Tuesday 1 July 2008 - Wednesday 2 July 2008
We arrived in Sesheke after about a 2-hour Combi ride with Number 1. In typical Caprivian hospitality, he dropped us off at Crystal's door front, which involved whipping through the village and dodging mud huts and livestock. Made me a little nervous considering the village is covered in sand and we were riding in a packed minivan with a trailer attached to the back.
Sesheke is a lovely little village of about 1000 people. It actually is more of a community than a village, which is comprised of many small villages made up of extended family. There is one gravel road in the middle, and dirt paths that come off of the main road. Within the village there is about 1 foot of sand. The houses are mud huts. The homes are square with mud walls, wood supports, and bunches of long grass layered on top to create a roof. The nicer homes are surrounded with grass fences to make a courtyard. Cooking huts are usually separate, as are storage huts that are raised off the ground to protect the contents from snakes and rats. Being so different from everything I am used to, It was absolutely fascinating to me.
We dropped our things and took a walk around the village. Because the sun was setting, we didn't have much time, but we were able to get a feel for Crystal's home and her newfound friends. At this time, the children were in a break from school, and the people were returning from the town and from their fields for supper. It gets quite cold at night, and most people were returning to their huts. We encountered many women carrying loads on their heads and babies on their back. The women here are incredibly strong and I have been endlessly impressed at how much they take on, and how little they complain (at least in my presence). Of course, the townspeople were, again, very interested in the white strangers who were roaming their village. The children were especially interested in us, but were too shy to come up to us unless Crystal introduced us. They all had big smiles on their faces and were eager to see their pictures on my digital camera when I happened to take one. We did seek out a small boy who is quite poor to give him a soccer ball that Steve brought over as a gift from Canada. He was too bashful to say much about it, but you could tell how excited he was by his smile and the twinkle in his eye. The ball he was currently playing with was tattered, flat, and missing its outer layers. It was a priceless moment.
My impression is that many of the families live very well here in Sesheke. They do not have much, and the work of farming, raising animals, collecting water, etc. is very difficult work, but they have close-knit families and communities, the culture is very communal, the people work together and play together, they live a relatively peaceful life, and are in one of the most beautiful places in all of Africa. On the other hand, diseases such as HIV/Aids is rampant, almost 80% in some small villages, and the risk of other diseases such as malaria and cholera is also high. Alcoholism is also very bad, and many of the men will spend all their earnings on alcohol while their children and wives are going hungry. This is also a big reason for the spread of AIDS, because the men have affairs with many women and then infect their wives at home. So, in the end, experiencing this village and meeting the people left me feeling both envious and privileged. Either way, I was incredibly luck to be there, as there are very few westerners, and white people in general, who have the opportunity to see this side of African life.
After walking we returned home and made dinner, which consisted of chicken, pringles, and jelly beans... hm. And then played a few rounds of cards over candlelight. We then took some time to view the clear dessert sky. I have never seen so many stars - being in an area with no obstructions, pollution, or clouds meant perfect viewing conditions and we were able to see the southern cross, parts of the milky way, and about 10 - 15 shooting stars because of it. Simply wonderful. I slept great that night, falling to sleep to the sound of drumming, women cooking, babies crying, and the occasional cow bell jingling in the fields nearby. Very special.
The next morning we met Number 1 on the main road before the sun rose to get a ride back to Katima. From there we will try to arrange for a ride to Kasane, Botswana where we will visit the national parks and attempt to see some of the African wildlife!
More to come!