My mind is beginning to play tricks on me in Onantsi. When I walk the three kilometers to town along sandy streets and rest under the shade of swaying palm trees, I almost feel as though I am at the beach. The sun shines so fiercely and the sand is so bright, that I half expect to feel waves of cool water lapping over my feet. Yet, I must keep reminding myself that this ocean of my imagination is nowhere to be seen and that these cool, beautiful bodies of water are merely mirages and figments of my imagination. This desolate landscape is so devoid of water, that my feelings of being at the beach could not be farther from reality.
However, though the ocean of my imagination does not exist, I have found a substitute for it in Ongwediva. This substitute is called Bennies Entertainment Park and, to me, it has become paradise. Bennies is a quasi-resort that caters to many Namibian and Angolan visitors. It has a lodge, numerous food options, swimming pools and open green spaces. One would never guess that hidden behind a parking lot in the dusty town of Ongwediva, near strip malls and an enormous new medical facility, is a place that has allowed me to so blissfully enjoy the presence of water.
On the past two weekends, I have met up with volunteers at Bennies to escape the heat and take advantage of this little slice of paradise. While we did not stay the night at the lodge, we payed the small fee to use the swimming pools during the day and enjoyed plunging into the cool water and sitting in the shade.
Last weekend, Mariella visited me in Onantsi. She stayed the night at my place on Friday and we visited Bennies together on Saturday. Our intention was to stay for a few hours and then part ways, but we soon found ourselves in an unexpected situation.
A South African couple who was sitting at a table next to ours, guessed we were Americans and asked us to join them for lunch. They bought us pizza and, next thing we knew, they had invited us over to their house for a braii. They even offered to let us stay at their house for the night so that we would not have to find our way back home in the dark. Mariella and I exchanged looks of amazement and, without hesitation, we accepted their offer.
We ended up enjoying a wonderful braii together and meeting some of their friends from Ongwediva--including an Afrikaaner optometrist, a Namibian woman who is married to a Malawian UN worker and a Chinese professor at the University of Namibia.
The next day, the family treated us to a game of tennis in the morning, followed by a few relaxing hours at the pool and a lovely lunch at Spur--a Native American-themed Burger joint with over-the-top tribal decor. They even accompanied Mariella home, driving an hour down a sand road and swerving around potholes and cattle in order to bring her safely to her door. Then, they made the trek from Ongwediva to Onantsi and brought me back to my house in time to cook dinner.
After I arrived home, I must have sat on my front steps for an hour, gaping in amazement, as my mind processed the generosity of our hosts.
The weekend adventure presented a wonderful break in the routine of village life and gave me the energy to begin a new week of teaching at Olukolo.
Though not without its day-to-day hurdles and frustrations, this week has gone quite smoothly and I am beginning to form relationships with my colleagues and learners. I can sense that the students are starting to feel comfortable around me and I, in turn, am feeling more at ease in the classroom. On Wednesday after school, a group of students came up to me and began asking me questions. They wanted to know what America was like, if I have been enjoying Namibia and what types of food I eat at home. During our conversations, even the shyest learners began to practice their English. I must have stayed at school for an extra hour after the last bell, talking with my learners and taking pictures.
I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with my students this week and look forward to the rest of the year that we will share together.