This morning, I left Jump Street at 7 am, and walked along the Thamalakane River that flows lazily through Maun. The sun was just rising over the trees along the river at that time, turning everything into an orange glow.
I had been looking forward to stretching my legs this weekend. Normally on Tuesdays and Thursdays back home, my BFF and I go for walks at Stanley Park after work. I sorely miss those walks along the seawall, uninterrupted by traffic.
The walk along the Thamalakane River in the cool morning air was so pleasant. The path was well worn by foot traffic and tire tracks. Cows and donkeys grazed along the path, and hundreds of birds chirped and chased each other. I took a detour into the educational park, but only saw some impalas.
Then I walked into town to wander around taking pictures. Two policemen came up and said I shouldn’t be taking pictures of buildings without proper authorization. I had this image in my head that I was going to be thrown in jail in Botswana. I chatted with them and they eventually left me alone.
Everything in the Old Mall fascinated me. Local people set up little stands selling everything from candies to telephone services. I looked curiously at everything, and all the vendors all looked at me with curiosity. I greeted people with “dumela”, and that always make them looked surprised that I said hello in their language. They always turn to each other and either giggle or say something in Setswana with a big smile.
I wandered over to a table covered by this leafy green plant in bundles. I asked what it was and bought a batch of rape leaves for 5 Pula. The lady told me to cook it with some tomatoes, oil and salt. The rape leaves became a part of my dinner later and they were delicious!
By the time I walked back to the lodge, I had been walking for 3 hours. I occupied the rest of the warm day indulging in reading a riveting book (The Book of Negroes). It always blows my mind how humans can be so cruel to each other.
In the early evening, I walked back down to the bank of the river to stretch my stiff legs. Two very friendly young men were fishing and I chatted with them. They let me take pictures of them, and I shared my trail mix.
Here come more random thoughts completely unrelated to the walk along the river. On the walk back to the lodge, I thought about the difference between my visit to Tanzania 8 months ago and Botswana. In Tanzania, our activities consisted of climbing Kilimanjaro supported by porters we rarely talked to, and a safari drive with a guide who spoke perfect English. We were surrounded by Canadians the whole time. I never had to cook a meal for myself or figure out where supplied came from. I was spoiled rotten, and no wonder I felt so at ease and so in love with the country. It was probably more like a teenager’s crush.
This last week spent in Maun gave me many opportunities to live like, or close to, that of a local person. Aside from my accommodation in a lodge, my day-to-day life is not so different from others in the WAR office. I had to be at work on time, abide by the office rules, get my own groceries, cook most of my meals, and walk everywhere if I wanted to save the taxi fare. It certainly doesn’t make me love this continent any less. It just made me more aware of the reality that people live through everyday. Being this close to the Okavango Delta—a world-renowned safari destination—most residents of Maun cannot afford to go visit the Delta. While the country boasted rich with its diamonds, 33% of the pregnant women are HIV positive.
I don’t have any profound conclusions of these thoughts. I am just grateful for the opportunity to learn about Botswana in more depth than I did with Tanzania. I am also very glad that I’m doing a tiny bit more here than just spending money as a tourist. At the end of the day, I think I will still walk away with more gained than given.
Sun rising over the Thamalakane River:
A very nice house along the river:
A young man fishing:
A poler pushing his boat across the river: