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Open Features: 6 -In Namibia

No washing machine, no tumble dryer, no heater, no vacuum cleaner, no iron or ironing board, no micro-wave... Isabel Bradley has to take a good deal in her stride in the house where she and her husband Leon are to live in Namibia.

And when Leon goes for a run he sees seven gemsbok grazing on the pavements in the centre of Oranjemund.

The "other Leon" opened the front door for us, chatted for a moment or two then left us to our unpacking and discoveries. For a fully furnished house, there was much left to the imagination. No washing machine, no tumble dryer (almost essential in this climate), no heater, no vacuum cleaner, no iron or ironing board, no micro-wave. The stove was a gas model, it looked about a hundred years old and terrified me, but I didn't let on. Weren't we intrepid pioneers? I took it all in my stride, with a smile and a laugh.

The kitchen curtains were pretty, with green stripes and yellow daisies. They only reached halfway down the windows - which were filthy. Sitting at the plastic kitchen table, we could see under the curtains to the billowing band of trees across two streets and an empty stretch of land. In the laundry, which was spacious and north-facing and empty except for two half-used boxes of Omo and twin laundry sinks made of concrete, the curtain was a doubled-over sheet, held onto the pelmet by two huge stones. The kitchen cupboards revealed the basic necessities - a few pots and pans, plenty of plates, bowls, cups, mugs, glasses, enough cutlery, a few casserole dishes. Also, some left-over sugar, a few packets of take-away tomato sauce, some salt, Ricoffy, a whole packet of Joko tea, and a fridge full of ice. We unplugged the fridge and left it to defrost, while exploring further.

In the lounge-dining-room we found two three-seater couches, one two-seater and a matching chair - all very comfy; and a dining-room table that could break into three sections, around which were eight straight-backed chairs. The curtains were pink, and far too long, trickling onto the blue fitted carpet for quite a distance. They were mercifully closed, hiding the disgustingly dirty windows.

There were three bedrooms, two single beds in the largest, and a single in each of the others. In the main bedroom, one of the single beds was already made up, with cream bedding that looked a tad grubby. In another bedroom, there was a desk with its top drawer missing. This immediately became the study. In each room, the curtains - nondescript but thankfully clean hid the windows, and trickled over the carpet.

There was a toilet, the door to which only had a handle on the outside. The inside of the door showed the inner workings of handle and lock. Its missing handle was on the bedside table in the spare room. And there was a bathroom, with a torn shower curtain hanging from a bent pole across the bath. On the whole - we could make this work! We had to. We quickly carried our luggage and other goods from the car into the house, locked it all behind us, and rushed off to Spar to stock up on the basic necessities before closing-time! Sometime during the last few days in the car, I'd written a list of what I figured we'd need.

Spar is the only supermarket in Oranjemund. There is also a small branch of Woolworths, including food, and a Pep Stores. All other shops are small. A Shopping Centre on the way out of (or into?) town is grandly called Eastgate. It boasts a huge and half-empty hardware store called Pupkewitz; a Lewis Stores for furniture, a Nashua agent who are also agents for MWeb Internet services, DSTV and a few other things. Nashua sells computer bits and pieces, too. They were our first stop before Spar. After all, WHAT could be more important than setting up the DSTV that the Company offered as part of our furnished house?! Henna and Nathan at Nashua became people I saw almost daily for a while, and they were friendly and helpful.

We drove on to Spar, about eight hundred metres from home in the "city centre". We filled a trolley with all sorts of necessities, forgetting about a hundred others in our haste and exhaustion, of course. At the till, we struck a minor problem. All day, Spar tellers had been having problems with their credit-card swipe machines. Our teller swiped Leon's card - but there was no electronic connection. Between us, we didn't have enough cash for the rather large bill and our cheque books were in the safe in Jo'burg. Leon left me guarding our trolley and chatting to the tellers, while he jogged around the corner to the ATM. He returned empty-handed. The BOB machines were off-line. We were helpless. The lovely, wonderful supervisor disappeared behind a closed door for a moment, then returned smiling broadly.

"We'll just cancel this transaction, you can take your groceries, and pay us some time during the week!" she declared, as if this was an everyday occurrence.

We were delighted, of course. Home we went to the edge of the desert to pack our purchases into the cupboards. Leon lit the gas oven, we baked some fish and chips, ate like famished travellers, and proceeded to unpack. It was all an adventure, and such fun.

Next day, Leon was up early - five o'clock, Namibian time. I'd woken at five o'clock South African time - four here - and lain awake for a while, then just gone back to sleep when the cell phone alarm clock, that most persistent wakerer-upperer, bleeped and vibrated and lit up on the bedside table. I turned over to sleep some more, while Leon went out for a run. It was a bright and most blustery day after the previous day's gloomy clouds.

While he ran, Leon saw seven gemsbok grazing on the pavements in town. After he'd breakfasted and showered, my Love drove into town for a series of medical examinations and appointments with Human Resources in preparation for getting down to the work he'd been brought here to do. At mid-morning, he came home, and we drove together to the bank, where the ATM was now working. After drawing some cash, and handing me enough to pay our debts and some extra, he showed me the library and the laundry, then went off to his next appointment.


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