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Eight Months of A New Beginning…Part I

 

I am beginning the eighth month of my stay in Botswana. I have had a good experience so far. Arriving in southern Africa has given me a feeling of being part of something bigger than me, although I really cannot give concrete form to that concept.   I have seen things that are both familiar and foreign.  I have experienced a myriad of emotions, some of which conflict with each other.  I have felt great joy in actually being here and sorrow as I witness the disparity between a people in their own country and foreigners – non-Batswana.

Rather than overwhelm you with the details of my experiences and thoughts all at once, I will share them individually each day until the end of the month.  Beginning with the one below. It was the first time I had spent any significant time with a  Batswana.I should have been more sensitive.  But when I saw the pictures of faces staring back at me as though they were from a different era, my only thought was that these were obviously the children of her children.  The realization that they were indeed her children and not her grandchildren was brought to me by her words.  Words that caused me to look at her again with renewed inquiry.

  Just how old was this woman whom I had thought to be my age or older?

When I re-examined her face I could see that she bore not the wrinkles of age, in fact her face was lineless.  What she bore was the experience of a life being fully lived.  She is the mother of nine.  Each of her nine children’s birth and rearing was the overlay of her facial ruggedness.  She is a solemn woman who is not given to much laughter or many smiles.

She spoke of a son who himself had become a father.  Although she lamented his immaturity and inability to care for himself, much less another human being, she spoke almost defensively about his need to not take responsibility for the child he had assisted in conceiving.  I was surprised by her utterances.  She was not one to speak much.  I got the impression she spoke on her own terms as though it is the one thing in her life she controls fully.

Earlier I had tried to broach a conversation with her.  She stopped me mid-way and said, “We will talk later.  I must get back to work now.” At that point I felt as though she needed to tell me what should be done.  It happened again at the end of the first day.  She told me that she needed some cleaning supplies.  When I asked what it was she needed, she gave me a list that duplicated the items I already had.  The difference was in the name of the brands.  There are certain brands that she not only prefers but, expects.  I think she may be very disappointed once she sees that I also have a preference for cleaning supplies which are neither the ones currently in my home nor the brands she named.  I am going to teach her to say, “Amway.”

At the end of the day she handed me a photo album of her family.  This is the point where my assumptions gave me pause.  It was here that I saw the faces of people I now know as her children looking back at me.  She is a mother, and I know that she is also daughter, wife, and confidant. Now she is my housekeeper.  She shares her life with me in bits and pieces.  She has become warmer to our relationship and I suppose my American ways.  We are finding our rhythm together.  Perhaps one day she will tell me her story.  And perhaps I will share more of my own.  For now, I am content that she is happy married to the man she loves in accordance with the law and the traditions of her heritage.

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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

South Africa – The Sandton Edition

So we arrived in South Africa about 20 minutes after leaving home.  That was the border.  It would take another 3 hours or so to reach our destination of Johannesburg.  Driving across South Africa (except when entering into the villages) was reminiscent of driving across parts of the eastern United States or the hill country of Texas.  It all looked so familiar.  The one glaring difference was that everyone including us, was driving on the wrong side of the road!  Just kidding.  In southern Africa, as in Great Britain, we drive on the left side of the road.  Since we brought our American standard vehicle, that placed the driver in the position of not being able to easily see how to pass on the right.  Small annoyances.  But not something that cannot be overcome.  We are on a journey!

We arrived at our destination (aided by GPS) in due time.  A friend had given me two suggestions on places to lodge that adhered to my requirements that the accommodations be safe, nice, and accessible to shopping and restaurants.  Both were Bed & Breakfasts.  The first had no open reservations for accommodations.  The second, The Oasis was the only place her very “picky” friend would stay.  That sounded good to me, they had availability and there we lodged.

The Oasis lived up to its name! It was in the middle of the community of Sandton, just outside of Johannesburg, SA.  It was in the word of our eleven-year-old charge, “exquisite”.

Room 12

Inside Room 12

After getting settled in our room we walked around the grounds and then took a quick drive to explore our surroundings.  We were hungry but could not decide what kind of food we wanted.  We ended up agreeing on a place I shun in the States.  It was at least a little bit of home that I had not encountered in almost four months.  We had lunch at McDonald’s!

We visited the Sandton Mall which was a wonderful excursion into “western-style” shopping; And, Nelson Mandela Square;

we trekked into Johannesburg, which had an other worldly feel; We also made it to the Rosebank and African Craft Malls.  By far, the visit to Johannesburg was the most immediately affecting.

Johannesburg was bustling and busting with activity and people.  LOTS of people.  LOTS of vehicles.  And a LOT of disregard for traffic signals and right of way.  Buildings that apparently were once center-pieces of the city have fallen into disrepair, so that many look as though they are relics of a war-zone.  I suppose, in some sense of the term, they are.  I marveled at how dingy the middle of town looked, how sad and despairing.  However, I should have not been too surprised since most of the businesses that once supported this infrastructure, including the stock exchange, had moved to Sandton (Mention Sandton and the almost immediate response is, “Oh, that is the rich part of Johannesburg.”  Historically it is the locale of “white Flight after the dismantling of apartheid.  Sandton has been dubbed, Africa’s richest square mile.”)  The financial hub was gone and it was as though the city moved without telling all of its residents.

 

Honestly, I had never before experienced anything like I was seeing. I tried to compare it to New York.  No.  I tried to compare it to Paris.  No, again.  Los Angeles/Compton/Watts? Uh, no.  Chicago’s south-side? Nope, nothing I had seen matched what I was seeing.  The disenfranchised areas inhabited by developing nation nationals in Kuwait?  Perhaps close. (The photo above is a less congested area.)

As we meandered carefully through the streets of the former Central Business District of Johannesburg, in search of our exit to return to the Oasis, I found that I was in possession of conflicting emotions. I was happy to be in a place with SO many people who looked like me (no offense to my minimally melanin imbued friends – I saw exactly two white people); and, I was disheartened to see so many people who looked like me living in conditions like these (and I had not even visited a former township!).

The next morning at breakfast I met a couple on their way to Madagascar.  Unfortunately, the day before their car was stolen from the Sandton Mall parking garage!  They had been in the mall about the same time we were and for not as long of a period of time.  They had excellent attitudes about it.  Although they were most unhappy about the iPod that was in the car.  It had over 8000 songs.

I was disenchanted with the disarray of the Johannesburg – the unkempt buildings falling into disrepair – but happy to have been there. We did not make it to Union Square, Carlton Center, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg Zoo, the Lion Park, or Soweto on this trip. I must go to, I insist upon going to Soweto! This was our first visit to any part of South Africa. It is a given that we will travel to Durban and Cape Town also.

There is so much to experience here in the southern region of Africa.  Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, to name just a few places.  I am still so happy to be here and look forward to sharing so much more in the new year on my African journey!

 

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

On My African Journey – South Africa

Today we are going to South Africa (SA).  I have been hesitant to make this trek, even as I have known since before arriving in Botswana that I would.  The image of SA has not been a positive one in my mind since the mid-seventies when I learned about apartheid.  So now my feelings are a mix of anticipation and trepidation. 

I have heard as many wonderful things about South Africa as I have read horror stories.  Obviously the negative things I have heard were not enough to keep me from experiencing SA for myself.  So, as we drive out of Gaborone further away than we have ever been before, I am excited about this new adventure complete with new strange sounding names.  More to come!

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

What Would You DO?

I worked in the restaurant business for over seven years.  It is not long in the scheme of things.  But, it was long enough.  During that time I often thought that as a restaurant manager and manager trainer, I was in “the wrong end of the business.” I thought that because I was working an incredible amount of hours for a set rate of pay.  The servers were making a nominal rate of pay, but were sometimes doubling my salary – weekly or daily! Plus, when they left the restaurant, they left restaurant concerns in the restaurant.

One evening not long ago, I enjoyed a good meal at an Asian restaurant in Gaborone.  We were well served by a Batswana server.  When it came time to pay the bill, the server must have noticed me was trying to figure out her tip.  She told me, “Don’t include the tip.”

I thought that I must have misheard her, so I asked her to repeat what she had said.

“Don’t put a tip.  She keeps the tip.”  I looked at her incredulously.

“You don’t receive the tip?”

“No”, she replied.

I could not believe what I had just heard.  Nonetheless, I gave her the money for the bill and asked that she return the change to me. She did.

I had to ask, because I was flabbergasted, “How much do you make working here?”

Shyly she told me, “P900”.

I asked, “A week?”  She said,  “Each month.”

I almost lost it.  I fought to hold back the tears.  My heart was breaking.  I just stared at her for a moment trying to process what she had said to me.  Then I tried to hand her the money she had given me back as change,in addition to the money I already had in my hand to bring the total to 25% of my bill.

The server told me, “Give it to her”, gesturing toward the young woman who served as hostess, “She will give it to me.  They are watching”, nodding towards some other people I assumed were employees of the restaurant as well.

“They will tell her.”  This “her” was obviously the owner/manager.  I felt so hurt. “Give it to her.”  Again she gestured toward the hostess, “She will give it to me.” I did as I was told.

You see, P900 is about $122.00.  That’s right, these servers are paid less in a month than what a server in the restaurant had managed over twenty years ago made in an hour – on a bad day.  And, they were not allowed to keep their tips!  Something must be done!  I am not sure how to start, but I refuse to let this happen and not do something.

What would you do?

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Counting Blessings…

 

“You have to count your blessings wherever you find them.” I have often told people that.  Being in Botswana has made me realize that it is important that I follow my own advice.  From the simple (in the scheme of things) absence of internet service installation that was paid for over two weeks with nary a conversation initiated by Botsnet, to the “premium” ninety channels of satellite television that presents only 6 channels, to a housekeeper who was telling me when she would and would not do the ironing.  I have found solace in winning straight games of solitaire (you know the card game you played alone before you gave up cards as an evil of the devil- I have yet to understand why it is evil, so I have not given it up), and scoring 197,000 in JewelCraft.  Yes these are the little things that have come to make a big difference at this point in my life.

 

Highest Score 197200

I believe GOD used these simple games as a way of encouraging me and helping me to not become too upset about the little things that were not going right.  I imagine if you think about it, you too will find ways in which you are encouraged at points when it seems that nothing is going right.  It may be the kind words of a stranger or the genuine honest laughter of a child. It might be a telephone call from a friend, or it may be a verse of scripture that speaks directly to your very soul in that moment as you recall it.

Solitaire

For me, as I wrote this, it was having straight wins in solitaire after having countless losses.  It was achieving a higher score in JewelCraft than I had achieved before that caused me to reflect on all of the blessings in my life that are such an abundant overshadow of the minor annoyances that I spoke of earlier.  It sounds silly even to me.  But, I know that GOD used these silly games to show me how pitiful I was being in bemoaning Botsnet and to a lesser degree the satellite company.  I further realized that if I spent time and energy on things over which I have NO control, I am wasting time and energy that I could give to a more productive pursuit.  So I thanked GOD for my iPhone 4 which has become little more than an app and music device since it is not useful as a cell phone in this country… no really I thank God for it because it is on the iPhone that I am able to play those “silly” games while listening to Smokie Norful, Brooklyn Tab, or Keiko Matsui, listen to books being read to me through Audiobooks and view pictures from past events, or just look through my windows.

I also thank GOD for this experience He is granting me.  And, I promise, I will continue to count my blessings…wherever I find them.

Flowers on my Trees

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

I’m Here

I have internet!

I am SO happy to have internet!  So happy in fact I have spent most of my time since receiving internet service surfing the internet.  I felt so out of touch…with everyone.  We arrived on the Continent (capitalized ‘cuz it is so big) on the evening of the 9th of September in Johannesburg, South Africa.  And they say everything in Texas is big – listen the J’burg airport is a doozy. I know that the mall there in the airport must rival the Mall of America in Minnesota.

South African Musicians had been arranged to greet us

Once we disembarked the plane and traversed the gigantic mall area we were led to another area to await transportation to a different concourse to clear customs before being released to go to another concourse for our connecting flight.  WHEW!  Oh, but it does not end there.

Such a warm friendly reception made everything happier

We were deposited via escalator into a holding area with many gate designations and few seats.  There we waited until our flight was announced.  When our “number” was called we were able to proceed through the doors and board – wait for it… a seatless bus!  And, just when you thought, because of the rapidly loss of clearing space between the bottom of the “bus” and the road as well as the loss of acceptable breathing room, that not another person would fit – at least 50 more people were jammed aboard.  Maybe it wasn’t 50.  It was probably 100.  The vehicle crept along until it reached an empty spanse of tarmac where we were instructed to disembark.  In the distance I could see a teeny weeny, little bitty, baby size, propeller powered, toy aircraft.  Fortunately, the closer we walked to it the bigger it became.  What did not increase in size however were the steps.  Oh. My. Goodness.

Nighttime in Botswana (view through the propeller)

Just to make this long story longer, we successfully boarded and I tried not to look out of the window since doing so would remind me that I was on a “prop job”.  The airline was merciful, to further distract me, they served us dinner!  That’s right we had dinner on a 45-minute flight! Turns out this meal was better than the one we had been served on our 14-hour Trans-continental flight.  The little one remarked that we were having a “gourmet meal!”  It was delicious (that or we were just still hungry from not being able to digest much of our earlier meal).

Our sponsor and escort met us upon landing and whisked us away to our “new home”.  We chatted briefly and were delighted to see that the sponsor’s wife had graciously prepared a welcoming casserole for us as well.  The house was nicely prepared with all of the “essentials” necessary to ease our transition and serve us until the arrival of our household effects.  We excitedly settled in for the night.

I was excited to wake up and have my first real glimpse of the fortress that will be home for the next two years.

Home Sweet Home

The journey continues.  I am so happy to have you join me!  What do you want to know about our journey?

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Botswana Dreamin’

I received my medical clearance… and not a moment too soon!  YEA!

We will leave for Botswana soon.  There is still much to do.  There is a host of people who I had hoped to see or at least speak to before I leave.  Sadly I have too many activities and there is too much space between me and them.  I will make some calls.  But, I know it will not be the same as being able to see them face-to-face.  I know that I will meet new people and hopefully make some new friends.  Yet, there is no way I can forget the friends I will leave behind.

This moving thing is not new to me.  I don’t just mean moving from one dwelling to another. We have packed up and moved tent I mean packing up tent and moving across the country or to another country.  We have lived in six states, 14 cities, 16 residences, and up to now, two foreign countries (my husband has lived in three foreign countries and eight states).  I always look forward to each move with anticipation of what is being held in store for me.  This move somehow is different.  I could attribute the difference to having lived in Virginia almost as long as I lived in my home state, Texas.  But I believe that it is more than that.

We moved to Virginia without extended family and yet almost immediately we put down roots.  I started a business; my children graduated from high school; they all received college degrees while we lived here; I received a Master’s degree; I received professional certification; and, my husband retired.  I discovered my love of beading; I continued my enjoyment of praising GOD through song; and, the first off-spring of my first off-spring was born here.  But, it is more than that.

The landscape of Virginia is as beautiful to me today as it was on my first drive on its tree-lined highways some 17 years ago.  But, it is more than that.  It is the people.  The people I have met, the ones with whom Ihave been reunited, and the ones I see in passing.  But it is more than that.  It is the people with whom I have developed a strong relationship.  It is the people who, in the absence of ours, became an extended family.

It is people who trusted me enough to do business with me and made sure that their friends did too.  It was the people who supported me – even though in some cases they did not know me – because they too believed in what I was trying to do:  People like: Anita Harrell, Michelle Woods-Jones, Phyllis Henderson, Reba Harrington, Charles Dickson, Adrienne Thomas, Francine Freeman, Frank Haizlip, Cheryl Gillespie, Cheryl Wilkerson, TonyMacrini, Jerrie Spruce, Val Ackerman, Judy Braithwaithe, Lillian Thomas, the staff at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, the cities of Hampton, Norfolk, Richmond, and Newport News, and countless numbers of customers and supporters.

It is people who encouraged me at church like: Al Gilbert, Ryan Leffel, Roger McNiel, Ike and DeannaNewingham, Velma Burnett, Tommy and Nellie Newbill, Frank Birdwell, Kevin Bragg, Demita Furnner, DeeVerlander, Joe Hunt, Al Preisser, and other fellow church members, laymen, and ministers.

It was people who encouraged me at work – many who became friends: Crystal Jones, Danny Forshee, LynneFlanary, Barbara Snyder, Jane Mitchell, Ron Carey, Jane Cather, Glynn Proctor, Phyllis Mason, Amy Magee, Paula Stallard, Robyn Baumgardner, Sundra Homink, Scott Payne, Tom Silvestri, Andy Taylor, Claire Canady, Bill Turnage, Terry Hall, Jim Clark, Joe Schwartz, to name a few here.  But it has also been friends like Charlene Ayers – from afar, Adrienne Cosby –who became my sister, Stephanie Mayhew, Pam Wilcynski, Rebecca McNiel, Jodi Pettiway, Mina Watanabe – from a further, Christy Wittmier, Marcia Swaine-Hansen, and others who have shared private thoughts and confidences.  The point is, Virginia has been about the people who have blessed my life in personal and public ways…whether they knew it or not.  I hope they know….

In just a few hours I will be leaving Virginia and the “land of the free and the home of the brave” for Africa.  I am excited about living in an African nation.  I am excited to begin this new experience.  I am comforted to know that “GOD is not limited by location.”  I am excited about my first conversations with my FATHER in the Motherland.   And, I look forward to sharing more with you on my African journey!

“Where can I go from YOUR Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?   If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your had shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” ~Psalm 139:7 & 10

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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