bushmen

More Bushmen Stories – Part 2

Direct audio link: https://buff.ly/2nRzknN (For mobile)
Continued from Part 1: https://buff.ly/2CaiF3h

One morning, the two young men among the Bushmen casually announced that they were going to the store. Now you might wonder why this is significant. Going to the store, no big deal. But if the store is thirty-five kilometers away and you have no transport, it is. No worries, they wanted to go, and so they did.

Off they went and no-one paid it any mind, except me. They returned in the afternoon, very much looking like they had indeed only gone to the corner store, except they had run there and back. For most, a seventy-kilometer run is somewhat of a big deal, but for them, it really seemed like nothing. I was amazed, especially since it was not like they ran every day, or trained or anything like that. They simply did it.

A few of the women had, unfortunately, had not-so-pleasant interactions with some of the farmers where they had lived before, in the north. One in particular. A young vibrant and spirited woman named Luis. (Pronounced Lace.) It means louse, a nickname resulting from an unfortunate episode with lice. She was fairly attractive and had nice natural breasts. Large for a woman of the Bushmen. She had some mixed blood in her and was physically the largest of the women. Her breasts, of course, drew much attention to her. Not all of it kindly received. Despite her general positivity and good spirits, she carried a deep anger and resentment toward white men.

With winter approaching, the owners asked me to oversee building more permanent huts for them. They had been living in their traditional structures. These were simply thin dried reeds, bound together on a framework of branches to make a cone. Fairly weatherproof. One can not even call them huts. They were basic shelters only. And small. Maybe five to six feet in diameter at the base. A family would all crowd into the shelter, sleeping very much right on top of each other. These shelters served their purpose well enough as they were only used for sleeping. However heavy snow would be a different matter, not only for the pressure on the structures but requiring a more extended indoor presence.

In the hot climate of the Kalahari, these basic shelters would be enough. The desert does get very cold at night, the shelters sufficed with the body heat by their close physical proximity. But, on the mountain plateau where we were, it snowed heavily in winter. Bushmen had lived there in earlier times, plenty of rock paintings attested to that. One imagines they used caves, which if deep enough, have a constant cool temperature year round. Or they simply moved to the warmer valleys below during winter. They were a nomadic people after all.

Looking to fulfill my task as best as possible, I went to all the Bushmen, explaining about the larger more permanent weatherproof huts, and asked them all in turn where they would like the huts placed. Nothing untoward or unusual, except that none really cared. Wherever was fine. They didn’t seem to care much about my doings one way or the other. Until I came to Luis.

She responded with annoyance to my request, Annoyance with a touch of anger. I was taken aback. Explaining to Luis

I was attempting to place the huts where they wanted them. But the more I tried to explain what I was doing, the angrier Luis became, finally erupting into a full-blown anger-rage at me. The gist of her anger came out as I was in charge and it was up to me, Why was I asking them. it was my doing, not theirs, just put it where I wanted, and so on.

I protested, explaining that yes, I could do that, but I was being considerate, making some extra effort so they would be happy with where the huts were placed. But Luis would hear none of it. Just becoming even angrier. She really laid into me with a ferocity. I was not only amazed but dismayed. And as she kept going at me, not letting up, I became irritated, really annoyed.

What the hell! Here I was trying to be nice and look out for them, and I get all this crap. The sheer irrationality and unreasonableness of it got to me. So I laid into Luis in return, letting her have it. I was truly annoyed. I remember feeling my annoyance inside me, feeling myself pushing my annoyance at her. I really scolded her, most vigorously, and of course, with anger. It was the only time such an incident took place. I was truly put out by the craziness of her response to my niceness and consideration. I didn’t expect any appreciation, but she could just have said wherever, and left it there. Why get angry with me and scold me and lay into me? It was mind-boggling.

I left after laying into Luis, not wanting to spread the anger and annoyance. But I had still not asked everyone or determined suitable places for the huts. I came back later, anger never stayed long with me, and since it was so irrational, I figured that maybe it was something completely unrelated that had triggered Luis. So I let it go and returned in my normal good mood. Happy to let bygones be bygones.

But on returning it was immediately apparent that something was amiss. The women were all crowded round Luis lying on her back. They were rubbing and massaging and otherwise ministering to her abdomen area. Noticing me, the women shot dark looks my way. this surprised me, as during our altercation, none of them, or the men, took much notice, as was their way, they left others to do what others were doing. It had been between me and Luis. But now it was certainly a something between me and all the women.

Seeing Luis lying there in obvious distress, I realized what I had done. Never before had I seen the actual physical effects of anger on another. The Bushmen were open when it came to feelings. Not only incoming but also they used feeling as a way of perceiving the world, kind of like sensor emissions probing and feeling the world to know it. Their entire beings were way more centered around feeling than thinking and talking. I realized that this sensitivity and openness to feeling had made Luis very vulnerable to the intensity of my projected annoyance and anger. My intent had indeed been communicated, all too terribly well.

I felt like the most horrid piece of crap seeing Luis suffering because of my doings. We do not think of our anger and negativity as having a real actual physical impact, but right there I realized that indeed it very much did. I resolved never ever to push energy like that again, no matter how annoyed or angry I might become. Anger was a force, I realized. One we do not ordinarily perceive as having an effect, but it is nonetheless there. In this instance, it was clearly obvious, and those involved knew what it was all about. In other societies, those effects are likely explained away as due to some other cause. The overall effect made me extremely cautious with pushing Intent in general.

Luis recovered quickly though. She had a fierce energy and was a strong woman and individual. I never found out what was behind her anger and why my innocuous question had set her off so. It doesn’t matter, the lesson was profound, for both of us. I am also pleased to say, that the altercation made no difference after that. Luis and I, and all the women, maintained our good relationship. Forgive and forget was very much a part of the Bushmen, as it also is for me.

Thinking of this as I write, it comes to me that Luis was, it now seems to me, annoyed and distressed because I was genuinely being nice. This seems utterly counter-intuitive, but, by that time, we had already been accepted into the group, we were to a certain extent, family. She knew that I was actually nice, that I did not have hidden agendas and such like. Now why would this upset her? Because of the implications. My niceness meant that niceness from a white man IS possible. And thus the abuse she had suffered from white men need not have been, as that abuse had been optional.

I feel I had been a safe release for Luis. Unfortunately, an insight I did not realize at the time.

Luis was also very fit, and had an athleticness to her. One weekend, a film crew for a large international hotel group, came to make a commercial in which the Bushmen were to be featured. Extremely professional, thoroughly immersed in all of the rigmarole of film production, the crew set about preparing for the shoot, right next to our restaurant. We provided catering, as we had done a few times previously for other film crews. The incredible landscape making the game ranch a popular location.

The ranch had wonderful rock formations on it. A standout feature of the area. One of the reasons the owners had decided to convert it into a place open to visitors. The restaurant was situated in a natural amphitheater of tall rocks in an extended circle around the restaurant. Only one side had no rocks. Their height was typically about two to three stories high. A most magnificent and spectacular setting.

Everything was finally ready. Two shoots were planned. Some footage during the day and then the main footage of a fireside dance later, after dark. (The dance turned out to be uninspiring and unimaginative. just repetitiveness in a circle, most disappointing.) I was the translator and liaison to the Bushmen. Luis had caught their eye. The producer explained to me they wanted a shot of Luis atop the rocks. One column stood alone. It was not vertical like some of the others, but nonetheless had very steep sloping sides. I explained to Luis what they wanted. She said no problem and started to head towards the rock column. Luis had a potent energy to her. Always doing things immediately. She did not suffer fools well either. Not typical in her demeanor among the Bushmen. But all loved her. She was full of life.

“Wait wait!!” The producer shouted after Luis, almost in a panic. He had not expected her to simply get going. He hastily called over one of the safety crew who handed me ropes and climbing safety gear. “This is for her,” he said. Perhaps some of my mischievous sides came into my translating, along with my ethical side, I always made an effort to translate exactly what was said. I never added my own opinions or suggestions. Unless I was asked to. But I never was. Always scrupulous in the precision of my translating.

“This is for you,” I said to Luis, waiting for the safety expert to provide further instruction. But before he could say anything, Luis simply said OK, and ran off with the safety gear flung over her shoulder. Then proceeded to scamper up one of the steep sides of that stand alone rock column, much to the horror and terror of the producer and his crew. But there was no stopping Luis, even if they had been able to reach her. All they could do was watch in panic. Luis was a magnificent climber. She fairly ran up to the top. It was the most alacritous climbing I have ever seen. I hoped that someone had a camera rolling. But they had been caught by surprise. They were far from ready.

I can’t find a photo of the exact column, but something like this.

Luis makes it to the top, much to the relief of the producer, who looks like he is about to have a heart attack. I can see law-suits and liability torturing his corporate soul. The crew scurry to ready for the shoot. Luis is not impressed by any of it. Her attitude is one of putting up with their folly because she has been asked to do so. To punctuate this perspective, and much to the embarrassment of the crew when I translate, she shouts down to me: “And what do you want me to do with this stuff?” The producer sighs with resignation, “Oh, just tell her to throw it down.” Her bafflement was priceless when I pass on she was to just toss it back down. That look of having to deal with complete idiots is one I will never forget.

 

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