Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ten Thousand Maniacs!

A few minutes after midnight last night, this site got its 10000th hit. 10000 hits! Are there 10000 maniacs out there? Ok, a lot of those hits are repeat visits from maniacs who are mad enough to come by more than once but that's still a lot of visits. Rather appropriately, I thought, that 10000th hit was made by Frog with a Blog, a truly maniacal Frenchman. With Frenchmen like him around, ‘La gloire de la France’ remains a phrase with lots of meaning albeit quite different from that attributed to the phrase by the likes of de Gaulle.

However, France isn’t a country that I want to dwell on today. Within the past few days, I got a visitor from my 75th country, Botswana. Another milestone of sorts and, in a way, quite an appropriate one since Botswana is in southern Africa.

botswana flag

Botswana is the only country in southern Africa that I haven’t visited. Not only is it an anomaly by African standards, it is spectacularly beautiful, two reasons why I’d really like to visit.

Since independence from Britain in 1966, Botswana has had Africa’s longest continuous multi-party democracy, making it one of the continent’s most stable countries. Before independence, Botswana was a British protectorate that was formed in 1885 to prevent territorial encroachment of the Boers from the Transvaal and German expansion from South West Africa (Namibia). Diamonds were discovered in 1967 and have transformed Botswana into the world’s largest producer of diamonds, bringing in sufficient wealth to transform the country into a middle-income nation. It has enjoyed very healthy economic growth rates for four decades and is acknowledged by corruption watchdog, Transparency International, as the least corrupt nation in Africa. It has a good human rights record and was a source of refuge for victims of apartheid during the apartheid era despite needing to be wary of its actions owing to its economic dependence on South Africa.

okavango deltadusk on the deltaBotswana protects some of Africa's largest areas of wilderness. The Kalahari Desert, home to a dwindling band of Bushman hunter-gatherers, makes up much of the territory and most areas are too arid to sustain any agriculture other than cattle. This area includes the spectacular Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta, an area that is carefully managed yet promoted as a prime destination for ‘eco-tourists’.

So far I’ve painted a rosy picture of the country but there are some problems worth mentioning.

The country needs to diversify its economy away from its dependence on diamonds, something that it's putting a lot of effort into. Until 2004, Botswana had the world’s highest rate of HIV-Aids infection and it's estimated that one in three adults is infected. This is being tackled with one of Africa's most advanced treatment programmes. And despite being known for its good human rights record, Botswana has had some very unwelcome publicity in recent years as regards its treatment of the San (the preferred term for Bushmen). Botswana has been accused of forcibly removing the last remaining San from their ancestral lands in the Kalahari.

‘The bushmen, or San, were hunter gatherers who lived in the desert of southern Africa for thousands of years. Their traditional way of life has all but disappeared in recent years, and the Botswanan government wants the few hundred still living in the vast central Kalahari game reserve to move to nearby towns.‘

Survival International, a British-based group, say that the government wants them to move so that they can exploit diamond reserves in the Kalahari. On a different rights issue, while Botswana, not known for its clubs, bars and shops, is not your typical gay destination (spot the homophobic stereotyping!), it must be remembered that as with many African countries, homosexuality is illegal. The most recent case of homosexuality to be tried before the courts in Botswana arose in 1994 but was only finalised in 2003.

okavango delta
Gaborone may have changed a lot from its dusty, desert beginnings in the last 40 years, but Botswana isn't a country that you visit for urban delights - you go there for the Kalahari and the Okavango Delta.

the no.1 ladies' detective agency
On the literary front, Botswana has been in the news a lot in recent years with the massive popularity of Alexander McCall Smith's ‘The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series, a series of books featuring Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's leading, and only, female private detective.

But while Alexander McCall Smith was born in neighbouring Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), he’s not Botswanan. Botswana’s most famous literary figure, despite having been born in South Africa, was probably Bessie Head. She was the daughter of a wealthy white woman and a black servant. Her works deal with issues of discrimination, refugees, racialism, African history, poverty, and interpersonal relationships. Other Botswana authors are listed here.

Have I encouraged you to visit the place? No? Well, if these things matter to you, you may be interested to know that the BBC has commented on the fact that the AON Insurance company lists Botswana as one of a handful of countries where the threat of terrorist attack is low. You can see how Botswana compares to other countries on their Terrorism Risk Map (it takes a while to load). Low threat of terrorism or not, I know that Botswana features high on my list of countries to visit.

Since this post was all about the 10000 maniacs that have visited here in the past 6 months, let me leave you with The 10000 Maniacs:

Candy Everybody Wants
By 10000 Maniacs

Update: Previously, I had 'Because the Night' playing here but the link no longer works so you now have a different song.


Anonymous Alan said...

You are becoming a very popular bunny. Keep up the good work and it wont be long before the next 10000 !

1:35 pm  
Anonymous xmichra said...

happy 10,000 Alan!! Hope you can maintain your celebrity status..hehe ;)

2:07 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

alan: it remains to be seen if I remain popular!

xmichra: thank you. Just realised I should have credited you for having led me to those videoclips. Did you notice how I don't have it play automatically?

2:15 pm  
Blogger Caroline said...

Congrats on your 10,000th though maybe I shouldn't as it just encourages you to look at your stats obsessively...

Interesting flag - like a big sky over a big water.. celebrating the times of wetness?

I enjoyed seeing the Kalahari on Planet Earth the other night (though I cried over the young elephant going the wrong way...)

When I first read some Alistair McCall Smith I also cried - and not because of the subject matter but because it brought my father back to me so strongly... maybe that's why I still have no wish to visit anywhere in Africa... I'd always felt he'd left part of his soul there and I don't want the same to happen to me...

Maybe the flag's blue is really tears...

2:31 pm  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Hey Nomad, my computer's down, so I wasn't one of the maniacs.

Ahhh, Botswana. Scores of teachers from here go there...and leave with loads of $$ but disillusioned.

I heard that girl detective series is hilarious.

P.S. I voted for you :-)

3:18 pm  
Blogger Tammy said...

Botswana is truly one of my favourite places, I travelled with a group of maniacs, we carried or own water and fuel as we went to remote parts of the country - sleeping in the open, lucky we weren't trampled by elephants (we came close or eaten by lions, we woke up one morning and there was a pride of them not far from where we were sleeping ... in the open ... oh to be young and stupid. Not really sure how my brain thought that was a great idea back then - thank G-d I have grown up to realize that I was just as stupid as my parents told me I was (for that incident). Worth a visit - but please stay at a hotel!!!

3:30 pm  
Blogger Caroline said...

I've just realised that the orange photo is of a bird taking off... I'd seen it as windmill before!

5:22 pm  
Anonymous patita said...

congrats on breaking 10,000! Your description of Botswana makes it sound like a very interesting place to visit... another one for the list!

6:12 pm  
Anonymous xmichra said...

i did notice! I know i could do that as well.. but at least I put it up at the top of my sidebar right?? hehe

7:45 pm  
Blogger Babsbitchin said...

If you wrote all this from your head , you are brilliant. If you researched all this, you are still brilliant.
10,000 congrats! BTW, I met them, (10,000 Maniacs) at Joyce's Keg Room in Jamestown,N.Y. where they are from, where I lived then. I was in a blues band back in '93-'97 and our rhythm guitarist, a professor at the local college knew them well and we all went back stage. We all had a special comraderie as we were then occuping the Maniacs out rehearsal studio. They came the next night, the guys, Drew and a couple others jammed and drank beer. It was pretty cool. Drew from the band now owns a radio station up there and the building it is in down the street from the restaurant I worked for,as a Sous Chef in fine dining. Wow, ya just can't shut me up once I get on a roll.xoxo

2:47 am  
Blogger BUDDESS said...

Congrats on 10000!!! I am definately one of the maniacs and will remain if you continue writing stuff like this. Well done.

9:26 am  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Very cool post - I love 10,000 maniacs - actually, I think they're all in the US Goverment these days.

Atrlanta GA USA

9:44 am  
Anonymous Alan said...

Popularity is a competition that everyone wants to win but no one admits to competing in. if your popularity ever dips you could always follow the example set by TV programmes - Big fight, Sex, Death and more Sex ! It has kept many a soap on the box for years.

10:52 am  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

babs: it was all MY OWN WORK but I did a bit of research to back up the facts I know about the place. Thanks for thinking it brilliant. You have so many strings to your bow: band member, sous chef, etc, etc! And, more recently, seal-clubber! :-)

buddess: Thanks for being one of my maniacs.

jeff: you may be right about 10000 maniacs being in the US Government but I seriously doubt that they frequent this site!

alan: thanks for reminding me that my life is weirder than a TV soap!

4:00 pm  
Blogger andrea said...

I think 10 000 Maniacs do a better job on this song than the original. Who was it? Pat Benatar?

5:07 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

I think it's their original song but Patti Smith also did it. Don't know about Pat Benatar singing it.

5:15 pm  
Blogger Gordon said...

A well deserved milestone. The first of many I'm sure.

*heads back to lurker mode*

11:17 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

I've just noticed that I forgot to acknowledge some of the comments on here. It's a bit late now as this post has passed its sell-by date but I'll do so now:

caroline: it's an unusual flag for Africa in that it's not derived from that of the dominant political party and neither does it use the pan-African colours of green, black, red and yellow. You are right about the wetness - the blue stripes represent water. Pula, the national motto and the name of the currency, is a Setswana word that means 'water' and 'rain' as well as the life derived from it. The black stripe fimbriated with white in the centre represents the idea of the African and European populations living together in harmony.

So, in a way, there is an affinity to tears in all that blue but I think you should try visit Africa one day.

I can see how you may have mistaken that bird for a windmill. But that would be a 'european' windmill. The type we get in Africa (and elsewhere, esp Australia) look quite different.

guyana-gyal: thanks for voting for me - what a good girl you are! I wonder what disillusioned those teachers? Surely not something specifically Botswanan and more to do with Africa generally?

tammy: New York must seem a completely different planet to Botswana! I'm sure you must miss those great open spaces. When I go, I probably won't stay in a hotel but I won't be sleeping yards away from a pride of lions.

patita: go visit S Africa before you visit Botswana. Just a bit of personal bias! :-)

xmichra: I'm always impressed at how often you change your songs on your blog!

gordon: thanks for the compliment. lurk as much as you want!

1:09 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home