We got back to our house from the farm at about 9am Tuesday morning – having left the farm at 5am! One of our hosts, Elana, had to be back in Windhoek by 9 for work, so we left early.
It was a good weekend! We got there Saturday afternoon and met Elana’s parents, who own the farm. Fortunately for us they both speak English as well as Afrikaans. The farm is along the southern border of Etosha a little ways east of Outjo. The name of the farm, Grensplaas, actually means “border farm” because it shares an 18 km border with Etosha. One of the first things Patat (Elana’s father) showed us was a lion he had shot because it was eating his cattle! It was in a closet-like space and he moved some stuff around then told us to look in and a lion was staring at us. Creepy and cool?
We took a short walk in the evening to see the goats and sheep (their sheep look like goats by the way, not white and wooly) and some cattle. It’s very dusty on the farm. On Saturday night we had a braai with steaks and homemade potato wedges and onion rings. It was quite delicious and amazingly I managed to eat my whole steak – probably for the first time ever. I did feel a bit sick afterwards. We sat around and talked for a long time (varying between Afrikaans and English) and had some hot chocolate.
For breakfast on Sunday, Dylan and I had eggs and toast and everybody else had eggs and toast and leftover steak. They had said something about having steak for breakfast the night before, but we thought they were joking. Nope! They really were very serious about their meat – and only red meat. They said (jokingly?) that chicken wasn’t really meat. So for lunch on Sunday we had kudu schnitzel (which was quite good), then for dinner we had lamb (or goat, I’m not sure which). On Monday we had fatcakes and mince for breakfast, lamb/goat for lunch, and beef for dinner. I have never eaten so much red meat in my life! Dylan and I are eating only chicken and veggies and pasta now that we’re home. =)
We didn’t have to get up too early – although there was a rooster who successfully woke us up at 4am every day, we just went back to sleep. During the day we went out driving on the farm with Patat and Dewet doing things like bringing water to some workers who didn’t have any, putting a water pump in at a “pos” (drinking place for cattle), collecting wild watermelons for jam, dropping off “dropers” (fence posts), and other errands. We stopped frequently for Patat to explain to us different kinds of trees and grass you’d find on the farm – and which ones are better or worse and which ones the cattle like and so on. Not sure how much of that soaked in. We drove up to the Etosha border and looked in. The farm and Etosha are separated by three fences, although apparently that’s not always enough to keep the animals out.
As you can probably tell, farms in Namibia tend to be more like what I would call a ranch – all the focus is on animals, not crops. I don’t think they actually grow anything intentionally, although they use the wild grass and berries and whatnot. At this particular farm, they also produce charcoal which is sold around the country. We saw the whole process more or less – from cutting down the wood, to burning it, sorting it, breaking it up, packaging it, etc. Packaging charcoal is a very dirty job.
Most of the manual labor on this white-owned farm is done by black people. It was challenging to be a white guest of a white host being shown around like a tourist amongst blacks doing hard, dirty work. For the first time, I realized that when my learners say they went to the farm over break, at least some of them mean a farm like this – one where their parents work, not one that they own. The workers had their own little villages on the farm with huts and shacks. From my attempts to communicate with some of them, I think they mostly speak Afrikaans and their mother tongue, not English. They were very subdued. Worked hard, not much talking, didn’t speak to the boss unless spoken to, no smiles. It was a very different world from the one where I go to school and am surrounded by empowered, professional, friendly people who happen to be black.
Aside from that part, we really enjoyed the weekend. We drank homemade lemon juice (kind of like lemonade, but sweeter), played UNO, milked cows (I even squirted milk directly into my mouth!), enjoyed hot baths and showers (the water is heated by fire in a “donkie”, a big water tank in a brick structure outside), and enjoyed getting to know our hosts. Hopefully we’ll get to go back again sometime!
For the rest of the holiday (one week), I think we’ll just be hanging out in Tsumeb. As fun as it was to experience life on a farm, it wasn’t as relaxing as sitting around at home with all the familiar comforts near at hand. We have some lesson planning to do, some house cleaning, some baking…but mostly enjoying the time we have to ourselves, especially as our roommate is also away this week. It’s getting hotter every day – we just put away the last of our extra blankets and took out the fan. It’s going to be a long summer…