The decision to go to Namibia the first week of October was made on rather short notice. My course is so demanding, it takes seven days a week of my time, and it felt like taking a week’s holiday was too luxurious. The two weeks break in March, I’d opted to get caught up and stay in Cape Town. But this course will be over before I know it, and it would be a shame to not see the surrounding countries while we are here. So I decided it was time to visit Namibia, perhaps the first country I ever actually wanted to visit in Africa, thanks to its German heritage.

It gained independence from South Africa in 1990, and indeed it feels more Afrikaans than German. Some of the buildings look German-with green roofs and ornate balustrades-but I didn’t hear anyone speak it.

The Germans perpetrated what is called the first genocide of the 20th century on the Herero and Nama populations, decimating 50 and 80 % of their people respectively. They formally apologized for the genocide in 2004. I knew nothing of this until we went to a museum in Windhoek and saw this exhibition.

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There’s only 2 million people in the entire country, three times the size of the United Kingdom. Cape Town alone has 2 million people, so it’s no wonder I experienced culture shock coming back. We drove for hours every day throughout the country without seeing a soul. No beggars, no one selling anything on the side of the streets. We came back with no souvenirs. I joked with Zimkhitha that everyone saves up money to buy petrol instead. Second lowest population density in the world, after Mongolia. I was reminded of my time working out at the Grand Canyon in Arizona and feeling so isolated from the rest of the world.

We took the bus with Intercape, 21 hours riding. The kids loved it, especially Elithe riding on the double decker. It was a surprisingly easy ride, though I realized that I must pack a blanket next time as that’s the key to tricking your body into sleeping. We did Wimpy’s rush dinners and breakfasts at the gas station. Wimpy’s is my favorite fast food place here-the kids also love it because of the toys and balloons. They have all day breakfast and a big menu and fresh salads.

The trip was without too many metaphorical bumps but the gravel roads in our automatic non 4×4 were bumpy enough! Elithe had a bout of food poisoning but was instantly better after the good old fashioned cure of ginger ale. I was called back driving out of the car lot after witnessing me stall out with the manual car. I later got an automatic…in another city…two days later. In the mean time they dropped me off at the bus station. So the bus is what we took. The kids are too good at sitting for long hours. They got surprise packs at the gas station.

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I was questioned for a while when the officer noted Ryder’s name was not on his birth certificate.  I didn’t even realize. Why does Mexico do it like that? It had my name, the hospital, his time of birth, Certificado de Nacimiento, his size and Apgar score, no mention of Jacob, no mention of Ryder. Fortunately, he decided to let me through anyway since I had his passport and visa.

If you go to Namibia, you must plan on spending a couple of weeks. The distance between notable places means you spend all day driving. The view is dry, dusty, and monochrome. The sun beats down and even with air con, you sweat. It’s the driest country in that dry area of the world, Subsaharan Africa. The lack of water is related to the country’s biggest crisis-sanitation-because most people cannot afford flushing toilets and must use plastic bags.

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Driving in a sandstorm

Uniquely for this area of the world too, it felt peaceful, safe, and not corrupt. I was surprised that often, I was the only white person in sight in Windhoek.

The Namib desert is the oldest in the world. It’s beautiful in a desolate way. We saw some animals. The most memorable was an ostrich frantically racing alone across the horizon. A thirsty-looking horse, his ribs showing, spending his last days alone slowly on the side of the road. Goats being herded into their pens.

Deserted buildings, ghost towns, only show up in between 200 kilometers of open road stretching ahead as far as the eye can see. Zimkhitha reads aloud to me “Groups in Music” to while away the time. We make it through three chapters. There is no radio. The kids do their workbooks in the back of the car, and color.

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The highlight was definitely sandboarding. We went on Dune 7 in Walvis Bay. It was gorgeous to ride out there on quad bikes, sailing straight up toward the cloudless blue sky, soaring down again.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, sky and outdoor We went alone first, Zimkhitha and I. It wasn’t so different from sledding down snow, and the sand didn’t even get in my eyes or hair. Then the kids got to go. Ryder got on my back. And they shoved us down. He was so happy, he asked to do it every day. He was doing cartwheels in the sand for joy. Elithe did a flip off the board and got sand up her nose and mouth, and still quickly assured she was ok because she wanted to do it again.


There is a dearth of restaurants, unsurprisingly, but nevertheless I got to try a scrumptious local dish of oshingali (the o is silent, like many Namibian words) with oil and beans, scooped up with pap, the local carb.

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We also ate at one of the most famous restaurants in Walvis Bay, the Raft Restaurant out on the water, with views of dolphins and a kite surfer coming perilously close to our window.

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The kids, asking the bartender for toys.

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The parking lot of the Walvis Bay library, also called the American Corner library, which only had three cars. That was a mystery, but the bigger mystery was the handouts inside the library about 9/11. Why?

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Would I go back? Yes, but only with a decent rough road vehicle, and lots more time to cover distances.


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