Friday, October 3, 2008

Namibia – September 24

Oh God…where do I even start? …quick summary of the last five days:
1. My mother was SO right – I do not ever want to have to leave Africa. And I might never have to, seeing as I was conveniently offered a job at a nonprofit in Walvis Bay.
2. I’m no longer a teenager.
3. and NONE of you sent me ANYTHING. Despite my suggestion on Sept 2.
4. I saw zebras and ostriches and giraffes and elephants and wildebeests and springboks and kudus and lions and rhinos and cheetahs. (I think the cheetah part is a lie – but everybody else saw one so it kind of counts?)
5. And then I ate zebras and ostriches and springbok and kudu and crocodile and chicken. Ostrich was by far my favorite.
a. (and this meal cost all of 15USD, with drinks and dessert)
6. The exchange rate is 8ND/1USD. Beer costs 6ND. (I did the math for you – that’s 75 cents a beer.)
My visit to Africa started with a 5am wake up call. I was really excited to see the sun rise over Africa as we approached our port.

Let’s quickly go through what I was visioning: 80 degree weather, dolphins jumping in front of the ship, silhouettes of elephants and giraffes in the distance, and the whole continent blasting the Circle of Life as the sun rose over the desert and Pride Rock.

Right. Well I guess the reason for this trip is to break up those stereotypes. So…things I was not expecting/was incredibly disappointed to learn:
1. It’s fucking freezing in Namibia.
2. Those things jumping in front of the ship – they weren’t dolphins – they were fucking PENGUINS.
3. Like I was convinced that the captain made a wrong turn and accidentally brought us to Antarctica.
4. Because the fog was also so dense that you couldn’t even see the front of the boat.
5. And there was no Lion King music blasting from the country. Which I was really expecting would happen.
6. So, overall, it was the worst sunrise ever.

But it turns out that Namibians LOVE Americans (rough estimate that 70% of their exports are to America and 70% of their foreign aid is from America.) so we were able to get off the ship very quickly and get on with our adventures in Namibia. Cory, however, had three hours of “dock time,” so I had three hours to explore Walvis Bay before returning to the ship to pick him up. This is when I first learned about the 75 cent beers. And I had a great 5 dollar burger at Wimpy’s.

Then…it was off to Windehoek, the capital, for the first leg of our safari. …six hour cab ride (for 13USD) later … and we found our hostel! There were 15 other SAS kids staying at our hostel – all of them headed to the same safari the next day. Blah blah blah blah blah blah…safari…lots of animals…already listed those…okay…MY BIRTHDAY:

So we had a few randos in our group of 25 SAS kids on the safari. These randos included: Fin (short for “Finland”), Canada (also known as “Cougar”), South Africa, Lombard (our tour guide), German Guy and German Girl. As you can see – we really focused on getting to know all of their names.

These randos did a fabulous job of both keeping up with the college kids and celebrating my birthday. At dinner (the best meal I’ve had since last Thanksgiving – and I’m pretty sure the best meal that has ever been cooked over an open flame), Fin broke out his Scandinavian specialty of gin with a pinch of tonic. We then proceeded to the “bar” (a clearing in the woods with a hut full of beer and a fire pit) to play Kings with all the old people. Some great stories that came out of this were “Never have I ever had sex with an animal” (thank you, Lombard) and “Never have I ever walked in on my parents” (but Canada, aren’t you a parent? I mean…you’re like 50.)

After Kings, the night divulged into mayhem – I went to explain the IS/LM model to a kid in my econ class and to discuss the effects of inflation and exchange rates on pricing with the bartender (hey – can’t ever miss an opportunity to get a little work done). But apparently while I was doing this, Fin got really scared that “THE PORTUGUESE WERE ATTACKING!!” and insisted that we all escape to Angola. Around the same time, Canada/Cougar started listing her favorite white liquids. Cory was most shocked that milk, milkshakes, and ice cream were nowhere in the top five. And during all of this, one sly person snuck back to the campsite and moved around all the tents – resulting in disaster around 4am when everybody decided to go to sleep, but nobody could identify or find their own tent. (Just to add to the confusion, another prankster had completely removed one tent from the whole camping area.)

Oh – I forgot to mention that there were little Pumbas running around the entire camping grounds. (Lombard started referring to animals by their Lion King names because that was the only way that I could identify them: “You see that in the trees Eli? That’s Zazu.” “Ahhh right.”) I did manage to avoid any run-ins with the Pumbas, but on the first night I may or may not have tried to befriend Shenzi, Banzai and Ed at a watering hole.

The fences at safaris are electric.

Moving on.

Our Safari ended with missed opportunities because nobody (not even our tour guide) woke up until 9am the next day (we were supposed to start our game drive at 6am in order to watch the lions go to the watering hole). But despite the lack of lions (we had seen Mufasa and Simba the day before anyways) – I think it could safely go down as the best birthday. Ever.

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