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Friday, July 14, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Pictures, pictures, pictures….

I can’t believe how quickly the days seem to go by. It’s two days since my last entry. I had a very busy day yesterday. I went into the centre and worked for most of the day except for a brief period of lunch around 2:30pm. I did some more interviews for the website and will try to do the write up for them this weekend which is rather ambitious.

I took a lot of pictures of the students and some of them love having their pictures taken – multiple pictures all around the centre. Good thing (or bad thing) that I have a digital camera where they can see the results immediately. Each of them picked out the ones they liked of themselves and I saved them on to my trusty memory stick and they promptly went over to the photo store to get them developed. The only thing I asked was that they return my memory stick which cost me a lot of money or no more pictures.

I left the centre about 5:10pm and walked over to the WUSC office. It’s about 7-8 minutes and I even used the short cut that Emily showed me last week (I remembered it!). I met Kathy Stiles for the first time and offered to take me out to dinner. We went over to her house, had a cup of tea and a visit and went off to an Indian restaurant for dinner. It’s called 25° East. She asked me to order whatever I wanted and as it turns out, from a menu of over 100 items, I ordered the one dish that was her favourite – paneer and spinach with naan bread. The food was a welcome treat from the bread I was eating for the last few days of not feeling well.

We had a long talk about my studies and my areas of interest and I discovered that we have a lot in common – education, family and interests. She is such an interesting person and so well travelled. Her frequent flier miles must be adding up each year. She is going to Johannesburg on Saturday and has invited anyone who wants to come along to do so, including me. I said that I would happy to go. We’ll be visiting the Apartheid museum, the cradle of Humankind and a few other places where some families were displaced during the end of apartheid. She was living in Jo’burg in the late 80’s and saw first hand just how familiar apartheid was compared to growing up in the Southern US in the 60’s. It had an air of familiarity to me too because I grew up in Guyana during the time of the racial violence in the early 60’s when Guyana was fighting for it’s independence and one way to make sure that people did not form working alliances was to instigate racial tensions. It was a difficult time for some people. In fact it was a difficult time for all of us because ultimately, we all lost something – maybe it was the innocence of not seeing the difference in race or colour.
I was one of the privileged and as such I don’t think I spent much time worrying about those who didn’t have the same. It was only when I arrived in Canada and found myself a minority that I could start thinking about it. Till that time, it was a non-issue. I learned a lot over those years – good and bad – but the awareness was ever growing that we are not all created equal and it’s not so simple to say that in Canada, given the opportunity, everyone can be anything they want to be. From what I’ve seen, that’s not true. I see the same here. Some of the students are trying so hard but they just don’t have the resources to do what they want to do.

This morning I got up early – about 5am – to let out the guard (yes we have an electric fence, a automatic remote controlled gate, and a guard who comes from dusk to dawn). It’s my turn this week to open the gate so he can leave and each day I get up a bit earlier to let him out. I’m not sure if this will be popular with my house mates but I’m doing it anyway. I can justify it by saying that dawn is arriving a bit earlier each day. He spends the night out in the cold sitting on a chair with a cushion and two or three blankets. But it’s cold here and I just don’t think that’s sufficient for him!! I don’t know who I need to talk to about even building him a little enclosed shelter where he can stay. It seems harsh to say this but it’s almost inhumane. I purchased a little heater for my room on Tuesday and it’s barely big enough to keep the chill off my bedroom when I get out from my two blankets, much less being outside exposed to the elements. I don’t like to see stuff like that and I’m often told that I can’t save the whole world. I’m not even trying to but this just doesn’t seem right somehow. I was talking to the weekend guard a few days ago and he said he’s been guarding this house for over one year.

Since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I came into work early and decided to make banana loaves for the students. I went to the supermarket and bought the necessary ingredients and we made 5 loaves. Well that was a complete hit with everyone. They were laughing and dancing and happy that they got cake. At the end of the day, one student even said that she was going to go home and make it for her family. One loaf was given to Mme Gilika for her family’s weekend trip. She will be going to Palape for an unveiling of a tombstone of a family member. Another loaf will be saved for our Johannesburg trip tomorrow and the other three were scarffed (is that a word?) down by everyone.

Everyone left early today but I am here waiting for Winnie to return to lock up the building. I’m taking advantage of the time to do my journaling and blog while I still have internet access. This journaling is a lot of work. I’m actually combining my journaling and blog as a Word document and I cut and paste the parts of the journal on to the blog. There are some more personal things that I write in my journal that I am not posting on the blog but I just colour code that in yellow so I don’t mistake one for the other. Seems to be working so far and saves me saying the same thing in two documents. Joe (my advisor at York) will have a lot to read because he gets the whole thing and I am sometimes known to be wordy. My family and friends can attest to that and so can some of my profs.

Tomorrow we are off to Jo’burg very early. I think Kathy plans to leave at 6am but is there a Botswana time like there is a Caribbean time? Most West Indians are famous for being late – at least for parties. I must be the one of the exceptions that prove the rule. I’ll be ready for 6 but prepared to wait if I have to. I think it’s “Hurry Up and Wait”. You’d think I would be used to that being West Indian but I’m still trying with that one. I should mention to any f my family and friends reading this blog, YOU CAN POST A COMMENT OR TWO so I know you’re reading it!! It would be a shame if I wrote all this about my experience here and all I got from it was a semester’s worth of credits and no comments from you. So please, please, please….

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