Feelings leaving Katima

25 Sep

It was with a mix of emotions that I left Katima.

PROUD

Leaving Katima knowing that I had achieved my goal was satisfying. I cycled off knowing that I had achieved it after nearly 9 years of working towards this moment. When I was cycling away I did some reminiscing. My god it’s been a long time. It dawned on me just how much it consumed my life, it was my life. All my decisions of my life revolved around this goal. I know for the last 5 years at least, not one day has gone pass without me thinking about it. The closer I have come to the completion of it the more it has consumed me.

In saying all this, for me the 11/11/11 will be the final completion. Now I have 6 weeks of adventure to celebrate.

It also felt to finally have the first part of the book to the editor, something I had meant to have done before leaving Australia.

GRATEFUL

I felt grateful for all the support I have had along the way to making all this happen. To you guys my blog readers, to everyone that had a part in the fundraising for the Final Continent Expedition, to my great family and of the course the unconditional support of Mandy. THANK YOU all.

SAD

Obviously it has been an extremely tough last couple of months with all that has happened, some of my toughest days of working the world. Loneliness and sadness have taken on new levels for me. Even though it was my decision for Mandy and I to go our separate ways, it did not make it any easier.

Writing this I think back to the Tuesday. After saying a tearful good bye to Mandy on the Sunday, quite possibly the last time we would ever see each other. On the Tuesday at the bike shop I felt distant and on another planet. I got back home and slumped down on the cheap matress that Mandy and I had bought and transported home on the bike all those weeks ago. I was unable to do anything; I was paralysed with sadness, loneliness and that void that is left when someone close to you is no longer there. I was paralysed with the anxiety of ‘how am I going to get through this’. I had major waves of wanting to head home, not knowing how I would possible be able to finish the bike work shop and never lone think about getting on my bike and cycling to Malawi. I wanted to be around people that knew me, that spoke my language, that knew my culture, that could understand my situation.

What I’m trying to say is that when I cycled away from Katima I had been through the toughest, saddest and loneliest times. Reminiscing on them whilst cycling away, I was pleased that I could leave them there.

RELEIVED

I felt relieved when I cycled out of Katima that the anxiety I had felt about cycling the lonely road to Malawi had been transformed into excitement. But before I talk about excitement, I want to talk about another relief I felt.………

I FELT LIKE A WHITE MAN

Another reason I felt relieved to leave Katima was because of the people. In Katima I felt very much like a white man. A lot of the time I felt that for the local people I was perceived as a walking Red Cross and not a person. My skin was white, therefore I should give them whatever they needed. Don’t get me wrong, these people have a tough life and I would not trade places with them at all. I suppose if the white man organisations had not come in here handing out aid the locals would now not be asking me “Makua, give me bike/money/bread/sweet”. I also think that if the white man had not colonised here they would be still be happy and content living in mud huts ploughing with ox. Without cell phones, TV’s and rich tourists coming through showing them that maybe the grass is a hell of a lot greener on the white man side of the fence they would still be content with their existence instead of wanting..

It really annoyed me. It frustrated me beyond belief that the local folk would see me and shout “makua” which means white man. In Korea they would point at me and say “waeguk”, in Mexico they called me “gringo”, it’s nothing knew. But in Katima, this was always followed by a “give me”. Everytime someone approached me on the street, I always knew it was leading to a ‘poor me’ story, leading to a give me. I suppose you can’t blame them, when you don’t have bugger all, no harm in trying.

Another thing that compounded this feeling was the segregation between the local white and black population. The white population of Katima is very much the minority, easily less than 5%. But the white population are very much the people who run the majority of the businesses, and of course the Chinese. The blacks are the workers. As workers they seemed to be treated like paid slaves, this may sound harsh, but when you consider a house cleaner is paid $5 a day it sounds right. But this the local wage, and when there is such a large labour pool with unemployment in rural Namibia probably as high as 80%, it is not surprising. Still there are ways of treating people, of treating your workers. The way they are treated annoyed me, it is very much an us and them culture. This probably just adds to the reason why I was then grouped into the white man group and treated as a white person as opposed to a person.

THERE IS HOPE FOR AFRICA

OK, I’m coming across as very cynical, very negative but that was how I felt. I have been into Zambia and I loved the people, I felt like a person. As I write this I’m in Zimbabwe a country that has been ravaged with race and political issues. The people that I have met, the people I have stayed with in the villages have been nothing short of hospitable. I really shouldn’t have brought this topic up as there is so much that needs to brought to the table to discuss to give a fair argument. I can see both sides of the story, but I do not have enough time.

In saying all this, when I look back at Katima I hope I will not remember the man coming up to me and asking “give me bike” before he even says hello. I want to remember the Moses of Katima, the Gifts of Katima.

Moses was the bike shop manager, an honest hardworking guy full of charisma and has so much hope for the future. A guy that never once asked me for anything, except advice and knowledge. He wanted to learn, he wanted his work shop to be a success, he was proud, he was first to the work shop and last to leave. He was a community man, he believed in empowerment not hand outs.

In my time in Katima I learnt a valuable lesson. I had come to Katima with visions of building a great work shop with shaded concrete work areas, everything organised and labelled. The reason I had wanted to do this was to make myself feel good, so I could stand back and look at the great mark I had left on Africa. There is nothing empowering about that. I quickly learnt after talking with Michael Linke the founder of BEN, Namibia is that you can’t come to Africa with the solutions, you have to listen to the problems and what they need.

I was always very conscious not to get too involved and do things my way. I just sat back answered questions, imparted what knowledge I had, suggested ways of doing things. At the end of the day this was not my project, it was their project. And so after spending the week out at Dan’s place working I went to the work shop for my last good bye before getting on my bike. I felt so proud of the guys. With the profits they had already made Moses had bought the guys heavy duty blue work uniforms and work boots. Then Moses took me around the container telling me that the week I had been away he had a local builder out to give him quotes on renovating the container, about the windows and air vents he was planning to put in. I felt so proud. I felt so proud that I hadn’t left them with a grand looking concreted shaded white man looking container, but I felt proud that the men whose work shop it was had such a great sense of ownership. Because they felt proud of the work shop, I felt proud.

Then there was Gift. Gift was the 18 year old cousin of Kenneth who owned the house, also another great guy who I have nothing but time for. Kenneth and his fiancée were away at university so I lived with Gift. Gift was always well up before the sun, studying for his high school exams. He took pride in the house, constantly cleaning and raking the sand in the yard and would always make me dinner if he was cooking. He was so mature and considerate for someone of that age.

Just before my leaving, Gift walked in the house holding a little boy in his arms, I asked him who the little one was, he replied to my surprise “this is my first born”. It was his 3 year old son. Gift told me “this is why I study so hard”.

When I look back on Katima, these are the people that I want to remember, not the people in the street. With people like Moses and Gift, Africa has hope.

EXCITED

Excitement. After some of my darkess moments having been spent in Katima, I was more than ready to leave. On that Tuesday night I talked about I didn’t think i was capable of hopping on my bike and cycling out of Katima, it had terrified me, I plain and simple didn’t think I was capable. Though six weeks after that Tuesday I did cycle out of Katima, and I was excited. I don’t want to sound like an arsehole and belittling all that has happened. But I felt excited, I was soooo relieved I felt excited about the adventure ahead.

Cycling out of Katima I felt adventure was at my finger tips, this was the Africa I had dreamt about. I was no longer scared of being all alone and camping on the side if the road in Africa with just me and my thoughts, I was excited!!!

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4 Responses to “Feelings leaving Katima”

  1. Pauline September 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    Hap I am still reading your blogs and my heart goes out to you in your sadness and I am proud of you and your accomplishments. love, Pauline

    • Hap October 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

      Thanks Pauline for your support after all that his happend. From memory Jackson’s wedding is soon, Enjoy, love to all.

      Nuthin but love hap

  2. barney September 27, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    Love your work brother. And remember, life is a simple game…

    • Hap October 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

      between up and down.

      That one of my little mantra’s. Ahhhh Brazil.

      Quite funny I have my brazil sarong with here in Africa.

      You got any plans of being home in NZ for summer, or you paying off debt in the UK?

      NBL Hap

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