Blog Archive

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Swakopmund

This post is about our trip to Namibia. Previous posts about Namibia can be found here, here and here.



Before the flat tyre, quad bike riding extravaganza and the trip to the dunes, the first place we visited in Namibia was Swakopmund. Situated on the coast of the South Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by the Namib Desert on three sides, Swakopmund is a different kind of place. It's where the desert meets the sea and it is bursting with German influence. Swakopmund in German means mouth of the water. 


Rare sun at the beach. 



Very German except for the palm trees.
Have you ever visited a place expecting one kind of weather and experiencing another? While I try very hard not to let weather dictate my level of enjoyment, when you go to the tropics and it's cool, windy and cloudy you can feel at a loss as to what to do with yourself especially if you've just spent a few days being battered by wind in Cape Town and were seeking some hot sun. Swakopmund isn't the tropics. It has what's called a mild desert climate, something which I didn't bother to research until I wrote this post. As sitting on the beach wasn't an option due to the wind, fog and cool temps, Mr. Deep and I decided to take a guided historic walking tour of Swakopmund. 

Our guide's name was Nandi. He told us his name means "never again." Nandi is the second of five children so obviously his parents changed their minds. He said he was a breech birth so I assume by the time he came out, his mother had reached her limit on pain. 


Nandi and Mr. Deep
Nandi explained the strange weather we were experiencing wasn't really strange at all. He told us that in Swakopmund the desert and ocean air are "fighting" with each other at the coast creating fog and wind. As part of the tour we walked several blocks inland and it was quite a bit warmer and sunnier there. 

Swakopmund was founded as the main harbour for the Imperial German Colony in 1892 in what was then German Southwest Africa (now Namibia.) After WWI, the Germans had to hand the area over to South Africa. Later, under South African rule apartheid was imposed and black people were moved to townships. In 1990, Namibia became an independent nation. 

Today the Namibian economy is largely comprised of tourism and mining but unemployment sits at 40%. According to Nandi people are not content to sit around doing nothing even if they are unemployed, they will try to make something that they can sell or do something to earn a bit of money. 

One of the claims to fame in Swakopmund is the Kristall Galerie, home of many beautiful crystals including the world's largest quartz crystal. I can PROMISE you if not for the tour  Mr. Deep and I NEVER would have visited the Kristall Galerie, and we would have likely made a joke about the "world's largest house of mud."  But I'm glad we ended up stopping by and the cool weather gave us the chance to learn a few things about Swakopmund that we likely never would have known. 


Yes, we were allowed to touch the world's largest quartz crystal. 





The Swakopmund Hotel, just a few blocks from the ocean and nice and sunny! 

90% of Namibians are Christian mostly Lutheran and Catholic. This is a Lutheran church. 

German war memorial. The red paint was thrown onto the memorial by protesters earlier this year. You can read more about that here. 

One of three towers that the Germans used to transmit information from Swakopmund. You can see the other two in the background one on the left and the other on the right. 

Another interesting thing about Namibia...it's empty. There's practically no one there. 
This hotel is also an old age home. The revenue from the hotel supports the old age home. Nandi told us "black people we don't put old people in homes." And below the garden at the old age home. 


Woermannhaus and tower originally used as a lookout point. We climbed the steps to the top to enjoy the view.
Swakopmund and the desert beyond.












Saturday, May 13, 2017

Toe in the Water


I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go
- John Lennon

In the future, when we leave South Africa for good, I might have to go back to work. Mr. Deep, when he proofreads this post, will strongly suggest that I change the word might in the previous sentence to will. But as nothing is certain life except death and taxes I am going to leave it as might.

Here's where I have to be careful because the way blogs and social media work it would be a real shame if at a future job interview the interviewer asked me, "why did you write in your blog that you'd rather quote stick your head in the toilet and flush repeatedly than return to the work force end quote?" So I won't write anything of the sort. Instead I'll tell you the real problem. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. 

The only thing I've figured out during my time away from work which now totals 870 days, (wow, time really does fly when you're having fun) is what I don't want to do with my life. Nice people who I share these thoughts with say kind things like, "figuring out what you don't want to do is the first step" or "I'm sure you can easily find something you love." These are the same people who probably told me twenty years ago, "I'm sure you'll decide that you want to have kids one day" and we all know how that turned out. 

Here's what I'm not looking for from my next job. 
Stress. A little stress is fine. Excitement, challenges, all good. What's not good is waking up in the middle of the night thinking about work problems. Similarly I don't want to spend my days at work putting out fires and dodging land mines. Figuratively, of course. I don't plan to actually do work involving fire fighting and land mines.

All consuming. The best part about my life now is all of the things that I do have time for. Things like making dinner, seeing friends, going to the gym, volunteering and staring at the wall. 

The challenge is how to turn the things I don't want out of work into a job that I do want. You don't see many resumes with this career objective: To work in an environment which is calm and peaceful and where a limited amount of effort and responsibility is required. Even someone applying for work at a spa would likely not be hired with that opening. 

And here's the real problem. I'm the one with the problem. If I worked at a spa I would make it stressful and all consuming. Within days of starting work at the spa I would likely have us implementing a new software program, repainting the lobby, training all masseuses to ensure consistency in service and having a focus group to secure customer feedback. I am the one who gets carried away and makes a job demanding and if the job is already demanding, then forget it I'm back to having a bald patch on my head.

Recently I worked on a fundraising project.  I didn't get paid but other that it was real work and the surprising part, it was enjoyable (and successful although that's not surprising.) A group of friends and I created and held an event to raise money for a bursary (scholarship) fund for female university students from Diepsloot. The event, called The Morning Market and Tea was held earlier this week at the home of my friend Sandy. 

Four of us worked for several months to plan the event.  We secured thirteen vendors selling various items (that was the market part.) Some of the vendors were seasoned pros who own their own successful businesses and others are just starting out. Confidence was there selling her artwork and Beatrice and Loyce were there selling cakes. Each vendor donated 10% of all sales. We had forty guests who each paid R200 at the door. A friend generously catered the event providing much more than the average tea finger sandwiches. In fact, there was not a finger sandwich to be found. We also had a raffle and silent auction which raised significant money. 

As the day may be drawing near when I begin to work again, I have been thinking about The Morning Market and Tea and what made it enjoyable and here's what I have come up with. First, each of the four of us put the cause first. Yes, we wanted to make the event fun but we always focused on how we could raise maximum funds. Second, each of us worked very hard. No one blew into meetings like a hurricane, shared a bunch of outrageous ideas and then disappeared. Third, there were no silly politics. No one called anyone else to complain about another member of the group behind her back...at least I don't think anyone did. It's certainly possible that people called each other to complain about me, but I was none the wiser. 

My career objective is now taking shape. Currently it looks like this: "To work in an environment where I can have maximum impact without having to endure any bullshit." OK, I could soften the wording a bit, but I think I'm making progress. 



Art by Confidence






Beatrice and Loyce




Gorgeous food

Photo credit for this photo and all below: Sue Huck








The market included a floral arrangement demonstration.











Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Unique Accommodation



Namibian sunset. 

Sometimes, I lie awake at night thinking of things in life I regret doing or conversely, not doing. 
One thing that bothers me is that I never wrote a blog post about The Turbine Hotel in Knysna, on the garden route.  While I can't fix every regrettable situation in my life, I can write about the Turbine Hotel now, even if we did stay there quite some time ago. 

I could also lie awake thinking about the fact that this blog post is not a literary masterpiece, but the hotels are interesting and I think the photos show that. 

I got to thinking about The Turbine because of Le Mirage Hotel and Spa, the very unique hotel we stayed at recently in Namibia.  Although these two hotels have little in common, they are both in Southern Africa (over 1700 km/1000 miles apart but still, Southern Africa.) They are two of the most interesting and memorable hotels I've ever stayed at and I've stayed in many a hotel in my life. 

The Turbine Hotel used to be a power station. It is situated on a canal in the quiet (at least when we were there in April) town of Knysna. What makes the turbine hotel special is that when it was transformed into a hotel, all of the machinery that was formerly part of the power station was restored and remains in the hotel even in the rooms themselves.

In the lobby.


Dining room. 




Front entrance. 


In the bar.


View from our room.



And below are some of the gorgeous views from Knysna which I thought I'd add while I am revisiting the subject. 










We were a bit confused as to whether Le Mirage actually was an old German fort, or it if was just built to look like an old German fort. I couldn't find any info on the website about this either. But regardless Le Mirage was gorgeous. I loved the way it just popped up in the desert in the middle of nowhere. Like a mirage. 




















About Me

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have moved from the U.S. to South Africa for three years. We moved due to an exciting opportunity my husband had with his job. Second, I won't be working anymore. I'm actually not allowed to work so that will be different given that for the past twenty years I've been somewhat of a workaholic. I'm excited to share our adventures with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.