I woke up Saturday morning with a strange craving for crass commercialism. I wanted to be immersed in cheap consumerist culture; I wanted to be surrounded by marketing ads craftily created by corporations aiming at my demographic with laser point accuracy, I wanted to have new and exciting products pushed in my face that I definitely do not need but still want. I wanted to go to the mall.
While still in bed I got a text from Taylor inviting me to go to the Biomarket, which is a farmer’s market / craft market held down the street every Saturday morning. Okay, maybe that wasn’t quite the same thing as going shopping at the mall, but it was still shopping.
I find the Biomarket to be small and I generally don’t buy my food there on a regular basis, even if the food there is organic, fresh, and locally made. I find that the produce and other foods here in Namibia don’t last as long as I’d like, mainly because I suspect they don’t pump as much preservatives into their farm foods as North Americans do, so instead of doing one big grocery shop at the beginning of the week, I have to get my food several times a week, often buying whatever vegetables I intend to eat for dinner that night. It’s not as convenient, but I think that’s how a lot of Europeans and the rest of the world live, anyway, rather than heading over to the CostCo and buying truckloads of frozen processed foods.
Even if you’re not planning to buy anything at the Biomarket, it’s a fun place to hang out on a Saturday morning, because it seems like that’s where the whole of Windhoek professionals hang out. On my way there I ran into Karen, who had picked up a loaf of bread during her morning run, and once in the Market, I also saw Allison, some of the Hashers, a woman from my French class, and someone from my office. It just goes to show that a) Windhoek is pretty damn small and b) never believe it’s okay to go out in sweatpants and last night’s eyeliner to buy your eggs, because you will be seen.
What I really like about the Biomarket is the Market Café though, where you can enjoy coffee, tea, juice for less than a buck Canadian, and delicious ham-and-cheese broetchen (or cake, if that’s the sort of Saturday breakfast food you’re into) for less than two Canadian dollars. Yes. That is worth changing out of sweatpants and putting fresh eyeliner for.
After brunch, Taylor suggested we head over to Maerua Mall, which makes me wonder if she’s been reading my mind lately. Maerua Mall is one of the biggest malls in Windhoek and probably the closest thing to the capitalist fantasies I’ve been having and missing of North America. The problem is that the stores in this city all close about the same time I get off work, and they all inexplicably close at 1PM on Saturdays and stay closed on Sundays so if I want to get my consumerist lifestyle in properly, I have to not be hungover on Saturday mornings.
After I got my fix of mall shopping (I didn’t end up actually buying anything except wine, because the liquor store would be closed for the rest of the weekend), I got a phone call from L, inviting me out to a party at a bar in Katutura that night. Yesssss. I went home, freshened up, grabbed dinner with Mark and Taylor at the Wine Bar, met up with A. and then headed for Katutura to meet up with my Namibian friends.
I have grown really fond of L and S. One of the first times we talked, the topic of hair extensions came up.
“If my hair isn’t long enough for the wedding, I might get hair extensions,” I mentioned casually.
This news excited them. “Gloria, you must get your extensions in Africa! We know the best places in Namibia to get them. We will take you shopping tomorrow morning!”
They are incredibly friendly, despite having known me only for a short period, and they do really sweet things like arrange for their friends to drive me safely, and then call me after to make sure I arrived at home all right. The girls also invite me out to events like this, where, as the only Asian girl in an all black crowd, I stick out like a sore thumb and they have to keep me company to make sure I’m having a good time, which is really something they don’t have to do, but they do anyway.
The party that night was at Druzo’s, one of the classier looking clubs in the Katutura townships that was part bar, part car wash. The party was in the car wash. There was a deejay spinning African house, another guy beating intensely on a pair of congas, and about a dozen girls dancing along. It felt a bit strange to be dancing under the bright fluorescent lights of the car wash – I feel like North Americans prefer to dance in the safe anonymity of the dark – but the people at the party sure knew how to dance, so they had nothing to be shy about.
The music was fantastic and I found myself dancing despite my shyness. I really like house music in Africa, which was a surprise because I hate house music in Europe. They seem to be different breeds altogether. At the clubs in Europe, I feel like pharmaceutical drugs are required to enjoy house music and the extensive robotic hand motions that Europeans employ to dance to it. House music in Africa though, seems to have less of a techno beat and more of a, well, African rhythm and the dance moves are more sensual than schizophrenic.
I found the crowd here to be a lot friendlier than the night before, which had a lot of purse snatching and asian-girl-gawking. Here, despite being deep in the heart of the Katutura township without a non-black person around for miles, nobody treated me like a circus freak for being "China", and that was pretty nice for once.
One of Saima’s girl friends showed up, who introduced herself as Tutu, but was introduced by everyone else as the Best Dancer Around, with house music running in her veins. Immediately she hit the car wash dance floor, and magically her five foot nothing body cleared the space around her as everyone stopped to watch and admire her fluid moves. She was soon joined by an equally short man in military uniform with a perfectly round potbelly that he used to maneuver his dance moves. I watched Military Man move around the club, and if he saw a pretty girl, he would go up to her and push his potbelly into her. If he was really into the music Military Man would unbutton the bottom of his shirt and slap his bare belly. It was quite the sight. Andrew speculated that maybe he was just a normal nine-to-five employee, maybe spending his day working at a bank, who on Saturday nights just likes to dress up in soldier’s clothes and dance in it.
There was a braai off to the side where they were cooking delicious smelling chicken skewers, boerwoers, and game meat. I also swear I saw cupcakes, but Andrew tells me that I was imagining things.
Andrew and I had meant it to be an early night, since we’d all been out dancing till almost 3AM the night before, but somehow we stayed late again, dancing with Saimo, Pa, Tutu and Pinehas, until Tutu finally drove us home that night. I went to bed with the conga beats still echiong in my head, and wondered if maybe by the time I go back to Canada I’ll have learned how to dance. Maybe one day I'll learn to move like Military Man.