After having been in Rundu for just over 2 months, last weekend we had the opportunity to leave this small town for the first time.
Our first destination was Etosha National Game Park. It is considered one of the top safari’s in Africa. This particular safari is one in which you can drive through in your own vehicle (or go on tour groups), and there is no fence separating you from the wild animals. We had an extraordinary first of three days in Etosha, and Kimmie (one of the nurses from AIM who we travelled with) who has been a dozen times was blown away by the number of animals we saw. On the first day we saw 23 elephants, 13 lions (!!!), a black rhino, a very rare spotting of a leopard and hundreds of zebra, giraffe and antelope.
But despite the first time seeing some of these stunning animals in the wild, it was also our first time seeing so many white people congregated in one place in quite some time. Most of these were European tourists, especially from Germany, lugging around cameras that cost more than some people’s cars. It was odd to see these families in their matching safari hats and huge rugged hiking boots (very necessary when you are sitting in your car for 12 hours unable to leave) staying in fancy hotels, ready to really experience “wild Africa“. Most of the kids at the project have never even seen any of the animals that we just assume local Africans live with, and yet here we are living in both worlds.
After a spectacular few days of being glued to the camera (to see some of our photos click on this link: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=29884&l=40188&id=518018255), we headed off to Windhoek for a couple of days. Traveling there meant driving through a number of small towns and it was very obvious to me that “Todo, we’re not in Kansas anymore”. Rundu is a different place altogether. Rundu is the major town (actually, more of a collection of connected villages) in the poorest region of Namibia, and so in many ways it is unlike the rest of the country.
These other small towns we drove through had paved streets and sidewalks (not sand) - imagine! We even saw a little section of grass that people were lounging on. We rarely saw any mud huts on the side of the road, and instead there were lots of flashy shops and restaurants, especially in Windhoek (which you would never imagine is an African city). There are many more people, and as a result more crime - we had our car broken into with windows smashed and stuff stolen, which was a nuisance.
Language was another aspect. We have worked hard to learn some of the basic greetings in Rukwangali, the trade language spoken here - but only here. As each region and tribe speaks different languages, it was such an uncomfortable feeling to be in these other cities and having no idea how to say “please” and “thank-you” except in English, hence feeling like an insensitive foreigner.
As we were returning from Windhoek, Daryl and I noticed a strong sense that we were coming home. It’s amazing that after only 2 months we could feel an attachment to a place that we still don’t understand on so many levels. The dogs just about ploughed us over with excitement to see us again, and it was so easy to hop right back into life here. The kids at the project all missed us when we were gone, and it was really great to be back. Home, for now at least, but home none the less.