Travel presentation brings Namibia to Princeton

Adam and Mindy Kehn of Princeton shared stories, photos and souvenirs from their trip to Namibia in South Africa during a March 31 presentation at the library. Their talk was sponsored by the Friends of the Library group, which works to include travel topics among its programming.
Adam and Mindy Kehn of Princeton shared stories, photos and souvenirs from their trip to Namibia in South Africa during a March 31 presentation at the library. Their talk was sponsored by the Friends of the Library group, which works to include travel topics among its programming.

The Princeton Library Community Room filled the night of March 31 with people eager to hear Adam and Mindy Kehn talk about the two-week pleasure trip they took last June to Namibia, a country in southwest Africa. The Friends of the Princeton Library have worked to incorporate travel programs among its offerings and asked Adam, a library employee, to talk about the trip.
Adam and Mindy shared some of the more than 3,000 pictures they took, which included lions, giraffes, hippos, elephants, flamingoes, landscapes, food, the desert, the ocean, the coastline, giant thorns found all around and several snapshots of local life, such as the grocery store and gas stations.
The Kehns brought back and displayed many souvenirs, including many wood carvings for which the country is well-known, ostrich-shell jewelry, statues, books and other goods. The 32-hour trip there went smoothly with a stop in London.
Adam said the money-exchange rate was about 12 local dollars for every one American dollar. He said tourism is not that “built up” there yet, and it was amazing to see the chalets and other lodging they had gotten for $30 or $40 per night.
Tourists are advised not to leave their vehicles unattended, so people would tip locals to guard their car. However, they had to be careful not to upset the economic balance by tipping too much or too little.
Mindy showed and described many pictures of plants, like palm trees that don’t grow here and lavender bushes that grow exponentially bigger in Africa than here. The group toured some museums and was surprised to see things like meteorites and dinosaur remains that they could touch.
“They get a lot of meteorites in Namibia,” Adam said.
They visited a modern library serving a city of 322,000 people. Adam and Mindy said the facility still used the Dewey decimal system and card catalogues, but it was converting to a digital, computerized system.
English is the official language where the Kehns visited, but they also heard Afrikaans, German and several tribal languages spoken. Thankfully, most signs were in English, which was good because some of them conveyed important warnings, such as, “Enter at your own risk, crocodiles and lions will eat you.”
The groups sped along narrow highways at an average speed of 90 to 100 miles per hour, which Adam said was nerve-wracking, since the roads have no shoulders and all sorts of animals can pop out at any time. He said there was copious construction on the roads, but unlike America, where there are flashing signs and bright cones, roads with hazardous conditions there were marked with big boulders or stones that basically meant “don’t drive here.”
About half the country is unemployed, and there was significant disparity between the affluent areas in cities and the poor areas on the outskirts that consisted of one-room shacks with no plumbing. The Kehns said their friends who live there are considered to be rich and are expected to hire someone to clean their house and cook their food. Both services cost in the neighborhood of $10 per week, which is considered good pay.
Politically, Adam said his impression is that Namibia walks a fine line in being friendly to both communist and democratic nations. The couple noted a North Korea museum, as well as some swastika symbols and several streets named after dictators.
Mindy said, “For the most part, we felt really safe.”
Once, as the Kehns’ caravan traveled along, it encountered a herd of elephants and stopped, which left the Kehns’ vehicle directly in the path of a large bull elephant that looked annoyed. The upside was they got out of the way quickly and safely but not before they snapped a close-up head shot of the big, wild elephant.
They said bathrooms were inside fenced, locked areas, and it was not unusual to have flat tires. One of their fellow travelers had a total of five flats in one week due to the bumpy, hazardous roads and gigantic thorns everywhere.
The visitors discovered they like the way Namibians barbecue meat with the coals from burned wood, and they said the chicken fixed that way was especially good.
The tour-group members learned many new things, such as that a giraffe’s spots get darker as they age and their faces are quite expressive and inquisitive. One wildlife park tended a herd of roaming rhinos but kept their horns filed down to protect them from poachers. The tourists observed a large group of hippos and could not help but notice their flatulence.
They also observed zebras, jackals, baboons, vicious wild dogs, warthogs and termite mounds everywhere, up to 15 feet high. Mindy said they saw all sorts of exotic animals and even got to touch a few of them.
She said about the African experience, “It was just thrilling.”