So I finally got to see elephants today. About time. Two weeks in Africa and not a single elephant? Madness. Anyways, we went on a "cultural excursion" this weekend with all the other international students. We left Saturday morning and drove to the Phuthadikabo Museum, in Mochundi. It was in the building of a old school and had some cool documents and history of the tribes in the area. One interesting note: Cecil Rhodes, the man the Rhodes Scholarship was named after, tried to get the British to give him control of Botswana so could have a nice route between South Africa and Zimbabwe. As the founder of De Beers, he was not quite into the rights of the Batswana people, so all the tribes banded together and pleaded with the queen to stop him, which included a trip by three kings to England to petition the people. It eventually worked and Rhodes didn't get control. One of the letters which was written to the queen was in this museum. Also there was some interesting pictures of the initiation ceremonies for the young men and women of the tribes. These practices have since been made illegal by the government, due to the practices of female circumcision which were included. However, the pictures and first hand accounts by missionaries were interesting. There were also the cutest kids from the village that walked up and just wanted to take pictures with our cameras and have their pictures taken. A few great ones came from them.
After that we went to the Matsieng foot prints, which are impressions in the ground, shaped like feet of course, which the tribal people of Botswana believe were created by the first humans that climbed out of the pools of water next to the foot prints. These were cool, though not amazing. Next we went to the Manyana rock paintings, which are around 2000 years old. These were paintings located at the bottom of cliffs. Apparently, the men who made them were first put under some sort of trance by crazy drugs that gave them visions. They painted the visions on the rocks and the tribal elders interpreted them. There were paintings of rino, antelope, giraffes, and a few humans. The male paintings have three legs. I won't say more about that one.
Down the road from the rock paintings is a Livingston tree. Here, David Livingston would sit during the day and take care of patients and hold religious services. The tree, a fig, is massive and provides an amazing amount of shade under it's canopy.
Last night we stayed at a cultural village called Bahurutshe. It was nice, with friendly women who taught us dances, showed us how to grind maize, and cooked some nice food. We were pretty exhaused by the end of the day, as the temperatures hovered around 90-95 all day, with beating sun. They did give us traditional beer, which was warm and had pieces of sorgom (wheat) in it. After a while it was good. We slept in nice tents and woke up to a breakfast of eggs, beans, fat cakes (kinda like donuts), and beef.
Then came the animals. This morning we got to the Mokolodi Game Reserve, which is a private game reserve not far from Gaborone. We drove around in a large vehicle and right off the bat we saw a bunch of impala. Only male impala have the large horns. Then we ran into two elephants. I was sitting on the outside of the vehicle and was literally about 5 feet away from these massive animals. They were just tearing away at some trees, satisfying their enormous appetites. I could have sat looking at them for hours. But we kept going and on the way saw: a giraffe, a few zebra, kudu, warthogs, and some gemsbok. After seeing all these animals I have finally started to belive I am actually in Africa right now.
Some other highlights of the week:
-Skype has been activated and I've used it to talk to Anne a couple of times, which is wonderful.
-I played soccer with the University team on Tuesday. One of the players is on the U-20 team for Botswana and they all are insanely good. It was much fun, though I think I'm just going to play in less competitive games here.
-I talked to a girl while doing laundry and had an interesting converstation about religion. She told me that many people here put people into a heirarchy in regards to how devote they are, in Christianity at least, which she said is turing many off to the religion. Apparently Islam is growing amazingly fast here.
-My classes are going. Two haven't actually met yet (Politics of Natural Resources and Intro to the African Novel), but Politics of Poverty, African Traditional Religions, and Intro Setswana are all interesting.
-We went to the US Embassy to get debriefed by staff. It was boring, but we did get invided to the assistant directors house to watch the inauguration, which was kind of her.
-There was a brief student strike at the university. Apparently every student gets money at the start of every month for whatever they want, but since the government is short on cash due to poor economy and lack of diamond sales, the students only got a portion of this money. So, some decided that striking would do some good, which it did not, as most students know that the government can't do anything. It was entertaining for a bit at least.
Beyond that, all is well. I've been here almost two weeks now, which is about 1/9 the entire stay here. So hopefully the rest of the 8/9 will be as mildly amusing.
Oh, and I can't seem to load any pictures on any website, anywhere or at anytime here. Its frustrating, but hopefully a breakthrough will be made. And soon.
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