“She said good morning with the brightest smile on her face. It was as if we had met before. I was not used to that. Where I came from, we would walk past each other every day and never say a word. Everybody lived in their own heads, I suppose that was the life I was used to,” she uttered. “Welcome to the land of the brave,” I said proudly, as the warm air blew gently through my hair. “Welcome to Namibia.”
We arrived at the beautiful scenery an hour later. This was probably the most intriguing site I had ever seen. I discovered this place ten years ago. I was a teenager and I had gone for a walk up the mountains with my friends. It was in the poorer parts of the country, but make no mistake, that aspect stole nothing from its beauty. We sat on the mountain top and watched the genuine smiles. The sun was setting and the children were playing my favourite childhood game. We called it “Uma”. The boys played a game that resounded firm memories in my head. The one would take a stick and hide it while the others would close their eyes. When he had finished counting, they would open their eyes and go looking for the stick. The one that found it was now in control and the others ran for what seemed like their lives, as their laughter filled the air. This was home.
She asked me to tell her more beautiful stories. So, I played with the semi course crystals of sand in my hands as the memories of the past filled my heart beautifully. “I remember when my grandmother passed away,” I started to whisper, as the tears flooded my eyes. I was shattered and dreaded the mourning process. The thought so daunting laid a heavy grip on me. I got into the taxi on my way home after school that day and the taxi driver stared so genuinely in the review mirror. “Oshike?” he asked. I did not speak the language but my best friend was oshiwambo speaking and I had learnt enough to know that he was showing concern. I motioned for him to leave me alone and that I would be ok. He persisted, but this time he did not wait for a response. I will never forget his words, “No matter what is wrong I will pray for you”. I wiped my tears away and said thank you. I had never experienced such kindness before and it felt like his kindness had given me the strength to put my tears away even just for a moment.
I walked from the roadside where I had gotten off from the cab and as I approached my yard I noticed 2 cars parked outside. The barking from the dogs was enough to tell me that we had visitors. I entered through the front door and found our neighbours seated in the sitting room. They had come to pay their condolences and had cooked food to help us get through the dark nights ahead. I smiled gently as warmth filled my heart. Welcome to Namibia, I thought aloud.
I am a fifth-year medical student and if there is one thing that I have learnt from this exhilarating journey, it is that every little thing we put into our bodies has a way in which it reacts to the body, and the body has a way in which it reacts to it. Perhaps this is my hypothesis for why Namibia is the way it is. If you give into a certain system long enough, eventually it will give you back what you put in. I worked one summer holiday at my aunt’s firm. I was fortune enough to play an active role in the administrative part of the launch of the Namibian Film “Paths to Freedom”. At that time, I had no idea what that experience would do to me, but soon enough I began to understand, that people don’t just say hi with bright smiles as if they know you, they don’t just cook food for your family as if the loss of a life was their own tragedy. People don’t just offer to pray for you when they see you shedding a few tears in a taxi, and children don’t just play joyfully without a care in the world everywhere. In some countries, people don’t greet when they see a stranger in the street because it is not safe, they don’t involve themselves in the matters of their neighbours, because it is every man for himself. Taxi drivers are only concerned with taking you to your destination, and if you are lucky, you will arrive safely. Children don’t just play, they suffer and slowly die. That summer job that allowed me to meet great legends like the late Toivo Ya Toivo, taught me that people many years ago gave into the system, and now, the system is giving back. Welcome to Namibia!