One Namibia, one nation, one tub of Vaseline!

One Namibia, one nation, one tub of Vaseline!

Namibia’s wide open spaces, Namibia’s breath-taking sunsets and sunrises, the majestic dunes of the Namib and the awe-inspiring age of the Welwitschia, the endless horizon, the blue, blue skies and endless roads winding into the horizon, blazing camp fires under a full moon or alternatively a starry sky, rhinos, elephants, lions and an abundance of antelope at a waterhole in the Namibian savanna or steppe. You wish! You are far away from the beauty of the Namibian landscape and wildlife.

You are in a meeting in an over-air-conditioned boardroom somewhere in Windhoek and the blinds have been drawn so as to limit distractions from the blue sky and blazing sun outside. Plus it is that time of the day when your body goes into siesta mode. You have to fight the overwhelming urge to close your eyes and do a little “Mittagsruhe” like your Oma and Opa on the farm imposed on you when you visited during school holidays. How times have changed! Yesterday’s childhood trauma (no noise – not even whispering – after lunch for a whole 2 hours!) today seems like a most desirable “activity”.

Somebody is doing a presentation on “Inspiration at the Workplace” and is for this purpose showing a video of lions lolling in the sun after feasting on a Zebra. “Love what you do, feed your soul at work!” says a voice that tries very hard to be deep and soothing, while the slogan appears on the screen in bold letters. Ja, right. What about the poor Zebra? What about the lions being shot if they go for beef instead of game? And what about being locked up in this cold room instead of “doing what you love”?

You lick your lips for the umpteenth time today. Unlike the lions in the video who do this after a tasty meal, you do this because your lips are dry. You know the licking will actually make it worse, but boredom and low humidity make you act against your better judgement. And you forgot to put your Vaseline in today’s handbag! You usually keep a small tub in both of your handbags, the plain Kudu leather one and the glamorous ostrich leather one, but you finished the one in the Kudu leather bag yesterday and haven’t replaced it yet. You could have transferred the tub from the glamorous bag to the Kudu one as an interim solution, but you didn’t. Right now the thought of your drought-stricken lips sucking up the Vaseline like long-awaited rain is even more enticing than the thought of an extended midday nap.

As you desperately lick your lips again, your eyes catch a movement next to you. Hileniis rummaging through her pink-dyed Springbok-fur handbag. She tries to be inconspicuous, but you can see how the pink fur bulgesin different places as she blindly but systematically searches the intestines of her bag with her left hand. Now the bulge is fixed in one place for a moment and a small smile of relief flits across Hileni’s face. She pulls her hand out of her bag – and produces a small tub of Vaseline, into which she sticks the index finger of her right hand. You watch as she smoothes the Vaseline on her full lips, pouts them and presses back the lid on the little tub with a satisfied grin. Now is the time to make your move. You turn your head: eye contact made. Hileni raises her eyebrows and widens her eyes; that is her “yeah, what’s up?” look for non-verbal communication in meeting situations. You point to her left hand with the tub of Vaseline in it. Hileni nods and slowly transfers the tub from her left hand to her right hand before she pretends to lean over to you to make an appreciative comment about the wonderfully inspirational presentation, while she places the tub in your left hand. You nod as if to say “Yes, very inspirational indeed”. Mission accomplished; Vaseline successfully transferred to target. You have to suppress a moan of pleasure as you apply the precious grease onto your thirsty lips.

Someone is watching you! You can feel it. You look up and across the table from where you feel the staring vibes. It’s Uno. His hands are placed on the table in front of him. He carefully folds the fingers of his right hand into his palm, with just the index finger pointing at you and presses his lips together. You acknowledge his silent cry for help with a nod that once again makes it look like you are greatly inspired by the presentation. Message received. You glance at Hileni, who gives a short nod of approval. Operation “Fake Call of Nature” is set in motion. This involves leaving the room as if going to the bathroom and dropping the Vaseline into Uno’s hand that now casually dangles next to his chair as you walk past him. As you enter the room upon your return from the staged visit to the toilet, the plan is to retrieve the precious tub from Uno’s hand, but his hand is empty. What now? You notice that for the first time today everybody in the room pays undivided attention to the presenter, who is, also for the first time today, not pointing at inspirational animals on the screen, but dabbing her lips with something. “Thank you,” she says with a newly-glossed smile. “Whose is this?” she asks brightly. Hileni lifts her hand and the presenter hands her back her tub of Vaseline as she announces the long-awaited teatime.

You realise that somewhere else in the world this would not be normal. You are aware that somewhere else in the world people would be totally grossed out by such exchange. But that is exactly why you are here and not somewhere else in the world. You are not afraid to share. One Namibia, one nation, one tub of Vaseline!

Sylvia Schlettwein