We were here for Independence Day (March 21st), which also marked the changeover from the old president, Nujoma, who has been in since the independence, and the new one, Pohamba. Namibia, in its current form, is only 15 years old, and we weren’t sure what the changeover would be like. There were some big official happenings at the other side of town, which frankly looked pretty boring, so we thought we’d head out on the street and see what was happening. Nothing. It was a long weekend and a lot of the population have family way up north, so the place was empty. We saw one guy celebrating his independence, walking up the street with not one stitch of clothing on, but that was it! We expressed our disappointment to Helgard, but all she said was, this isn’t the Caribbean. In the meantime, Roberta Flack appeared at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival!!! Bad timing, I say, for us to be so close yet so far.
Last weekend we went to the launch of a poetry anthology. It was held in Katutura, which is the main township of Windhoek, the ‘ghetto’. There is an old building out there that used to be the dorms for the workers under the colonial and, later, apartheid regimes. Yes, when South Africa invaded Namibia, they also brought their regime over. Anyway, the workers had to live in these dorms for the entirety of their three-year contracts, never returning to their villages. Now, they have turned the building into the Katutura Cultural Arts Centre to give it a more positive meaning in people’s lives. Anyway, some of the poetry was okay, though it’s very much a developing form here, but the evening as a whole was magic. So African: it started late, the MC remembered everyone’s names except those of the editors of the book, the sound technician disappeared for a while, there was spontaneous dancing, organised dancing, singing, and so much interplay between the ‘audience’ and the ‘performers’ (in inverted commas because sometimes there was no telling the difference!). The choir that sang truly made me weep, they were so beautiful to listen to, to look at, to experience. It was an African-style choir, so they danced the whole time they were singing, and made sounds and harmonies you don’t hear anywhere else. I know, Africa’s a continent, not a country, but this choir consisted of so many people from different African cultures (there are at least 10 living within Namibia) that I feel I can say African. There was also a very gentle man who played the thumb piano and sang Tswana songs (he’s from Botswana). I could have listened to them both all night.
For the first time in ages, we also went to a public bath. It was actually a hot spring, coming out of the ground at 65°C, but diluted with cold before being funnelled into what was basically a big indoor swimming pool. So, it wasn’t the bathhouses of Korea, but it was pretty nice to be in a big bath, relaxing and looking out at the desert. Helgard and Manfred drove us about an hour out of Windhoek to get there and although we drove past some big game farms, all we saw were goats. Hmph! Anyway, the Lutheran missionaries built the spa, but now lots of different people go there. We met a Chinese chef, some textile workers from the Philippines, some German Namibians, some African Namibians and some Afrikaans Namibians. We haven’t seen that many Asian people around Africa so were surprised to see so many at the baths. The Philippines people are all here on three-year contracts and don’t get to go home until their contracts are finished (hey, haven’t I said this once before in this email? Same shit, different people). They live and work in a compound, and this was their first trip to the springs in the two years they’ve been here. Anyway, we are now in even more photos, just like being back in Korea!