Village Culture Walk

The cacophony of birds woke us up in the morning long before the alarm clock. It was like a switch had been flipped on and the orchestra started. We had to dodge wasps in the shower so early morning and late at night were the best times. They seem otherwise occupied from dusk to dawn. There are three Ridgeback dogs in the camp; they are extremely friendly and want lots of attention. They nearly knock you down begging to be petted. As much as I would have loved to love them, their flea problem was out of control and kept me at arm’s length. This morning, as soon as I came to sit outside our cottage, the male and female both had their heads in my lap. Minutes later, a puppy appeared from under the bushes, but the male adult kept him in place. When I tried coaxing him out, he just scrambled farther into the shrub. The one thing we all appreciate about this lodge is the food. It is excellent. Breakfast was again wonderful with eggs, sausage, and toast made from some great bread. This was an excellent preparation for our trip into the town to meet the locals. We were to drive into town on the truck that brought us from the airstrip, but as luck would have it, it had a flat tire or a puncture as the Brits say. Bruce told us that if we walked, the truck would be available to pick us up and it was ‘only’ 2 km. We should have known better about his ‘only’ messages, but we set our walking with a guide leading the way. Omo and Jean are speed walkers and I kept up the pace. I was hoping this would work out the problem in my leg. This put us far ahead of the group and eventually as far ahead of the guide. When we reached a fork in the road, we turned to yell back which way and then kept going. The first stop for our ‘tour’ was the police station. The village is called Seronga and is said to be a typical village in Botswana. Residents live in typical housing, similar to our cottages in the camp. Up to forty ‘houses’ share a communal tap for water and there is no electricity. There are less than 2,000 people in this village, making the large police station seem redundant. We walked down to the small pier where we would depart from tomorrow via speed boats. Then we went to the inner village stopping at the school on the way. They have a large sign proclaiming their mission statement with the slogan “Knowledge is Power”. This was very affirming, indeed. Further, into the village, we stopped at a grocery store, which was surprisingly well stocked, though there were no fresh meats or vegetables available. On the same road, there was a little tin hut where a barber applied his trade while also being the CD music store as well. The beauty of the people was astonishing. Many of the younger women had model quality faces. The children were equally as handsome, but none would allow their picture to be taken when asked. When we stopped at a “take away” restaurant, a woman had blankets set out selling clothes and shoes. Her English was excellent and some of us spoke to her for a while. She told the others that most of the village was Christians. I am not certain how it came up, but she mentioned that they did not have to wear black any longer when someone died due to this. The locals seemed to be entertained by our group, huddling to gossip and laugh as they stared in our direction. One of our walk stops was at the clinic. Three doctors come there a couple of times a week to treat people. They have an infirmary with some beds; the guide thought it was six. Serious matters are transported to Maun for treatment. There are no sidewalks in this village, no paved roads, and a significant absence of vehicles. We saw donkeys and ox pulling carts. We went to a bakery that had a sign claiming fresh bread and donuts, but when we entered, there were empty shelves. They would have to bake it while we waited if we wanted anything. After doing a thorough tour of this small village, we were ready to return to the camp. The guide was walking us in that direction, but we were waiting for the truck to come into view. When we questioned it, he said that he had been trying to call, but no one was picking up the phone. As it turned out, we had to hike back again, hot and cranky. We had an hour and a half rest time before lunch was ready. I had had an idea of making a sign on a plastic bag stating “WE MISS YOU RASMUSSONS” and have a picture taken with the group. Then a second sign would say “WE MISS YOU DIRK AND HARM” and again get a picture. Ron had spotted a blackboard at the lodge, so when I mentioned it to others, Vicky found some chalk and she made the sign. We appreciated the diversion of meals more than needing them from hunger. Our down time was not too restful due to the heat and wasps that were in all of the cottages. In the main lodge dining room, there were four sofas, but they were cheaply made and not the most comfortable seats for resting. At 3:30, there was a visit to the “Basket Lady”, a local woman who weaves baskets in the traditional way. Ron and I bowed out of going, and continued to try to find some relaxing position where flies and wasps dared to fly. Some of the group had planned a fishing trip and would continue on after the “Basket Lady” and the rest would return. Dinner was served at 7:30, but the fishing group still had not returned making Bruce a little concerned. For being summer, it does get dark by 8:00 pm and dinner is by candlelight. The group finally arrived after we had finished dinner, not having caught anything, but they did have an enjoyable time. After dinner, the local woman wanted to treat us to singing and dancing. After they did two songs, both of which and all that followed sounded identical to all of our untrained ears, they insisted that the group sing to them. While we were trying to decide on a song that all of us would know regardless of our language, Rob came up with singing “Happy Birthday” to me since my birthday is tomorrow. They did so, but then the head dancer dragged me up and put a dancing costume on me and cajoled me into dancing with them. The skirt was similar to a Hawaiian hula skirt, but instead of straw, it was long threaded seed pods, making it rather heavy. This photo is from Germine and that is me on the left. When she finally released me, she then dragged each and every member of our group up to dance. Her next idea was to have each group sing a song from their own country in their native language. It was quite a festive time, but in reality, we entertained them and ourselves more than they provided entertainment for us. Perhaps this is how they make their lives more bearable, but getting the tourists to make fools of themselves. Ron and I went to bed, but Omo and Jean arrived later with a staff member in tow. He was the great rat hunter who was supposed to rid their room of rats and other creatures that they did not want to share the room with this night. Being a local, he was used to the creatures of the area and was totally ineffectual, but most likely came just to make them happy knowing he would do nothing once he arrived. It was an exhausting day, but we will be more than excited about leaving here.