Description of the Owamboland Environment
15 December 2002
Hello from Namibia,
Sera and I have been living here in southern Africa now for just under 2
months. We have been busy with a
fairly intense training schedule and thus we have learned and experienced quite
a bit. Below, I have described in
detail the landscape, weather, and flora/fauna of northern Namibia as I have
seen them so far. I also will try
to include some of the pictures Sera and I have taken with the digital camera.
The landscape here in the part of northern Namibia where we live is very
flat. There are no outstanding
hills, or gullies, or anything. Well
this isn't entirely true, giant termite mounds are very common here and they
serve to liven up the landscape a bit. The
first thing I noticed here is that the sky is "bigger" somehow.
I can see the sky from horizon to horizon 360 degrees around, and now
that I think about it, there aren't too many places in Ohio where I could do
that. I mean, there is always at
least a hill, a house, or a stand of trees in the distance somewhere.
I'm used to it now, but at first I would really notice that the sky
here. Another thing
that is neat is that because it is so flat I can see storms and such far off in
the distance, as in "oh, it must be raining in Angola" far off. The sunsets are also often really spectacular here, although
we don't really have a good view from our house in Omege.
The typical flora here is rather drab on first glance. There are trees and bushes, but
most of them are small and
thorny. The most common tree is the
Mopane; there are also quite a few palm trees.
There are some
big (normal) trees but they are few and far between.
Actually, there are very pretty trees here that I had never seen before
coming to Namibia, some covered with bunches of little purple flowers, but these
were planted and protected with purpose and I don't see them away from the
cities. I'm not sure exactly but I
think that the natural landscape for this area has been much degraded by human
use (over-grazing and such). The
"topsoil" is very sandy but underneath the sand there is another layer
made up mostly of clay. The result
of this is that when there are small rains the water drains into the sand and/or
evaporates quickly. However, when
there are heavy rains the water collects in huge, shallow pools because the clay
layer doesn't let water through hardly at all.
This leads me into a description of
the Namibian weather. So far
I have experienced the end of summer, and then the beginning of spring. Summer here is
hot and dry. No rain, no humidity,
no clouds, just perfectly sunny 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit days.
The nights were a cool 80 and very quiet.
This weather could be pretty awful if I had to do anything outside
between 12 and 16.00. Even on the
very hot days the shade would be comfortable though.
About the last two weeks of November the rains began.
The first few storms that came would only happen at night and were full
of sound and fury but not much rain fell. Then,
at the end of November we got a few heavy sustained rains and then a couple days
later it rained for about a week strait. Now, several things happened here when
the rains came that I didn't really see coming. First of all, the bugs, of which there were very few when I
first arrived, came out en mass.
What is interesting is that they come (and go) in waves.
The first night after a heavy rain came the air was full of little mayfly
type bugs. And then there were
several nights of winged termites, and then little gnats.
(When I say winged termites I mean bugs about 3/4 of and inch long with
wings that come out of the termite mounds, fly around until their wings fall
off, and then crawl around; they are attracted to light.)
Now, several weeks after the rain began there is a steady mix of
bugs, moths, smaller winged insects every night, and an ever increasing number
of mosquitoes. Also with the rain
came these shallow pools, called oshanas, and the grasses that grow in and
around them. These were a big surprise
for all of us trainees. In early
November the side yard here where Sera and I live was a sandy desert wasteland
in which I couldn't imagine anything could ever grow.
Now, in the middle of December it is a green meadow with tall grass,
bugs, and frogs. These pools are
everywhere and they make the village roads impassable unless you don't mind your
feet getting wet. As of Dec 15, it
hasn't rained for a week. The
oshanas are still around, the bugs have calmed down, and the days are still hot,
bright, and sunny. It hasn't been
even close to cold here yet but I hear that in the winter it gets pretty close
to freezing at night, we shall see.
The fauna here is also noteworthy from an outsiders point of view.
Out here in the rural areas one can expect to see goats, chickens,
cattle, donkeys, dogs, ducks, and the occasional cat.
The goats chickens, and cattle are free to roam as they wish.
They do have owners but none of us can figure out exactly how people keep
track of them. The village is
covered with fences, but the animals find places to go through them rather
easily. The chickens and goats are left to their own devices to find
food; I have never seen anybody feed them anything. The goats eat all of the plants, which explains why the only
plants that grow here naturally are covered with nasty thorns or are Mopane
trees, which apparently must taste pretty awful. The chickens are pretty scrawny and I think they eat bugs and
what people put in the garbage disposal, I mean throw out the kitchen window.
The dogs and cats here are pretty much 5% pet and 95% tools, and are
generally not respected and treated poorly.
For example, the dogs are fed chicken bones and no one would even think
to vaccinate their animals. I'm not
sure but I don't think they have names either.
The insects here aren't too different from the ones I was used to in the
US. Giant millipedes and beetles are common and the flies here
tenacious. There are also
some wall spiders here that get as big as silver dollars, but they are not
poisonous to humans. There are all
sorts of lizards and colorful little birds, that I haven't identified yet as
well. As far as exotic and
dangerous African insects and animals are concerned I have only found and killed
two small scorpions in our bedroom in Omege and have only seen one meter long
spitting cobra found and killed about 30 feet from where we will be living for
Anyway, I will end the message on that note and I will send more letters
here for more photos of Northern Namibian landscapes