After some of my recent blog posts, you might think that things here are all doom and gloom. But they aren’t! There are some bright spots.
I love nothing more than a good list. So here’s what’s making me happy these days, in no particular order:
- Cooking dinner. Really. Working from home gifts me an extra hour at least to make dinner. That means I can have a glass of wine, listen to a LP and leisurely spend some quality time in the kitchen by myself. And these days, my weekday dinner game is on fire.
My favorite corner of our house
- Listening to audio books. Specifically Calypso, written/read by David Sedaris. Wow is this book hilarious. The essays “The Perfect Fit” and “I’m Still Standing” particularly were my favorites. It’s poignant, funny and just awesome, exactly what you’d expect from David Sedaris. Other good ones include Children of Blood and Bone, The Song of Achilles, Bad Blood, and Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.
- When Artie poops right by a house where a dog is barking at her. I don’t pick it up. One good turn deserves another. There’s this one house where there are three dogs that just go ape-shit every time we walk by. I wish she’d drop a big one there but she hasn’t yet.
- Emptying out the vacuum cleaner canister. There are few things that make me feel more accomplished than getting visual confirmation of all the cleaning I’ve just done. It’s an obsession.
- My “wine cellar.” I could call it our wine cellar, but I’m the one who, a) picked out all the wine, b) cares about it, and c) drinks most of it (Nate prefers beer). With our last lockdown, the sale of alcohol was prohibited. I wasn’t about to go through another lockdown rationing wine, hesitant to give it to friends in need lest I run out. So we currently have more than 150 bottles of wine in the garage. It’s glorious.
Divided into boxes of red, white, rose, white bubbly and rose bubbly. I ran out of wine boxes so I used an empty camping gear box.
- Dinnertime. We light candles, set the table and spend at least 30 minutes together, chitchatting. We listen to an LP, M tells us about the monsters he’s trained (he genuinely believes he is a monster trainer, and we’ve learned the hard way not to joke about it) and we tell stories or have a dinnertime poetry slam. M is surprisingly good at putting together fairly long rhyming poems on the fly. We talk about the gods (yes, plural) and more monsters, and we negotiate how many more bites he has to take before he gets dessert. It might not sound like much, but I do enjoy it.
When we can’t go to restaurants, we create one at home
- Care packages. A friend from Muscat recently sent us a box full of Trader Joes goodies and I almost cried. And the other day I was talking to my mom and I mentioned how much M has been drawing lately, and then two weeks later we got a care package full of sketchbooks and new markers.
- Scouting out all the strange/ostentatious houses in our neighborhood. We live in a fancy part of Windhoek. This was actually one of the strangest things about our first Foreign Service tour: our house was in the rich neighborhood. This was not something I was used to. We can’t afford that shit. But most embassy housing is in the nicest neighborhoods because they are generally the safest. So I enjoy wandering the neighborhood, looking at the ridiculous houses and wondering how people have enough money to build houses like that. Or why exactly they’d want a house like that.
Where did they get the money to build this?!
What the heck?
- Not wearing socks. Winter in Namibia is COLD. Surprisingly so. And despite being technically from Wisconsin, I am a child of the tropics. I grew up wearing flip-flops and my feet don’t like socks. They make my toenails, no matter how short they are, uncomfortable and they smell awful. Hurray for summer (spring doesn’t exist here) and a happy sock-free existence.
- Playing Gloomhaven. The box is enormous and super-heavy and the game costs nearly $100. But we bought it with Amazon gift cards, anticipating a day when we wouldn’t be able to leave the house much and it’d would be just the two of us. Let me tell you, Gloomhaven is SO WORTH IT. It’s like a choose-your-own adventure game with each round being completely different from the last. We each play two characters and at this point I am emotionally attached to mine (I named them Samantha the Scoundrel and Isaspella the Orchid Spellweaver). We set the game up on Saturday afternoons and play as many rounds as we can before putting it all way on Sunday night. It takes up the entire dinner table.
- Planning future trips. We still have two R&Rs to take in the next 22 months, plus a lot of travel in Namibia that we want to do. Figuring out itineraries, the best places to stay, etc is my happy place.
Wow, that’s more than I expected, honestly.
The State of Emergency in Namibia has been lifted and things here are heading back towards “normal,” not because it’s epidemiologically warranted but because there’s no more public or political will for restrictions. Things were starting to improve but then they loosened all the restrictions at once and this past week kids went back to school. I hope there won’t be an increase in cases and that things were under control enough beforehand for it to not be a complete disaster, but we’ll see. In the meantime we wear our masks, take calculated risks and try to make the most of it. We are glad we can finally leave Windhoek again!
One of our first sunsets in Windhoek
It’s hard to believe that we have already spent a year here in Namibia. Even harder to believe is how much the world has changed since we first arrived. It’s so insane, it’s almost funny.
Despite all the heartache and uncertainty, there have been some really great moments. Here, in no particular order, are my favorite things from our last turn around the sun in Namibia:
- Our house: This is the first time in the Foreign Service that our house has truly felt like home. It’s not as big as our last house, and the space is much more usable and I love it. We’ve also reached “peak kitchen” with this house; I will never live in another house with a kitchen this big or with this much storage. Sure the range is electric rather than gas, but I honestly don’t even care because everything else is so great. This entire house has so much built-in storage it’s amazing. And it has a GARAGE!
Once you accept the bars on the windows, it’s a delightful place to be. My favorite spot is the corner of windows on the left.
The patio space off the living room. We spend a LOT of time out here!
- Oysters along the coast: Yes, you can also get oysters in Windhoek, but there’s something about the sea air and the sound of the waves when you’re eating oysters along the coast that just makes them that much more enjoyable. I had no idea that oysters were a thing in Namibia. It’s glorious.
So delicious and so inexpensive.
- Visits to Etosha National Park: Whether it’s seeing lions out the car window, rhinos crossing the road in front of us, or elephants at the watering hole at sunset, Etosha never disappoints. I will never forget the first time we saw lions in Etosha. We were driving along a quiet dirt road and I said “Go slowly, this looks like the perfect spot for lions.” Then, I kid you not, one minute later I saw a lion snoozing under a tree. I literally screamed. It was so incredible.
Just another day at Etosha.
- The sundowner game drive at Gocheganas: If there’s anything better than drinking gin and tonics with white rhinos, giraffes, and wildebeest, with the sun setting over the mountains in the background, I honestly don’t know what it could possibly be. We did our first Gocheganas sundowner game drive about a week after arriving. It was our first “holy shit wow” moment in Namibia. We did the same drive a few months later with our first visitor and it was just as incredible. More so, even, since we were sharing it with one of our best friends.
Just some G&T with the rhinos and giraffes
- Sammy the giraffe at Omaruru Game Lodge: The style of conservation at this lodge is a little different from other places in Namibia and the wild animals are somewhat…. tame. You can feed apples to the elephants on game drives and you can pet Sammy the giraffe. Whether or not you agree with this strategy, I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of fun and M absolutely loved it.
Elephants mobbing the game drive truck at Omaruru Game Lodge
- The birds in Namibia: I’ve always enjoyed watching birds, but before moving to Namibia I’d never gone out of my way to take a picture of one. (Except for maybe a bald eagle here or there). The birds here are amazing. Colorful, interesting, noisy, enormous, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s incredible. And I have some decent photos of them.
A hornbill eating an armored bush cricket at Mt. Etjo
- Learning how to braai: I had no idea that grilling could be such a cultural phenomenon. But it is! And it’s awesome. A traditional braai is done with wood; you get the fire going in a box-thing and then you rake the coals under the grate, the height of which is usually adjustable. Plus most braais have a hook for your potjie (pronounced “POY-key;” it’s essentially a spherical cast iron pot with legs). When we get our braai going we usually cook a lot of food because it’s more labor intensive than grilling in a Weber. We have several potjie pots of varying sizes and we’re always on the lookout for new recipes.
We started out a small cast iron potjie pot, which worked well for camping when it was just the three of us
Then as we started camping with friends we upgraded to a larger enameled cast iron potjie pot. It’s so pretty!
- Camping at Spitzkoppe: Spitzkoppe was the first place we camped in Namibia, and it’s the only place we’ve camped at more than once. It’s stunningly beautiful and so much fun to explore. The campsites are more minimalist than most other campsites, with no running water, electricity, tables or shade, but it’s just the best.
Tents at the base of Spitzkoppe
The arch at Spitzkoppe
I could keep going. But these are the things that are unique to Namibia or that I found surprising/unexpected. We’ve done a ton during our first year here, but it also feels like so much was cancelled, rescheduled or cut short. I’m just glad we have another two years to keep exploring!
A spotted hyena and a wary springbok at Etosha