But my main question is still unanswered. Before leaving, I wondered how two cultures so different from one another could live together. In fact, the question was wrongly asked. The real question is: how does someone who can buy anything he wants, manage to live together with people who have nothing.
In my case, it is about food. During my first visit, Mémé had invited me to share a meal. I was both excited and worried about my stomach … Knowing how little food they had, it was impossible for me to consume their meagre resources for the next meals. So I have anticipated all the meal by cooking on my own to avoid being invited all the time. But again, how can you eat the content of your tin ten meters far from the villagers who do not eat to their fill? So I decide not to eat any more. Of course, it’s not the right solution either. I try another method; I buy food in too large quantity for me alone. I am lucky enough to be a small eater. I cut a small slide of corned beef and when I have finished my meal, I bring what is left around the sacred fire. One day I prepared pop-corn. An extraordinary experience with my little gas ring – the children wonder where the flames come from – and the women are afraid of the noise the bursting corn that explodes in my pan.
The turning point is when I have to go to the capital city to buy a spare part for my bike. In the township, I found a provider of dried meat. I bring back a huge cardboard box of meat that will feed the village for several days. From then on, Mémé no longer left me any choice and invited me to all the meals. So I got into the habit of buying chicken and potatoes once a week for the whole village. We had found our balance and all uneasiness disappeared.
As soon as I buy something to share, they bring me fruit I would have been unable to find myself in the bush. They ask me to show them photos of my family and of my country, and they teach me to walk about in the bush following the safety rules. I learn to give what I have, being sure not to run short of anything.
Balance is being created and I merge into this world. Our apparent differences become blurred and finally what remains is our unique common basis: humanity.
Their nakedness no longer appears to me as noticeable. I deeply regret that the smell of their ointment which I liked so much in the evening around the sacred fire is gradually fading.
Finally they call me the white Himba. They suggest I should have my four lower front teeth removed, as a sign of belonging to the community. They also ask me if I am interested by being circumcised. They ask that jokingly but I can feel that this would please everybody. I must say I considered the question for a few seconds, but my cowardice saved me …