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From June 2012 onwards, the hitchhikers will provide you with weekly updates about their preparations for Thumbs Up Africa. From October 2012 onwards, they will continue to blog about their adventure.

Guten Rutsch, Lüderitz

Posted: February 2, 2013

I often get the question why I speak German. Besides the fact that Germany is the neighboring brother of The Netherlands, it is a country that I could consider to be my second home. It's not that I spent a big share of my life in Germany, not at all. I've been there lots of times, on transit, visiting, for leisure, for work, for friends. As a child I had a German neighbor with whom I always spoke German. My dad listened to German radio on Sundays, I downloaded Rammstein and Terrorgruppe to spice up my teenage years. Now where did I get the most of my vocabulary? Lustiges Taschenbuch, the German equivalent of Donald Duck Pockets. For a long time I have been looking forward to see Namibia and speak… German.

For a while Namibia has been colonized by the German Empire. It has been 100 years but still you can see a lot of trails of German colonialism. Here in L_üderitz we see lively remains of a few decades of German influence. The city is more windy than Emden, but just as colorful as Munich. We chose this town for New Years Eve. Drinking German beer next to the Atlantic Ocean with Germans around us. In Africa. I will still dig that idea in the afterlife.

Alright, there are not so many Germans left. Behind the Lutherian church you can overlook the city. German architecture, yes. But Germans? We've been told that there are still a few families living here, but what do they still have to do with the history of their native country? Not that much of course.

"I will still dig that idea in the afterlife."

Last night Rihanna was singing that there are diamonds in the sky. Here you consider it to be truth. Most people here are either dependent on crayfishing or diamond mining. That may have been a good reason for the Germans to have a look here…

Life goes on and new history is being written. Now, at January 1st, you may say that there is still a lot of German influence. But this influence was yesterday. Today all the people here are Buchters because they are from Lüderitzbucht. They do their thing and that thing does not have a German name anymore. Nevertheless: Guten Rutsch, Lüderitz!

» Read all Sierd's blog posts

Wonders of nature

Posted: February 2, 2013

When I enter Zimbabwe, the most beautiful scene awaits: Victoria Falls. Their enormousness hypnotizes me and their depth is overwhelming. It’s almost unbelievable how nature can create such a wonder.

When I enter the lodge where we’re staying, I see a group of young musicians called the Chikenbus Band. They’re setting up their instruments and doing a soundcheck. Tonight I have the honour to play with them and contribute my voice to matters that cannot speak for themselves.

The lead singer of the band, Tinashe, is very passionate about environmental issues. He is also a volunteer for the International Anti Poaching Organization. This organization is doing the best it can to stop poachers from killing rhinos. In fact, together we had the chance to walk along with rangers, seeing what their daily patrol looks like.

After spending the night in a tent in the middle of the bush – an adventure onto its own – we wake up very early and put on camouflage-coloured clothes. When everybody's ready, the rangers hold a pre-patrol briefing. “Whatever you do, never run away if an animal tries to attack you,” we are told. Besides the sign language demonstrated to signal when there's a rhino, elephant or buffalo nearby, this is the most important thing he can tell us before starting our way into the bush.

"Excitement pulses through my body."

After a couple minutes, the ranger shows me the tracks of a hyena in the sand. A couple of metres farther, there are the freshly made tracks of an elephant. Excitement pulses through my body. Ten minutes later, the ranger stops to show us a long stream of pee. "This is the urine of a male rhino. He does that to mark his territory," he says. I remember how my grandfather would take me to the forest and show me the tracks of rabbits or, in a rare case, a fox or squirrel – but this is something else!

Luckily, these rhinos are still alive. This doesn't count for thousands of others that poachers kill for selling their horns. Tinashe explains how these poachers can be anyone. It can be the guy next-door who has 10 kids and doesn't see another way out of his financial problems. So next to just protecting the rhinos from the poachers, there’s a way bigger problem behind it. We follow the tracks. And indeed, after half an hour or so, we spot their large makers about 20 metres to the left. When the amazing creatures come closer I suddenly remember that they can also be pretty dangerous. One of the rangers tells me I should walk slowly to the tree a couple metres behind me and stand behind it. Luckily, the rhinos stop in their tracks and we can enjoy sight of them from a safe distance.

» Read all Neda's blog posts

The Daily Toilet Thoughts

Posted: December 16, 2012

My friends tell me I poop a lot. At least three times a day, they say. That might not be true, but I do have a regular bowel movement. That’s fine because I think a lot during my daily visit to the loo. It is a good environment to think, I must say. My mother used to complain about the time I spent in the bathroom. “We can smell you in the living room!” At that time I was mostly reading the adventures of Donald Duck instead of thinking, but that changed over time. My toilet in the student house I am living in is located at the balcony. No joke. It’s a legacy of cheap post-war construction that was never renovated since students will pay for it anyway. “It’s like I’m camping,” first-time visitors of my humble cottage say. The size of the cabin is so small that I have to open the door so I don’t catch my knees on it.

"It is hard to imagine that I flush my poo with drinking water at home, while here in rural Tanzania, people don’t even have sufficient water to drink, let alone to flush the toilet."

It is defecating of a different kind in rural Tanzania. In Ihanda, a small village about a hundred kilometers from the capital, a toilet is called a latrine: a small hole in the ground with either a wicker or stone wall built around it. In the case of the first, privacy is not something you should care about. Don’t get me wrong – I believe squatting to poo facilitates the work of the intestines, but not the hygiene. Imagine the feces of you and those of your neighbors piled up together for over a year. I didn’t have to imagine: I just pointed the flashlight inside. A whole world of strange species were crawling around in there. Obviously not the best hygienic circumstances in the world. In addition, there isn’t a sufficient water supply in town, so people do not wash their hands after their visit. That causes serious illnesses in the long-run: one of the biggest problems Ihanda is facing nowadays.

It is hard to imagine that I flush my poo with drinking water at home, while here in rural Tanzania, people don’t even have sufficient water to drink, let alone to flush the toilet. Both Dutch and German governments are financially supporting a lot of small projects that try to improve this situation in Tanzania. A small and local non-governmental organization does this by constructing new toilets and educating the users. Educating what? Educating how to maintain the toilet, but also how to wash their hands properly after a visit. Within two years the community has to pay a part of the construction costs back and finance the maintenance themselves. Myself, I have been thinking about how to change the flushing of the toilet. Using rainwater could be an option, but where am I going to store it? Besides, it isn’t convenient to use a bucket every day. What would be the best way to do it then? Questions, questions, questions. Enough to think about during my next visit to the toilet. Toilet’s calling. I’m off.

» Read all Christiaan's blog posts

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