Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana

It’s been a few days and I’ve been discovering the area.

Friday evening we went over to Kathy’s house for a welcome reception for the new arrivals including me. There were about 15 students from Nunavut who arrived on Friday evening from Canada and they looked pretty tired.

We had a braai (Barbeque). Katherine asked me to cook large pot of peas and rice and we had salad, french bread, a veggie dish and some pap (cereal made with cornmeal much like I used to drink in Guyana). There isn’t much missing from the supermarkets here. Apparently the meat is the best here because it’s free range so the quality is exceptional. I saw impala meat in the supermarket and I’ll try it some time.

When I was at the mall on Friday I saw a man selling earrings and other jewellery. He said it was ivory and when I asked what kind of ivory, he looked at me indignantly. I said that I thought it was illegal to have ivory but he said that it was real elephant ivory from Zimbabwe and it’s legal. I didn’t get the earrings because I read some information on Botswana and they are very strict about possession of animal parts or products – even a hair or a feather – without a special permit.

I spent yesterday doing some reading. My house mates went out with their friends so the house was pretty quiet. I went over to the mall and checked out some of the stores – the ones that were opened. Most of them close about 1pm on Saturdays. I was looking for an internet café but could not find any opened.

I went over to Jayanthi’s home for dinner and met her husband Jim. He just came back from the Kalahari and he said there were endless miles of sand. I guess that’s expected since it is a huge desert. They have travelled and lived in many places as missionaries and they are so interesting to talk to. Jayanthi is originally from India and Jim is from the US and they’ve lived in Canada, (Yukon Territories and Kingston, Ontario), the US, India, Lesotho and now Botswana.

We had a lovely dinner and Priya and I talked about some ideas for the Sedibeng website. I got my computer networked to access the internet when I’m at the centre so that’ll help tremendously when we are doing the website. I’m certain we’ll be able to build most of it before Priya leaves at the end of the month and with some luck, we may have it up and running.

They brought me home about 10:15pm and it was COLD!! You’d think for a Winnipegger who is used to -40C that this bit of cold would be nothing but our houses are heated as soon as the temperature starts to drop so we don’t feel the cold as much. It got me to wondering how people who live here all year without benefit of a heating system mange to keep warm when the temperature drops to freezing. They must be cold and what if they can’t afford warm clothes? I know when I was a teenager in Guyana and it rained, it was often damp and when the Atlantic winds blew in, we would shiver. I was fortunate to wear sweaters (we called them cardigans) but now I think back of the other students who didn’t have any. It was most especially cold if you got wet in the rain and had to stay at school all day in damp clothes.

I’m sitting outside in the yard right now and it’s actually warmer in the yard than it is in the house. I’m coming outside to warm up!! By this afternoon, the temperature will likely rise to mid 20’s and it feels good.

I went to a little café today and had coffee and a bun. Then I walked for about an hour just looking at the vegetation and comparing it to Canada and Guyana. It’s tropical here but the vegetation is different from that of Guyana.

Yesterday I spent part of the day cleaning the kitchen. The place has an awful smell but none of the others seem to mind. I think I will talk to the people at WUSC about screening the homes before placing us in them. I am paying rent for this place so it’s not free. I should expect a minimum level of cleanliness. Mitho came over on Friday to see the condition of the house and she was astounded at the condition. She said that she would not find this acceptable at all.

I found someone to clean the house and would have paid for the cleaning but Justin said that he is not comfortable with someone coming into the house to clean for security reasons. I offered to stay in the house with the woman while she was cleaning but he was not happy about that either. I even told him that she worked for the director of the centre but still he was not happy. I gave the woman the money anyway because she took the time to come to the centre to meet me. I’m having a hard time understanding issues about security. The house mates bring their friends over to visit and he doesn’t have a problem with that. My bedroom has a lock on the door but he can’t find the key for it so all my personal belongings are there for anyone of the room mates or their friends to go into the room. I’m somewhat uncomfortable with that but I’ll live with it. It’s interesting that all the visitors to the house so far are foreigners and the woman who was going to do the cleaning is Motswana. What does that say? That people from Botswana are less trustworthy but foreigners are more so?

Katherine took me to Otse this afternoon and I got a first hand look at village life. It’s certainly very different from Gaborone and it’s only about 40 minutes drive from the city. While going out of town, she pointed out a slum area of Gaborone called Naledi. The houses were shacks really and Katherine explained that many refugees settle there because the housing is all they could afford. Many people were left landless and settled in areas where the population density is extremely high. It was an eye opener for me. We picked up a Corinne and her friend and brought them back to Gaborone. She was in a car accident last week and when we saw the remains of the car, we thought how lucky she was to be alive. We went over to Kathy’s house and cooked dinner for about 9 people. The hospitality from the WUSC people is incredible.

The house where I am staying has a guard from dusk to dawn. When I came home tonight, he was standing in the yard and looking like he was shivering. I asked if he wanted a cup of tea with milk and sugar and he seemed surprised that I spoke to him. I asked him again and he said yes. He then asked if I had a slice of bread I could give to him. I felt terrible. He was cold and hungry!! I went inside and got him a hamburger left over from the evening’s soccer party and made him a big cup of tea. People are people everywhere. Even guards get cold and hungry and tired but sometimes we treat them as if they’re invisible – a part of the landscape really. It’s not something we like to admit but it happens. I must pay more attention.

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