Our first stop in Botswana was at a campsite near a town where there is a small community of Bushmen. Bushmen are also known as the San people, as well as by a host of other names that refer to specific tribes (e.g., !kung — the !k is pronounced as a particular type of click) or that also include related groups of people (e.g., khoesan). Some people find the term “bushmen” to be offensive, but it is still used regularly, including by the San people themselves. According to what we were told, there isn’t really a consensus in the community as to which name is preferred.
We met a few members of the dwindling bushmen community, and went for a walk with them where they dug up fruits and plants and told us, through a translator, how the fruits and plants are used. The people were very warm and friendly and seemed legitimately excited to talk to us and teach us (in contrast to the Himba people, who seemed more like they were humoring us).
The best part of the walk was just listening to the people talk. Their language includes over 30 distinct clicking sounds (divided into four different types of clicks). The volume is a little bit soft on these videos, but they should give you a taste of what they sound like. The younger guy is describing how they use roots to dye fabric, and the older man is explaining “bush viagra” (note the older woman giggling in the background).
It was also really interesting to see firsthand how members of this community are still using the environment to help them survive (although these days, they are using it in conjunction with supermarkets).
This man is starting fires from sticks and then lighting bundles of dry grass, which the older woman is then using to light a pipe. Earlier, they showed us an herb that they use to cure a bloody cough. See a connection?
This woman found a beetle and is pulling the legs off of it so that she can store it in her pocket for cooking later.
The woman in the middle of this photo is drinking water out of an ostrich egg, which is what the San people traditionally used as water bottles. The woman on the left is shaving pieces of a fruit that she had dug out of the ground, which has a very high water content. In the following pictures, the younger woman is giving her baby a drink of water from the shavings of that fruit.
On the way back the women collected firewood, which Mark generously offered to help carry.
After our day with the San, we headed towards Maun, which is a small town that is the gateway to the Okavango Delta. Getting to go into the Delta for a second time was one of the main reasons that I decided to stay on the tour, and it didn’t disappoint. I think I could go back a hundred times and still be taken aback each time by how beautiful it is there. I’ll write about the Delta and the rest of the Botswana part of the tour in my next post, but here are some preview shots of the Delta so that you can see why I wanted to go back!
Finally, for the family, a quick update on where I am now — at a coffee shop in Nairobi, about to go meet Juliet for dinner before we head to Addis Ababa early tomorrow morning. Addis is supposed to be a very modern city, so should have internet a-plenty for the next few days. Bye for now!