- This year (2010) marks the 20th Anniversary of Namibia’s Independence, “0”s and “5”s usually prompt more attention
- This year, I celebrated in the capital city, rather than in the coastal retreat of Swakopmund
- I participated in the nationally-planned central activities, which had the benefit of greater financial investment and marketing.
During the weekend, I had my first dance-club experience in Windhoek, which was freeing. I attended my first international football/soccer match, which resulted in a 0-0 draw, but was fun anyway. I got pelted with candies and smiles at a parade down Independence Avenue. I went to a gospel concert where I learned new dance moves (watch out Kirk Franklin). And I saw constant images of the many types of people and customs that classify Namibia as contrasting and beautiful.
Current and former Heads of State and other dignitaries from Zimbabwe, Angola, South Africa, Malawi, China, and Cuba, among other supportive countries, came to Windhoek to witness and participate in formal festivities, especially the day-long celebrations at Independence Stadium. Ah, Independence Stadium. That was an experience.
While the VIP gates, processes, and controls at the stadium were fairly well identified, open, and managed by uniformed officers, the other nine(9) entrances for the general public were jammed, closed, unmanned, and daunting for most of the morning. I, along with two friends, waited in one of these lines with the hundreds of others for about 2 hours, with each of us taking turns checking out other lines and trying to decipher the organizer’s system or plan. Still confused, we finally decided that we would leave the line - it hadn’t moved in the whole two(2) hours we were in it – and either wait in a more direct, shorter line (that also led to locked, unguarded gates) or move to another venue altogether. After watching the chaos of new busloads of would-be spectators arriving, laughing at the impatient (and naughty) children hurling their bodies over the walls of the stadium, and figuring that entry before the end of the morning’s events was slim to none, we continued walking around, scouting out the location of the afternoon’s football game between Namibia and Botswana.
And then, like I blessing, came Moses. I was so glad to see that blinding green suit; it would be our actual ticket in. Convinced that “money talks,” I now know that a fly green suit does the same trick, which is probably safer in the midst of anti-corruption commissions. But, it wasn’t an easy ticket.
Who’s Moses? you ask. Well, Moses “Black Door” Shilongo is a local performing artist, who also happens to be the ever-present husband of the WorldTeach Namibia Field Director, and as such, part of WorldTeach Volunteers’ social network/family in-country. I always have random “Moses sightings” when roaming the streets of Windhoek, but this was an especially welcomed encounter. Black Door, Moses’ stage name, was scheduled to perform IN the stadium, so we promptly each grabbed one of his items (his RED suit, equipment bag, box of CDs) and became his (un)official entourage. Little did we know, at the time, that he was having trouble gaining entry as well. A classic and common retort we received from the uniformed Namibian officers at the various gates to which he was sent was that, “We are not working on ‘African Time’ anymore. Why are you late?” Further, the officers were not a part of the organizing committee and the majority of them basically had no idea where to send the entertainers or any permission (or desire) to abandon their post to help us actually get answers.
After about 90 more minutes of shuffling around from gate to gate with the other entertainers also stuck outside, we finally made it to the big stage and took our places in the open arena, with impressive vantages of the crowd, room to breathe, and perfect positioning for pictures of performers. Thank goodness, because the Himba performers, bodies covered in their traditional red ochre, were getting way too close to Black Door, having actually rubbed against his vulnerable bright green suit, causing even more frustration for the artist who was ready to about-face home.
Yes, we’d missed the parade, the arrival of dignitaries, the formal swearing-in of the president, the announcement of the new cabinet, and the distribution of the lunch bags; but, we were able to hear some of the presidential address and participate in some of the closing morning formalities (Anthems of Namibia and the African Union). Without Black Door, we would not have gotten in before all the dignitaries left, we would have been crunched into the stands when we did get in, and I would not have gotten the cool experiences and pictures afforded me through the eyes of the performers of the day. Good Times. Happy Independence, Namibia!. And Thank Moses.