Whilst we were very blessed to visit Etosha, some things did make us stop & think.
Our safari group consisted of ten passengers all of whom (bar one) was not African. Eight of the ten were white & western educated who had good, well paying jobs. During our two days in the National Park, 99% of the tourists we saw were white. Our tour guide & his assistant were both black Namibians as was all the staff we saw working in the various locations. Creating jobs for Namibians is a great thing (keeping in mind the country has 51% unemployment), however why were 99% of the tourists white?
Packing up our camp on the second morning, we noticed all the breakfast scraps & partially consumed loaves of bread etc were carefully wrapped up & left next to the bar-b-que. This was done deliberately. Apparently the workers who clean the campsites are given this ‘gift’ so they can then eat the scraps & leftovers that the white folks leave behind!
During the past week we have asked many of our Namibian friends if they had ever visited Etosha. The great majority said they had not, however would like to one day. Etosha is perhaps the best tourist location in Namibia, however most Namibians have never visited. This is despite it being only 500 km away from the capital on good sealed roads. Many of these people were in their twenties & thirties. Why is this?
In this developing nation jobs are hard to come by and, even if you have one, wages are poor. Tourism is not on people’s mind & quite simply they can’t afford it (not even the camping option which is popular at Etosha). Most Namibians will never cross the border of their country & if they do it would only be into neighbouring countries (eg Botswana or South Africa). The concept of travelling to another continent & spending weeks on holiday would be totally out of the question & unthinkable.
One of our colleagues from the After School Program has just secured a receptionist job in a Game Park some 300 km from Windhoek. She was very excited as we said goodbye to her this week. She is in her mid twenties & has studied tourism at College (she too has never been to Etosha). She will have to leave her nine month old son in the care of her mother so she can concentrate on her job & being able to earn money for the family.
We asked her how she would travel the 300 km to her new home & she said she would hitch, suitcase in one hand & her nine month old son in the other. We commented to her a few weeks back what a lovely dress she was wearing, & by way of a parting gift she gave Kate her dress! As affluent westerners we are not used to receiving second hand gifts however for our friend this was all she had & she wanted to honour us & our friendship. It was from the heart & we very humbled to receive it.
The world is a very unequal place. Most of us reading this blog have always known where our next meal is coming from, however for many around the world this is not the case. There are enough resources in the world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. It seems the rich get richer & the poor get poorer & most in the western world are not too fussed by this (or at least not interested to see how the other half lives).
The Bible has a lot to say about loving our neighbour & justice. It’s easy to slip into tourist mode & enjoy the blessings we have received, however that is not why we have come to Namibia. If you lift the curtain of the tourist industry you will find real people who work hard to meet the demands of the wealthy. Whilst they are very thankful to have a job, life remains difficult & their life goals & expectations are well below that of western tourists. Average life expectancy for Namibians is 62 (& this is quite high compared to other African nations).
During our time in Namibia pray that we will look behind the scenes & ask the difficult questions (to others & of ourselves). It may not be easy & what we find might not be pretty, but pray that we will look & endeavour to make a difference where we can.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger & malicious talk, & if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry & satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness & your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land & will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail”. (Isaiah 58:9-11)
Elephant at sunset
African tree with salt pan in background
Elephant bath (with kids in the middle)
Elephant family at waterhole
Giraffe at waterhole
Giraffe drinking (an awkward moment)
Lion walking in the early morning
Lioness not far behind
"Hundreds of Zebras"
Zebras & Springbok
Springbok & Kudu at waterhole