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Module 3: RESPECT LIFE

(Page 24) Resource sheet 5

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GIVING AND TAKING

The writer is travelling in the Kalahari area of southern Africa. His party meet a group of Bushmen - men, women and children, who have been travelling without food and water for several days.

Suddenly the woman turned away from the bright flow at the tap and began examining the group of Bushmen as if counting heads. Dismay showed on her face and a cry of self-reproach broke from her. Running to her bundle of skin, she quickly untied it, took five ostrich shells from it, rushed back to the tap and insisted on filling them with water immediately. That done, her hands shaking with haste, she plugged the openings in the shells with grass stoppers, ran back to her skin shawl, wrapped the shells carefully in it and slung it round her shoulder. At an astonishingly firm pace she set out in the direction from which she had come and soon vanished from sight.

We did not see her until an hour-and-a-half later, when she appeared leading a very old Bushman couple into our midst. They too were dreadfully thin; and yet, after having drunk only the water in the five ostrich-egg shells, they had been strong enough to come after us. The old man was upright and very dignified. His behaviour was punctilious and formal....His old lady, dark and wrinkled with age like a passion fruit about to fall, had the sweetest expression on her face... Neither of them appeared fundamentally the worse for their experience.

Later the writer visited the old couple in their camp.

[The old man] was lying on the sand on his side, his legs curled up and his body supported on one elbow. Two little boys sat against him, each with an arm over his legs....The expression on his face was wonderful. It was so resolved and free of tensions that I felt better for seeing him and full of respect. I asked who the two little boys were. He said, his voice warm with pride, that they were his grandsons. "Their place" was by the fire farthest from his own. They never failed, he added, his hand on the head of the elder, to come to him every night for "some men's talk".

From The Heart of the Hunter by Laurens van der Post (Chatto & Windus).

 

 

R3-M3-PAGE 24

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