Botswana / Namibia:
Cultural Sojourn

Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

 
     
 

Dispatch 15 - Toteng

   
 

Girls playing net ball, Sehithwa BotswanaAt Sehithwa junction there was a mini-mart and restaurant. Down the road was a Shell gas station that advertised that it had Internet. Having learned that there must be more to town, we again took a detour and explored off the highway.  Again the institutions (schools, clinic, police, etc.) and action of the town was nowhere near the highway. We found a high school sports day in full swing.  The boys teams were playing soccer and the girls teams were playing net ball.  There were also signs advertising a concert of traditional music in the evening at the Sehithwa Community Hall.  We were disappointed that it wasn't practical to stay and attend.

We passed these two Heroro women, dressed to the nines, calmly, patiently, waiting for a lift alongside a very rural section of highway.  They said they were trying to get to a party in Gaborone.  Let's calculate: Gaborone is close to 800 kilometers.  How long is it going to take them to find a ride and then how long is the travel time?  When exactly is the party?  Are they already dressed to celebrate? Another mystery. [Incidentally to tell a Herero woman that she is looking fat is a compliment -- which is also the case in a number other African cultures.]

Approaching Toteng we came to one of the southern fingers of the Okavango Delta. It was crowded with fisherman and they were pulling out fish with regularity.  One lively group had parked their cars along the shore, the doors were open and the air was filled with the latest tunes. Between fishing and enjoying each others company, a couple of them took time out to test ride the bicycles.  I don't think anyone was persuaded to trade their car for a bicycle. 

Finding a place to stay in Toteng was a cultural experience in itself.  Here is a simplified version:  My first effort was to find the number one chief.  Sadly, he had left the community to attend a funeral.  From a shop near his house, after a conversation on assorted topics, I got directions to the number two chief's house.  On arrival there, the girls thought the chief was around but didn't know where and they didn't have any time on their cell phone.  I gave them 10 pula (~$1.40) to buy some airtime.  They sent a kid to the store for the pre-paid airtime card.  When he returned, the phone was loaded and the call was made, they still couldn't make contact with the chief -- but they had airtime!  The helpful young boy said he would take me to the number three chief. 

By his own admission, the number three chief prefers to live far away from his boss, but I didn't know that when I started out.  The route to the number three chief cut across town on sandy roads so we were pushing our bikes.  After a slightly circuitous route we met the number three chief.  He, in fact, was not at his house, and I don't know how the boy knew to find him where he was, but this is Africa and things like that don't matter.  More specifically, the number three chief is Charles Motshozo, Chief for Arbitration.  Charles felt that it would be appropriate for the group to stay in his yard, but I had to get there.  The route by paved road was even more circuitous than the route by sand road.  As it was, I again re-passed the number one chief's house and the number two chief's house.  By the time I got to the number two chief's house I had lost track of how I was suppose to continue to get to Charles' house.  Fortunately, in the time it had taken me to take the long way around the young boy had taken a short cut and was back to his house -- there was almost no one else out on the roads.  I persuaded him to hop on the back of the bike and show me the rest of the way to Charles' house.  As it was we got to Charles' house at about the same time as he did.  Charles arranged to have his sister cook for us.  It was set-up similar to how it had been for the past few nights and once again we were not disappointed.  The dinner menu was tasty dishes of sorghum, pumpkin, greens and goat meat.

It is hard to know whether our hosts' houses are the natural gathering points in the community or whether our visits make it the de-facto gathering points in the community, but in the evening and again in the morning there always was a jovial crowd gathered near the fire.  In the morning we managed to get those who were around organized enough for a group picture.  Charles was the photographer.

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