December 30, 2011

Return

Well, that interval certainly proved longer than I intended…..

When I last wrote in June, we were so excited to be taking our farewell journey with our friends, camping together throughout as much of Namibia as we could show them in two weeks.

By the time we saw them off for their return flight home, we had five days to get all our goods packed, surrender our trusty car to the new owner, give away what we couldn’t take back with us, and get our little apartment in good shape to give back to Poly — all concrete tasks; all easily handled.

The camping trip with Bruce and Peg provided lots of ‘that’s the last time we’ll see that’ moments, but at the time, we were so excited to show them everything we could, the little twinges of sadness that bubbled up got shoved aside to be dealt with later. It wasn’t until we actually started to pack up our six(!) suitcases


that we realized what profound sadness there was going to be in leaving. We had come to love Namibia and our life in beautiful Windhoek,



but most especially, the amazing friends we had made and the irreplaceable experiences we had during our year. Turns out, coping with non-concrete emotions of sadness and loss—not so easily handled.


The day before we left was my birthday. The teachers at the preschool asked that I visit one last time to say good-bye (again!) and celebrate my birthday. The kids and teachers presented me with beautiful gifts crafted from shared memories of my extraordinary year spent with them.


They sang all the songs they knew, some of them mastered just for this occasion. There were dances, recitations, hugs, laughter, and tears all around.



Hard as it was, I finally had to hang up my Teacher Lynn moniker and leave the school for the very last time.

Here is what my walk to my car was like.

video

It broke my heart.

Our farewell dinner with friends was emotionally just as difficult. Even though we laughed a lot, ate and drank heartily, were saluted with an original limerick written just for us by the poet laureate of the group,

video


and gifted with such thoughtful mementos of our year together, leaving our friends behind was like a little death.

We've been back for six months now.  It has taken these past six months to start to put it all into perspective, to try to figure out how to be home when a large part of us still feels like we left home behind in Namibia.

A woman I met a few days before we left Windhoek told me, “You have been changed by being here. Africa’s in your blood now…..you’ll come back”.

I hope she’s right.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
P.S. There are more adventures to chronicle. I intend to do just that. Check back in a couple of weeks if you like.



June 17, 2011

Final Whiz-Around

This past week, the professor ended his year’s lectureship here at Polytechnic; I ended my volunteer work with the kids at the preschool; we have said emotionally difficult, catch in the throat good-byes to our students, and seen a total eclipse of the moon from the southern hemisphere.









We’re closing chapters right and left at this juncture but there is one final chapter we’re just about to write.

On June 18, we are leaving for what one of my British friends in Windhoek calls a final whiz-around. Apparently, lots of expats take a final tour of Namibia before they leave and come Saturday, we’ll begin ours. But this will be a special final tour as our very best friends have come to Namibia to do the tour with us.


We will enjoy showing them some of this marvelous country and at the same time, bid a very bittersweet good-bye to a country that has provided us so many magical moments over this past year.

Here's one of the magic moments we're determined to repeat one more time before we leave!

video


And so for the next two weeks, we are outta here!


We’ll be back on the 2nd of July and will try to have at least one more post up before we leave for home on July 8. We’re determined to thoroughly chronicle our year’s adventures so this blog will continue even once we’re home. There is still too much to share to simply end it when our year here is up.

Back in two weeks........

June 06, 2011

Over the Gamsberg to Sossusvlei

The day before Easter we left Windhoek for a four day camping trip to Sossusvlei. We rented a truck with a roof tent and headed southwest out of Windhoek on the C26, a gravel route that took us over Gamsberg Pass toward the Namib. By mid-morning we had covered a long stretch of relatively flat gravel road and were beginning the climb up the pass.




Late April was still in the rainy season. Though we didn’t encounter rain on our trip, there were reminders everywhere.


A little after noon, we had reached the top of the Gamsberg (7628 feet in elevation). 



The bounty of so much rain was the lush green carpeting of the mountains and stands of tall grasses everywhere.



The view was stunning through this pass.



As we started down the other side, the terrain gradually became drier.  This amazing rainy season had made it possible for this otherwise arid expanse to transform itself into rich grassland.







Just before reaching our evening’s destination, we passed by this now familiar landmark.


We found Rostock Ritz about 7 minutes down the road from the Tropic of Capricorn. The setting was spectacular – a sea of grass.


video



We had lost track of the fact that Easter was the next day, but it was not ignored by the reception staff at Rostock Ritz.



When we got to our campsite, it was already occupied by loads of armored ground crickets.


Despite having to shoo them off the table and away from food, they were little problem. We did tread lightly though as you could easily kill 3 or 4 with every step if you weren’t careful.

As sunset approached,


the sky became completely clear.



Clear skies and no light pollution whatsoever made for fun photography experiments after dark.





Easter morning dawned bright and sunny.


Once the sun was fully up, we were greeted by the kids from the South African family who camped next to us. They were carrying a box of marshmallow eggs they would share between them, but before helping themselves, they made the rounds of every single campsite, surprising all their fellow campers with the gift of a chocolate Easter egg!

May 21, 2011

"That One’s an Ugly One"

We took another trip to Sossusvlei over the Easter break.


We weren’t the only ones


who came to see the vlei filled with rain water after this historic high rain year in Namibia.


Our last night before heading back to Windhoek, we camped at Namib Grens Guest Farm. 


This unprecedented rainy season has left some serious mud holes in Namibia’s gravel roads. We thought these particular mud holes were a little tricky coming into Namib Grens but we were driving a 4x4 Toyota Hilux so we navigated through them without a problem.





Those mud holes paled in comparison to the ones we encountered on the road home the next morning.

We had the farm owner’s son, Bertie, with us because we had agreed to give him a lift back to Windhoek for his job. Bertie seemed to be about nineteen or so and has been driving on and around the farm since he was ten. He was invaluable in helping us “read" the mud holes, knowing which areas of water covered clay goo you could sink into and which water areas covered relatively firm gravel you could safely drive over. We had just navigated this mud hole

and saw trucks parked to the side of the road just ahead. We pulled over and got out to see what people were looking at which was this:


Bertie’s assessment: “That one’s an ugly one”.

No kidding.
It had already trapped that lightweight Toyota.

The folks who had just crossed it in their bakkies (pickup trucks) had been trying to help the poor chap driving the small Toyota bakkie. But no one had a winch on their rigs so things had pretty much come to a standstill until a bakkie carrying some really helpful South Africans arrived on the opposite shore. Their rig had a winch so when their traveling companions in a second bakkie arrived just behind them, they were able to pull the Toyota out of the goo.

video


Apparently the truck was no worse for wear and the driver set off down the road as though nothing had happened. The professor walked back and forth along the edge trying to plan our line of attack.
 


We couldn’t go straight through as the water was deep there and the truck would have sunk in the saturated clay beneath.

In the meantime, two touring motorcyclists arrived on the far shore and there was nothing for it but to have to cross. The ground on either side was saturated clay so there was no going around it. They would have to take on this mud hole. After much conversing and advice being shouted in Afrikaans from one shore to the other, the first motorcycle started across.

video

We couldn’t believe they could make it but these guys were outfitted for rough riding and the bike and rider made it just fine.


Buoyed by that success, the second motorcycle came across following a better line that the previous one and again, made it just fine.

video


Once they were both across, they too, took off no worse for wear.

The South Africans on the far shore took it on, following the same line as the second motorcyclist.

video

 They too, arrived without incident. By this time, everyone assembled – about fourteen of us out of our cars at the edge of that mud hole – had determined that was indeed, the best line of attack. Once the two bakkies made it across, we were the only vehicle still needing to cross. The South Africans got out of their bakkies and spoke with the professor, making certain we understood the correct line to take and told us they would wait for us to cross to be certain we were okay. With a twinkle in their eyes, they told us their advice was free but if we arrived to the middle and got stuck, there would need to be a discussion about money if they were going to have to winch us out of there! Wonderful folks.

We followed their line and made it across just fine; got out on the opposite shore, waved our goodbyes and thanks; and headed on toward Windhoek. We have been amazed at how helpful and kind South Africans and Namibians are. I guess in a country whose roads are primarily gravel, there will be inevitable break downs and other car related mishaps along those roads. Small towns are few and far between so help comes first from your fellow man. It was great to be on the receiving end of their help that day.

Thanks, guys!