Month: March 2016

This was the week that was

Some or you reading this will remember the TV show (1964 in the US) with the same title. Well, this post won’t be as funny and satirical so sorry about that but it will give you an idea of what our life is like on a daily basis and serves as my journal. Starts out pretty mundane but if you stick with it, you will see the patterns emerging that form our daily existence.

Last Saturday started out with a trip to the new grocery store in Gabane. (Saturday or Sunday is shopping day) A new Choppies. What Botswana doesn’t really need is more Choppies and this one is only about 1.5k away from the other one but it is just enough closer that we can reasonably walk to it and then take a taxi or combi home. All well and good but it still doesn’t have a lot of what we want. This week- no lettuce- so we have resorted to a variety of other types of salads- we are so flexible.  Also stopped at the post office and no packages- two are on their way.

We did have water all weekend though which was good so we did a lot of deeper type cleaning on Sunday. We shouldn’t have bothered but that is later.

Monday morning, my supervisor and I met with a youth pastor who wants to work with our kids on Saturday and give us stuff. Then,  I met with the Board Vice Chair and another Board member to review the revised Constitution (aka bylaws) and Financial Policy.  I was supposed to spend the afternoon with our tutor who is also an accountant and she was going to review our Quick Books setup but she had car trouble so I was able to go with Gary for an appointment at Mmokolodi Primary School to pitch our community parenting idea.

Mmokolodi is about 7k from our house and there are kids who walk from there every day to get to school so we figured no big deal. We got a ride there and turns out the primary school is another 2K from town but the person that took us got lost so we got a tour of Mmokolodi. Appointment was for 3 and we were only 15 minutes late or so we thought. Actually we were 15 minutes early (someone else had made the appointment for us). Then they asked us to stay for a PTA Executive Committee meeting which started at 4:30. If we could be first then we could be walking home by 5 and that gave us 2 hours  to walk the 6 miles until dark. We weren’t sure we could find our way for part of it in the dark as it basically goes across country on dirt paths. No parents showed up and it was now 5 pm. The key people were at the Kgotla on the other side of town with no transportation. Silly of us to think it would start at 4:30 anyway. At 5:10 we called it and started home on our 6 mile walk. We tried hitching but the first two cars passed us by. At about 6 pm a saint stopped- Land Rover with AC that worked and she actually used it! (a first) and gave us a ride all the way home. Turns out she is a fairly close by neighbor.

Tuesday morning I went on a donor prospecting mission with three of the Board members. We visited various businesses in Gabane and Gaborone, leaving a letter of introduction and a brochure . Anyone who knows anything about fundraising can quickly point out the many errors in this approach but that is another story. And no, we got no definite commitments and did not talk to one decision maker but several promised to get back to us. On the flip side, another Board member went the next day to a local dairy, spoke to the head person and got a commitment for 15 litres of milk every Monday. (They called later in the week and offered us 5 live chickens which we have accepted and will be lunch for the kids on Tuesday. I plan to be absent Monday as I cannot watch that again- the first time was traumatic enough. I may be eating meat but I am ok with keeping my distance from where it comes from.)

We got back at 1:50, I hadn’t eaten lunch yet and at 2:00 Gary and I needed to leave for an appointment at the other Junior Secondary School. We got lucky and got a ride  fairly soon with one of the teachers who was going to take us directly there but turns out she was actually going near the third primary school that we hadn’t been able to reach by phone. So we stopped there and made an appointment for next week. We were then going to walk to the JSS but got another ride. Had a great visit at the JSS and took a combi back as far as we could (the one that gets us closer to home came right after we had given up and taken the other). We were pretty tired but resigned to the 20 minute walk but as luck would have it, got another ride about 10 minutes later. Many of the teachers live at the school in teacher housing and most have cars so that gives us lots of opportunities for rides with people we sort of know.When someone says Dumela Mma Gary, I know it is someone from Gary’s school as he is known as Mr. Gary.

Wednesday (during the night and throughout the day) the heavens opened up and boy did we get rain. Amazingly the power held so I holed up in my office and worked on writing the new Personnel Policy since a follow up meeting with the Board Vice-Chair got postponed. It’s kind of like writing the Union contract the way you want it without the nasty negotiations. We’ll see how my version stacks up against Botswana Labor Law.

We did manage a visit to Gabane Primary as part of the Parenting Initiative and were lucky there was a break in the weather so we could walk there and back without drowning. Gary also came over before the school visit to meet with my supervisor and counterpart as he is going to supervise their final social work project for a certificate course they are taking.

Wednesday afternoons is Gary’s Grass Roots Soccer day which is a HIV prevention program for teens and I am helping him but it got postponed to Friday as the kids are in exams and need to study (even though they don’t).

I was supposed to go to Gabs for a 5 pm meeting and was riding in with the Centre’s combi which left at 4, getting me to the combi rank by 4:30 for the half hour trip to Gabs. I posted some pictures on Facebook that showed the water situation and will repost here. What this doesn’t show is that the roads (only one is paved (tarred)) are all dirt and water and dirt make…. MUD. The force of the water and the strong wind also creates major crevices and ditches. Luckily it slowed down long enough for me to wait for the combi to Gabs. (Yes, I brought a raincoat with me to Botswana although the folks here don’t wear them, but did I have it with me? No, just a small umbrella). The nice thing about rain in the summer though is that it isn’t very cold.  The combi trip is usually less than a half hour but took close to an hour and there were places where the water was reaching the tops of the tires for regular cars. I was a half hour late for the meeting so right on time Botswana style except I was meeting other Americans. One of them lives in Gabane so she gave me a ride home which was harrowing as it was pitch black and those crevices are hard to see but we made it safely.

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Gary stayed home because the security alarm people were supposed to come and replace a dead battery. This had been postponed from Saturday when they didn’t show up and Monday when they called and said they had dispatched a technician but we weren’t home so that wasn’t going to work. I had then made this appointment for 3 pm Wed. They called several times but I didn’t get the call and when I called back they hadn’t sent the guy because I hadn’t answered the phone. Shall we define appointment? (actually no different than the US). While I was in Gabs they called Gary for directions to the house and then canceled due to the rain and rescheduled for Friday at 4.

Here’s where I make a pitch- the meeting was for the Botswana Book Project which gets books for Botswana schools and libraries through Books for Africa and ships a container annually if funds are available. So, we are set for 2016 but if you want to help out, go to the Botswana Book Project web page ( donate for the 2017 shipment- I will still be here to benefit from it. I am co-coordinating the Peace Corps recipients. At this meeting I also learned there is, apparently, an effort underway to create a public library in Gabane which I will be finding more about in the next couple of weeks.


Thursday I was supposed to meet with my tutor/accountant friend. But, the rain just kept coming so I didn’t want her to get stuck in the mud, literally, so we postponed. (Are you counting how many times I am using the word postponed, rescheduled or canceled?).  This was also the day for the postponed Mmokolodi meeting but when I called, since we hadn’t heard anything, they said the meeting wasn’t happening and would call us.

So, my supervisor told me I needed to go with her to the house of one of our kids whose aunt died and we needed to pay our respects because neither of us had made any of the day/night services and wouldn’t make the burial on Friday. Please understand, it was pouring rain, mud everywhere. I had to go home to get a head scarf and literally had no way to get to the house without going through two places where there was standing water up to my ankles. Our house was literally an island. As I said earlier, at least it wasn’t cold.  The Centre combi took us, we sat with the women and drank tea and ate warm paphatas then went back to work where I managed to finish the Personnel Policy first draft.

Did I mention the water went out Tuesday so we were dealing with the mud and rain without running water. Why all tile in this country is white is beyond me- should be a mottled brown. It would relieve a lot of guilt.

So, Friday- I started by taking my first malaria pill as we are going to malaria country next week over Easter. I take the one that might give me hallucinatory dreams- we’ll see.

I get to work at 7:30 to find that the door to the Admin trailer, that had not been doing well, is now unable to be opened.  Can’t go in through windows because there are burglar bars on all the windows and the alarm is set. So, I could not get to my office.  I’m flexible. It’s ok. But here’s the deal. We needed to call or get a note to the parents about a special event on Saturday at the Centre. Should have been done earlier in the week but no one did it. The phone numbers are in the inaccessible trailer. Both printers are in the inaccessible trailer as I had moved one to my office as part of preparing to meet with my tutor/accountant. My laptop that also has student information in it is guess where?… I said all that is missing is that the inspector who postponed from the previous week would probably show up today and the paperwork she needs is- you got it- on the desk in my office. Did she show up?- you betcha- at 1 pm. We have been waiting on this licensing inspection for several months. Luckily she believed us when we recited our previous deficiencies and how we had corrected them. One would have thought she would have had her own copy of the report from last September but that’s not how things work here.  Postponed yet again the follow up meeting with the Vice Chair as the material we needed to review was……. Yep- in my office

On a cheery note, I did manage to slip in a trip to the Post Office to pick up one of the two packages we were waiting for and got a ride back with one of the teachers from Gary’s school who greeted me as Mma Gary while I was waiting for the Centre combi to come get me so I knew it was a teacher- in fact 3 of them.

Got back 15 minutes late for a meeting but the other party hadn’t showed up yet- gotta love Botswana time- can work to your advantage sometimes. The representatives from an organization that has a grant to do HIV work in Gabane finally arrived and we discussed how we can work together.

Left work at 1:30 after the inspection, went home and the water was on so I filled everything that we had emptied during the week, did a quick mop of the very dirty floor and met Gary for the Grass Roots Soccer program. (In this picture if he hits the cone, he gets HIV/AIDs- each cone stands for a risk factor for getting HIV/AIDS)


Left GRS a little early so I could be home by 4 for the rescheduled security alarm visit. Did they come at 4? Are you kidding? At about 4:30 we got a call and had to talk them into a soft landing at our house. They told us where they were but they were actually coming from the other direction. I am standing in the middle of the road with hundreds of kids walking home from the school with a phone in my hand, looking for Godot. But, along they came and I waved them in and they replaced our battery so we are safe and secure once again.

Is this a typical week? Not sure. Last week was pretty intense too. At this point we have a lot of irons in the fire but aren’t sure which are going to get hot.  But, as you can see, it’s never boring and we are never sure what a new day will bring. Are we getting anything accomplished? Maybe, maybe not but you do what you can and hope some of it is useful and sticks.

Future blog I will regale you with how we spend our non-work time!