I journeyed to the United States for the first time as part of a delegation of 14 Namibians hosted by Austin Lehman Adventures with stops at the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming; Monterey, California; and Washington, D.C., to work in the US headquarters office of WWF.
I have loved every minute of being in America, but there are some things I miss about Namibia. I’m certain they are things that you, as a tourist visiting my country, would love.
The feeling that everyone is family in Namibia. When you live in country of only 2 million people, you get know your neighbors. In my culture, neighbors are known to be a backbone, the first people you call to celebrate a birthday, or to grieve with. Your neighbor’s friends and family members automatically became part of your life.
The circle of family starts with neighbors and thereafter grows into a bond that is unbreakable. I personally believe this one of the reason why Namibians are friendly and helpful at all times. From childhood they learn to open up to strangers.
The wide open space. One of the things I really appreciate about Namibia is the wide open space. You can drive for hours without seeing people or any buildings! Every time I have a chance to drive out of the city – such as to the Nye Nye Conservancy in the north, where I work frequently – it’s a blessing.
From the moment I leave the capital of Windhoek, I start seeing the changes in landscape immediately. Short-grass plains turn into shrubs, which evolve into trees the more northerly we go. I see wide expanses of land, I can spy the top of mountains, I can peer into the sky as far as it will go. And when it gets dark, I could stare into the night sky for hours watching the stars.
The ease of shopping in Windhoek. America is known for its amazing shopping malls – which are large and can feel overwhelming. I prefer the personalized simplicity of buying items in Windhoek’s shopping areas. The stores aren’t too crowded, you have a good number of choices, and it’s at a relaxed pace.
The “kapana.” After a morning of shopping at Wheaton Mall in suburban Maryland, my friend Oscar and I went to eat lunch at a food court. As we entered, we were greeted by waiters carrying trays with samples of different types of foods – spicy Thai meats, sweet and sour Chinese chicken, little wedges of pizza.
That immediately reminded me of Namibia’s Single Quarters, which is an open-air market in the Katatura township in Windhoek. The market is famous for its kapana. Locally known as “outete,” this dish consists of flame-grilled beef or lamp chopped into medium-sized chunks. It’s served with a spicy sauce of onions and tomatoes. To help you make up your mind which vendor sells the best kapana, you can stop and try different samples. The cooks invite you to their stands to try a taste.
And the best part of kapana? This meal is not restricted to any specific time of day. You can eat it anytime! Most people will have it for breakfast after a night of heavy partying. It’s believed that the chili that accompanies the dish can help you beat a hangover!
The well-protected wildlife conservancies. When I spent time in the Western United States, I met members of the Crow Nation from a reservation in rural Montana. These wonderful Native American people told us about their connection with Mother Nature and how that has been passed along from generation to generation – how their rivers and mountains and grassy plains all bear names with cultural significant to the Crow Nation.
It surprised me to find people in America who were connected to their land the way we are in Namibia. The way the Native people spoke about their land reminded me of Namibia conservancies program, in which we work to protect wildlife and wild spaces (which then has the added benefit of attracting tourists and boosting our local economies). Helping the people who run conservancies is my job with WWF-Namibia, and it’s an honor to be a part of a great program that fights poverty and conserves our natural resources.
I miss the wonderful people who work hard to support our conservancies and the heartfelt locals who live in the conservancies. I saw the same spirit in the faces of the Crow Nation people that I met that I see in my Namibian brothers back home.
Martha Mulokoshi is a World Wildlife Fund project officer based in Windhoek, Namibia. Her role is to support tourism business development and bolster communal conservancies in establishing viable joint ventures with private partners. She also supports business enterprise efforts of a nonprofit organization that aims to socially and economically empower the San people in the rural Nyae Nyae Conservancy in northeast Namibia (the first conservancy in the country).