Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: last entry from here

My stay in Botswana has finally come to an end and although I leave with some regret, I know that life goes on and I have to move on as well. It was a very emotional farewell yesterday. I kept myself busy for most of the day, doing all kinds of things that needed doing and some I’m sure could be left but it helped to pass the time.

Yesterday was the culmination of events of the last two months ending with the student’s graduation which I will write more about but I wanted to get this last entry in before I have to turn over my computer to Thandi who wanted to purchase it for she and her family. She was very happy because she got it for 2000 Pula less than she thought I asked for and about 5000 Pula less than the store. She’s happy and I know that she and her family will put it to good use. Of course that will mean that I have to get another one for me before I start back at school. I am giving my cell phone to Tshepo who had hers stolen last week on her way home from work. She really is such a sweet young woman with the deepest dimples I have ever seen. Maggie who teaches floral design will be inheriting one of my many handbags, one that she particularly liked. Even with all the give aways, I’m still close to my weight limit of 200 lbs (between the two of us). How is that possible? Its all the tablecloths and bedspreads I’ve been buying!!

I have to leave the farewell party for another time because I’m sure that if I start writing, I’ll burst into tears. I did read a verse from the book the Prophet which has to be my all-time favourite book. The verse is titled “Joy and Sorrow.” This is the verse:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

We leave this evening at 6:40pm and by tomorrow I will be back in Canada. My next post will be my re-entry experience (plus the events of the last week). This experience will be with me for the rest of my life. I know it has changed the way I look at the world and it is a humbling experience to see that so many live with so little and yet they can feel fulfilled. It’s a lesson I hope that I’ve learned well – that happiness and contentment comes not from the things you have but from who you are. I will continue to aspire to be a better person than I was the day before (I think I’m paraphrasing what was said by Waldo Emerson).

With much love to all the people in Botswana who have touched my life and inspired me to be a better person than I was the day before.

1. September 2nd, 2006 by Karima
Dear Sandra,
It sounds like you have been deeply touched by your experiences and by the warmth of the Botswana people. We’ve noticed that you are turning into something of a philosopher/poet.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us through your stories. We look forward to hearing your experiences first hand at WUSC’s Annual General Assembly in November.
Have a safe trip back,
Karima, Sherry and Marie-Eve

2. September 2nd, 2006 by Pat Mohr
Sandra you touch me deeply within my heart. I will treasure these journals, especially today’s.
Weepingly yours (and excited to be seeing you again),

3. August 1st, 2007 by vimal
it was really touching.Liked ur pathos and emotions and respect that.It would have been better had I read it last year when u wrote it.I read it while researching about Canandian universities.I also wish to study in USA or Canada one day (i m an Indian) Hope i will also feel the same way while leaving the university as u felt last year.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Okavanga Delta, Botswana: Leopard sighting at Little Kwara

This morning we had our porridge and went off on a mokoro (a kind of dugout canoe using a pole to navigate) trip into the delta. We launched out of Kwara (we are Little Kwara) which was older than ours. Martin had a handgun and I asked what that was for. He said “Just in case…” I really didn’t want to know just in case what but we soon saw what “Just in case..” meant.
As soon as we left, in the mokoro, we saw about 5 hippos in the water so we stayed in the shallows. Not that they won’t go into the shallows. They can live on land and water but prefer the water and will only come out at nights when it’s a bit cooler. After buffaloes, hippos are the most dangerous of the jungle animals because they need no particular reason to charge at you and they are known to eat morkoros - or more specifically the occupants of mokoros - for lunch or dinner or whatever else. They don’t exactly eat you but they can hurt or kill you and then leave you for the crocodiles to finish you off as soon as you bail out of the mokoro. The top of the mokoro sits about 6 inches above the water so any sudden movements and you are capsized. Since I was sitting in the front, Martin said that if I wanted to talk to him or Robin, I should turn only my neck, not my whole body or we’ll capsize for sure. Can you believe how still I stayed? If I had a question, I would ask it without turning even when I knew that Martin could not hear me well. I started to worry that he would lean forward to hear me and tip us over so I shut up – for a time anyway.

We paddled over to a small island (not a true island – depending on the amount of rain in the rainy season. Right now it’s an island because the rain was plentiful this year. This is a good thing for the delta area which depends on the rains to sustain the environment.

Martin took us on a nature walk for about two hours and there was not a plant he could not recognize. The man is brilliant. I asked him how he knew all this stuff and he said his father is a guide in the Delta and he learned guiding from his father. We were about 1 km from where the lions killed the buffalo so we were looking very carefully for any sudden movements. I don’t know why because quite frankly if a lion decided to stalk us, we would not have a tiny chance. Some of the trees looked like you could tie a hammock under and have a peaceful nap but it is dangerous to do that. Elephants can come along and scratch their backs on the bark or even strip the bark off some of the very hard trees. There is one tree in the forest that is called a leadwood tree because of the incredible hardness but there is another parasitic tree that is called the strangler fig which can wrap itself around almost any tree and sap the life out of it. The deadwood tree can be known to live for about 1000 years and when it dies, it can remain standing for another 500 years and after it falls can remain on the ground for almost 300 years before starting decay. I saw a similar tree like that in Mount Alishan in Taiwan.

We got back to the camp in time for breakfast and then it was preparation to leave the delta for Maun where we would fly back to Gaborone. I forgot to mention that yesterday when we went into the powerboat, it was into the Moremi Game Reserve where I wanted to see but didn’t think we’d have time to go so it was nice to see it by boat.

We left for the airstrip with a bit of sadness because the time in the delta was too short. Suddenly we heard the radio buzzing with “Kwara, Kwara...” Our driver Steve stopped in his tracks to respond so obviously it was urgent. The were speaking in Setswana so I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Steve turned around and said “hold on to your seat!! A leopard was sighted!” He was so excited that it was hard for us not to be too. We took off like speeding bullets into the tall grasses and about 200 metres from us was a young leopard!! They are usually not out at this time of day but there he was (Martin spotted the grass moving and knew where to locate him). He was a bit far and I used my now familiar “Psst” call and he turned and looked at me. Then as if he knew that we were leaving, he stopped long enough for me to take another perfect picture. He bid us farewell and walked off into the tall grass with what I was sure was a little sadness in his face. What a way to finish a most fabulous 6 days. I could not ask for anything more than what I got.
1. September 2nd, 2006 by Pat Mohr
“Psst” — I love your blog!
Love, Pat

2. September 2nd, 2006 by Brent
I can’t wait to the see the photos of your adventure!