Of The Great Atlantic and Unotjari

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Charles Tjatindi

The old adage that ‘you never realise what you have until you lose it’ seems to be true to the residents of the coast.

They have so much happening for them – the beauty of the endless dunes, a wide range of fishery cuisine and a weather to die for. Then to top it all, there is the great Atlantic – the sea with cold salty water. Yet they remain modest about it. Forget about what geography teaches you about the Pacific being the largest ocean and all. The Atlantic has its own place in history.

This is the beauty I wanted to share with an old school friend of mine, Unotjari – who has spent the better part of his years in the Omaheke Region after Grade 12. My friend was gifted in farming techniques as we were growing up. That man is good – he can easily tell which one of his 100 cows is approaching just when it mows. I guess that says a lot about me – I can’t even tell which of the goats in our kraal is mine and there are only two of them!

Well, now that we are all older and wiser – in our own ways, I decided it was also time I impress my friend a bit. Since I can’t take him on in any wood chopping, or donkey- tracking contest, I had just the perfect plan. I was going to invite him to the coast, where I would amaze him with the sight of the great Atlantic.

Soon Unotjari arrived in Walvis Bay. After he was well-rested, I took him to the great Atlantic. He wanted to get an idea of the exact size of this big pool of water but stuck for an explanation, I asked him the largest water ‘congestion’ he had ever seen in his life. The answer was short and simple – the Okombepera rural water point carriage dam. This was going to be tough, I thought. I asked him if he remembers the greatest rainy season they ever had in Okombepera. Being a true Herero who never tells that on the rain, he told me it never rains enough at his village.

He also told me how he wished those that are better off in the village would go and buy farms and leave the grazing to the have-nots like him.

I had to interrupt, as we had just arrived at the Walvis Bay Independence beach, or Ovambo beach as it is commonly referred to. Anticipating a question on the name, I quickly said, “Mbuae, it is just like Herero mall in Windhoek – it is just a name”.

By the time Unotjari looked up to behold the great Atlantic, the explanation on the place’s name suddenly seemed the least of his worries!

“A-ta-ta-ta!” was all he could say. I smiled, knowing I had just had my first guinea pig pass with flying colours. I am told Unotjari couldn’t stop thinking about the great Atlantic back home.

The problem is that once the village chief got wind of Unotjari’s story, he decided the village’s water problems were solved. He wanted to drive the cattle from Okombepera to the great Atlantic, where he reckons there will be enough water.

I had to do something fast. You see, the traffic officers here are tough. They can probably escort some grannies demonstrating against violence to the mayor’s office, but would most definitely not clear the road for Omaheke’s cattle as they are driven to the great Atlantic. I informed the chief’s councillors that although water is plenty, grazing is a BIG problem because of the dunes. Ja, I did my research, not long ago, I also harboured the same thoughts! Well, I felt good about having won a battle against Unotjari – for now at least.

Seeing that the holidays are almost here, I shudder to think how I will fare at the village this time around. I just might resort to calling on the animals out loud as if they were people, like some guy I know. This brother was in the States for too long and when he came back he didn’t know how to drive the cattle. All he could do was place his hands on his hips and shout at the animals: “Guys, guys, dtop that now… come on guys … guys, no…” Eewa!

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