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.