• October 21st, 2020

At home with Dr Helena Ndaipovanhu Ndume - The ophthalmologist who aspired to be a fashion designer



Who would have thought that Namibia’s most celebrated ophthalmologist once had a dream of becoming a fashion designer?  But thanks to Citizen Nahas Angula’s magical charm of persuasion we now have a guardian in our midst who has dedicated her life to restoring the eyesight of scores of Namibians.

We were supposed to have the interview at 10:00 but Dr Ndume quickly called and postponed as an emergency awaited her at the private practice involving a young woman who was stabbed with a sharp knife under her eye. Luckily her eyesight is still intact and no nerves were damaged, thanks to Doc and her team.
Fast forward to two hours later, I arrive at her beautiful home and one could see that hygiene and neatness takes precedence: white walls and tiles, beautifully clean and colourful carpets on the patio and in the dining room. I was welcomed by a salivating smell as one of her cousins was having brunch in the mini dining room. 

EDUCATION AND CAREER 
Dr Ndume is an alumna of Opawa Primary School in Tsumeb and mostly Swapo camps in Zambia as well attending schools in West Africa. 
Her ideal dream then was to be a fashion designer. “I wanted to do fashion designing, I just love fashion from childhood. My second choice was medicine. I was more into fashion. Nahas, who was the secretary for education then said there is no fashion and I am going to do medicine and convinced me to do medicine. And that’s how I ended up doing medicine,” candidly stated Dr Ndume.

While others were being sent to camps to do their duties after finishing grade 12, she was given an opportunity to study medicine in Germany. In 1989, she was repatriated back home, started doing an internship at the Katutura and Windhoek Central hospitals and given another chance to specialise in ophthalmology.
Dr Ndume is multilingual. She speaks Wolof – a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people; English, Oshiwambo, German, Otjiherero and a few other European and African languages.

FAMILY
Dr Ndume has a son, but knowing we are in Africa, that can never be the case. “I have one son, but in Africa, you cannot have one child, that’s impossible so I have my nieces and cousins here with me, some are at university.”
She said: “I have my relatives, be it, cousins and nieces that I am taking care of, some are going to university. All in all, I have many kids around me.”

KEEPING FIT AND PASSING TIME
“The thing that I have dedicated myself to is keeping fit. I exercise, I wake up early in the morning around 04:00 and meet my colleagues at 04:30 and we mountain climb,” she pointed towards the Auasblick Mountain where other Windhoekers also go to keep fit.

She said: “We routinely started mountain climbing in 2003 when I moved here; until today, we are still going.”
She doesn’t take alcohol and her go-to drink would be water with lemon, ginger and some peppermint leaves. “We also make our health juice here with products from our garden. I normally plant herbs in my garden of which I cook with most of the time,” she enlightened while giving a tour of her garden filled with lemon trees, bay leaf plants, peppermint and berries among a variety of other herbs.

“I love cooking, while doing it, I love listening to all-time music. I love the old RnB, the likes of Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, James Brown, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Diana Ross, The Temptations, Hugh Masikela, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya and many others.”
Although she can’t name many Namibian musicians, Dr Ndume didn’t hesitate to interject and say she knows the songs and she sings along to them.
“Locally, I won’t even mention them. Oh My G*d, as long as I sing along with the young ones in the house. Some Namibian artists are doing wonders, like that song of Gazza ‘Selima’. I love the song so much, it’s my favourite and then there is one that goes ‘Saka Saka Saka’, who is that one again? Yes PDK, the video is out of this world. I have never seen such a beautiful video among Namibian musicians. The video is just super,” she said in a very impressed and mesmerised tone.
 
KITCHEN, BANTING AND COOKING FOR THE ELDERLY
“Because I love cooking, you will be surprised when you come to my house, I am an experimental cook, there is always something different. I spent some time in West Africa, for about five years, so I have learnt how to prepare West African dishes. I love their food and it depends on the mood.”

Dr Ndume is normally health-conscious when it comes to food. “You will hardly find me preparing pasta, I hardly touch those things and only prepare that for my young ones here. I am more on the Banting side where I try to drastically reduce refined foods like pizza and pasta. I even make my bread without the refined flour. I use the flour from the nuts,” she explained as she was busy making an aloe vera smoothie.

Banting is a diet of high protein and low fat and carbohydrate, usually followed in a programme to lose weight and sometimes just to stay healthy and avoid processed or refined food.
“I love my traditional chicken and eat it with oshifima which should be 100% and not mixed with mealie meal, I don’t like it mixed. I love and adore ondjove with evanda and ekundu also.”
Staying in West Africa has made her palate very specific and from the conversation and a friendly warning, never dare have a Nigerian and Ghanaian jollof rice debate with her. 

“I don’t know why people even bother having that debate about which jollof rice is best between the Nigerian and Ghanaian. The best is the SeneGambian jollof, that’s where jollof rice originates from,” she ecstatically exclaimed.
She said the Nigerians and Ghanaians should not claim it. “In Gambia it’s called benachin and Senegal jollof rice. There is no better jollof rice than SeneGambian; I have travelled in those west African countries. Go and taste and get back to me. You will even bite your fingers when you are eating it,” she stated, at the same time seemingly craving for it.
“On certain occasions, I cook for the elderly – there are some people who have taken me as their child and I have dedicated time to prepare some meals for them. It is always nice to take care of the elderly and spend time with them. It’s enjoyable.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
When it comes to giving advice, Dr Ndume said it is important to note and understand what the person wants, establish that first and then guide them; people come from different walks of life and are seeking guidance in many different ways. 
“Career-wise I tell people to always make sure they specialise, especially in fields that are vital to the country. Plan your life accordingly, always have a back-up. I tell young girls who are studying to specialise first and then start a family. Planning is important.” -psiririka@nepc.com.na


Paheja Siririka
2020-10-16 09:27:12 | 5 days ago

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