I have spent the past few days visiting the North of Namibia. I jumped around spending each night with a different volunteer and the days were spent in some of the bigger towns or just hanging out at people’s sites to see what it was like. Instead of boring you with a “first I did this, then I went here” sort of post I thought I might just talk about what in the north was different for me so here we go.
Differences between what I’m used to and Northern Namibia
1. It’s a lot greener. Uis is semi-desert but the north is full of trees, grasses, and bushes. It’s not quite tropical or jungle-y but it’s definitely more of what I imagined when I thought about going to Africa. There are little ponds/puddles (called oshanas) all over too because there is more rainfall.
2. There are shabeens everywhere. Shabeens are little bars, usually one room cement spaces but they are all up and down the roads there. The best part is some of the fabulous names they have. Some of my favorites are: water melon is life, gangster’s paradise bar, enough bar, lucky special bar, and plan b bar.
3. A lot of the towns aren’t really towns or central communities, but rather just separations of the houses and businesses along the road. It’s more of a “from here to here along the highway is ongwadiva” which has made it difficult for some of the volunteers to get involved in their communities, but also means everything feels very connected and almost more like one big town.
4. There are taxis everywhere. That’s how we traveled all over. Coming from Uis which has no taxis it was a big change.
5. The people are different. There are different tribes up north, so the people tend to be darker skinned and speak a different language. This means I couldn’t greet people like I can in Uis. They seemed incredibly friendly to me and when I accidentally got dropped off in the wrong town I made a bunch of friends and had to take my picture with some of my new “sisters” before I was allowed to get in a cab to where I needed to be.
6. The big towns: I liked Oshikango a lot, it is a border town (on the border of Angola) and is about 1/3 Namibian, 1/3 Chinese and 1/3 Portuguese so it’s a pretty interesting mix. All the shops are china shops and Portuguese markets and it almost has an industrial feel (good Chinese food though!!). Ondangwa feels really big (long) and mostly had a lot of strip malls and that sort of thing. Oshikati I didn’t spend much time in, but it seemed like there were more markets but still lots of big stores. In case you haven't noticed, all of the towns start with 'o' (the small ones are ondangwa, ongwediva, onhanu...) it gets incredibly confusing for those of us who aren't used to it!!