Sunday, August 06, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Learning about grey-water systems

First I have to mention about last evening’s dinner theatre at Gaborone Sun. Kathy and I went to the hotel and it looks very much like the old colonial hotels in Guyana complete with the wicker furniture. It was quite lovely and looked very elegant. I think it has a rating as a 5 star hotel. We walked around like two hotel guests and I was really trying not to gawk or look too touristy. I think I failed because it was the first time I got dressed up too go anywhere remotely dressy since I’ve been here.

The dinner was buffet and I was glad to see two of our recent graduates from Sedibeng – Chris and Pholoso – working serving at the buffet. I talked to them briefly – I didn’t want people in the line to get impatient – and they said they were tired because they were working long hours. At least they have a job but we have to give them appropriate information on employee rights regarding employment in Botswana. The only problem is that some people are so desperate for work that even though they may know the employer is taking advantage, they’ll stay at the job which for them is better than no job. Gaborone Sun pays well and they even pay overtime. We just need ot find a few more employers like that.

The dinner was quite nice – rolls, several salads, meats and veggies. There were also a few desserts of which I had a taste of a small piece of carrot cake and a sort of trifle. I had a Malawi shandy (non-alcoholic) and Kathy said there were a few more but I could only manage one. It was kind of gingery but tasty. Then there was entertainment with a group from South Africa singing songs from the movie Moulin Rouge. They encouraged people to get up and dance and normally I would do that – haha – but decided that I’d let the others have a good time. Someone won a dinner for 4 at the revamped Mahogany restaurant but it wasn’t me L L .

Winnie was supposed to pick me up at 9:30 to go to Likeleli’s birthday party but when 10pm rolled around and no Winnie, I called and she said she’d be there in 5 minutes. We arrived at Likeleli’s house at about 10:30 and there was enough food to feed a small army but I was so full from dinner that I tasted a couple of things and that was it for me. I met her partner who is an obstetrician and was a former professor at the University of Nairobi , now living in Botswana. We had an interesting discussion about religion, politics and the social injustices of the world and how NGO’s can contribute in developing countries. He was surprised to hear that I was from Guyana and said that I didn’t sound at all Guyanese.

I think my kids would disagree especially when they hear me talking to my Guyanese friends. Apparently when I’m talking to someone Guyanese I use my Guyanese accent and when I’m talking to someone Canadian, I use my Canadian accent. Which reminds me, Amara another Uniterra volunteer said that he has to make sure that I get to meet some of the expat Guyanese who are working here. I have not met a single West Indian, let alone a Guyanese and there is supposed to be a large community. Maybe they live in a different part of town, not that this is a large town by any means. I keep listening to the different accents when I go into stores or I meet new people, but they are really hiding out from me.

The evening ended at about 2am and that is the latest I’ve been up in a month and that’s only because I was travelling on the plane to Gaborone. This morning I got up early and considering that I only had about 4 hours of sleep, I thought for sure I’d be exhausted this afternoon. But I was engrossed in reading a new book (I finally finished the Mandela book and can now read the South African paper and know who they are referring to). There was an article about Mbeki and I even knew who he was. I knew where Kwa-Zulu Natal was and felt quite proud when the paper referred to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I’ve learned a lot about the history and politics of SA as well as some of the politics of many of the African countries. Anyway the book I read today (about 80 pages) was about the baobab tree. They are very interesting and some of the largest trees in the world. They are even bigger than the redwoods of California. The book said that the trees are found in the Caribbean and they are sometimes referred to as calabash or rat tail tree. I know calabash but the trees don’t look like the baobab. Maybe it’s a different calabash or maybe someone reading this blog who is West Indian or a botanist can explain if it’s the same.

I was reading outside today but even in the sun it was a bit cool. So what did I do? I asked Kathy what she did with the pile of leaves in her backyard and she said that her gardener Dominic usually burns them when he gets around to it. I decided to help Dominic with his chores (last week I tended the garden and yesterday I was helping to rake up the kindling as he was chopping wood for the fireplace). He doesn’t work on Sundays so I decided that this would be a good time to help him with his burning so I made a big pile of leaves and spent a good hour burning dry leaves and twigs. The fire was still smoking when I went out to see it an hour later and it reminded of the smoking heap we would have in our backyard in Guyana when we had a poultry farm. The fire pit would burn for weeks sometimes. Tomorrow I’ll separate the ashes from the sand and put it in the garden for compost.

I came in the house smelling like a block of singed charcoal but it was just like in the old days when we used to go to Dekendren for vacations but in those days we would burn coconut husks to keep the mosquitoes and sand flies away. Those sand flies were mighty small but they could pack a sting. I think they have them here too but mostly in the delta area.

Kathy and I had roast chicken and a salad for dinner and I made some flambéed bananas. For those of you who have tasted my flambéed bananas, you know they are yuuuuummmmmmyyyy!!!! I made some chai and settled in with my next book on how to install a branched grey-water system. I don’t know how well it would work in Canada with the ground being frozen in winter but maybe the book explains that too.

Reynold (the intern from Winnipeg who went with us to Jo'burg) was working on a system at Camphill (a home for disabled people) in Otse. I hope to go out there to see the system in action. He is not an engineer (in fact I think he studied Theology) but his heart was in the right place and he wanted to come back to Botswana to do some work here (he and his family used to live here). I think Camphill also makes solar powered hearing aid batteries and they are going to be doing some sort of needs assessment regarding the use of the batteries. I’d like to be involved in that even though I don’t really know anything about hearing aids but I’m a fast learner and I do know how to do research and how to collect data. That would be such a worthwhile endeavour. I’ve heard about solar powered batteries (in fact when I visited my aunt in Guyana a few years ago, she had no electricity where she lived so they used solar power to charge a car battery so they could get electricity for part of the night and then it was a lamp for the rest of the night) but I never heard of solar powered hearing aid batteries.

I am going to continue reading about grey-water systems and perhaps we could even get one done at Sedibeng so they can start a herb garden for the restaurant or at least provide some water for the shrubs and bushes in the yard. From what I’ve read so far, a system can be very simple or quite complicated and the cost can range from about $100 to several thousand dollars but the simpler, the better. More on grey-water later. I also found a book on Kathy’s bookshelf which looks interesting too. It’s written by the dean of my faculty Joni Seager and is titled Earth Follies: Coming to Feminist Terms With The Global Environmental Crisis. To quote the back jacket: “It is a crisis of culture precipitated by the institutions that shape modern life. Seager offers a provocative and original feminist analysis of the crisis that focuses on the structures of power within these institutions and the ways in which they are dominated by masculinist presumptions.” This will be my next read – after the grey-water book. It will be a good start to my next semester’s work which will be Education, Sustainability and the Ecological Crisis that will be offered by Joe Sheridan, my Faculty Advisor.

Off to continue my reading. Thank goodness for internet on the weekend. It helps me get my work done. Joe is going to have a lot of reading to do. My journal so far is 57 pages, single spaced. That’s about two pages per day. Maybe I can stop writing for a few days or a couple of weeks and I’d still be okay but I think my family and friends may show signs of withdrawal if they can’t read my blog. I think the WUSC people may secretly be wishing that I wasn’t such a keen blogger. Oh well, there could be worse things.

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