This past weekend Jeremy and I traveled from Tsumkwe out to a San village. There are 40 small San villages surrounding Tsumkwe. We were hosted by a family of a husband and wife with three little girls. Our team leader, Zeka, told the wife I was not a tourist and I wanted to learn how the San really live today and to involve me in everything. She really took him literally. I did everything she did.
Not being able to speak but a few words made communication difficult and frustrating at first. There was much laughter and smiles. I quickly learned to just follow her around. She would say my new Julhuanis name, Sapa, and I would answer “A” for yes. I watched her each morning as she made tea for the whole extended family. The tea is like hot, southern sweet tea with more than a cup of sugar per kettle of tea. It was wonderful to watch as she made each kettle of tea. We only had tea for breakfast. Then it was off to start gathering.
The whole extended family of ladies spent most of the day together. I believe there was a mother and several daughters and daughters-in-law. Total there were 8 ladies with their youngest babies on their backs and their older children. The older children (any over about 3 of age) stayed at the house while the ladies went to gather. The ladies and nursing babies went into the bush to gather. We started with these small sweet berries. The flower on the bushes reminded me of a yellow, St. John’s Wort flower. You eat as you went which reminded me of my childhood picking blueberries each morning at my grandmother’s. You picked and ate, picked and ate. As we went farther out, we started to collect the green parts of two different plants, the tuber of another, and even beetles. The beetles you would take the legs off of before you put them into your gathering clothe so they could not escape. We gathered for about 3 hours.
When we got back to the village, the beetles and tubers were roasted in the fire and cooled. Once cool, they were put into a large wooden bowl and smashed. The leaves of the green plants were taken off the stems and tore into small pieces. They were then added to the mixture with a hand full of salt. Everything was smashed and mixed well to create this green, slimy stuff. Then you eat it. Yes, I have now eaten Kalahari beetles. I had to have water to help it down. We had lunch of rice, pasta, and potatoes with curry sauce (all of which we had brought to the family). It was a large meal.
The afternoon was full of fun with dancing, jump roping, and games with a local fruit. The ladies and girls sang and clapped to create the rhythm for everything we did. I was included in everything. There was no time to sit and rest. The game with the local fruit was to shake the fruit because it is said that the more you shake it the sweeter it gets. We never got the fruit shook enough for them to open it.
After all the fun was done, it was time to gather more fire wood for the evening and next morning. Again you enjoyed the small sweet berries as you went. It amazed me the amount and size of wood the ladies collected in a sling or on their heads.
Then we were taken on a hour long trip in a truck to the Nye Nye Pan to view wildlife. We didn’t see much because the sun was already setting. We returned to the village in the dark to find the family gathered around the fire. We were given leftovers from lunch (which I don’t believe they normally have to eat). They were talking with each other. I am sure about the day but I could not understand. The language is beautiful with the clicks. When they really get talking, several could be speaking at the same time making the language like music.
The next morning was tea for breakfast again. I quickly learned there is an order to serving. First, the guest, Jeremy and I. Then all the men. Finally, it was the ladies in the order of importance starting with Mama thru the daughters. The mothers would share their cup with their children.
Our time in the village was short and good. I really was not ready to come back to Tsumkwe. I was just starting to get comfortable and understand some of what I was told (not able to speak but understand). We said our goodbyes with thank you and hugs. I look forward to the next time we are able to go to the village.
Life here in Tsumkwe is different than the village which I will share another time.
Please pray for our team as we start to learn the language. It is so different and will take a lot of work and time to learn. Pray for us to adjust to the heat with the daytime temperature 100+ and inside our house even hotter. We are trying to stay hydrated. The water is salty tasting and hot which makes it hard to drink. Pray our team can get well and stay well. We have had head colds and stomach bugs make their rounds. No matter what the struggling may be. God is good always!