One week reflections: Installment #3: Community Integration and Talking Trash

The two topics are really unrelated so don’t look for any hidden meaning.

During the first 3 months of service we are “on lockdown” (last 3 months too but can’t think about that yet). We are not supposed to do any “real” work but are to spend our time getting to know and getting known in our community and our organization. While our organizations know this, they also have work they need done so we are trying to find a balance and look for every opportunity to integrate.

So far this week we have done ok on the integration front as well as getting actual work done.

* We went to the prize giving ceremony at Gabane Primary School. It started at 9 and ended at 2 with a full lunch for the honored guests. We got there at 11 which was fine as it was very hot and all in Setswana. Our neighbor’s boy cleaned up in prizes for his grade- Standard 6, so that was a great way to relate to them. We were asked to present prizes- We gave them out for math and science and public speaking. We met several community leaders. My supervisor wanted a particular juice and they were all out so the Deputy to the President (of Botswana) offered me his which I graciously accepted. He was the guest speaker. Imagine a Deputy to Obama attending an elementary school graduation!

So, lunch- a typical meal served at these functions and it included:
rice, samp (kind of like hominy), chicken, seswaa (pounded beef- the national dish), beef (stewy type), potato salad, cole slaw, beans, beets,and bogobe (sorghum porridge that is thick like polenta). After eating ALL of this, one is comatose for the rest of the afternoon and thinking you will never eat again but you do!

* When we walk to town to catch the combi to go shopping we have been hitchhiking the 3K (very common here and relatively safe if you aren’t stupid). Pretty lucky getting rides in, not so lucky the other direction. Yesterday we got picked up by a man and two women who were going to Gabs so we got a ride all the way to Gabs. In talking to the man, he said he wants to go to the US to get a Master’s in Strategic Management. Teresa had just heard about a scholarship program for Africans going for MBAs at Stanford so she got his contact info and emailed him with the info. He also lives near us in Gabane.

* The Librarian at Gary’s school wants to learn Spanish so we are going to try to trade Setswana tutoring for Spanish tutoring.

* Gary is attending various classes to observe student and teacher behaviors and teaching techniques. So far, the biggest issue is teachers not showing up for class. Teachers are frequently 5-20 minutes late for class so Gary usually just sits and waits. The first time a teacher didn’t show up at all was a Humanities class, 80 minutes long. 3/4 of the kids talked and messed around and 1/4 took out Oliver Twist and took turns reading it aloud to each other. At one point about half the class got involved with the reading. The next class, the teacher was late. While waiting, Gary introduced himself to the class. When the teacher left for the next class (kids stay put and teachers move), Gary stayed. The teacher for the next class didn’t come so the kids asked Gary to continue speaking about himself, Peace Corps and America. It was very hard to describe “America”. Go ahead and try it! So far Gary has also learned about Physics, Agriculture, Sexual Reproduction of Plants, Moral Education (one class was sex ed and the other was on HIV with two very passionate teachers).

* Teresa is working on a brochure for the Centre which is hosting a Home Based Care fair in November and needs a brochure to hand out. She is also trying to get a handle on the Centre’s technology. First day, one of the computers up and died- nothing, nada. Will be a while before she can have it looked at for free, Others are way old- Office 97 on one. Printers with no ink and only certain computers can print to certain printers as the computer is too old to accept the new driver or the printer is too old and the driver is not available for the newer computer. Have one very new laptop that is great. Could use two more like it, a network and new printers as well as a data projector. Then training on how to use it all. We have a cellular modem to access the Internet which Teresa finally got to work Friday night! Problem is it was donated by the Cell phone company (BeMobile)- 10mb per month for 6 months- not much and after that- who knows. We’ll see what two years brings.

*Combi drivers- twice now we’ve sat in the front right next to the driver. They have both been super nice and helpful. We learned how they get their routes (they own their combi and work for themselves. They pick a route and then apply to the Dept of Transportation to get licensed for that route.) At P3.50 per ride and 15 people and the price of gas (petrol) at about $3 per gallon, they are not making much.

Now let’s talk trash. We really owe more to Lady Bird Johnson than any of us probably realize. The impact she had on how Americans look at litter has been grossly underestimated. Perhaps we should begin a campaign to nominate her for sainthood. Like other countries we have traveled to (ie Guatemala, the attitude towards trash is to drop it wherever you are when it goes from valued possession to trash. Here in Gabane you are able to get trash pickup but we are not exactly sure how. We have been piggy backing on the Centre’s system. That said, Teresa went on trash patrol this morning and gathered two grocery bags full of yard trash (yes they do have plastic bags at the grocery but you do have to pay for them and no paper available. We try to bring our own but the bags do have their uses here). There are two bushes with killer thorns (Gary had to save Teresa whose hair was having an intimate moment with one of the bushes) that seem to be where trash wants to go when it dies so for now, that trash is safe. What we do admit to doing is throwing edible trash (vegetable peelings and the like) on the ground since there is literal army of scavengers- goats, cows, donkeys, chickens, birds. We have an empty field behind our house and it is amazing how fast it disappears when we throw peelings and apple cores, etc. back there. What is hard is to actually take that plunge and throw something on the ground- which brings us back to Lady Bird and the effect she had on us. Like Teresa’s relationship with spiders, though, we can change. It is true that one person’s trash is an animal’s delightful dinner.

No good pictures for this post. Will need to get one of a combi and will post later. PC and country of Botswana has a policy about posting pictures of kids so unfortunately, we won’t be able to post some of the best shots.

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