Saturday, August 2, 2008
jessie meets namibia.
the thought of even beginning to wrap up my first day in africa is crazy. i finally arrived in windhoek (namibia's capital) yesterday morning at 8am. venessa was there to meet and greet me. to see a friend i've missed for so long...and to meet her in this far away place that has grown so dear to us in our dreams...is just so special. the day of sleep i had missed (8 hour overnight layover the night before in the joahnnesburg airport: no sleep) and the tiredness i felt completely escaped my mind and body and i was simply HAPPY. the fact that my bag didn't arrive didn't matter either. the airport told me that it would arrive on the next flight and it would be delivered to our hostel later that afternoon. that was good news. so...the journey began. venessa's taxi driver friend, ronnie, drove us to the 'cardboard box' hostel and it was there that i was greeted by the super friendly staff. the 'man of the house', chad was a big teddy bear of a fella. he went to shake my hand and i returned it with a hug. hugs are better (if you know me, you know i am no hand shaker). the way the hostel is set up is with 3 sleeping options, all depending on what is available each night. type a: 4 bunkbeds, 8 people. type b: double bedroom, 2 people. type c: tent! we were given the first option last night. it was simply nice to call somewhere 'home' for the night...to have a place to sleep. we met 2 young girls about our age who are here from canada and also a newly wed couple from new zealand. they were doing a 3 month african honeymoon adventure. we all have a story to share.
right after we checked in, we went for a walk to 'the mall'. it is nicer than i expected...funny how we come assuming things to be so different than they really are. i am learning to have an open mind about it all. i assume nothing. we started out with lunch! we were both (by well-fed american definition) starving. grilled cheese sandwiches it was. the wheat bread was so good. after lunch we found an internet cafe. venessa's been trying to upload some of her pictures from her last week in ondangwa. she took a bus 9 hours north of where we are in windhoek to visit a 'family' of 3 young girls that she heard about through our friend gracie (a fellow american). neither of us has met gracie in person, just by email. venessa 'met' her first through a friend and she told venessa about some trips she had made here...both with an organized group and without. she had just been here before us for 3 months on her own. she spent most of her time in the north with these girls, but was also at the cardboard box hostel as well (hence the reference). so! after many minutes and not much success, venessa was able to uplad 3 pictures. we figured we would be able to try again at another cafe that might have faster internet. venessa showed me her pictures on her camera and they are just beautiful. straight out of a catalog. these girls and the other sweet faces she met are the most radiant ones i have ever seen. you can SEE their joy and gratitude for life in every smile on their face and twinkle in their eye. i thought about each picture, 'THIS is happiness.' the family of 3 girls is made up of a 20 year old and a 16 year old sister (maggie and josephine) and their 6 year old niece (ndamunugululwa...my goal before the end of the next 2 weeks is to learn how to say and spell her name by heart). these girls live about 5 hours from their parents so they can be near a school where they can study. venessa says they have such a strong desire to learn and they devote so much time to reading and studying for their classes. during venessa's visit, maggie and josephine's father had someone drive him to see his daughters and bring them a basket of one apple, one orange, a small piece of goat meat and what little money he could give as well. this was heaven to these girls. fruit is a delicacy. he couldn't stay long, as the driver had to get back, so venessa didn't even meet him. in the time that she went to the bathroom, he was gone. those few minutes he had with his girls...and that they had with their father were savored, i am sure. ndamunugululwa's father died of AIDS and her mother currently has it. she lives and works in windhoek, where we are now, and is able to visit every 3 months or so. she visited while venessa was their last week and she had just had treatment, so she was not feeling well. but i am sure she was so happy to be with her sisters and daughter. venessa said their goodbyes are very non-emotional. the sadness can be seen deep down, but no emotion is shown. there are no questions of when the next visit will be. it's just goodbye. as they were walking away from the car, venessa said ndamunugululwa kept looking back and held her hand even tighter. i would be a wreck.
so, we'll be here in windhoek for a few days this week and then try to get back up to ondangwa towards the end of the week to see the girls again. i feel like i already know them. i already love them so much in my heart.
yeserday afternoon we called our taxi driver friend ronnie again and he took us to the baby haven. ronnie didn't know exactly where it was, so we stopped at a school and asked the reception desk. they had no idea. as we were getting in the car, a young man told us that a little girl said she knew. she was standing behind him, acting a bit shy. we were so grateful and thanked her so much. sometimes the answers are where you least expect them.
sure enough, we drove where she said and there it was. a light blue painted building with the huge white painted name 'baby haven' in the front. ronnie waited for us while we spoke to the staff. there were 2 ladies and about 5 babies there...and a tour guide with 2 guests. the women said we could call tomorrow and speak to the 'woman in charge', lulu (coincidentally fred's nickname for me), and decide on a time to come back today. in the 10 minutes we were there, i met and fell in love with a sweet 2 year old boy named ahmandilla. i held his tiny fingers while he made big steps, i picked him up and we danced and sang songs (do do do do...) and i kissed his sweet face. when it was time for us to go he would not let go of my fingers. i didn't want to let go either. but knowing that i will see these precious babies tomorrow gave me the strength to say goodbye 'for now'. there was a baby of about 8 months named grace and a little boy that was 5 years old, but was the size of a 2 year old. another little boy had a noticelably smaller head than that of a healthy growing baby boy. despite all of this...these children were so very beautiful. i don't know how i will be able to come home empty handed. one thing is for certain, my heart will be so so full of love and memories. i know it already.
last night we went to joe's beerhouse. venessa had heard about it and the lady at the front desk of the hostel recommended it as well. it had a very islandy feel with hanging plants, a fish pond and trees everywhere outside. we sat inside under the pretty lanterns instead. though it's been warm during the day, the evenings get a little chilly. we sat on bar stools, ordered 2 'windhoek light' beers and shared a burger that was stacked about 8 inches high. both of us were so full. but we shared a hot chocolate to end the night on a sweet note. the price of everything is so cheap. our money is going a long way.
when we arrived home, it was only 730! our day seemed to last forever. my tiredness was getting the best of me though. my bag still hadn't arrived. venessa loaned me her face wash and i brushed my teeth and crawled in bed. i wanted to write last night, but i knew it would have been more successful with full brainpower today. i had all of you readers in mind :) abut 10 minutes later, the receptionist brought the 2 canadian girls to our room and while she was there i asked if my bag had arrived yet. she said yes. out of bed i went! i was elated. but at the same time, just minutes before, i lay there thinking how 'possible' it is to live with very little...so survive with simply the shirt on your back and a smile on your face. i hadn't thought of my bag the entire day. it was a good lesson to learn. i am blessed with far more than i will ever need.
before we brought my bag down to the room, venessa and i made use of the available internet in the hostel reception. about 20 minutes later we decided to hit the hay. when we go to our room, the door was locked. the key was on my bed. i guess i just assumed the canadians would still be there getting situated. as mentioned earlier, i now assume nothing. the receptionist said there was no spare key as all the beds had been rented out. venessa and i went out and looked the windows of the room. they were open, but lined with bars. my arm would fit, but unfortunately, it's not 10 feet long. we had seen one of our roommates leave earlier who said he wouldn't be home until late tonight. the possibility of sitting outside by the pool for the next 5 hours was becoming more of a reality. then a miracle. another woman was there that know where an emergency spare was. we were saved. and the gratitude continues.
as venessa and i laid in bed, we talked about a few things...as girls do. except i was too tired to listen or think and in the middle of what i was saying to venessa, i began talking to an imaginary flight attendant...asking her if she needed my boarding pass. SERIOUSLY past the point of exhaustion. i was delirious. it was then that we said goodnight. after we laughed to the point of tears.
morning came and the sun was shining bright. i took a warm/cold shower and was so happy to be clean again. we were out the door and on our way by 8. the mall opens early, so we had breakfast at the same place we had lunch yesterday. we shared muesli and yogurt and toast. venessa and i are big on sharing :)
now we're here, at our familiar internet cafe, blogging away. we'll call the baby haven in a little while and be there today for the afternoon. i'm anxious to see my sweet friend ahmandilla again and to see how we can help. throughout my life and experiences i've had along the way, i've learned that TRUE joy...true fufillment...comes simply and genuinely from loving people. it is my passion and my purpose. it is the fire that fuels me. i am blessed to be right where i am. much love to my dear friends and family...and that fiance of mine that i love so very much. bless you all.