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Open Features: 7 - In Namibia

"On Sunday I was sitting at the computer when I heard the distinctive cry of a fish eagle...'' Isabel Bradley is getting to know the Namibian town of Oranjemund - along with its wildlife.

The Oranjemund Library is wonderful - packed with books by all our favourite authors. Why did we lug so many with us? Never mind - no book is ever wasted. I paid N$10.00, the equivalent of R10.00, for a visitor's membership and promised myself a long and happy browse next morning. Then I investigated the laundry - behind which was a Laundromat which was quite affordable. Next stop was the Spar, and the payment of our debt. The Telecom Shop was just up the road. Bertha told me that there was a pre-paid option for a telephone that made having a "land-line" and thus access to e-mail - affordable. What a pleasure.

Armed with a mountain of information, and my business completed for the morning, I turned into the rather cold wind, and walked home, enjoying the fresh air, the feeling of safety, the normality of it all. Until I saw a gemsbok standing in Second Avenue browsing from a creeper hanging over a garden fence. It looked me up and down as if to say, "Now - what kind of two-legged beast is that? No horns, mussed-up hair, wrinkled face, red fur. Huh! What right has IT in town?" How normal could that be? I wondered.

So far, each day I've walked into town, or to Eastgate, or to both, getting wonderful exercise in the process of doing business. We have a phone, a Namibian e-mail address, a new shower curtain, the toilet door handle has been fixed and sort of works, the back door handle which was coming loose, is now tight, and the desk has a top-drawer after much sawing, drilling and banging.

We're waiting for all the other niggling little matters around the house to be dealt with. We're hoping to swap our two single beds for a double; we've bought a heater and are hoping for another, company-issued; and we have an iron. I do hand washing most mornings, hanging it out on the line, but watching for that nasty dust-laden wind to pop up. The first time I hung a white towel on the line, the desert sand, with its black, sticky metal content, blew great black streaks all over it as it dried! The first big load of bedding and towels went to the Laundromat. It worked like a charm. I dropped it off at ten, collected it all folded and dry at five.

Maybe, instead of using a vacuum cleaner, we'll call in a cleaning service once a month. Seeing as how there isn't a vacuum, and we're not going to buy one! What about music, you ask? Well - there's no radio for listening, so we've ordered a system from out of town. It should arrive some time this week. Nathan from Nashua is handling the deal. Two weeks later, of course, it hasn't arrived and I can't contact Nathan. However, we've discovered the music channels on the TV - they almost make TV worth having, the house is no longer silent.

Playing-wise? I've made contact with one of the physiotherapists in town who plays the piano. She says her sight-reading is very bad, she plays mostly by ear. And she's busy for the next two weeks, then away, shall we meet on 10th May? I've put it in my diary - we'll meet in the United Church Hall where there's a piano. Maybe tomorrow I'll walk up to the school and make contact with their music teacher.

Meantime, Leon's settled into work and I've got a routine of house-work, walking and business in the mornings, followed by a jolly good session of flute practise as I enjoy it - all to myself in the house. Then Leon's home for lunch, usually a salad, and off again almost before we know he's been here. After lunch, it's perhaps another hour of lonesome but not lonely fluting then I sit at the computer and write. So far, nothing more than these chapters telling friends and family all about our activities, but I do have a book to complete and another to edit, not to mention articles and stories and poems to write for a competition in July.

Of course, DSTV is getting in the way of evening activities, the darn television set goes on, and we're both hypnotised, even if there's nothing interesting showing. At least we know there's a new pope, Benedict XVI, who is a German, seventy-eight years old, an academic and a musician, the oldest pope to have been elected for a century. Maybe we're being educated?

It took a few trial and error attempts, with me being secretly terrified that we'd either be gassed, the house would explode, or I'd burn my fingers on the matches - but I have finally learnt to light the oven and the gas burners on our stove very efficiently indeed! I can cook whole meals without calling for help. After all, it must be at least.. er.. a very long time since I first learnt to cook at school on a gas stove. Since when it's been good, clean electricity all the way. I must say - the gas cooks beautifully and instantly; things don't seem to dry out the way they do in an electric oven if left in too long; and they certainly don't go soggy or leathery the way things do in a microwave. Even frozen peas are quicker and easier on the stove-top!

On Sunday I was sitting at the computer when I heard the distinctive cry of a fish eagle. Leon and I both raced out of the house to watch two of the big birds fly over the house. So - from Fish Eagle Cottage - cheers until the next thrilling instalment!

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