When I lived in namibia, I was 18. We have all been 18. Therefore, I hope you not judge me too harshly after I tell you the story about Independence Day, the biggest day of the year in Namibia.
They had worked hard for their independence and it was in everyone’s recent memory. I was 18. I didn’t appreciate the importance of this day. The night before Independence Day was the Crayfish Derby in Luderitz. This was more for the Afrikaners than anyone else.
We got there mid-afternoon and watched all the men go off in their fishing boats and we then had about four hours until the men would come back with a crayfish and have them weighed to see who had the biggest and who would win. In this four hours, we were given free drinks and food because people recognised us as the poor volunteers in town. We had a town meeting to go to so we stayed for about an hour then walk back into town to go to this meeting.
It was when we were walking back that we realised we were a little drunk. Our dog, Diaz, was with us. She was always with us. And so she came to the town hall with us. We hoped that we didn’t appear too drunk and decided to stay silent and smile a lot. When the meeting started, we had chosen two seats on the end of a row and sat silently scribbling notes for the local town newspaper, which we ran.
They decided to do that thing where everyone introduces himself and they started at the end of the row that we were at. So much for keeping out of the way. Lucy stood up, giggled a little and introduce herself. When I stood up, the giggles had grown and I was almost laughing out loud. It suddenly all seemed so hilarious. I said my name, pointed at lucy and said, “yeh, the Buchter News as well,” and sat down. It had not started well.
After everyone else introduced themselves and we took a few obligatory photographs, the dog made an appearance. We had left her outside but someone must have opened the door and she had snuck in. She came over and sat down near us. We knew what she was like but we hoped she would behave today. She did not behave. She wound her way in and out of everyone else’s chairs and then some empty chairs which caused them to move a little and scrape on the floor. It sounded like a fart.
We giggled. We were not professional.
The meeting lasted 2 hours and we didn’t really listen to anything. We left and headed straight back to the Crayfish Derby. The men would be back in a few hours and until then, there was eating and drinking time. We whipped out the camera a few times to take photos and then people remembered that we were the poor newspaper volunteers and fed us again for free.
When the men had come back, they all weighed their crayfish and we spent the evening celebrating and dancing.
The next morning there was a big celebration in the nearby stadium. It was Independence Day for the whole country. We had not been clever to stay late at the Crayfish Derby but we got up and we made a way to the stadium with good intention. We got there at 9 o’clock, found a seat and sat down to wait. It was supposed to be starting at about 9.30. We waited. 10 o’clock came. We waited. 10.30 came.
I don’t know what we expected. we had been living in Africa for long enough to know that 9.30 does not mean 9.30. We were suffering. We had not had enough sleep. We were totally exposed, sitting in the hot sun and dehydrated from our night out. We realised it would probably be midday before anything significant happened.
We decided to go home for sleep. Just a little one. Just a nap. Just for an hour or so. We’d be back at mid day. As we were leaving the stadium, our close friend, George, arrived and why we were leaving. We told him that we just needed to pop home for something quickly. We didn’t want to tell him we had to sleep because we were dehydrated and knackered from our night out. We said we would be back before anything got going.
We went home, headed for the front room, sat on the sofa and fell asleep. When we woke up, it was quite late in the afternoon. We ran out of the house into the street. We lived on a hill so we could see down into the stadium. There were not many people in the stadium. They were leaving.
The celebrations were over and we had missed the entire day.
The entire Independence Day. The most important day of the year in Namibia and we had slept on the sofa instead.
But we were the local newspaper volunteers. We ran the only town newspaper. If we didn’t report Independence Day, it would look strange. So we got the two or three photographs we had taken of the decorations at the stadium and some of the photos of the town major and a few of the other people we knew had made speeches and we wrote the article for the newspaper as though we had been there.
It went something like this – “The Independence Day celebrations were enjoyed by all. This day marks a special day in Namibia’s history. Since 1980, Namibia has been free of outside control and its’ people are free to pursue their own goals. The town mayor encompassed these feelings exactly in a speech in which she praised Namibians for their resilience and talked of the wonderful things that have been achieved under a free Namibian government.”
I mean that’s probably what she said, isn’t it? We said there had been performances by children from the local schools, which we knew because we also worked as teachers in a few schools and had seen groups of children preparing their performances for the Independence Day celebrations.
And with nothing else to do but go with it, we let the newspaper go out that month with the main story a kind of hashed together patchwork blanket of guesses and photographs we had taken of other things.
No one said anything. No one commented on the lack of detail about the celebrations or about the mayor’s speech. No one noticed that the photographs didn’t look like they were taken in an outdoor stadium.
And it was fine.
I must reiterate, readers, I was 18. This seemed like acceptable behaviour. Please do not judge me.