My life in Swakopmund had become dull, although productive on the work front.
Some highlights of my days included:
-Using the ATM to get money directly from my checking account. The queue in Swakopmund is orderly and goes rapidly. Amazing!
-Taking a daily hot shower.
-Buying a sandwich for a dollar from the supermarket every day at lunchtime and never getting sick from the lettuce and tomato.
-Visiting the post office, which is different from home only in that the employees are pleasant. Okay, one other difference. I sent in a small parcel to audition for a job as Amtrak writer in the U.S. (taking trains and writing about it on their website). My parcel looked like something the Unabomber would have sent as it was covered in 18 buffalo stamps and 1 leopard stamp, all hand cancelled. And I only had duct tape for sealing it. At least it will stand out on the submission pile.
-I buy a daily newspaper from boys on the street. One tried to sell me a German paper. I said (in my clearly Yank accent): “That one isn’t going to help me.” The other boys laughed at him and said: “This is Namibia. We speak English.” Perhaps this offered a little insight into the native take on the local Germans.
My boredom drove me first to the cinema for a mediocre take on the Fantastic Four (I was the only person in Swakopmund laughing when Stan Lee showed up as Willie Lumpkin). Then it drove me to a travel agent.
“I am here for a month. I want to do something that doesn’t cost much but gets me out of the house. I want it to be with other people, but I don’t want to be with 23 overland truck passengers who have all been together for three months and can finish each other’s sentences.”
The travel agent, a young Namibian man, opened his eyes wide and said:
“Have you ever ridden a…” (pause for dramatic effect) “camel?”
There was a silence as he considered my response.
“How about this? You can only do it a few places in the world. You could go sand-boarding. It’s like sledding on sand dunes.”
“Yes, I’ve done that. What else do you have?”
The poor man was getting irritated now. I wasn’t playing along with his script.
“But I bet you’ve never…” (another pause, with big open puppy-dog eyes) “kissed a seal.”
He had me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to kiss a seal given the revolting smell up at the nearby Cape Cross seal colony. But he was right. I’d never kissed a seal. Frogs, weasels, and worms, sure, what woman hasn’t? But no seals.
A few days later, I woke up early and headed out into the Atlantic on a small boat for my seal-kissing activity.
Technically, the excursion was a 4-hour dolphin-viewing tour. The seals were just an additional attraction, a back-up activity in case the main event chose to hide. The boat was a small ski-boat from Ocean Adventures. The passengers included me, a Swiss couple, four older Dutch women, and a German couple. The leader and driver, Hakkie, was a white Namibian. He spoke German without a distinguishable accent, which meant that I could understand him perfectly as he addressed the group.
We slowly cruised to Walvis Bay, stopping to view a bird-guano-gathering platform and the exclusive resort of Long Beach on the way. Hakkie baited pelicans along the way, getting them close to the boat by offering them frozen fish. Then, Hakkie told us all to stand up. He quickly removed the blankets we had been sitting on, leaving exposed the vinyl of the seat cushions on the center island.
“A visitor is coming.”
A second later, a massive 6-year-old seal hauled himself onto the boat and lurched forward down the island, stopping only when it reached Hakkie.
“Hungrig, Cassie?” asked Hakkie. The seals had names. And apparently they too understood German.
Cassie was indeed hungry, and he hung around until Hakkie fed him a small, frozen fish. He scratched and kissed Cassie’s neck while Cassie appreciatively waited for more food.
Cassie left our boat right when I was about to feed him but lucky for me, Bushman was nearby. He hauled himself in over the side, scaring two Dutch women.
When Bushman was full of fish, he leapt over the side I was on and Fluffy came to visit. We motored on, and Fluffy hung around hoping for more fish. All of the passengers stared at him.
How do you get rid of a seal who has overstayed his welcome? The answer: You invite a bigger seal over for dinner.
The bigger seal joined us for a snack. Fluffy sat behind him. Every time Fluffy tried to get a fish, the big seal would bark loudly and show his teeth. The two took it to the floor at one point, and I had a wet seal sitting on my foot for a while. Finally, Fluffy left, followed by the larger seal. We towel-dried the bench and put the blankets back down. The only evidence that of the seal’s visit was a squashed flat fish head near my foot.
We continued on to the inappropriately named seal colony at Pelican Point before eating snacks and heading back to Swakopmund. It had been a great morning out, even though I had forgotten to kiss a seal.
Oh yeah, and we saw dolphins.