One of my many character flaws, in some circumstances among the worst, is that I sometimes think I’m funny. This as we shall see is not the case.
Recently there have been some tribal tensions in the Kunene Region between the Herero and Damara.
This started off at a school near Sesfontein (and a Peace Corps volunteer was pulled out) and spread to Opuwo when a group of Hereros protested outside the Regional Council offices about what they see as a disproportionate number of Damara people employed there.
All this has been very peaceful but as a result the Regional Council offices were closed for two days and a police car sat outside.
One of my fellow Opuwo VSO vols, a Dutch lady we’ll call her M, works at the Regional Council but was down in Windhoek when the protest and closure occurred getting her work visa renewed.
On the Friday while waiting for something or other to boot up or finish installing I sent her and E (another Dutch VSO vol but who works at the hospital) the following text:
“Group of people standing outside the Regional Council holding signs saying ‘unite against the real enemy the Dutch’. Wonder who put them up to that?”
M promptly replied with “Are you joking?”.
There are many responses I should have sent back, ideally just a simple “Yes” and maybe a reassurance all was actually calm.
But no, thinking I was being funny, I instead sent the following:
“They’re now chanting ‘death to the dike building cyclists’ not sure what that’s about”.
Ha ha ha? No.
A very short time later my phone went and it was the VSO Programme Manager for HIV/AIDS (another Dutch lady who happens to be my and M’s programme manager).
She was asking my advice on the anti-Dutch situation she had just been informed about and if it was safe for M to come back to Opuwo at all.
A quick calculation in my head came to the conclusion the N$58 in my bank account wouldn’t be enough to buy fatcakes and cool drinks to actually entice a crowd into an anti-Dutch protest leaving only the options of coming clean or fleeing to Angola. I came clean.
After finishing grovelling to the PM who admitted she had been confused as to why there would be this sudden anti-Netherlands feeling in Opuwo I called M and began to explain, grovel, apologise, beg forgiveness and promise to never do it again all at the same time.
The names I was called in a mixture of English, Dutch and I think Mandarin would make a Polish sailor blush but were of course entirely justified. 100%.
I then spent a nervous couple of days waiting to see M in Opuwo and my inevitable slow and painful fully-vindicated death at her hands.
Luckily – and entirely undeservedly – she didn’t kill me and instead forgave me. This was unexpected and I’d made my peace with no fewer than 19 different gods.
On the record then: a thousand apologies to M and a million thanks for her generous nature.
She did then go on to lose my left boot in a shebeen the following weekend which I later found hanging on the hospital gate but that is another story. I don’t think it was revenge, not consciously anyway.
So no more jokes or japery from me from now until the end of days.
Which reminds me actually, have you heard this one?
“Two Himbas walk into a bar…”
Tags: apologies, conduct unbecoming, daves many character flaws, i never learn, justifiable homicide, near-death experiences, people who think they're funny often aren't, reasons why i should be kicked to death, text-gate, unamusing text messages