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Friday, August 18, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Proposal submitted

We made the final changes to our proposal and submitted it this morning. Then it was off to Riverwalk Mall to buy some flowers for three floral arrangements that Maggie has to do for a funeral. There are an awful lot of funerals in Botswana. Many people are dying from HIV/AIDS and vehicle accidents. We also bought some paper to print the graduation diplomas for the students’ graduation on August 31st.

We got back to the centre and I was furiously working on the menu pricing (preparing the documents and making hard copies to keep in the office for when people call for catering). I worked on the design of the actual diplomas and printed a tet copy. I found out the paper used in printers here are not the standard 8 x 11 sheets. They are a little longer so the documents were not printing very well. I decided to measure the paper but do you think I could find a ruler? That was very frustrating because short of guessing, and printing multiple copies and wasting ink which was just replaced yesterday (there was no ink in the printer since I got here at the beginning of July), there is no other way to do this. I now have to find a ruler.

I thought we were leaving early today since there were only a few students but then Mitho and I remembered that we have to be at GABZ FM for 7:30am on Monday so we needed to make notes about what we’re going to say. She is a bit nervous but I’m okay so far. The confidence may come from having worked in the TV studio at Red River College teaching courses live on the internet for the last 3 years.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing but the staff today were saying that I’m working them really hard. I thought about that for an hour or so and had to ask what they meant. They all agreed that it was a good thing. They said that they needed someone like me to help them with direction. They have lots of good intentions but didn’t know how to go about starting many of the things they wanted to do so we strategized about implementing some of the changes to make things more efficient. I’m now being thought of as the efficiency expert able to get things done and willing to work as hard as I expect everyone else to.

This week saw the culmination of several weeks work coming to fruition. I have most of the programme for the Open Day worked out. We just have to confirm our Keynote speaker and the person to give the vote of thanks. We decided that I would MC the event but each teacher would call their own students’ names and hand out the certificates. What a relief. These are some of the names: Malegbogo Gaobothoko, Nametso Kgampi, Tiroyamodimo Leletile, Gotata Lekgatho, Kedibone Lesele, Obakeng Molefe, Mmaoratwa Moepedi, Thamiso Oromeng, Tshepo Radeba and Pholoso Tshenyego. Even if I could try to make phonetic spellings for the 100 or so, I don’t think I could manage all the necessary clicks of the tongue and rather than mess up people’s names at such an important day for them, I’ll defer to the teachers. Now do you see why I’m taking the easy way out? You try saying some of these names. Not many of them have shortened their names so you’d better learn them. We spent some time discussing the menu for the evening and how we were going to get everything done. We want to have the event at the centre but the space is a bit small. We’re considering doing it outdoors and since it’ll be from 5:30 to 7:30 we’ll have candles and floral arrangements on the food table outside. It doesn’t usually rain at this time of year and hopefully the weather will cooperate and stay somewhat warm. With the plans we are making, I think the evening will be quite lovely. The students want to know if they’ll have grad gowns but we have no money to afford to rent gowns for them and they definitely cannot afford it themselves. We told them to wear their most impressive outfits for the evening.

They are getting quite excited and it’s such a nice feeling to see them that way. I left long after I said I would but went home and dropped off my backpack which I have taken to walking with just about everywhere. And the darn computer is so heavy that it’s a good thing I don’t have to walk with a briefcase. I’ve taken to carrying around my camera, a notebook, a pen, chap stick, money of course, my laptop and the battery, an adapter for South African plugs and one for Botswana plugs because there is no standard plug in any one place. Then there is my passport, cell phone, highlighter, headphones sometimes my little thermos of coffee, an apple and whatever else I can fit into the backpack. No wonder the stupid thing feels so heavy on my back.

I went out to find the lady with the crocheted bedspread and by the time I got to her a little after 5, she was packing up to go home. She didn’t notice me until I was right at her spot and then she burst out into a big grin (I think it was a grin of relief that I came back and she didn’t lose her 300 pula sale after all). I bought the bedspread and she showed me that shawl she made. It wasn’t what I was looking for so I drew her a picture of what I wanted. I have to tell you that I am no artist. In fact some of my drawings are so bad that I was even told that.

This is a real story. Robin and I were in a restaurant in Taipei a few years ago. I had a Chinese phrase book so I ordered a shrimp fried rice. It was very fresh and very delicious (when we ordered the fried rice, the restaurant owner ran next door and bought and cleaned the shrimp from the vendor next door) and served us the best fried rice we had in a long time. The next day we went back to the same restaurant but this time I forgot my phrase book so I tried explaining in English what I wanted. The woman’s English was limited and she didn’t know what I was saying so I took out a piece of paper and drew a shrimp or a reasonable facsimile of a shrimp. She still couldn’t understand so I just ordered chow fan (fried rice) and she brought a veggie one. She was quite disappointed at not being able to understand what I wanted so later she asked me to write the word on a piece of paper. I wrote the word shrimp and she started laughing. She said “I know. I know this. Next time I have this for you. But your drawing is terrible.” How is that for an ego crushing sentence? She was right though because later on that evening, we went out with my friend Holly to dinner with some friends and I was telling the story so they all asked me to draw the shrimp and they all agreed that my interpretation of a shrimp was terrible. Lesson learned. Many people learning English can probably understand the written word much better than the spoken and definitely much better than what was a bad cave drawing. Did they have shrimps in the cave days?

Well back to my tablecloth story. I asked the lady to make a shawl for me but this time I took a round table cloth and folded it in half and said that was what I wanted the shawl to look like and then I took one of the sweaters and said that’s what I wanted the neck to look like, then I took a border of a tablecloth and said that’s what I wanted the tie at the neck to look like except that it should be like a ribbon. By this time the lady is probably regretting that she sold me a tablecloth in the first place. I’m not fussy. I just know what I want and I find a way to get it. I came home from a mentally exhausting but very good week of work. Maybe I should listen to the women at the centre when they say that I should spend some more time here. Only thing that I am self funded so I’d have to find a real job that pays real money. Not a bad idea but I have to finish school.

I’m going to do something totally mindless like doing my nails. I’m still getting cable so I’ll watch some food or Travel TV. I’m tired of BBC and CNN. Same thing, isn’t it? I miss my CBC and CTV and I miss the weather channel. And Young and Restless. Anyone know what’s happening there? I miss high speed internet most of all. This satellite thing is bad but dial up is worse. I miss high speed and I miss free local calls.

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