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An Unexpected Party

An Unexpected Party

October 14, 2013

Contributed by Anna Nisi (Carleton College)


Dumela bo rra le bo mma! Right now we are back at Dibatana after a wonderful week at our second bush camp, Adventure Camp in NG18 about 2 hours from the village of Khwai. We had another lovely week full of a lot of awesome animal sightings and hot hot weather.

Swimming with the Khwai community escort guides in a shallow pool near our camp

Swimming with the Khwai community escort guides in a shallow pool near our camp

One of the recurring themes of our program is that the completely unplanned and unexpected experiences have ended up being the most memorable. The prime example of this was when we took an afternoon drive to Banoka camp, about an hour away from Adventure  camp (although only about 20km), to use the pool. After two weeks of cooking over a fire, using a latrine, and bathing in the river, the fancy 3-star Banoka safari camp looked absolutely unreal! There was a big mirror near the bathroom, which was a little startling, since we hadn’t seen our reflections in a couple weeks. And the bedrooms looked just odd – we haven’t slept in beds the whole time we have been here and it will be another two months before we do! I think we all generally enjoy sleeping outside in our safari tents, because they have windows and it is easier to hear and see all the animals at night than it would be inside, anyway. Nothing like going to sleep to the mhwoo-oooom, mhwooo-ooom contact sound of lions or the mwoh- ho- ho-ho-ho of hippos (if you haven’t heard a hippo call before try to look it up – they sound like Bowser’s evil laugh).


A group of lionesses seen during a morning drive in Khwai

But back to my Banoka story. All ten of us jumped into this tiny little pool and proceeded to splash around and have a blast. All of the Banoka camp staff just stood around and laughed at us, probably because we were goofily enthusiastic, especially compared to the normal clientele of the fancy safari camps. I really doubt that the pool had ever seen that much action.

After a bit we got out of the pool and Gideon, one of the managers, offered us sodas. Our favorite soda is Stoney’s ginger beer, which is like ginger ale but more gingery and less sweet. For awhile we sat around with the Khwai guides with whom we had been camping, Dix, Wax, Onks, Bob, and Amos (Johnson joined us the next day), and looked out over the marshy area. We saw two spotted hyenas lope up to the watering hole to drink, and then we saw three reedbuck sprinting all around in circles for no apparent reason. That was also one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen here. It is still the dry season but you could see rain from some of the high-up clouds in the distance, looking like it was evaporating before hitting the ground.

Another beautiful Botswana sunset

Another beautiful Botswana sunset

After a while our new friend Gideon invited us to go for dinner and a bonfire by a nearby pan with some of the other Banoka staff. Because it was getting dark and we had to do an early morning transect the next day, we said we would stop by for just a little bit, which of course ended up turning into 3 hours once we got there. There was a nice big bonfire and about 10 people that work at Banoka, all of whom were super nice and offered us cookies (my favorite Setswana word – monamone), dried meat, and more soda. We chatted for awhile while we ate dinner: pap (white cornmeal that looks somewhat like mashed potatoes but tastes like polenta) and various meats grilled over hot coals.

Then someone started up some music so we started to dance. This quickly became one of the goofiest experiences we’ve had and we all made adequate fools of ourselves in the dance circle. Very enthusiastic fools. I kept thinking of all of the wildlife that was in the vicinity and what they must have thought of our music and festivities. We had an outrageous amount of fun, and the “last song” turned into four last songs when it got time for us to go home. And it was a LATE night – bed at 11!

The music that we have been hearing here is hilarious, too. In the middle of our dance party the first few bars of “Mine” by Taylor Swift came on. Taylor is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine because listening to it reminds me of time spent with my wonderful Carleton lady friends, so I audibly reacted when it came on, along with Adelie. Priscilla, a woman who works at Banoka, deduced that we were Taylor fans so she put on another couple songs. So for awhile it was all of us, all of the guides, the male staff members of Banoka, and Priscilla all dancing our hearts out to Taylor in the middle of the bush. It was wonderful.

In general, this week has been great because we got to know the Khwai guides a lot better and had so much fun hanging out with them. We went swimming in the river pretty frequently and the last day we did chicken fights with the guides, during which ended up falling on our butts and laughing uncontrollably. We were all sad to leave them on Saturday but hopefully we will run into them again soon, since it is much easier to run into people here than it is in the States!


Elephants drinking at a waterhole by Dibatana


One more thing – we all got Setswana names from Sixteen!

Here they are:

(in Setswana you pronounce g like h):

Amelia – Neo (“gift”)

Adelie – Naledi (“star”)

Ema – Masego (“blessings”) (pronounced Ma-say-ho)

Anna – Lesego (“fortune”) (pronounced Le-say-ho)

JP – Thuso (“helper”) (pronounced Too-so)

Ben – Ke a leboga (“thank you”), shortened to Lebo (thanks)

Susie – Lame (“mine”) (pronounced La-may)

Gen – Bontle (“beautiful/pretty”)

Mike – Carabo (“answer”)


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