Whenever friends come through my village, their reactions are always the same: “There’s not a lot here, is there?” I live in the middle of nowhere, even by the standards of such a sparsely populated country like Botswana. Rakops has about 7,000 people, but it’s the largest settlement for 2 hours in any direction and as a result is considered a major town on most maps. There’s a certain amount of comfort to be found in such a rural setting. I never feel unsafe in regards to crime, and I have plenty of space to breathe. When I first arrived at this place, I was put off by its geography and my relative isolation, but it has definitely grown on me.
The most startling thing about my corner of the country is the extreme lack of vegetation, especially during the dry season. I live so close to so many pans that the village is basically a dust bowl, and small sand storms are not uncommon. Though greenery and trees can be found near the river, the majority of my life takes place in a desert setting. Close by (45km away) is the entrance to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where one can find the entire menagerie of wildlife Botswana has to offer. I don’t live in the wild, but animals have migrated past the edge of the village. Also weaving through my village is the Boteti River, which is always the first thing people mention about Rakops. The riverbed had been dry since the ‘70s and began to flow again a couple years ago. Now that winter is setting in, the water levels in the river are rising and I expect a few hippos will start to show up.
It has gotten to the point in winter where bathing decreases from my routine and my body temperature takes precedence over cleanliness. It’s not that terrible, though, since I don’t sweat anywhere near as much as I did during summer. The amazing thing is how much the sun dictates life here; the temperature in the shade and inside my house is generally 15˚ lower than in the sun. I’ve decided to use this to my benefit and I’m finally growing a few vegetables in the support group’s garden. It has been so underutilized since I’ve been here, with only a few orange trees still standing. Hopefully the relentless sun’s weakened winter state will allow some of the young plants to survive.
That’s all I have for now. Keep chugging along.