06 June 2009

"Welcome to Walvis Bay"

Men with what I can tell to be dreadlocks, or maybe braids, kick around a ball of duct tape, at least it looks like duct tape from where I’m standing. They wear navy blue jumpsuits, which have to be relieving in the chilly morning air.

A train steams by miles of trucks and wooden panels. The horizon of my vision reveals warehouses and a large water tower that reads “Welcome to Walvis Bay.” My gaze is brought back to the workers as they collide kicking the make shift ball. I unsuccessfully stretch on my tiptoes to distinguish their words. I’m seven stories above them, floating in the dock as the crew from my ship splashes its already shiny sides with fresh soap and water.

I repack my bag before disembarking the ship. I add socks and extra layers- it’s freezing here. When I reach the dock, the duct tape ball kickers have resumed their work packing nearby trucks. They smile and wave frantically at the hundreds of foreign students pouring out of the spotless ship that contrasts boldly with the dusty town.

My group and I walk about a quarter mile to the gates of the port. We walk past many more blue jumpsuits and wooden panels, past barbed wire and over metal tracks. When we reach the base of the welcoming water tower, I see a naked woman caked in dirt sitting in the road. Adorned with only beads around her neck, she nurses her newborn. She’s planted on one of many tapestries laid out in the street to display wooden bowls and masks and carved jewelry for sale. Her spot is across the street from a drive-through KFC.

As we sailed through the Atlantic the night before, I couldn’t sleep. In my dark cabin I scribbled in my journal…

I’ve never considered visiting Africa before this trip. I love that I don’t know what to expect.