The Cactus Patch
Volume 10       August 2007      Number 08

A Final Museum Month
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

I am officially unemployed/retired.  The museum contract ended at the end of May.  There were plenty of final activities.  On the 9th I went to the University for a workshop on the morama bean (Tylosema esculenta), an edible bean which grows annually from the biggest tuber in the Kgalagadi (= Kalahari).  That day was also the start of a European Union film festival.  One of the most interesting was “Jaglavak, Prince of Insects”, a French film which showed the relationships between West Africans and termites.

On the 10th I gave a talk at the museum titled “Karoo in Botswana”.  This centered on plants such as Hoodia gordonii which are basically found in the Karoo of South Africa and Namibia, but are found in the neighboring area of southwestern Botswana.  Ironically, this area which is the driest and least typical of the Kgalagadi which covers most of Botswana is home to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Next Day we were thrilled by a Cameroonian singer, Jaques-Greg Belebo.  He was billed as a baritone, but he covered a wide enough range to be called a tenor/bass.  He began a bit stiffly with classical songs but loosened up when he got to American Spirituals.  Later we heard the president had been turned away from this because he showed up unannounced!  I’m glad I didn’t have to handle that one.

The Millennium Seed Bank annual general meeting was held on the 15th and I showed some highlights from the year’s collecting. Then on the 16th Polly and I drove up to Ghanzi and stayed at the Kalahari Arms.  On the 17th we proceeded on to Shakawe to join other museum staff for a celebration of International Museum Day on the 18th.  Because the theme this year was World Heritage, it was decided to celebrate at Tsodilo, Botswana’s only World Heritage site.  Because of improvements in the road, we were able drive there in our little blue Hyundi Atos.  (The larger white car has been sold.)

There were lots of speeches, dancing by both Hambukushu and Qkung (the two villages there) as well as a whole pile of care packages from Samaritan’s Purse.  I presented a book hot off the press (a.k.a. Polly’s computer) on “Important Plants of Tsodilo”.  The cover features a colored photo of Erlangia remifolia, a weedy purple-flowered daisy which is known only from the cliffs of Tsodilo.  A few other plants are shown in color plates, but most are illustrated by line drawings.  There are only a few succulents (e.g. Aloe littoralis, Kalanchoe lanceolata, K. rotundifolia, Pouzolzia mixta and Adansonia digitata).  The most controversial page is the back cover which features a rock painting at Tsodilo which is usually said to be a scorpion, but which I suggest is the medicinal sengaparile or grapple thorn (Hargpagophytum procumbens).

Although we stayed at the Shakawe Fishing Camp, we celebrated that evening at Drotsky’s Cabins with an upscale dinner.  The Okavango River, which passes both places, was past the flood which annually comes down from Angola.  It was still higher than normal.  On the 19th we drove to Maun and stayed at the Island Safari Lodge.  Here, at the other end of the Delta, the water was lower than ever.  It takes a long time for flood waters to filter through.

We returned to Gaborone on the 20th and I relaunched the Tsodilo Book on the 23rd.  This was the 300th Birthday of Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) so we also had speeches explaining his contributions to the naming of plants and animals. (We still use his system of a unique genus and species name for each.)  On the 25th we had a farewell party for our former entomologist Bogosi (who had left the museum two months earlier!).  I hope they don’t expect me to stick around that long.

The 26th was the annual general meeting of the bird club and we were treated to a beautiful talk of birds of the Linyanti area (similar to the Okavango, but lesser known) as well as an excellent feast.  Finally, on the 29th the film club showed “Das Boot”, a film showing life on a German submarine in WWII.  It is 3 hours long, but endurable.  Now we are heading into June and a month of fighting red tape.  Hopefully we will be able to leave at the end.

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