Namibia differs from Botswana like day from night, except for
Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. On a map, it looks like the neck of a guitar,
and stretches for over three hundred kilometers west to east, although
it’s only thirty to seventy kilometers wide. Along its seldom used
roads are scattered tiny mud-huts and skinny livestock. Most of the
structures are round, with a frame of thick branches and walls made of
cow dung-sand mix. Once I asked villagers if they’d ever attempted
building walls of elephant dung (just seems like an obvious choice –
it’s everywhere), but they said they hadn’t tried that yet. As I pass
by, people are friendly and always wave. If you stop, ten times out of
ten children would ask you for something, no matter what. The
assumption is, if you’ve stopped, you have something to give.

Seeking for more culturally rich experiences like that with the Himba,
I stopped at a “traditional village”, but that experience felt a bit
fake when the villagers put on bamboo skirts on top of their modern
shorts, and performed a song and dance led by a little green plastic
whistle. Nevertheless, though a bit orchestrated, it was a sneak peek
into how things must have been not too long ago. Minus the plastic
whistle, perhaps, but the basket weaving and the forging process
looked authentic enough. One thing I was simply ecstatic about was
getting my own hippo caller. I was shown a few musical/sound making
instruments, and that one was by far the coolest one. It’s a drum with
a bamboo stick attached to the inside of the animal skin. When you rub
the stick with a wet hand, it makes a sound just like the ones hippos
make at night. It’s supposed to attract hippos, and I’ve been trying
every night since, but to no avail.