Tuesday, May 31, 2011

At Least the Wheels on the Taxi Go Round and Round

Alright folks - one of the most difficult things to contend with here in Gabs is the transportation that gets us from Point A to Point B and back again. Sunday was, by far, our most trying day yet. Before I get to Sunday, however, let me tell you about Friday night. There is a mall not too far from our house called Riverwalk. Typically, we walk there, but after dark it’s just a little too far and a little too dangerous for four white girls to be walking about. With that being the case, we walk out to the road, hail a taxi, get in, and start negotiating the price. First, he says he’s going to charge us 60 Pula (1 Pula = 7 CAD. You do the math; I’m an English major.) which is atrocious because we normally pay 30 Pula. So we just laugh at him, tell him no way and that we are only paying 30. After he agrees to that, the next thing out of his mouth (and this is no word of a lie) is ‘so, which one of you can I marry?’ Yes, friends, that is our life here in Gabs. Just to add some context and hopefully a few more laughs to your blog reading experience, I’ll give you a few more details of this particular cab ride. First, we ask him how many cows he has because, you see, Botswana still has a very traditional way of doing things meaning that dowries are still paid to the wife’s family. On average eight cows would be given to a local girl’s family and the number would go up the farther north the woman is from. Considering we are from Canada, we figured at least 150 cows would be required before any of us would agree to marry our cab driver. Cattle are also a traditional means of telling how wealthy a man is. This particular cab driver told us he owned about ten cows (honestly, I don’t think he owned any) and so we proceeded to tell him that wasn’t nearly enough to marry a Canadian girl. We’ve also been told in situations like this one to tell men that they wouldn’t like Canadian girls because we don’t like to cook or clean and we are very mouthy. We told our enamoured taxi driver all of these things at which point he pretty much stopped talking to us more so, in my opinion, because he likely thought we were crazy. Good story, right?!

Alright, on to Sunday. We heard about a Farmer’s Market happening at the #1 Ladies Opera House and Café (yes, named after the books) and were really looking forward to some homemade African wares. Once again, we hail a cab and ask him if he knows where the market is that is supposed to be at the Opera House which is near Game City. He says ‘yes, let’s go’. We arrive at Game City (the biggest mall in Gaborone) and as he is pulling into the parking lot we remind him that this is not where we want to go, where we want to go is the market. To this he responds, ‘market, what market?’ And, once again folks, this is my life in Gabs. Our driver proceeds to ask random people on the street where this place is to no avail. Apparently no one knows where this place is. Finally, we get directions from a friend and tell the driver only to have him ask, ‘are the directions from a Motswana (person from Botswana)?’ We respond with an annoyed ‘no’ and tell him where to drive. When we finally get there, we realise why no one knows that this market and Opera House/Café exist; everyone there is white. It is definitely a Farmers’ Market of the North American variety. We enjoyed it none-the-less until the point that we realised we needed to find a way back into the city somehow. Everyone else had their own cars and so commenced our walk. Luckily, in our few weeks here, we’ve made a few friends. We called one of them, asked them to get us a cab company number and waited. The next fun part of our adventure included trying to explain where we were so that we could actually be picked up. That, my dear readers, was an epic fail! Thankfully, a man in a jeep took pity on us and asked if we needed a ride somewhere. He was from Botswana, white though, had a South African accent, and had family that he was planning to visit very soon in Canada. He was legit, our saviour. Once we’d been so kindly dropped off at Game City, we met our taxi who was, in fact, waiting out in the middle of nowhere for us, but we just weren’t at the same spot in that same middle of nowhere. He’s annoyed and charges us more than we should have paid, but, at this point, we just want to get home. Home we get and decide to chalk this all up to an experience and a few lessons learned. The main lesson being, never assume a taxi driver knows where he is going!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dedicated but not Limited to - "All the Single Ladies"

If you so choose, please take a moment and play this song in the background: Beyonce - Single Ladies.

Yet another cultural phenomenon to which I have to get used to here in Bots is the utter shamelessness of the men here. In all honesty, I don't think I'll ever get used to it. We were briefed on this aspect of Botswana culture prior to leaving Canada and again, in a bit more detail, upon arriving in Gabs. We were basically told that it would be common to receive marriage proposals daily, that personal space did not really exist in Botswana, that the men here cast a very wide 'net' in terms of picking up women, and that MCPs (Multiple Concurrent Partners) are the norm. Now I have not personally been proposed to per say. I was told by a man that if he was Canadian he would definitely marry me so perhaps that counts. One of my roommates has, however, already been asked if she wants a Motswana (person from Botswana) husband. Tempting...but NO!

We walk down the streets here and get stared at. Mercilessly. The men holler, whistle, walk up to us and engage in conversation, greet us with lines like, "Hi Gorgeous" or "Good Afternoon, Beautiful". In fact, in the grocery store yesterday, I had a Motswana man say "Hello, How's it?" (the same as saying 'how are you') and after I said "Hello" and "Fine" back in my usual cheerful demeanor, I continued on my way only to hear, "You look very nice. Maybe I can help you with your shopping?" At that point, I just ignored him (I was already at the other end of the aisle), shook my head, and purchased my lunch. Things like that happen everyday, everywhere, pretty much every single time we go anywhere in public. It's harmless, but gets quite annoying.

You see, one of the major issues in many parts of Africa is the fact that white people are often stigmatised as being 'stuck up' or even worse, 'racist'. With that said, we hardly ever completely ignore people who try to talk to us. That would just be rude and we'd be playing right into the stigma. There is a very fine line, however, between acknowledging and being nice to the men when situations such as the ones above arise, and being too nice and therefore encouraging them (not that they need any encouragement to persist).

On that note, enter into this blog, our first party at the WUSC House. We met a load of people, but one person in particular will stand out in my mind for at least a short while. Sadly, I don't have a photo, but let the story of China (a typical Motswana man) begin. I really have no clue whether that is really his name or not, but that's what he told everyone. My experience with China began with a normal introduction (I'll show you the typical handshake when greeting young people some time) and then a secret. He proceeds to whisper in my ear, "You're very beautiful." My response, because I'm me, "That's not a secret!" And we laugh - he he ha ha. The night goes on and I agree to dance with China at which point the conversation goes pretty much as I expected.

Begin conversation:
C: You seem insecure.
B: No, I just have a serious boyfriend at home in Canada.
C: Well, let me tell you something. I have a girlfriend in South Africa. They are both so far away so what does it matter?
B: (at this point, I think to myself, 'typical') It does matter to me.
C: Ok, then I don't want to kiss you or make love to you, I just want to dance and maybe show you around the city.
B: Ok, we can dance.
C: Do you know why I really like you?
B: Why?
C: Because you smell good.
B: (again, I think to myself, 'uh huh - nice line') Well, thanks.
C: You know what else?
B: What?
C: I really like girls with glasses. I think they are smarter.
B: Well, I am pretty smart.
C: Smarter than me?
B: Maybe.
End conversation.

Of course, that isn't word-for-word, but you get the jist. I managed to avoid China for almost the rest of the evening. At one point I was talking to another guy, Soldier (likely another made up name) and China got a little jealous. He walked away mid-conversation and so I continued talking to Soldier. A little while later, I decided to get jiggy wit' it yet again and started bustin' a move with Soldier. It didn't take long and there was China, jealous as could be. I managed to use the good ol' bathroom break excuse (I did actually have to go though) and, in turn, avoid all men for the rest of the night. Success!

The best part about this whole situation is that China gave pretty much the same spiel to one of my roommates. He mentioned to her how he had never kissed a white girl before to which she responded something along the lines of, "That's nice, but your first isn't going to be with me." I guess it's alright for him to schmooze numerous girls throughout the evening, but it's an entirely different story if the girls he has his eye on talk to numerous guys. Apparently the double standard exists here in Bots too.

Another roomy of mine had an even more interesting night than I did. First she was asked to be in a lesbian relationship which was actually kind of heart-wrenching because homosexual acts are illegal in Botswana and punishable with jail sentences. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for that woman here. But let's keep this blog cheerful and continue with the night's festivities. She was also deemed to be a young man's soul mate throughout the night. He really would not give up and every time he managed to find her, he just kept at it. Talk about persistence. In his defense, she does look like an angel with her flowing blonde hair.

With all of that said, "ladies, ladies, ladies" (imagine that in kind of a sing-songy sleezy male voice), you could have a lot, and I mean A LOT, of 'fun' here if you really wanted to. On the other hand if you are naive and think these men are only whispering in your ear, you'd be setting yourself up for some serious heartbreak. If you're lucky, he'll be like China and divulge the fact that he has a girlfriend, but chances are that information will be the real secret he should be telling you. Relationships just aren't the same here in Bots...not the same at all!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen: "Botswana Time"

Prior to our arrival we were given a bit of a hint as to what exactly "Botswana Time" entailed. When we arrived here, we continued to be given bits of information relating to "Botswana Time". People joked about things taking longer here, people being 4 hours late for meetings, stuff like that. I mean, I had an idea what "Botswana Time" meant, but not until these last few days at work have I really come to realise exactly what everyone means when they say "Botswana Time". In short, it means that nothing happens quickly here. Quickly, really just isn't an option. We wait for everything here, everywhere we go. For example, my supervisor (did I mention how awesome she is?!) and I waited for at least an hour for Botswana Post to get about 10 or so packing slips ready so that we could ship some boxes. Everything was done by hand. Everything took forever. Another example, we went to the Tertiary Education Council and waited for only about half an hour for a woman that apparently wasn't even working that day, but no one seemed to know that. It's nuts! Emails hardly ever go through. Half of the time the phones don't work. And snail mail, well forget about snail mail. No one mails anything! Bills are paid by going to the place of business with a cheque in hand and typically waiting in a line...forever! Almost everything here is done face-to-face, hand-to-hand, in the flesh.

Now, face-to-face is not really a bad thing. It's just really not efficient. At all. What I have come to realise in my short time in Bots thus far is that efficiency really isn't a concern here, not like it is in North America. Pers
onal contact and relationships are more important here and the more I think about it the more commendable I think it is. In all honesty, the inefficiency is frustrating and, quite frankly, it's driving me nuts, but when I really think about it, the principle (for the most part) is understandable.

So now, it's time to get philosophical on y'all! Can a nation become "developed" and still keep the intimacy of doing business through human contact? I honestly do not know the answer to that. Nor do I know if I could give up the fast paced, instantaneous response world that I am so accustomed to.

Ok, a few more things on the economics here.
1. In case you follow BBC News or this makes another popular news source, there is a Public Service employee strike going on here in Bots right now. Basically all of the primary and secondary schools are closed along with a number of the publicly staffed hospitals. In some areas (NOT Gabs) the rioting has gotten pretty bad between the students and the police. The only cause for concern for us Canadian volunteers is in the case that one of us gets really sick and we need urgent medical care. While we would be going to a private clinic, there is some concern that because the public ones are so understaffed,the private ones will be overwhelmed. With that said, I don't plan on getting sick, so no need to worry your dear heads.
2. It is common place and actually culturally expec
ted that if you are averagely well-off you should have a person employed to clean your home. The basic logic is that people in that service industry would not be able to make a living if other people who clearly make more money than people in that service industry didn't employ them. Tuesday is the day Rita comes to our house and cleans it for us. I like Rita very much!
3. I will post a photo of the street cleaning crews here shortly, I just don't have my camera cord here with me now. So you know how in North America, we have those big machines that sweep and wash the streets and make them so purdy? Well, here in Gabs, that sweeping is done by hand. No word of a lie. Crews of people sweep (by hand), shovel (by hand), wheel bar
row (by hand), and dump (by hand). I didn't know until today that this manual labour is part of the Botswana government's strategy to eradicate poverty. The crews of people are comprised of members of society who cannot get work anywhere else. It's really very sad. The government pays them 600 pula (or so) every month I think which works out to about $85. My supervisor told me she tries not to think about how desperate these people are when she sees them because it upsets her too much.

Everyday, I learn a little more about this place. I love it here, I really do!

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.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dumela Gaborone

O my goodness...here we go!

I am in Gabs and finally have decent access to the internet. With that said, here, my wonderful followers, is my first blog post from Botswana. I'm not going to lie to you; the 36.5 hours in transit was horrid. The planes were packed and hot. I got sick to my stomach about half way through the flight from Vancouver to London and it stayed with me the entire trip and for pretty much my first two days in Gabs. On the bright side, I feel quite normal now and am settling in nicely.

I arrived in Gabs minus one suitcase (as was to be expected). Of course, it was the one with all of my clothing, but perhaps that was better than it being the one full of school supplies. You see, when I finally got my bag (only a day later) the lock was missing and it was clear that the suitcase had been rummaged through. Luckily, no one wanted any of my belongings. Had it been

the suitcase full of supplies, I may have had a different story to tell. On a semi-related note, everything I have read has said that the people of Gabs are pleasant and most willing to help when asked. On the contrary, when I had to report my bag missing, the woman was far from pleasant. In fact, I am pretty sure she was making fun of me with her colleague. The reason I say ‘pretty sure’ is because she was speaking Setswana, but even though that was the case, I understood the gist of what she was saying. Needless to say, my first experience with a Batswana was not welcoming at all. It may very well have had something to do with the fact that she had a lot of difficulty with the man in front of me, so much difficulty, in fact, that she threatened to call the police. Fun stuff upon my arrival in Bots!

On to the house…which is wonderful. It’s likely one of the nicest houses in Gabs, living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 ½ bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, hot running water, fully functioning electricity, and…

an electric fence complete with barbed wire all around the premises. Security is a real issue here. Robbery and petty theft are the main worries here. With that said, we have the electric fence I mentioned in addition to a solid iron security gate and solid cement wall that surrounds the yard just below the electric part of the fence. We have to keep the blinds closed so people cannot see in and most importantly, never use our laptops in clear view of anyone. When out and about in the city, it’s very important to keep cameras, cell phones, laptops secured and unadvertised (as in not walking around like a tourist with a fancy camera hanging from my neck). If I let people know I have it, they’re likely going to find a way to steal it. Other than that though, Gabs is really quite safe. Serious crime is not an issue and the punishment for burglary is quite harsh. Basically, as we were told by the Botswana Police, ‘security starts with us’. So, I won’t be stupid, I’ll pay attention, and hopefully won’t have anything stolen. J I’m living in the house with 2 other Canadians who have different placements in Gabs. So far, so great! I think the next 3+ months will be wonderful.

Events thus far…

I’ve been in orientation until today. Monday was get-myself-legally-entitled-to-be-in-the-country day. The first step was the Police Station for passport authentification and then on to Immigration for an Exemption Permit. Now, I am official allowed to be here until August 18th.

In the afternoon, the group of us went to Mokolodi Game Reserve for lunch, a tour of the reptile gardens, and a mini-safari! It was incredible. Doug (the dreamy reptile handler from Zimbabwe) showed us a number of venomous and non-venomous snakes native to Botswana along with some lizards, tortoises, birds, and monkeys! The monkeys are soooo cute. On the safari, we saw impalas, warthogs, ostriches, giraffes, and hippos in the distance. In the next few weeks, they are supposed to be getting new cheetahs that people are able to go in and pet. Me thinks a return trip may be in order just to experience that (and perhaps see Doug again). Ha!

Tuesday was really just training all day. We had a session where we learned a bit of basic Setswana and a session on Gender and Development in the country. Both were great; however, I would have liked to spend a lot more time learning the language. Tuesday afternoon was a lesson in public transit, and let me tell ya, it’s interesting. Combis are small buses that carry about 12 people. They are packed, hot, and cheap. Public taxis are not as packed, just as hot, but not quite as cheap. It’s really quite difficult to explain, but with time, we’ll have it all figured out. One thing I do know for sure is that the private taxi drivers (the ones we’ve used twice now to take us home from one of the malls) are really quite rude, that and they never know where they are going unless you can explain it to them. Things are just so different here, but it’s all about the experience and I’m just taking it all in! Wednesday we had a general session about the economics, culture, and geography of Botswana followed by a session on HIV/AIDS in Botswana. It’s amazing how far this country has come in terms of the treatment of patients. Where the fight against the pandemic is failing is in the area of prevention. In the afternoon on Wednesday, we made our way to the small museum here in Gabs. There is an Art Gallery as well, but we didn’t have time to see that. I’ll have to make my way back at some point.

As for today, Thursday, it is my first day of work. I don’t have a lot to do right now because the staff just finished one major part of the application process with the students. On Monday, I will hopefully be able to meet most of them and assist them with their study permit applications. First step for me, fill out an application so that I know what I’m talking about! There are potentially 47 students who will be traveling to Canadian schools this fall, all studying some form of Engineering, all sponsored by the Botswana government. It’s impeccable that here education is free for every Batswana all the way up until the end of their undergraduate degrees. If only education was as important to every government!

In conclusion (finally) Gabs is great. Not quite as developed as I envisioned, but really a nice city. I can buy pretty much anything here that I can buy in Canada. The weather is gorgeous, much like a “normal” Manitoba spring really. It is quite cool in the mornings and evenings and nice and warm in the afternoon. Of course, the daily high is a bit above that in Canada (around 24 degrees Celsius), but it really isn’t scorching hot at all. The glories of Winter in Bots!

On one last note, I just found out that Friday is only a half day, meaning I finish work at 12:00 noon! I work 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every other day of the week so that is how I manage to work only 8:00 a.m. to noon on Friday! Score! I also just found out that I have to assist on a presentation to WUSC National Board Members who are visiting us tomorrow. Tossed right in and lovin’ it!

Go Siame for now!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Go Siame Brandon

Now only one of my suitcases remains open on the floor of my spare bedroom. The case containing all of the school supplies for WUSC's partner organisations and the university course calendars for the students I will be working with is now zipped, standing upright, and waiting to be locked up. It's not all that heavy, but I won't get the final verdict on whether or not it's guilty of being over weight until I get to the airport.

Did I mention that that will occur tomorrow night? Mom is on her way to Brandon as I type this blog post. We'll be leaving for Winnipeg around noon tomorrow once I get my car insurance changed, my internet cancelled, and some money deposited into my bank account. We should hit my aunt and uncle's around 2:30 or so and head to the airport for around 4:00. I'll get my baggage checked (and hope to see it again someday), say some tear-filled goodbyes, and board my first of four flights at 6:55 p.m. At 9:20 a.m. Gaborone, Botswana time (or 2:20 a.m. Brandon, Manitoba time), on Sunday, the Airbus Industrie A319 Jet that I am in will touch down on the tarmac and shortly after that my feet will touch African soil.

I can't wait. I am confident that I have a lot to bring to WUSC-Botswana and the International Scholarship Management program from the years of experience I have working with the resettlement of African students in Canada. I'll be working with 60 university students who are enrolled in professional programs (nursing, engineering, etc.) at Canadian colleges and universities this fall. I'll be getting their immigration information together, ensuring their scholarships are all set to go, and giving them an as in-depth cultural awareness training orientation as I possibly can.

I am also positive, that I will gain so much more from them than I have to give. This experience is going to change my life. There is a good chance I'm not going to want to leave Gabs once I get settled in there. There's a slight chance that I won't (leave, I mean). My African heart is yearning to be taught how to speak. Botswana, here I come!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shopping to Pack

As my suitcases lie open on the floor of my spare bedroom, I find myself asking 'what does one pack when one is going to be spending 4-months in Gaborone, Botswana, Africa?' The answer, I have come to conclude is 'I have no clue!' With less than a week until I leave, I called in the expertise of the one person whose advice and support I know I can always count on, my Mommy. Yes, I am 27-years old and I still need my Mommy. And, as you can see, I am not afraid to admit it. Before the April 30th winter storm hit Brandon (yes, that's right, April 30), my Mom made the drive to Brandon and we set out to shop to pack my suitcase. We entered the mall on a blustery rain-filled morning and exited on a blustery snow-filled afternoon. I feel the need to add, at this point, that it is currently 24 degrees Celsius in Gaborone. My very educated assumption is that there is absolutely NO snow there. We have about 2 feet here in Brandon. On the kind of bright side, it is set to be 9 degrees tomorrow (Monday) so it will all melt. The reason I say "kind of bright side" is that we definitely don't need the additional moisture. The Assiniboine River which runs right through our small city is already bursting and attempting, to no avail thanks to the diligent city crews, to spread itself out onto our main roads.

Of course, I digress so back to shopping and packing. I finally bought a carry-on that meets South African Airway's requirements. What I thought was a rather small bag, actually turns out to hold quite a bit of loot! I think I'll be fine if my other luggage happens to get a little side-tracked. I've been inventorying (I don't think that is actually a word) the contents of my luggage as I go along and I have to say I think I am set. I have no clue whether I'll have a washing machine in Gabs. My guess is that I won't and, therefore, I will be washing my clothes by hand. With that said, I have packed enough clothing to last me approximately 2-weeks, meaning I will, at the very least, have to do laundry that often. After a few hours of shopping, a nap break, and another hour or so of shopping, my suitcase of personal belongings is almost packed! I have a few more things to get, but all-in-all, it's looking pretty darn good. A few highlights: a super awesome multi-color-plaid-button-up-long-sleeved-tee, a colorfully striped Roots canvas purse complete with inner zippered pouch (a must when dealing with the pick pockets I have been warned about), and a signable photo frame which I hope to have signed by all of the students I will be working with in Bots!

My second suitcase (that I have yet to tackle) will contain supplies, course calendars for all of the colleges and universities that the Batswana students will be attending, along with school supplies for daycares, preschools, and youth programs that WUSC-Botswana partners with. As if going to Botswana for 4-months isn't exciting enough; I also get to shop for one of my most favorite things in the world...school supplies!