Monday, September 8, 2014

Lekhubu Island

There are few things in this world that move me like giant trees.  Sounds funny right? But seriously I love big trees.  It’s one of the things I loved most about living in Oregon.  Giant trees have an energy that lies just below the surface of explanation, and being in the presence of trees which have lived hundreds or thousands of years is a window into the past that we seldom take the time to contemplate.  Years, generations, and centuries of history have fallen behind them, yet they live on to awe future sentimentalists like myself.  Giant trees I have seen and experienced are burned into my memory and hold a place in my psyche that few other physical things can.  There is the massive Fig tree in Santa Barbara which has roots like a pile of giant snakes and covers two lanes of traffic.  The colossalCedars, Douglas Firs, and Coastal Redwoods of the Pacific Northwest with their soft spongy bark and blankets of green moss and fernswhichgrow so tall you can barely see they’re summits.  Crabby old Cypress trees which grow from almost impossible perches of rock along the Pacific coast, and the unmistakable smell of huge stands of Eucalyptus which will always remind me of California.  Live Oaks with their ear rings of Spanish moss which grow in the low country of South Carolina have both a beauty and sadness about them when you view them from the slave quarters of an old plantation.  Hiking through massive groves of Aspen which cover entire slopes and valleys of the Rocky Mountains is like being in a playground of the mind, especially during fall.  Jungle trees like the Banyan with their huge flat window pane roots and chocking vines look so at home amongst the otherwise randomness of the jungle.  I could go on and on…

Of all the magnificent trees I have been lucky enough to be around there is one that I have only recently become acquainted with which has become my favorite, the Baobab.  The Tree of Life or theMowana in Setswana fascinates me like no other.  I have written about the Baobab before on this blog, and we have included photos of them with other posts.  They grow throughout Southern Africa and Madagascar, with a large concentration of them here in the central and northern parts of Botswana.  I guess I’m not really sure why I love them so much, maybe it’s because in a country and region so bereft of water they can grow so massive almost defying the laws of both nature and logic.  Maybe it’s because they usually grow in groves, and thus they stand out so much against the otherwise stark desert landscape.  Maybe it’s their actual age, the most ancient individuals in Bots are over 4000 years old.  Whatever the reason they are both beautiful and inspiring.  So what’s the point of all this you ask?  Well there is a magical place in Botswana called the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans which we have been trying to visit almost since we got to site almost a year ago.  It is the dried up basin of an ancient super lake the size of Connecticut which is almost totally flat.  There is a 360 degree horizon and the stars at night are brighter and more magnificent than I can describe.  Somewhere in the middle of all this nothingness rises an ancient “island” called Lekhubu, or Kubu for short.  It is a dimple of granite outcrops which is home to over 100 Baobabs of various sizes and ages.You can only visit the island during the dry season as the pans will fill with a few inches of water during the rainy season and getting there is near impossible.  A few weeks back we were finally able to visit this amazing place with our friend Botho (Erika) and her boyfriend Mbaki for a camping trip.

In other news, things in our village are great.  I am making steady progress on my gardens and other activities at the Clinicincluding our HIV+ Teen Club and Teen Mom’s Club.  Working with the teens is so fun and fulfillingfor both for us and most importantly the kids.  Jojoand her counterpart Quitty are doing great work with the Tonota Society for Gender and Human Rights, which has finally been registered as a CBO (Community Based Organization).  We are working hard on events and activities for International Men’s Day, the Day of the Girl Child, 16 Days of Activism, and World Aids Day, all of which take place in the next 3 months.  We have workshops set up with the Tonota Police Department and several Junior Secondary Schools (middle school) which sensitize people to gender issues including GBV (gender based violence) and gender inequality.  The other big news in Peace Corps Botswana is the arrival of our newest intake group, Bots 15.  This is a group of 75ish new volunteers who arrived in country about a month ago.  Both Jojo and I were asked to go help facilitate sessions for the new group at their PST (pre service training) in Serowe.  It was a really fun opportunity to meet the new vols and also to see our host family (they have an amazing new couple staying with them).  We are so excited to have this new group of friends here in country and look forward to having some of them in our area come October!  We are also really looking forward to a visit from Jojo’s parents at the end of the month.  We hope everyone is doing great back home.  We love and miss you all so much!
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans


Campfire baking
Jojo and Botho
Jojo and Mbaki at the summit

Yeah, this happens

Our newest chickens!

In sad but not that sad news, after continuing to not lay eggs and eat my veggies from the garden, Pearl found her way into the stew pot.