The German researcher in the next unit has just had her dog neutered and the poor thing has been wandering around with a cone around his head, confused. Cute thing. We’ve been enjoying our stay at the guest house. The rooms are relatively clean, showers fantastic, and every morning I have a delicious breakfast of avocado, cheese, and random mysterious meat on toast, along with fruit and yogurt and rooibos tea. But we will be moving soon: we have apartments now! It’s located in a nice neighbourhood in Klein Windhoek, the kind of neighbourhood I could never afford to live in, back in Canada. My apartment has a beautiful terrace that is shaded by a palm tree. Clearly this means I need to throw some patio parties.
Yesterday, the folks at my office held a braai (a special barbecue) on the roof terrace of our work, which had a brilliant view of the cityline. I got to try my first braais-cooked mutton and mysterious sausage - i think it was boerewors, juicy Afrikaans spiced sausage made up of various game meats and fat. There was also a lot of Tafel Lager beer, South African wine, and this blue vodka drink called Red. We ate and drank and entertained until the sun went down. Some of the coworkers had brought their children into the office, and when someone threw on an iPod full of African tunes (plus Black Eyed Peas), the little kids were dancing up a storm. Seriously, these kids have such great dance moves, they’d put everyone I know to shame. Soon everyone was dancing on the roof, chucking their empty beers under a palm tree. My dancing, not so impressive. But I did meet an Asian volunteer who instructed me on where to find kimchi and Chinatown in this country. She may have saved my life.
After the party winded down, we were told that there was no way we could go home so early. It was a Friday night. So Yolanda and Sophi, two wonderful Namibian coworkers, took us to their neighbourhood in Khomasdal to keep the good times rolling.
During apartheid, Khomasdal was the township where “coloured” people were sent to live, apart from the white neighbourhoods. Since I’ve been spending most of my time in the affluent white parts of Windhoek, I had been secretly dying to visit the townships, but had been told to never go there without a local. Finally we had a chance!
First, we stopped at a local bar in Khomasdal because Yolanda and Sophi were convinced that we needed more alcohol. While stocking up on more Tafel Lager, I overcame my shyness (coming out of the fact that every bar patron was staring at me) and chatted with some of the folks. For the most part it was fine, although as we left, a drunk old man kept shouting “Hey Whitey!” But it occurred to me that he was probably yelling at Allison and not me, since, you know, I’m not white.
Then we hung out at Sophi’s home, where she shooed her two sons into their bedroom and then busted out some cake and her karaoke equipment. Cake and karaoke! A woman after my own heart! And there I found myself singing Celine Dion at the top of my lungs, to represent Canada (there was no Justin Bieber available). Sophi told me that we could not leave until hearing her favourite South African song…and to my surprise, she started playing Dolly Parton’s performance in South Africa of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. So of course we all had to sing along too. Then they serenaded us with more African music, which, to my continuing surprise, also included Paul Simon’s Graceland record. The most stirring moment for me, though, was all of us coming together and singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. Nothing like singing a Lion King song while hanging out in Africa.
After all that singing and dancing in the living room, Yolanda decided that it was imperative that we go out to a night club in the area. I was excited at the thought, but also nervous, especially when Yolanda remarked cryptically that they should hire security to protect me (she was joking, Mom). Ever since arriving in Africa, I’ve been painfully self-conscious of how Asian I looked. I was especially going to stand out going clubbing in the Khomasdal township. Bring it on.
They took us to a club called The Purple Palms, a spacious dimly lit bar that was full of beautiful people and jumping. The deejay spinning dance tracks seemed to have only two phrases in his vocabulary (“PUT YOUR HANDS UP” “LADIES”), and intermittently interjected them between beats. Astonishingly, Sophi and Yolanda bought us another round. They are, by the way, the greatest. Yolanda told me that we were being initiated in a traditional Namibian welcome which involved them telling us to do things and us not saying no. this mostly involved Yolanda pouring me glasses of South African rose wine and her telling me to chug it in one go. So I’m suspicious as to whether this is a Namibian “tradition” or Yolanda having her kicks at watching us.
I didn’t draw as much attention as I was worried I would, although the most aggressively flirtatious attention I got was from a petite lesbian, which surprised me to no end – I haven’t seen any other openly gay folks, ever since arriving in Namibia. For the most part, people left me alone and I got to dance, while secretly hoping that nobody was judging me, my race, or my country on my terrible dance moves. After we left the club, two men ran out after us to tell us they thought I was beautiful. Sophi laughed, thanked them, and shooed them away. “Not you,” they said, “the Asian!” We all laughed and they went away. At least they were polite about it.