Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Guest Blog (Tina's Dad)

Greetings from the Namib, Namibia. Most of Namibia is in the Khalari, but the Namib Desert runs along the coast, from 40-80 km inland. We are there, in Swakopmund, taking a tour-the-town and hang out day.
Perhaps you had my misconception: Christina actually lives in Uis, despite not living in the town. This is because “town” refers to about a fourth of Uis’ population, with straight grid streets, a supermarket, restaurants, gas station and tourist facilities. It is mostly white, but some black Africans, too. The other part of Uis is the “location”, which is >99,9% black (guess who) and separated from the “town” by a brick plant and abandoned tin mine, about 4 miles distance. The structure is an apparent remnant of apartheid which, because its so structurally ingrained, seems like it will be a long time in fading away. A lot of cities have these.
It appears that everyone knows Miss Tina. Children and others wave, and even people in town who she does not know treat her like a long-lost friend. So although not terribly inviting toward a true friendship, the community is quite friendly.
Seeing Christina’s place, as parents, we wanted to do an episode of one of those home makeover TV shows, although that, predictably, was not going to sit well with her. We did do some compromises. We bought fabric to replace the missing backs on the kitchen chairs, a bowl, (even though she insisted the deep plate worked fine for soup and cereal) and kitchen knives since food would get caught in the leatherman, We learned she’s a bit self-conscious about being perceived as rich after some kids saw into her cupboard and said “wow” at the amount of rice, oil and seasonings that were present. (We were less impressed!) Computer and iPod are kept from public view.
The school is plain, but quite nice, and we loved the library. All the books are classified as 1 thru 5, based on reading difficulty, which makes them a little easier to file. There’s nothing to sit on, so we got some pillows from the China Store as our contribution, and brought some National Geographic posters. The bookshelves need constant work. The actual shelves are only a fraction of the depth of the bookcase, so books are always falling down the back. But bottom line, its quite a cheery, inviting place.
Our travels have been without adverse incident so far, not counting Tina’s sprained ankle and wrist, sore throat and cold, food poisoning (nasty, the hotel staff wanted to get a doctor) and sunburn. Patti and I are quite pleased with things going otherwise so smoothly.

Ultimate animals:
BIGGEST: Namibian elephant, the largest strain in Africa, almost as big as the oiliphants in Lord of the Rings. I have seen elephants, but these were startling, towering about the trees and eating the tops.
Wimpiest: Anopheles mosquito, a no-show in this dry weather. We stopped our malaria prophylaxis early, a mortal sin in the annals of Infectious Diseases.
Startling: The Red Hartebeast is a creature out of mythology. It quite large, with the muscular body of a horse, a long neck, and the head of an antelope. We only saw them a few times, but they were back in the trees, the way centaurs usually are in paintings. Awesome.
Beautiful: Lavender-breasted roller. Black and a bluish aquamarine complement the purple breast when in flight.
Dumbest: the African sand grouse which will watch the tires of your Toyota truck slowly run over him unless you are careful to steer around.
Saddest: The wildebeest male, who when dethroned as leader of his harem by a younger, stronger male, is exiled from wildebeestdom. But being a social, herd animal, it will attach itself to another species herd, like a bunch of springbok, and follow them around in its retirement.
OILO (Once in a lifetime opportunity): The leopard, with blood on the chops from a baby kudu, looking you intently in the eyes from 9 feet away as your driver mistakenly gets between the leopard and what’s left of her kill.
Transparent: The rounded ears and black eyes being the only discernible features in the high grass as the cheetah looks up to see who is there.
Least responsive to negative reinforcement: That would be Patti, who could never believe in the baking desert sun of late afternoon that she would need anything warmer than short sleeves after sunset, despite the four previous nights’ experiences.
Most delicious: So far, either oryx or kudu. Each is also pretty impressive when not being eaten.
Most under appreciated: The springbok is underrated because it is so common. But it is a truly beautiful animal with an amazing vertical bounce.
Best architects: Termites. Second place, weaverbirds.


  1. Very awesome post! Really like the "Ultimate Animals" section especially. I am sure you would have put the African Sand Grouse in with the "Least Responsive to Negative Reinforcement" category if it could survive its stupidity. As it is, it seems you have to find more animals in your final days in Namibia to dethrone Patti from that dubious honor. Push Tina to write more posts like this!

  2. Thanks, Stephen
    Couldn't spring Patti from her award (hey, its better than a "participant button"), though she and Tina tied for Least Likely to Win a Head Butting Contest with a Springbok (I'm sure Tina can fill in the details).
    Couple more honors:
    Stinkiest: Cape Fur Seal, especially in throngs of 70,000. Patti insisted on washing her clothes (no dryer), even though it was the night before a 30-some hour plane ride back after an 800-pounder sat on her and Tina's lap.
    Least romantic Namibian appetizer: The mopane worm, which I would like to call delicious but it isn't. However, when your date hides behind a menu while you eat it, it can't be called part of a romantic evening.
    Surprisingly Attractive: Pelicans, close up. Colorful faces, and the males and females are best distinguished by their eyeliner (true. look it up.)
    Not Sure What You Are But You Should Have An Award: This is a really fast, bright sky-blue bug on the Namib dunes. I took a dozen misses or blurry pictures - never mind, you just had to be there.