31 July 2007

Safari in Botswana

I've been putting off blogging about Botswana, mainly because of what happened to Chris and I in Chobe National Park (well, in Kasane just outside the park gates really). Our rental car was broken into one night, not 10 feet from where we were sleeping in our tent. We are fine and the only thing taken was my computer bag. But of course, it was what was in the bag that matters - my passport, a plane ticket to Pt. Elizabeth for a conference, my laptop, data, some books and electronic equipment, some rands and metacais, pictures I had downloaded from the trip so far, and my Wookiee.

I can't believe someone stole my Wookiee. I'd love to have seen the look on their face when they pulled Chewbacca out of my bag. I brought my Chewbacca and Obi-Wan Kenobi figures along to take pictures in the Kalahari Desert for kicks. Silly, but hey, I was on a vacation.

The part that really had me worried was my passport. Everything else was pretty easy to replace (well except the pictures and market data) albeit expensive, and Chris and I are safe. It could have been much worse. But having your car broken into like that is still nerve wrecking.

I am still working on replacing my Mozambican visa. The temporary one I got in Pretoria runs out 20 August. I am blogging from a new laptop (an Acer 3680). I'll wait to replace the book I lost. South African Airways was really helpful in replacing my ticket - even if a paper ticket system is antiquated. My conference presentation went well and I managed to put together and deliver a presentation on the role of anthropology in conservation in less than a day. That also seemed to go well.

The Kasane Police were very nice, but I don't expect to see any of what I lost ever again. And we never made it to Victoria Falls. :(

Here are some pictures of our safari in Botswana post-theft. BTW I would still recommend visiting Botswana. Tracking rhinos and elephants on foot, poling the Okavanga Delta, and birding in the Kalahari is pretty amazing.

Getting fingerprinted at the Kasane Police Station. The Kasane CSI unit dusted our car for prints so we needed to have ours on file for the investigation.

Getting my new passport photo taken in Gabarone, Botswana. The US Embassy issued me a emergency passport within 4 hours. They had to run a background check and apparently I haven't done anything too horrible.

Many rural Botswanans use burros to get around. There are even cowboys (sorry, that picture got lost) who herd cattle on horseback in flipflops.

Botswanan road blocks - cattle are one of the most important thing to a Botswanan family.

Let's hope when the road is finished there is some money for a new sign.

10 July 2007

Tenho saudade

Sometimes being apart from people and places puts things into better perspective. Over the past month, I've been on the road in Botswana and South Africa with my husband Chris. It was fantastic to see him and just be with him. I hadn't realized just how deeply I missed him until I saw him walk through the doors at Johannesburg's airport. We had many an adventure on our road trip through Botswana and I will post more pictures and text over the few days.

After he left for home in the States, via a brief stopover in northern Spain, I traveled down to Port Elizabeth, South Africa for the 2007 Society for Conservation Biology meetings. I gave 2 presentations, both of which seemed well received. Again, I will post more about that in the days to come. There is a small, but interesting, development regarding my talk about the historic wildlife trade in this region, but that is all I want to say for now. I'm not gonna count my chickens yet...

When the conference finished, I headed back to Maputo. I had to pick up a new set of keys, which then proceeded not to work. My keys were stolen in Botswana (more to come on that particular adventure). So, I called my building supervisor, Sr. Zimba (cool name, huh?). He got a locksmith out to drill out the padlock that closes the rebar door. All houses seem to have 2 doors here. The wooden one and the rebar door with a padlock. Double the protection, but a pain if you don't have the right keys. Anyway, for $6 he drilled out my lock using a hand drill that matches the one I inherited from my Grandpa Shaffer. Now I have another use for the drill. Woohoo!

After that, I walked over to my favorite neighborhood grocer, stopping to greet people along the way. My apartment guards, the shoe repair/shine man that sits under the tree by the cafe, the young man who sells phone calls on a little table outside my door, the little kids that play in the parking lot behind my apartment, the ladies that sell vegetables and fruits to me from the sidewalk... even the grocer asked where I'd been and how I was doing. Just today, I dropped into the archives to get a paper and the archivists not only remembered me after a 3 month absence, we had a really interesting conversation about why I was replacing that particular paper and the economic conditions in southern Africa in general.

Then there was just the comfort of a familiar setting too. My things, my bed, no living out of a bag or the back of a small car, the warm temperatures, the sound of Portuguese and Rhonga/Changaan, the constant stream of greetings and well wishing, the bumpty-bump of a chapa ride accompanied by loud music (Ridin' Dirty is a great chapa song), my hot shower, the rolling electrical blackouts... Okay, so I wasn't so nostalgic for the electricity thing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that some part of me really missed Mozambique - the place, the people, the atmosphere. I have to say that I was more than a bit surprised. I still miss my husband, Chris, lots, and certainly miss my parents, my brother, my in-laws, and my friends because I love them all. I don't know if I would go as far to say I missed my family and Mozambique for the same reasons. But I think that there is a certain element of longing in each of the cases.

Perhaps this is what the Portuguese speakers mean when they talk about Tenho saudade. Lusophones say that saudade is not definable in the English language. From what I can gather, it includes ideas of longing, love, nostalgia, pining, missing, and some indefinable aspect that I'm told you know it when you experience it. At any rate, I'm going to use it to cover both my feelings for my family and Mozambique - even if the feelings are slightly different.