December 28, 2010

On Camping Safari

The kids arrived safe and sound. The big 4x4 truck with rooftop tents has been rented.

Packing is almost complete. All that’s left is to get the gear stowed in the truck and we’re ready to leave. We’ll be gone until January 14 on a big camping safari throughout Namibia. There is no easily usable internet along the way so I won’t be posting again until about the 17th of January. But when I get back, I’ll have lots of new travelogue photos to share and new perceptions of Namibia.

In the meantime, here’s a little quick look back at some beautiful December sunsets and cloudscapes here in Windhoek. Hopefully, we’ll be adding lots more on our return, along with a recounting of our escapades along the way. I hope you will come back and check it out then.

December 17, 2010

Not just the popular culture, everyday ‘awesome’….but truly awesome

Just when we thought there could never be a sunset more stunning than ones we have already seen here, December 14th happened and we had to eat those words.

It had been overcast all day with clouds becoming increasingly dense as the day wore on. The skies finally opened up in mid-afternoon and dropped tons of rain (literally). The rain stopped after an hour or so but the clouds stayed put. We were sure it wasn’t worth checking out the sunset that night, feeling confident clouds would completely obscure it.

But just before sundown a little bit of a yellow glow began to light up our windows in the east. We reconsidered. Maybe we should just check it out in case the big show would be on the eastern horizon instead of the cloud-obscured west.

When we opened the door and looked east, this is what we saw.

We turned to look west and saw this.

As the sun set we thought that must be the end of it as there was still thick overcast everywhere. We looked east again just to double check. (most of the sunset color here develops after the sun has set). The east began to increasingly take on color.

And when we turned west again, this is the amazing bit of awesomeness that transpired.

December 12, 2010

14% of what it costs at home....

Fever blisters are a drag.

About the only redeeming factor is that now there are powerful prescription anti-viral creams that usually send them on their way in short order. While it causes considerable wincing to pay a $50 co-pay for a 1.5 gram tube of anti-viral cream, the stuff works like nothing else. To feel like I get my $50 worth, I use the very smallest amount possible so as to make that itty bitty little 1-½ inch tube last as long as possible.

My current miniscule tube of Denavir (penciclovir) is about to come to an end.

Rather than have my kids pay the $50 co-pay for it in Albuquerque and then ship it to me for another $50 in international shipping fees, I thought I’d see if it was available here.

What follows is a true story.

I went into a pharmacy today and showed the pharmacist (they are referred to as chemists here) what’s left of my nanotube of Denavir and asked if there was a similar anti-viral I could get a physician to prescribe for me here.

She went straight to a shelf behind the counter, chose a small box and handed it to me. She said, “This is exactly the same. You can pay for it at the register”. It all happened so quickly and took me by such surprise that I could simply buy what is a prescription medication at home, that I forgot to ask about the price.

Once the cashier rang it up, she said, “that will be $47.61”.

At today’s exchange rate, that’s $7USD!

On my way out of Namibia, I’m going to buy about 10 tubes of the stuff to take home.

December 10, 2010

The Morning and Evening Commute

For those people who have good incomes, getting to work in Windhoek is a lot like it is in Albuquerque. We see a lot of cars with one person in them driving to work. Those are the people who can afford the car, insurance, fuel, and upkeep. But the vast majority of individuals in Windhoek cannot afford such luxuries.

People who can afford the $N8-$16 (approximately $1.14 to $2.28 in USD) taxi rides will take a taxi to work. Because lots of people travel by taxi, there are lots of taxis in Windhoek and you can find and hail one on almost any street in town – even at the end of a merge lane.

It is a norm that employers give transportation allowances to their employees. That helps fund the taxi rides or other transport which might be unaffordable without the allowance. If there is no allowance or the walking distance is doable, it is common to see people walking long distances to work. Employers are obligated by law to furnish uniforms to manual labor employees so you see lots of laborers in solid colored uniforms walking to work.

Many jobs start at 7AM so the weekday rush hour really starts humming at around 6:10AM. Our flat overlooks an intersection of a major north/south roadway and an equally busy road that heads into downtown so we see a localized cross section of the commute every weekday.

Instead of an allowance, an employer may provide transportation for its workers. We see employee transportation of all kinds.

There are bus loads of people being transported to jobs or centralized drop off locations.

There are large people movers.

 And small people movers.


There are giant gravel trucks that drop off workers at the construction site across the street. To have a job there, you have to be in good shape to make such a big jump off this truck when you arrive at work.

 At the end of the morning rush, there are empty vehicles headed back from dropping off their loads of workers.

In the evening rush hour the same systems transport workers out of the city.

There is a big field diagonally across the street from us where cars are washed during the day and lots of vans are parked all day long. At the end of the day, once the drivers get into the vans, we see lots of workers rushing to fill them up (sometimes 10 to 15 people per van).

We think those must be some form of worker transport as well.

Many of the city’s workers live in Katutura. The largest neighborhood in Windhoek, it occupies the entire northern boundary of Windhoek. Many but not all of the people living in Katutura are working poor. Being able to count on ready transportation allows them to work. In a country with a 51% unemployment rate, being able to keep a job is vital. Getting to the job is equally vital.

Today, the rush hours were very quiet in Windhoek because it is a public holiday in Namibia – Human Rights Day.