Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting ready to publish

So, I'm finishing my last edits to my handbook today, before I hand it off to Rob for layout. He's currently mastering Unazo's recording, so he can link the recorded lessons to the text in a pdf. Exciting stuff!

I'm experimenting with papaya seeds from my back yard as well, as an anti-inflammatory. They have some solid science behind them and a clean safety record. I'll let you know how that goes. So far, I've found that I can't chew more than a teaspoonful at a time (in a few hours period) or I get queasy. Good to know.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And it's back again

The water returned last night. Another late night wash. Today, the water pressure appears to be holding but all I have left to wash is a set of sheets. I'll do that tomorrow morning.

We have our booking for a place to stay on our upcoming trip to the Caprivi strip in Namibia. In fact, at this point, we have all our bookings for our August trips. That's a relief. We're doing an insane amount of travel in the weeks to come. We'll be traveling so much that we'll cross the 12k km point in our car during one of our trips and have to schedule the maintenance on location during another, so we don't go over the leeway allowed for maintenance book stamping.

The Caprivi trip is for the annual Wayeyi festival in Sangwali. This will be my first visit to the one held on the Namibia side.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Photos by Rob and Josh

Rob and I at Tsodilo Hills, photos by Josh

sitting around the fire with Reuben, photo by Josh

Josh and I on the Okavango, photo by Rob

Josh's visit in images

Here are some more fun photos from my brother Josh's visit:

Josh, taking some of his first pictures in the country, at a rest stop

Rob and Josh as we climbed down one of the Tsodilo Hills

sunrise on the Okavango, photo taken from the boat

a crocodile at Kasane, Botswana

the three of us at Victoria Falls

the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls

sunset on the Chobe River

Rob holding a python

The next big filk thing

Well, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration. But someone did buy our first filk album yesterday. That's our first filk sale ever. That's pretty exciting.

Songs from Dark Waters

Mission accomplished

I just finished printing out my companion manual for learning Setswana to a Peace Corps manual that I found online. Rev. Unazo is coming over this afternoon to record the sentences for my abridged versions of cycles 101-163 in this P.C. manual. Yay! Hopefully, this will be of help to people who are coming to Botswana from LBT in the future, who want to get a head start on their language learning before actually setting foot in the country.

Also, we got a load of laundry out this morning. Last night, I was on the phone with Johanna when the water came back on. So, 11:30 at night, I'm starting a load. Rob hung it out when we got up this morning. Making clean while the water flows, if you will. Yes, we are still occasionally running out of water. It had been mostly gone for several days up until last night. And I'm glad I did laundry when I could: it's gone again this morning.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

safari with Roger Dugmore

As I've mentioned, we just came off a vacation time, coinciding with my brother Josh visiting us here in Botswana at the beginning of July. Part of Josh's focus was on getting great shots of large animals. So, we decided to go with Roger Dugmore of Eco-Africa Botswana. Smartest thing we ever could have done.

The accommodation was more than comfortable: it was ideal. The “campingness” of camping (we slept in tents) but with the added pleasure of all the things you usually wish you had with you once you find yourself actually too far from civilization to go back and get something. Hot water bottles in a comfy, many-quilted bed on a cold winter's night? Brilliant idea. Hot water bucket showers, private water closets, laundry service, little folding sinks with a ready supply of hot water. The food was delicious and cooked on the spot. Dorcas whips up a mean lunch, let me tell you. A cooler with drinks available during every drive, with breaks next to the hippo pools for tea in the morning. And everything was taken care of for us; all we had to do was show up to meals and get in the safari 4X4 whenever Roger said it was time to go for a drive.

Notice that I haven't talked about the animals yet? I'm still not sure what to say about what we saw. Yes, we had nearly a hundred people praying for a specific list of animals for us to see (oh, He cares about the little things). This was compounded by the fact that Roger has a gift for getting into what the animals are doing. One of the moments that highlighted this was when I saw an elephant in the far distance, made a little noise but then stopped because it was so far away. Roger asked what I saw, I told him. He said, “No, let's wait. It'll come to us.” He positioned the car back a bit, out of his predicted path. Sure enough, within about 20 minutes, the elephant crossed our path, right where Roger said it would. Brilliant. We saw many, many animals, despite the fact that the flooding had created plenty of small drinking spot, removing the necessity for the animals to come all the way to the river, where we were camping (on the Khwai River). Here are some of my favorite shots:

Which brings me to the photographic aspect of the safari - the shot was the thing. Roger, being an avid photographer himself, has a keen eye for the framing and lighting, something you don't get on every tour. He regularly would not only find the animal but would say, “Just a moment while I get a better shot,” as he drove to a better position for our cameras.

Knowing that we were there to practice photography (none of us are pros, we just like it), he would also watch what we did with our cameras and suggest alternate ways of holding it to get more unusual shots. He would remind us to turn the camera on its side from time to time, for a different perspective.

After the safari, while taking photos in Kasane and at Vic Falls, I found myself going for “the Roger shot” and being pleased with the result. For comparison, we did a river-boat cruise in Kasane where we also saw some spectacular wildlife. However, the boat driver was primarily concerned with proximity to the animals, not so much with the lighting. As a result, he'd often stop at a place where the animals were backlit by the sun, making shots problematic. Many of my pictures were taken after the boat got moving again, while floating away. Roger, by contrast, would stay and adjust until we were happy with the shots we got. As he said at one point, “Sure, that's fine if you want to end up with a picture of something that just shows that you saw it. But if you want to get The Shot…” Roger, knowing that we were about The Shot, was about The Shot.

And safety? I can be a bit jumpy on occasion. It's had to reconcile my fight-and-flight instincts with the desire to see the big game up close. Roger and Reuben made it so we didn't have to choose. The lion “hunt” was a prime example of that. Once the tracks were found outside the camp, the track and search began in earnest. Now, on our last night, we began to hear the growling next to the campsite. It was dark, after dinner. Reuben suggested that we go sit by the fire, the roaring seeming closer all the time. When the roaring moved to the other side of the camp, over by my tent, Roger said, “Everyone, get in the truck.” I got up, heart in mouth, headed for the truck, thinking we were going there for safety. One of the boys asked where we were going. Roger said, “Well, you want to see a lion, don't you?” I was in the truck before I fully realized what he had said. Too late now. Reuben got in the back seat next me. I sat a little closer to him than he was probably comfortable with but when he saw how jittery I was, he laughed a little. That reminded me that we were in capable, experienced hands. That gave me enough presence of mind to clap my hand over my mouth: I was afraid that I would not be able to control a scream if it came. We drove; we saw nothing. The roaring continued. We went to bed. Next morning, I was awakened by the roaring, happening on different sides of the tent. I lay awake, listening, for about an hour until the roaring got far away. Someone came to wake us for breakfast. During breakfast, the roaring picked up again. Roger and Reuben again urged us to head for the truck and off we went. This time? Lion, smack on the side of the trail.

The point being that, had I been camping alone or with guides that I didn't instinctively trust, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy these close-up animal experiences. No lion. No elephant so close that I could have touched it. No puff adder. No hippo pool. If I came upon an elephant on the road, what should I do?

Roger knew. I would have backed up, driven away. Roger waited, got us some good shots, he and Reuben keeping an eye on the elephant for any aggressive behavior.

Instead of having a jittery game experience, when the first elephant snorted at us, Roger assured me that I wasn't in danger. I believed him. I felt better, took great photos. And isn't that the whole point of being on safari with a guide? I don't know what bush-safe is. As a lot of people don't: check out these self-drive tourists that we saw on one of our game drives:

Yup, these are folks that should probably have a guide required by law, eh?

So, yes, the experience of a lifetime. Thanks, Roger, Reuben, Maleko, Dorcas, et al. You made our vacation.

Internet at home

For the first time since seminary in South Carolina (summer of 1996), we have internet access in our own home! Not as fast as the US but what a blessing to be able to get and send email from here, without having to drive to the library or into town. Sigh.

Hopefully, this will affect my blog-posting in a positive way. My postings have been few and far between of late.

Also, for those who may not know, we just got back from vacationing with my brother, Josh. He came on June 30, left on July 11. We're trying to get back into the swing of things now.

Hoping to write a vacation blog-post in the near future, with some very cool photos, once I get those photos uploaded to Facebook.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Water, water everywhere

Last night, we had a recurring issue come to an end… we hope. We've been without water for the better part of the last 2 months. By "without", I don't just mean none at all; I also include the water pressure being so low that we turn on the tap in the tub, put a bucket under it, wait all day long for it to fill. Then, we filter that for drinking and hopefully wash some dishes and ourselves too. Washing laundry? Right out - not enough pressure to run the machine. Let's just say logistics have been an issue for a bit. It was nice to take a vacation and sleep places other than home just so we could bathe properly. You get the idea.

We've been back and forth with water affairs and the landlady, trying to figure out the problem. As we talked to others in the neighborhood, it became evident that this was a region-wide issue: half of Maun was having the same water issues. Early on this week, we talked to someone who knew the issue: the floods. Oh, the irony. Yes, someone forgot to raise the pumps in the delta so, when the floods came, they were submerged and the diesel engine cut out. That's why we've been having water issues. It's taken this long to get them fixed.

Ah well. I'm doing laundry like a madwoman today, on the off chance that the fix is temporary. It's just hard to predict these days. After that, I think I'll wash my hair. Thank God for a country where a married woman is expected to wear a scarf fully covering her hair. These last 2 months would have had more awkward days in public for me without that detail.

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