Conversations about Travel

Old Man Simbonis told me this when I went to Greece this year. Somehow I remember him telling me this whenever we spoke:

“Travel broadens the mind.”

He has had a stroke now and is bed bound. His mischievous eyes always alert sparkle when he gets visitors. Tiny drops of tears from in the corners of his yes when he blinks. The window in his bedroom where he lives faces the mountain. There are pale blue shutters that are closed at night, and in the day warm light streams in through the skirt of crochet that covers the lower half of the window.

My father used to say the same thing:

“Travel broadens the mind.”

In truth, although I have said we lacked for nothing, especially books, he also made sure that we travelled. We fought against just spending Greek summers in the village, but he was just teaching us to budget. He never taught us how to budget money, but now that I think of it, he taught us how to budget time and travel.

If I said it another way, I could have asked him to go to Greece as often as I liked, and he would have sent me. But I had to have a good reason to broaden my mind to travel somewhere. If he thought it would do the trick, then I was allowed to go. One year I hatched an expensive plan to go into the Central Kalahari with Izak Barnard, son of the great Bvekenya. I cannot remember if I motivated for the broadening of my mind or just begged my father to allow me to go. Somehow he paid the fee, which was more than a flight to Athens, and let me go. I am not sure what he was thinking when he dropped me off early one December morning in 1982. I remember he always made me carry a credit card for an emergency, and that I should not hesitate to use it if needs be. A few years later I did used it, in a different kind of emergency, but that is another story.

Thinking of Simbonis and travel always conjures up that trip into the Kalahari. Our arrival was heralded by heavy rains that filled great pans with water deep enough to swim in to cool off. We had to walk through many of the deep drifts to check the condition of the sand below for the vehicles to cross. We were deafened by hundreds of bullfrogs that had come to life under the overnight greening of the acacia trees.

The San were the ultimate villagers of the world. Without understanding their language we communicated and bonded like human beings. It was far removed from the Parisian language barrier I was to experience later. I have beautiful slides of my 2 weeks with the San. And amazing memories.

We camped about 500 metres from where they had erected shelter. On the last night two English nurses and I went dancing with the bushman. There was a young Argentinean woman who joined us. We spent the night dancing and telling stories, sharing beyond the language barrier.

It really did broaden my mind.

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