Aus and Hendrik van Royan
I met Hendrik purely by chance. I was sitting by a stop sign on a dead end street eating an orange,admiring the barren wilderness ahead, taking photos, when he wandered along.
I am hopeless how I always greet and converse with strangers and this was no different. Hendrick sat down next to me to smoke a tiny quarter ciggi and we chatted about life in this tiny crossroads town.
He said how hard it was to find work even at $2.50/hr and how he lived just down the way. One of the tasks I have set with this journey is to learn some small bits of language as I go. I put this to Hendrick and asked if he could spend an hour teaching me some Nama. I said I'd pay him for his time and so started one of the highlights of my trip so far.
He invited me down to his house and was really proud as he showed me how he had built the extensions to his small house. It was all immaculately tidy, his building work as well as their whole garden and surrounds. He lived out back in a small converted shed as his extended family of girlfriend and his young son, his mother and the two teenage girls from his deceased brother shared the small house.
We sat and chatted about his life as I was really interested in his experience of post apartheid S.A and independent Namibia. Hendrick had been born and raised in the northern cape to coloured father (Nama/boer) and a Nama mother. He had had few education opportunities but had learnt to build with his father from a young age. He said that despite all the political changes life remained a real challenge for the non educated like himself where you are trapped into low paid temporary employment. Women he said found work easier to get as domestics but it was difficult for men with many unemployed. He said that the main change in independent Namibia was the opportunity education offered for the younger generation. It was such an interesting discussion as he asked about life in N.Z. At about this point his late brothers two daughters appeared at the door excited at the stranger visiting. They were so keen to chat and check me out. Funny as! I asked them if they spoke any Nama at which they laughed and said no. It's all Afrikaans and English but none of their native tongue. I met the mother and friends. It was real friendly and fun.
Hendrick set about teaching me the various clicks and their use in words. It is such a challange to get my mouth around the clicks. I just could not get the sounds he did. It must have sounded funny from outside as I tried to mimic his sounds and mouth movements. It was exhausting but I did make short videos of Hendrick pronouncing the words so I can practice. It is a complicated language with many more clicks than the three abc’s he started me on. He started to tell me the history of his people, their battles won and lost against colonial forces and of the hardship of life, under apartheid and now. A real eye opener. I think we both grew from the encounter. I feel he was empowered by my interest in him and his life and I know he touched me with his story. I hope I can stay in touch.
Always a strange one to know how to stay current with people whom you have fleeting engagements with. Do you just leave it at that or do I develop it further and why. Also how real is my view of things. It is easy to over think it! I hope opportunities work out for the girls. Jeanine was sure she would go to university. Study languages. It is one thing I am noticing here is the confidence and energy of some of the young Namibian teenagers. I know my experience here is tiny but it is evident in the few times I have seen groups of teenagers. It will be interesting to see how it is in the more rural areas. With such a vast mineral wealth and a tiny population of two million the opportunity of real change in the standard of living is possibly achievable.