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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Tending garden at Kathy's

What a relaxing day. I got up early – about 5:45am because Kathy and Geoff were leaving for Ghanzi (pronounced Hanzi) and it’s a 7 hour drive. I helped with whatever I could – packing, coffee, and taking things to the car.

I fed the dogs. One is about 14 pounds and the other is about 130 pounds. They are so cute together. Then I started on the potted plants I miss my garden so it’s nice to work on someone else’s. That occupied me for a couple of hours. Jayanthi, Jim and Priya picked me up about 11 and we went to the Riverwalk Mal where local artisans sell their crafts on the weekends. There were some lovely things but the problem is that they all make the same things to sell so after you see or buy things from one crafter, everything starts to look the same. I think if they had a variety of things to sell, they would do really well. I did manage to find some things to buy.

I then went to a travel agency to ask about trips to the Okavanga Delta and Chobe (prounounced Cho-bay) National Park. By the time she gave me the price, I thought for sure that I’d have to mortgage my house to afford to go. Botswana is probably the most expensive place to go on a safari in Africa. Every tour book you read tells you this. They put it politely – “this is not a destination for the budget conscious”. That is a bit of an understatement if I ever heard one!! The government of Botswana keeps the safaris high so that they only attract the people who can afford to go. That way, the area stays relatively free of “tourists” and the environment is not destroyed by too much activity. It’s a good way to manage a business without compromising the environment and it’s been successful so far. Botswana can afford to do this because much of their money comes from diamonds so they are not as dependent on tourist $$ as some other poorer African countries like Kenya. Looking ahead, the diamond industry is supposed to slow down or dry up in about 15 years so the government may have to look seriously at the tourism $$ to sustain the economy.

As for the safari, the Okavanga is the largest inland delta system in the world and this is a good time to be visiting – Winter (the dry season) – because the animals have to go to the delta for water when it’s dry. Chobe National Park is supposed to have about 60-70,000 elephants. I can hardly imagine one or two, never mind 60-70,000. Ivory is banned in all countries around the world because of people killing elephants for the tusks. But I was reading that the problem now is that the Botswana government has been stockpiling tusks from elephants that have died and they would like to start selling it to countries like Japan which uses the ivory for decorative knives. But the ranking of the tusks is still extremely high so the pile of tusks keep growing and do the number of elephants. This is causing a problem for farmers in the region who say the elephants are destroying their livelihoods. It’s such a delicate balance to know how to protect endangered species without endangering others in the process. It’s similar to the over-fishing problem in Canada especially with cod.

When I read all of this, it makes me think that we can’t think of sustainability as affecting one environment. The social, built, natural and must be viewed as a whole and no part is any more or less important than the other. The relationships are interdependent. It requires us to be self-reflexive when thinking about our areas of interest (mine is more of the social environment) and how it impacts the other environments. So how did I get started on this? Because I was looking for a trip to the delta and to Chobe.

Okay, back to my day. Well we went to Game City Mall to do some more shopping or browsing. What a mistake!! It was the end of the month mall madness when everyone gets their paycheque and head for the mall. It was horrible. The parking lot was full and people were getting frustrated at not finding parking spaces. The line-ups at the checkouts were about 15 people long. And all I wanted were a couple of apples, oranges and bananas. I could not bear the thought of standing in a long line to purchase a couple of items so I sat outside in the parking lot watching people fighting for parking spaces.

We left there and I offered to take the Wilson family out for lunch since they have been so kind to me since my arrival. We went to a restaurant called Sanita’s. It was the most beautiful sight I’ve seen in a long time and it’s in the most unexpected place – a garden centre selling plants and herbs. We were seated under a giant shade tree which I think was a decorative fig – the kind I have in my living room for about 25 years and it’s only about 6 feet high. This tree was massive and it was a perfect setting for restaurant seating. There was a lot of greenery and in a country where so much of it is desert and there is not much greenery, this was a welcome sight, especially after the horrible mall experience.

We had a very good lunch and they took me home. I did some more gardening and made myself some dinner, lit a fire and had a nice quiet evening. This was a welcome change from the last place where I was sharing the house with 4 other people and on any given day there could easily be 8 or 9 in the house. I continued reading my Mandela book which I’ve been getting distracted from. The book is almost 800 pages so it’s taking a while because now that I have other things to occupy my time, I’m not doing as much reading in the evenings and of course there is no time during the day.

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