We stopped at the local store and Laura sweet talked the store keeper to let her buy beer for Lars. We pulled into the gated property close to sunset and were greeted with big hugs and smiles by Lars and Juanita.
Juanita was not what I expected from Andrews descriptions of this woman with a larger than life personality and could drink me under the table. She is like a piece of iron rod. Super slender, compact, head of red hair, hazel eyes that gaze deep into you and a wide caring smile.
She is in constant movement and never sits down. I realized why after a few days. She is in constant pain from a car accident where she hit a Kudo. It totaled the car and broke her neck. Her recovery is still ongoing. There is a surgery that could help her but she said there is only a 65% chance of it working and if it went wrong, she could end up in a wheelchair.
She works with her husband Lars at their garage. They do towing, recovery and repairs for vehicles for an area of something crazy like 3 thousand miles.
When they aren’t called out to job, she welds and creates animals out of thin plates of metal. She is such an amazing artist and the amount of detail she can put in the pieces is crazy. A lot of her work is displayed on the local businesses, either inside as accents or outside on the signage.
With our similar background with welding and mechanics, she and I got along really well. She is mother to two boys. Swanie and Lars, who they call Larsey. Swanie is 23 and Larsey is 6. She told me that when she found out she was pregnant with Larsey, she had gone to the doctors since she wasn’t feeling well and thought she had malaria. She was 42 at the time.
She laughed and told me that she worked until the day before she had Larsey. She said she was welding under a car when her sister dragged her out and yelled at her. “You are going to blind the baby!”. Juanita has such a great laugh.
Since we are also both Leo’s and have more of a masculine presence, we were able to get very close, very quickly. She shared with me about her dad’s passing and then when her beloved brother was killed. Because they are one of the only recovery rigs, she literally had to go and recovery her brothers remains. It broke my heart as she told the story and how since then she has smoked cigarettes.
We went to her mothers home and visited their graves. Her brother’s grave was made with stones and engraved with carving of the Big 5 that Juanita did by hand. There were beautiful white round sea stones that she had collected and dried flower wreaths. I had to turn away as she spoke to us about him as the tears just flowed down my face for her.
It felt like hollowed ground to be inside the small gated area but she said that sometimes she comes out and talks to him. She said something that really hit me hard. She said that her mother comes out and talks to them all the time. “She lives with the dead”. It was tough to see that Juanita just wants to be loved but her mother is so consumed by the loss of her son and husband that she doesn’t love Juanita like she should.
Lars is a very manly man that doesn’t talk often but when he does, it’s worth paying attention to. He has a cigarette constantly in one hand and either a cup of coffee or a beer in the other. He has a mischievous smile and looks like he is always plotting something. He handles the repairs of the vehicles and driving the Unimog for recoveries.
He takes great joy in making fun of Andrew and I didn’t see him actually relax until we drove out into the bush for a quick day trip. He just sat in the shade next to the vehicle, drank his beer and watched us all.
That was a great day. Just spent being together, grilling and hanging out.
Larsie can be an absolute terror or a snuggle bunny…. depending on his mood. He has a wonderful talent of yelling at the top of his lungs, the name of whoever he wants to come to wherever he happens to be in the property.
It’s usually Lars. It got to where I heard “Laaaaaaaaarrrrrrrssss….” in my sleep. Since he was born so late in their lives, he doesn’t really have anyone to play with so he is pretty much allowed to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. The adults just want to keep him happy and not crying. He was driving his small quad during the time we were there but they had order his first motorcycle. Turns out after a few quick instructions, he was a natural at it.
Swanie is a super great kid. He’s young, ginger and covered in freckles. Unlike most redheads I know, he loves the sun. He works at the garage, doing recoveries, electrical diagnostics and anything else that comes up. He also does tours for a company when they need a German speaking tour guide. He splits his time between Namibia and Germany with his dad’s family. He told me that his friends from school call him a Redneck since he loves to hunt, wears camo, boots and go into the bush. I told him that he wasn’t Redneck and explained why I would just call him Outdoorsy. We both had a good laugh over that.
Whenever there is a call for a recovery, the whole compound goes into motion to get the gear and everyone goes, even Larsey. Juanita told me that it’s a tough business and they all get desensitized to accidents, death and dealing with bodies. Even little Larsey isn’t fazed by it. They keep him in the truck when they go on a call dealing with that but it’s just a factor in their business.
While we were there, we managed to steal Juanita away for the day and headed to Etosha National Park. It’s a game park and a lot of animals can be seen there. They have fences but they can’t keep the animals from leaving, it’s mostly to deter the poachers.
They keep watering holes constantly filled so that way the animals keep coming back to it. Helpful when you are trying to get tourists to come on game drives and safari.
We drove to the holes and just sat and watched as Zebra, Giraffe and Warthog came to drink. All of the creatures stay on high alert, eyes constantly searching the danger and checking for the smell of predators.
No one is allowed to get out of the cars since animal attacks are a very real threat. We literally drove right past a male lion that was sleeping in the sun like a house cat when Laura started slapping Andrew, unable to get the words out.
He was not concerned with us at all. Just relaxing in the sun and eventually got up and walked over to a bush to cuddle with another male lion that we didn’t even see.
We stayed for awhile then continued on, we came back later and they had separated again and were in full view. Just cat napping, get it….they would peak open their eyes but didn’t really give a damn if we were there or not.
They were the most beautiful things I had ever seen when they sat up. The manes were a golden yellow when dark brown. Their faces marked with many scars. The paws were huge and they were just there for us to enjoy.
We also stumbled across a small herd of elephants with cows and babies again. We thought they were headed to the closest watering hole but turns out they went to one close to where one of the lodges sits high up on a hill. We stopped for coffee and just sat enjoying the view of the preserve. There was an infinity pool and I laid down and put my hands in the water, just enjoying the coolness of it running through my hands as the sun heated my back. Laura sat next to me and I just wrapped an arm around her and relaxed. I love water but I don’t like swimming lol.
It was a very special day for us, filled with lots of laughter and memories made.
We treated the gang to homemade tortillas and “Mexican food”. They actually turned out really well and everyone enjoyed eating the simple tacos and rice.
A&L tented for the first few nights, and I slept inside in a bed, then we swapped and I tented until we left. I preferred it. I like my tent and privacy. Swanie was super sweet to me and brought coffee in the mornings. Calling my name and holding the cup out as I unzipped everything as little as possible and reached for the cup without having to open my eyes.
The day we left was tough, most of us ended up in tears and multiple hugs were given over and over. We made our way back to Uis and delivered a metal Rhino head that Juanita had made Bas for his birthday. We went to a special spot for a sundowner with another beautiful view of the Brandburg.
We only stayed that night, we had a long drive to get to the town where the airport was of Windhoek. We checked into a lodge and went and had Indian food again to celebrate my birthday. Followed by dessert and coffee at a really sweet outdoor wine bar. It was a very quiet day and I did a lot of reflection.
As the date for me to leave got closer, I could feel myself slowly retreating back into my shell and putting the wall back up. The wall that kept me from sharing how I was feeling with the people at home. I tried to stop it but it just came up more and more.
I had a morning flight back to South Africa, I call it a puddle jumper so we called it an early night. I just packed and wrote A&L a letter to give to them when they dropped me off. I hugged them both tightly and couldn’t really say much but I hope my letter told them the things I couldn’t say.
I did some shopping at the duty free store for some souvenirs, I hadn’t really bought anything so I needed to pick up something for friends. I also bought a bottle of Amarula, which almost got taken in Rome at the security check point but luckily I told them I put it in my coffee cause they immediately let me have it. Guess they take their coffee very seriously in Rome.
The flights were very long and I didn’t sleep a wink. Too amped up, I guess. Ended up being awake for something like 30 hrs. So I was a walking zombie when I got to the US.
Mary picked me up and I had a mini heart attack when we started driving since we were on “the opposite side” of the road. I made myself calm down and tried to talk to her as much as possible to avoid falling asleep. Mary has been so great to me. Looking after the house, checking the mail, she bought me groceries so I would have something in the fridge to eat when I got home. Such a thoughtful person.
I dropped her at her house and drove the longest 20 minutes to my house. Reminding myself constantly what side of the road to be on.
I walked into my house and felt so calm. I walked over to where franks ashes were and put my hands on it and said simply “hi baby”.
I left my bags right inside the door and went right upstairs to take a shower and go to bed.
It was so strange to be back in my own bed, with franks flag there, right where I had left it. It felt different when I held it, it still does. Before I left to go to South Africa, it was like I could still “feel” him near me. He was in our home, in his flag. Now I don’t feel him around anymore. It makes me sad and it’s like I lost him all over again. Maybe he knows that it’s time for me to live again and stop holding on to him and our past.
I have finished most of the projects that had been hanging over my head. Spending time with friends and getting back into things that I love doing like salsa dancing. I am tapping into my creative side with painting and creating homemade gifts as a positive way to get my emotions out and work in me.
One of the hardest things that I’ve done, is I have stopped wearing a ring on my left hand. Even though Frank and I were never officially married, I wore a ring the entire time. It made dealing with men easier with my different jobs since they would see it and assume I was married. I figured I would stop wearing it eventually or on a very specific date like 1 year after he passed, but I just took it off one day while washing my hands and put it on a shelf. It’s strange how such a small piece of jewelry defines how you are perceived by complete strangers. I have already gotten the “so you aren’t married” comments at work. It was tough hearing it but I just smiled and said no I’m not married and left it at that.
One of my best friends,Trina is moving her stuff in next week from Arizona. With her impending move in, I have started rearranging everything and decluttering the house and garage. Getting rid of Frank’s things that really don’t have any value like ripped pants and old socks. Boxes of school paperwork and other stuff like that. Stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to touch before going on the trip with Uuzilo. I didn’t have the strength back then.
I still have bad days but now I look forward to the things coming over the horizon and the life I want to live. I can never thank Uuzilo’s Andrew or Laura enough. Hopefully they came back to the States in time for my 2nd Annual Friendsgiving in November.