Moving house is one of the most stressful events… February 26, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Peculiarities, Raaah!.
I’ve moved. Finally, after months of wishing to be living elsewhere, I am. I have moved in with my friend Jillian, and we are soon to be joined by Matthias.
Back when I arrived and first saw where I was living, I was amazed. It was a clean, fully-furnished, one-bedroom studio apartment, with goodies like a king-sized bed, power-shower, private garden and safe. Considering some volunteers don’t have the luxury of hot water or regular electricity, let alone linen, crockery or furniture provided, I was thoroughly spoilt.
But it was far on the edge of the city. The back garden backed onto a deserty hill, it was the last street of the city. It was also in the poshest suburb of Windhoek, overpopulated with anti-social whites, driving in their monstrous 4x4s with anti-hijack mechanisms, with overly aggressive dogs furiously barking from behind electric fences.
Getting around was a nightmare, as taxis rarely came to this area because everyone has cars, so I would either walk until I found a taxi, rely on friends or risk hitch-hiking. Hitch-hiking can be either very successful or very unsuccessful. People may stop to rescue me from “the dangers of the street” and then preach to me about how dangerous it is to walk and stare in disbelief when I say I don’t have a car. But more often than not, when I stick my thumb out to the rare passing car, they zoom past, scowling and staring, trying to calculate the potential threat I posed to them and theirs. To say people in this part of town are paranoid is not even touching the issue. Indeed location is a very important element in liking your accommodation. But so is the company you share…
My old apartment is built into a mansion owned by a German Namibian family. I had my own entrance and rarely saw them, but due to a poorly positioned air vent, found I heard them far more often than desired. My landlord is like an overly efficient and abrupt German out of ‘Allo ‘Allo, and due to his difficult manner, I have kept communication with him to a minimum. Until recently….
Due to various complications, I only got round to telling my landlord last month that I wanted out of my one-year contract. Astonishingly he said fine, but that I need to find a replacement before moving. So once Jillian and I were settled on moving to our new place, I set about advertising in the newspapers, the ‘Namibian’ and the Afrikaans ‘Republikien’. I got a good response and arranged appointments over the weekend and went round to tell my landlord’s wife that people would be coming to look around the next day.
“Ok. But no blacks are allowed on the property.”
“And no coloureds either. They are not to pass the gate. I will not have them here.”
I hate to say that I am not entirely shocked by this, simply because I have lived close enough to these people to see what they are like, (racist, bigoted, permanently angry, paranoid) but I was shocked by her frankness with the matter. I explain to her that I wouldn’t turn people away on principle of their colour, and that I was very uncomfortable with her attitude (I was still living there and not going to start with what I really thought of her attitude). She seems a bit put out by this and then barks, “Well it is my property, I will just watch from the window and stop them before they get to your gate”.
So over the weekend, various people come to view the flat. A few didn’t turn up but I don’t know if that is my landlady’s doing or that they lost interest.
Slightly deflated that no one took the flat, and worried that I would be stuck there forever, I decide to advertise again. But I’d been invited away for the weekend, and didn’t want to spend another weekend waiting around my flat for people that may or may not turn up. So I phoned my landlord, explaining that I will be advertising again, and bring up what his wife had said about no blacks or coloureds.
“Yes, yes. And no Chinese either. I will not have people like that on the property. Children are living here. I cannot have people like that in my home. It must be whites only, preferably Germans.” (This was actually a 5 minute rant, but most of it has been blocked by my shock-meter and I have selected just some highlights for your perusal.)
So again I begin explaining that I feel extremely uncomfortable with that, and that I will not turn people away due to their colour or race.
“I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
So I explain myself again, more clearly. This is followed by a long pause.
“Fine, then I will deal with the matter. Put our phone number on the advert. I will deal with it, and I will show people around. You should not involve yourself anymore.”
I leave the matter with him, putting his contact number in the adverts. It is his property after all. It also means I can forget about it and go away for the weekend. I am still horrified by this blatant show of racism, but thought that if I really wanted to get out of there, best leave it to him. I think the thought of my allowing non-whites on the property scared him, and he went out of his way to find a replacement. Within a week, a replacement was found.
I moved on Saturday, and handed the key back to my old landlord on Sunday, once I had cleaned the place, so he had no reason to contact me again. There was no “thanks” or “all the best” on either side, let alone a handshake. I just walked out of those electrified gates for the last time and went for brunch at the garden centre to celebrate (like you do in Namibia!).
I am now happy in my new, nicer apartment, with my lovely housemate and our Jack Russell puppy, Winston. No Nazi landlords in sight.