Being in the middle of nowhere has its perks.
The scenery is endless and it instigates a sense of wandering whenever I decide to ride my bicycle to the beach or take a jog from one side of town to the other; knowing that just beyond the next block of houses, there lies a vast desert that has been virtually untouched by civilization.
I should also note that being able to witness the Orange River empty into the Atlantic Ocean is pretty remarkable. It is the first time I have ever seen anything like it before. Felt kind of like seeing fireworks for the first time – you’re mildly intimidated but can’t stop staring and the sound pounds your ear like there’s 8-10 ft swells nearby. Oh, that’s right, that’s because there are and you’re witnessing one body of water crash into another, no holds barred.
On top of the scenery that would make Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot blush, there is an abundant amount of Gemsbok (otherwise known as Oryx) that roam around town. Nibbling on the manicured lawns and parks, spending lazy afternoons in the sun and occasionally hiding behind parked vans so when you are walking to the NCCI Office and happen to pass by said van, you end up scaring the shit out of each other, except one of you is more frightened because the other has a set of horns that could easily cause a trip to the nearest emergency room.
To bring everyone up to speed, I’ve been meeting many community members of my site, including but not limited to the Mayor, Town Council members, Interest Group members, a Youth Recycling Group, Rugby Club coach, multiple business owners, a handful of Namdeb employees, employees of the local Spar market, and some neighbors of mine. The people of this town are so nice that you may think they want something from you but in all honestly, they are just genuinely nice folks that are proud of their town and look forward to continuing its development once it becomes public. It’s a fairly small town so word travels fast. Some of the times when I meet an associate of my counterpart or a new individual in town, they often say “Oh, you’re the American…” or “Ah, you’re the new Peace Corps person here.”
It kind of makes me feel like some sort of celebrity. Not that I’m being boastful because I easily could here but it does give me perspective on how close knit the community is.
Following the initial name exchange and my mediocre attempt at explaining in Afrikaans or Oshikwanyama what I’m doing here, the person will visibly see that I’m struggling to find the words to explain small business growth and switch to English. By the way, the English spoken here is akin to British English so I’ve begun to use the following words regularly in sentences:
- Chips (as in French Fries)
- Garden (as in lawn)
- Holiday (Vacation)
- Sweets (Candy)
- University (when referring to college)
- Taxi Rank
- Zebra Crossing
- Oh and anything with a spelling ending of ‘-or’ is actually ‘-our’ (Neighbour, Colour, Labour, etc…)
The one about Zebra Crossing I find hilarious.
And Zebra is pronounced not as ‘ZEE-brah’, it’s pronounced as ‘Seb-bra’.
Still trying to get adjusted to that one. #integration
I’m still new here and learning more every day, understanding how the town operates, how my colleagues work and discovering what resources the community has to offer. I recently attended a two-day Citizenry Workshop on Sustainability with about 15 or 20 other individuals to discuss the Oranjemund 2030 plan and what, as citizens, we can do to act sustainably both personally and professionally. The workshop outlined many of the sustainability and development goals of the African Union, the country of Namibia and then specifically the town of Oranjemund. Namibia has a sustainable development plan entitled, familiarly enough, Vision 2030. The Oranjemund 2030 (OMD 2030) plan falls in line the national Vision 2030 but specifically has its own four pillars in which it stands upon. They are:
With these four pillars, Oranjemund Town Council, Namdeb and the community will strive to collaborate on enhancing a community spirit, conserving the natural and communal resources that surround Oranjemund, including the wildlife, the water, and endemic fauna. Additionally, the town of Oranjemund looks to join the //Karas region as a participative member with the potential to grow into a significantly sized city within 15 years that develop and sustains a diversified economy with individuals thinking and behaving in a resourceful manner that allows for creativity and repurposing of public space and infrastructure.
This may sound a bit rehearsed and that’s because I summarized it from the OMD 2030 website. I encourage you to check it out and see how the town expects to change and what they plan on doing in the next 5, 10 and 15 years. When I think of all this and where I fit as a PCV and my role in projects concerning SME growth, fostering entrepreneurship and promoting sustainable development I quietly say to myself…
“I am going to have so much fucking work on my hands.”
But that’s something I say out of inspiration and commitment. Myself and the other PCV in Oranjemund have the chance to be a part of essentially creating an economy from scratch. Once the reliance on Namdeb fades away, what is left? How do you kickstart a brand new economy that for over 50 years, was solely reliant upon diamonds? Diamonds. A finite resource that has an expiration date. So what do you do when you begin to witness a town start to become an actual town where citizens who never had to pay for water or electricity or waste management are now being introduced to paying for utilities? (If you’re curious about why citizens never paid for utilities, it is because Namdeb was funding the entire town…literally, from water to electricity to housing, Namdeb provided it all.)
You take it one step at a time.
The Oranjemund Town Council (OTC) are slowly beginning to introduce water bills to the citizens, then electric and finally the ability for individuals to purchase property or homes that were previously owned by Namdeb. It’s all very new and unfamiliar but at a recent town meeting, in which I attended, was introduced alongside the other PCV, Andy, and feverishly took notes at; many town members asked questions and made comments regarding the situation that lies ahead. It was a very organized session but it was missing snacks. I’m a large fan of town meetings that provide snacks, coffee and five-minute or hell, even ten-minute bathroom breaks.
Whatever city or town I end up living in, I will be a proponent of providing snacks and coffee/tea during town meetings. Put it in the budget and privatize lawn maintenance. Lawns are a waste of water. You want one in town? Pay for it.
Moving forward, I could go on a lengthy spiel about the numerous elements of sustainable development but one I keep coming back to is the human element. Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, African Union Goals can be achieved, and Vision 2030 and OMD 2030 can be achieved but it they will not occur if the human element is forgotten during development. Yes, infrastructure matters. Yes, sustainable agriculture matters. Yes, renewable energy matters but if the focus is not on implementing action on how to empower humans to achieve these areas of sustainability, why does it matter?
It is cliché to write human potential is the most powerful one? Yes, of course it is. That’s how those inspirational quotes end up on your Facebook feed because it’s nice to read something once and awhile that isn’t about politics, mindless entertainment or what you should spend 75% of your paycheck on.
But I’m going to do it anyway because human-to-human development is one of, if not, the most important resource we have and usually at the end of the day, doing it makes you feel like you’ve done something you can write home about.
PS – Oranjemund offers a Cricket club. I’m absolutely dumbfounded by the sport. Someone please explain to me how the game is played and what the rules are. Can you also explain it in a way a 3rd grader could understand it? Asking for a friend.