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Today's quote:

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Trying to track down an old friend

Gemeindebrief der Deutschen Ev.-Luth. Gemeinden Gobabis und Okahandja


I met Karl-Heinz Herzberg in September 1968 when I went to South-West Africa. Karl-Heinz had arrived there the year before, having previously emigrated to South Africa in the same way and at about the same time as I had emigrated to Australia.

Being about the same age (I think!), we shared many similar interests and indeed shared the company-provided flat in Lüderitz on the Atlantic coast. I spent six months in Lüderitz, a very German town where German was spoken as much as Afrikaans, where I worked as a book-keeper for Metje & Ziegler Ltd. The work was simple and undemanding: keeping a mechanised debtors ledger (on a ledger-machine straight out of the Ark), reconciling several bank accounts, and other bits and pieces around the office. It was a completely dead-end job!


My office, Ecke Insel & Hafen Straße


The "kantoor" in which I had to spend my entire day was straight out of Dickens: dusty, old-fashioned, and run by an Afrikaaner woman by the name of "Mevrou Russo" who "commandeered" two other Afrikaaner women who treated the blacks abominably. Then there were three German men who had something to do with the fuel storage down by the harbour and the hardware store behind the office. The whole lot was presided over by a thin and ageing man not very flatteringly referred to as "Lügen-Müller".

There wasn't much to do outside working hours either: the occasional "braaisvleis" (barbecue), "kegelspeel" (more beer than skittles) at Kapps Hotel on a Friday night, and a weekly visit to the local "bioskoop" (picture theatre). It was at the "bioskoop" that I watched in full colour the world's first heart transplant performed by a Dr. Christiaan Bernard at the Groote Shuur Hospital in Cape Town on 3 December 1967. Not that I remember much about it as I promptly fainted!


Six months' servitude; long enough to earn myself the passage money back to Australia


Six months in Lüderitz seemed a long enough servitude but the company didn't quite see it the same way as they insisted that I repay them the inward airfares before they allowed me to leave. I squared my account with them which left me with just enough money for the flight down to Cape Town and my sea passage back to Australia.

Unlike me, Karl-Heinz, one of the nicest and unstintingly helpful chaps I've ever met, never left South-West Africa. For a while we exchanged letters, and I'll never forget the one he'd sent me to Australia, which contained a handful of desert sand and the message "Greetings from Sandhausen". When I pulled it from the notice board in the boarding-house I was staying at in Canberra, it was leaking sand onto the carpet.

Having lost contact with Karl-Heinz, I did what one does in such a situation: I "googled" him! And I found a church newsletter from Okahandja of October - January 2016, in which he and his wife Dorle had been welcomed as new members of the church.

Well, Karl-Heinz, I shall add this post to the Okahandja facebook page. If one of Okahandja's 24,000 inhabitants reads it and knows your whereabouts, I hope they pass it on to you, and we can continue from where we left off all those many years ago. In the meantime, I practise "Das Südwester Lied" since "Südwest" really "hielt Dich fest":

Hart wie Kameldornholz ist unser Land
und trocken sind seine Riviere.
Die Klippen, sie sind von der Sonne verbrannt
und scheu sind im Busche die Tiere.
Und sollte man uns fragen:
Was hält euch denn hier fest?
Wir könnten nur sagen:
Wir lieben Südwest !

Doch uns're Liebe ist teuer bezahlt
trotz allem, wir lassen dich nicht.
Weil unsere Sorgen überstrahlt
der Sonne hell leuchtendes Licht.
Und sollte man uns fragen:
Was hält euch denn hier fest?
Wir könnten nur sagen:
Wir lieben Südwest !

Und kommst du selber in unser Land
und hast seine Weiten geseh'n,
und hat uns're Sonne ins Herz dir gebrannt,
dann kannst du nicht wieder gehn.
Und sollte man dich fragen:
Was hält dich denn hier fest?
Du könntest nur sagen:
Ich liebe Südwest !


Hoop om gou van jou te hoor, my vriend!

Googlemap Riverbend


P.S. Karl-Heinz, you can write to me care of PO Box 233, Batemans Bay, NSW, 2536, Australia - but, please, don't send any more sand!!!  😀

P.P.S. If you have the time, watch the movie "The Sheltering Desert".