If there is one thing I love more than a three-day weekend, it's a three-day weekend with an extra hour baked in from Daylight Savings Time ending. I needed it, too. Earlier this week I came back from visiting one of my best friends who is volunteering in Namibia. I wasn't really gone that long, but it's amazing how things can pile up for you to enjoy upon returning.
Namibia was great! The last time I visited my friend, we spent the whole time traveling around. There is so much to see there, especially if you love wildlife. That first trip was a great trip but quite hectic, and I never really got a sense of my friend's life there and what it was like. This time, she didn't know I was coming to visit. :-O It was her birthday, so I thought it would be fun to surprise visit. What that means is that I was able to go to school with her, meet her students and simply get to understand life there on a day-to-day basis. I talked with students about geography and Ireland, read them Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (they had a tough time with my Augustus Gloop German accent though...), and even hosted a dance contest.
The school is interesting because the village, Gobabis, is a kind of crossroads in the Omaheke region, which is east of the capital city of Windhoek. Instead of everyone who lives there being from one group or background, they are from all over. So because everyone speaks different languages, the subjects are all taught in English. This isn't the case in all of the schools. Many of the students I met spoke five or six languages already. In fact students kept asking my friend and me what language we speak when we hang out together. They really didn't believe we spoke English to each other and our families. I found the languages to be especially noticeable in the car listening to the radio. It's fun to put the radio on "scan": each channel is likely to be someone speaking a different language from English to Afrikaans to Ojtiherero to Khoekhoe to Tswana to Oshivambo and lots more.
Of all the countries I've traveled around by myself, Namibia is one of the easier ones provided you have the means to rent a car. The main highways are quite good and you'll have no trouble as long as you keep a careful watch for the ever-present warthogs and other creatures on the road. If you don't rent a car, you're best off hooking up with some tour group, as the train is ridiculously slow and the combis (mass-transit vehicles) often wait until they are full to leave, so they can be unpredictable.
I highly recommend Namibia as a travel destination, and it has nothing to do with Brad and Angelina hanging out there a lot. The people are incredibly nice, it is fairly easy to get around, there is so much to see and do from giant sand dunes to wildlife parks to canyoning and more. The next time I go back, I'll be heading south to explore Fish River Canyon and east to see the Skeleton Coast. And if I practice my breakdancing, I'll probably have to drop by Gobabis again, too; maybe next time I can win the dance contest...