Saturday, October 25, 2008


two driving safaris. two boat safaris. jet boat on the Zambezi river. canoe trip with private guide. swim at the top of Victoria falls. falls rainbow. falls double rainbow. night swimming. sunset dinners. live music.

there is no way I can do these things justice through words. even hundreds of pictures couldn’t capture a fragment of this reality. suffice to say that southern Africa is paradise and for five days I got to bask in it.

A few footnotes to assist memory and inspire imagination:

- Zoo proximity pales in comparison to safari reality. put an animal in a cage and you lose their motion, energy, interaction and expanse. cage yourself instead. far more fascinating. frightening. humbling.

- Keep asking questions. You might discover that your canoe guide is a member of Zimbabwe’s democratic revolution movement. You might find he and three of his fellow revolutionaries were kidnapped and tortured by Mugabe’s military in 2003. you might find that he was amongst the two that survived. you might find he has some enlightening insight into Mugabe’s political strategies. Keep asking questions.

- Flying through mountainous gorges of the Zambezi river in a highspeed jet boat is exhilarating and fun and very wet. this particular activity is significantly more fun when those in the jetboat are the only people on the river. said activity becomes slightly less entertaining when one spots two very young children fishing on the banks of the Zambezi in ripped clothes with homemade fishing rods. Those children wave at you without smiling and this stayed with you for a long time.

- Elephants shower themselves with mud for sunscreen and sand for bug repellent. Female elephants are dominant and males submissive (at least one species got it right). Elephants have the strength and size to destroy local villages but are greatly limited by poor their eyesight. Villagers who gather on the side of the road to watch visiting elephants always remove their brightly colored shirts so as not to draw the elephants attention. They also stand nearly a quarter mile away from the visiting herd. Respect and humility.

- Zambians who want to visit to the UK pay a 150 pound visa fee. In retaliation Zambia charges both European and American citizens $150 for entry into their country. Africans cross the border for free but, even so, the truck queue for entry can take as long as 2 weeks to pass through. Most trucks are carrying goods through from Botswana and South Africa to supplement the DRC’s deprived economy.

- When you sign up to swim at the top of Vic Falls this is what it actually means: four guides take you and your fellow swim-suited-tourists to the top of the waterfall. they then beckon you into the “pool” where you perform a frantic dog paddle until one of the guides grabs you by the arm and pulls you towards the edge of the foamy cliff. at this point a strategically perched photographer snaps 35 photos of you terrified, flailing and, oddly enough, smiling. After that they take you to a lower ledge where you can see the exact height and fierce power of the cliff you’ve just been dangling off. it is here where your heart stops beating for a minute and you know why this particular site made it to the World’s 7 Wonders List.

- The best way to enjoy night pool swimming with its candlelight – live music garnish is to float on your back and watch the stars beside someone you love very much. Trust me.

- While it is true that Zambia holds more vivid poverty and more tiny villages and more tattered children and more classic culture and more obvious need – these images can not undermine the crisis or the need or your place in Botswana. Every developing country on this planet has the ability to shatter you to a new shape. there is no hierarchy of pain. Break into a million pieces for Zambia but then pick up every one and put them back together and go home to Botswana and do your job.

- Do not leave peanuts unattended in northern Botswana or southern Zambia. Do not leave your half eaten plate of breakfast on the table while you go up to the buffet for an oj refill. If you happen to make either (or both) of these mistakes snap pictures wildly while the monkeys scavenge your grub with gangly limbs and devious smiles.

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