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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Another fruitful day

This morning on my way to work, I stopped by the vendors in the market by the hospital (the same one whose picture I took yesterday) and I gave her a copy of the pictures I took her and her mom. She was really surprised when I said I had something for her. She loved the pictures (3 of them). In about 20 seconds, there were about 8 other vendors coming over to see the pictures and wanting theirs taken. So I had to do the rounds in the marketplace clicking away at pictures for all of them.

I was leaving and the girl asked me if I was going to the Main Mall. I said I was going in that direction because my school is close to it. She said she would walk with me. I asked her her name and she gave me her Setswana name but said I could call her Kelly. We walked towards Main Mall and we talked about her life. She’s only 20 and finished school but did not do very well in Form 5 (her words). She said that most of the time, when she had difficulty in school and asked the teacher for help, the teacher would tell her to go and read the book. These were her exact words: “How can I understand any better if I read the book because it is the book that I don’t understand.” She said the teachers get impatient with the students who are having difficulty and don’t want to help. They spend a lot of time in the staffroom drinking tea so the students are left on their own much of the time. She said the only course she ever did well in was Food and Nutrition.

I told her about Sedibeng and about the catering program and instead of going to the market like she was supposed to, she came with me to Sedibeng to see if she could enrol in school. Thandi was busy and couldn’t talk to her then so she said she would come back at 2:30. She was there at exactly 2:30 to talk to Thandi. She was very excited about getting into the program. I hope she does. She wanted to know why I was helping her. I said I that for me education is important and she was too young to be selling in the market. She should have a future.

She thanked me for coming into her life and most of all for wanting to help her without expecting anything in return. Having been a teacher for some time, it was unfortunate to hear that students are still being treated like that. I don’t suppose the teacher would like it if their child was being treated like that in school.

We spent most of today working on a proposal for funding for the centre. It’s the one I started two nights ago and we completed it late this afternoon. Mitho will take it home and read it for any last changes and we submit it tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a proposal in such a short time frame and without a scope. So it’s like baking a cake but you don’t know what kind of cake and what ingredients to use so you go from your experience of other cakes you have baked and hope that it’s what the person wants. If we get all of some of the funding for this, we’ll be able to continue operating the programs. By the time I was finished, I was feeling a bit of brain overload. We’ll review it tonight and tomorrow we’ll make the final edits and submit it. I got a ride home with Mitho and I asked her to drop me off at the head of the street and I would walk the rest of the way. As she was turning into the street, I saw some women selling crocheted tablecloths and sweaters. I had seen them a few days after I arrived here but did not know they were located so close to where I am now living.

I went across the road to see the things. There was a little boy there – less than 2. I gave him one of my Canada pins and as he reached for it, I noticed that he was pinned to the chain link fence with a huge safety pin on a piece of rope. His mom was selling the tablecloths and she has to bring him to the marketplace (which was really the side of the road) with her because she has nowhere to leave him. They are from Zimbabwe and because of the economic crisis, they come to Botswana as refugees. Since they are not legally allowed to work here, they do what they can to survive so they make large quantities of tablecloths, doilies and sweaters to sell. I wanted a very large bedspread but I didn’t have 300 pulas (less than $60) on me so I said I would come back tomorrow to buy it. The look on her face said she was about to lose a sale but I’m going back to get it because it is beautiful. I also wanted her to make me an oval shawl. She said that was 70 pulas (less than $14) and I just about fell over. She thought I meant it was too much so she was willing to reduce the price but mostly I was stunned that it was only 70 pulas. If any of wants me to buy one for you, let me know and I can get it. She said it takes her 14 days to make a bedspread that is 120” x 112” . I don’t know how she do it so fast. Then again, they probably don’t sell that many.

I went home to wait for Lisa to drop by to see the house. She’ll be house sitting when I’m gone. She couldn’t make it so I called Kathy and told her that I wanted to take her out to dinner as a great big THANK YOU for all that she’s done for me since I’ve been here. We went to our favourite Indian restaurant and had our usual Saag paneer, masala dosa, masala chai and two pieces of barfi each. It was yummy. We had a great visit and talked about friendship which is what we both agreed we now have with each other. I hope to see her in Canada next month. That was my long day.

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