Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

‘The most exciting adventure of my short life so far’

16-year-old Lucy Norris reflects on her family’s first year in Windhoek, Namibia

Lucy Norris (left) with her sister Jessie and brother Harry walking in sand dunes at the coast in Namibia.

Sat, Aug 17, 2013, 01:00


Lucy Norris

It was at dinner time one Tuesday evening when my dad first came to us with the prospect of a life-changing move to Africa. He was working with Diageo and had been doing some marketing for Namibian Breweries who had offered him an international assignment in Windhoek, the capital city.

We were all a little shocked, but I felt a bubble of excitement rise in my stomach. As much as I liked my life in the comfy, cosy suburbs of south Dublin, I couldn’t wait to find out more about what could become the most exciting adventure of my short life so far.

Two weeks later, my mom and dad went on a “look and see” to Namibia. They arrived home bearing photos, African souvenirs and life-changing news for my brother, sister and I, all of which we waited for with curiosity and high hopes for a positive result.

We sat around the television in the living room watching photos of a strange, foreign place flash across the screen. To my surprise, they portrayed a place which beared a remarkable resemblance to Cork with an African twist. Instead of the barren desert landscape and malnourished children I had imagined, the photos told me a different story of shopping malls, tall buildings and perfectly healthy school children. Yes, Windhoek was another world away from the streets of Dublin I was used to, but as the pictures slid across the screen I became more calm and ready for the experience awaiting me.

The movers came and packed all our belongings into brown cardboard boxes. I stood in my empty bedroom and suddenly the realisation hit me like a truck. I was moving to Africa. I was leaving my friends, family, house and normality, getting on a plane and going. This would either be the best two years of my life or the worst and whether I liked it or not I would have to stay. Apprehension filled my body from my head to my little toe. No! I needed to believe that this was a good thing and that it was a new and exciting adventure.

The last day of school came and went and the tears shed were enough to sink the Titanic. With a suitcase in one hand and the taxi waiting outside, I took one last look around my bedroom of sixteen years. This was it. No turning back now, and with that, I shut the door and walked down the stairs.

Saying goodbye to my family was exactly as difficult as I had imagined. We arrived at the airport to find everyone waiting for us at departures. We checked in and the moment I had been dreading for weeks finally arrived. It was time to say our goodbyes. They didn’t stop waving until we were out of sight. When we arrived through to the departure side of the airport, we all relaxed. The hard part was over, so we thought, and now we could be excited about our African adventure. After a rather uncomfortable fourteen hour flight, we touched down at Hosea Kotako airport and in true Irish fashion, walked out the airport doors to the first day of rain in months.

Suitcases loaded into the taxi, the family strapped in, vacant, brown grassland as far as the eye could see glaring back at us through the taxi’s windshield and we were off. Things started happening immediately when we arrived at the Hillside apartments on Nelson Mandela road.

Two days after we arrived, school began calling our names and we started straight away. The blue and yellow walls of St Paul’s high school loomed over me as I walked in the gate. The first thing I noticed on arriving was the diverse cultures of the students and also the presence boys that had been lacking in the all-girls school I had previously attended. The second thing was the green field that posed as the school’s field hockey pitch. It was defiantly different to the all-weather astroturf pitches I was used to back home. The other challenge we were faced with was sitting in a class room in 40 degree heat, surrounded by dry air with only a ceiling fan to take the edge off the almost unbearable high temperatures.

The whole family was exhausted from having to adapt to the early six o’clock wake up calls and to the demanding 40 degree heat so it was perfect timing when our five week holiday came along last May. We were going on a road trip around Namibia and our first stop was the Etosha pan where we would experience our first safari game drive. The experience was a once in a lifetime and I will never forget what it feels like to see an elephant almost charge your car!

Next stop was Swakopmund, a picturesque German town at the coast, four hours away from Windhoek, home to the largest sand dunes in the world. We enjoyed the typical seaside holiday there and then moved on to Sossevslei where one can find the red dunes and the desert trees. Standing on top of the monstrous sand dunes I never would have thought that a typical “Mountie” girl like me would be experiencing Africa like I was. Sadly before we knew it we were back to the second term of school with exams looming over our heads.

With the end of the holiday came the exciting start of the hockey season. I had been selected to play for my school’s first team and I was coming to terms with the bounciness of the “natural” field. Also on my sporting agenda for the term was indoor hockey which was a new concept for me. This was the time when I finally understood what it must be like to be a Chinese person living in Ireland as I was the only person within miles of the indoor hall that spoke English as my first language and whichever which way I turned, Afrikaans filled my ears.

I took part in trials and was selected to represent the Namibian Hawkes team at the Pro Series Indoor nationals in Durban, South Africa in December. I was more than honoured and excited and could not wait to get back into the game. As quickly as it started the season ended and St Paul’s first team came third in the national league and I was packed and on my way to Durban.

The U18 Hawkes, of which I was a part of, picked up a shiny silver medal at nationals which was a great achievement and we were all very proud. My South African adventures continued early this year as we took a family holiday to Cape Town which was also an unforgettable experience.

The Norris family and I have settled well, and although we may have had some bad times and experienced homesickness, the incredible experiences make up for them. I miss my home a little bit every day, some days more than others, but I am grateful to have gotten to experience this unforgettable adventure. It has opened my eyes to the hardship and poverty of the world and the different things that are out there, and who knows what will be on the cards for us next.