….makes it against all odds in the Spa world
“My name is Kula,” she said as she bounces into the dimly lit room.
“And I remember you from Ai-Ais in December“, she continues as I jog my memory in a desperate attempt to remember her. My memory fails me dismally as she sets out to get me comfortable for my full body massage.
Lights on dim, classical music on the mellow with pleasant aromas filling the air. As someone who does not speak to strangers on a plane or when I feel slightly exposed, I took to this girl like a moth drawn to a flame. And she responds heartily by stating “I am an exile child “. An exile child? What do you mean?
“I was one of those struggle kids who blocked the bridge in Okandjengendi in 2009.” Born in Lubango, Angola in 1984, Ndakula Ekandjo returned to Namibia at the age of five under the care of her mother. Her first memories of returning home is centred around meeting her grandmother for the first time in Ongwediva and going to kindergarten. In 1992, she started primary school at the International Primary School in Ongwediva and for secondary school, she attended Erundu Secondary School in Oshakati until Grade 10. Sadly, she failed and dropped out of school in 2003.
With no career prospects, unemployed and desponded Kula heard a call for struggle kids to gather at the Swapo Office in Oshakati. Not exactly sure whether she should respond or not, she felt after a few days “but I have nothing to lose, if I were to go”. So early one morning in April 2009, she registered by filling in a repatriation form, provided proof of her citizenship and evidence that she was born abroad indeed.
This was the beginning of a two month stay sleeping outside with her one year old daughter, Ngonyofi facing the harsh elements of nature. Whilst fondly remembering the camp, she speaks highly of their leader Johannes Malumbu. “He was an excellent leader who almost never slept to make sure we were disciplined. No story of boys and girls sleeping together “, she remarks. Most of their days were spent singing liberation songs and giving each other advice in their search for jobs. In a midst of 300 young people, Kula stood out despite her quite demeanor.
May 01st, 2009 – International Workers Day brought things to a climax. Tired of waiting and empty promises of jobs, the 300 exile kids decided on the night of April 30th, that enough is enough! To illustrate that, they decided on blocking the bridge at Okandjengendi. Well aware of the fact that President Hifikepunye Pohamba would use that road to travel on to address a Workers Day Rally in Oshakati. “We want jobs, so if people were going to celebrate Workers Day, we were going show them what life is like for us who do not have work’. So we cut trees, picked up huge stones and placed big tyres in the road”. They stayed there from 03h00 am till 11h00 am which is when the Special Task Force of the Namibian Police came and sprayed them with teargas. But this was not before they took the then Mayor of Oshakati, Erastus Uutoni hostage. Luckily for the exile kids and the Mayor, there was water under the bridge and they dived into it to cleanse their eyes from the burning sensation caused by the teargas.
A few days later, “Cde [Elijah] Ngurare came to address us – he started off by encouraging us and by urged us to be disciplined.” Dr. Ngurare addressed the young people more than once and in the process, some of the exile kids were placed with NamPol or the Defense Force for jobs. “One day, he came there again asking for 5 young people to join NWR. We wondered laughingly ‘what are we going to do there, shoot elephants?’ Kula reminisces with a broad smile on her face. It turned out that there was job opportunities at NWR in the housekeeping and front office departments. Armed with her CV and identity documents, Kula along with four exile kids were sent off to Gross Barmen for training. On the 8th July, they started working at Ai-Ais where she spent seven years working her way up from housekeeping initially and after two years she joined the Spa. “For me, the Spa was an in born thing. As a little girl, I remember massaging my grandmother’s back and feet. Every day after I would finish cleaning my rooms, I would go to the spa and so I started learning about massage treatments, facials, pedicures and manicures. “In 2011, an opportunity came for her to join the staffing of the Spa and in 2011, after receiving training with Camelot I qualified as a beauty therapist”. Kula left NWR on February 29th 2016. “After seven years in the South, it was time to move “, she concludes.
Now employed at the newly opened Wellness Spa at Strand Hotel in Swakopmund, she looks back at her early days surprised of what she has become. Brimming with confidence, Kula concludes that she looks forward to learning as much as possible at Strand Hotel and then she dreams off starting her own business. Asked to share some of her wisdom with young people in the country who may find the going tough, she exudes “ have faith. Have faith that if you try something, it will work.”