Wed May 29-30 , 2002
Can’t stop in Maun to check email because nothing opens until 10am. Gary takes us into the Delta on his Safari wagon with two long seats back to back down the middle of the truck bed.
As we drive through town he stops by the cemetery on the outskirts of the town to explain all the new graves covered in green awnings to keep the evil spirits away; 37% of the people in Botswana has the HIV Virus. The epidemic is exacerbated by the local belief system that you get AIDS from condoms…that the way to cleanse yourself from the disease is to sleep with a virgin-so there are a lot of rapes. Many of the locals, according to a South African newspaper think AIDS stands for something like “Americans Interfering…” I can’t find the exact quote now.
Thousands of graves-row upon rows-are all covered with new blue awnings “to keep away the evil spirits.” They won’t win this one Gary says. Don’t fraternize with the locals he warns as he gets back in the truck.
Later we read an article in the Botswana Guardian reporting on a recent AIDS Awareness campaign that said that superstitious beliefs are being blamed for a rise in ritual murders, trafficking in human body parts to obtain substances for potions they believe will strengthen them against misfortune, and false AIDS cures. Human sacrifice is needed, many Africans believe, for the purpose of obtaining a victim’s life force through a potion. The article went on to say that the Traditional Healers Association of South Africa has condemned healers who tell their patients suffering from AIDS that the disease can be cured through sex with a virgin.
In Mozambique, health officials are cataloguing traditional medical practices with anthropologists from the Maputo campus of the University of Mozambique with the aim of separating out good information from bad and legislating against promoting harmful practices, according to Dr. Manuel Ferriera. “You can’t use reason against superstition,” Musa Khumalo, a ministry official said. “Sometimes you just have to legislate against it.”
The Safari truck takes two hours and 11 minutes (Bob says) through Maun, down a side road to a dirt road that takes us through Mapani trees and thorn bushes that whip the truck and threaten us, and across the Buffalo fence to the edge of the Delta where the Mekuros and the polers are waiting for us.
On the way we stop twice to give Heather time to hang her head over the side (ethanol…alcohol…poisoning from the night before, Bob says) while Gary tells us about the local people. They make their mud huts out of Termite Mound mud because the saliva from the termites that is in the mud, when mixed with water, makes a kind of very hard cement-like mud. Even though the mounds stand peak-shaped anywhere from four to 15 feet above ground, 90% of the rest of the mound is underground and it is this soil that the people dig out for their huts.
Gary says he is the local bus system for the people in the mud hut villages along the way. When he comes through they ask to catch a ride on the way back to Maun…then they catch a ride with him on his next trip into the Delta in 2-3 days. They shop mainly for sugar, flour, tea, pop (sudsa) and meat, he says. Well, at least it keeps the brain functioning if not the rest of the body.
At the Buffalo Fence a woman appears who opens the gate and counts us to make sure the same number of people that go in come out again.