Monday, January 14, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Broken Bakis

After travelling around the country, I was more than ready to return back to my village home.  Living out of a suitcase was not easy at all, especially when things randomly became missing.  I had been living in the city for about a week, doing nothing but planning for the school year. 

After texting my principal repeatedly about transport back home, I came to the conclusion that it would be up to me to figure out how to get a backpack, suitcase, bags of food, and a dog the 100 km.  I was thankful that there was another volunteer living in my shopping town, so I was able to relax the night before attempting the journey.

At around noon, I attempted to cart all of my things the 2 km to the hike spot. Within ten steps I was stopped by some church-going youth, who insisted on helping me find a taxi.  I was sure that not only were they incredibly nice people, but that they probably felt a bit sorry for me.  After thanking them profusely, I was driven to the hike spot.  Within half an hour, a baki had come to drive me and a few others to the nearest village 60 km away.  From there I would wait some more to find another hike.

Now, the back of a baki is what we in America would call the bed of a truck.  It is covered, so I didn’t need to worry about sunburns.  Since I had Eddie, my new dog, I wanted to get in last, so that I could get out quickly if something happened with him.  He was still very nervous, but cautiously exploring his surroundings.  More and more people seemed to appear out of thin air as the baki was loaded.  This particular car had a trailer, so we didn’t have to attempt to sit with all of our things.  Nine adults, three youth, one baby and a dog later, we were on our way. 

Eddie was sitting on my lap for two reasons.  One was that I could hold him if he freaked out (which he did), and also because there was no other room.  Within minutes my feet were falling asleep.  I was used to being squished, though, so this was no big deal for me.  I attempted conversation, but like most baki rides, silence falls pretty quickly.

Everything was going well until the road became gravel (which took, say, one minute).  As soon as that happened, I felt warmth all along my legs.  Yes, Eddie had decided that he was so frightened he’d let me know by peeing on me.  Not much I could do about it though.

Every few bumps he would try to wriggle out of my grasp, which became tighter and tighter. 

All of a sudden, about twenty minutes later, dust was flying through the cracks in the window, covering all of us.  Eddie, not liking this one bit, decided to pee once more.  My almost dry pants were now soaking, again.  The dust was the result of the rusty metal of the trailer bending, leaving the trailer itself dragging on the road. 

The baki pulled over after the Herero women in the back started banging on the window.  It took a while for them to move all of the luggage to the roof of the car.  Some things could not go on top, such as blankets and grocery bags of food.   Therefore, they ended up in our sardine can of a baki.  I was fine with that.  But when the two jugs of petrol were shoved in as well, I was a bit angry.  Of course, since I was nearest the back door, they had to be placed right next to me and my freaked out dog. 

We continued our journey.  Every time the baki went over a bump, Eddie would freak out and the roof of the cover would bend close to our heads.  I was just waiting for the moment it decided to break and drop all of our heavy things on our heads.  Thankfully it didn’t.  

More knocking on the window ensued as soon as some of the women noticed one of the bags falling off.  Car stopped.  Bags repositioned and tied.  Our journey continued.  This happened maybe three times.  We still had many km to go when Eddie decided to show me some more ‘love’.  By this time I had resigned myself to the fact that I was covered in dog pee and that there was nothing I could do about it.  I just held him tight and hoped that no one would notice. 

The petrol container by my knee wasn’t able to properly seal, ensuring that my leg was soaked in the flammable liquid.  By this time Eddie had calmed down, most likely from the fumes exuding from the leak.  I was covered in four different types of liquid by the time we reached the next hike point: my own sweat, Eddie’s urine and saliva (that dog drips  the stuff!) and petrol. 

I got out, and to my relief, no one could tell that my jeans were soaking wet.  I was fed up and tired by that time.  I sat down and started reading one of my books while Eddie explored around me. 

Not long after, another baki showed up to take us the rest of the journey home.  Unlike the last ride, the driver of this car was incredibly nice and let Eddie and me sit in the front.  Thank God!  Eddie laid down on the floor and was content.  The two gentlemen I sat with worked at a nearby farm and were willing to drive us back to my village (at a price, of course.  Thankfully this price happened to be whatever I could pay to help with petrol.  I should have just wrung out my pants!) 

I decided to talk to them in as much Otjiherero as I could during the half an hour journey.  They seemed very excited that I wanted to practice.  Every once in a while one of the men would point to an animal outside and ask what it was.  Usually it was a cow (ongombe)  or a goat (ongombo).  He once tried to test me by saying ozongombe ovengi, to which I responded, ‘many cows’.  He laughed. 

Our conversation lulled as the school came into sight.  I thanked them and brought Eddie and myself to our house.  Finally, with probably a hundred pounds of stuff with me, I had finally returned home! 

By the way, I have never been so thankful for a shower as I was at that point!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Comin' Back to Kansas

Well, my vacation has finally come to an end.  I have spent the last weeks travelling around the southern part of the country, seeing the sights and meeting new people.  There have been ups and downs along the way, but it was an incredible journey so far.  I can't wait to continue it in May!

After leaving Swakopmund, some friends and I rented a car and drove tedious hours through desolate (though beautiful) land to arrive at our camp sight in the Naukluft Mountains.  Now, when I say mountains, I don't mean those beautiful ones full of trees and lakes.  No, these mountains are comprised of rocks.  We camped there for three nights.  It was amazing to see the stars with absolutely no lights to pollute the skies.  During the day it was incredibly hot, and due to the lack of trees, we had no respite from the sun's rays.  So, we snuck into the lodge part of the resort and relaxed in the shade there.  Thankfully there was no one else there, so the owners were content with our presence there.  He did seem confused that we would be content camping without electricity or hot water.  We had flashlights, so we were fine on the light aspect, and the heat during the day heated the pipes so that our afternoon showers were pleasantly warm. 

Lovin' the cheap tent.  Good thing it didn't rain!

One of the plethora of amazing sunsets in the country.

Feeling like Indiana Jones with the bumpy road.  Almost wish I were in Disneyland.


While we were enjoying our desert camping experience, we took a day trip to Sossusvlei, which has some of the most amazing red dunes!  We arrived at the entrance to the park around 6:30 in the morning, and drove the 65 km to the dunes.  From there, we trekked our way up some of the largest dunes in the world.  The path was difficult and tiring, but thankfully the sun hadn't turned the sand hot yet.  At the bottom of the dune was a pan full of dead trees.  A pan is a lake bed, who's salt stays on the surface.  This gives the ground a whitish look to it, which amplified the beauty of the landscape.  While the going was tough, I would definitely go back and climb more of those magnificant piles of sand!

From Sossusvlei, we travelled to yet another coastal town.  (I'm not sure if you have come to the understanding of the intensity of the heat during summer, but the coast is definitely the place to be during December!)  Luderitz is a southern town with a huge German influence.  Upon arrival, I felt as if I had been transported to a small coastal town somewhere in Europe, not southern Africa.  I spent almost two weeks there, which gave me plenty of time to relax. 

I was afraid that Christmas away from my family would be difficult, but with so many friends surrounding me, it was amazing.  There were no Christmas trees to be found, so we made due and took a palm frond and decorated it with plastic bag ornaments and popcorn chains.  A cardboard star completed the picture.  We had a white elephant gift exchange from the local China Shop.  I received colored pens (which I was stoked about) and a bar of chocolate. 

We also made our own Namibian versions of Christmas songs!

We went rock diving (ok, it was only about a meter above the water, but still fun) many times, into the frigid water.  Let me tell you,  the Atlantic Ocean in southern Africa is some of the coldest water I have ever been in!  I thought the Pacific was cold in California, but this took the cake.  It didn't matter though, because it was something to swim in, which is rare in this country.  After swimming for many days, we received a rather large wake-up call.  All of a sudden multiple red blobs could be seen around us.  Those jellyfish were reasonably easy to avoid, but the small clear ones were not.  Thankfully I was not stung, though one of my friends was.  From then on, we stayed in one of the coves.

Finally, things had to come to an end, as they always do.  I had decided to join a committee with the Peace Corps, and the meeting for it was a day after I was supposed to be back at my site.  So, I floated around volunteers houses for a few days, until the meeting.  I am now currently staying at one of the flats the Peace Corps has for volunteers, waiting until I can go to the meeting.

I will also be purchasing a Christmas present to myself while I am here.   As both protection and companionship, I will be adopting a dog from the SPCA.  While I know that having a dog is a huge responsibility, I also know that I will be incredibly happy with it.  I'm just not quite sure how hitchhiking with a dog (and all of my things) will be.  We'll see!