Thursday, March 8, 2012

Poverty: The Other Side of Africa

Namibia is the best country in Africa to visit. You will see amazing wildlife, especially exotic big game, and the natural setting is spectacular with sensuous desert scenery and a stunning coastline. Best of all, the people are friendly and travel is safe.

But Namibia, and Africa as a whole, has another side, which includes high unemployment and poverty. To gain insight into these problems, I took the Swakop Township Tour while visiting Swakopmund. Beetle, a large African with dreadlocks, picked me up at the guesthouse and we set off to see the township and informal settlement. He explained how the former was set up by under apartheid rule and all blacks were forced to move there. The informal settlement houses new arrivals from rural areas and has no electricity.

He parked and we walked past small, shabby homes through sandy, treeless streets. Outhouses were shared with two or more homes. Children played in the street and Beetle, who grew up here, explained that because everyone knows each other and life is lived mainly on the street, crime is low.

We entered the home of Ouma Lena, a distinguished-looking 83-year-old lady, the chief of the Township, she spoke in the Damara click language with Beetle, who translated. Next we visited the tiny one-room hut of Auguste, a Nama herbalist, who showed me the plants and potions she uses to treat ailments. Wooden, painted figures like voodoo dolls were poised over her medicines.

The tour closed with a traditional meal of traditional beer, spinach dish, millet paste and fried grubs, which, surprisingly, tasted good.

Driving back to the town centre, I was surprised at how eye-opening and thought-provoking the tour had been. Yes, it was depressing, yet it is a tour that every person from a developed nation should take. Perhaps it will help us seek ways to more equitably share the planet’s wealth.

*** To learn more about this amazing country and see over 130 colour photos, view my on-line book Impressions of Namibia at: ***

General info on Namibia:
Swakop Township Tours:
Namibia Tracks & Trails makes travel and accommodation arrangements in Swakopmund and throughout Namibia: www.namibia-tracks-and-trails

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