And then there’s the Big SixthAugust 11, 2012
BIG STORIES about little things – Namib desert cyanobacteriaAugust 11, 2012
Text Jackie Marie
So you’ve chosen to visit Namibia. That’s great! You’ve made the right holiday choice. Get ready to see, hear and experience lots of new things!
The beauty of Namibia is breathtaking not only because of our national parks, cultural attractions and tourism icons. In our vast, pristine landscapes, you’ll feel free; you’ll have the time to look inside yourself at things deeply buried within your soul, lay them aside and relax.
I was born and raised in Washington DC, and have travelled and lived all over the world. Now that I live in Windhoek, I have mastered a few Namibian aspects. Let me give you some quick tips!
If you’re from a large, fast-paced country, when you arrive at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA), think: ‘small municipal airstrip’. Then you’ll adjust well. You won’t exit the aircraft onto those fancy tunnel ramps where you go directly into the airport; you’ll walk through that door and be right outside in the elements. We like it this way; you’ll have your first holiday experience with our country’s climate immediately!
Each day HKIA probably has six to eight flights arriving and the same number departing, and one operating terminal. Adjust your perspective. Frankfurt Airport is probably larger than Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. Even the smaller Tegel Airport in Berlin is still five times the size of HKIA! Our daily arrivals ‘board’ is a single television screen. We rather like it that way. Those big airports around the world excel in bamboozling tourists with too many choices and distractions; here we keep it easy, neat and uncomplicated.
After disembarking you’ll come out into a large ‘arrivals’ hall and that’s it! No fuss, no muss. No choices need to be made about finding exits 1–10 in terminals A, B, or C
After passport control you will move on to the luggage area. You don’t need to remember your flight number to find the carousel with your luggage. There is only one carousel, so you cannot miss it.
You know the way you can become confused in large airports such as Charles de Gaulle in Paris or at JFK outside New York? You’re not quite sure where the ladies rooms are, which gate is closest to the exit, or where the taxi stand is? No worries here in Namibia! After disembarking you’ll come out into a large ‘arrivals’ hall and that’s it! No fuss, no muss. No choices need to be made about finding exits 1–10 in terminals A, B, or C. There is a sliding glass door leading to the outside on the left, and the restrooms are on the right – that’s it.
An ATM machine, foreign-exchange window, information desk, small restaurant, kiosk shop and various international car-hire windows are all available right in your face as soon as you come out from the luggage area. You don’t have to walk your tired body and aching legs the length of a football field just to find things. In Namibia, we are right in front of your face.
Even our telephone book is easy. We have one telephone book for the whole country. Isn’t that the best? And there are no postal codes!
When driving into the city you stop at a ‘robot.’ Where I’m from, we call them traffic lights. When I first heard them called robots, I looked around to see if they got up, bent over or moved locations because that was my image of a ‘robot’.
In Windhoek, a traffic jam is when there are five cars ahead of you in front of an intersection
Depending on where you come from, Namibians drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road. Those who are renting cars should take special care – shift your perspective and stay left. It took me years of driving not to make right turns onto the wrong side of the road.
At the latest census (2001) Namibia had a population of 2.1 million people, and that was counting pregnant women. If 10 people are gathered outside in one location, it’s considered to be a ‘crowd;’ 100 people is a mass rally; 1 000 people would shut down traffic for a day; and 10 000 people gathered in one place for one thing would probably make us faint.
In Windhoek, a traffic jam is when there are five cars ahead of you in front of an intersection. If it takes more than 10 minutes to go down any street, it’s considered ‘heavy’ traffic! Just thinking about the number of cars on the roads in Rome or on the M1 in the UK makes me have nightmares.
The municipal bus service in Windhoek operates only in the morning for about three hours and again in the evenings for about three hours. There’s nothing in between. You have to take a taxi or pre-arrange ground transportation to move around. We are rather cozy in that way.
NADIA, I’m sure you can find a more interesting symbol to use for these bullets. Like that smiley face, or something.
As for food, take note:
- If you order ‘bacon’ with your breakfast, you’ll get ham that is fried nicely. To get rashers or the ‘bacon’ that Americans expect, you’d better ask for ‘streaky’ bacon.
- Ask for brown bread; don’t say ‘wheat’ bread. In Namibia, that will get you a cracked wheat, thick, dry bread, which will probably not be what you had in mind.
- Grilled cheese sandwiches are melted cheese sandwiches.
- Asking for ice gets you two cubes; asking for extra ice gets you three. So, just ask for a separate glass full of ice and help yourself.
- In Namibia you catch a ‘taxi’, not a cab.
- You fuel your car with petrol or diesel, not gasoline or gas.
- In Namibia, water is precious and rain is a blessing! So don’t curse rain showers or take extra-long showers, and don’t leave the water running (here they would say: ‘don’t leave the tap on’) while brushing your teeth.
You go on holiday to see and do new things. So, enjoy the little differences in Namibia!
This article appeared in the Oct’11 edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.