A little house in the desert

So this is our little house in the desert.  Yes in the middle of the desert, but what a view.  We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase this small part of desert in 2008, just before our second son was born.

We have piped water which is great because there is no water underground just rock and rocks…  We don’t have electricity however.  The power lines do not go out as far as us which was a major plus for us.  We didn’t want those unsightly electrical cable running across our view.  So we went solar.

We had no experience with living in an only solar house but we were willing to learn.  First, the cost of solar in Namibia is not cheap.  There are no government subsidies, no tax breaks, nothing.  So we had to include it in our measly home loan sum.  Which meant we would have less to build with and we had a very thigh budget.

We were also renting a house at the time which meant we would have to pay both the rent and the first payments on our bond.  Needless to say, we wanted to finish building as quickly as possible.  It took just under six months to complete our house.  Well sort of.

We did all we needed to do to make the house livable and moved in.

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The solar system we got is very small, as per our budget.  But we still have the same eight years down the line.  It is a 3 kw system with 12 batteries.

We can’t iron, hang our clothed out as we cannot have a dryer, use a stove top toaster and wash our clothes in cold water. None of these things are thing we miss.  Our clothes come out just a clean in a cold was, our toast may take longer but just as tasty, we have sun shine most days so our clothes dry in a few hours and I don’t miss the ironing.

Aside from this our home is a normal home.  We have all the usual electronic equipment.  We only really watch TV in the evening for an hour or so and our house has lots of windows so we don’t use the lights during the day.  We have had to switch our refrigerator as the first one we bought was a normal fridge and drew so much power we had to shut it off at night during the winter months.  We now have a SMEG fridge that is very energy-efficient and we haven’t had any problems running it all day, even in the winter when it can be misty.

During the winter months we have had, on occasion, a day or two without sunshine.  We have a generator, 5 kw , which is large enough to run the house for a few hours should our batteries run low.  This happens from time to time but we are now accustomed to it and gear down our energy consumption should the weather not cooperate.

Hot water is another issue.  We have a double system, or a backup system, for those winter days when you really need a nice warm shower but the sun is nowhere to be found.  First, we have a very simple solar geyser.  It is, very basically, a collection of black glass pipes.  The water circulates through the pipes – with the help of a small solar pump – the black glass pipes absorb the heat and pass it on to the water flowing through.  This then gets pumped in to our geyser.  Of course, no sun means no warm water.  So for the grey misty days we have a small gas geyser.  We switch it on and off as we need it – so if we had a sunny day we can just switch it off and while the water runs through it, it won’t turn on.  This way we are guaranteed a warm shower all year round!

Last year we installed a pool so we had to source a solar pool pump as we cannot run a normal pool pump off our solar system.  although the solar pump is more expensive and we had to purchase more solar panels for it, it runs without a problem from sunrise to sunset and we have a sparkling pool to swim in.

The pool is of course not heated so in order to ensure the water is warm we have a solar blanket.  This is basically two big plastic sheets that have air bubbles between them.  These air bubbles absorb the sunlight and transfer it to the water.  As long as we keep the solar blanket on our pool water remains beautifully warm.

 

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We also completed a small pottery studio for me last year.  This includes a pottery wheel and kiln.  The pottery wheel is run by a small generator just outside the studio.  I just turn it on whenever I need the wheel and the kiln we purchased is a gas kiln as it would be impossible to use a normal kiln.

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The idea of going solar is at time overwhelming for most of us but in reality it is just a shift in thinking.  There are so many options available nowadays that solar should be the way to go.  With a little bit of research I think everyone can make solar power work for them.

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a new softness

As if blown in by the winds from the east.

Tempestuous.

portraying an intensity only acquired

on cement playgrounds and long subway rides

taking us to places we couldn’t afford

 

long gone are the days of late nights in the snow

turned to grey sludge

traffic, congestion

of people,

people everywhere

pushing forward.

don’t look them in the eye

I learned early

 

no more

I see them

all of them.

 

Here I walk barefoot

in the sand

soft underfoot.
i.i ©

New

It was garbage day

or rather

rubbish day.

Much more eloquent

These are new things

she learned there

the subtleties

of language that take the English from Queens

and turn it

into the Queens English

she contemplated this along

with the environmental etiquette

of this odd

and oddly comforting

little town.

i.i ©

Notes on privilege

Today I am privileged. I haven’t always been.

In Uruguay, haven been born there, I was more or less like everyone else. To say I did not experience difference as such. It’s not that we were all “the same” but the small differences fell under the umbrella which covered our sameness, we were all Uruguayan.

When we moved the United States I, for the first time, experienced myself as different. I did not speak the same language, eat the same food, have the same cultural history as the majority of the people around me. Not only did I instantly become different but also – in many cases –  I became less than. Less than those born there.

And now, living in Namibia, I am often perceived to be a member of the privileged group because of the colour of my skin.

Society tries to impose on us boundaries. These boundaries are mean to box us in, define us. But they are not real. I did not change. My environment did and the rules society imposed on me did. But I did not.

Nothing has changed and yet everything has. And to some extent I do need to adjust, adapt, bend to fit a mold all the while knowing that the change is superficial. I am neither like everyone else, completely different or less and I am not better than another because of the color of my skin.

My experiences will not allow me to be boxed in.

I was struggling for my own equality in a society that did not readily provide it. Now I am superficially viewed as a relic of a history that does not pertain to me.

We generalize, we assume. We are incorrect in our assumptions and in our prejudices. They speak volumes about us and little else.

i.i. ©

today

Come, look

they call as if I don’t sleep

and then they are right

behind me

beside me

in front

when all I see is in my head

numbers dizzying

even the most tenacious

attempt at presence

eludes me

as if I and it were air

one

twisting with no end

towards something and nothing

and then I dive in and

jolt back as if attempting

to restart

the beating of my own heart

i.i ©

Truth

Words do not suffice this task

no human mind can conjure up

or grasp

Speech breaks

tears at its own attempt

pull and grabs

but it will not comprehend

That which the body knows

it feels

Its shakes and throws

cannot be concealed

Lies are told by words alone

Truth resides in human bone

i.i. ©

 

North bound!

Swakopmund is a little coastal town, which is great in the summer when it is simply cooking inland, but in the winter it can be cold and grey at times.  Luckily, Namibia always has some sunshine on offer just a short drive away.  Winter time is the best time to travel inland and see what the rest of the country has to offer.

One of our favourite places is Damaraland.  It can be extremely remote and you can drive for hours without seeing another car or people.  Namibia overall is sparsely populated and in these areas it is even more noticeable.

The rock formations in the area are absolutely spectacular and the wildlife is beautiful.  Namibia has been struggling with declining wildlife numbers due to a number of factors, including drought and illegal poaching, so the game numbers fluctuate.  This very sad for us living here and having have had the privilege of seeing large numbers of animals freely roaming through Damaraland.  We hope the game numbers will rebound and that the government will do its part to stop the illegal poaching.

Namibia continues to be a top tourist destination in Africa.  It is safe, hospitable, has good infrastructure and a variety of wildlife to view along with some stunning landscapes.

Our trip usually takes us up along the Skeleton coast, into Damaraland and all the way up to Epupa (Namibia’s northern border with Angola).

THe Skeleton coast is desolate to say the least.  Kilometers and kilometers of open beach with the wreckage of ships dotted along the coast.

From here we turn inland and begin to feel the warmth of the African sun once more.  We have various options as to where stop off in Damaraland.  One place we are sure to visit is Palmwag.  This is an oasis in the desert and a favourite of ours.  My husband and I have worked there briefly and go back any chance we get.  It has changed greatly throughout the years as it has changed hands, but it still maintains its beauty and tranquility.  The landscape here is beautiful and we are usually fortunate enough to have an elephant visitor at our campsite.

This is where we will stay at least two nights as it is tranquil. It offers beautiful game and scenic drives and walks throughout the day.   It also has a pool, bar and restaurant so it is great for the kids. The area is also populated by black rhino.  unfortunately their numbers have also been on the decline due to poaching.  Save the Rhino trust has been operating in the area for many years and due to their hard work black rhino numbers had been growing until recently.  Namibia is currently experiencing a plague of rhino poaching country-wide and this area has been greatly impacted by poaching.

From here we move on to another favourite stop of ours, Khowarib Schlucht.  This is also a must stop for the kids as the love to walk up river and splash around in this “waterfall”.

There is no coincidence we travel from water spot to water spot as it can be very hot in the desert, even in the winter.

We usually do a day trip to a natural waterfall in the area, Ongongo.  The water is clear and fresh.  We are usually the only people there which makes it even more special.

After two or three days we leave our desert oasis and head straight into dryer territory still.  Here we pass through small villages, herds of cattle and more wildlife of all types.

We usually find a spot along the road suitable for an overnight stay.  This can be anywhere but does require a tree for shade.  Here there is no water other than what we have brought along so we use it sparingly.

Final stop and well worth the trip, Epupa falls.  It is magnificent with its large waterfalls and tall palm trees.  unfortunately there is no swimming in these part due to the crocodiles but there is a pool nearby.  The crocodiles can be seen basking in the sun on small islands and off the shores of the river, often close to the campsites.

The great baobab trees

This the halfway point of our journey and time to relax.  In a few short days we will be heading back slowly down along the desert and making our way back.  For now we get to sit by the river and listen to it flow.

a broad life©

free

Freedom exists in the heads of its believers

I lie when I speak, when I think

what do I think

 

I think I channel old antiquated characters

from other’s imaginations

I think being gutted must be painful

but being torn must be worse

I think I don’t like what I’ve been fed but I’ve been told to be quiet

 

I think my brothers have bound me

my sisters have judged me

I think I’m sick

I think I like it

 

I think books I’ve read have lied

I know they have

I think you and I like pain

we wallow in it so

I think the sky is not blue anymore

the grass is not green

I think the smell is here to stay

 

I think I know you

I don’t think you do

 

I think you only smile in pictures

and love is like God

 

I think it’s cold outside

I think that’s why we stay in

 

I think society is our prison

I think we are afraid to be free.

i.i.©

Wanderlust

 

My first instinct has always been to go explore.  This apparently is hereditary, at least in may case.20171020_150525.jpg

I remember when I first found out we were moving from our home in Uruguay to New York city.  I knew little of New York, or the USA for that matter, outside of glossy catalogues and American fashion magazines I would perused while sitting on my wicker chair.  But somehow the idea thrilled me.  I wanted to go, no questions asked.  Bags packed and ready.

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My sister on the other was way more apprehensive.  She refused. Even through to the day we were flying out.  She “lost” her winter jacket as a last attempt to make us miss our flight.  We didn’t and we entered into a different world in so many ways I can’t begin to explain.

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My father had been working in New York city for some time.  He loved it.  My mother finally gave in and uprooted us all.  I do not know what my father was looking for, what he loved so much about NY.  I never asked.  I just knew it was his favourite place.

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My fathers parents also immigrated from Italy to Uruguay in the 1940’s.  Although economics often plays a role in the decision to move there is always and element of something other, something deeper within.

I also love NY but I knew I would not stay there forever.  I did not know where I would end up but I was more than willing to explore and see where life would take me.

So in some ways it was not a difficult choice to leave for Africa.  Namibia, by chance.

When I decided to try my luck in Africa, I did not have a specific country in mind.  It was purely luck that brought me to Namibia and to Swakopmund specifically.  I had visited this small town in the desert while on holiday but it was purely by fate that I ended up here.

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Needless to say I stayed.  At first my intention was to try it out for a year or so but I quickly began to like this odd little town and all of its quirky ways.  I was, back when I first arrived in 2000, more or less part small little beach town and part ex German colony.  Now, seventeen years later, it has changed immensely.  It still maintains many of its small town charms but the population has grown and still continues to do so.  The population has also diversified and now reflects more and more the true nature of the country.  It is also a big tourist destination so there are many international visitors and residents.

It still remains a small town nestled between a great desert and the sea and that is perfect.

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I still love to travel and explore new places any and every chance I get but this has become my home.  My place to come back to.

Wanderers.  We are the ones in search of something, even when we don’t know what we are looking for.  It finds us if we are willing to take the path.

a broad life©

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