Seven years in the desert

In response to Jean’s question . . . Was it difficult to integrate back into modern society after seven years in the Kalahari Desert?

The first year was difficult . . . I sat on my stoep with not much reason to get up and do anything . . . it all seemed so purposeless, there were no men to hunt with, no snares to check . . . it was like living in a five star hotel with all the expenses paid. It was also funny . . . I remember running my first bath, and keeping, and re-using the water for three weeks, simply because I could not bring myself to waste it.  Where I had lived, that much water would have brought joy to many people. Anyway, after repeatedly washing in the same water for three weeks, without soap, I scooped the water out of the bath with a bucket and watered the trees.  I went to London to edit the film, People of the Great Sand Face, and that was a real culture shock . . . I was not only from a different continent, but from a different planet!  I was given a luxury apartment to live in, in Park Lane, by Lord Aubrey Buxton . . . he found me to be quite a curiosity, and seemed to enjoy my company . . . no doubt because I was not in awe of him in the way that all his English minions were .  . . I came from a world in which all things and all people were different, but equal.

I recall walking down Park Lane one day with my gemsbok skin cloak over my shoulders for warmth . . . it was snowing, and I was barefoot . . . I had not worn shoes for many years.  Anyway, two dear old ladies stopped me and politely told me that I should be careful not to cut my feet on broken glass or any other sharp thing. Equally politely, I thanked them for their concern and told them with complete conviction not to worry, because ‘my feet could see’. They believed that I was sincere, because I really was, and went off about their English day with something odd to think about. It took me a while to realize just how different I had become . . . not only in outer mannerisms and doings, but more on the inside, as if through some deep osmosis of spirit, my whole being had taken something else into itself.

So, it was very difficult integrating back into modern society, and it is perhaps something that, fortunately, I shall never entirely do. The difficulty lay mostly in the fact that I was trying to reconcile my journey from a fundamental existence into a largely incidental one. So much of what had become within me, had no place of recognition in the modern world.

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