I hadn’t had time to visit a township in South Africa, so I made it a priority in Swakopmund. Our guide, Nico, was fantastic, funny, and knowledgeable; although he spoke perfect English, he was from the Damara tribe. He explained that Swakopmund is divided into 3 sections: the town, the township, and the informal settlements (the DRC – Democratic Republic Community). Namibia is home to 12 tribes and 11 different languages. During the Apartheid years, the nonworking black people were forced out of Swakopmund and put into the township; technically the move from town to township wasn’t by force, but greatly encouraged for a better lifestyle. The DRC, on the other hand, is a tougher lifestyle; the government provides free houses with no electricity and one long-drop toilet per community block. In the DRC, food is free for the children three days a week, and twelve years of schooling is mandatory (with the option of college post-school). The Township Tour was yet another reminder of just how blessed I am to have a roof over my head with ample space, food, clean water, electricity, heat, air conditioning, etc.
We learned that three of the tribes in Namibia using a clicking language – the San, the Damara, and the Nama; the Damara and Nama languages are very similar, but their dialects are entirely different. In our clicking lesson at the Nama lady’s house, we learned that the difference between “I love you” and “I kill you” is the pronunciation of one click. So watch how you’re pronouncing things!
We made a quick pit-stop at Oma Lina’s house; she has been the chief of the Damara tribe for the past nine years. We had a conversation with her about who we consider the head of our household – I was surprised at how many people said their mothers.
Toward the end of our Township Tour, we went to a local pub called Back of the Moon and had a few drinks. We then had a traditional Ovambo meal – porridge with beans and spinach dip…and big, fat, juicy caterpillars that were about the size of my pinky finger, but thicker. I definitely struggled getting it down; I ate half of it before I realized that it was an actual caterpillar and my gag reflex kicked in. The “before butterfly” tasted very fishy, exceptionally crunchy, and slimy inside. It actually took a ton of chewing to get it down. An hour later, I still tasted the caterpillar in my mouth. Heck, I can still taste it in my mouth if I think about it!
Vocal Galore, a local a cappella group, came in and proved a fantastic distraction from the caterpillar taste. They were full of life and vibrancy, and extremely talented. For me, they were the highlight of the Township Tour.