My itinerary was the best it could be: overnight from San Francisco to London, 4 hour layover, overnight from London to Johannesburg, 2 hour layover, then a short flight from Jo’burg to Windhoek. Nonetheless, it’s a long trip to get here. The trip was relatively uneventful. I watched “Eat, Pray, Love” and “The King’s Speech” and I got to hang out in Heathrow’s terminal 5 for the first time. But it was a lovely thing to walk out of baggage claim and see a man (Sydney as it turns out) with a VSO sign waiting for me.
I arrived on a Friday, after the In-country Training was finished, at lunch time, so the VSO office was almost completely empty. But we walked to a local cafe and found my Programme Manager there. I was disappointed that the ICT was finished and that coming on a Friday meant that nothing would happen with me until Monday, because I definitely would have stayed a few more days in California so I could have celebrated my birthday and gone to the ANDC on Friday night. I did meet a couple of volunteers who are based in Windhoek and I got my SIM card (so important to have a means of communication!). I’m staying in Windhoek for the week — the bus to Katima Mulilo only goes twice a week, so I will take the one next Friday night — and I’m staying at the house of three volunteers, so now I’ve had a chance to get to know them a bit. There are quite a few volunteers working in Windhoek with national organizations.
Saturday I went for a nice run in the neighborhood. I was tired and a bit dehydrated. It is very dry here, even though they have had record rainfall this year (making everything quite lovely and green, which many have assured me is NOT normal). I’m not sure if I’m tired from traveling and not really getting good sleep or because Windhoek is about 3,000 feet in altitude. Probably travel.
After running, Claire and I went to Maerua Mall where I learned that Windhoek is a European city (or town, really). European stuff at European prices (and quality and availability). Interesting. Makes me aware of how African Nairobi is. The phone store in the mall got my phone connected to the Internet, so that was great, and I window-shopped nearly the whole place so I have a good idea what’s there. Sunday I went to another mall — Wern Hill — which was closed, bit still useful to see what’s available. Not that I’ll be able to shop there much on my volunteer stipend. Those visits, and conversations with the volunteers who have been here awhile, are showing me some fundamental ways in which Namibia is a different place to live than other places I’ve been in Africa.
Saturday night, several of us went to Nice restaurant (someone obviously was not feeling very creative when they named the place ). The others went to see a local musician, but since the concert didn’t get started until 9pm, one other volunteer (Sue) and I just had dinner (which was quite nice). Sunday, Michelle and Sue and I had lunch at the Craft Cafe after a nice “lie in” as the Brits say. After touring Wern Hill mall, we went and visited at Sue’s. She is also a new volunteer (Claire and Michelle have been here six months) and we were her first visitors.
It is a bit strange to be here “in limbo” and know that my setup and environment and the culture and so many things are going to be very different in my placement up in Katima. Hopefully I will talk with my partner org and one of the volunteers up in Katima before I leave here, so if there are things I should bring with me from here for my house, I can get them before I go. Katima is so far away, it is hard to imagine that I would come down here again anytime soon (the bus ride is advertised to be 17 hours).
Tomorrow my orientation will start, despite it being a national holiday (Independence Day). Hopefully some questions will be answered then!