John and I met Trevor sitting on the curb in front of Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek, Namibia. He was leaned to one side, dripping with sweat in the hot night. Leaning over more and more, he snapped upright before falling over and immediately began to lean again. John and I sat down next to him to make sure everything was okay when he spoke to us. “What do you want?” “We’re just here to make sure you’re okay. Are you good?” “Nothing is good.”
Trevor went on to explain to us a little bit about his personal history: he was the grandson of a German colonist who had come to British-run Namibia in the 1920s, his grandfather came seeking a fortune he never found in the mines near Elizabeth Bay and Kolmanskop. Trevor’s father had blamed his father for their lot, as he believed his father had come too late to take proper advantage of the diamond boom. Finding no luck in the dirt, he turned to other riches, eventually meeting and marrying a Herero woman near one of his work sites. Unfortunately, Trevor was not able to recall his grandmother’s family history and considered it lost.
Several months into their relationship Trevor’s grandparents became pregnant with Trevor’s father, and upon his birth the family decided to remain in Namibia indefinitely. Trevor broke this chain, becoming the first member of his family since his grandfather to see a country beyond Namibia. His father would never quite forgive his own father for keeping them in Namibia, though through this isolation he was able to avoid the European devastation of World War II. Even as an adult he never left the country, not even for neighboring South Africa, Botswana, or Angola.
When Namibia became an independent country in 1990, Trevor visited Germany and France, seeing for the first time the places from which his lineage descended, understanding the bitterness with which his father spoke of being deprived of this opportunity.
It was not for Trevor, however. He said that he could not be away from his home. After hours of talking, Trevor had sobered up some, and we stood on top of a hill in the city that offered a brilliant view of the sunrise. As the long arms of blue sunshine stretched into the sky over his head, Trevor became very melancholy. “People assume that because Africa is not developed it is not worth living in. But this, watching the sun come up over the desert, this can only be found here, and this is the best life someone could ask for. I’m glad my family stayed.”