I started this blog believing I would be writing on a weekly basis but low and behold, between PST, traveling up to Owamboland for Shadowing and studying Afrikaans, writing blog posts takes a backseat. Regardless, I got my site announcement and I’ll be heading to the extreme southwest corner of Namibia to the diamond mining town of Oranjemund!
Oranjemund is located in the //Karas (the // represents a click in the Khoikhoigowab language) region of Namibia with a population ranging from 5,000 – 10,000, varying on the amount mining workers in the town at a specific time. If you were to see Oranjemund on a map, it looks like a green, little rectangle oasis in the middle of the Namib desert. And that’s because it is. It is one the farthest southern towns in Namibia, right along the border with South Africa, specifically across from the South African city of Alexander Bay.
The town was founded in 1936 after the discovery of alluvial diamond deposits on the northern bank of the Orange River and Atlantic coastline. By the way, the name of Oranjemund is German for “Mouth of Oranje” meaning it’s at the mouth of the Orange River. Pretty self-explanatory but if you find yourself at trivia night and it’s a double jeopardy question and your team needs to go all in in order to win and get that $150 bar tab so you can spend most of it on overpriced shots and Bud Light on draft and the question comes up as “What is the German meaning of the Namibian mining town of ‘Oranjemund’”? Then you’re welcome for the answer provided in this blog post.
Anyways, the town is very interesting in the sense that it is run by Namdeb, which is now a subsidiary of the famous diamond company, De Beers. Since the town is run by Namdeb, access to the town is restricted to employees of Namdeb and their relatives only. Meaning, anyone who comes from outside the town needs to apply and receive a pass to get in through the security gates. However, the town is scheduled to open up to the public in October or November this year, meaning as part of my role as CED volunteer is to facilitate the town’s own economic growth once Namdeb removes itself as the primary economic supplier and provider of the town.
Since the town is close to the Orange River and the Atlantic Coast, it has a mild desert climate with about 2 in or 50 mm of precipitation throughout the year. It’ll offer high temperatures of 14-27 degrees Celsius (55-75 Fahrenheit) in the summer, so November to March, and 9-21 degrees Celsius (48-70 Fahrenheit) during the colder months of June through September, maybe October. Definitely weather that I’m looking forward to having year-round. Additionally, there’s rumor that wild Oryx and Ostrich roam around the town.
I’m not exactly sure when this takes place, but I believe it is in October, but Oranjemund holds an annual Diamond Festival. What is a diamond festival composed of? Couldn’t tell you but I’m assuming raw diamonds, perhaps some jewelry, and the always popular, fastest diamond shining competition.
In O-mund (the town nickname according to Wikipedia), I will be working with the NCCI (Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) on a variety of projects focused on SME and Entrepreneurial growth, attracting investors, and facilitating business skills workshops, specifically working on financial literacy. I’ll be one of two CED volunteers working in the town, with the other volunteer, Peace Corps veteran Andy, who has extended a full year; who will be working with the town council of Oranjemund.
Really looking forward to moving down to Oranjemund, even so despite the enormously large trek to get down there (I’ve heard 10+ hours by car or bus). I’ll have a few fellow volunteers from my group only a few hours away from me in the coastal city of Luderitz and the much farther and much hotter inland city of Keetmanshoop. I’m only a short distance from the majestic, 2nd largest canyon in the world, Fish River Canyon, where I plan on hiking next year in May, and I’m just a hop, skip, jump and potentially a 3 hour bus ride from some Namibian vineyards located near the inland border town of Noordoewer.
Moving past the informative stuff and into what everybody (or lack thereof) is actually reading this post for…
I present you with my, and this only reflects my opinion, Top 5 Foods of Namibia
Sidenote: These will be ranked 5-1, so my personal favorite comes last.
Not White Russians, not Black Russians, not even Russian dressing that comes on the undeniably necessary sandwich during the month of March, Reubens. I’m talking about the Namibian version of a hot dog. I understand I may catch some flak from folks back in Buffalo because if it isn’t Sahlen’s over charcoal, then why even bother but these dogs have potential. They’re primarily beef, with hints of garlic, paprika, salt and white pepper? I do not exactly know what the ingredients are but I will say, they’re quite larger than a hot dog and hit the spot for lunch.
- Mielie Pap (Millet or Maize Porridge)
A true Namibian staple. Nothing goes better with some roasted goat or beef than a stomach-filling portion of pap. Typically eaten with the hands, pap is cornmeal or mahangu meal cooked with butter, a touch of salt and boiling water and stirred until it forms as paste-like texture in which it is then let to cool and be eaten with any kind of meat or simply by itself. If you’re looking to fill your stomach before or after a long day’s work, look for the nearest Kapana stand or Meme whipping some up. In addition, it should be noted that in Owamboland, Mahangu meal is the preferred meal of choice and is known respectively in Oshidonga and Oshikwanyama as, Oshithima and Oshifima. There are many ways to eat pap with your hands, I’ve seen the roll, the pinch and the two-finger twirl but regardless of you eat it, always use your right hand. Using your left hand is a cultural no-no.
Delicious, Salty, and potential cholesterol-rising braai’d meat. And by braai, I mean grilled. Braai is the term in Namibia for grilling or barbecuing. And personally, I’ve taken to it. I really do enjoy a good braai. Anyhow, Kapana is fresh meat, and by fresh I mean, you witness the butchering right in front of your eyes, so there is no mystery as to where your meat is coming from. Once the meat, typically beef, is butchered, it is thrown onto the braai to cook. While it is cooking, you must, and if it is available, get the braai relish to accompany the kapana. The braai relish consists of onion, tomato, and garlic, maybe peppers depending upon where you are. Once the kapana is ready, you take it off the grill with your hands, get a small child’s handful of kapana spice (it’s the perfect mixture of spicy and salty), and place it all into a bowl or plate and begin. I’ll say this about kapana, if I could enjoy it everyday for lunch without any concern for my health, I absolutely would. Sidenote: Single Quarters Market in Windhoek is the best. Very busy, but worth it.
What’s better than homemade bread? Homemade bread cooked on a braai over delicately warm, but not too hot coals and then cut open, and slathered with butter or margarine. Yes, it exists and yes, it’s called roosterbrood; Afrikaans for Roasted Bread. Awfully easy to make, even harder to perfect. I’m never one to avoid carbs so these handheld pieces of warm, toasted, chewy and buttered bread bombs are without a doubt an essential part of my Namibian diet. Long live the roosterbrood.
- Fat Cakes (Vetkoekies)
Roosterbrood is great, Fat Cakes or Vetkoekies in Afrikaans are, in my own biased and carbohydrate-loving opinion, nothing short of godliness. Lying within the donut family, minus the frosting or jelly filling, are deep fried bread cakes that only require a few ingredients are take only a short time to prepare. However, a specific cauldron must be used along with creating a fire upon which the cauldron is placed. The cauldron is then filled with sunflower oil and the fat cake batter is created, let to rise and then punched down, cut into circles, squares, ovals, or whatever geometric figure you prefer and deep fried until golden brown. You know the feeling when eating something that is such a pleasure you begin to wonder how it came about and then you want to know the person or persons that produced such an edible miracle after perhaps multiple trials and tribulations? That’s the feeling I get when I am able to consume freshly fried fat cakes. I do not know who specifically fashioned these pint-sized cakes of ingenuity and taste but I hold them immediately in prestige. Furthermore, fat cakes can be cut in half and filled with mince (a term for ground beef mixed with curried vegetables and onions). Just in case the deep-fried golden brown crust and soft, chewy inside did not grab your palate.
I hope you enjoyed reading and I do encourage you to look up Roosterbrood, Mielie Pap, and Fat Cake recipes. Fairly simple and awfully tasty. I’m fortunate enough that my host mother taught me the ways of cooking fat cakes. And by teaching, I mean I assisted in cooking 300 of them so about after the 167th one, I was well aware of the entire fat cake cooking method.
Cheers and Goodnight.