As we drive up Namibia towards Botswana the landscape completely changes from barren and dry to green and lush. Etosha National Park is a green refuge for lions, elephants, giraffes, and countless other animals. Salt marshes stretch out across the massive park, we camp near water holes and sit quietly watching the night for thirsty animals, trying not to laugh too loudly and frighten them away.
The land, like the sky in Botswana is wide and flat. The grass is green, the sky is a light blue with puffy clouds that are so perfect they look fake. Short trees with thin branches fill the expansive land, stretching out wide, growing out, not up. Yellowish green butterflies decorate the trees and ground like flowers, revealing themselves as they flutter into the sky. Animals roam freely, cows graze by the side of the nicely paved road, we drive around sheep in our path. Botswana is quite economically strong, compared to their neighbor Namibia- the wealth coming from diamonds they kept under the radar until independence (clever).
Tonight we camp amongst the huts of the Kalahari Bushmen. The bushmen, traditionally hunters, have been banned by the government from hunting in Botswana, so they essentially are kind of displaced. Many now make their money through tourism, putting on a show of thier past for travelers interested in their culture.
Stories of hunting for lions turn into traditional dances, each with a purpose, a lesson, a tale from the past. Men wearing animal skin around their waists stomp feet in quick movements around a fire. Women sit around the fire singing and clapping, providing a foundation and a rhythm for the dance. Naked babies play in the sand, crawling through the dancers, clapping with the women and capturing the affection of the group.
They sing of hunting animals, of nature, of the most dangerous python snake, of the harsh Kalahari desert which makes up 70% of Botswana. After the dance, they take off traditional attire and transform from the past into the present. I silently wonder what will become of the Bushmen as they are pushed to the rural outskirts of society, how they can reinvent themselves without hunting. How will traditional merge with modern?
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