Thursday, March 27, 2014

Storied Past: Namibia Volume 2

Read Volume 1 here

Alright. Where was I? Ah yes, meeting the other students. 

I don't remember much because of the zero sleep I'd had the past 72 hours, but I do remember sitting next to a girl with curly brown hair who said, "I'm not really sure why I'm here." I suspected that all the rest of these people were impulsive and crazy like me. I was right. 

So the whole crazy lot of us headed to the bush where the Himba dwell. We got to work pitching a tent, digging a latrine (seriously), and a third thing that would make this sentence feel complete. My big, and likely only, contribution of the day was donating some reading material, my copy of the latest issue of Vogue, to the latrine.

I like camping just as much as the next guy, so long as the next guy doesn't really care for camping. Again, I'll remind you that I had merely a vague idea of what our adventure would entail, and failed to realize that three weeks in a sleeping bag on the ground was part of it. Three weeks is too many weeks in a sleeping bag.

Three weeks is also too long to eat the same breakfast, lunch and dinner every bloomin' day. Oatmeal for breakfast. Rice for lunch. Some sort of potato nonsense for dinner. Oh, also some crackers to be eaten at a rationed, steady pace. I polished mine off the first day. 

Toward the end of the three weeks things started getting a little Lord of the Flies, and when a Himba tribesman gifted us a goat, the men of the group (all four of them), immediately murdered the beast and we feasted for dinner. By "feasted" I mean took one bit and wished we hadn't because goat meat is not delicious.

But we did more than just toss and turn listening to the scorpions beneath our tent at night and complain about the food. We spent our days with translators, researching the Himba for the paper we were to write at the term's end. Research sometimes looked like building manure domes:

Or herding livestock:

Please note: This was not a high point for me ascetically. The strict starch-only diet and no-shower lifestyle really took a toll. 

Or whatever odd job a given member of the Himba tribe thought it might be entertaining to watch us try and accomplish. One day I spent two hours trying to carry three watermelons across a field. 

I hesitate to post too many pictures of the Himba because Himba women don't really wear clothes, and while that's fine, I'm not sure a snarky blog is the best place for photo evidence. 

But look at these adorable children who borrowed my glasses:

I wish I remembered more about the Himba. I remember being surprised by how content they seemed to be living in mud huts and eating only sour milk and corn. I remember thinking that not a lot happened day to day, but families spent the whole day together, sitting by the fire. Some Himba were really nice, some were not. Some wanted to ask us all the questions instead of answering ours. Some had stories of fighting off lions, and still others of witchcraft. It was a fascinating research project, but also three weeks of camping, so when it was time to leave the bush, I was definitely ready.  


Next week on Namibia Volume 3: A long-awaited shower and zebra spotting.


  1. Nothing like a good dung pile to really complete the study abroad experience.

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