Goodbye… is only temporary

To all the friendly faces we’ve met in Namibia,

I have used about a month to process the fact that we had already left Namibia, after 3 weeks of researching, interviewing, making friends, and sightseeing. I didn’t think it had been enough by the time our trip ended. When I first arrived in Windhoek, I was exhausted, excited, and who would have imagined how hard it would get when it was time to depart. I didn’t feel much when I waved my goodbyes. I guess that’s because I was used to it.

There are many places to where I have not been, but among the four countries I have traveled to and lived in, Namibia stood out because of its raw, massive land, its culture, and its people and the genuineness and kindness in them.

I stood on the Namibian soil once and left promising myself that some day, I would return.

During our stay, we had our calendar filled with interviews, b-toll shooting appointments, including all the miscellaneous, grocery shopping, dinner making and such. Although it seemed busy, we managed to go for a hike or head to a bar as our occasional treats.

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Or we pretended to be like real tourists taking lots and lots of pictures everywhere we went. One time I was almost too into the role and got yelled at for photographing on private territory without permission. I deserved it. I apologized and walked away.

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My fondest memory was being introduced to all the successful, inspiring PLU alumni, especially the main narrator of our documentary, Edwin Tjiramba, and his family. Edwin invited us to his farm on a rural land, which I forgot the name of.  The combination of sand, the sky, and trees were simply breathtaking.

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I remembered that the kids took us to the river. By the river we sat and played with sand until sunset. The afternoon sun softly shined on the kids’ smiley faces. We enjoyed the time as much as they did building sand castles or rolling in the mud.

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As I was typing this, I felt a sudden urge of taking the next flight going back to Windhoek. I miss those kids.  I miss all the kind people we spent time with. I miss being called Chi-Chi, the Namibian sounding name I was given. And I miss the warm hugs we would receive as we greeted one another.

Goodbye is only temporary. Goodbye means we will meet again. But until then… Goodbye, Namibia.

Love always,

Shunying

Driving Through Windhoek with Scobie

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.

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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.
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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,
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past Hochland Park, where indigenous people used to live,
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past Damara and Herero suburbs area, past Habitat Research Centre, where people research into sustainable living,
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past the informal settlements Hakahana and Havana, to the Eveline street where is filled with barbershops, carwash, bars, and shebeens (unlicensed bars).
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And our tour continued…

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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.
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4During 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.

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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.
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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…
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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.

Shishi’s Great Adventure

Shunying Wang

A couple days ago, I was stopped at the international arrival in Luanda (my first stop before coming to Windhoek, Namibia). The officer flipped through my passport, looked at me, and asked for a transit visa. Of course they would ask me for a visa. It is always the problem with the visa! I stayed calm and told him that Emirates (my airline company) said no transit visa was required of me if I went through Luanda. Well originally I had planned to fly through Johannesburg to Namibia, but I was informed right before boarding that I needed a visa to Johannesburg. So the staff at Emirates immediately switched me onto a different flight transiting through Luanda instead because then I wouldn’t need a transit visa. But there I was, sitting at the entrance of the Passport Check in Luanda and waiting to hear back from the officers about what they wanted to do with me. An hour had passed, all I could see was staff members gathering together and chatting loudly in the hallway. They didn’t seem to be concerned about my situation at all…

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After I landed in Luanda. I was stopped at the passport check. Although the waiting was long and gave me a feeling of ennui, the view took my breath away.

Though I was not waiting alone. I met a girl named Reeha who could call me Dada (meaning sister in her language) and laughed at the funny faces I made to her; and I met a Chinese guy who was stopped because he didn’t fulfill his business visa requirements. After a short while, the Chinese guy left; then the little girl left with her parents as well. I was still waiting. I was the only one who was still waiting. But no one had come and said anything to me.

Finally a guy came to me. From his sweater and suit pants, I could tell that he was one of the staff. He walked over to where I was sitting and asked whether or not I could speak English. I thought he was giving me back my passport. But he just asked me some random questions that had nothing to do with my situation. Although, I appreciated the fact that he came over and chatted with me. It brightened me up a little when I heard him saying that I could speak good English and it sounded very understandable to him. If you don’t know me, I can tell you now that I was very flattered by his compliments and stopped complaining immediately. I shared with him that I was going to Namibia to make a documentary with some faculty members and colleagues from my school. He was surprised that I was entering Africa to make a film at the age of 21. He ended our conversation with a laughter and a simple sentence “you are still a child.” He had to go back to work. And I still had to wait.

When I got to the point where I was that I had to sleep in public. It was my first time sleeping on a bench in the airport so I felt a little cautious about it, but I was glad that it didn’t turn out to be a horrific experience. I did, however, wake up from a neck pain for not sleeping in a proper position. When I checked the clock, it was only 9 p.m. So I arrived at 3 p.m., checked in at 3:30 p.m., was stopped by the check-in at around 3:45 p.m., waited for 2+ hours, fell asleep at 6 p.m., and I only slept for 3 hours.  My connecting flight to Namibia was not leaving until the next day at 9:45 a.m., which meant that I still needed to wait for 12+ hours in Luanda’s airport. What an adventure I said to myself, and most of it was just waiting and finding things to do while my body was screaming for a nice bed to sleep in.

After counting the time and realizing that I still had a lot of time to kill at the airport, I decided to make a trip to the bathroom. When I returned, there were two staff members sitting by my spot. I thought they had good news for me at first, but then I figured out that they just wanted to chat. They started talking to me in broken English and being very curious about whether or not I was married. I was surprised that I almost got proposed by one. I wasn’t feeling unsafe, but I was shocked because I had never had to deal with a single enthusiastic African man who showed great interest in marrying me, even when he could hardly communicate with me. I didn’t think he was serious, so I just laughed and avoided the marriage topic that was brought up.

Then they left, it was only 11 p.m. I couldn’t be more creative besides sitting there and finding things to do. But my concentration level was poor due to the lack of sleep. I meant to stay awake and be productive to get some readings done, but the hours passed with a terrible slowness. Eventually I waited until 8 a.m. in the morning, but I just forgot how I managed it.

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Early in the morning, but there were still a lot of people waiting for the next flight. They were all hanging out at the only food place that was open.

When it was 8am, a new face found me and took me to get my boarding pass. He also handed back my passport, which was the moment when I knew I was finally free. Knowing that I would soon fly to Namibia excited me. But then I was disappointed one last time before I could leave Luanda because the flight was delayed for an hour!

In order to not get bored and fall sleep again, I started doing some people-watching. From what I had heard from Jan, a friend of ours who lives in Africa, all I could see was African women whose  hair was elegantly braided and also men in suit jacket, nicely fitting jeans, and polished shoes; even if it was in an airport. It was interesting for me to see how people lived differently in another part of the world, under cultures that were distinct from what I had grew accustomed to in the U.S.

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And there they were, standing in front of me and talking to each other in a language that I couldn’t understand.

The airplane that was taking me to my final destination, Windhoek, Namibia, arrived after about an hour.  I was glad that the extremely long layover in Luanda was coming to an end, but what had just begun that I felt most excited about, was the 3-week adventure I would have in Namibia.

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My long adventure in Luanda is coming to an end, but on the plane ride to Windhoek, I am excited about my next adventure!

It is about seeing; it is about learning; and it is about growing.