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(written by Vance on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 2008, Okavango Delta, Botswana)

I am Genius

“Out of Africa always something new” (ex Africa semper aliquid novi) wrote the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, 2000 years ago. After 30 years of working here, I can easily attest to his famous observation. Africa’s wildlife always shows you a new side to nature’s cleaver ways, its wilderness always shows you something new about yourself, and the way Africans use English names is the coolest thing of all – just as you thought you had heard it all, out comes something new, again.

One of my first African guides and trackers in Botswana was named Timex. You can just imagine his parents wondering at the glittering watches on the wrists of wealthy foreigners who could spend their time sipping drinks and watching wildlife. He was young, bush-wise, and very fit, and would run with me. When you are deep in the bush sometimes dirt airstrips are the only decent and safe place to run, so Timex used to do laps with me, running circles around me even while wearing heavy boots and carrying a rifle.

One of the young local guys who currently work at Isandlwana Lodge in KwaZulu Natal, (South Africa) is named Computer. I asked him why he had this name. He said his parents thought that computers had all the answers.

Many names stand out in my mind over many years. One hotel in Johannesburg had a porter named Paycheck and a barman named Payday. It’s clear what was on their parent’s minds.

It’s not only men, of course. A very few of the women who come to mind have been named Rejoice, Beauty, Purity, Praise, and more. Why not? Some women in our culture are named Grace.

It continues to this day. Jinxy is a young manager of Abu’s Camp in the south-western Okavango Delta. Apparently as a very young boy his presence on hunting and fishing trips would add unusual incidents, so his uncle gave him this official middle name. Later, when I get back in the US, I’ll post a video story, so you can get the Jinxy story direct from the man himself.

Yesterday a young man in a camp approached me and I introduced myself. He greeted me by saying, “I am Genius.” I told him I loved his name and asked him why his parents chose it. He said, “My parents they wished for me genius.” Makes sense to me.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, and this blog won’t get posted until I am back in e-range next week. But for now, here’s to something new in 2009!

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