This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Gripe Water and other things

medsPharmacies and grocery stores are some of my favorite spots to explore when in a foreign country. But nowhere have I seen positively Victorian medicines manufactured since the 1850s (Celebrated Gripe Water, anyone?), or a large well-known pharmaceuticals company selling “Grand-pa” headache powders, with a branding from the 40s. Not to mention “Blue Death”, an “insect killer powder”.  Thank goodness it is only for insects.meds-2(Walvis Bay, Namibia; June 2017)

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Jellyfish mass stranding

jellyfishIn places the Benguela current is like a thick soup, with swirls of orange or yellow plankton. There are patches with 5 jellyfish per square meter, just as far down as one can see from the boat. And lots of live jellyfish mean lots of dead, stranded jellyfish. Everywhere. Every day. People slip on them on the boardwalk like on banana peels.

Today, the following question harassed my mind: if a blue whale eats 4 tons of krill per day, how many shrimps is that? Our team did some quick calculations and arrived at the following answer: 40 million krill lose their lives every day so that one blue whale can get its belly full. That is more than the population of the Nordics combined. Actually, it is 8 times the population of Finland. All in 2 big feeds, if the whale is lucky.

Krill apparently live up to 10 years of age, with an average lifespan of 6 years. Say that the average age of the krill population swallowed by a whale is 4 years, corrected for any young (unfortunate) krill. That means that during one day, a single blue whale obliterates 160 million life years. That is a whole lot of life experience lost. Even if it is only the life experience of a lowly krill.

(Walvis Bay, Namibia; June 2017)

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In Walvis Bay

walvisbay-5Walvis Bay on a Sunday is like an American suburb, except for the desert all around: the streets are empty, with wide avenues and watered lawns, and no white people walking anywhere. The houses are neat, modern, and boxy; and all are fenced off with cameras and security guards. Cars are mostly white (yes, but why?); and new, apparently because everything rusts quickly due to the fog rolling in from the sea.

Everybody seems to go to church here on a Sunday morning. Or to the Farmers’ Market. And with everybody I unfortunately mean the white people, because I simply do not know how the black people live as they live on the other side of town. At the Farmers’ market there were only 3 non-white customers during my visit. Some black families played on the adjacent playground, but did not mix with us at the Farmers’ Market.

A young woman referred to the “whole town” and I had to ask her for clarification if she meant the white community. She nodded – and I could not help but think what kind of tight community she lives in that excludes all the others in town and considers itself an entire town.walvisbay-4Our house is part of a beautiful, lush compound right by the lagoon. It is locked from the street but open from the lagoon side, via a little picket fence gate. Our house is installed with alarms due to burglars in the past. We are not allowed to bring our laptops into the back yard, lest they be seen and desired. We have been advised to hide our valuables in several places, preferably more creative ones like under the mattress or a pile of clothes in the wardrobe. And we pull the curtains down when we leave.

It is sad that the culture and social climate here have created frustration, anger, and jealousy. It is sad how some here have obtained a sense of being justified in taking something from wealthier people, because they themselves have much less.

Walvis Bay is sweet and sleepy, and very different from my world.
walvisbay-1(Walvis Bay, Namibia; June 2017)

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Back to the ocean – and dolphins

walvisbay-3Back on a boat – and with dolphins. This time with bottlenose and Heaviside’s dolphins, in the cold plankton and jellyfish soup that is the Benguela current. Walvis Bay has a large industrial port, which means dolphins often zigzag between ships and oil platforms. And we, too, alongside of them.

The office is filled with cetacean bones. Our front yard is filled with boxes of bones. Killer whale and bottlenose dolphin skulls, minke whale vertebrae, a Ryde’s whale jawbone, and huge, hairy, bone brush baleens.

Inside hangs a poster with dolphin and whale species, many named after scientists: Heaviside’s dolphin, Peale’s dolphin, Bryde’s whale (pronounced here as “brutus whale”, even if Bryde was a Norwegian). Perhaps it was a custom to give famous naturalists a marine mammal species named after them upon retirement. If not dolphin or whale then a seal. Or a penguin. walvisbay-2(Walvis Bay, Namibia; June 2017)

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Greetings from Namibia

beachprintsHello from the Atlantic coast, but quite much further down than usual. I am still experiencing a reverse culture shock: where is the Africa I know? Was it all ordered up by the German colonialists? Everything simply works. The only confusion so far has been withdrawing money from the ATM: instead of Namibian dollars I got South African rands. Turns out it does not really matter here. How odd.

We landed in Walvis Bay in the middle of the desert, on a hot, windy, sand storm day. But behind the dunes was the ocean, and miles and miles of beach and birds. Regardless of expectations, not a bad place to spend the summer.

(Walvis Bay, Namibia; June 2017)

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Is this Africa?

windhoekairportIn confusion, in Windhoek. Why is everything spotless, scrap-less, in straight angles, and surrounded by watered lawns? Where are the scooters, the rusty cars, the peddlers, the fruit stalls, the people living their lives on the streets; and the smells and the noise?

Did I really land in Africa, or a totally different continent?

(Windhoek, Namibia; June 2017)