This week I had the great pleasure of jetting off to Windhoek, Namibia to deliver training and attend a meeting. My husband was born in Namibia so I was very excited to go and experience a little of it myself. Like most work-travel expeditions to foreign lands, I saw more of my room, taxis and the conference centre than the country itself. Technically I was there, but it was more like looking at something new through a key hole (without the conjunctivitis thereafter).
My first piece of excitement was our mode of transport. You know the plane is small when your seat is both a window and an aisle seat! The airport in Windhoek is tiny. It reminded me of Kilimanjaro International. Everyone walks from every plane to the terminal. And then you start to get this strange sensation…your mind knows you are in another country, even if just a two-hour flight away: you have gone through passport control and are very clearly outside South Africa, yet everyone speaks Afrikaans to you by default. Truly a disconcerting feeling.
On the first evening I decided to try something local for dinner…when in Windhoek…My husband told me later that this was a rookie mistake: “Do not go for the game on the menu, ever!” Oops. So I tried the oryx schnitzel. I was perplexed when reading the menu. Chicken and pork, yes, but game? What arrived was crumbed old boot, with this very odd tang of curry spice that hits you at the back of your throat. Odd on all levels.
The next night, in trying to go for something different that was not game, I asked the waiter about the calamari and whether it was good. His reply: “It depends on the chef.” I did not order the calamari.
What was encouraging was the local Tafel Beer, served ice cold and delicious. Even more encouraging was the gargantuan servings of house wine by the glass. And quite good wine too. There must have been at least double in that glass compared to the ‘schwanky’ Cape Town wine bar servings you would get.
En route back to the airport at rush hour with not a sign of another car anywhere, I got chatting to my driver. A happy fellow with a strange accent. I wondered if perhaps he had German family – the reason for his very unusual twang. He laughed when I asked him and replied: “I watch a lot of Kung Fu movies.” Really? How many Kung Fu movies do you have to watch to develop an accent?
At the airport, I desperately needed to get some work and online time done before I boarded. The airport in Windhoek (the one far out of town) is chaotic and minuscule. The airport lounge was an area literally 4 metres square with two couches in it and cordoned off with rope. Bizarre. What are the odds the only coffee shop would have seats open and a plug point? Despite the full Qatar Airways flight milling around, the one-and-only coffee shop was quiet. There was a plug point. I had prepaid data on my cell tethered to my laptop. Happiness.
And now for my final gastronomic Windhoek experience. Bravely I decided to order the ‘sole fish special’ as I felt like something fresh. After the calamari you might think I had learnt my lesson. It would likely be okay or very very bad. Nothing in-between. Boy, was I surprised. What arrived was the most delicious, succulent and perfectly cooked fish I have probably had anywhere, ever. And I found this experience in a coffee shop in dingy Windhoek airport. It really does go to show that if you try new things, every now and then and with a bit of luck, you might just be pleasantly surprised.