Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Farm Weekend

This weekend on a farm in the Kalahari Desert was a new experience for all of us and truly a rich cultural experience.

The Tjiramba farm is about 5 hours (close to 400K) from Windhoek and in the southeastern part of the country.  Before heading out of the city we shopped at the SuperSpar, which is similar to an updated Safeway for bottled water, bus snacks and Edwin’s food request of salami and buns.  At this grocery store, there is a bakery on the premises with delicious rolls and bread, a delicatessen where the server allowed us to taste 5 different varieties of salami and an coffee shop that serves lattes and other fancy coffees. 

We then headed east on the B1 in the direction of the airport.  The scenery started with the familiar hills outside of Windhoek with the Acacia Camelthorn trees and bushes, also known as the Acacia Savannah  along with warthogs and baboons on the side of the road.  After a 40 K drive and passing the airport everything became new for us as we headed toward Gobabis and into the Kalahari Desert.  If I had better internet speed, I would insert a map of Namibia to help you chart our drive, but instead, you will have to do that with the quick internet speed in the Northern Hemisphere--and some of you who received my forwarded email may already have a map!

We drove for 2 hours and made a lunch stop at one of two restaurants in the town of Gobabis.  All of us were ready for cold drinks, and I finished two small cans of my favorite drink here—a dry lemon made by Schweppes, South Africa. It really is refreshing.  Our lunch came in 3 shifts so it truly was a Namibian timed lunch.  After an hour and a half we were able to get our bill—we had one bill for the table and this group was the best I have ever seen putting in their share of the bill.  The group dynamics are really positive and supportive.

Then we drove about 140 K on a tarred road before turning off for our last 70km on a untarred road, which means a bumpy dusty ride. We entered the town of Tulismanis (?) which is the town closest to Edwin’s farm.  There are a few bottle shops (cold drinks and a few food supplies) a small grocery store and a few other shops related to farming.  Our driver Winslow asked for directions to the Tjiramba farm and of course people knew how to direct him.  As directed, we turned right at the curve and after 10 minutes driving Edwin pulled over in his truck.  Word was out that we were on our way.  Paula and I squeezed into the front, and the students jumped into the back.  It is not illegal in Namibia to ride in the back of trucks and that is how most people make it from the city to the farm and back.

Edwin arrives and allows the students to travel Namibian style to his farm.
"Traffic," also known as a Kalahari Ferrari

We were greeted royally when we arrived.  We had a great welcoming crew—amazing at the number of kids in PLU shirts.  Clearly the cousins share!  Emmy also had cold drinks ready for us.  The kids picked out a PLU student, grabbed a hand and started showing them around the farm.  I later learned from one of Emmy and Edwin’s kids that they each picked out their special friend and one of the 5 year old boys was VERY possessive.  He would say “Allyssa  is mine” and pushed anyone away who tried to get close (it was ok by him if he played with other kids though).  We had brought a Frisbee and Nerf football so there were a variety of games being played and the older children who were too old for “special friends” enjoyed Frisbee and football.

There are lots of children on the farm and I am struck with how self sufficient they are.  The age range is between 14 months and 17 years, although there was also a 22 year old home for the weekend with his parents.  One of the interesting dynamics to watch is the relationship between children and their elders. The children are expected to entertain themselves, follow directions given by elders, and not complain. Even the three year olds are self-sufficient.  When a three or four year old girl took fall on the cement walkway outside the grandma’s house, she looked at her knees, got up and walked away.  It was definitely a hard fall, but there were no tears or running to an adult for comfort. In addition to the high respect the children show for the adults, there is also a lot of support among themselves.  A lot of kids watch over the 14 month old.  He isn’t walking yet and I am sure a major part is related to how much he is carried around.  He does crawl around in the sand and snuggle up to his grandmother who always wears full Herero dress and finds shady spots to sit.

Talking with the group

Casey watching and probably scheming with her  cousin

Grandma's watchful eye over the washing

Relaxing--the farm entrance is in the background

Uterera carrying my back pack into my Rondeval

The work ethic of the Tjiramba family was also very impressive and watching the women cook, clean, wash dishes, the men tend to the animals, and all keep the guests comfortable, throughout the entire weekend without asking for a bit of help was very inspiring. Paula and I had to insist the we be allowed to help.  One time Emmy allowed two students volunteer to do dishes—I don’t think they imagined they would be cleaning for EVERYONE on the farm, but they were great sports and Casey (17), Emmy and Edwin’s oldest enjoyed supervising them.  I also think she enjoyed the break because it seems as the eldest she ends up doing a lot of work. Everyone prepared for the evening party and PLU students were told they should rest so they could enjoy the evening party.

Bushita after getting her hair done for the evening party--a striking 7 year old

Paula bonding with Tiffer

Watching Suzy milk the cow--she was successful!

A little skeptical, but I did get milk!
Fresh milk!

Notice Bushita sitting with the rollers in her hair--that was the pretty girl at the top.

The gang eating after the adults had been served

"Mama" modeling the scarf we brought as a gift.  She was very pleased.

The breakfast line--the best cantaloupe ever.

Jejemaia all grown up.  She was the one whose story I told 2 years ago. 

We stopped at the SuperSpar on the way home for dinner and breakfast supplies.  It was a surprise when I picked up loaves of bread to feel the warmth on the package—I don’t think we would ever get sandwich bread fresh out of the oven from even the fanciest Safeway.

 It was a long hot ride home--the students seemed to stay awake the entire time--I was still nursing an upset stomach and managed a couple of naps on the way back.  The students all decided to jump into the pool in their travel clothes--one of the students made a jump on the laundry facilities so she joined the group in her swimsuit.  A perfect ending to the weekend.  (make sure to check out our view from the pool)

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