved a few more peeks like a MS publisher document, scouring through my window, subsequently craning my neck to the opposite one, to see any sign of a Welcoming Windhoek.  There was none. Not even a concrete block in site.  Why construct an airport 40 kilometres from a capital city when there is nothing, nothing, nothing in between, save a few [vi]windpompe, (and a mid-way permanent police road block) once again escapes my intelligent brain. The mountainous terrain is to blame, explain the locals.

Quizzically, there is a domestic airport smack bang in the middle of the city. In fact very close to the hotel I was staying, The Safari Club.  Rather disturbing as I was convinced Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Landen were constantly doing follow up twin tower type practice runs, with the hotel as its target. I seriously considered starting a Facebook group as an advocacy agent, requesting NATO to also declare this area a [vii]NFZ.  Smugly accessing internet via my daily two hours of free Wi-Fi, I suddenly questioned myself as to whether the Congo Express had actually landed in the desert of the Namib or Sahra’ al Libiyah.  Facebook AND Twitter was blocked. Even at the business centre.  I was just about to strip the Caprivi,  when a very ingenious Spanish speaking Norwegian hotel guest, sauntered in. Together we decoded the sites to gain access, collectively recalling the social media unblock circumvention tweets of @BloggerSeif @ChangeinLibya @ArabvoiceSpeak and @JustAnEgytian. Shukraan!

Having met our host briefly, I took advantage of the gain of one hour, berating current daylight saving, which if not implemented would have translated into an additional hour, thus two. Namibia subscribes to GMT.  Refreshed after much needed sleep and stressed induced airport drama, and having also enjoyed a lovely lunch, with my hosts, I decided to prowl the city environs, on recommendation by the hotel staff by visiting the Mall, courtesy of the hotel mini-bus service.  It was then that it dawned on me how small Windhoek really is, with only two malls and about three good restaurants. The latter, on good authority from the locals, and of course the question of “A Club?”…. is scoffed at.  My friends, who had been here before or often travel between the two, had not been wrong.  It also dawned on me how revolutionary the former South West Africa, under administration by the then Apartheid South African government, had turned out to be.  Or perhaps I was just being subjective as I felt a bag/land/taxi grab coming while cruising Robert Mugabe Avenue, conversely a sense of freedom on entering Nelson Mandela Avenue. Propaganda. Sometimes it does weird things to the brain.

If I had been clubbed stone cold in South Africa, and revived in Windhoek, especially the Mall, I would have been none the wiser that I was in a different country.  To a degree, it resembled Cape Town.  An equal array of whites, blacks and coloureds or what they call the “[viii]Basters”.  The Mall is also the only place one finds life as there is none on the streets. Rather an attractive lot I found the latter to be with most “Basters” of the male persuasion oozing that North African-Berber/Mediterranean look.  I haven’t swung my hair so often in such a long time.  Additional similarities are that there is no need for money exchange as one can trade in ZAR, as is the case in [ix]Zim;  all the South African shops are present; and one has access to all of South Africa’s free to air state television channels as well as the independent Etv, with a DSTV decoder of course. Conversely we don’t have access to Nambia’s free to air channel on the same decoder system.

Furthermore most people speak [x]Afrikaans in the capital. In fact it resonated of Pretoria where initially I instinctively expected Blacks to engage in English as a mutual communicative lingua franca, but to my amazement found that Afrikaans is the preferred common language, although of course not the mother-tongue. I could see some method in the madness of the Brother Leader’s opinion. Perhaps as a start Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland should all amalgamate and become the United States of South Africa of course, strictly under the auspices of South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.  I suppose Mugage would retort if “Pigs could Fly” especially if it meant that “those lower than pigs could marry”. 😉

The Culprit Mountains

As dusk fell, it dawned on me how cold Windhoek and surrounds are.  Well in winter. Once again it was blamed on the mountains.  I am still of the opinion that it is  intensely colder than the [xi]Highveld, and felt vindicated, when on my return, I blissfully survived, quite comfortably dressed in my favourite woollen-ribbed-stocking-woolly-mini-suede-booted winter fashionista attire, safely back in the arms of the [xii]Jacaranda City.  A nigh impossibility in [xiii]Bibberhoek. Parallel to daylight saving, I think they should change the name of the capital according to the seasons.  I had originally planned to adjoin my official visit to some tourist activity inclusive of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.  However, the fact that everything was frozen stiff (in Bibberhoek), and that I would not enjoy this particular display of rigidity; the fact that Swakopmund would wet me with a cold Benguela stream, and I would not be quivering in subsequent delight; the fact that Walvis Bay would blow me with a possible icy wind, and make me squeal in fright, saw me back in South Africa five days earlier than scheduled.  My host graciously accommodated the change of flight request. Interestingly Walvis Bay, South Africa’s former “Hong Kong” remained an administered South African region until 1 March 1994, albeit that Namibia gained independence in 1990.   However, all is not lost. I’m hoping to return later during the year, as an accompaniment to a Pretoria based photographer friend, discussed prior to my departure, when Namibia can envelop me in its heated loins.

About to Relish a Gemsbok (and some Caprivi Fish)

Did I enjoy my stay?  Yes! The Gemsbok was delicious. Equally yes, as I had been invited as facilitator to a presentation, on secondment, representing one of my organisations of which I’m a board member, to an interesting sexuality conference. Having attended myriads of conferences, from arts to socio-politics, and presenting papers this was the first time I had been invited to specifically present and not attend a conference in its entirety.  Myself and co-presenter only received compliments.  Additionally yes, with reference to the bitter-sweet reason contained in the last paragraphs to this blog.

Did I enjoy my stay? No! What, with Facebook blocked (in the hotel). Vocally no! What with local SIM cards not compatible to my BlackBerry (although the one of an acquaintance just met worked when inserted). Vociferously NO! As whatever was frozen stiff could not even be thawed even if one continuously blew it with hot breath.

Was I nostalgic when I left?  Unequivocally yes. But perhaps for typical Nurswan reasons?  The morning after the night before, at breakfast, I spotted a horde of track suit clad guys smarting my host country’s national colours, or so it seemed.  Acting with professional decorum, I substituted the call to raging hormones by salaciously prodding my two fried eggs and a sausage instead, swallowing my muesli with yogurt. It was then that I spotted two natural blond Adonisis amongst Namibia’s Chippendales.  Furtive eyes and furtive reciprocal smiles grew to grins and hellos by the penultimate morning.  I had made up my mind, being the strong-willed feminist that I am, that I was going to formally introduce myself at least as a courtesy, on the last morning of my departure especially to Preferred Smiling Adonis.

After all, as I had brought my departure date forward it was going to be the….last dance? As they traipsed in again on my last morning, Preferred Smiling Adonis was nowhere to be seen or found.  I ordered more eggs and sausage, swallowing the yogurt quicker this time; I could only but think of cramming in at least half an hour of social media as an alternative to substitute carnal cravings. Engrossed in the goings on of Blogger Seif in Lebanon, viola, in strolls Consolation Adonis, who had incidentally also found a Facebook backdoor route, and happily acquiesced to my request to add him as friend on my return to South Africa, which he has subsequently accepted.

We smirked at our cyberspace prowess and thus starting chatting.  Having grown up and now honed in furtive Murder She Wrote interrogation skills, I quickly discovered as to why Preferred Smiling Adonis was not at breakfast that morning.

“Oh, my brother”, says Consolation Adonis.

“Your brother?”  , I quizzically asked.

“Yes my brother”, he replies.  “He went for his police clearance certificate”.

“Police clearance certificate”, I enquire with a surreptitiously raised eyebrow questioning myself as to why I always choose the bad boy.

“Well”, answers Consolation Adonis nonchalantly, “we’re due to play abroad soon and I personally play in Germany”.

You play in Germany?” I asked now rather excitedly, like a sixteen year old teen who had just met Justin Bieber. (Or a woman of a certain age who had just met Johnny Depp).

The only German sports organisation which immediately came to mind was the Bundesliga.

“Oh, so you play soccer?” I nervously asked, hoping to be correct in my assumption.

“Yes”, replies Consolation Adonis, “my brother and I (Preferred Smiling Adonis) both play for the national Namibian Soccer Squad”.

I felt the mountain closing in on me as I metaphorically conjured up the Powerplay [xiv]advertisement and could right there and then….. kick myself……

END



[i] O R Tambo – South Africa’s principal international airport situated just outside Johannesburg in the City of Ekureleni

[ii] I’ve used this term not as pejorative, but all encompassing. Mbenga, Mbuti and Twa are amongst the names they are referred to congruent to their ethnicity all over the world.

[iii] R21, – the main arterial now a four-lane highway, linking Pretoria to O R Tambo. N1 – arterial highway linking SA’s North to South and passes through the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg normally a parking lot during peak hours.  N14 – an arterial highway that links Pretoria to South Africa’s west.

[iv] Lanseria – a smaller domestic airport to the west of Pretoria and North of Johannesburg

[v] Manyi – SA Government Parliamentarian spokesperson who controversially supports coerced relocation of Coloured people from the Western Province, and Indian people from Kwazulu-NatalProvince in order to fullfill Affirmative Action employment policies throughout the other provinces.

[vi] Afrikaans for wind pump

[vii] NFZ – No Fly Zone

[viii] Although this and the preceding sentence could be construed as racial terms they are de facto ones used within the South African political landscape.  The Basters refer to themselves as such so no derogatory insinuations intended.

[ix] Zim – colloquial term for Zimbabwe

[x] Afrikaans – an indigenous South African official language, derived primarily from Dutch, intelligible additionally to Flemish

[xi] The Highveld – A high plateau region of inland South Africa constituted of all of Gauteng (Pretoria and Joburg) as well as circularly, the adjoining provinces .

[xii] Jacaranda City – colloquial term of endearment name of Pretoria due to the blossoming Jacaranda trees. Aka – the Purple City

[xiii] Bibber – Afrikaans for shiver (hoek – Afrikaans for corner)