Into the Great Wide Open Spaces of Namibia: An Introduction

by Ekua on September 3, 2012 in d.i.y. travel,female travel,Namibia,why i travel

One day your mother calls you to say that she’s been accepted into the Peace Corps. And she’s being placed in Namibia. As soon as she tells you, she correctly guesses that you’re already planning your visit.

You share the news with your friends. Many of them are puzzled. “Um, where’s Namibia?” they ask. You get used to explaining that it’s north of South Africa on the western side and in fact, it used to be ruled by South Africa.

Five months later, you send your mom off at the airport and in this strange role reversal, things get real. The change that has been slowly creeping towards you is now here.

After she arrives in Namibia, you hear weekly updates about training process, new people she’s met, and the country. Namibia sounds even stranger than you imagined. You can’t wait to see it for yourself.

Then three months later, you’re off to Namibia via London and Johannesburg. Somehow in the winter holiday crowds at Heathrow, you quickly find your sister who has arrived before you from LA. You’ve gotten used to spending hours alone at Heathrow, jetlagged and bored and it’s nice to have company this time.

You eat Japanese food, partly because you know it’s a decent restaurant as far as airport food goes, and partly because you want to have something you’ll be unlikely to find for the next two weeks or so.

You wander aimlessly around the airport with your sister and laugh at the silly London-themed souvenirs in the gift shops. You stand and skim through magazines and browse through pretty much every store. Then you wait. And wait some more.

Finally the heavenly Heathrow moment comes when the screen tells you what gate you’ll be at. You take the tram to the gate and board your flight to Johannesburg. You’re giddy. This is one of those parts of the world you’ve dreamed about visiting, but didn’t fully expect to ever get there. And you’re getting there.

You look out the window, down at Gaborone, Botswana, a patch of buildings in the middle of nothingness. You think of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series that your mom got you into. “Next time,” you say to yourself. And then you finally you land in the urban sprawl of Johannesburg.

At the airport you encounter a kind of lackadaisical security that is long gone from many other airports around the world. It’s so quick to go through it that you’re expecting more at the other end because you’ve gotten so used to the strip down, liquids in bag routine.

You have another layover, but you don’t have time to explore the city, so you explore the airport. A giant beaded statue of Nelson Mandela invites you to shake his hand. Food stores sell jerky made with animals you’ve never heard of such as “oryx”. Little do you know that you’re about to see all of those animals en masse. Gift shops carry limitless supplies of beaded jewelery, animal print everything, and carvings everywhere. Everything fits the bill of “exotic” items you’re supposed to bring home from Africa. You probably shouldn’t love these stores, but you do. The kitsch draws you in while your sister pulls you away because it’s almost time to board.

It’s a quick flight to Namibia from there and you’re struck by how empty it looks down below. Roads that seem to lead to nowhere cut through the emptiness. You’ve never seen so much open space. As you descend, even the capital city looks quiet.

Windhoek. You still can’t seem to say it correctly, but you’re there.

You’re surprised that when you go through immigration, people who you thought were foreigners are going through the citizens line. You’ve always known that as much people try to lump Africa together, it is full of distinct countries, cultures, and histories. But still, the widely accepted notions about the sameness of the African continent have made their way into your mind. That’s about to unravel. You’re not prepared for it.

When you’re done with the arrival formalities, you and your sister have a joyful reunion with your mother. You step out into the heat and she leads you to a large truck that will be your mobile fortress for the next two and a half weeks of your do-it-yourself tour of Namibia. This just might be the adventure that all your adventures thus far have led up to. It’s funny, exciting, a little daunting.

You load up the vehicle and then you’re off — three women in a 4×4 truck exploring the great wide open spaces of Namibia.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Hannah September 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Ooh lovely.. happy travels! Look forward to reading more about your adventures in Namibia :) I’ll be there myself later this year!

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Ekua September 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I’m not there right now, typically I blog about places after I leave and in this case I was backed up because I did quite a bit of travel last year! What places are you going to visit in Namibia???

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Phil September 5, 2012 at 3:15 am

Love how you take us along for the ride in this post :) But this was also a big tease. Looking forward to reading about your time there!

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Ekua September 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Well, Phil – they say it’s about the journey, not about the destination ;) I’m looking forward to reliving my Namibia experiences as well, but it will probably be a week until I really get into because I’m gearing up to celebrate my birthday right now!

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Sunee September 5, 2012 at 11:56 pm

I haven’t made it to Namibia yet – in my mind’s eye all I see is sand and sand and more sand, and I’m a greenery girl :) Waiting to see if you can make me change my mind…

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Ekua September 11, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Lots and lots of sand, but there’s more to it than that! And the way the sand presents itself in Namibia can be unbelievably beautiful. I used to be not so into deserts and other barren landscapes, but have come to appreciate them over time!

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Stephanie September 9, 2012 at 8:08 am

Loved this introduction to your trip to Namibia! Your mom sounds awesome and the trip seems like quite the adventure for a mother and her two daughters. Can’t wait to hear more about it.

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Ekua September 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie! It was an adventure and we luckily didn’t get into too much trouble along the way ;)

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Ruby September 10, 2012 at 5:51 am

Wow! What a great introduction, it definitely was a teaser but I’m excited to hear all about it. Africa is so diverse and it’s a shame that people lump it into 1 space. I don’t know much about Namibia but I’m sure you’ll fill me in on it’s culture and people.

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Ekua September 11, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Namibia was on my travel list based on pictures I’ve seen of it’s natural attractions, but looking at pics/reading bits and pieces about it cannot compare to being there… it was a mind-expanding travel experience for sure!

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Lola September 14, 2012 at 6:20 am

Loved every line! Can relate to that familiar homelike yet crazed feel of Heathrow. Looking forward to more from Namibia.

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Ekua September 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thanks, Lola! That airport drives me nuts, but so many times it’s the halfway point between the anticipation of adventure and the comfort of home so I kind of love it :P

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Fly Girl September 14, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I’m with Lola. Loved every single line. You’ve reeled me into this story. Can’t wait to read what’s next.

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Ekua September 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Glad you liked it!

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