NAMIBIAN CRAFTS: AN URGENT HEALTH WARNING.
Hi, it is Annabel here again. I’m proud to say that I’m still Namibia’s youngest travel correspondent. It is my job to suggest places you could visit with your children. Just don’t sue me if it all goes horribly wrong, OK?
This month’s favored destination is Swakopmund. But first a few words on dangerous infections.
If you are new to Namibia you may have concerns about health, safety, disease; that sort of thing.
If you’ve just read the “Facts for the Visitor” section in the Lonely Planet guide book you’ll definitely have concerns about health, safety and disease. And that sort of thing.
Immunisations are advised against Cholera, Diptheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Malaria, Meningococcal Meningitis, Polio, Rabies, TB, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever.
Author, Deanna Swaney, then recommends that you don’t eat the food if it hasn’t a) been cooked b) been peeled or c) been boiled. Nor should you drink the water, the milk or the fruit juice.
Beware she warns of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, prickly heat, sun burn, diarrhoea, Entamoeba histolycta, HIV AIDS, intestinal worms, Bilharzia, STDs, fungal infections, Dengue fever, bees, wasps, scorpions, jellyfish, snakes, filiaiasis, Leishmaniasis, gynecological problems , armed guards in the diamond fields, tsetse flies, hippos, crocodiles and the toxic smoke that is given off when euphorbia twigs are burnt .
If you’ve managed to reach page 77 without fainting in terror you’ll have probably decided to reschedule your holiday plans; book tickets to say, Mogadishu, Port Au Prince or Baghdad; some place less lethal.
Or just jump out of a high window to save time.
Relax guys ! Swaney’s over cautious. Most of the country is malaria free, the water quality is some of the best in Africa, and you won’t go into convulsions if you eat an apple. As for not drinking the milk – really, Swaney ! Gimme a break! I’m on two pints a day and I’ve never felt better!
OK, so the sun needs watching – it gets pretty toasty – and if a yellow mongoose comes racing out of the scrub with foam on its mouth and red, inflamed eyes, you’d be advised not to give it a cuddle. But overall this country is about as safe as Africa comes.
The one disease I’d strongly caution you of – a disease that Swaney has strangely missed in her extensive catalogue of horrors – is Hippomania.
I regret to inform you that on our second day at the coast my parents and I caught quite a dose.
It happened in Swakopmund. If you’ve not been there you should go. It’s not terribly big, it has a distinctly German atmosphere, and the buildings are colourful and quaint.
There are hotels and guest houses and lots of restaurants and their proprietors welcome children. There are gift shops and supermarkets and delicatessens and boutiques.
Yes, Swakopmund is a cheerful place. And there are plenty of things to keep young persons such as myself happily occupied. There’s a sweet little aquarium occupied by gaily coloured fish, sharks and sea turtles, a crystal gallery (with the world’s largest crystal on display), a very good snake park (with an exceptionally fine black mamba that eats a rat each Saturday), a play ground with fine views of the surf breaking, beaches, parks, ice cream parlours…lots of good stuff.
Day one we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Indeed all was calm and disease free until lunch on day two. We’d just finished a good meal in a seaside terrace restaurant with views of the Mole and passing pelicans and were cheerfully making plans for a camel ride when a young guy sauntered along the promenade.
He was carrying something.
A wooden hippo.
We didn’t know it then. But we were doomed.
The first symptoms of Hippomania are mild and barely diagnosable. A slight restlessness takes over the infected individual. He or she then becomes animated and impulsive.
Even at this stage there is hope. If the patient is immediately moved away from the source of the contagion (ten, twenty kilometers should suffice) Hippomania will be arrested.
If, however, no action is taken, the victim will announce that he or she feels like “checking out the crafts market” and will be drawn irresistibly – compulsively – to the nearest gathering of young men overseeing blankets covered with wooden carvings.
There they will experience accelerated pulse rates, sweating and an intense desire to buy a hippo.
Not a nice, neat, small hippo – the sort of hippo that can be tucked tidily into a suitcase or carry on luggage– but a BIG FAT hippo, a REALLY HEAVY hippo made of leadwood or something equally backbreaking; the sort of monstrously proportioned hippo that single handedly exceeds airline weight allowances, sprains tendons and induces hernias.
Those accompanying hippomaniacs then succumb rapidly to the same disorder. They, too, must have a hippo.
Life without one would be intolerable ! Impossible ! I know. I’ve been there.
Chinese jade dealers can tell the levels of a buyer’s desire by the inadvertent dilation of the pupils. Keep a poker face, bluff it out, pretend you don’t care one way or the other about jade – waste of time. Your eyes will betray you. The price will rise and rise.
Same with hippomaniacs and hippo salesmen.
A mere five minutes after infection we were trying to find room in our overburdened car for two GIGANTIC hippos that we certainly didn’t need nor had planned for. And that we couldn’t fit in. And that, in all honesty, we couldn’t really afford. Which is why I never did get to ride a camel.
It could have been worse, I suppose. Our friend Mitsuko could have been with us. She has terminal Hippomania; she had scoured the country for hippos during her two years here in Windhoek; her house bulged with hippos. She had, at last count, 33 hippos, several of which are almost as big as the real thing. Her husband eventually medivacced her back to the States. She took the hippos with her.
There is no inoculation. No rehab centers . No cure.
You have been warned.
Oh, and watch out for Metal Sculpture Warthogitis . And Totally Inconveniently Tall But Dammit I MUST Have A Big Herd Of Wooden Giraffia.
So take care. Must dash. I’ve just heard there are two guys doing special discounts on baobab trees made out of wire in the car park at Eros Shopping Centre. I’m not buying them, you understand. Just, you know, looking.
The above is an extract from my as yet unpublished book The Diary of Abbot Buggly. The book is, as you’ll have deduced from the title, in diary format and details the weird and wonderful events that occurred during my daughter’s first year of life in Namibia.