When I was a kid growing up in Norvelt, Pennsylvania I lived in a very academic atmosphere. Both of my parents were college educators and they strongly believed in the process of lifelong learning. Our house was like a library as there were books everywhere. My mom taught mathematics and my dad taught political science and history. Unfortunately for my mom I just had no interest whatsoever in mathematics. I didn’t necessarily struggle at math, but I certainly never wanted to excel at it either.
On the other hand I loved history and learning about the world and it’s people. From a very early age, I would always being going through my father’s books and looking for interesting things to read or at which to look. I remember we had many books that were about the different countries of the world and lots of those books had pictures. So even before I became a very skilled reader I would pick up the books filled with pictures and look through and be amazed by the pictures of distant lands.
As my reading skills improved as I grew older, I began to take an interest in many of the non-picture oriented books my father had. Books that discussed the Far East, central Asia, medieval times, any country off the beaten track and Greek/Roman history attracted my attention the most. At this young age I had a great curiosity about many things but I was also extraordinarily shy and non-talkative. So the books became my friends and time after time I returned to the same subjects sucking them in like an elixir. My dreams when I went to bed at night were filled with exotic cities and countries like Herat, Bukhara, Istanbul, Anatolia, Ulan Bator, Samarkand and many other unique locales. The mystery and intrigue of these ancient places settled in my head and created a life long desire to travel and know as much as I could about these places. It created a passion in me for travel, learning and exploration.
In the thirty-plus odd years that have passed since then, I have lived a lot of what I dreamt about back then. I haven’t lived it all, but I have continued to have a passion for learning, traveling and exploring. My travel has taken me around the world and to 11 different countries. I have visiting almost all of the United States and I have continued to read and read and absorb everything I can about every corner of the world.
Because I love travel and different countries so much I am going to write about them in my blog. Once a week I am going to write a blog entry about some far-away country that I want to visit and I in which I have had an interest. I am going to call this “Where Does Jerry Want to Go” or WDJWTG for short – LOL!.
For the first WDJWTG entry I am going to write about the country of Namibia.
Now if you have never heard of the country of Namibia you are not alone, as there are a ton of reasons why you have never heard of this country.
(Position of Namibia on the African continent.)
Here are some of the reasons why you have never heard of Namibia:
- Namibia only became an independent country in 1990. Prior to that it has been a territory administered by South Africa.
- Though it is not landlocked, Namibia is far off the beaten track. Located in the southeastern corner of Africa, much of the coastline goes by a very dubious nickname, “The Skeleton Coast”. It is known by this because the treacherous waters and fog off shore have claimed thousands of sea vessels. The coast is littered with many ship wrecks and the skeletons of thousands of whales and seals leftover from the days of whaling.
- Much of the country is a desert. Less than 1 percent of the land is arid.
- Though ½ the size of Alaska, it only has a population of 2.1 million. It has the second lowest population density of all countries on earth. Only Mongolia has a lower population density.
- There is a very high risk of infectious diseases such as malaria, cholera, etc.
Prior to it’s in-depth exploration by Europeans in the 19th century Namibia was inhabited by nomads of the Bushman and Bantu tribes. Early Europeans who journeyed past in the 15th – 19th centuries would normally make brief stops and then move on due to the inhospitable nature of the land. It was only in the 1880’s that there was major interest in the area from the European powers. Germany took over the area in 1884 and called it German South-West Africa. Though there were few natural resources to exploit, the Germans set up their colony to forestall British movement into the area from South Africa.
(The Namib escarpment is a significant geological feature in Namibia.)
During WWI South Africa invaded and took over the colony from the Germans. After the war, South African administration of the colony was made official through a League of Nations Mandate. This area was widely ignored by the global community through the end of WWII. There was no fighting in Namibia during WWII and the South Africans used this time of peace to implement their policy of racial segregation call Apartheid.
When the United Nations was established at the end of WWII, South Africa refused to relinquish their administration of the area and this began South Africa’s slow but steady slide towards pariah nation status. As the colonial freedom movement of the 1960’s began to shake up the political structure of Africa, Namibia was not immune to the impact of the movement. (The colonial freedom movement was when many of the countries of Africa began to demand their freedom from their colonial overseers – the British, the French, the Belgians, etc.) In 1966 the military arm of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) was established to fight for the freedom of Namibia from South Africa and the end to apartheid there.
(One of the many massive dunes that are make up much of the Namibian landscape.)
Over the next 22 years a low-intensity guerilla conflict was fought between the South African military and SWAPO. Much of this conflict never made the news here in the United States as the military engagements were limited and the international press barely covered the conflict. When at last apartheid in South Africa began to slip away in 1988, progress towards Namibian independence finally began. Namibia became independent on March 21, 1990.
Unlike many other countries in Africa the transition from colonial status to independence went smoothly and the country has transformed itself into a functioning multi-party democracy.
Why in the world would I ever what to visit Namibia you might ask? There are several reasons why this country attracts my attention. First, Namibia’s remoteness and lack of connectivity to the rest of the world sets Namibia apart from so many other countries. Just getting to Namibia is an adventure and a marvelous one at that. Though much of the country is desert, the landscape is beautiful and awe inspiring. On top of that it is a friendly country. Unlike its next door neighbor South Africa, the overall incidence of crime in Namibia is relatively low.
Once you arrive in Namibia travel within the country is relatively easy. For the hardy souls who make it to the country they will find that there are many fun and interesting activities to partake upon. There are thriving industries in the country based upon extreme adventure tourism such as 4x4ing and sand boarding the huge desert dunes.
(Dust storm covers on of the nations road with a fine layer of sand.)
I must take back one of the points I made earlier. I just used Orbitz to see what it would take to get from Frankfurt, Germany to Windhoek, Namibia. Windhoek is the capital of Namibia. There is actually a direct flight from Frankfurt to Windhoek. Times have certainly changed as I looked into that exact same itinerary 3 years ago and you couldn't get there by air. The world is becoming a smaller place.
I hope you my readers have enjoyed learning something about a country that I would love to visit. I will try and do one of these posts once a week. I’ll make the countries I write about the ones that I am interested in, but if there are any suggestions from you my readers that you would like me to write about – please post a comment or send me an e-mail.
Not much to say about the day for us. It was a very low key day. Zack is almost done with school for the calendar year and is very much looking forward to the Christmas break. Tomorrow (Friday) will be his last day of school until the New Year. I managed to take care of a huge amount of my Christmas shopping today so I am very happy! We have a very busy weekend of activities and parties ahead so I want to try and finish most of my shopping up tomorrow. All the dates and locations for my early January trip to India are starting to come together. We have limited the trip to 2 cities this time around – though in all likelihood I am anticipating that I will be making 4 – 5 different trips to India in 2012 based upon the yearly business plan that I am building. The cities that I will be visiting are Pune and Gurgaon. If any of you readers have any experience with those cities please drop me a note. My biggest question is if I am only in Pune for 2 days does it make sense to try and get to Mumbai for sightseeing on an early morning trip?
As always – thank you for reading. I hope this new theme isn’t too boring, so please feel free to provide feedback if you consider it too boring.
Thanks and peace to all! ~J.