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Just so you know… October 15, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Uncategorized.
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… I have officially finished my placement here in Namibia. Friday was my last official day, although I’m still tying things up.

I am now on holiday though, so later this week, I am popping up north to visit some friends, and then I’m back to Windhoek for a few days, before hopping on the Intercape to Cape Town next Wednesday. I’m then around the Cape for a few weeks, returning to the UK on 7th November. I will try to write a bit more before leaving isabelleinnamibia behind, but I warn you,…this is the beginning of the end.

I am also officially unemployed at the moment, so if anyone knows of any jobs going in international development based in London, please let me know and I will bring you home a small giraffe!

Opuwo! (“The end” in Otjiherero) October 15, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Cows, Culture, Eh?, Home and away, Ovitoto, VSO.
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It was time to make my final visit to Ovitoto a few weeks back. I had this nagging feeling that there was something really important that I’d forgotten to do. I also hadn’t heard from Tjono in weeks. No matter which phone I called in the village, I either found the line disconnected, or received a response of “Oh, Tjono…. He is not here,…. He is in the place” (where “the place” really is often depends on who you are talking to, but all I knew was that he was not where he should have been, on the end of the phone to me).

 

Having set up a last minute meeting with the Regional Councillor, so that he can meet my replacement and that I can say cheerio, we made the immediate decision to drive up that day and take our chances with having the room to stay at the school and that everyone we needed to meet would be there. I felt pretty groggy as I took the turn-off on to the gravel road to Ovitoto, trying to give my successor a crash-course in Herero customs and greetings, whilst choking on the dust that blew in through the broken cover of my friend’s Jeep I was borrowing.

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The Final Countdown October 9, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Culture, Danger, Eh?, Home and away, Reality.
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I fear that I won’t have time to properly finish writing this story of me in Namibia. I officially finish work this Friday, and I am feeling this huge burden of ‘all the things that might not get finished in time’ pressing down on my time-constrained conscience. My nights are haunted by psychedelic scenes of unfinished reports chasing me through filing-cabinet forests, of arriving home to realise that no one remembers me anymore, of losing my passport on my way to the airport, of not being able to understand the basics of getting a Tube ticket, and not understand English or English customs anymore. And of course, lots of dreams about being pregnant, some of which are actually progressing to giving birth now (I did look this up, and it means anxiety over a new beginning or change – although a colleague told me yesterday it means someone is going to die! At least no babies for me).

The last few weeks I have been plagued by huge anxieties about leaving: leaving behind the work I have so firmly dedicated myself to over the last year; leaving the friends I found over here; leaving my slow way of life; leaving the sun that shines everyday; leaving the frustrations and cultural confrontations that make life that little bit more complicated, but which makes me feel more alive. And not just about what and where I am leaving, but what I am going back to. Unemployment, uncertainty and a home that no longer feels familiar.

This is the first time that I haven’t had anything to move on to – I have always had the next step planned. I am facing a huge career crisis of “where am I going”, and the pressure of “argh, I’m skint, I need a job”. I started scrawling through job sites months ago, and am struggling to find anything that really grabs me. Having had so much responsibility in my job over here, I am reluctant to go back to being an office monkey, and so many of the skills needed for higher posted jobs seem so alien. Whilst I have hugely developed my skills and experience during this fantastic experience over here, I am wondering how my rural farming community experience will fit in in a London-based NGO. They are hardly going to need me to create a workshop under any trees with only a stick as a resource, or discuss with traditional authority leaders about how their love for cows is heavily degrading the environment. I wonder whether my now slow pace will leave me behind the rest of the eagerly competing development graduates, and how valuable my knowledge of cattle herding will be in the cut-throat world of development.

 I am lucky though, as there are plenty of worse places to be going back to than London and the comfort of my parents’ home; although after living in a country which has only just got their population over 2 million, I do fear that life in London will push me into developing the early symptoms of agoraphobia. People will push and shove me for walking too slowly (something that I have perfected over the last year), commuters will mutter and tut as I struggle to get the ticket machine to work at the Tube station, and when my cheery ‘Hallo, how are you?’s are met with blank stares by all, I will probably run home, crying at the soulless world I have returned to.

Home seems so distant to me right now, and so I am trying to relax and concentrate on my immediate plans: planning my last night out in Windhoek; arranging my trip up North to visit my friends there next week; planning my beach holiday in South Africa with my housemate. Nice things, that make me forget that I am going back to the cold, low grey skies of London, a fast pace of life cluttered with objects that I no longer see the purpose of and an ocean of anonymous faces.

Don’t get me wrong, I am ready to leave, for so many reasons. But it is always so difficult to say good bye. I really think that leaving to the unknown is so much easier than returning to the familiar.

Ethical giving September 25, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Culture, Goodness, Home and away, Money, Namibia, VSO.
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Earlier this year, my old housemate Matthias went home for his father’s 60th birthday. It sounded like they had quite a party, but with a warming message: instead of receiving any presents, Matthias’ father would rather accept money to donate to worthy causes that Matthias knew of in Namibia. Together they raised over 3000 Euros, a hefty amount by any standards. (more…)

Benevolence September 25, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Goodness, Home and away, Namibia, Ovitoto.
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Since I found out I would be coming to work in Namibia, my parents’ church in London, St Mary’s of Kilburn, has shown incredible support towards my placement. The parish and congregation were so generous in helping me with my fundraising prior to my departure, and have shown keen interest in my activities whilst I have been away. Every week they pray for “Isabelle in Namibia”, wishing me well and that I am kept safe from danger. I find this most overwhelming though, as, whilst my parents are active members in the congregation now, they have only been in the area for a few years, and I have only turned up on the rare occasion that I have been in London on a Sunday. But the parish overlooks time, and sees any new member as part of the family. (more…)

The Himbas September 20, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Cows, Culture, Education, Home and away, Namibia.
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It was in Damaraland where we visited one of the last surviving, truly traditional groups in Namibia, the Himba people. The Himbas are a group of matrilineal nomadic cattle herders known for their defiance against the pull towards modernity. Despite the rapid developments in towns across Namibia, the Himbas continue to live in a traditional way, abiding by their tribal laws, dress and rituals, despite the discrimination they face from other Namibians for being “the ones left behind”. In order to be accepted into society or to send their children to school, they are expected to conform and reject their traditions. But it is their traditions that define their identity and existence, and so their children remain uneducated, unemployed and unaccepted. With their life in the village, it is easy to forget that a world of technology and development exists, and whilst the Himbas are self-sufficient and live a more-or-less sustainable lifestyle through their cattle herding, they do encounter modern life when they visit the growing towns around Namibia, which they find challenges their ethos. (more…)

Namibia, the Land of Contrasts September 20, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Home and away, Namibia, Weather.
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As I drove around the country with my family, I was continually surprised and amazed by the stunning scenery that makes up this wonderful country. In just a matter of kilometres you can find dramatic rock plateaus and a giant underground lakes in the middle of the flat veld, to vast salt pans of an ancient prehistoric lake. Damaraland alone is totally indescribable in beauty and contrast. The geology of the area lends plays tricks with your eyes, as the formations around you morph in shape and colour as you pass. Huge clusters of smooth and spherical Dolomite balls litter the plains like piles of giant beans. Other outcrops are aggressive and sharp, the result of thousands of years of techtonic activity and baking sun. (more…)

Dune Rider September 17, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Uncategorized.
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As I stood at the top, I could see the ocean in distance, from where the chilling fog was rolling in across the desert. Another ocean peaked and troughed beyond where I was standing, as the sand ebbed and flowed for a thousand kilometres, with dunes reaching hundreds of metres above sea level.

isa-5.jpg

 

I was standing atop Dune 7, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the Namib Desert, and it was time to go down. I dug my front foot forward, shifted my weight angled downwards, and I was away. The sand was initially sticky against the snowboard that was strapped to my feet, but as the fog dampness burnt off, the sheer gradient of the dune and the wax on the board led me to fly straight down at top speeds.

 

I’d picked the perfect day to go sand boarding. With my parents safely off on a boat trip to see seals, dolphins, pelicans and the dunes from the sea, I snuck off for a little adrenaline-hunting. I was the only boarder wanting to go that day, so I had Wayne, aka Mr Sandboard, all to myself. This meant that he would zip me up the dune on his quad bike to slide down as many times as I liked.

 

After a year without surfing (doh!), this was the next best thing. The first few runs were a little messy, landing backwards and upside down on my first run (sand down my shorts), and getting a face-full on my second run (sand everywhere else). But soon I was shooting down, carving up the sand as I went. My stoke was officially back to play, and despite getting sand everywhere, it was certainly the rush I had been looking for.

 

That alone is worth a trip to Namibia.

 

 

Like Disney September 17, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Hot, Weather.
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Spring has officially arrived in the southern hemisphere. The skies are still bright and blue, but now the sun is shining stronger and the winter chills are no more. The Namibian newspaper weather report now reads “hot to very hot” with temperatures at a comfortable 25-30oC. I no longer have to worry about layering up, and can now ride around on my bike in just a t-shirt and flip-flops.


This change happened overnight. One day it was sunny and cold, and now it is sunny and hot with all the trimmings of the beginning of summer. The sun sets at a more reasonable time, allowing us time to dash from the office to a decent bar to catch sundown. The burning sky over the mountains at the end of the day feels so much more powerful when the air is warm and the wine is cold.


What really gets me is the nature. Bougainvillea sprawls over fences and buildings, bright pink and red with fresh green leaves, clashing brightly with the purple jacarandas which have sprung into bloom. Jasmine headily fills the air, thick and sweet, encouraging me to bend over and smell all flowers that I pass. As I cruise around the neighbourhood on my scooter, parades of luminous yellow, blue and green birds burst out of trees and bushes; mongooses race along the street ahead of me before ducking into redundant rain pipes. Hornbills and fat doves chill together on the telephone wires, chattering away about their winter holidays.

I think Walt Disney might have had a hand in designing Windhoek in the springtime.

My birthday September 10, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Beauty, Creatures, Culture, Namibia, Time out.
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For the first year in many, I spent my birthday with my parents. Being an August Bank Holiday birthday, I’m often away, but this year, my parents decided to join me. And being such a unique event, I thought I’d share it.

I woke up in the Bush Chalet at the Waterberg Plateau, with all sorts of clattering going on as my Godmum, Louise, friend Cynthia and my parents set about preparing breakfast for their first morning in Namibia. Considering we’d driven the women pretty much straight from the airport to the Waterberg Plateau, they had far too much energy. I stepped out bleary-eyed to a chorus of “Happy Birthday”, before being ushered out to the patio of our chalet, which had the most incredible view, positioned half way up the wall of this stunning plateau. For once, I had presents to open, and in the warm sunshine no less (it almost always rains on my birthday – British Bank Holiday timing!).

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