Sunday, November 29, 2009

Feeling a bit sorry....

Last night there was a fund-raising dinner for a women's refuge here in Gaborone, called something like Kanisano, supported amongst others by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of Germany, or 'by Friedrich' as one speaker said. Expensive tickets, nice venue, big anticipation!

Alas.....it was supposed to start at 7 pm, by 8 pm half the guests had drifted in....at 8.10 pm it was finally decided to start in the half-empty (of half-full!) hall. By then it seemed like there was pressure on time (was the hall only rented till 10 pm?). Given the price of the tickets my team had all saved their appetite for the evening....so we were gasping. Not least because it seems that the drink was not included in the tickets (had it been more people might have been more motivated, later in the evening, to sign a commitment form for further funding).

One of the organisers then read out a list of all the organisations who were attending - at least it was all the organisations who may have paid (better than nothing), but many were not attending. (My team was out in full force!). Bit embarassing, that. It got worse... I spotted quite a few people who I knew, which was nice - I am getting into this Botswana scene! An entertainment was procured, with some youngsters dancing to Michael Jackson music (a school mate of my son's, over 20 years ago, was a huge fan, so I remember this).

Then finally we were allowed dinner, which was nice. Lovely puddings, especially - Botswana is quite good at traditional British puddings, with a compulsory trifle at every meal. I bought a bottle of wine for the table....

Then, the show went on, with a video being shown about the refuge's work. The person who was supposed to introduce this had also not turned up (Serious embarassment, no?). So someone else introduced it, rather at length. The master of ceremonies did a thing about how to treat a woman (compliment her - I turned to my neighbour and said 'don't I compliment you every day?' - she agreed. Flirting is Fun!). Bit of a thin ice situation, all the same, given the environment.

The video was ok, nothing new for me; I'm not sure about other people in the hall. One of my colleagues who had been affected by domestic violence earlier in her life, found that extremely hard to take - it was really brave for her to come at all. Later the master of ceremonies announced that just that minute a child victim of sexual abuse had been admitted to the refuge (really?, I ask myself). But it's good that at least this is talked about, unlike in Georgia. (Though many of the guests were not Motswana, but expats).

Then there was the awards moment, perhaps of donors? I missed the start of this, having gone out for a smoke (and yes, I am cutting back a bit, having come to an agreement with a colleague - she found the right button to push, after everyone else told me just to stop). When I got back, I saw most of the pile of awards, about 10 or so, having moved from the left to the right of the table - I think only one beneficiary was there. I felt so sorry for the organisers!

I suppose if people pay at least the organisation gets their money; though at the same time they will also have paid up front for the buffet (for the paid number of guests).

One interesting thing - SADC, the Southern Africa Development Coorperation has some sort of agreement on domestic violence and dealing with it; of all the 15 or so member states only Botswana and one other have not signed this. hmmmm.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Registering that there SIM card

The new law in Botswana requires every holder of a prepaid SIM card to register their number by the end of 2009. Did someone mention 'invasion of privacy'?

Having only 2 more weeks here this year I thought it was high time to get it done. Went round to the MASCOM office near the main mall....Every time I go there there is a huge queue....As there was today. Not only a huge, slow-moving queue with about one person dealing with it, but also no forms for registering the phone - they had run out (yesterday I had seen a guy with a several inches thick bundle leaving the place...). I was told to wait outside and they would soon get a form. Lots of people were sitting outside, slightly in the shade, waiting. I waited for about 15 minutes or so, by which time a queue had also formed outside. No forms appeared.

I got narked, and felt guilty because I was the only white guy in the queue... but eventually got up and cycled to Riverwalk, to buy those black trousers required for next weeks' 'President's Concert' - still need to find a bow tie....

Realised that I might have time to get my hair cut, too, and as I went upstairs to the hairdresser's I found a MASCOM office next to it; with hardly any queue! Went to get the modem configured - to get me through the times when my accommodation's internet is down; filled in the form and had my passport ready to confirm that I am who I am.

Only to find that no-one checks the form and it is just stuffed in a box. Hmmm. So what is the point of registering? People could put in any information in the form..... But job done!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Cold, cold, cold....

Since Wednesday it has been raining, mostly non-stop - there have been a couple of breaks in the rain, but not many. The temperature is about 15 degrees or so...People are freezing.

Even here in Gaborone this shows up problems with drainage (not a problem that much considered in roadbuilding, it seems). Everywhere there are large, very large puddles - a stream is running down the road outside the complex, even in my complex getting out is a problem. I now have to take a detour virtually versus someone's patio, the pool and its surrounds are merging...

I wonder what it will be like in the countryside, in villages which don't have that many paved roads, where children often don't have shoes, where people cook outside their tiny houses (and how is the firewood kept dry). I wonder about people in tiny houses at the same level as the surrounding area - how do they keep the water out. I hope the rain is local to Gaborone, but even here there are house with mud floors etc, pit latrines in the garden - overall about 24% of people do not have access to any form of sanitation...

The government has a disaster unit. If, in a little while, you hear about severe flooding in Botswana, you read it here first.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hot is...

  • when you don't want to go out because it's so hot
  • so you end up walking around the flat and balcony in boxershorts all day
  • when the brick paving outside is too scorching for bare feet (how do poor Africans do it?)
  • when the pool is so warm that it feels like swimming in soup
  • when going on the balcony from the air-conditioned flat is like entering an oven
Not sure that staying in the flat all day is all that good for a guy, but it saves getting sunburnt.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Botswana culture

from http://www.gov.bw/cgi-bin/news.cgi?d=20091104&i=Moatlhodi_appeals_for_officers_accommodation

'Moatlhodi appeals for officers accommodation04 November, 2009
FRANCISTOWN - Tonota South MP, Mr Pono Moatlhodi has urged his constituents to assist in providing affordable accommodation to nurses and other officers posted to their village.
Mr Moatlhodi, who is alsoDeputy Speaker of the National Assembly, said when addressing a kgotla meeting recently that civil servants may not be able to stay in their village if the rentals are high.

He told residents that rentals for private property are set by the owner and no one can advise to lower them.

The MP said government will in the near future post nurses and other government officials to Tonota Primary Hospital.

On other issues, Mr Moatlhodi commended residents for taking Ipelegeng projects (public works) seriously. He said de-bushing at primary schools is a welcome initiative as pupils were prone to being attacked by snakes.

He said all primary schools in Tonota did well in the Primary School Leaving Examination with Tonota Primary School scooping position one for the second consecutive year. This, he said, was due to concerted efforts by parents and teachers. He advised parents of students at other primary schools to take leaf from Tonota Primary School in order to improve their childrens results He also noted that, Batswana voted in large numbers during the past election and that as the election dust has settled, residents should come to terms and work towards developing their village. I want to call for cooperation and coherence in serving the public, he said urging all councillors in the constituency be they opposition or BDP members to unite with him to form a better team that would deliver to electorates.

Mr Moatlhodi also briefed residents on the new SHHA loan scheme and that funds are now available. He talked about ISPAAD and advised the area agricultural demonstrator to ensure that seeds are enough and ready for distribution. For their part residents complained of women, who attend kgotla meetings wearing trousers. They also complained about drivers who over speed because they pose danger to the public.

Residents called for traffic lights at a junction near the new bus rank saying to date more than seven pedestrians have lost their lives while more than five accidents have occurred on the newly constructed road.'


Sunday, November 01, 2009

In praise of idleness

I've been reading Bertrand Russell's 'In Praise of Idleness'. The title attracted me - and I remember my mother eading his stuff when she was about my age, and I always wondered what she saw in him. I think I still do, though it's interesting reading these 15 essays written in the 1930s.

He covers a wide range of topics, from idleness, to architecture and social conditions, to communism and fascism, the cynicism of the young, the powers of capital (to use a Marxist phrase). I cannot quite work out what kind of type he was. Clearly he was not a scientist - while there are references to other thinkers/writers, they are not properly referenced. While one could argue that perhaps the style of academic writing may have developed since then, in fact Freud who wrote a good 20 - 50 years earlier, was fairly meticulous in his referencing. So he is not a scientist - is he 'just' a thinker? He did get a Nobel Prize for literature - which makes me wonder what constitutes 'literature' - I always thought it was novels, poetry and such like - but I don't think he wrote those.

The book is fairly readable; the foreword talks about his wit - I did not notice much of that, unless it was unintentional. Clearly his ideas are somewhat dated. But there are some interesting moments:

In his essay on idleness he suggests that 4 hours work is quite enough for anyone, given the possibilities of modern (1935!) machinery. If the income from work were properly distributed we could all live quite happily and enjoy idleness - time to sit and think. (I am getting better at that....though for a long time that damned protestant work ethic got in the way). He even suggests that teachers should not work for more than 2 hours per day to keep themselves fresh and interested in their charges.

On architecture and social conditions he suggests that families should live together, eg in apartment blocks, with a communal kitchen and kindergarten, to free (especially working) women from the drudgery of housework. The kitchen would provide wholesome meals for families (this might be desirable given the UK obesity epidemic) and the nursery would be child-safe so the children could explore their limits; they would spend all day there, only returning to their parents after the evening meal. A bit like the kibbutz idea - at the time attachment theory (relating to babies and children) was not even thought of. ...

On finance and financiers he writes: 'the interests of finance in recent years have been opposed to the interests of the general public....It is unwise to leave financiers to the unfettered pursuit of their private profits'. Something we could echo today....

On youthful cynicism he suggests that young men (sic) in Russia are not cynical because they accept ...the Communist philosphy. Perhaps he was not aware of the Stalinist clampdown on free speech, even thought, at the same time.

He writes a lot about stoicism and mental health, particularly in the face of death. He suggests, for example, that parents who lose a child should not hide their grief from their other children, who might then think that they would not care either if this child died. I suppose there is not much danger of hiding parental grief these days - perhaps the opposite is the case.

Although he often mentions the lot of downtrodden wives, he is still a man of his period; discussing body and soul he writes 'we knew that a man consists of a soul and body'. And pray, what do women consist of?

Interesting reading, in terms of social construction of social categories.....

and now I will idle some more.