The Best Easter We’ve Ever Had – Namibia

The Best Easter We’ve Ever Had
Namibia

We finished our shopping and we left the supermarket. In the parking lot, Lizzy suggested I go into town while she brought the groceries home. After some protests from me, I eventually gave in but not before grabbing a couple of things out of my bag. I reluctantly watched Lizzy walk away, thinking I should follow. When she was about a hundred metres away, she turned around and noticed that I was still standing there, watching, and she waved me on with a smile as if to say, Don’t worry about me silly, I’ll be fine. Love ya.

Now before you get your underwear in a knot, and your ever lovin’ heart skips a beat, Lizzy is fine! We are happy and we’re O.K. But, I thought I would borrow Lizzy’s email and you can read a quote from her perspective on what happened. It goes as follows:

Sorry. I think my last email was a bit flat. Not surprisingly, really, as I was getting over my lovely Easter Saturday mugging-at-knifepoint. Okay, it was only a steak knife, but it would’ve hurt! And no, I wasn’t quick enough to whip out a machete and drawl in my best stroin, ‘that’s not a knife. This is a knife!’ I screamed a bit, looked around at all the high walls and electric fences and madly barking dogs, thinking, well, they sure kept me out! Two guys came at me with said culinary implement; trapping me in the driveway of the residence we’re staying at, and took my (actually, Ian’s) bag and then ran down the road and jumped into a car and drove off. I looked around to see the neighbours having a braai and watching me!!! Other neighbours came to my rescue and drove me around looking for the culprits, but I was more interested in finding Ian (who had gone off to find Easter eggs and email). So, that’s how I lost my wallet, my diary, our groceries and our cameras. One of our hosts, Helgard, was inside and didn’t hear the fracas, but was alerted to the neighbours behaving strangely (the ones that rescued me). She called their place, spoke to me, thought through my gabble that I’d been kidnapped, and called the ‘flying squad’. So, I came out of the neighbour’s yard and a ute (bakkie, truck) swarming with special task-force type people, roared up and about 10 camo-clad people leapt out. Probably the most excitement they’d had all day. Me too. After we’d established that I hadn’t been kidnapped, they wanted to know where my husband was and if he’d split.

As a matter of fact, he hadn’t. Ian had, much against his own instincts, and very much at my condescending bidding, agreed to ‘let’ me walk back to the apartment by myself: 15 minutes away at 4:15 on a Saturday afternoon. I did two things wrong. I airily said to him, I’m sure nobody here bears me any ill will. Then I laughed at him and asked him what could possibly happen to me in the next 15 minutes, on a Saturday afternoon. Anyway, if you get one of those email thingies asking to update your details for me, please fill it out, as I no longer have my address book, and nor does Ian have his. So, we’re both fine, happy, healthy and all that, so no belated worrying, please. As I said to my mate, Kate, it was the best Easter I’ve ever had because Ian and I are safe and sound and in one piece – well, two pieces – you know what I mean.

Whew! It was a real relief to see that Lizzy was alright. Actually, the whole experience for me was quite surreal. I mean we just finished talking about the danger of getting mugged and then when she found me at the Internet café where I had just sat down, she calmly told me that she just got mugged. I almost didn’t believe her. Despite the evidence of red eyes from shedding a few tears earlier, she looked fine and then I saw our host with her. That’s when I knew things were serious. I gave her a kiss through the steel grate door and logged off the PC. Lizzy was so relived that I was alright and proceeded to tell me what happened in between questions from both Manfred and me. After learning what happened, I was absolutely stoked that material possessions were all that were lost. Next came the laborious task of dealing with credit cards, phoning, insurance etc. I have to say this, for all of the banks purported efforts to give you ‘great customer care’, it’s friggin’ annoying when you are on the other side of the world and you have to listen to this bloody menu of buttons to push. Worse, they tell you that this number to call will help you solve your theft problems and it doesn’t work. Not only that, but when you finally get through to somebody, it costs you two bucks a minute Australian to talk on the phone for them to tell you to call another number where you can reverse charges. Why we weren’t given that number in the first place I don’t know but then again, who the hell knows what those gangsters are doing. We were extremely lucky to have our hosts lend us a hand by letting us use their Internet to track down numbers etc. and drive us around and for that, we are extremely grateful. After having dinner, Lizzy slowly got pissed and I helped her type out the statement. Unfortunately, Lizzy was too traumatised to get a description of the criminals and got flustered looking for help.

Despite the police’s and security forces quick response, they weren’t much help. Two weeks after the investigation, they still hadn’t interviewed the braai neighbours who did S.F.A. to help Lizzy (I feel like shit bagging their house for not helping), who witnessed the whole incident, who might have some idea or information about the perpetrators that could led to an arrest or more clues. We haven’t even seen an investigator to interview Lizzy. We just keep getting fobbed off onto someone else. There is complete lack of organization and motivation to help people thoroughly. I can understand that a crime like this usually gets minimal attention as far as time investigating goes in a western country, but at least they could have given us some service by answering our questions and making it look like they are doing something,anything. Too many times one hand didn’t know what the other was doing so there is room for improvement.

Then again, upon later reflection, I accepted the fact that this is Namibia and they do things differently here. Not to mention the fact that they are severely under resourced in almost every aspect in an economically poor country.

So, Lizzy and I went to all the cash converters in Windhoek and informed them of what happened (they are used to this and work jointly with the police and the victims to recover stolen items. At least some places are organized). We scoured the neighbourhood for any sign of items deemed useless by the criminals tossed out the window of their getaway car. Apparently, stuff is usually found in dry riverbeds, drains and under bridges. Windhoek has a lot of greenery with dry riverbeds running through it and people frequently sleep or do unruly things in the tall grasses at night, so walking around in the day time can sometimes be informative of the dark side of Windhoek. I went a couple of times to the ‘black’ markets of Katatura, a township of poverty and high social problems stemming from the fact that they are extremely underprivileged in their own country, to see if I could locate something, but absolutely nothing of ours was there. I admit I was annoyed at the loss of our items, particularly the digital camera because we won’t be able to document our trip on the web until we get home in a years’ time and scan a few rogue photos. The other annoying thing is the irreplaceable items like my address book and Lizzy’s diary. I can let go of things but I wanted to at least try, as I didn’t want to do nothing, especially as the police were no help. It was only after three weeks that we learned by chance that police have a warehouse full of merchandise that has been found or recovered from a criminal and all we had to do was look through a registry to see if it anything had turned up. If ever you are in Windhoek, looking to recover stolen items, go directly to POL 7 in the Police department. They deal with cataloguing and storage of lost/stolen items.

Lizzy mentioned earlier that she did two things wrong and I would like to correct her at this point in time (not that I often get the chance to so I’m gonna take it while I can!). The fact is, Lizzy did two things right. The first was to scream. This alerts people to the fact that someone is in trouble. (Not that it mattered to the wimpy neighbours who could’ve helped her out by at least letting Lizzy into their home or chase off the criminals but succumbed to their cowardlyness and chose not to. How they could continue eating their braai I know not. However, the other neighbours across the road were alerted to Lizzy’s scream and did help her out as per her email above. ) It also puts pressure on the crook. Get the job done and leave; I think would be the thought process. Then Lizzy stopped screaming so as to not freak them out too much and gave them the bag she was carrying. That was the second thing that she did right. It gives the criminals what they wanted. Too many people try to fight or hold onto their stuff and get hurt in the process. In the end it’s sometimes just not worth the effort and getting yourself landed in the hospital or worse, the morgue. Even in self defence classes, despite teaching you how to wipe out half your neighbourhood with just your hands and feet, a good master will always teach their students to know when to walk away and not get involved, to analyse a situation, stuff your ego and not take on the world. It’s a skill that can be difficult to learn for some people. Lizzy did the smart thing and gave them immediately what they wanted. Had they wanted to violate Lizzy further, Lizzy didn’t give them the chance as she recommenced to scream her lungs out. Good on her I say and job well done. From now on we’ll be together.

Something that occurred to me later was that because of my gender, because of men (Lets face it, there are bad women and they have done bad things but men have really contributed so much more to messing up a lot of people’s lives), I can’t do the things I want to do with my wife. For example, we could take a boat, a private boat, even a cargo boat to Madagascar, but lets say the slim possibility happens and the crewmen want to take advantage of a woman, what am I gonna do? I think every man has a certain degree of machoness in him, but sometimes it won’t help you when ten randy crewmen, who don’t know a thing about how to be polite, are beating your head in. What if we go to some remote place and these guys want to take advantage of us. What can I do? Ok, maybe I’ll be able to outsmart them or beat them off but reality isn’t always going to go my way. Lord knows I would like to get medieval on anybody who crosses us but I couldn’t be happy if Lizzy got hurt somehow. I would prefer if I got hurt rather than she. Anyway, my point is, I have to rethink about where I am going, what places I want to visit and how I’m going to do it and also, that woman have to be conscious of potential danger even if they are not paranoid or in perpetual fear. For once, I have the fraction of an inkling of knowing what it must be like to be a woman. To have to be street smart because of your gender, knowing because you are a woman, you have to be aware of potentially risky situations because of the ill intent of other people. It pisses me off about some men as they are not doing the rest of us any favours. Because of some crazy yahoos, we don’t have the freedom, the carefree will to go where we want to, and that sucks.

Enough ranting. I want everybody to know that Lizzy is happy and is still going to travel like we planned. She still gets the heebyjeebies now and again but I think that will pass with time. It was a good experience for us and it made us stronger. We’re not fazed about Africa, we’ll still have a good time and meet many a groovy person, so don’t worry about us. I probably made it sound more dramatic than it really was but these are just some things I have been reflecting on.

Ian Kutschke’s wife Lizzy gets mugged in Namibia – while the neighbors watch.

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