Oh my Africa – February 2015

It’s just over a week into February and already there are three unique and remarkable competitors for this post.

Mugabe almost won with his complete denial of tripping over a red carpet and the resulting memes that have swept the internet.

Also tempting was the riot at the Africa Cup football semi-finals.  Equatorial Guinea fans were pissed that their team was losing and started throwing stuff.  Apparently, police tried to quell the uprising but we viewers at home could only see the helicopter they sent in three separate times which didn’t accomplish anything.  I think they just wanted to show off and/or play with, their whirlybird.

I’m going with the local story though, this compelling read from the Namibian, an English-language newspaper over here:

As far as I can tell, a newspaper’s job is to inform its readers; tell them stuff they do not already know.
One thing all Namibians are very well aware of is that it is not raining.
Yet, in the first paragraph, readers were informed that a new bulletin “indicated that rainfall was generally low in the north-west and north-central parts of Namibia in November and December”.  And that satellite images of vegetation also indicated below-average grazing conditions in some of the northern areas.
Surely, this million-dollar satellite could be put to better use.
The article goes on to tell us that the rest of the season could bring normal or below normal rains.  Which could reduce crop yields and delay harvests.  It all depends on an El Niño event that might occur in the 2014/2015 season.

But, it concludes, “not all El Niño events have resulted in low rainfall in the region, with some areas being more regularly affected than others”.
Thank goodness for the falling dictators and rioting soccer fans to fill the rest of the newspaper.

Poolsharkdom awaits

I’d been playing pool for a few years before moving here.  Unfortunately, despite this lengthy opportunity, I did not build my skills to a sufficient level to avoid having my self-esteem smeared across the green felt from time to time.  Thus, it was good news when I discovered the wealth of pool tables in Namibia.  My relocation did not mean the end of my pool-sharking dreams.  But the road to reach them is not a smooth one.

It began one day in Windhoek.  Running errands in the nation’s capital meant the usual traffic, crowds, and exhaustion.  We needed a lunch break and Jay had a faint memory of a little pizza place with a few tables.  Out of this memory he pulled the route to a wee side road and cold beer, pizza, and pool.  It was here that I was introduced to the African pool table.

Although Africa is 6 million square kilometers bigger than North America, they did not have enough room for American tables and had to shrink them.  They smushed in all four sides along with the holes and deflated the balls by about a third.  Then they made one-size-fits-all-children cue sticks that I feel I might break with one hard shot.  Not optimal for us tall people but out of our control.

American cue left, African cue right. Don’t sneeze, you may splinter it.


The fun continued on a trip to Rundu, a town on Namibia’s northern border.  In an attempt to mingle with the locals, Jay and I went off in search for a bar with a pool table.  We found the curiously named:

But instead settled on the more traditional Free Town:

This place had all a bar really needs:  walls (sheet metal), floor (dirt), bar (wood) with a few stools and beer (cold), and, of course, a table (pool).  The few patrons plunked upon the few stools were not shy to stare at the two whiteys that just walked in.  We may have been the only ones to ever have done so.  No one spoke English or any of the other languages from our area of the country but we did manage to order two bottles of beer and communicate that we wanted to use the table.  The patrons whirled around on their stools to watch what would surely be a spectacle.

I was now used to the miniature tables but I had not yet played on one which had more duct tape than felt.  That wasn’t so much an obstacle as the cue ball that disappeared in the table depths every time we scratched.

The patrons were very helpful though.  The men would lift the table and shake the ball out when it stuck and the women shared, in Kavango, their version of the rules.  The two words I did understand were “two times”.  This was in reference to the two shots a player got if their opponent scratched.  When we scratched, everyone would yell “TWO TIMES!”, we’d fish out the ball, and play on.

I had many supporters since I was the woman.  The men gathered around me each shot and, after discussing it amongst themselves, point to the ball they recommended.  Free Town erupted in cheers when I won and I received many handshakes.

Then the bartender wanted to play.

She was about half my height but glared at me like a bull sizing up a naked matador; no challenge.

She snatched the cue from Jay and roughly ground the tip with the chalk hanging from the ceiling above the table.  I broke.  A blink of an eye later, she catapulted the cue ball off the table and out the door.  This happened more than once; she shot impulsively and missed often.  I didn’t win so much as she lost.

Skills, 0,  interesting African experience, 92.


After playing many lopsided, coin-eating tables throughout Namibia, into Botswana and even Zimbabwe we finally decided to settle down and have a uniquely quirky table of our own.  Ours has different sized holes and will eat any ball at any time.  For extra skill-building, Africa occasionally sends in her jillion-strong army of bugs to change at will the course of our balls.

“11 ball, corner pocket, off the dung beetle.”

Alas, it is through this cruel world I must plod fate-ward.  As Muhammed Ali once said: “Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.”

I’m sure I’ll only need another 50 years or so.

Saturday afternoon poo spitting

Jay introduced this sport to me this weekend.  Really, it’s a sport.  There is a world championship in South Africa every year.  You can even find it on wikipedia listed under the categories “feces” and “sport in africa”. 

In Afrikaans, they call it “Bokdrol Spoeg”, basically “antelope pellet spit”.  It seems you can use any type of antelope poo, the professionals use kudu.  We went for eland.

Eland are the largest antelope around here, they are about the size of a horse but look more like a cow.  Despite their enormity, they excrete relatively small pellets that weigh nearly nothing. 

When in Rome?

So, Jay walks up with two bokdrols in his hand and challenges me to a Spoeg.  Winner gets to commence the traditional post-Spoeg imbibition.  I get to choose my drol and whether I want to go first or second.  I choose first, I don’t want to be intimidated by Jay’s probable lengthy shot.  As I prepare to stick the poo in my mouth, a red flag goes up in my head. 

“This is a trick.  They say this is a game they play just to get stupid foreigners to put shit in their mouth and then they laugh at them”, I thought.

So I make Jay go first and, no, it’s not a trick, this is actually what they do for fun.  They get really drunk and spit poo and then drink some more.  I suppose that’s the best way to do it.  Unfortunately, we were not really drunk.

Jay leans his head back, takes a running jump, and launches his pellet about 3 meters, or almost 10 feet.  I, hesitantly, put mine in my mouth, am horrified, try to mimic his motions, but quickly and spastically spit, just to get it out.  It flies about a meter, a pathetic 3 feet in front of me, and plops on the ground. 

Wikipedia says the record is 15.56 meters.  That’s like a school bus and a half.  Do people sit around and practice?  Jay says the trick is to moisten the pellet slightly in your mouth first.  With moisture comes momentum.  I’ll try to remember that if I am ever in a life-and-death poo-spitting situation.  I can’t imagine why else I would do this again.