A fleeting glance greets our arrival into Phikwe, the dull thud of bags striking a floor have barely finished their echo as we breeze out of town again headed for the dam, wherever that is. Bundled into a car with another German family we’re buoyed in our little piece of Europe off to see the local sights of Africa. Following Herman and Heidi we venture off the main road and through a tangled web of unmarked tracks that pass for roads today, we all thank our lucky stars that we’re with locals, we’d be lost by now. And on we forge, twist after turn getting further lost as we follow dutifully. Soon enough the brake lights before us light up and Heidi gets out, it turns out it felt like we were getting lost for a good reason, because we are. It’s all a bit comical, a bit of backtracking and some help from a few kids on a donkey cart pushes us in the right direction, voila, the dam. And yes, it’s not an odd African expression, it’s exactly what it is, a dam.
But a beautiful dam it is, the sharp rocky kopjies jut from the waters surface like purpose built islands in this sea that wasn’t mean to be to form a sunset built for a postcard. This dam is not only a cracker of a site for our dinner feast it’s another sign of Botswana’s relative development in a continent known so much for the lack of it. Botswana remains one of the front runners of stability and security in this wild continent, I’d referred to it as the Germany of Africa and with a host of Germans it seems that way still. Botswana boasts the strongest currency in Africa and although it’s far from perfect it gladly skirts the depths of sadness that form the common reputation of so many countries in Africa.
We stared face to face with the messy aftermath of colonial rule throughout South America, every country was somewhere on the path towards recovery. Without travelling this massive continent I’m left to hang on reputations and words from others far more knowledgeable than I but it seems much of Africa is also in the quagmire of slow progression from a post colonial vacuum. I never thought of it before coming to Africa but Germany seems to have had little influence here beyond neighbouring Namibia. It seems that when Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal were carving up Africa Germany was attempting to carve up the likes of Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal. It’s all not so different really but we tend to learn a lot about Germany in our schools, it seems history is written by the victors after all. In an elegant twist we carve out our little dinner spot with a German invasion party in the country possibly most aligned with famed German organisation; that was never invaded by Germany. Until now.
It remains a home coming for Charlie but strangely in our time here in Selebi Phikwe we take only a few ventures into town, we don’t pull up outside Kopano school reminiscing Charlie’s first day, our time is spent mostly with Heidi and Herman who are Charlie’s godparents. In a town that is home it feels that home exists within these walls and in a warm German hug. It’s a popular cliche, Germans are all tight formality who leave passion and comedy to the more flamboyant cultures; here that couldn’t be more wrong. Hermans sharp wit and Heidi’s force-of-nature love pours forth to smash a stigma of staid grey industrialist rationale, these Germans are latin love, french dash and British comedy all in one.
We eat, we chat, after six we have a drink and all the while we smile and laugh. Herman arrives home to an enlivened visage that flushes Heidi’s face so instantly. ‘Schnodle’ she cries out; yes the cutest of cute affectations rings out to meet a similarly beaming face. ‘You look beautiful’ he remarks to a launching hug; after all these years affection is worn so openly it’s impossible for our heart not to go va-va-voom, star crossed teenagers with no plans of being anything different. Germans boring; myth busted. But this stopover is passing too soon, in the morning we move on thinking that we didn’t plan enough time here but then again, there is never enough time in company like this.
Not satisfied to leave without a trace we manage a framed photo from our time in Botswana as a keepsake to leave with Botswana’s favourite Germans. I joke that they may just have acquired another godson, I don’t even know if I have godparents; names aside a fond affection will remain long after the road to South Africa has been driven. Casting my mind back through history and all of the conflict that has come from overtaking land in these parts we sit within the bounds of a great national acquisition no one knows about. under the eyes of the great European powers the Germany of Africa may have avoided the domineering glance of Germany but they somehow managed to whisk away two national treasures that Germany is far poorer without. The full time siren rings: Botswana 2 – Europe 0