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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Finally the move

I was leaving home this morning and the neighbour across the street came out and told me that thieves went into his yard last night and tried to burn his car. He wanted to know if the guard at our house saw anything but he didn’t. The security here is so tight that you have to be extremely careful. Lots of purse snatchings and break and enters on properties. Some of the people are so desperate that you can see the results of poverty culminating in petty crimes. They are generally not violent but it’s scary to have it happen. A few of the volunteers have had purses stolen so I’m going to have to be more diligent about hanging my bag off my sleeve or even walking around with my backpack which is easy enough to unzip when someone is standing behind me.
The security at the house I visited yesterday was very high – electric fence, guards on the streets at nights, dogs, bars on the windows and doors to keep parts of the house more secure than others. I’m not really used to that and it’s sometimes frightening to see it all. It’s even more so in Jo’burg where Kathy was explaining that the security monitoring companies have a three minute response time and they come with guns. Not so in Gaborone but who knows? Maybe it’ll eventually get to that. There are large influx of refugees desperate to leave Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique and those are just some of the countries in crisis. That’s not to say that they are the petty thieves, only that with so many more poor people to add to the existing Motswana poor, that it makes things worse for those who are struggling.
At lunch time I moved into Kathy’s house. It’s not within walking distance but I can take a combi if I need to which is 2 pula (40c) each way. I’ll probably get a ride with Kathy to and from work for the next two weeks.
I worked with the Catering students this afternoon on their CV’s. They usually finish at 4 but it was almost 4:30 and no one wanted to leave. I couldn’t keep them there much longer because it gets dark about 6pm and some of them have an hour’s walk to get home. I found some work for one of the fashion design graduates (alterations for some of the WUSC and other volunteers). She has no sewing machine but we’ve offered her to come into the centre when there are no classes and use one from here. Hopefully with enough work, she may be able to save enough to buy her own machine which is about 500 pula (about $100). She is so grateful for the work that she keeps thanking me but it’s really only making the connections through the network of people here. Some of the students only need a little break and they will do wonders. They are so willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. We just don’t want any of them getting desperate enough to offer themselves to some sugar daddy and end up with HIV. That is a very real problem here and one way to prevent the spread is to give the students a chance to succeed on their own merit.
I’m learning a lot about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the communities. Today I visited the Stephen Lewis Foundation website. They give a lot of support to many sub Saharan countries to educate on the prevention of HIV/AIDS. I have to admit that I don’t know a whole lot about HIV but I’m learning fast and I’m definitely seeing the effects of it on the people. Stephen Lewis’ book titled Race Against Time seems apropos for what is happening here. I have not read the book but I hope to do so soon. I really didn’t realize how big of an impact the disease has on these communities. We in Canada seem so far removed from the full impact so I suppose I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have. As soon as I’m finished reading the Mandela book which I am still working on (all 784 pages), I’ll try to see if I can get the Lewis book.
Kathy and I went out to dinner tonight to the 25° East Restaurant. We had a lovely meal and some masala chai that was about the best that I have ever tasted. It was almost like a dessert, which we did NOT have.
I felt very good about the workshop today. Kathy came for lunch at Sedibeng today and one of the students told her that she was learning a lot from me. I am going to talk to the restaurants in the Riverwalk mall to see if they are hiring. Most of the students who have resumes are not even sure what it says. They copied it from someone else and when I question them, they have no idea how to respond. For example I ask them what the section on objectives mean and they cannot answer. Most of them have statements that a corporate CEO would write not an entry level person. We have a lot of work to do. Anyway, it’s been a long day and I need some sleep but before I go I have to add one very good thing that happened toay. I spoke to my grandbaby Izabel who turned 3 in May. I talked to her on Skype and Sunita said that she was smiling the whole time even though she had to wake up early in the morning to talk to me (an 8 hour time difference). She was a bit confused as to how my voice was coming over the computer instead of the telephone. After I talked to her, I felt a bit homesick because I usually talk to her at least a couple of times a week and it’s been more than three weeks since I talked to her.

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