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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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World Music Day June 29, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Culture, Danger, Education, Namibia, Oh..interesting, Time out, Windhoek.
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The 21st Of June is World Music Day. Originally founded in France in 1982, as Fête de la Musique, it is held each year in many countries across the world, celebrating the diversity of music from all different corners of the world. And Namibia is no different. Well, a little maybe. For starters, the Namibian World Music Day was held on Saturday 23rd, typically late, and it was more a celebration of Namibian music as opposed to that of other countries.

Being originally founded by the French, the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC, a fine establishment offering art and French classes, hosting many shows and exhibitions of local and international artists and boasting a rather good library) sponsored the all-day event. (more…)

A global education May 29, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Creatures, Eco-goodness, Education, Home and away, Hot, Namibia, Oh..interesting, Out of the city, The job, Time out, VSO.
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One of the perks of being a VSO in Namibia is that we get Global Education trips (other VSO countries don’t get them!). VSO subsidise trips for about 30 volunteers to go to a particular part of Namibia to learn about an aspect of the country. The trips are decided and arranged by volunteers, and are a great opportunity to meet other volunteers from different backgrounds and living in different regions, as well as a chance to catch up with some of the group that I came out with. This trip was to look at Desert Conservation and Tourism, based in Swakopmund on the coast with a night camping at Gobabeb Desert Research Station in the er.. desert. And being a Global Education trip, and the VSO motto being “Sharing Skills, Changing Lives”, I feel it is appropriate to share my findings and learnings with you.

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An Easter Break to Civilisation April 20, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Food, Home and away, Out of the city, Reality, Time out.
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For Easter, a group of friends and I took a trip down to Cape Town, SA. My housemate’s parents have a house down there, and a cheap flight package including car rental made the trip easy and feasible. So on Good Friday morning, a minibus came to collect the 8 of us and whip us off to the airport (which is 50km out of town along the Trans-Kalahari Highway, in the desert).
Prior to the trip, I was a bit worried, as most of the people I go with work in the private sector or for some branch of the UN, and therefore earn a lot more than I do. They regularly go for sushi (in fact, one of the two sushi restaurants in town is owned by my landlord), it is not unusual to find good wines or champagne offered at their house, and many social activities involve eating expensive imported food and drinking a lot. Easter weekend was also the weekend of the Two Oceans Marathon, which other friends from Windhoek were participating in. The runners named themselves Team Run; a Canadian in our group named us Team Drink (they like team names). I was fearful that the weekend would be lost in hangovers and heavy nights.

With the house, the cars and flights taken care of by others, I suddenly got the fear that I would be washed along at the whim others for the whole weekend, so sprung into action and made a list of all the touristy things I wanted to do, with the help of a borrowed Rough Guide. It’s been a while since I had a proper tourist holiday, and even longer since I went anywhere with other people (I normally travel alone); 3 whole days, a lot of ground to cover.
Cape Town has so much to offer, and I wanted to do it all.

On the minibus ride to the airport, the boys pulled out 2 bottles of champagne. Uh-oh, this certainly set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Then our flight was delayed, scuppering our plan to visit the Aquarium. But all was not lost. Just the flight into Cape Town would have been enough; to see the ocean, the mountains, and Table Mountain guarding over the city, with fluffy clouds pour off the top. And the house! Wow! Nestled on the hill of Camp’s Bay, under the 12 Apostles, this modern house of glass and clean white lines was heaven. Each morning I woke to the sounds and smells of the ocean. After months living in the desert, it was incredibly powerful to be near the ocean again. Just to be down at sea-level, with humidity and real greenness. I was keen to go for a surf, but sadly there were no waves at all. Gutted. But maybe just as well…on our last day, some swimmers got picked off by a shark at the next beach down from us.

Coordinating 8 people with different plans is much like (as my mother says) trying to herd cats. Two of the guys hired Cobras each for the weekend, and got great kicks out of driving these incredibly powerful and dangerous sports cars up and down the windy coast roads. It did give us more flexibility on getting around though. We went to the Waterfront, and shopped. We had an incredibly relaxing day driving down to Cape Point, stopping off at
Boulder’s Beach to see the penguins, and in Simon’s Town for some yummy oysters. We also had a go at wine tasting around Stellenbosch, leaving me feeling incredibly uncultured as I simply couldn’t taste the honeysuckle, nor the wet dog, nor the coal bucket in any of the wines (to me, wine either tastes nice or it doesn’t, I just don’t see the point in being all pretentious about it). We did have a lovely afternoon tea with real scones, cream and jam at a stunning vineyard on a lake. So colonial, darling. Much of the weekend revolved around food, and eating all the things that we can’t get in Windhoek. We discovered Woolworth’s Food, which is owned by Marks and Spencer; the sight of fruit smoothies, pesto, real cheeses, etc almost brought me to tears. Much shopping was done too, although I struggled to find anything I really liked.
Our last day was a finale of shopping, finished with a sushi and champagne lunch, before racing to the airport. As a friend wisely put it: “You can’t run a marathon without a sprint at the end”.

We were all sad to leave. After being in a place with real restaurants with good food and service, shopping malls with clothes made from materials other than polyester, streets people walk on, nice places where blacks and whites mix and hang out, skyscrapers and a real city infrastructure, Windhoek looked like a little country town. To be fair, Windhoek is far cleaner and more stable and developed than most African capitals, and there are few material things that we can’t get there; but Cape Town reminded me so much of home in a funny way. The whole time I was there, I felt nostalgic for something, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
On my return, people asked what I did in CT; if I went up
Table Mountain, go over to Robben Island, go to the townships, etc. I didn’t do any of it, but I don’t really mind. After the first day feeling that I wasn’t getting done what I wanted, I decided that I was there to relax, to enjoy the scenery, the food, the fantastic weather and the excellent company, and not to race around with a camera and a Rough Guide strapped to my wrist (a well-known “Mug me!” sign to thieves). I got to have a semi-relaxing, semi-partying weekend, which I thoroughly needed and enjoyed. I think I will save the true jewels of Cape Town for my next visit of many.