The one common thing that tourists all do when they venture to a new region is probably going on a tour to learn about the history of the place. Although we are coming to Namibia as film makers, we are also tourists in town. Luckily we were able to find a local guide to take us on the township tour in Windhoek.
His name is Scobie, and he has beautiful eyes and a witty, irresistible personality. He would joke about his pregnancy while making announcements before the tour started.
I am not much of a history learner, so you are not going to learn a whole lot of history from me. But I can show you what the town looks like.
Our tour started from the City Center and then Scobie drove us through the town,
past Hochland Park, where indigenous people used to live,
past Damara and Herero suburbs area, past Habitat Research Centre, where people research into sustainable living,
past the informal settlements Hakahana and Havana, to the Eveline street where is filled with barbershops, carwash, bars, and shebeens (unlicensed bars).
And our tour continued…
When it was about lunch time, Scobie took us to our next top, Penduka. In Herero, the name Penduka means “wake up!” According to Scobie, this is to tell the women to wake the hell up and do something for themselves in this man-dominated society. It is like a women empowerment center. They sew. They sell. They create their own business and market. Being there and watching women living their own lives felt incredible.
During this tour, I think a very distinct culture that I saw in Windhoek was the local entrepreneurship. Driving along the Eveline street, Scobie told us that Eveline street was closed down once before due to the excessive alcohol consumption in the area, but the government ended up re-opening the street after seeing local economic growth in the area. The small-size carwash businesses, bars, and barbershops provided more job opportunities and helped promote local economy. Some entrepreneurs who own the bars now no longer lived in the area like they used to, they moved out as soon as they started getting a steady income.
Going on this tour with Scobie and seeing the town reminded me of home, China — the village in which my grandparents have been living in for their entire life. Especially when Scobie took us to the Single Quarters, an open market where farmers and merchants sold their meat, vegetables, and goodies; some of the merchants would smile at you you as you walked by, and some other wouldn’t. Exactly like the merchants I had seen back home.
The flies on the food that never went away, the kids that ran all over the market playing and laughing, the smell of blood giving off from the raw pieces of meat and the smoky smell of BBQ cow liver mixed together in the air — they all helped me recall what it was like to grow up in China…
I have to mention, there are two vegetarians and one vegan within our production team, but we all tried red meat in the market that day. Because food is always a big part of people’s lives, I tried. The way to a man’s heart is to his stomach, and the way to get to place is to taste its food.