Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Break Part Three: The Road to Jo’burg

The stop in beloved Tses was short-lived, pausing long enough for me to pack for the US and grab a quick nap. The stupid DVD kept skipping on this horrible movie and then repeated the same musical track over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
Keets was fun. It was more of a layover in many ways. She got to experience waiting out in the sun and hearing me exclaim, “Really, I‘m a nice guy!” to people who wouldn't stop to give us a hike.

The next morning we waited ‘til Rute got into town to do anything. We took care of some business and then got a hike to the Jo’burg/Uppington hikepoint. The more people (more than two) the safer the hike will be. Rute (thanks to her sheet) and I (thanks to my nylon rope) were able to pitch a sheltered area using the sign we were next to and our backpacks. The more pitiful you look, the more likely you’ll get offers for a hike. As we were running out of H2O, we did find that merciful soul to take pity on us. He was a truck driver who needed to get to near Jo’burg in the next 24 hours. Talk about catching exactly what you need. It usually doesn’t happen over here, especially on a long like that. Just check out how far apart Keetmanshoop, Namibia and Johannesburg, South Africa are.

Later on Amanda and I would argue about how “sketchy” this guy was. If I’d gotten this hike a year earlier, I’d probably think the same. So he may have been a tad homophobic, racist and may have killed someone (that person was trying to hijack his semi and kill him), but he would check up on us, buy us water or sodas - he did care how we felt. Rute and I stayed up with him to make sure he made it to his site. It may have been from the hijacking stories he told us. The road between Uppington and Jo’burg is the most dangerous stretch of road in South Africa. If we got hijacked, they’d be in for a unpleasant surprise - always a load of fun to haul liquid fat. He did give the three of us a FREE hike from Keetmanshoop to Jo’burg. Check out on a map how far apart those cities are. It’s about N$50 to Windhoek and that’s only about 420km away. The only really bad part was that his air conditioning was broken and it was incredibly hot in the cab.

We got into Jo’burg after a few hours of offloading liquid fat, we got dropped off at a mall near the airport. THANK GOODNESS! Usually people get dropped off at the bus station, the heart of the beast. So much so that PC said it’s off-limits due to an attack on a volunteer a few years ago. One of the most dangerous places in Jo'burg. Well, we didn’t have to deal with that at least.

At the backpacker place Amanda happened to run into a guy who did some volunteer work with a Peace Corps friend in Tanzania. Let the healing begin - she was having a hard time dealing with leaving Tanzania. This place was so nice that it even had a tennis court! The only downer, the roof leaked near my bed and they had a bit of an ant problem. They liked to crawl on me while I slept. Rute and I met some people who were there from Pretoria on vacation and talked about gossip sort of things. Later we celebrated surviving our first year in Namibia, ironic as we weren’t in Namibia to celebrate it.

Rute left early in the morning for the next leg of her journey. Amanda went to a game park with her new friend while I slept off my all-nighter and got some computer work done. I was bringing a friend’s iMac back to get it fixed, which led to a truly surreal experience of being out of the loop of US. That’s later.

The cool thing about staying at a backpacker hostel is that you meet backpackers. They are so awesome. We met a guy from Norway who went with us on a tour of the Apartheid Museum, Mandela’s home, Hector Petersen’s Museum (the first person shot/killed in the uprising in Soweto against Afrikaans and Apartheid in South Africa) and other sites. I could have easily spent an entire day at the Apartheid Museum but I also see how it impacts my life here in Namibia.

South Africa portrays Soweto as really bad. Well, their houses have plumbing and electricity, which is one luxury more than in my village (along with many settlements here, we don’t have plumbing, hence the whole polio problem last year). In fact, their government has guaranteed that their citizens will get concrete housing, a small step above the tiny tin shanties I see every morning on my way to work. As the tour guide was driving past some of the Soweto houses, he commented how small they were. Well, they’re bigger than what I see every day.

Another leg of the Apartheid Museum tour was the Hector Petersen Memorial. He was one of the many who were protesting the mandatory use of Afrikaans in the classroom. He was the first person shot that day and eventually died of the wound. On the rock honoring his sacrifice was one plaque, in Afrikaans, explaining his death. I don’t know, but I think that explains why I don’t want to spend money in South Africa again. That country is so screwed up. On a memorial for someone who was protesting the use of Afrikaans, let’s put a plaque explaining his fight in language of … Afrikaans? Yeah, that’s respecting his sacrifice.
That’s almost as crazy as having a memorial in Namibia to the 50 or so Germans who died in their slaughter of 80% of the Herero population back in 1904. Oh, they do and the German tourists here flock to see.

Note: That was the first genocide of the 20th century. Bring in that Hitler based his concentration camps on those here in Namibia. He also read a book portraying the superiority of the whites (written by a German in Namibia) and then proceeded to write Mein Kemph while he was in jail for his beer hall putsch. That’s World War II based on German beliefs and actions in Namibia, just expanding it on the Jews.

The flight back left Jo’burg at 9pm due to a storm delay. At the Jo’burg airport we ran into our Norwegian friend and hung out with him. As we were waiting for the plane, we argued about pretty much everything, making for good entertainment to all the people waiting through the delay. Most of the people I could see were laughing at us. Was good to see that side of her back again. Just make some kind of sexist comment or such and she starts attacking. It’s so funny! This quiet gal suddenly transforms into a pit-bull. It was fun to see how much she’s changed in the last couple of years, all for the good.

The flight back was somewhat uneventful, unless you include how much Amanda made fun of me during take-offs, landings and turbulence (I hate flying and plunging to a horrible death). Apparently I’m such a wuss. But I got me revenge, creaming her in gin rummy. We’re talking total destruction! With a short layover in Atlanta, we got to MSP around 2:30pm. Believe it was close to 24 hours of actual flight.

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