21. Bushmen

This morning I took a walk with a Bushman family. Every three months a new family rotates into the area of this camp to demonstrate their ways to tourists. I’m here to see if I want to add a cultural element like this to the Botswana workshops I do.

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Living in such extreme territory, the bush people have adapted in many interesting ways. While it might look like a forbidding environment, I was quickly shown how they get water in dry times: they dig and find certain bulbs that retain moisture during the dry season. You and I would probably do a lot of digging before we found one of these underground treasures, but the bush people know where to look, and it takes almost no digging in the sand before they'd exposed one.

Like many things out here, the bush people use one thing for many uses. The skin of the bulb has a tacky nature to it, which they use for glue. The skin is almost like paper, and can be used for many things when dried. But if all they want is the moisture, they’ll poke a small hole and get that, then re-bury the bulb. 

The two highlights of our walk were digging for scorpion and then building a fire and dancing and playing games around it. 

If you remember the Amazing Race segment in Botswana a few years ago, you might even recognize a couple of the Bushman I was with; they were helping the contestants with the scorpion challenge. 

First, you find a scorpion hole. Then you find a long stick to push down into it to determine the length and direction of the first part of the hole. Dig that area up, then push the stick down the new path. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It probably took 20 minutes of back and forth digging on a circuitous path to find the scorpion, but they found a big one and proceeded to show it off. 

I never thought I’d have to identify a wild scorpion shot as posed, but here it is:

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We found another hole and put the scorpion just outside the hole in the pose you see here.

When we reached their camp, I got a demonstration of fire making with two sticks. All those contestants on Survivor need to see that demonstration. It took only a few moments before we had smoke, a few more before we had flame, a few more before we had a full fire. The starter material was ground up elephant dung and some dry grass. Once the dung was smoldering, the grass was folded around it like a burrito and some gentle blowing took it the rest of the way.

Sorry, interrupted by an elephant that came down to the water just below my tent as I was writing. 

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Back to our regularly scheduled feature.

After the fire was going, I got a demonstration of a Bushman game: steenbok, dykker, impala. If you know rock, paper, scissors, it’s similar, but much more entertaining. First you establish a beat and rhythm with clapping and thumping and movements, then you present on one of the downbeats. Left hand pointing, right hand pointing. Two lefts are a steenbok, two rights are a dykker, opposites are an impala. Or something like that. Much more fun than rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock, too. 

One of the things you notice in Africa is that the people, no matter how simply they live, all seem to laugh and have fun, and they find happiness in what they have. Possessions are actually a detriment for a nomadic tribe; they relate much more to knowledge and skill, with those that are advanced at that being the leaders. 

Something to think about. It’s not how much money you made or the possessions you have that makes you happy. It’s not how much money you made or the possessions you have that make you a good leader. It’s the knowledge and skills that do. It’s how you interact with and treat those around you. 

This afternoon I sat at the blind and spent most of it taking zebra/elephant photos.

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