With Mum and my step-dad fighting like alley cats, Sally said I could crash in her dad’s empty shed. I was almost asleep, when I heard footsteps outside getting closer and closer.
“Stop being such a baby!” I scolded. “It’s just the cat.”
However, then I heard the distinct clomp of heavy boots on the footpath. This was no cat. Suddenly, the door swung open. “Who was it?” I panicked, slinking down the bottom of my sleeping bag, as he hit the floor drunk.
With nowhere else to go, I held my breath and prayed for the sun to rise.
This is another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.
Welcome to Windhoek, Namibia- the latest stopover on my travels via Google Earth…
However, before I launch into my travels, I thought I’d better explain what am I doing in Africa, as it might seem rather random, and disconnected from my usual haunts.
To be perfectly honest with you, I hadn’t heard of Namibia until a few months ago when I was introduced to a missionary family supported by my church. They were back in Sydney for a few months on furlough, and briefly spoke about their mission work one Sunday night. Unfortunately, as Sydney was under covid lockdown at the time, this was all via zoom. So, I never actually met them. However, as I listened to their stories, I naturally wondered what life would be like for them there. I spent six months living in Germany as a backpacker in 1992. The language and cultural differences weren’t always easy there, even though I was living with a very loving and accommodating German family, and was also part of both German and American Church communities. I was still left pining for a gum tree, any sign of home, even though I loved exploring and absorbing the unfamiliar. However, living in Namibia as Australians seemed like a very big step, and that’s quite aside from all entailed with being a missionary. So, I was rather curious.
Then, as it turned out, our home groups were encouraged to reach out to one these missionaries. I’ve never done this before, although friends of mine have had cards on their fridge featuring rather formal looking missionary family portraits. These people had gone to various incarnations of Timbuctoo, and sometimes it was a bit of a relief to be sitting in our comfortable seats at home to be perfectly honest.
Anyway, our online zoom group was asked to support this family in Namibia and I was keen to get behind them as I’d at least I knew a little about who they were. Next thing I knew, I was offering to send them an email to make contact, and then I became our official missionary representative. I signed up for their newsletter via CMS ministries as well. So, now I had to make a decent go of it. No more good intentions. No “Gunna do but never get around to it”. Then, there’s also the trouble of consistency. I’m not too sure I’m cut out for this, but then I had an idea.
I decided to check out Windhoek, Namibia via Google Earth. For those of you who haven’t been on any of my previous travels, I’ve revisited some of my past haunts from my 1992 European backpacking trip, a few places in Ireland my family came from, and threw Venice in for good measure. It’s so much fun and almost feels like I’m there, and it was such a relief during months and months of lockdown and isolation. After all, with our national border shut, it was the only was the only way an Australian could travel, especially this Australian.
So, there I was heading through cyberspace madly pressing the + bar and watching Namibia crystalise in front of me. Hello. I’m coming and even though it was only a virtual adventure, I was excited. Curious. Thrilled to be honest. I’d never given going to Africa a second thought. I don’t have that kind of money, or the chance to get away.
Now, here I am in Windhoek, Namibia.
If you’d like to join me, you can head to Google Earth. I found it difficult to wander far, and have been more reliant on Youtube videos to get a sense of the place. I recommend starting out with Travelzilla, which also incorporates what sounds like authentic local African music. You could almost be there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irH6kFce3f4 The second clip is more raw, and I’ve had some trouble with the sound, but it’s more authentic and gave me a real sense of walking around: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7at7ZioItCM
So, what did I find in Windhoek?
The first place I wanted to mention is the Christuskirz, which really stands out. It’s a German-speaking Evangelical Lutheran Church. I’m not going to rehash a whole load of facts from Wikipaedia, but needless to say it wasn’t what I expected to find in Africa. It was designed by architect Gottlieb Redecker. The church was built following the wars between the Germans and the Khoikhoi, Herero, and Owambo. The foundation stone was laid on 11 August 1907, while on 16 October 1910 the church was officially dedicated. It was originally known as the Church of Peace. Christ Church was constructed from quartz sandstone mined from the vicinity of Avis Dam. It has a mixture of neo-Romanesque, Art Nouveau and Gothic revival influences. Its spire is 24 metres high, and seemingly towers over the city. . The portico was made from Carrara marble imported from Italy. The clock and part of the roof was shipped from Germany, as were the three bronze bells cast by Franz Schilling. They bear the inscriptions “Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe”, “Friede auf Erden”, and “Den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen”. Kaiser Wilhelm I even paid for three of the stained glass windows.Wikipedia
Isn’t that extraordinary?
The only other place I really explored, and this was more via a series of websites, and that was Craft Centre on Tal Street in the Old Breweries Complex. It houses “40 women-owned or community driven craft enterprises that hail from rural communities, various ethnic groups and projects, it provides a platform for Namibian handicraft ranging from jewellery to carved tree roots” http://www.namibiacraftcentre.com/
Immediately, I was captivated hopping from stall to stall online. A smattering of stalls also had their own online stores and the opportunity to buy a few treasures all the way from here in Australia. You’ve got to love how the Internet has the capacity to extend our wings and broaden our outlooks and allow us to become more culturally diverse, and to not be limited to our own backyards.
I have to be honest and say that even this virtual experience of Windhoek in Namibia opened my eyes to quite a few things. Firstly, that we have preconceived ideas about how other people live. I had actually assumed Windhoek was a rural village, which in fact its an urban city with a magnificent cathedral, shopping malls, cars, traffic jams and no doubt similar parking issues to us. Secondly, I was reminded of how little we really know people under the skin, beneath all our superficial assumptions, and their public roles. We need to look a little further. Most importantly we need to open up our eyes and ears and hear their stories. I have a favourite quote, which isn’t from the Bible, but in many ways distils it’s essence:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—” “Sir?” “—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
While this is obviously impossible to achieve, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If we are to love our neighbours as ourselves, we at least ought to get to know them. Take the extra step, even if we might not be able to walk the extra mile. Besides, in so many ways, stepping out of ourselves becomes enlightened self-interest. We grow.
So, have you been to or perhaps live in Windhoek or Namibia? Perhaps, you’ve been to or currently live in South Africa. If so, I’d love to hear from you.
Best wishes and blessings,
PS I haven’t actually named the family to respect their privacy, but I will be forwarding it on. I also want to note that this is a blogging post, not an advertisement. These are my explorations and this has been tailored around my regular readers, and to be included over at Thursday Doors.
“Forget a Hail Mary, Mike. Make that a Bloody Mary, with an extra shot of Vodka.”
“Hair of the dog, eh Meg? You okay?” Tim the barman asked. Bloody Marys were a well-known hangover cure. Meg was sous chef at their two hat restaurant, and she’d been on a bender. She knew he knew, but neither of them said a word. However, she’d never hit the bottle this early before, and it wasn’t going to happen on his watch. He left out the vodka, made a Virgin Mary to go, and grabbed his keys. “Meg, I’m taking you home.”
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
When you think about what remains of our life stories after we’re gone, it’s all about family connections…DNA. However, most of us can’t live with family as our only source of human interaction. We also need friends.
Every friendship is unique, just like our fingerprints. No two friendships are the same, which means we need to cherish each and every friend like gold, and they’re certainly not simply a stepping stone to get us where we’re wanting to go. Rather, I’d prefer to think about how I could ease my friend’s journey in some way, although I’ve had some truly wonderful friends who’ve been literal lifesavers when I’ve been seriously ill, barely able to look after my kids and they’ve driven them to and from daycare, school, fed them, cooked us meals or simply, and very importantly, listened. Finding understanding and acceptance, especially given my rare health and disability issues, has been a struggle and such a God-send when I’ve found it. There are those two parallel footprints in the sand. We’re each independent and carrying our own load, but we’re also there with and for each other through life’s ups and downs, cups of coffee, walks along the beach and no doubt through the storms.
These photographs of footprints in the sand could tell a story of their own. However, they were actually taken while I was out walking along Pearl Beach with my friend who I’ll call “Henry’. I turned around and saw our footprints side-by-side in the sand stretching uninterrupted almost along the full length of the beach and they told a story of friendship, and what it means to be a friend. Well at least that’s what these two sets of parallel footprints said to me.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” – Muhammad Ali
In many ways my friendship with Henry breaks a few taboos. As you know, I’m married to Geoff and well you might ask what’s the story of my friendship with Henry? To put you at ease, Roland is the same age as my Mum and Dad and while some people might go for that kind of age difference, it definitely puts up a roadblock for both of us. Besides, I am clearly and most definitely married and if I was going to have an affair, I wouldn’t be hanging out once a week at a local cafe next door to the bookshop where Henry and I met. Rather, I’d be heading off to Sydney well and truly away from this goldfish bowl where everyone knows yours and everyone else’s business.
“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod, my shadow does that much better.
By the way, I first met Henry a few years ago in our local bookshop. He was looking for books about WWII German history to write about his father’s war service as a Polish fighter pilot in the RAF. I knew of a good book through my own German/European heritage on my mum’s side and so we had that cultural connection, as well as our shared writing interest. Henry and I also made time for each other. Time to meet for coffee once a week, and at much the same time every week… very much like clockwork. Many of my friends don’t operate like clockwork, or don’t feel the need for that weekly coffee/ tea fix. However, I need it just like I need food and water and the car needs to be topped up with petrol. Geoff has joined us a few times, and the kids have met him. Moreover, they know that my meetings with Henry are set in stone unless it’s mission critical. Aside from my violin lessons, there haven’t been many restrictions placed on my time since I stopped work a few years ago and I think it’s good for them to know I’m not available on tap. Another thing I really appreciate about my friendship with Henry, is that he takes me seriously. He sees something more in me than this incomplete, imperfect scrambling character I see inside myself, and he gives me hope. Reads my writing and takes it seriously and even edits it and provides suggestions. He is kind, considerate and in the mould of his chivalrous Polish father, a gentleman and someone I trust and can truly rely on.
Our shadows captured walking down the beach…Henry with his cap on and me lugging my camera bag along.
“It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”
Henry’s friendship has also been a very important for me during the coronacrisis. For a few months there, he was all but my only physical social contact outside the family. He is fastidious about maintaining social distancing, is very protective of my health and also has a small social circle and takes precautions when he’s out. Our cafe’s been closed and I’m not quite ready to head back yet So, we’ve been going for walks along the beach instead. We did actually try to get a coffee at Pearl Beach last week but that all stops at 2.30pm over there so we didn’t have the opportunity to support local business. Gotta say, I was pretty disappointed, but we’re still coming out of covid and it is Winter here and there aren’t a lot of people around. However, they can also become a viscous circle.
A few years ago, I used to have my dog-walking friends who were important to me. However, mornings and I haven’t been well acquainted of late and that’s fallen by the wayside. Moreover, I’ve seriously missed all the incidental friendships, which are structured around our activities and haven’t happened during lock down. Unfortunately, although dance has returned to the studio, parents are excluded and I’m still being cautious. The coronavirus is down, but not out.
This massive cauliflower-shaped cloud decided to join us as well as a pod of dolphins which I didn’t quite manage to capture on film.
Anyway, might I encourage us all to unapologetically pursue and maintain our friendships. Indeed, I’ve made some really strong friendships through blogging, which have added a very interesting and largely international dimension.
If you know anything about our place what with three sheep dogs under one roof, you’ll know we weren’t the ones doing the kitten sitting. Rather, a friend of mine has been minding this adventurous and very hungry kitten. Indeed, it seems this kitten’s been competing with the very hungry caterpillar to see who can scoff the most food in a week. So, let’s hope that when its owner returns from her holiday, that he hasn’t disappeared inside a cocoon. I wonder how the metamorphosis of a kitten would work out? What would it become? That’s the sort of idea which might’ve inspired the likes of Roald Dahl to write another book. However, I’m going to leave that thought well and truly alone.