Sights, poverty and fish
On a Sunday afternoon, there are more churches in the streets of Windhoek than there are people. However, that does make it easy to check out all the sights, as we did, except for the 'stunning views' from the hills around the city, which you can check out on the so-called 'Hofmeyr walk'.
The only way to 'do' Namibia on a tight budget is when you bring your own camping gear. There is some budget accommodation in the few, well, three, towns, but once you get out into the Wild, you're lucky if you find a room which is charged at less than 50 euros per night. In fact, accommodation in the lodges close to Sossusvlei, Namibia's prime tourist attraction, sell for 250 euros per person per night (something which I first thought was a typo in my travel guide), which is not really an exception.
Two guys, today, asked me for some money, they begged. Generally, when someone asks, I have no problem handing over a few coins to the first person of the day who claims to need them. The first guy was lucky, as I gave him the only coin I had, 5 Rand, just about 50 eurocents. You can buy a McD hamburger for that money or even a whole bread.
The second guy didn't receive anything, although his story was decidedly more sad and it didn't even feel like he was pulling my leg, at least not too much.
What ticked me off, besides the inability to give anything as I didn't have any coins left and I certainly wasn't going to pull out my wallet, was that the man was clearly going for the only whities on the street. While we were admiring some 'old', that is around 100 years, building, he had been eyeing us until we started moving on, when he started walking towards us, before he went on to do his spiel.
I'm truly saddened every time I encounter poverty, but this is often followed by frustration and anger that in countries like this, it's often the white man who's expected to compensate the poor. And of course, in general, tourists make an easy target.
This ties in with the following. Most, if not all, open air parking in South Africa is free, but you almost always have some guys looking after the cars, not for a salary, but for tips. Seldom do I see black people tip these attendants, often do I see white people tip.
In the same vein, a recent local newspaper article uncovered that blacks are more racist than whites and that, by far, the most private aid towards poverty reduction in South Africa comes from foreign, mostly American, white millionaires. Also, the top five highest local contributors are white.
Then again, I think there's another parallel with the soaring sales of luxury cars, to a large extent to Black Empowered individuals. Not of the Audis or BMWs, but the Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris and whatnot.
Still, nothing stopped us from having what might have been the best dinner since my arrival in Southern African some six months ago. The Angolan/Portuguese restaurant 'O Portuga' served up some really great fish and steak.
Jo Decaluwe – Vincent van Gogh
The Bank Windhoek arts festival, or is it the /AE//Gams arts festival festival (the slashes are clicks), I'm not sure what the difference is and which show belongs to which festival, clearly experiments as this show is completely in Dutch, a one man performance by Flemish actor Jo Decaluwe, a monologue as Vincent van Gogh.
The show is a portrait, like the three self-portraits the actor puts up on the easel which is the centre piece on the stage. A portrait which has been put together based on and using the many letters van Gogh sent and received during his life, in particular in conversation with his brother Theo and specifically deals with the troubled years of his life.
Decaluwe started off a little shaky, possibly because of being unsure as to the reception of his work, a Dutch piece played by a Flemish actor in Namibia. Although the Afrikaans language is widely spoken here, Afrikaans and Dutch are too far apart to understand and appreciate the subtleties of a language, if you only speak one, particularly in a stage production. However, most, if not all, of the audience appeared to be Dutch or Flemish.
Once Decaluwe got going, he put down an extremely strong performance, in part due to the language used, but also very much by using his body language in concert with his texts and facial expressions. He was living his role, painting with words, sometimes describing the paintings van Gogh had in his head and would become actual paintings, later on in his life, showing the emotional and mental torments van Gogh must have gone through during these extremely productive years.
I'm sure my knowledge of van Gogh is not detailed enough to have appreciated the more subtle references in the performance, but what I did understand already turned this one for me into an amazing, extremely moving, show.