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Monday, August 07, 2006

Gaborone, Botswana: Results day

I wish I had something interesting to say about today but the day was a totally blah day. This morning I had a couple of surprises waiting for me. One was the installation of a washing machine which was donated to the centre in April but was never hooked up. I was commenting last week that the students are doing laundry in a bathtub and it’s quite difficult to be bending over the tub washing large table cloths and heavy towels.

I made a comment about “wouldn’t it be nice if we had a washing machine” only to be told that a brand new one was donated to the centre in April but was never installed. I offered to pay for the installation but today two students brought it out of the store room and hooked it up to a water and drain pipe that was already in the kitchen (even the space was there). The students will be happy to have that. The next surprise was a cash register (almost brand new). Last week I was commenting that we need to have a more efficient system of managing the money that is coming in from the restaurant at lunch time – either writing receipts or some way of recording the restaurant sales. To my surprise, there was a cash register that is not being used. It’s now hooked up and ready for the students to be trained on how to use it.

This afternoon Emily left at about 2:30 for Canada and many of the students piled into the back of two pick-up trucks and went to the airport to see her off. There was no crying – I think she did all that on Friday afternoon. I’ll likely see her in Toronto and I know her time here would have changed her life significantly. It already did because she was supposed to leave on July 18 but extended her time till today.

I had to go over to Barbara’s place today. I have not mentioned her. She and her husband and three year son Jacob live in Gaborone and he works for UNAID. Jacob looks a bit different from when I saw him two weeks ago. He was on day two of chicken pox and he was red and spotty but doing quite well. They are going to Canada for a vacation and I’ll be house sitting at their house for the rest of my stay in Botswana. I called a taxi to go over and he said he would be there in 10 minutes but after waiting for more than 45 minutes, I got a ride over to her house. That’s one of the things I have to get used to – that taxis will say 5 to 10 minutes and you could be waiting for an hour or more. They don’t want to lost the fare so they say they’ll be there in a few minutes without actually meaning it. And if it’s dark, you wait for an hour until it arrives because it’s too dangerous to walk at night.

Barbara’s house is a very big bungalow. It has a double garage, 4 bedrooms, a study, a dining room two living rooms, one and a half kitchens (one part for the maid and one part for the family), three and a half bathrooms, two patios (one for the living room and one for the bedrooms), a huge yard with a jungle gym, a trampoline, a large swimming pool and several fruit trees. She also has a maid who comes in 5 days a week but I said I didn’t need her while I was there. I might rethink that because after I walked around the property and saw the list of things I would have to take care of, I wondered if I shouldn’t have said that she should come. Oh, I forgot to mention the two dogs, a cat and three goldfish. I’ll be moving there on Thursday when they leave to go to Canada. I was telling Barbara that I was originally from Guyana and she said that she and her husband were there many years ago. They lived on a houseboat in the Caribbean for three years and while he was doing some work in Guyana, she visited him in Georgetown. Small world and it’s getting smaller.

Barbara gave me a ride to Kathy’s and I made a pot of chicken soup which Kathy and I shared over conversation. She is so knowledgeable about so many things that I love talking to and listening to her. I’m always picking her brains for nuggets of information that I can then store in my brain for future use. She really works hard and is totally committed to what she is doing. I sometimes wonder if she really ever has time to rest and relax with the procession of people in and out of her house, the mothering that she does and the general taking care of the needs of the volunteers. Her house sometimes reminds me of mine when it seems on any given day there could be international students , family friends or whomever staying over, eating over or needing something that we can help out with.

Her schedule reminds me of the time I invited a Mexican student Jorge (we were his Winnipeg Welcome Family) and asked him to bring his Columbian roommate David for dinner and my son-in-law Trent went to pick them up but came home with an extra person who no one knew. Trent found him at the side of the road with a suitcase in hand (he had just arrived from Kamloops after a 72 hour bus ride and the taxi dropped him off at the wrong address). Trent offered him a ride to the place where he was supposed to stay and no one was there so Trent brought him over to our house because I’d know what to do. So what did we do? We invited him – Ronnie, a total stranger from Bangladesh – to have dinner with us, go have a rest in one of the spare bedrooms and when he woke up, we would find and take him to his friend. He must have thought we were all freaks who would hurt him or we were very nice people who he had the good fortune to meet. What would you think if you were stranded at the side of the road in a strange city and a stranger offered to pick you up and take you home to his mother-in-law who invites you for dinner, offers you a place to sleep for a few hours? I know I would say “thanks but no thanks” or I might be so tired that I would say okay and hope that I didn’t get poisoned or worse.

Telling that story a few years later still makes us laugh. We could start it would with “there was this Mennonite man, who went to pick up a Mexican and a Columbian and came back with them and a Bangladeshi to the home of a Guyanese family…. It sounds too unbelievable or some kind of a joke that someone makes up. Maybe someday people will wonder if it’ll be an urban legend or if it’s true. That’s the way the world should be.

That was my day. Well, maybe one more thing. Thapelo came over today and had some good news for me regarding the website. The domain name is registered and we are just waiting for confirmation. All in all, not a bad day – results oriented after working on several things the last few weeks.

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