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Updates from Africa 11

Updates from Africa 11

January 2, 2009 5:53 pmComments are Disabled

So New Year’s was a blast.  We had a slow evening.  We went to the shopping mall and bought smoked game, potatoes, vegetables and spices, went back to the room and cooked a New Year’s feast for dinner.  We had a kitchen area in our room which we used–and abused.  When we were done there was a pileup of dirty dishes and leftover food that would make a garbage man weep.  We didn’t feel like cleaning that night, or the day after, so our room began to faintly smell like day-old potatoes and rotten cabbage.  The food was delicious though.

We got a ride to the Beach Bar around 9.  The Beach Bar is a year-round operation but their biggest party is New Year’s to which the entire population of Swakopmund swarms for a night of champagne, dancing, and bonfire.  I have mentioned that while we were travelling from Livingstone we had met several people along the way, including The Girls, The Second Girls (another pair with whom we took the shuttle to Walvis Bay a week ago), Aaron from Vancouver and Scott, Lindsay, Quentin and Desmond, the latter of which had to go back to Canada early because he’s a seventh grade teacher.  We never expected to find anyone we knew at this party, which covered 500 meters of beach, a picnic table area, the wraparound bar which could accomodate 200 patrons at once, and the dance floor where American techno and pop music boomed base tones relentlessly into a sweating, thumping, fleshy orgy of post-colonial white African hip hop culture.  As it turns out, we ran into the Second Girls twice, found Scott and Lindsay on the dance floor before Scott went off with Quentin to be his wingman, and most importantly we ran into Ginelle, who had served us at the Swakopmund Cafe the day before.  We found out from her that she only received $18 of the $60 tip we left her, which was probably part of the reason she had quit that day.  Ginelle is only 17 and applying to Universities this month, but it was interesting hearing, once again, the same talking points we heard in South Africa about the blacks and why they were bad and why the whites couldn’t get jobs, etc, etc. This time, though, I had to reconcile what we had learned from Herman about how much better Namibia is than South Africa with what Ginelle was saying, and ultimately I determined that the key difference between the white Namibian and the white South African is political; in Namibia, whites are not bothered being represented by an all-black government because they don’t see the political system as a racially divisible one.  Ginelle also enlightened us on a new race, the Coloreds, which are apparently non-whites who “Are basically white,” so they are distinct from blacks.  She listed a bunch of types of Coloreds, including Indians, who apparently “Act white” as well.  The whole thing is very confusing for me and I don’t know how I’ll be able to cope with this racial logic which saw its last major incarnation in American culture forty years ago.  This is apparently the post-colonial mind; especially from the side of the ex-colonizers. Although I don’t think it’s appropriate to label whites who live in Africa as ex-colonizers, because they’re just people and families living where opportunity took them.  I don’t think it’s fair to blame whites in Africa for the poverty gap, just like it’s not fair for whites to lash out at blacks for their recent post-apartheid misfortune.  I do feel for people like Ginelle who feels a real threat to her opportunity due to Affirmative Action and other policies enacted to combat the racial poverty gap.  Maybe all is needed is time for old wounds to heal, and it seems to me that Namibia is allowing the healing process to happen a lot easier than in South Africa.  As Ginelle called over a dark-skinned friend of hers from high school, to kiss her on the cheek and wish her a happy new year, I could only wonder what the charge of her generation will be if Namibia, and other ex-colonies in Africa, is to rise out of the economic and political consequences of colonialism.  I guess that’s what this study abroad program is going to be all about.

There was no countdown for the new year; instead, people checked their own cell phones and improvised one.  When the organizers of the party thought it was time (by our calculation they were a minute early), they lit a massive bonfire which had been prepared out of fruit cartons, tree branches and forklift pallets.  It was 2009.  We toasted our champagne with some new friends we met from Walvis Bay and brought in the new year, feeling the intense heat of the fire on our faces and looking at the bright orange flare, beyond which was a black ocean where the last remnants of 2008 were rotating slowly towards midnight.

We got back around 3 in the morning.  The next day, we slept in until 10, stayed in the room until 5 and went out at 8.  It was a completely unproductive day, but a needed rest.  Besides, everything was closed! We went to dinner at the Western Saloon, which served up a delicious line fish for our last meal in Swakopmund.  Ioana went to bed and Codrin and I played blackjack at the casino for a couple hours, finally turning in at 2.  In the morning, Michael picked us up at the guesthouse and we drove 5 hours back to Windhoek.  We bought two large suitcases in town, to carry our souvenirs.  We already have a new suitcase we bought a couple weeks ago.  We have so many masks we could start a store.

We’re excited for our return to Johannesburg and our reunion with Sara, her husband and Antonio.  We should be in Cape Town the night of the 4th.  Incidently, the mayor of Cape Town won the 2008 World Mayor award.  Cool, huh?

Happy new year, all, welcome to 2009!

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