Taking a pajama day today to catch up on processing through this first week and get moving on this whole blog thing while some of the group are exploring town (and learning to use the taxi system) with Drayton, a UNAM student who works at Emona Hostels (where we live) and has been a great first friend and resource to us on campus.
Now… let’s rewind a bit.
We FINALLY arrived on UNAM campus Tuesday, January 6th at approximately 3pm local time (5am in WA) after nearly 36 hours of travel time, three flights, five complimentary meals, five or six hours of sleep, and more available in-flight entertainment than anyone knows what to do with. During a six hour layover in London, we made the most of our time with a bus ride to Windsor Castle where we made the acquaintance of a friendly (a little drunk…) older gentleman who had a plethora of stories from his years growing up near the castle and made sure we knew where we were going and how to get back to the airport.
After taking a look at the castle (from the outside), we stopped for fish and chips before working our way (carry-on baggage in tow) back to our bus stop for the airport. The castle was quite majestic and the fish was pretty tasty but I’ve had better in WA, but maybe we were just at the wrong fish and chips place. The short time out of the airport felt like a full day of activity (maybe due to dragging baggage…) and upon getting to our gate, I was ready to sit for another 11 hours. I watched a couple movies and I think my favorite was Tammy, a comedy with Melissa McCarty… although stifling laughter on a plane when you’re sitting next to strangers felt a little awkward.
After a second long flight, we were all eager-verging-on-impatient to arrive in Windhoek and thankful that the layover in Johannesburg, South Africa (Jo-burg to those who are in the know) was a shorter one, only 4 hours. I explored the extensive “Out of Africa” gift shop before Jan treated us to Hagen-Daaz and we made a plan of action for our first afternoon in Namibia.
The last leg of our travels was a short and chilly two hours from Jo-burg to Windhoek. A very turbulent last 10 minutes left us all a bit unsettled upon landing; however, I was able to catch a bit more shut-eye and take some photos out the window at the passing landscape (hearkening back to my geomorphology course this Fall) and had time for my stomach to settle before deplaning for the final time (for a few months that is).
Upon Arrival in Windhoek, we waited in line to get our fancy work/student visa stamps in our passports which went surprisingly smoothly. Jan had thought we would need to go to another office to finish the process but we were able to get everything done in the airport. Once we picked up luggage, we met Scobe, our “driver” while in Namibia. He works for a tour company and is friends with Jan so he is our designated driver any time all 11 of us need to go somewhere at once such as our study tours and a tour of Windhoek. He deftly loaded all 20+ suitcases (and the 10 of us) into a 14 person van pulling a small trailer and we set off for the university.
After picking up towels, blankets, pillows, and sheets, we finally rolled onto UNAM campus and reached the Emona Hostels, campus housing where we’ll be staying during the next five months. While we will be moving to a slightly newer building at the end of January, they all seem fairly similar from the outside. They are essentially what we would call dorms and are technically on UNAM property, but are owned by a separate company and are a few minutes’ walk from the buildings were courses are held. Each building has three floors that are only accessible from an outside stairwell. The floors have double rooms on each side (some with loft beds, and some with lowered beds) with a common kitchen area in the middle. Our current building has one bathroom we all share but the larger building will have a separate bathroom for each two rooms. Also living in our building is a UNAM PhD student of law from Nigeria who moved in the same day we did. Other than that, all other buildings are empty and/or under construction since classes don’t start until the 9th of February, the beginning of their semester 1 (fall semester… that is, the semester that comes after summer. Fall isn’t really a season here).
That first afternoon is a bit of a blur, but we met several of the people who work for the hostels, some of which live here as well including Drayton, a third year UNAM student who works for Emona, who’s been a great first friend and resource here the past few days. Apart from unpacking, we had to have our finger prints scanned next door in what I consider the admin building, where Drayton and a few others work during the day. They needed to add our finger prints to their computer system because the front door to each building as well as the door to exit the hostel gates is unlocked with fingerprint-access. You press your finger (middle finger in case of emergency) to a small pad near the door and, usually, the door unlocks (sometimes it takes a couple tries, but no system is perfect). We also asked many questions to a few people about wi-fi access to reach the solution that while wi-fi in the hostel buildings was still off for summer, we could use wifi in the upper floor of the admin building next door. After pizza for dinner, we settled in for our first official night in Namibia!