A view of Mochudi, a suburb of Gaborone

A view of Mochudi, a suburb of Gaborone
A suburb of Gaborone in July, 2008

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Episode Ten: Vignettes with images

The rainy season is in full swing.  Apparently it’s swinging a little too much – we are getting more rain than usual, which the Ministry of Health believes will cause a mosquito population explosion.  This in turn will probably lead to increased risk of malaria, so we are all taking mosquito-avoidance measures very seriously.  Some of us have decided to take our anti-malarial prophylaxis as well, though we are all getting mixed advice on that score.  Word on the street is that there is not yet a single confirmed case of malaria contracted in Gaborone, but on the other hand none of us wants to be the first case.  I think that anti-malarials such as doxycycline are available for very little money; I am waiting for the students to report back regarding whether they can get the medicine for free at the campus health clinic.

So, it has turned out to be an interesting time to live in Gaborone and teach about malaria – next week and the following two are our unit on malaria.  The assignment for next week is to read the book “The Fever,” by Sonia Shah.  I recommend it to everyone.

The plants are very excited about the rainy season.  Everything is in bloom.  For example, here is a picture of a beautiful flowering tree just inside one of the gates at the University of Botswana.

The students are settling into their classes, including Setswana, which includes a combination of conversational Setswana and Setswana culture.  They are learning a lot, and passing some of it on to me – for example, I had no idea that when one arrives, it is one’s job to greet first.  So I had been rudely waiting for someone to greet me when I walk into a room, when instead it was my responsibility all along to ask everyone how they are doing, etc.  I am dying to know how e-mail is handled – should I start each one with a preamble inquiring into the recipient’s well-being?  If so, I have really been messing that up!   But none of the emails I receive from any Motswana have begun with such a preamble, so perhaps I am doing fine.  I have obtained a copy of a grammar written by a Peace Corps volunteer; the title of the grammar is "There is no word for grammar in Setswana."  I am glad the young people are taking Setswana and not this older person!!!

Here is an image of the New Student Centre, where the Office of International Education and Partnerships is housed.  There are ATM machines inside, the book store, and lots of other interesting places like a room full of lockers and a meditation room.  Some day there will be a food court inside, which is super duper exciting, but probably won’t happen while we are visiting.

Here is an image of the block of dormitories where many undergraduates live.  It is called “Las Vegas,” ostensibly because it is so much fancier than the older dormitories.  But one cannot help but wonder whether what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

In our biology & public health course, we have 6 local people and 1 visiting spouse of a Fulbright scholar.   Everyone worked in small groups this last week, and I was glad to see some of the U.S. students really going out of their way to work with the local people.  Their colleges should be so proud of them!  I am so grateful that 6 local women are willing to tolerate this crazy American professor.
Here is an example of a public health message at the University -- I think it is an anti-drug message rather than an anti-love message, but to my mind neither drugs nor love sound too attractive.  I wonder if there are many words for different kinds of love in Setswana.

I went shopping to the African Mall with my friends Melinda and Priscilla, where they bought beautiful traditional fabrics, called “German prints,” even though they are traditional.  Now that I know what they look like I can see women wearing them, which is apparently a sign of allegiance to traditional culture.  They are lively prints in beautiful almost jewel-tone colors of blue, purple, red, orange, green, and brown.  I would like to get an “outfit” of them made before I leave.  I would like to learn the history of these prints, to find out when they were first imported from Germany.  I wish that I could remember how to sew simple things, because then I could bring home a bunch of different examples and at least make some throw pillows or edge some table cloths.  It would be fun to have a bunch of Botswana pillows.

We leave for Johannesburg this Friday, to go to the Apartheid Museum, the Origins Centre, and tour Soweto through Lebo Backpackers.  Hard to imagine that I was part of a group that walked from Santa Fe to Las Vegas, NM to help raise awareness about apartheid, and next week I'll be in Soweto.  Shosholoza!!


  1. Great post and that sign from UB is fascinating!

  2. Your blog is AWESOME too -- everybody should read it!

  3. Amanda Udis-KesslerJanuary 23, 2011 at 6:35 AM

    Fabulous post! Most enjoyable to read!!

  4. Have fun in Jozi. Cheers, Chet

  5. Thanks for the book recommendation - just got it from the library! Can't wait to read it!