Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Namibia, A Bleak Kind of Beauty

This is an excerpt from the New York Times Travel Section on Namibia, a country AdventureMan and I visited a few years ago.

We landed in Windhoek, and our first night, we ate dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse, a little disorienting, as we had flown in from Germany, and found ourselves in a very German restaurant. The Germans colonized Namibia for a very few years over 100 years ago, but their influence lingers on in names, on streets, statues and cuisine.

Our trip through Namibia was unforgettable. It was unlike any other African country we have ever visited. It has a very long coastline with cold Atlantic currents called The Skeleton Coast. It has the world’s highest sand dunes, unbelievably beautiful. When I think of Namibia, I think of dryness – it is the thirstiest country I have ever seen, outside Kuwait.

Much of our time in Namibia, in Etosha and in Demaraland, we were camping, with CCAfrica (Conservation Corps Africa), but at the end, we stayed in one of the most spectacular private lodges in the world: Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. It was a total WOW. We rode ATV’s to the top of the dunes for sunset. They had an astronomical observatory, because at night there is NO ambient light and you can see the sky so clearly. The food was fabulous and creative.

Namibia, a country of stark beauty and riveting contradictions, should be at the top of any serious traveler’s want-to-visit list.

The landscape is otherworldly, from the ocean of blood red crests along Dune Alley at Sossusvlei (pronounced SOSS-oo-vlay) to the gravity-defying rock formations and petrified forest of Damaraland, in the country’s center. Even beside the main highway, there are enough elephants, giraffes and springbok to satisfy those who can’t imagine a southern African trip without big game.

And the mind-boggling juxtaposition of women draped in skins that covered animals a week earlier against shopping malls offering a full selection of Ray-Bans, or of face powder ground in a mortar and pestle cheek by jowl with shiny Hummers, leads you into the heart of a modern Africa tangled by time, defined by the collision of centuries and traditions.

Namibia isn’t easy, especially for travelers whose notion of a vacation is dashing from one sight to another, or for urbanites who need regular fixes of bright lights and noisy streets. Except for those with pockets deep enough to arrange chartered flights between the dunes and the Damara homesteads, it demands patience with corrugated gravel roads and mile after mile of what poets are fond of calling terrible beauty.

You can read the entire article HERE.

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August 27, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Travel | | 3 Comments

What a Difference a “D” Makes

AdventureMan called me, laughing, and said “I just have to tell you what just happened to me.”

He was talking with a Kuwaiti woman who said “You speak Arabic amazingly well, except for one little thing – you say the ‘d’ when you should be saying the ‘Dh’.”

It was all he could do not to laugh. Not because of what she had said, but because it reminded him of a conversation we had, repeatedly.

When AdventureMan took Arabic, I took French. We were on our way to Tunis, I had a small baby, and I already spoke a little French. I made arrangements to study half days, and hoped it would be enough. Thanks be to God, together, we did just fine. In Tunis, most Tunisians spoke French and even those who spoke Arabic switched to French for the numbers. (Things are different now; this was many years ago.) The Tunisians called him “That Lebanese guy married to the French woman.” (He is not Lebanese. I am not French. Most Tunisians spoke a Berber dialect, which was not quite the same as Arabic.)

When I finally started formal Arabic classes, years later, I would say things I had learned from my husband and my dear Qatteri teacher would say “No, that is how those Lebanese people say it, not the way we say it.”

When my husband would correct my Arabic, now I could just cooly look at him and say “That is how you Lebanese say it, but we Qatteris say it this way.”

When he would lecture me on Arabic (I can only absorb about one minute of lecture at a time and them my head starts swimming) I would respond with ” ‘Dh’ AdventureMan, ‘Dh’ ” implying that his “Dh” wasn’t hard enough. It would make him laugh every time, totally crack him up. He can’t lecture me when he is laughing.

So here he is on the phone, laughing and laughing, because the Kuwaiti woman told him his Arabic was fine except that his “dh” wasn’t hard enough. God bless you, dear, whoever you are. 🙂

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Language, Living Conditions, Marriage, Middle East, Relationships, Tunisia | 7 Comments