Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alarms, Blackouts, Batswana, and Charlotte

Before I get started, if you read the last post where I said I would try to upload a photo of one of the adorable monkeys, I have now uploaded said photo of said adorable monkey.

Now, I'll write this post in the order of the topics listed in the title.

Alarms: So like I said, we have an alarm system in our house. In fact, nearly every house and office here has one. We weren't really given proper training on how to use the alarm which caused a few challenges. The first time we tried to set it, we set it off because we couldn't get the front door to lock. That wasn't a huge deal. The next minor incident occurred when I thought I had set it, we left for a trip to the mall, and got a phone call from a roommate saying that the alarm wasn't set when she got home. The most recent (and hopefully the last) occurrence went down on Sunday morning at around 1:00 a.m. One of my roomies tried to set the "night" alarm which consists of setting the motion detectors in just the kitchen and living areas, but mistakenly set the entire house alarm, setting it off as soon as she moved. She tried and failed 3 times...oops! It wouldn't be a big deal but when the alarm goes off security guards come immediately to check things out. Now, I am not saying this is a bad thing. It is quite reassuring to know that security arrives very quickly in the case of a house alarm; however, when the "culprits" are the people living in the house it's a little embarrassing. We have it all figured out now though so I think we're set for the rest of our stay!

Blackouts: Last night we had our first power outage in Gabs. Apparently it was the entire city and it lasted about 1.5 hours. The locals weren't really surprised. Some thought it was due to the strike currently occurring with government employees here and others thought it had something to do with the fact that electrical fees went up the day before. Who knows?! Luckily I had a flashlight so it wasn't too bad. We made salad and watched a movie on one of the girl's laptops. All was well - only a little concern. I try not to sweat much here unless it's a real cause for safety. I'm a very anxious person, so I've learned over the last few years that in order to stay sane and healthy, I just need to chillax!

Batswana: Botswana is the country. Batswana are the people. In my first week and two days, I have experienced many Batswana and when they say the people are friendly, they are mostly correct. Save that one nasty lady at the airport, everyone has been very kind. There is one thing, however, that plays a significant part in whether people are nice to you. That one simple thing is greeting. Greeting people is HUGE here. It's not enough just to smile, nod your head, or wave. You need to open your mouth, vibrate your vocal chords, and say Dumela or Hello. Once you do, a cold, stern demeanor turns into a vibrant smile. At that point, you can ask people for directions and they are more than willing to help. You also get better service at retail outlets.

Another important observation, pedestrians here do not have the right of way. What they do have is the right to be run over. Vehicles do not stop. If you cross one lane thinking that perhaps the car in the other lane will stop and let you cross, you will get run over. If you are crossing an intersection where the vehicle has a stop sign and you think they will wait for you to cross, you will get run over. Something that resembles a walking path in Canada is typically, in fact, a small road. If you are not careful, you will get run over.

I met almost all of the Batswana that are travelling to Canada this fall. My first real task here at WUSC-Botswana after doing a presentation to two members of WUSC's Board of Directors on my second day here (talk about tossing me in), was to help the students fill out their study permits. Most of the 43 students came all at once which was quite hectic, but I really got a sense for the capacity that we are dealing with when it comes to the International Scholarship Management. I learned a bit about my expectations for this position too. I came into it thinking that I would be an equal playing field with these students, that I would be their friend more so than "the white lady (lekoa) who works with WUSC". I'm not sure why I thought that, but that is definitely not the case. As a member of the WUSC-Botswana staff here, which I have truly been made to feel that I am, I am seen as a figure of authority. That's ok though, I look forward to the pre-departure training in late July when they are all together and I can tell them all about Canada. I am not sure if the intern has really done much in terms of presentation in the past, but I hope to get some speaking time. I met with two representatives of the Department of Tertiary Education and Financing today regarding the student sponsorships. Just another interesting aspect of my placement. My supervisor, Ona is wonderful. She includes me in everything she does and I love it!

And finally, this, my friends, is Charlotte. If you've been checking out my photos on Facebook you've already seen her. She lives in my closet and escaped the broom with which I tried to murder her. (Cruel, I know). Now, I have closed my closet doors in the hopes that she will continue to enjoy her life there. If I find her in my suitcase, I think I might have a heart attack! Everyone says I should have put something beside her to give you viewers some context as to her size. To those people I say, "you get that close to her first and then we'll talk." Take your average size coffee mug; she is about the size of the circular rim on which you place your lips to sip your liquid energy.

As I sign off another lengthy blog post...remember two main things if you are ever in Botswana, vibrate your vocal chords and move your ass!

And maybe one more thing, most spiders eat mosquitos so people do not kill them. I get that. When they are the size of Charlotte, however, if you are fraidy cat like me, you cannot get close enough to catch and release then. In fact, you cannot get close enough to kill them successfully. Therefore, you let them live, closed up in a closet and hope that they stay put.

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