Tuesday, 5 April 2005
The Amazing Race 7, Episode 6
Makgadikgadi Pans (Botswana) - Maun (Botswana) - Sankuyo (Botswana) - Khwai (Botswana)
This week's leg of The Amazing Race took place entirely in and around the Okavango Delta, an area of marshes without outlet, surrounded by desert. As the racers saw along the roads, that causes a rare density of large animals, especially in the dry season, and the area is the main tourist destination in Botswana. Maun is a small town, but it has ultra-luxury guest "lodges" nearby and international flights to and from Capetown, Johannesburg, Windhoek, and Victoria Falls; you can also get there overland from Vic Falls, which is only about 350 km (200 miles) away.
I'm (tentatively) planning my own trip to southern Africa, possibly including Botswana, for this austral winter (northern hemisphere summer). So for a first-hand account of current travel conditions in Botswana, here -- with her permission, but with names removed at her request -- is a letter one of my readers just received from her "60-something globetrotting parents from Nova Scotia", who are currently visiting another of their daughters who is working at an orphanage (perhaps one similar to the orphanage "The Amazing Race" visited last week?) in Palapye, Botswana:
Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 5 April 2005, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
Friday, April 1, 2005
Dumela Mma and Rra:
Those of you who have had the pleasure of reading The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series will know that the above is the typical Setswana greeting -- good day ma'm or sir. This is the limit of my Setswana to date, and with my inability to grasp languages, will probably be the extent of my Setswana when I leave. However, knowing this greeting is essential -- the Batswana greet one another very formally -- even everyday in the workplace. [Note: Many African languages use prefixes where many European languages use suffixes. The Batswana (people) speak Setswana (language) and live in Botswana (country). - EH] They also have a very unique handshake that I will show you when I get home.
I've been in Botswana for over a week now, and it's been a week of sensory delight. The sights, smells and sounds of this country are totally different from anything I've experienced to date in my travels. It's also a country of contrasts -- the huge mall in Gaborone that rivals Micmac Mall [in Nova Scotia, Canada - EH] in ambience and selection of goods compared to the entrepreneurs who set up a table and sell a few goods on the side of the road; the beautiful highways which are better than many in Nova Scotia, with dirt roads on either side for donkey carts; women dressed in very traditional African clothing -- brightly coloured dresses with matching head scarves -- but teenaged girls in their Calvin Klein skimpy tops and low rise jeans; very modern office buildings on the same street as traditional mud huts with thatched roofs, and Gaborone has a large, modern, and recently built university campus which was paid for by ordinary citizens donating cattle to raise the funds to build it.
[Your sister] lives in dear little house -- one of three in a walled compound. It's constructed of cement blocks finished inside and outside with some kind of stucco or plaster, and has a tin roof. It has two good-sized bedrooms, a bath room, kitchen and living room. There is a veranda out front, and this is where we spend all our time. The kitchen has a counter about two feet by three feet and a two burner gas hot plate -- no oven -- but [she] still manages to turn out her marvelous meals. When we open the gate to leave the compound, we are apt to be met by any number of animals -- donkeys, goats, chickens and cows live in the surrounding fields -- and they wander at will, even over the roads.
We've been in two parks/sanctuaries and have seen a variety of animals including rhinos, ostriches, giraffes, baboons, wart hogs [this was the animal the racers had trouble identifying - EH], wildebeests, kudus, impalas, water buck, springboks, and an incredible variety of birds of all sizes and colours. We spent two nights at a beautiful chalet in a sanctuary -- overlooking a water hole where animals come to drink. It was amazing to sit on the deck and observe the comings and goings. A large family of baboons spent their nights at the chalet nearest ours -- they didn't actually take over the bedrooms, but rather hunkered down under the thatched roof. In the morning, they would climb all over the outside of the thatched roof, and seemed to take great delight in being the one to sit on the peak.
This country has two major problems. The overriding concern is the AIDS crisis. The statistics are beyond belief -- one in three has HIV, and by 2020, it's estimated that 80% of the current population will die if things continue as they are now. The other concern is water. Water is a problem at the best of times, but the country is currently suffering through the worst drought in ten years. The so-called rainy season has just ended, with next to no precipitation. The water reservoir/lake for Gaborone is entering the dry season only 23% full. This means that we take a bath and wash our hair with 1 inch of water in the tub, do our laundry in the same water, then use the water for plants. Farmers are trying to decide if it is worthwhile to plant their crops this season -- if they do, the crops may die from lack of rain. But, if they don't have their crops, then they have nothing to feed their cattle. How we take water for granted in Canada! Most of us probably waste more water brushing our teeth than some families here would use for all their daily needs.
In spite of disease and drought, the people here are wonderful. They're kind, gentle, polite, formal, and honest. Society is very family centered -- not just mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, but the entire clan -- uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. Your sister has been welcomed as "family" by many of her co-workers, and they have extended that welcome to [your father] and me as well.
Next week she is putting us to work. I will be spending time with the teachers at the orphanage -- I brought all kinds of helpful books and material to share with them. [Your father] will be setting up computers, printers, networks, etc. and doing some handyman work around the day care.
[Your sister] is taking us camping this weekend to the salt pans [the Makgadikgadi Pans, where "The Amazing Race" camped - EH]. I have no idea what she has in store for us, but no doubt it will be another wonderful adventure.
Bye for now,
p.s. -- to those of you who read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency , Gaborone actually has a bus tour of all the places mentioned in the books. The author is going to be in Gaborone in May to give a reading and attend a reception. The books paint a 100% accurate picture of the gentle life in this country. Those of you who haven't read these delightful books, treat yourself and read one or more of them. They're quite addictive.