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SFU Co-op Student

Cement pathway in Gaborone, Botswana
What I have really come to realize is that things here are the way they are.

It's been a while. It's been a pretty tough few weeks here. I have encountered some challenges that I never really expected to face...

In so many ways, I was mentally and emotionally prepared for many of the things that I would see. I knew it would be shocking to see patients withered with AIDS and the children orphaned by the devastation of this pandemic. What I wasn't prepared for was the way of life in Botswana. Things here happen very, very, very slowly. Going from Vancouver where I ran around from job to job to school in full sprint to Botswana where morning tea lasts the better part of an hour has been a HUGE adjustment.

Today was a typical example...I was at work at 7:30 this morning, and immediately asked what was on the docket for the day. I was told that we needed to go out and visit a school to ensure that a young boy we had acquired school funding for was actually attending school. We were going as soon as the driver returned from picking up The Daily News, a local paper which starts the day in Gaborone. After the paper arrived, I asked if we were leaving? No such luck. So I waited for a couple more hours, asked again...once the drivers are back I was told. I was confused since they were both present, but just let it be. So a couple more hours of waiting, and finally, after my co-workers insistence, we left...well we went and sat in the car where we waited for the driver for another fifteen minutes. Finally at 12:00, we only took four and a half hours. The best part of the whole story is that it took four of us to wait four and a half hours to go to a school that was literally a five minute walk away, only to find that we couldn't actually meet with the boy....and that folks is how things happen here in Botswana. (At the end of the day, we didn't even meet with the boy...nor did we accomplish anything).

picture of author hugging tree

What I have really come to realize is that things here are the way they are.  First you have to learn the culture and the way it works before you can function within its framework. Learning about another culture is strange and foreign because the way that things work don't seem to make sense...they aren't efficient.  In North America we are very much about efficiency, but here, it is not about efficiency. I haven't quite figured out what it is about yet, but when I do, I will be sure to let you know.

If you have some spare time on your hands, and would like an easy read, check out the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. I have recently read one, and they perfectly reflect how things work in Gaborone. It is almost painfully funny to read them.  Gabs is a world that is stuck somewhere between traditional Matswana culture and western culture.

More exciting events include spending a weekend in Zambia. I had a chance to visit Vic Falls and Chobe National Park. I even spent one fabulous day white water rafting on the Zambezi (thank goodness the crocs didn't get me). It was such a fun-filled relaxing weekend. It is amazing how diverse Africa is from one country to another. I went from Gaborone, which is incredibly dry and desert-like, up to the southern border of Zambia where everything is lush and green.

That's it for this edition! I wish everyone the best. Thank you so much for all the e-mails. It is wonderful to hear how my experiences here have affected your lives. One of my friends e-mailed me to let me know that she shares my e-mails with her grade 6 class and they are using them to better understand how other people around the world live. The entire school has also joined together to sponsor a child in Africa to provide money for food and education...isn't that amazing!!!

Beyond the Blog

SFU Co-op Student
SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell volunteered with the Students Without Borders program (SWB) in Botswana, Africa.
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Mar 10, 2011

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