Sunday, October 30, 2011

halloween hash

My Halloween last year in Ottawa consisted of me taking a break from studying for the bar exam, donning a Tuxedo Mask costume, driving out into a wild snowstorm and spinning out before reaching the end of my street. As I gripped the steering wheel, staring at the wall of snowy white in front of my windshield, rose in my teeth, I thought, “Maybe Halloween isn’t worth getting killed over.” I turned the car around and went back to studying the barrister material for the rest of the night.

I was afraid, in my heart, that at the age of twenty four I had finally celebrated my last Halloween. After all, they don’t really do Halloween here in Namibia – the stores are all displaying Christmas decorations at the moment, and the only Halloween party we found in town seemed to be geared for ten year olds, which was not really my scene.

Instead, I decided to celebrate Halloween in my own special Namibian way: hiking up a mountain in costume. followed by the important Halloween tradition of drinking. To do this, I joined the Namibian chapter of Hashers, who were embarking on a Halloween Hash.

Previous to my arrival in Namibia, the word “hash” to me either referred to drugs, the #, or a breakfast food. Apparently it also refers to social groups all over the world who follow special traditions, rituals, and rules that loosely remind me of Freemasons. One of the Hashers explained the story to me. The first Hash was started by a bunch of bored British soldiers who went on weekly hikes with the objectives of (according to their Constitution):
1. getting rid of their hangover
2. getting some exercise
3. drinking some more

I thought these principles were pretty sweet.

This week, as I alluded, the Hashers were going to do their hike in the hills behind Ludwigsdorf, in full Halloween costume. We looked pretty awesome.

The Hashers were a mix of local Namibians and foreign expats, mostly Americans. They had a series of rituals that I quickly had to familiarize myself with, including following marks on the trail that the Hares had set up beforehand, and being careful not to go off on the fake paths that they’d also set up, just for giggles. At certain points, folks would call out things like “On-on!” and “Checking!” – I still haven’t gotten the hang of when or why these were said.

"Richard Simmons"

I did however understand “Booze stop”.

At a particularly lovely spot of the trail, we sat on top of a cliff by a river bed and Hector (who looked a little crazy with his witch’s hat and cape) pulled out a bottle of homemade sake. Glasses were passed around, toasts were made, and the sake was drunk. Then we moved on.

After a while, climbing up the mountain got really hot so costumes were slowly shed. As we approached the summit though, the view just got better and better.

Once we reached the summit, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the city. It was quite amazing. In front of us was the city of Windhoek, sprawled out much farther than anyone would ever expect a city of 300,000 to be. Behind us was pure wilderness.

There were more Hash traditions to follow after we descended from the mountain. Back at Karen’s house, we gathered around in a circle and initiated the newcomers, including me. This initiation involved us all introducing ourselves, and then chugging beer out of pisspots (yes, you read that right), and wearing them on our heads once we were done, while everyone sang “DOWN DOWN DOWN” all around us. It kind of felt like grown-up Cub Scouts. A spider jumped into my beer just as I started downing it, but I didn’t let that stop me (“there was an old lady who swallowed a spider…”). After the initiation of the noobs, a woman introducing herself as the Religious Advisor pointed out the “transgressors” of the day – those who had gone off the trail to take a shortcut, those who had answered their cell phones during the hike, those who hadn’t worn a Halloween costume or Hash gear – and those sinners also chugged beer in the middle of the circle while we sang silly songs.

Then came my favourite Halloween tradition – more drinks. Karen served us Halloween candy and Hector heated up the braai to cook the brats, which we enjoyed with a side of pumpkin and great conversation by the swimming pool. It was my most unique Halloween to date, and it certainly beat being snowed in.

Happy Halloween from Windhoek!

Friday, October 28, 2011

frack it friday: technology

For today’s Frack it Friday, I’m going to ramble on about technology.

Technology in Namibia is pretty interesting. It can be pretty awful. Sometimes we go entire days at the office without our Internet not working, which makes legal research kind of difficult, but it does mean that my supervisor can’t e-mail me more work. Even when the internet is working, it just doesn’t seem to have the capacity to stream video or music, so all you people who keep sending me Youtube links should know that I’m just politely pretending to watch them.

On the other hand, Namibians have grown to be quite ingenuously adept at other things, especially with text messages, which they refer to as SMS. The country seems to have skipped over depending on landline but cell phones are wildly popular here and even young kids use mobiles. And nobody actually calls each other, because sending an SMS is so much easier and cheaper. You can send an SMS to your taxi driver to pick you up. You can send an SMS to recharge your pay-as-you-go phone. Companies will send you coupons and sale deals via SMS. You can enter contests to win prizes with an SMS.

The reason why SMS seems to be so wildly popular with Namibians is that it seems that you can get reception in the most rural areas of Namibia, miles away from gas stations, paved roads, and street lights. Folks living in small shacks who have no TVs or internet are still able to send an SMS to their buddies in the next town over.

Many organizations have wisely taken advantage of the popularity of SMS in their public relations strategy. My own organization has begun utilizing this by setting up an “SMS line” that my coworker Yolande tried to explain to me. Basically, people who need legal help but live way too far away from the nearest legal assistance office can send an SMS to our line, which are all collected on our computer network. Our lawyers and employees then offer assistance by investigating and replying via text message. We get hundreds of text messages a day. It’s quite an ingenuous method of helping out folks who otherwise can’t be reached.

Yolande has combined this technology with radio, which is still often at many farms the only means of hearing the outside world. She hosts a weekly radio show in the Damara-Nama language where she discusses important Namibian issues, including domestic violence and teen pregnancy. There are also public service advertisements played to inform people about their legal right to child support, etc. Damara-Nama people in the most remote areas hear her talk about these issues, and have the opportunity to ask her follow up questions through text messages. Yolande loves it; it gives her a chance to reach out to Damara-Nama people and help them on a scale that would be impossible otherwise. This basically replaces the need for technology like landline telephones and snide blog comments that a lot of these places don’t have the infrastructure to support yet. It’s pretty fascinating to see how a country adjusts to its own needs and capacities, and it just goes to show that technology doesn’t move in a linear fashion everywhere.

inside a Namibian music studio

one hand in the air for the big city
street lights, big dreams, all looking pretty
no place in the world that could compare
put your lighters in the air
everybody say yeah yeah yeah yeah
-Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

I’m just getting ready to leave Paguel Restaurant with Allison, Julia and Tshuka when I get a call from Sula, inviting me to come chat with him at the music studio. He’s the record label guy that had approached me after I performed at the Playhouse Theatre the other night. He says he’ll get a car to pick me up. I hand the phone over to Tshuka to explain to Sula directions on how to find me. For some reason, Namibians run on a different sense of directions, and every time I give directions, everybody gets lost.

Soon enough, a Volkswagen with “WINNER OF THE BEST FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR AT THE 2011 NAMIBIAN ANNUAL MUSIC AWARDS” pasted in giant letters all over the sides pulls up to the curb for me, and I figure this must be Sula’s ride. I hop in and am taken to the recording studio in Eros Park where Sula shows me around. I bring Allison along, with the intention of introducing her to everyone as my lawyer.

It’s a smallish building but there’s a lot going on in this operation. The Ogopa record label produces and manages top Namibian musicians, publishes the monthly entertainment magazine Red Carpet, and promotes various parties and concerts all over the country. Tshuka had told me that the company is huge, originally based in Kenya and responsible for putting a bunch of African artists on the musical map, before opening up a branch in Namibia and South Africa. Everyone around here has heard of their artists. I pretend I have too.

Sula explains to me that their goal is to boost Namibian artists in order to put Namibian music on the international market. I tell him that we can relate. Just as aspiring Namibian artists often live in the shadow of the more popular South African music scene, Canadian musicians also live in the shadow of the American music scene. Sula introduces me to some of the folks hanging around the studio, including Victor, another producer, a bassist demanding his money, and Frieda and Daphne, the girls that make up the Windhoek R&B duo Gal Level, who are the ones who won Best Female Artists of the Year at the NAMA (and didn’t flip off the press).

Sula tells me he likes my sound, and that they have a launch party coming up at NICE; would I like to play? Hell yeah. Then Sula and Victor take me to the mixing board in the sound booth and play me some of the new tracks they’re producing for the new Gal Level album, and ask me what I think. They explain that they’d like me to work with the label by listening to the tracks and telling them what I think a North American audience would like. I tell them that a North American audience would dig the beats, but not the synthetic guitar tones. They ask me to record some real guitar tracks for the album. Hell yeah. World, meet Gloria Guns, Namibian studio musician.

Meanwhile, musicians and their posses are drifting in and out of the studio all the time, stopping by to talk. Everyone’s incredibly friendly to me, despite the fact that I feel like I’m dressed like an incredible dork - I’m still in my office clothes. I need to stop wearing jeans to Parliament and blouses to studios.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

my first performance in Africa

"look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
would you capture it or just let it slip?"


Well, today was a strange and eventful day. At work, I handed in my recommendations for changes to the Namibian Citizenship Act to better address the legal problem of statelessness. And then after work I left to do sound check at my very first performance in Africa.

Here’s the back story: on Friday afternoon, I decided to stop by the music store in Klein Windhoek because I really missed playing the guitar. I played basically every guitar that the store had. Then I pulled the banjo down from the rack and started playing that.

At that moment, a beautiful young woman came up to me and said, “Won’t you come play a show this Wednesday? One of our musicians dropped out so we have a spot.”

“Uh, hell yes,” is more or less the first thing I said.

Her name was Lize Ehlers and I had actually heard of her before. She’s a Namibian musician that plays MoJoe’s Lounge weekly when she’s not running the monthly Song Night series, which was what she was inviting me to play at. She’s a gorgeous larger-than-life character with her own bizarrely awesome sense of style (tonight she wore a long red one-piece with huge platform heels), who reminds me of Maylee Todd and a lot of other women I’ve come across in my life that I admire. Also, she let me use her guitar.

a newspaper article in the Namibian Sun about Song Night

So tonight was Song Night, the last one of the year before everything would be halted for the holiday. It was held at the huge 99FM Playhouse Theatre, which used to be an old brewery/warehouse now converted to a concert hall.

The event was a big fundraiser for the local College of Arts, and some of their students were playing in this fantastic six-piece marimba group, where they played covers of Waka Waka, Pachelbel’s Canon, and The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Also, the reggae musician Ten Ten whose concert I had gone to see last weekend was leading the marimba group. So. Totally. Awesome.

I showed up to the event, kind of worried that it might turn out to be one of those typical open mic nights at bars, with a lot of terrible guitar players singing terrible songs about love. It was nothing of the sort, however. There was a rich variety of types of acts: rappers, R&B singers, a jazz group, a gospel-singing family featuring the most talented eleven-year-old girl i've ever heard...tonight's theme was African music, and it felt so great to see amazing African musicians.

the other gloria, introduced by lize as an african queen

an R&B band

Pixie had an amazing voice...she could belt it out even while leaning on crutches.

a jazz group, featuring a fantastic female sax player

i really enjoyed this rapper.

two fabulous guys doing a josh groban cover

"larger than life" lize

unfortunately, when it was my turn to perform, i didn't have a single lick of african music in my repertoire. The closest was a half-finished art rock piece I'm composing on Anton Lubowski, and that was certainly not ready. Instead, i decided to play one of my band's songs, When You Come Out, which happens to be a country song. it was going to be interesting to see how the mostly black and coloured crowd that had just finished dancing along to the R&B singer before me was going to react to this little "China" girl singing a country song on a borrowed guitar.

But my performance still seemed to go over well with the audience. I got a big applause, which felt great. Karen joked that I might be the biggest thing to hit Namibia since Westlife. A bunch of the other musicians came up to me after the show and invited me to jam with them sometime, which was really sweet. And some record label folks also approached me, which was kind of unbelievable. Oh, Windhoek, I don’t know how I’m ever going to leave you.

Gloria tries to discreetly blend into the Namibian music scene (photo by Allison Lepp)

So yeah…I really need to buy a guitar soon.

"you better lose yourself in the music, the moment
you own it, you better never let it go"


artwork by William Bradford

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daan Viljoen and the angry baboons

On Saturday morning, I got a text message from Karen, a young American former military pilot now working for American embassy, asking if I wanted to go hiking. In retrospect, going hiking in the desert at high noon seems absolutely barking mad, but at the time it sounded pretty cool.

I met up with Karen and Julia at their place and we drove out of the city toward the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve. I had only heard about this place before because someone at my office had suggested we hold our Christmas party there, and then someone else explained that this park was now a rehab centre for alcoholics and drug addicts. It was therefore extremely unclear to me whether we were driving to a hiking trail or a rehab centre, but either way I figured that it would be an adventure.

Turns out that it was a game reserve that you could hike in, but it had only been open for a week. It was a bit obviously new – all of the staff had not yet adjusted to the routine of having guests.

“Everyone in the car is over seventeen years old?” barked the park guard.

“Yes,” we said.

“Even this one?” she asked, pointing at the petite Julia.

“Yes,” we said.

“Are you sure? Even this one?”



“Okay, now I’m just getting offended,” protested Julia, who is twenty-five.

The folks at reception looked excited to have guests and ushered us to a lady at the front desk who looked skeptical at our ability to hike the 3 km trail, let alone the 9 km trail we wanted to do.
She was showing us the map of the hiking trail. “Well, whatever you do, make sure you don’t turn left at this point,” she said. “Whatever you do, don’t go there.”

I felt a bit nervous at these instructions. “Are the trails clearly marked?” I asked.

“No, they aren’t,” she said, with the refreshing Namibian honesty that I’ve come to love.

We opted for the 9km trail anyway.

It was a lovely walk that traced the various hills and allowed for the cardio variation I love for my work out, plus a gorgeous view of the rolling hills. We saw baboons a few kilometers away, enjoying the water hole. Off in the distance you could also make out Windhoek, which was far more spread out that I’d realized.

Unfortunately it was also freaking hot. Hiking at the height of the afternoon is not the brightest idea, mainly because you’re not going to see any animals and also because, well, it’s just too hot. I tried to take a break by squatting by the hiking trail and ended up sitting in a thorn bush. I was still pulling thorns out of my butt by that night. The Namibian desertland is harsh. Everything beautiful has thorns.

trying not to think about the thorns in my butt

After an hour in, it had just gotten too hot and we decided to turn around and face the smirk of the desk lady. Unfortunately, not only was she right about our ability to do the 9km trail, but she was also right about the lack of proper trail markings. We found ourselves somewhat lost. I say somewhat because obviously we made eventually made it back safely, but it basically required the unfriendly growl of a nearby baboon to push us in the right direction and back on the main road.

"um, did you hear that?"
"hear what?"
"that growl."
"oh, i think that's a baboon."
"oh, whew."
"baboons are really vicious"
"let's not walk that way."
[picks up rock in hand]

gloria thinks: "well, thank God, Karen is here. she was in Iraq; she can fight the baboons."
karen thinks: "hmm, i don't think i was trained for this."
julia thinks: "i'm smaller, so i can outrun both of them."
baboon thinks: "when are these ugly chatty females gonna go away so i can pick my lice in peace?"

I think we’ll probably wait a little while before we go for our next hike at Daan Viljoen, maybe give them a bit of time to set up trail markers more properly. and maybe something angry baboon-proof. Also, we probably won’t leave at noon next time.

what does this sign mean

Back at the lodge, dying of thirst, I sucked down about three freezie pops in a row. The manager came out to chat with us. He’d formerly run the Big Sky resort in Montana, and was now setting things up at Daan Viljoen. “The thing to do nowadays,” he told us, “is bring more skills to Africa. They have the manpower and the resources, they just need the training. So we are showing them how to set up these tourist lodges. I used to enjoy owning them, but now, in my old age, I prefer to have someone else own them and just put in my work. I worry less. I go on more vacations.” I felt like he was imparting a lot of important information to us, but I was too busy inhaling popsicles to give any sort of intelligent response other than slurp slurp sluuuurp. i was also thinking about the exaggerated stories that i would tell people back in Windhoek about single-handedly wrestling angry baboons.

That evening we tried, we really really tried, to go see the Joy Divine singers performing at the National Theatre of Namibia, but the choir concert sold out by the time we were out the door. Unbelievable. Nothing sells out in this city. Instead we went for drinks at NICE again, which was, of course nice, but felt an awful lot like being back at the Hilton, and a huge contrast from my previous night in the Katutura shebeens. Then a wedding reception broke out, and suddenly the inner ballroom was filled with Namibian women ululating all over the place and all sorts of folks in fancy dress busting out moves to this pop song about not wanting to get your phone number because I can just look you up on Facebook anyway. We considered, seriously considered, crashing the wedding, but figured out that having like six white folks and one “China” saunter into an all-black wedding would be a little obvious. Next time though, I might not let this logic hold me back.

Monday, October 24, 2011

katutura versus the hilton

Namibia is supposed to have one of the biggest disparities between the rich and the poor, and my weekend certainly reflected that. Thursday night, I hit up a birthday party being thrown at the rooftop bar at the Hilton. I may or may not have barely known the birthday girl; but i managed to look rich and confident enough to stroll past the guards.

I might have pushed my luck a bit too far with the swimming pool – I got politely kicked out after swimming for about five minutes, after a very nice bouncer explained to me that the pool was reserved for house guests only. Ah well. I was still free to linger at the bar and enjoy the beautiful rooftop view of the skyline.

I was a little less stoked about the drink prices. My one vodka soda cost me eighty-five Namibian dollars. Keep this price in mind for when I talk about my next night.

The birthday party itself was pretty fun, full of a bunch of random interesting young people, international aid workers and American government folks. We’d also brought along Tshuka, a young law student from our French class, who invited us all out to hang out the next night in his neck of the woods, Katutura. I’d been curious about Katutura for a while now, and now that a local was inviting us along, I finally had a chance.

Friday was Eliza’s last night out in Windhoek, so before going out to Katutura, we decided to treat her to a special picnic. We packed what we believed were her favourite food – chocolate cake, cheese sticks, Savanna cider , plus some sandwiches and salad – and headed over to what we believed would be the perfect picnic spot: one of the highest points in the mountains in the city of Windhoek, where we could watch the sun go down.

picnic feast!

To get to this spot, we got off at Bahnhoff street and had to hike up what seemed like an endless set of stairs. Endless. Set. Of. Stairs. They reminded me very much of the Stairs of Gloria in Barcelona. I don’t feel comfortable with my name being associated with so much pain.

stairs of pain

And then by the time we got to the top of the stairs, there was a barbed wire fence.

By that point we were too tired to do anything – go back, go down, go over – so we sat down at the top of the stairs and just had our picnic there.

After our delicious feast, we were far too full to go back down the stairs again, and perhaps feeling adventurous after our Savanna cider, so we decided to take on the barbed wire fence. I jumped right over without any problem, either because I am part monkey or because I am a tough Canadian girl. Eliza struggled a bit more, probably because she is not a monkey or a tough Canadian girl. We all eventually made it over to the other side without injury. On the other side of the fence was a public road. I still don’t understand why that fence was there.

Our next plan for the night was to go visit Tshuka in Katutura to go hang out in the shebeens. For a bit of history, during apartheid, Katutura was the township where the blacks were relocated to after being forcibly removed from their homes in the 1960s. Appropriately, Katutura means “the place we don’t want to go.” It has a sad history and a tragic name, but has grown into a huge community full of life. It is still predominantly inhabited by black folks (and is therefore very different from Klein Windhoek where I live), and from what I gather, the thing to do on a Friday night is to hang out at your local shebeen (unlicensed drinking establishment) with your buds.

After getting quite lost in the maze of Katutura (our cab driver was a coloured man whose clients were mostly affluent white people and therefore knew very little about getting around Katutura), we finally met up with Tshuka who had us stop by his house first. We met up with his numerous brothers and sisters and even more numerous friends, all incredibly polite and friendly and ready for a good night out. We also met his dog which was not so friendly, but that perhaps is what makes a good guard dog. Tshuka’s house was quite nice, cosy and spacious, which put to bed any preconceived notion that all parts of Katutura are very poor neighbourhoods consisting of tin shacks. There certainly are a lot of those too, but Tshuka and his family had a great place. He loves living here in Katutura. “I’ve lived in Klein Windhoek,” he explained, “and it’s so dead at night. In Katutura, there’s always something going on, and I know all my neighbours all the way to the next five blocks. It’s great here.”

Tshuka is a pretty impressive character himself. He’s only 22, but less than a year shy of becoming a lawyer. Not only is he incredibly smart and friendly, he’s got his own community radio show and he runs a Namibian law magazine. This Christmas he’s moving to Paris. I only wish I was as accomplished at his age.

We also met up with his friend Veejay, a sweet young Herero man, and headed out to the first shebeen. It felt an awful lot like drinking in someone’s dad’s garage, right down to the aluminum walls.

What I really digged were the 750 ml beers, which thirteen Namibian dollars each. Yes, I am serious: those giant beers were less than CAD$2. Remember, my drink at the Hilton the previous night had cost me eighty-five Namibian dollars. This could get dangerous…

Gloria and the big big beer

We moved on to another shebeen after a while which was a little more happening. Music was pumping, and people were dancing, including a mom and her baby and a middle-aged lady who had rollers in her hair. Hey, if you have to wait for your hair to set, why not spend the time shaking your booty at the local bar? This shebeen also had a pool table, so Tshuka took the opportunity to beat everyone in the bar, including me.

From the discussions that I’ve had with other people about Katutura, there is a big perception among many white people of Katutura being a rough, poor, dangerous place where you are certain to get robbed. And while certain aspects of it may be true, I’ve come to realize it’s such a one-sided idea of the township. Maybe all of the houses aren’t surrounded by high majestic gates, barbed wire and guard dogs (although some are, like Tshuka’s), but there also seems to be more of a visible sense of community. I don’t know any of my neighbours in Klein Windhoek, because they are always behind those tall electric fences. In the Katutura shebeens, there was a unmistakable friendly spirit – despite the fact that three white people and one “China” were walking into an entirely black bar, all the folks greeted us warmly and were eager to chat with us. As we left that night, women begged us from their houses to take us with them (probably expecting us to go on adventures rather than heading for bed in sleepy Klein Windhoek). I’m not trying to romanticize or idealize Katutura. It’s no Hilton, and it certainly struggles with problems of poverty, alcoholism, violence and not to mention a sad history. But a lot of times that’s all you hear, and if you avoid the place completely for that reason, then you are missing out on a whole different world.

Well, there was a gang of young guys that swarmed our cab as we were leaving, but luckily they seemed in more of a joking mood than a threatening one.

“Watch out, cabbie, those white people are going to rob you,” they called out after the cab.

“Hey, I’m not white!” I protested as we drove away.

“Okay, not that coloured one,” they corrected themselves. I actually felt pleased for once to be called coloured – it’s a refreshing change from China.

conclusion: $2 beers and playing pool > $12 drinks and getting kicked out of pools

Thursday, October 20, 2011

swimming in the pool where freedom was fought

Eliza is leaving in several days to move back to Berlin. We’re all going to miss her very much, especially me, because I feel like she’s the least craziest of our bunch. She invited us over yesterday to go for her a swim in her pool. She lives in this giant house that is kind of typical of Luxury Hill: all you can see from the street is the high wall blocking everything, and even once you get past the gate and the barking dogs, for some optical reason, you only see part of the front of the house – it’s impossible to see how far back the whole thing extends. You walk past the trees and the glass room with the home gym, walk down some stairs, through this passageway, past a kitchen, past another kitchen (why?), down more stairs, and then all of a sudden there is a lovely large pool waiting for you. And the house still goes on, literally past the eye can see.

This is Anton Lubowsky’s pool. This is Anton Lubowsky’s house. This was where Anton Lubowsky lived. This was where Anton Lubowsky worked. This was where Anton Lubowsky fought for Namibia’s freedom, one of the only white men to openly support the South West Africa People’s Organization. This was also where Anton Lubowsky was assassinated, shot on his own property, by gunmen who to this day have never been brought to justice. That’s a lot of history to take in while cooling off in your friend’s pool.

For some reason I have been quite fascinated with Anton Lubowski these days. I feel like I keep running into his name, whether it’s swimming at his house, or through my boss, who used to work with him back at Eliza’s house and had come over the night he was shot, coworkers who knew him, or at our office library which I discovered acquired his law books after his death. I like to open these books to their front page and trace my finger over Anton Lubowski’s name neatly handwritten.

And why not? I’m always particularly impressed by folks who, despite being born into relative comfortable privilege, sacrifice it to go beyond their perspective to see how others are suffering and then selflessly dedicate their lives to defending their cause. Anton Lubowski was an anti-apartheid freedom fighter and a human rights lawyer who had been detained many times for his “radical” anti-racial segregation views. He bravely openly supported the movement despite threats and accusations of being a white traitor, and played a vital role in Namibia’s independence, and after he died, he was the first white man to be buried in the graveyard in Katutura, the black township of Windhoek. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by his ghost?

Sometimes thinking about Anton Lubowski reminds me of my great-grandfather, who fought for the underground resistance in Korea against the Japanese occupation, and was killed by the Japanese regime, or at least we assume he was, because one night he simply disappeared when my grandfather was still a young boy. I like surrounding myself with the ghosts of brave heroes. I feel less like I can complain about trivial things, like how hot it is during the day and how cold it is during the night, and more compelled to do something worthwhile and meaningful in my life.

Read more about Anton Lubowski

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

this is not a restaurant review

Because I am the only one that cooks, and I don’t cook very well, we’ve been eating out at a lot of restaurants.

Luigi and the Fish: We checked this place out with our Dutch buddy Daan a while back. It was one of the restaurants listed in all of our guidebooks, and as an added bonus is located only a few minutes from our house. It’s a comfy, casual sort of place with an extensive menu of all kinds of meat, as well as a wood oven for pizza. I ordered a game schnitzel, which I considered to be sufficiently Namibian (game meat in the style of German food), and found it delicious. Daan ordered game steak, which was also delicious. Allison ordered a pot of king-sized prawns and was for some reason surprised that the prawns were big. With a name like Luigi and the Fish, I think there’s supposed to be really awesome seafood here, but I haven’t actually tried any. Windhoek isn’t anywhere near an ocean and it’s not like there are a lot of rivers around so I’m not sure how the seafood would be around here.

Allison and I went back to Luigi and the Fish last week, wanting a fun night out. Luigi and the Fish seems like the kind of place where a lot of young people hang out in Klein Windhoek. Unfortunately, it’s mostly young Afrikaners, which should not be a surprise and is not a bad thing but it’s a bit harder to mingle with a bunch of people that are speaking in another language (at least until my Afrikaans lessons pick up). I still continued to enjoy the food though. I ordered a chicken kildare which really reminded me of the Bitterballen I used to get in the Netherlands all the time. It was basically big balls of deep fried chicken, stuffed with cheese and all sorts of goodness. You really can’t go wrong with that.

The third time we went, I had the chicken burrito which was awesome, and that’s where I met up with some local Namibians, including Nicholas, and that’s when I realized that Luigi and the Fish was probably going to become my regular bar.

Paguel Restaurant: is where our Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre conversational classes are held. This place as a bit on the pricier side, although nothing terrible compared to Toronto King Street prices obviously. It’s a trendy little lounge/tapas bar/wine restaurant, and is a pretty cool cosy place to hold a language class. The menu was pretty impressive too, full of all sorts of funky things like tongue and paella, although that night I just went for pasta – I’m going to have to go back for something a bit more daring next time.

The Yang Tze: because sometimes you just miss home cooking, but there aren’t any Korean restaurants serving soondubuchigae, so you have to do the next best thing and order Chinese. I find their sit-down menu is better than their takeout menu, but luckily you can get anything as takeout. Also, interestingly, this restaurant is apparently run by Chinese-Canadians from Vancouver. The owner’s daughter asked me what I was doing in Namibia. I told her I was doing an internship here. “And you couldn’t get placed anywhere better?” she asked me. She can’t wait to get back to Vancouver.

La Marmite: I ate caterpillars here and wrote about this restaurant yesterday.

Fresh and Wild My boss took me here for lunch once, where i pleasantly discovered that this is one place i can order a bacon and egg sandwich after noon. It is located too close to my work and makes it difficult for me to feel motivated to pack a lunch everyday. but then i think about the big hill I'd have to walk up afterwards to get back to work, and then i pack a lunch.

Joe’s Beerhouse: everyone keeps telling me two things about this place: 1. It’s too touristy, 2. I gotta eat there. So I did. I was looking forward to it because it was famous for their game meat (even though I went with two vegetarians). And everyone was right, it was really touristy (I was half expecting tour buses of Chinese tourists to pull up) and it was definitely worth checking out, although it was a bit pricey. It’s also the first place that I found serving zebra steak.

Cicade Cafe: to get here, you go to the Wilde Eend Garden Centre, a magical land with too many E’s, and then basically walk through the plants for what feels like forever, until you are absolutely sure you are lost and will never find your way out. Then this lovely cafĂ© will magically appear and feed you full of tasty salads so good that you’ll stop caring that you’ll never find your way out. It’s kind of an adventure.

Windhoek also has a number of really beautiful mountaintop bars that are too expensive for me to eat at but perfect for having a sundowner drink as you watch the sun go down. These include:

The Beach Bar at Am Weinburg: I wrote about our girls’ night here.

the Garden Terrace at the Heinitzburg: one of the fanciest hotels in town with one of the fanciest restaurants in town (Leo’s). If you don’t want to go broke at Leo’s, you can have a drink on the garden terrace which has one of the best views that you have to pay for (you can probably get a great view for free if you just climbed a mountain, but sometimes bourgeois prices enhance the view). The Heinitzburg is an old castle on Luxury Hill. Nothing about that sentence says “proletariat”. The bathrooms are in the dungeon.

The Wine Bar: has an excellent selection of wine and is a popular spot to stop for a drink after work to watch the sunset. In fact, all of these fantastic places to stop after work for a drink to watch the sunset is going to turn me into an alcoholic.

Stellenbosch Okay, this place doesn’t actually qualify as a mountaintop bar with a view, but it’s located in the Bougain Villa which is I think one of the most beautiful non-natural settings in Windhoek. It’s a gorgeous building with a large romantic courtyard where you can sip your South African wine, surrounded by carefully groomed palm trees and dammit, to the embarrassment of my hippie self, I can’t help but loving luxury sometimes.