The Cactus Patch
Volume 10       January 2007      Number 01

A Surfeit of Cinema
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

We have enough films to chose from even though not all US films reach here (and we are still not allowed in one multiplex). We also have TV films (But usually not great) and the weekly film club. On top of this, Alliance Francaise (French Alliance) had a week of documentaries followed by a week of regular films. On 22 Nov. we watched "Darwin's Nightmare", a documentary about the Nile Perch which were added to Lake Victoria (and decimated the local fish) and the guns which were flown down from the Soviet Union in exchange. They missed the fact that smoking these large fish (previously fish were sun dried) caused loss of tree cover, erosion, marshes and an increase in bilharzia. This was in the textbook we used at San Joaquin Valley College when I taught there eight years ago. In addition, the film was badly edited, very dark and needed subtitles even for the English. The title is misleading as Darwin had nothing to do with introducing the fish even if it did lead to the survival of the "fittest". Incidentally, at the University of Malawi we took students to Lake Malawi each year to study fish related to the ones being lost in Lake Victoria. These Tilapia (aka St Peterís Fish & available in US supermarkets) and relatives make a great study in speciation. We also included them in the High School biology syllabus instead of Darwin's finches.

The regular films began on the 24th with "Little Senegal", a story of a man from Senegal who follows the slave routes to find family in New York. Following that we watched "Trees" which starts with a terrific panorama of baobabs in Madagascar. Although it does have some aloes and other succulents (and a snow scene in the California redwoods), it is rather a hodge podge of unrelated scenes.

There were lots more films, but I won't bore you with all of them.

It hasn't been all movies. On the 16th there was an art opening at Thapong Artists and our friend Margaret Taylor had done a number of tree portraits. Saturday the 18th we went to a house warming for David Slater who is retiring and opening a music business. The choir, Maitisong Festival and Music Camp will be limping from now on. Speaking of the Choir, they did a production of Mikado on the 23rd. Polly & I skipped that one as I feel the Mikado is culturally insensitive. They proved it by dressing all the school girls in British type uniforms and when asked about this said, "That's the way it's usually done in England". (Possibly because it is mainly done by such school girls.) It was at least helped a bit by having "MaRamotswe" (played by the Minister of Health Prof. Sheila Tlou) explaining the story.

On the 3rd of Dec. we went to the annual Bird Club birthday brunch at the McColloughs'. It was too hot for much birding, but Doreen (who's actual birthday is the 3rd) did lay out an interesting trail of feathers and questions. (What is the national bird of Guatemala? I got that one right.) The next day the annual Music Camp began in Kanye at the new Education Centre (a real white elephant), but we didn't go down until Wednesday when they had open house for sponsors. It felt weird to be an onlooker rather than a participant. To make it a "working" trip, I looked around in the bush nearby. I found Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, a plant which is common in Lesotho but which I had not seen in Botswana (except for the one specimen in the herbarium).

That Saturday we went to the museum in Mafikeng in South Africa where I got copies of their exhibit on the Zeederberg coaches for use in our old building which was a coach stop. (Incidentally, these stage coaches are identical with those of the US southwest as they were made by the same company!) We then went back up to Kanye where we stayed in an air-conditioned room at RIIC [Rural Industries Innovation Centre]. (It is hot!! right now.) That evening we went to the final concert and party at the music camp. It was sad to say farewell and realize we will not be here next December. Next day we returned to Gaborone.

We are now well into the Holiday season (although we won't go far), but more of that in the next letter.

I received an interesting book recently- another tree book by Marthinus Steyn. This time it is "Albizia- southern Africa" (published by the author, This is a genus of trees related to Acacias but without thorns. Unfortunately they are not succulent. Again, it is well illustrated with all plant parts shown and has good distribution maps as well as uses. My help is acknowledged. Unfortunately the language map is a bit scrambled. (For a better map one should refer to his previous book on Commiphoras.)

News flash - I just read the Southern Times from Windhoek, Namibia 17-23 Dec.) which headlines an outbreak of an unknown disease killing fish along the Zambezi. It lists "bream" (another name for Tilapia) among those fish affected. It is unknown whether this affects humans, but advises not eating the fish. This would be a pity as Tilapia is my favorite fish.

Incidently, the Setswana name for fish is Thlape and the southernmost Batswana are the Bathlaping or People of the Fish as they are near the Gariep (Orange) River and lived off of fish rather than cattle.

The "Captain" teaching "segaba"(a one stringed violin) at Music Camp.

Kalanchoe thyrsilfora at Kanye

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