I found an email this week that I had sent to my parents during my first month in Namibia. I thought you might enjoy it, especially if you’ve read Different Stars. (And if you haven’t read it, you really should get a copy here or here and get on that!)
Fun Things to Do in Namibia
1) Pretend that you speak Afrikaans when someone mistakes you for a local. Nod and smile, throw in some “goed,” “dankie,” and “Shame!”s when appropriate.
2) Entertain the locals by freaking out about seals on the beach. Stop the car to take pictures of every seal you see, pointing and shouting, “Seals! Real, live seals!” (Slight variation — do the same with flamingoes. Or sand dunes. Both work equally well.)
3) Go to the bank five times in thirty minutes to ask for your checks, to re-check your account number, to get your address changed on the checks, to figure out how to write one of these checks, to. ask even more questions…
4) Unintentionally confuse small Afrikaans children by using great American slang words like “cool” and “freak out” and “dude.” Then, they’ll be shocked when their parents tell them that Tante Jennifer (Auntie Jennifer, Miss Jennifer) does, in fact, speak English. “Just not y’all’s English.”
5) Open one of the windows of your flat while the wind is blowing from the dunes. Just for two seconds — and then you’ll have a whole heap of sand to clean up. Fun!
6) Go back to the bank, and in your best American accent say, “Now, I put a comma here and not a period. Is that what y’all said?”
7) Prepare a “hair care” bag. Place in it your hair dryer, your curlers, your twenty pound American voltage transformer, an adapter for the plug, a power strip, etc. When an unsuspecting Afrikaner gentleman wants to carry it for you and can’t believe how heavy it is, make some comment about blowing things up with your heavy-duty beauty products. “It takes a lot to make THIS look good.”
8) Back out of the driveway while Paul (my pastor) is watching. When he starts yelling and jumping up and down, hit your brakes and your clutch. Your car will turn over and die. But you won’t have hit the gate! Endure his teasing for weeks.
9) Go to the KFC to hear Ricky Martin. They play his music 24-7, even the Spanish songs.
10) Ask “what animal is this?” every time you eat meat. After a while, you’ll learn to stop asking.
11) When Paul locks his keys in his car and you go with Marlene (his wife, who is in the picture above) to deliver another set to him when he’s playing squash, say, “I have trouble backing up, but at least I don’t lock my keys in my car.” Enjoy teasing him for weeks!
12) At least once a week, set off your car alarm on Kaiser Willem, the busiest street in Swakopmund. Walk around to the left side of the car (thinking that it’s the driver’s side) to get in and turn it off. Discover that the left side is actually the passenger side, grumble about “crazy cars,” and go to the right side, smiling briefly at the car guards who are laughing at you.
13) Use your limited Afrikaans when thanking people for their hospitality and when greeting them. It entertains them to no end to hear you mutilate their language — “Buy a donkey for the wonderful Rooibos.”
14) Assure everyone at the Wednesday night Bible study that you know the way back home at night. Then, get in your car, get totally lost, pray in frustration, “Lord, just don’t let me drive myself out to the desert!,” and miraculously stumble right back onto the correct road. Repeat this process again and again…
15) Admit that you love watching rugby (even though you only made it to one intramural game at UH), and you’ll become the long lost daughter of every older Afrikaner man in the church. Use this to your advantage when you have car trouble.
16) Hold onto that last bit of American currency as long as possible. The rand is falling, and that one dollar could equal ten if you just wait a little longer! Plus, home affairs still has your passport, so you can’t exchange your money anyway!
17) Have a conversation with Emmanuel, the high school Sunday school teacher. He’s from Ghana; you’re from Texas. You both speak two different kinds of English, and you’re living somewhere where they speak yet another kind. See how many times you can say “pardon?” or “hmm?” See how bonded you feel when no one else understands you! (Of course, you don’t understand each other all that often either, but hey…)
18) Say “I’m stuffed” after a meal, only to later discover that you’ve just announced to the whole table, “I’m pregnant.” On the same topic, tell someone that you think that striking young man in church is “lekker,” figuring that it translates as “nice,” only to find that it’s more like “tasty.” (And that still won’t capture what you meant, if the gasps this produces are any indication.) Say it with me — SHAME, man!
19) When someone says they’ll give you a tinkle, don’t look at them in disgust. Just don’t say that they’re piddling around, or you’ll get that same disgusted look.
20) At the Petrol stations, get out of the car and attempt to fill up the car yourself. When uniformed attendants run up to help, looking at you like you’ve completely lost your mind, let them fill up your car. You’re in Namibia… duh… they do that for you!
21) Unpack your luggage (finally) and discover that the biltong you packed in Windhoek and forgot to unpack in Swakop has left its scent everywhere. Your clothes, your books, your pictures — even your toothbrush — smell like springbok meat. Stray dogs will love you! (Speaking of, those German Shepherds across the street from your flat? Can TOTALLY clear the fence. Just FYI.)
22) Think about high school as you’re working with high school students, and where you wanted to be, and who you wanted to be, and what you wanted to be doing by the time you were 22. Smile because you didn’t get your way. You got this instead.
Hope you’re having a great week, friends!