Unlikely Friends

We have officially been in Swakomund, Namibia for three weeks now, although we have just begun to establish a daily routine here. Swakop, as the locals call it, is a breathtaking place. The Namib Desert basically runs into the beach and Atlantic Ocean; it truly looks like the classic Windows desktop setting, it’s incredible. The town is filled with cute little ice cream and coffee shops, interesting German architecture and little marketplaces full of handmade arts and crafts for sale.

Our days have been varied since we arrived. (By the way, we endured a 36-hour bus ride from Johannesburg to get here. I firmly believe that if one can withstand that, they can handle almost anything life has to throw at them.) Our team originally started on constructing a netball court at the local primary school, a project we quickly realized was over our heads and expertise levels. During this time however, I certainly did gain a new appreciation for interlocking bricks, and the preciseness that is required in placing each and every brick into the ground.

Last week we began working at an orphanage in the local township called Tears of Hope, and that is where the majority of our time has now been spent. The house has about 10 kids that live in it, ranging in age from toddler to young adults. The days are full of soaking in the warm sun, and trying to create new games to make the time pass by. Recently we have also begun to paint the playground outside, providing a great opportunity for the kids and our team to work together. While we have done the groundwork of priming the play area, the kids are able to take part in the creative side of decorating it with their handprints.

In the afternoons a few of my teammates and I have been spending time at the local markets. Here, the Himba people (a tribe native to northern Namibia) sell handmade goods that they have crafted. Their bracelets and carvings are beautiful, but even more beautiful is the memories we have shared. Typically as a tourist I would pass by these ladies without giving much thought to building a friendship with them. I think we all would. Thankfully in my case however, I have been granted the time to really invest in a relationship with them.

For the past three weeks, I have visited these ladies most afternoons. Sometimes the time passes by slowly, and few words are exchanged. Other times, they let me help them by making the bracelets that are sold in their “stores.” (Thankfully they are very patient women, and we have been able to share many laughs together throughout this learning process.) The Himba women have truly taken the time to get to know me, allowing me to share pictures and moments from back home. Without fail, I am always greeted with smiling faces and waves when I walk by. When I come to spend time with them, they will lay out a blanket for me to sit on, and share any snacks they may have purchased for the day. Sometimes, we even go grocery shopping with them.

Through all of this, I am reminded of the value of friendship. It doesn’t matter that our skin color is different, that they wear clay in their hair, or lack clothing that we would typically wear, we are friends. Both groups have invested in each other, and have formed a unique bond.

I am refreshed to know that even at this point in the trip (with only a month remaining), I am still being reminded of important lessons. As John 13:34 says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” There is always room for growth, and always time to truly love your neighbor as yourself.

To finish, I am grateful for:

  • The beauty of Namibia, and the opportunity to explore this country
  • My incredible teammates, whom I am thankful for each and every day (I can’t imagine my time in Africa without them.)
  • The Himba people, and the hospitality they have shown us during our time here in Swakopmund

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience in Namibia thus far; only three more weeks to go!