Vanda Kujbus

Monday, April 10, 2017

Windhoek reloaded! - Excuse me, do you have a lab? part 2

Written by Vanda

Leaving Cardboard box

It has been raining over the whole night. At around 3 AM we are still dry, but a bit later on I felt a little drop on my forhead. Uh-oh, it’s not a good sign... At 5 AM I feel another drop and that’s it, I can’t fall asleep anymore. Not like if I’m awake would keep the water out, but at least we could leave the sinking ship early enough so that at least our stuffs would remain dry. According to the weather forecast the rain would „take a break” only between 6 and 7, before it would continue for the rest of the day, so I wake Sigi up and we start packing blearily.

We were promised pancakes for breakfast but we got musli instead. Well, definitely not a royal breakfast, but they compensate by giving us a second round of coffee.

Cardboard box breakfast

Now that we are completely packed, we have some time to look around. The place looks a bit old and abandonned – you get what you pay for – , but the staff is extremely helpful and kind, so they make up for the looks. And it's a place just to have roof (or linen) above your head for the night, not an apartment anyway!

Cardboard box swimming pool
Cardboard box backyard

While I wait for Sigi, I look around at the reception, especially at the bookshelf. I find out - for my biggest surprise - that apparently I’m not the first Hungarian here! I became so happy for a short moment, but then Sigi came back so I never got a chance to find out the taste of my ancestor in books!

Cardboard box bookshelf
Hungarian book at Cardboard box

All in all we spent only 1 night here, and they let us to store all our stuffs while we are out in the city to look for a lab, until we leave back to Gobabis, so I really have no reasons to complain.

Moreover, as soon as we leave the hostel it stops raining, so we don’t need to find an emergency umbrella (never trust weather forcecast!).

The closest option

I have learnt from mom that the first idea is always the best idea, yet I don’t stick to the original plan to visit the university and hospital, as they are exactly at the 2 opposite sides of Windhoek, and there is another options within a 10-15 minutes of walking distance. Comfort seduces me and I chose that one, another university, Namibia University of Science and Technology, just down the road.

distance between the hospital and the university

It has a huge campus, which looks even better than many of our universities in Hungary. I just walk into the first building and ask the doorman, as it would be the most natural thing to enquire about: "Is there a lab here? I would like to go there."

university campus

As they don’t look at me as if I was lunatic, I gather some courage and explain that I’m on a misson of researching mopane worms and he escorts us upstairs to a lab. However, it turns out that it’s an electronics lab so I cant really get much use out of it, unless I want to check how well the worms conduct electricity, and can become giant killer worms in an accident but I don’t want to do that, not yet at least.

However, the girl in the lab refers us to another department, but we might look lost, as she offers us to show us the place. We go to the biomedics department, where the doorman says we should go to a 3rd building to the basement to find what we are looking for. All 3 of us look puzzled, so he just leaves his post to show us where to go. Now 4 people are marching through the campus to find that lab. One more person and we can form a rock band.

He takes us to a basement then leaves. We look through the glass and see only computers. Well, it’s a lab indeed, but still don’t really fit with the purpose, unless I would monitor those previously created monsterous worms.

They redirect us to the place where we had come from. Great. The whole thing starts to feel like chasing the Permit A38.

We walk back to another basement (why are lab and IT people are always evicted to basements btw?), which finally resembles at least remotely a chemistry lab. At least the lab coats are there, we should be very close to our final destination!

There we are told that we have to talk to the secretary on the top floor and she will be able to help us. Jesus Christ, Permit A38 all over again!

chemistry lab

Here the electronics lab girl says that from now on we are on the correct path, so her duty here was done and leaves us to open our wings. The security guy opens up the elevator for us by scanning his card then giving his fingerprint (*wow! more advanced even than Copenhagen!).

At the top, a lady with a huge smile greets us, and says we need to speak with the head of the department at 2.30 pm. Alright, so we have some time to wander around and find some food. Maybe we even have time to visit that hospital! Little did I know how wrong I was...

We aim to come back around 2.25 so that we won’t make a bad impression, but I nearly forgot that we are in Africa, where times are merely just numbers, and no one should take them seriously. I knew I was born on the wrong continent! If I would be late by 15 minutes here, people would admire me how is it possible that I always arrived way too early instead of giving grumpy faces like at home that I was so late!

Anyway, the lady from before says that the person we need is stuck in traffic jam, but he should be here in 15 minutes.


45 minutes later...

Damn this must be a really nasty traffic jam! At least there is a relaxational nice view we can look at while we are waiting for him.

Nice view from the window 1
nice view from the window 2

Eventually he walks in as chilled as if he was only 5 minutes late, but it doesn’t matter.

lab in the university

He is after all finally a person I can talk after walking through an army of people and dead ends.

He is instantly interested in what I would like to do with those tiny crawling creatures, and shows me the lab where I could work. It looks as fancy as any other labs in the civilized West, and wonder if it’s a shame for Hungary, or it’s a pride for Namibia what I see inside...

However, after making a few phone calls and turns out that I can’t work there as we would need to establish a cooperation agreement, approved by the government and based on how relaxed everyone is here, I should expect to make it happen by my 65th birthday. In best case scenario.

Nice... you swing the carrot in front of me but leave me hungry. Thanks university!

Time to return to Gobabis

We leave the university with long faces and looking at the clock we realize we can't make it to the hospital, and have to leave if we don’t want to wander around in Windhoek after sunset, which we obviously don’t want, so we just give a call to any other institutions on the list. We call Speedy, our driver, as we agreed before, but he says he is at the other side of the city and we should meet there. Hmm... Strange, I thought you were a taxi driver too, what is this convenience? But oh well, at least after paying the extra 20 NAD price of not having small banknotes, we are supplied by a bundle of 10 NADs (220 HUF/0,75 EUR) so there should be no problem.

Speedy tells the driver where to take us. While we roll in to „the place”, the biggest recognition hits me: it’s the same place where our very first driver to Gobabis brought us and told we have to pay for the full car! So it was a taxi stand for all the cars leaving to Gobabis! And by the same princips how they leave to Windhoek! All the previous confusions make sense now.

taxis to Gobabis
more taxis to Gobabis

However, here in Windhoek and at this time of the day (6ish PM) competition is slightly higher than in Gobabis in the morning. Everybody wants to go home, there are 6+ cars standing empty and everybody wants YOU to join the taxi. As soon as a lonely local taxi drives in, everybody swarms the poor car, like vultures circling around a dying animal, letting you almost no time to get out, and by the time you manage to, someone grabs your arm to go with them, while another one has already your luggage deeply hidden in a second car. Since we are with Speedy, he drags us out of the narrowing circle of drivers and we have time to observe this phenomenon for around an hour until Speedy manages to fish in two more passengers and then we are ready to leave.

getting passengers to Gobabis

After the first shock and understanding how the „system” works, what first seemed scary, turns into a comedy, and we even joke together with the other drivers. I’m thinking that maybe it’s better we didn’t know about this way of transport beforehand though... Imagine yourself, new in Namibia, you are promised to be taken to a city far far away, but first you are stopped at a random place, spend there hours without knowing why, and suddenly 2 more people are just sitting next to you. You would also think this was the last time you saw your family and loved ones, wouldn’t you?