Saturday, April 21, 2012

The good and bad of days

Yesterday was Kabo’s first real day in front of students. The Guidance and Counseling teacher was out for a workshop so John took his four classes and we did focus groups to get to know the students wants, needs, likes/dislikes, and challenges. Kabo will write another blog with pics detailing this since soon I mainly played the role of the note taker and do not want to steal his thunder.

While waiting for Rachaba and Dika to arrive to set up for the steps film, Kabo and I were sitting on a ledge by the administration building. A group of girls approached us, greeted us, shook our hands left handed and said something while giggling. We asked them what they said and they proceeded to ask us where we were from and if we were going to be there tomorrow (Sat). At first we said no then later said we would stop by over the weekend and would definitely be there Monday. The amount of excitement from them could have powered an entire village. They were so excited and mentioned how bored they are on the weekends. They all shook our hands left handed again and scampered off. It was great! The small experiences like that can make a bad day good.

The STEPS film did not go as well as hoped. This is the third one we have done and they have varied group to group. These are films about real stories of people in different countries of Africa affected by AIDS. We show them to groups of people then discuss the video and relate it to their life. Normally we prefer to only 25 or less people, but somehow before Kabo and I got there the other organizers decided to do 2 classes which were about 60 kids, on a Friday afternoon. On top of it the main presenter threw Kabo under the bus and told the kids he was presenting unexpectedly (it happens all the time here as communication is not as strong). We muddled our way through but most of the time kids were not paying attention and were sitting by their friends talking. There was a small group of kids at the front participating, but all in all I think most of them were not reached. The reason to do smaller groups is it allows the presenter to walk among the group and keep every one’s attention. It also gives everyone a safer space to discuss personal issues without worries of other’s reactions. After the session I put my foot down and said if the group is too big I will not be a part of presenting, especially with kids. Someone told us that the greatest day can be destroyed by the slightest comment here, and it is true. After an experience like that it is hard to step back and say, let’s try to remember all the kids we reached at the first part of the day, not the feeling of failure of the last couple hours.

John and Rachaba presenting

Me, Rachaba, Dika 

This morning Kabo and I got ready early (for a Saturday) and went down to Lehutshelo to watch the football match, council vs teachers. It is a nice cool fall day threatening rain, although everyone here is calling it cold and says it is not going to rain, which is making me homesick for things like sitting out at my Brian’s at a party around a firepit. Rachaba and Dika picked us up on the way and we got to the game at 9am. Like most things in here the 9 am game didn’t start until 10:15, so we went to one of the outdoor classrooms and played cards. After a while a group of kids surrounded us and we taught them how to play golf. At first they were really shy about it, but we could tell they wanted to play and one was bold enough to ask us to teach them. They picked up on it quickly and seemed to really enjoy the game. After a couple games we went to the football match because it seemed we had been gone a while and surely it had started…it hadn’t yet.

The football game itself was fun due to conversations with friends and co-workers and we also took some great pictures. The council won, which I am torn about whether I am happy about that or not. The council team is technically my team due to where I work, but when I was initially interested in playing (before the broken foot) someone on the team told me I couldn’t play on it because it was a men’s team and I am a woman. The school team immediately asked me to play when they found out I had experience without my even prompting and before one game I was kicking the ball around (in a skirt b/c I was not on the team yet) they talked about finding me shoes, etc (oddly 4 days later I broke my foot delaying my return to being a star player…ha ha ha..sigh). After talking to more of the council players I realized that the initial comment from someone was out of ignorance and most of the players would love to have a female player and are surprised there are no female teams here.

Talking to Mogapele before the game

The council team

During the game I had some great conversations with people and glad to hear about differing parenting styles, as well as things people are trying to do to give their kids a better life than they have had. I love conversations like this because I get a well rounded view of Botswana, not just seeing how the kids from the settlement are being raised, but also kids from different parts of the country.

After the game, we walked up to the shops and got a “hunger buster” which is a meat filled makwinya (deep fried ball of dough). They are so yummy, but not quite health food. I figure I will be running soon and hopefully can knock off some of the gut I have created, so what’s one last hurrah. This is the longest I have walked since the broken foot. I am still using one crutch because my foot is too weak to support me on my toes yet, but I am working on strengthening it and only use it for a little extra support so I am not limping. I will do more test walking tomorrow and hope to be completely crutch free by next week.

Funny thing…it just started raining. Our rains should be pretty much over by now, but everyone says weather has been odd for the last 10 years which is causing problems with agriculture.

Go siame! Tracy

Saturday, April 14, 2012


It has been good having Tracy back in Hukuntsi. As she mentioned we have had all kinds of visitors as of late. Dr. Yimmam stopped by and we made it out last weekend for a long run. I have not run for about 7 weeks so it was rough but certainly needed. I have a sneaking suspicion once Tracy gets her legs back we will be up to a full marathon distance in no time.

On Easter weekend, we went to the salt pan for sunset and to a braii with some friends and their daughter. They cooked up steak and chicken and I got a lesson on how to chop up a whole chicken. It is quite a bit easier than I would have imagined. One of the unexpected bits of knowledge I will pick up over here is picking out beef cuts and possibly learning to slaughter my own food. Fun fun. This leads me to a self-observation about myself and my wife (can I term an observation about Tracy as self-observation? Just did.): We never take our camera anywhere! Even when I do bring my camera I feel weird snapping pictures, I need to remember I am indeed still a tourist in some fundamental way. We will work on that.

The next day I noticed some people taking the fence around our yard down. It never kept the goats and cattle out anyway, so I found myself very relaxed about the whole thing. After an hour or so of them working we had a knock at the door and it was our landlady and her husband. They live in the capital city and were in Hukuntsi to celebrate their 2 year anniversary. They informed us that they were actually repairing the fence and not removing it. I am a bit conflicted about the fence repairs. We love looking out and seeing our yard full of livestock that eat up all the grass and weeds. (With long grass come scorpions and snakes) So now I will be raking the yard, but also have the option to grow a garden! I really miss the garden we had when we lived on Rufer Lane, so this may be a way to bring back something we miss from home.

That evening we made some cupcakes from a mix Tracy’s folks sent and put chocolate icing on top and trekked over to our neighbor’s house. (This seems a good a time as any: Tracy still has a big ol’ moonboot and is using two crutches. They are not the under the arm kind but the kind I tend to associate with polio. Anyhow she is able to move around on the sand quite well, but a bit slowly. We are hoping only 3 more weeks or so and then she can chuck those aside.) The neighbors had chairs arranged around a TV with a good sound system set up and a small, circular cake on a low table up front. After the obligatory prayer that accompanies all meetings, gatherings, and discussions they thanked everyone for coming in the local language and then in English for Tracy and I. Then they started the show. After the movie began they served traditional food and everyone was whooping and hollering when they saw someone they knew on the screen. Most of the people there were the ones who cooked for the event so they missed a lot of the stuff when it had happened two years ago. It was really sweet and they had a great time. After the 2nd DVD ended and everyone had eaten they wanted to cut the cake and have some desert. One thing I had noticed on the DVD was that they had identical cakes at the original ceremony. I nonchalantly mentioned this to Tracy and the edges of her mouth curled into that magnificent grin. She advised that they did not make a cake for this, but that cake was in fact from 2 years ago. About this time they began to cut and the knife was not making a dent past the icing. I looked back to Tracy and started to say “They forgot to defrost it.”, but thought that through. While refrigeration is found in many homes here in Botswana I soon decided that this cake was not frozen. It was stale. Two years stale in fact. The groom had finally made the first long incision along the diameter splitting the thing in two. I could see little beads of sweat on his forehead by this time. He was starting to look a bit tired and desperate. One of the ladies from inside was yelling and laughing, and then she came out to hand him something better to dissect the dessert. I recognized the implement from the fence work earlier in the day. They were in fact using a hacksaw to portion out the cake to the eager crowd. I tasted it and have lived to tell the tale, but I would not recommend it! We ended up having a great evening with lots of laughs and little kids running around. Once again we forgot our camera though.

The weekend ended with some coworkers, Dick and Mr. Rapholo, coming over to type up a CV. They also taught us a new Setswana word: babalase. It translates to hangover. They left to go sleep it off and Mr. Rapholo brought his wife and two daughters back over that evening. We finished up his typing and traded card games. They taught us a game very close to UNO using a standard deck and we taught them how to play GOLF. They loved it! Before we leave this country we may be able to get a real fad going!! I am still hopeful to get a card game night started at the school too. If anyone knows any simple games to play I would appreciate the instructions.

It was a great weekend and we got to talk with some folks back home too! We hope you all enjoyed your holiday. Go Siame!


Home Sweet Hukuntsi

I always have thought that home is where people care about you and never realized how true that is. Over the past year I have felt extremely transient between traveling, moving to Botswana, and having the constant motion in Botswana from place to place. Although I always have embraced constant motion, a year has been too much. Just as soon as Kanye felt like home we left. Hukuntsi started to feel like home just before I broke my foot and then life was a jumble of movement and being stuck in the house. Everything felt completely unstable and then I went to Pretoria.

I arrived back at my village late Tuesday and had a slow crutch/stumble in the dark down the gravel and sand roads that led to our house. Although it was great to see John I felt completely jostled, cramped, dejected and beat down as any long bus ride in Botswana will do, not to mention my foot was killing me.

The bus ride itself was a whirlwind of emotions as normal. Some other time I will have to detail bus rides here. They are an amazing mix of wonderful and awful, but now that I have gotten used to them I do not mind them (other than the constant shooting pains when you have a broken foot). Luckily the other riders made the ride bearable and ensured I had a seat when I probably would have been standing for about 4 hours of the ride due to a required bathroom break.

Since I have been home I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of friendship coming from friends, coworkers, as well as neighbors. The first full day I was home John and I then decided to go for a walk/crutch to a make sure I got some exercise. After rounding the first corner a truck came driving up, stopped by us, and a neighbor came running out hugging me. She does not speak any English and my Setswana has gone downhill since I have been gone, so we had a short conversation with lots of hand gestures and unexpected emotion and said “Go Siame” (good bye). After the next corner another truck stopped. This one was filled with coworkers who were all coming to check on me and bring mail. While stopping by the store I caught up with a few friends and Joe gave us a ride back, luckily because my foot was ready for a break.

The next day, Dika, a friend, stopped by and we talked and played cards for a few hours. During his visit Dr. Yimmam, another friend and coworker, called to make plans for the following day. Every day that we have gone out we run into more friends and acquaintances. I know that Hukuntsi is home and I am increasingly content to be in my community and know that we have already made an impact through friendships. I also know I am not the same person I was when I came here.