A big topic of conversation among Peace Corps Volunteers is food. We crave the “American” types of foods that we can’t get in our host country. We are eager for payday so we can splurge on chocolate and cheese. However, we have many more options for food than I expected.
In Namibia’s capital of Windhoek you can find almost any type of food. But we don’t get to visit the capital often as it’s an eight hour drive. The grocery stores in the capital offer many more spices and different ethnic foods.The menus at many restaurants throughout the country are quite similar and often include steaks, burgers, fries, chicken and toasties (grilled cheese) as well as some traditional food. Many of the restaurants in Rundu are tourist lodges, but most of the travelers are Namibians here for business, so the food tends to be geared towards a Namibian palate. On a Peace Corps budget we eat in most nights, but we are able to make a variety of meals as more exotic ingredients such as olive oil, Indian spices, soy sauce and black beans can be found here in town. Other ingredients such as green curry, coconut oil or tortillas are available in Windhoek.
The take-away (to go) options at gas stations and small food stands tend to be chicken or meat with chips (french fries), meat pies or macaroni or pasta salad. Kapana, or grilled street meat, is also common. I will miss the french fries in Namibia a lot! They are salted and seasoned to perfection with vinegar and spices.
One of my local favorites is Hungry Lion, a South African chain. The fried chicken there is so tasty and I think superior to KFC’s fried chicken and chips (although Josh prefers KFC). The first KFC recently opened in Rundu (which they are calling Kavango Fried Chicken), and it is quite the status symbol to be able to eat there as the chicken is more expensive. My friends and I try to go to Hungry Lion on Tuesdays because they offer TwoForTuesdays when it is buy one get one free.The costs for meals and groceries can vary depending on what part of the country you are in and what is easily-grown or available, but on average going to a very nice place to eat will be around $N100-$N150, or about $10USD-$15USD a plate. Take-away is likely under $N30-40 or about $3USD-$4USD.
Alcohol is extremely CHEAP in Namibia. I’ve bought chocolate bars and cool-drinks (sodas) that cost more than a beer. Unfortunately, I think the inexpensive booze contributes to alcoholism in Namibia. People tend to either drink to excess, or they’re sworn it off completely because they’ve seen what it has done to friends and family.We can get pizza here! And it’s good! Omashare Lodge right up the street from our flat has a pretty extensive pizza menu. Sundowners are very popular in Namibia and Southern Africa. I love them! You gather with friends and enjoy watching the sunset with a drink and/or food/braai. The sunsets in Namibia are very colorful and incredible. We’ve also been fortunate to view them from the river while on boat tours. In the coastal resort town of Swakopmund you can enjoy delicious sushi! Only in Swakop and Windhoek will you find sushi. Coffee shops are not very common outside of Windhoek and Swakop. Here’s a photo of a cappuccino I got in Livingstone, Zambia at a cafe. It was heaven to enjoy this in a nice outdoor cafe. I really do miss coffee shops! It’s important to note that while these temptations exist, the majority of people in Namibia cannot afford to go out to eat much, or at all. Many of my learners have told me that despite living near lodges or restaurants, they’ve never gone out to eat in one. Many colleagues who grew up in a village didn’t go out to eat until they were in college or professionals. As PCVs, we make only $N2,000/month, and spending N$100 on one meal can be a bit extravagant for our modest income.
At Kavango River Lodge near our flat, I have enjoyed what I consider to be one of the best meals in any country. I am obsessed with the amazing garlic prawns. I talk about them often. After one exceptional dinner, I asked to finally meet the chef. I wanted to praise her excellent work in person. I told her how if I had to pick a last meal of my life, these prawns would be on the list. I will miss this meal when we leave. During my conversation with the chef, I found out that I teach her daughter! She is a grade 8 learner of mine. Luckily she is one of my favorites, not a naughty learner. 😉 Rundu is very small.Going out to eat is one of my favorite parts of American life, but during service we have enjoyed getting into a habit of preparing most of our meals at home. It helps that we have a little more free time to spend making meals. I hope to do more of that when we are back in the U.S., and I know that my wallet and Mr. Money Mustache, a personal hero of ours, will thank me. : )