By: Trotter Heady
Here we are along the B1 road, a major route in Namibia, headed toward the Nakambale Museum near Oshakati in the village of Olukonda. We are imagining just another museum to fill our long rides across the country, but it turned into some amazing memories that we will grasp on to forever.
Nakambale, founded in 1871, was one of the first Finnish Mission Stations in Namibia. It currently contains a museum dedicated to the history of the location, a simulated community based home that is still in use today and the restored church that was built by the original Missionaries. The site was very educational especially because it was informative about a civilization that we had zero knowledge about going into the tour. We were able to see their living conditions and learn about their ancestry.
The tour was great but so much more was to come. We were surprised with being able to visit a community that was near the museum. These homes are surrounded by a fence-like structure made by sticks, bushes or plant stalks that is used to corral the livestock as well as protect the family that lives inside. Within the fence is where there are multiple huts made from stone, clay and sticks. Each of these huts has a different use. There is a boy’s sleeping hut, a girl’s sleeping hut, a grinding hut, a brewing hut, a storage hut, a sleeping hut for the mother and infants and the father’s hut, which is near the corral. Our group was able to interact and learn from a real family that lived in one of these small communities.
We began our surprise visit by learning about millet, a grain that is widely used in this area of Namibia. These people eat millet with every meal accompanied by a vegetable and meat. Everyday millet is ground up by using a hollow log that has been sealed within the ground with clay and a very large and heavy wooden pole. Once the grain is in the hole with a splash of water it is then ground to a fine powder by slamming the wooden pole into the bowl-like log. Then the women start singing as they repeatedly land in the log perfectly. They sing about their family and loved ones in a way that seems so caring. It was obvious that this was a muscle memory action. It was so in synch that I could tell that the women are practically born performing this chore. We were then able to give it a try ourselves! The entire group quickly figured out how difficult it actually was. The women and made it seem so easy! I even bonked my head with the grinding pole. What a workout!
Then we met Johanna. This woman is an 83 year-old who visually demands respect when she entered the area. She seemed to be so stoic and wise. Johanna showered us with knowledge on our tour. Beginning with how to prepare the millet for consumption. It is simply boiled over a fire and turned into paste-like dough and eaten using your hands, no utensils here! Then Johanna taught us how to weave anything from a plate to a multicolored basket.
Here we are in an inhabited village with real people and all I can think about is how lucky we are. How many people, let alone Texas A&M students, are able to experience a situation like this? As this trip is coming closer and closer to an end the realization that I have experienced so much in one month that most people wont throughout their entire life becomes stronger and stronger. I almost don’t want to go back! There is still so much to encounter, experience and live through that I feel like I’m not done here yet.