We’ve been in Gibeon around a week now and are having a great time in some respects but not in others which I’ll explain more about in this post.
After leaving the hostel last week we made our way into the city centre. Our main priorities were to exchange money and get supplies. The supplies aspect wasn’t too difficult as our truck parked in a huge car park right in the centre outside the Namibian Supreme Court and right next to a supermarket. It wasn’t as big as the Sainsbury’s you would be used to in the UK or the Wal-Marts you would be used to in the USA but sold everything we needed. The exchanging of money took a little bit longer due to all of the local regulations. I didn’t need to exchange so much money as I had already purchased some South African Rand before leaving the UK and Namibia accepts it as a dual-currency which has come in handy. While the others were still inside a few of us were outside and were approached by a Namibian beggar. In the UK we are used to people holding signs while begging – this guy had what looked like a flick-knife in his hand. Not as scary as it might have been though – we told him we weren’t interested and he accepted this and walked away.
After finishing in Windhoek we made our way out of the city, past a petrol station that was on fire, and into the country towards Gibeon. The countryside is amazing here. It’s not as green as in Europe but there are still some plants around and some wildlife. We arrived in Gibeon in the afternoon and went straight to the school. They were happy to see us as they were expecting us the day before and had called the British High Commission in Windhoek asking if they knew where we were. They said they didn’t – even though we left them an information pack with our itinerary. Although maybe they never found it – they didn’t open by the time we left Windhoek so it was just thrown over the front gate and into the grounds.
The school said we could have some spare rooms in the school if we wanted but we decided to camp as we had brought the equipment with us anyway. We had to be careful when setting the tents up as there were some really evil things on the ground that looked like thistle heads but were sharper and if you put your tent on them they hurt!
That evening we were invited to the school hall where the kids gave us a presentation. They sang and danced and also performed a scene depicting life in Namibia (although that part was in Nama so we didn’t understand it). They then sang the Namibian National Anthem before inviting us on stage. We all introduced ourselves before singing our National Anthem – WAY worse than they sang! One thing I will always remember from this evening is how embarrassed Dan B looked. He’s the smallest member of our group but has one of the deepest voices which some of the kids found this hilarious although Dan went all red 🙁
The next day (28th) we played a football match with some kids from the school. We won on penalties after a 3-3 draw but they quite obviously let us win and were a LOT better despite none of them wearing shoes during the game. We found out later that the school team was the best in the region! We were then shown around by the school Principal – Mr Fleermuys. We were shown the facilities, teaching rooms and accommodation before being told his vision for the school. He’s thinking big!
In the afternoon we started getting to know some of the kids. Bradley is the one that stands out the most. He’s only 4 years old but has attached himself to a few of us, including Sam and myself, as if he’s another member of the team – he doesn’t speak English and we had to ask him his name in Afrikaans but he’s great! There are other kids that are hanging around that I get on well with overall – Kakashol and Sebu…. although they have outstayed their welcome after ruining somebody’s sunglasses and biting me. That evening we sampled the local beer (Tafel) but unfortunately some of us the team got very drunk and caused us to miss the church service we had been invited to that evening. An alcohol ban came in place quite quickly!
The next couple of days were mainly dedicated to working on the projects in the school, getting supplies and sending letters to people. We won’t finish the projects on this visit but Mr Fleermuys said he knows this and that his vision is a five year project incorporating several visits by groups from World Challenge Expeditions. Supplies have been a little more difficult to find. The shops in town only really sell everyday essentials so groups of us have gone to the nearest town a few times, Mariental, which is almost 70 miles away. The first time we went to the post office it was closed by the time we found it. We got lost in the town but some local kids showed us the way and we gave them a small amount of money for their help. The next day it was open and we sent letters home.
Over the last couple of days things have been going downhill. The principal seems to be more interested in the money we have than our help and we recently found out he has been hiding things from us. The school does need improvement but one of the students showed us to their computer room – it only has one PC but we were told there were no computers in the school. Lots of little things like that, too many to list, have just been making us feel a little unwelcome although nothing that is enough to make us leave on its own. We’re going to do what we can do realistically then move on somewhere else I think.
However tonight was a good night in that we were invited to a BBQ (braai) that some of the teachers had set up for us. It was fresh goat that had been slaughtered that day for us and I’ve never had such fresh food. They could have been a bit more tactful and not said “Do you like our goat? We slaughtered it for you this morning” while I was eating a mouthful but it was very tasty. We all sat around the BBQ eating goat and homemade bread while talking with the teachers – the food was a lot better than the random cardboard chicken we have been having and a lot more successful too (see below)! I showed them the school prospectus and they were thrilled to see it and asked if they could keep it. I knew it would be a good idea. A fairly late night tonight but it’s been a good day although these little things have been mounting up a lot.