Saturday, September 29, 2012

Yesterday Thato called me with some really bad news, Major Nelson Mautle passed away.  Major Mautle is one of my favorite people.  Maybe I should use was, but his passing away does not change that status.  The Major was one of the most driven people I have known, and in Botswana that is saying a lot.  He would get on to people about being late, not following protocol (which sometimes drove me crazy, but I understood why he did that), and just plain wasting time.  He spent 2 years in the US (1985-1987 I think) studying then came back to Botswana.  He spent some time in the military and worked with the government.  By the time I met him he was retired and had moved on to the next phase of life.  But retirement to him did not mean just sitting back and letting things happen, he wanted to make a change.  He served on the VDC (Village Development Committee), was head of Men’s Sector, always at the DMSAC and a part of pretty much everything going on in Hukuntsi.  In Botswana many people can serve on a council and not do anything, but not the Major.  He had a very distinct voice and I was assured to hear him outspoken at every event.  Sometimes it was calling out protocol issues, but normally it was pointing out obvious flaws in data or questioning how issues would be addressed.  Botswana has a strong passive aggressive culture.  Often people will not want to contradict anyone or swim upstream, but the Major was definitely a salmon especially if he saw ill affects to ignoring a problem. 

He also had high goals.  The first time I met him he brought up wanting help trying to get the desalination project restarted in Zutshwa.  Things kept getting in the way between me fracturing my foot and going to SA for surgery, him falling ill, and other obstacles.  This did not stop him from trying to get it accomplished, although I am afraid it might be out of the scope of what we can do during our short time here..  He did lots of research and last time I spoke with him he was still talking about it. 

One of my favorite memories of him was during the African Child Event.  We arrived at the Kgotla after it had started (we had not intended to go for the whole thing and just wanted to sneak in and watch from the back rather than getting put in a prominent position of VIPs as often happens).  At first we walked up to the outside of the Kgotla to scope it out and decide where to slip in.  The Major caught sight of us, yelled at us to come over (I had my shoe off trying to get a thlolele..probably really misspelled that but they are the spikeys all over the ground around here…out of my foot).  Since we did not come immediately, he walked over to the fence right through the middle of the event and cajoled us to come and sit mentioning that there were seats saved for us.  Honestly we should have known better, but I felt like a small child after that and am always sure to do what I know I should at events like that.  I laughed about that for a long time and still smile thinking about it.

He was constantly stopping in the office for business or just greeting me while passing by.  It always brightened my day.  He always a warm smile and a kind word. Since he has been ill I have noticed the difference that his not being around has made on me.
I really miss him and but am lucky to have known him.  Although I am not religious, I know he was.  I hope his life after death is everything he had hoped it would be.  His presence in my life, although short has made me a better person. He will always be with me in my memories.  My thoughts are with his family and although we are all mourning his death, I hope we will remember to celebrate his life.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Crazy long blog...long overdue

Sorry for the crazy long post.  It is a bit of a catch up post. The last week or 2 has been such an eventful and amazing time.  Here are the event breakdowns:

Wednesday August 22, 2012
I went with the DAC office and the DHMT to Monong (a small settlement of about 175 people) for an STI workshop.  This was a fun trip as I have not been to the settlement before.  Most events include speeches from many people normally including the Kgosi (village chief), a VDC member (village development council), a guest speaker (this time it was people from the DHMT - District Health Management Team), and a pastor.  There was also entertainment which included traditional dancing from the primary school students and a village elder playing a homemade fiddle.  Everyone got a kick out of the primary school dancing because one of the male students had to dance the female part of the dance.   Their rhythm was amazing!  The musician was great too and took me back to images of the rural south with the sound of his voice and instrument.  I can definitely see a connection between the traditional music here and a lot of the traditional blues in the US.

Next came the Setswamorago’s condom demonstrations while one of the nurses and I entertained the kids.  We played a version of duck, duck, goose using pitsa, pitsa, tau.  (zebra, zebra, lion…actually horse, horse, lion but zebra is horse with stripes and is way too long to say while tapping someone n the head).  The kids loved it and I loved watching them.  It is a great way to entertain kids ranging from standard 1 to standard 7.

Friday August 24, 2012
John & I went to Morwamosu to help a friend, Rachel, give out teddy bears to the kids at her school and those 6 & under in her village.  The first part of the event (for those under 6) was at the Kgotla.  The bears were hand knitted and donated by an NGO…what an amazing idea because I have almost never seen a kid have a stuffed animal or toy here except for the ingenious cars that are made out of wire and soda cans.  The only requirement was to take a picture of each child with the bear which is easier said than done for toddlers who aren’t quite sure what is going on.  The littlest ones were a little bit shook up and a couple started crying so the moms took them away for a moment and went back later once they had calmed down a bit.  The older ones loved it though and I later say one of the kids in tears playing with the bear so overall I think it was a hit!

Next we went to the school, were walked around to all the class rooms to meet the kids.  The amazing thing in some of the primary schools here is that even if a classroom is missing a teacher the kids normally try to teach each other or themselves.  There were a few classrooms missing teachers due to transfers and maternity leave.  Some students from higher grades were teaching the others (normally math and English).  After tea break, the kids lined up to get their teddy bears and the photo session began. 
Rachel & John after a long fun morning

After this we went to Rachel’s for lunch and then to catch a hitch back to Hukuntsi.  The amazing thing is that as we were walking up to the hitching post a vehicle pulled over to pick someone else and we took off running.  There was just barely enough room for all of us, but the vehicle had air conditioning (which is not often found) and great tunes.  We then switched hitches in Kang and only had to wait 45 minutes which is seldom heard of as well as getting a free hitch.  All in all it was a great day!

Tuesday August 28, 2012
Dika waiting to perform
During a conversation the previous day with a good friend of mine, One, I found out about the Ward level of a Youth Arts Competition that was going on that week and the regional level was happening the following week (Sept 8).  John & I went to Lehututu (a village about 10K away) and had a marvelous time.  We caught the combi there and were late going, so we were afraid we missed a bunch, but luckily we are on Africa time (the same as Island time for those of you who don’t know the Africa time phenomenon).  We got there in time to catch the end of the first part which was musician who occasionally sang.  The rest of the competition included poetry (not like US poetry readings it is almost a mix of poetry and drama), drama, traditional dancing, and choir.  Several of my friends were performing and I was glad not to have missed them, especially since some of them I have never seen perform before.

One in a skirt she borrowed from a friend
The traditional dancing was amazing too especially since the acoustics in the Kgotla caused my whole body to reverberate to the beats that were being clapped.  There are normally 2 differing beats being clapped creating a unique atmosphere.  Traditional dancing also has a bit of drama depending on what group is dancing and the type of dancing and attire varies region to region.  When I first came to Botswana I did not see/feel/hear the differences from dance to dance as well, but I am definitely getting the hang of identifying differences and knowing which groups are better than others and when possible mistakes are being made.  The Kgalagadi region really loves traditional dancing to the effect that the entire Kgotla filled as soon as people noticed the dance was about to begin and a large number left right after.

After the event we chatted with friends for a while and started making out way to the combi with a few friends.  While still a ways away One noticed the combi and said something to John about running to get it.  As you all know he is up to a challenge.  He took off running like a serious sprinter with the rest of us trailing behind.  When we all got there everyone was cracking up and one of our guy friends mentioned taking him to Zutshwa to go hunting with a spear.  I’d love to see that happen!! Apparently John did not know the combi had a stop and he was literally trying to catch the combi… ha ha ha.  I think he might have.

Wednesday August 29, 2012
I spent the morning at Makgakgane Primary School assigning a composition for the Standard 7 kids (similar to 6th or 7th grade in the US, but the age range is very different ranging from 12-18).  I am going to start working with these kids on English tutoring around once a week. I only spent about 15 minutes with them before assembly and was really just trying to get my bearings but it is always fun around the younger kids.

I had to leave for a Health Fair meeting, but later returned to show the HIV/AIDS club kids TeachAIDS.  Most of the kids in the club were Std 3-5 although almost every kid in the school wanted to be in the room.  They were even trying to climb through the window.  Mpho, the special Ed teacher (and friend) helped calm them down and kick those who shouldn’t be there out.  I showed the video, which is in Setswana, but has a section where it asks questions.  Almost all the kids answered right.  Afterwards I gave them a Q&A session.  A lot of them kept asking the same questions over and over and they even went to get a book to find questions.  I figured out that they really only wanted to hear me speak, so I let them ask me any questions after that.  A kid from outside came running in to get me saying they needed my help.  Apparently some kids got locked in a store room and the key was not working.  I went to get Steve to help and he was already on the case.

While all this was happening I walked across the campus to get something and was accosted by a mob of small children wanting to shake my hand. This is something to be careful with in relation to the young ones.  1 starts shaking your hand and before you know it you have 30 kids on each arm about to rip them out.  Just hope you have not eaten recently.  It is one of the funniest things I have ever experienced.  Then one of them wanted to touch my hair, so I let them…a mistake.  Before I know it the mob is trying to touch my hair or skin (they just want to know if it feels much different from their own. Most kids have not seen many white people before, especially one who is ok with it).  

It took about an hour but they finally got the trapped kids out there was an explosion of cheering from the room and all the kids.  The timing was lucky because it was time to go home for the day.  Mpho walked me and it was nice catching up with her.

Thursday August 30, 2012
In the morning I worked with a friend, Keba, to help her design a pamphlet for her business.  She then mentioned that the Youth Arts Competition was going to Monong and invited me to go with them, so I went.  Monong is about 40K down a pot holed gravel & sand road.  Depending on who is driving and who is in the car it can be a great or really long experience.  This time I was in the car with a pretty fast driver who knew the road well and a talkative crew.  I had never met them before but we all got along well and joked a lot.  Keba was in the other car with a few of the Lehutshelo teachers I know.  I had no idea they were coming so it was a pleasant surprise.

The atmosphere at the Kgotla is completely different than Lehututu which made the competition much more quaint and pleasant (not that the other wasn’t it just had a whole different flavor…kind of medium sized villageish).  This covered part of the Kgotla is very small and surrounded by sand with the wooden “fence” part of the Kgotla really close.  This made all of the performers extremely close and I ended up sitting right behind the judges.  I got to see the musicians within a few meters and the traditional dancers were a few meters farther away.  The first traditional dance troupe had a lot more drama than I have ever seen in a performance which I really liked, but I later found out that it should be more focused on the dance than the story. 

For the choir portion we had to move outside of the Kgotla because there was not enough room, so we were just sitting on the sand and the dancers performed on the sand.  I have never seen this on sand before. They are normally on concrete in the Kgotla which creates more of a drum sound from the feet.  I was amazed at how much of that they were able to keep on the sand. 

There was no drama or poetry performed here.  Next year I want to make sure that John has the ability to come to all of these too.  I will post more pics after the regional

Friday August 31, 2012
Wawa & Thato
I stopped by to visit Thato and help him with his computer.  While waiting for Avast to download (at excruciatingly slow rates), we spent the afternoon chatting and joking around.  John called at one time and mentioned another friend we were going to go with to Lehututu to see what we initially thought was a DJ ended up having to go out of town.  I asked Thato if he was interested, which he was.  We did some research and found out that it is actually the Tshane Police band. 

Around 9 Thato and Wawa, who was visiting him from Gabs, picked us up.  As is normal Bots fashion the band was late.  It should have started at 8 but actually went on at 10:30pm.  We went to the pan for a little while and just talked and joked around which was great so we got to know Wawa a bit. 
John in the dance competition
Then the madness began.  The band included horns, 3 guitars, a singer, and dancers.  The speakers were crazy large for a place so small and when they first started playing it was only a few of us there.  The bars close at 11 which is when people started packing in.  We had such a great time dancing and I got to see a bunch of people I know in a completely different atmosphere.  John and I did the 2 step swing to a song which caused everyone to be watching us, or so Thato says.  People do mostly club type of dancing here unless it is a wedding party that has choreographed something.  Everyone wanted a turn dancing with us (I don’t think anyone expected us to be there) and I got comments from people about it all week.  Late in the night John even was in a dance off which he claimed he lost, but I am not sure if that is true.  When he later watched the video I got he is not sure either. J  King of the dance floor!! Ha

Saturday September 1, 2012
Akiko wearing her present from co-workers

John & I went to a going away party for Akiko (Thato), the Japanese volunteer.  We didn’t stay super long as we did not get much sleep the night before due to the band, but we wanted to make sure to say good bye to her. By the time we got there the party had been going for a little while and there were pockets of dancing, a fire, the braii was going, and traditional food was ready.  We ate, had a few beers, and socialized for a little while.  Eventually my eyelids were taking over, as were John’s and we had to go or curl up in some corner.

Akiko was the dietician at the hospital and is a great person.  She also helped me with a few projects related to nutrition.  Although I didn’t get to see her too much I really enjoyed the time we spent together.  Akiko…I wish you the best in everything and hope to see you again in the future!

Sunday September 2, 2012
Morutwa & Zati
I went to check a friend who had a baby a couple months ago.  I spent a couple hours there and had a great time.  I have wanted to check her for a while, but have not made time.  Seeing her reminded me how much I miss her at the office.   Zati (might have spelled that wrong), her daughter, is adorable and I am excited to watch her grow into a little girl before I leave.

That evening Thato & Wawa came over to make pizza, hang out, and play games.  Although the dough did not want to rise, the pizza was still good.  We ate, laughed, talked, and ended up playing a few games of Pachisi.  John and I both were demolished during the games with Wawa winning the first and Thato winning the second.  Hmm, maybe next time we should play a different game.  I am beginning to get the feeling that we are just innately bad at Pachisi.  Dorcus almost always beats us when we play too and it was a new game to her too.  Sigh.