Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Everyday Life

Women fishing in the Thamalakane River.
We stopped at the Old Bridge Backpackers yesterday for lunch. Out by the old bridge, we saw three or four women seine for fish. We saw them though one of the gaps between the bridge supports. We could tell that the water was not deep - never more than about knee deep anywhere. Seems like a hard way to put food on the table.

We've seen this before on a different part of the river, out at the Thamalakane River Lodge.

Clearly, this is an accepted activity. Again, you can see that at these low river levels, it is either really easy to find the fish or impossible (because there really aren't any). At this time of year, given that the rains have not been perhaps as plentiful as usual (we were worried about not having enough water before we arrived), the river is more of a collection of mostly unconnected pools than anything you'd really call a river.

The domestic help that Glen has hired to help him keep the house and grounds are not extravagantly paid. The grounds keeper, KB,  gets less than $100/month. I have no idea what the housekeeper gets paid; perhaps 2-4 times this much?

The housekeeper, Kitsiso, we learned today, is the breadwinner for her family. She was out a few days last week because her youngest child (age 8) had a very high fever and went to the hospital. It is a mystery to me how this gets paid for. She has four children and at least one sister to support and there is no husband in the picture. Single parenthood is hard everywhere.

On the other hand, we went to the "new mall" to visit a few of the shops. In a clothing store that sells children clothes, we found clothes for toddlers (and smaller) at $2-$4 for a pair of pants or a top. Gasoline is  more expensive than in the US, but few own cars. Kitsiso takes a boat on the Thamalakane River from somewhere near her home to not far from Glen's house back and forth each day. At least there is enough water for the ferryman to ply his trade. She gets an extra allowance for transportation each week: 40 Pula, a bit less than $4.

As I've noted before, public transit is common here. Most common, of course, is walking, but vans (used as buses), and taxis are everywhere. It can't be expensive to catch a ride this way since so many people are doing it. We see a few folks riding the ubiquitous donkeys, one or two on horseback, and rarely a motorcycle. There are few bicycles but not many.

With so many roads, even in town, being unpaved, no vehicle is clean. All the gas stations are full service (just as they are in South Africa) and a routine part of the service is getting the windows cleaned all around. Everyplace we go -  gas station, grocery, clothing store, restaurant, etc. -  there is what feels like an entire army of people on staff. With prices so low (for us), that many people can't be getting paid very much.

Yet, everyone is friendly and gives the appearance, at least, of being happy. It doesn't take a lot to be content. Just "enough." Enough is in the eye of the beholder. One thing we learn from our travels is that enough is much less than we've been led to believe by American advertising. Every trip we take, we realize that we've over-packed yet again. We brought two cases, neither packed full, and we still have too much. We continue to trim our packing list. From the people we've met here we see we have a lot yet to learn about what is really "enough."

And now for the obligatory bird photo:

An Open-Billed Stork and two Hamerkops resting on a dead limb, out of the reach of the local crocodiles.
Perhaps it is enough just to be out of the reach of the crocodile and sit in the arm sun for a little while.