Friday, September 30, 2011

Botswana Independence Day

Today marks the 45th anniversary of Botswana's independence from Great Britain. 

In 1966, when Botswana became in independent nation, it was one of the five poorest in the world. There was only one paved road in the country. It was a 13km stretch and was made in the 1940's for a visit by the royal family. It stretched from the train station to a district commissioner's office. 

Diamonds were discovered soon after and the country's early leaders wisely decided that revenues from those diamonds should go the public good. Diamond revenues funded infrastructure, social programs, and most of the other development in the country. Between the years 1966 and 2000, the economy averaged 9% growth per year, making it the fasted growing economy in the world during that period. 

While there are still improvements and development to be done, Botswana has come a long way in a short time. Happy Independence Day to the "Jewel of Africa."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Backyard Garden - September 2011

My little backyard garden is off and running. After a week or so of watering and hoping for growth, the seeds sprouted.  I now have corn, cucumber, broccoli, tomato, jalapeno peppers, basil, and cilantro growing. The only seeds that didn't sprout were the red peppers I planted.

The corn has really shot up and is already over a foot tall. The cucumber plants are also growing really well. I'm beginning to think that I should have dug a larger garden.

I am also really excited about the tomato plants. There is nothing quite like a perfectly ripened tomato fresh off the vine. All this initial success makes me want to dig another few plots and plant them too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gender Norms

I have been trying to think of ways to improve the after school art program I help with. On any given day there can be 10-40 kids whose ages range from 3-15. It is quite difficult to think of something that will be appropriate for and engage all the participants. 

I discussed this with a teacher who is helping out and she suggested we break them up by gender. She would do a project with the girls and I would do a project with the boys. I decided to print outlines of cars and have the boys get to color them however they wanted to. The teacher was going to make cardboard cut outs of purses and have the girls decorate them.

That Friday rolled around and I took the car outlines I had out to the center. The kids set up the tables and chairs as usual and sat down. I started passing out the cars to the boys but then several girls told me they wanted to color cars. I had enough, so I gave a car to every girl as well. The kids sat and excitedly colored in their cars. 

As soon as one of the kids finished he or she would run excitedly over to me and show off their completed cars. It went on like this until the teacher showed up with the supplies to make the purses. The girls immediately ran over to start coloring and decorating their purses.

When some of the boys saw what was going on, they went over and asked to decorate a purse as well. (So much for dividing the group by gender.) Those boys then proceeded to color, decorate, and then proudly show off the purses they had made. 

I laughed to myself a bit and think how bizarre that situation was. I guess it was a mistake to assume that only the boys would want to color cars and only the girls would want to decorate purses. The kids are so excited to do crafts that they really don't care what they are making. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Neighborhood Kids

Every day on my way home from work, I take a shortcut to my house from the main shopping mall. Along the way, I pass by several houses and lots of kids. The kids quickly run over to hold my hand or beg for things like candy. 

There was one precocious little boy who really stood out. He would run up to me, grab my hand, and start talking rapidly in Setswana. My friend translated what he said one day. He asked for candy, which did not surprise me at all. What did surprise me was his reasoning. He said that he could ask for money to buy candy but if we just gave him the candy directly, we could cut out the middle man. 

I had to laugh at that one, and if I had any candy I would have given it to him; even though I have a rule about not giving out anything. 

I now see that little boy almost every day. His name is Mangwato (Mang-wha-too) and he is on the right in the above picture wearing the red shirt. When I first used to see him, he would run out to see me yelling, "Lekgoa!" (White person!). I have taught him how to give a high five and how to say "high five" in English. Now instead of asking me for things, he will run out and ask for endless high fives. He also carefully inspects my bags when I come from the store and asks me in Setswana what I will be cooking. 

Now when I walk by he will come yelling either "Legkoa la me" or "Tsala ya me." The first translates into "My white person" and the second translates to "My friend." I find the "my white person" one particularly amusing. 

Now when I walk home I am bombarded with a chorus line of little voices yelling "high five!" from all directions. I stop and give all the kids high fives before heading home.  It is the perfect little pick-me-up after a day in the office.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Hate Roosters

When you think of a rooster, you might imagine one perched on a fence post, waiting in the predawn hours to crow as the sun rises to welcome a new day. What a fairy tale that is. Roosters don't just crow as the sun rises. They can crow at any hour, even in the middle of the night, and some roosters crow all day. 

During training when I lived with a host family, it took me a while to get used to sleeping with all of the animal noises. There were barking dogs and braying donkeys, but the worst by far, were the roosters. Their piercing cries woke me up at night and reaffirmed my love of eating chicken. 

When I moved to my site, there was a rooster that lived in one of the houses next door. It crowed at all hours and I seriously considered killing it. Very early in the morning, it would perch itself on a wall and belt out its annoying cry. I looked for items to throw at it and even briefly considered getting a slingshot. Mercifully, the rooster disappeared one day (hopefully into someone's cooking pot) and I was able to peacefully sleep again. 

In my new neighborhood, I constantly see chickens and roosters but I never heard them at night. Then, my neighbor across the street  bought a rooster. He struts around the yard and likes to start crowing around 4am. I asked my neighbor if they were planning on eating the rooster at some point, but he just shook his head and said they were hoping to start breeding chickens. that rooster is there to stay. 

The rooster is something I am just going to get used to but if he ever crosses into my yard, he will be in big trouble.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Botswana's First Gold Medal

Botswana may not be a major player on the international sports stage, but the people here are quite passionate about athletics nonetheless.

Since the country's independence in 1966, Botswana has never won a gold medal in the Olympics or the World Championships. That changed very quickly (49.56 seconds actually) this past week when Botswana sprinter Amantle Montsho won the Gold Medal in the women's 400-meters at the World Championships in South Korea.

Besides being a world champion sprinter, she was also the first woman to represent Botswana in the Olympics, when she went to the 2004 games.

Before the event, the secretary general of the Botswana Athletic Association said, "We have diamonds. We have beef. We said we wanted gold."

Now they have all three.