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Playing tour guide September 10, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Home and away, Out of the city, Raaah!.
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I’m now back from my holiday with my family. And what a holiday it was.

My mum, two of her old housemates from when she was my age living in San Francisco, my dad and I, squeezed into a double-cab bakkie for a 10 day whirlwind tour of Namibia. We covered 3000km, driving an average of 7 hours every other day, and amazingly, not one (major) argument.

With this ratio of women to men, parents to child(ren), and that we are all know-it-all seasoned travellers, there was bickering, mostly along the lines of “are we nearly there yet?”, “are you sure this is the right way?”, “I haven’t seen another car in hours, where are we?”. But tensions were soothed away by the vigorous beauty of this amazing country, constantly changing dramatically every hundred kilometres in ways that are beyond anyone’s imagination.

After almost a year anticipating this visit, I wanted it to be perfect. I had planned the route and booked the accommodation, researched activities and sites to be seen and even mugged up on the history and geology of the country so that I could inform my visitors as we charged around the country. I’d sent emails of recommendations, web links and advice for preparations to my 4 visitors, and even printed out an information pack, tour-guide style, with a map, itinerary and information on each place we visited. Whilst this may seem like a benevolent and caring thing to do, it was actually a selfish attempt to reduce the amount of questioning I would get, anticipated at around 20 questions an hour. Even with the information sheet, I was receiving about a thousand questions an hour, about everything from the climate (“How hot is it now?”), geology (“What altitude is it here?”), flora and fauna (“Are there snakes here? What do warthogs eat, are they vegetarian?”, “In knots, how fast do pelicans fly” – Dad, do you seriously expect me to know that?!), and a lot of questioning of my driving, the road and the route (“Where are we? Are we nearly there yet?”).

Whilst I have now lived here one year, I had saved visiting the highlights of Waterberg, Etosha National Park, Damaraland, The Skeleton Coast, and the Sossusvlei sand dunes for my family’s visit, and so the only place I had been to before on our trip was the coast. Needless to say, I was expected to know everything about each place, and be able to handle a power-steering-lacking, heavy truck on buttery gravel roads whilst explaining the political stance Namibia has on the Zimbabwe situation over the roar of the engine and washer-women-style nattering from the back seat. In addition, I was also recovering from the flu and a huge lack of sleep, and found my chirpy tour-guide demeanour degenerating to that of a fierce pedagogic school mistress, berating her students for asking too many questions (I did actually tell my dear visitors on Day 2 that they were only allowed to ask every second question that they thought of). I then started to feel guilty that I was being snappy and sharp with my dear family who had travelled so far to visit, and were just enquiring about the wonderful country that I live in, which in turn got me all paranoid that the trip was going horribly wrong (which was actually total paranoia, as everyone had a great time. Or so they told me.) After so long without any family around, or in fact anyone that I have known more than 12 months, it’s quite emotional to then have the five of us sharing 10 square feet of space for many hours a day. All the tolerance, patience and humility that I had developed over the months would evaporate the moment someone repeated a question I had answered half an hour before. As we rolled around the country, my emotions also rolled around, switching from euphoria to despondency to confusion and back in a matter of seconds.

But my psychotic meltdown aside, it was a truly magical trip. I am still in awe of the exquisite landscapes which make up Namibia, and moved by the strange beauty of this country. It was a true pleasure to catch up with my parents after so long, and to get to know my mother’s friends better. Their visit also reminded me of home. I’m leaving soon, finishing work in a month’s time. Prior to their visit, I was feeling distinctly unhappy about leaving, and whilst I will still miss this place and the life I have built here, my parent’s wittering about their church, the restaurant around the corner, what my brothers are up to and diatribes of the other residents at Kings Gardens reminded me that there is just no place like home.

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