The Cactus Patch
Volume 7       November 2004      Number 11

It Never Rains But It Pours
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

After a relatively quiet period, everything seems to be happening at once. First, of course, we continued the visit of Raul & family and Chad. On the 18th of Sept. we took them to Boatle which is on the main road south of Gaborone. There I managed to show them some hybrid aloes similar to the ones in the garden - but these were wild. Again, they were in bloom although the parents had finished. After drinks at the Boatle Jazz Club we then went east to Ramotswa and visited the fossils there. They managed to find Orbea lutea nestled in the Fossils. On the other side of town we found Euphorbia schinzii in flower. This is a tuberous-rooted form.

Next day we all went to Manyana to visit the rock paintings and huge fig (appropriately Ficus ingens) which are monuments there. Then we went to the site of Livingstone's Mission at Kolobeng which is another monument. We then went to the Grand Palm back in Gaborone for a late lunch in their Fig Tree Restaurant which is outdoors overlooking the pool and a pond with hundreds of egrets on an island. To end the long day we drove around the Gaborone Game Reserve and saw everything that's there. The best view was of warthogs rooting in the mud.

While our horticulturalist Diphoteng Menyatso took Raul and Chad for a three-day visit to Kang (deep in the Kgalagadi west of Gaborone), I stayed in town and met the new director of the museum, Soso Ruth Lebekwe-Mweendo. Unfortunately, Raul's daughter Adriana had kidney problem's and was admitted to hospital on the 25th. She was released on the 27th.

Chad went down to Cape Town and I took Raul on a historic tour of "The Village" area of Gaborone -- Boer War graves and redoubt etc. -- ending at the old Magistrate's house which is now the Thapong Art Centre.

The exhibit was open, but no one seemed to be in charge. On the 29th the new director came to see our Natural History Division. She was formerly with the Ministry of Agriculture, so she should be sympathetic to us.

The 30th was Botswana's Independence Day. The Puentes went to the stadium while Polly & I watched the ceremonies on TV. TV was actually better because we could actually see Mogae giving presidential awards (& this was not really visible from the stands). Two of our acquaintances, Sandy Grant, who built the Mochudi Museum north of Gaborone, and Louis Nchindo, former director of Debswana, got awards this year.

That evening we all went to the China Restaurant and celebrated Polly and Adriana's birthdays (although it was a day late for Polly). Adriana was 7 and Polly was one year younger than last year. Chad came back from South Africa that evening.

On the 2nd of Oct. we went to Camphill and toured the small plant nursery, went on down to Lobatse to photograph the hill of Aloe marlothii in the middle of town, found baboons cavorting at the edge of Game City in Gaborone and still managed to get Chad to his flight back to Arizona.

On the 3rd the Puentes joined us for a Bird Club walk at the sewage ponds. We were lucky to see a fish eagle (looks just like a bald eagle) and a flock of flamingoes. Next day the Puentes left, though they had to wait for a delayed flight.

On the 9th the museum had its annual visual and performing arts day. The guest speaker was Kgosi (chief) Sechele who was wearing a GOP tie (elephants & all)! The Oscars have nothing on us - we had two dancers fall out of their leather bras. (It's not such a big deal here.)

On the 11th we had a downpour. We thought we'd be stuck at choir. I hope we get more soon. It's begun to get hot again. On the 13th the termites started swarming. That evening a German group, the Singphonikers, gave a fantastic concert, but they didn't seem to enjoy the swarms. They opened a German festival and sang a tribute to Simon & GarFunkle as well as the German Group the Comedien Harmonists (a half Jewish Group which had to flee the Nazis).

There was also a week of German films. One of the ones we went to was "Memories of Rain", a series of interviews with people who went underground during the ANC resistance to Apartheid.

On the 20th a German choir & orchestra performed at the Catholic cathedral.

Interspersed in the German fest was a jazz fest. We went to "Brunch & Jazz - Take 5 +5" at the Grand Palm and had a lovely afternoon. Ben, an alto who has helped out the tenors in our choir (amazing range!) sang with the group.

We finally got to see Fahrenheit 9-11 here. I was worried that it wouldn't get here as it is not exactly understandable in terms of local politics. But I'm glad it did get here. Freedom of Speech should be an international right. We went home and filled out our ballots for the U.S. I hope everyone else does.

Local politics are hot here - the National election is 30th Oct. Mogae is expected to win again, largely because the opposition is so splintered (even with a weak attempt at a coalition this time). The big question - when will Vice President Ian Khama, son of the first President, move up? -lies in the future.

A recent book launch on Tshekedi Khama (2004, The Apostle, Gaborone) was interesting. The author Gasebalwe Seretse is quite biased toward his uncle. This is contrary to popular opinion which favours Seretse Khama the first president who had a falling out with his uncle Tshekedi who was regent when the British banned Seretse due to his English wife. At any rate, we bought the book from Gasebalwe at the Trade Fair, so we already had a signed copy before the launching!

Another interesting book (also signed by the author, Neil Parsons) is "King Khama, Emperor Joe and the Great White Queen" (1998, Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago). This refers to Khama III, Chancellor Joseph Chamberlain and Queen Victoria during a visit of three dikgosi (chiefs) to England (Khama was the most outspoken, another was Sebele - predecessor of the above-mentioned Sechele and the third was Bathoen -- we lived under a later Bathoen in Kanye in 1969) to plead for protection against Boers and Rhodes. The museum is now involved in erecting a three chiefs monument. Thank goodness, it doesn't involve Natural History.

Less political was the launching of "Botswana- the insiders guide" (2004, Sruik, Cape Town) by Ian Michler (yes, he signed it). It is very biased toward luxury tourism, a world that I seldom see. I felt so left out I went and bought "African Adventurer's Guide to Botswana"(2001, Struik, Cape Town) by our friend Mike Main (who happily signed it). It is much more the kind of touring I'm used to. After explaining that much of Botswana is being "concessioned" off (see Michler), Mike concedes, "However, much of the country is still there for the adventurous…." May it long remain so!

To end on a happy note, despite our two dogs, a new bird has moved into our yard. It is a white fronted robin. Do not picture the American thrush (AKA the American robin). It is a smaller bird related to the English robin which we would call a blue-bird. But the African one is not blue - it is grey. All of them do, however, share a reddish underside.

The new museum director
Soso Ruth Lebekwe-Mweendo

Kgosi Sechele (with GOP tie) and
Bruce (in astonishing asclepiad shirt)

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