Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I cannot believe we missed Michelle Obama's visit to Botswana. Here the local newspaper makes fun of her for claiming to want people to eat healthy while enjoying fatcakes, french fries and "huge sausages."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Readjusting is dumb.

Okay, why is it that I envisioned being back in America as like a big soy-sausage-and-Starbucks-fueled party?

Apparently, that was wrong. It is this place where you don't have a job or a place to live and people all speak English even more fluently than you do.

It sucks! Although yes, the lattes are better. They just are.

I'm in California right now, where the lattes are even better than the lattes in Philadelphia, which are just regular.

Oh and it's cold! I didn't know it was allowed to be cold ever anymore. It's May. But I am just shivering all the time. Thank goodness it was up to 80 today. In the sun, I felt fine.

I can't break a sweat in the gym because there's (so much) air-conditioning.

My sister says that I should go easy on myself cause I just got back from Africa. But that does get old. I'm ready for progress. K thanx.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Back in the U.S.S.A.

Okay, okay, I'm back!

We got back Monday morning--we were on the first ever non-stop commercial flight from Joburg to JFK. It was a really smooth and easy flight. When we arrived the NYC fire department hosed down the plane in celebration (or maybe we were on fire).

It is really weird to be here. I guess we just moved to a new place so that is normal. I've noticed people are kind of mean in America and do not say hello. I'm overstimulated by all the people and hullabaloo. I'm starting to get over my jetlag though 9:30 seems like a reasonable bedtime (and maybe it is).

I still need to post seder photos and a few others, so this space will remain operative for the time being. Don't change the channel.

Give me a call if you want to hang out. I don't have a phone, though. So maybe email.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

8.5 hours left in Botswana


Yesterday we spent packing, saying goodbyes, going on a combi ride to nowhere so A could experience the thrill that is combi riding, and trying to soak in whatever was left to be soaked in.

The goodbyes were no fun. It's hard to say goodbye to people you think you may never see again.

Today it feels like we've been here no time at all.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Workers unite!

(Tiny photo via Mmegi)

If you don't read the Mmegi, you might not know there's a massive strike on right now in Botswana. CNN finally picked up the story--90,000 out of 103,000 possible strikers are refusing to go to their jobs at border posts, schools, and hospitals (those numbers may be a lot higher). They're requesting a pay raise, which the government hasn't given them in three years.

Some union members have decided not to strike because they can't afford to lose two weeks salary and potentially lose their jobs. Some medical professionals are also not striking because they feel a duty to help the sick people in their care. The government is also requiring 30% of people--"essential service workers"--to stay at work; I'm not sure if that's really happening or not.

The border closings were supposed to be the straw that broke the camel's back, but the government has sent military scabs to do the jobs of the people that are striking. Borders are open as usual. This is a violation of strike rules, and the union people are unsurprisingly angry (although this does mean I'll probably get to leave the country on May 1!).

Even though the strike started with a little bit of that confusion Botswana is known for--are we striking? I think so. OK cool.--it's really taken off. Check out the comments at the bottom of this Mmegi story on the strike starting. I kind of wish the strikers were more visible; this is where not having a town center in Gaborone seems like a handicap. I saw them across the street from Princess Marina Hospital, but just barely.

Of course, if you're only listening to government news, you might not even know the strike is happening. On Monday, the government radio didn't even report the strike had begun. Since then, they've done an abysmal job of pretending to be an unbiased news service.

This would be an excellent time for me to get kicked out of the country for criticizing the government.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I love you and Buddha, too.

(Not just God, but Jesus.)

Before meals at the kindergarten, the students pray.

“God bless our food. Amen.”

They have to say it with their hands together and their eyes closed. They all know they’re not allowed to touch their food until everyone has been served and those words have been said.

Sometimes the kindergarten teacher has the children say a longer prayer, blessing the hands of the person who prepared the food and thanking God for the nourishment the food will give their bodies. It’s hard for the kids to keep their eyes closed for so long, so their faces get all screwed up in concentration.

The kids also sing songs about God—not just God, but Jesus. Jesus and me and the Bible and all that stuff. One of the songs is super catchy:

“Oh Lord…I read and I pray…Oh Loooord, I read and I pray. Oh Lord…I read and I pray…In the Bible, I read and I pray.”

Then there’s a bit in Setswana and a dance; the kids know all the words and they clearly love singing it and showing off.

It’s really nice. Which is really weird.

Because I think I’m supposed to be a little appalled. I mean, who is protecting these orphans and vulnerable children from the religious beliefs of their teachers? What are the teachers telling the kids about Jesus behind closed doors? What are these children who have already experienced significant hardships being led to believe about punishment and reward?

Sure, the orphanage is a privately funded NGO (they may get some government funding—I’m not sure), but it’s not an explicitly religious place. I wonder if parents and caretakers might not expect (or desire) the religious education their preschoolers are receiving.

("We're All Friends And Sunshine And Kitty Cats")

Recently, I organized some of the educational videos we have. One morning, I popped in a seemingly harmless one called “We’re All Friends And Sunshine And Kitty Cats” or something like that, only to discover the second or third song in that it was evidently created by some American evangelical group with a clearly defined image of God/Jesus, a gendered system of values, and an agenda to spread the message to unsuspecting children. Plus all the kids in the video were white. It was weird.

But while I’m thinking “whoops” and getting up to switch to Barney or another PBS-sanctioned show, the other teachers are like, “Oh, this is lovely. Look at the costumes, and the dancing, and the message.”

So then it’s like, well okay, maybe I just have this visceral approach to a certain Christian element in the United States and that just has no meaning here. I don’t know that there is anything intrinsically harmful about little children singing about God. Unless your heart is made of stone or you’re Christopher Hitchens, that image is sort of peaceful and wholesome, right?

Or maybe I’m just okay with kids singing about the Bible and God in sort of neutral terms. But when they get into Jesus dying for your sins like they did on the video or even when Jewish preschoolers sing about Israel or the Messiah, I get the heebie jeebies.

I mean, that’s why what we do in America works, right? Like I don’t really care if the Ten Commandments are displayed in a courthouse, but that’s exactly why I personally don’t get to decide. Someone else might not care if kids sing about Jesus in public schools, but that's why they don't get to decide, either.

Still, I admire Botswana’s community-generated prayer system. When we got married at the magistrate’s court—definitely a government office—the day began with a prayer, but the prayer was led by whoever in the room wanted to lead it—not by the magistrate. Probably everyone in the room was Christian; I don’t know what would have happened if one of Botswana’s Muslims or Hindus had led the prayer. I’ll be interested to see how Botswana tackles religious diversity as their religious minorities grow.

In the meantime though, (and I'm not saying this should guide public policy) it almost seems petty to care if the song or the prayer or the video is about Jesus or not. Like who really cares if someone leading a prayer before the ceremony mentions Jesus or Allah or Visnu. I wonder if the next moment in religious pluralism will require that we be able to recognize the common human hopes and uncertainties that inhabit prayer. And even that we be able to pray if the words are not our own.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Figured I might as well jinx everything...

...just so I could tell you the happy update to my last post, which is that we found someone to fix the car for $200 instead of $300 and we found a buyer who will pay us in dollars.


I should really have taken the combi to the orphanage this morning, but couldn't quite get up the energy--I'd have to take public transport and it's cold out there! I'm wearing a fleece and slippers! It's definitely a nice change to have cool afternoons instead of blazing hot, but the mornings are so chilly.

A is getting over a cold and now my throat is starting to hurt--I think it's best I just stay home and drink tea and apply for jobs. I'll go to the orphanage tomorrow when I can drive.


Tonight we pack up our apartment and tomorrow we move to Penn housing. Which means tonight is our last night sleeping in this apartment. Ironically, while Penn has had awesome internet all year, suddenly it's gotten really slow the last month or so. So internet won't improve, but then again we leave in like...a week and a half. So who even cares about internet speed.

I can't believe I don't care about internet speed.


A full update on our two seders coming soon. Time for tea and possibly matzah brie.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

So that's what Alanis was talking about.

(This not our car.)

One of the biggest stresses of this year has been purchasing, insuring, checking out, and now, selling, our car.

And the funny thing is, it's a great car! Festus (we named our car after Festus Mogae, president of Botswana from 1998 to 2008) has given us zero trouble, has been checked out and given a clean bill of health from a mechanic, and really all of the issues have come from external sources. First, the car dealers messed us around, then the insurance people took forever and kept raising their price.

On Friday, we were on our way to meet the person we're selling the car to, to initiate a bank transfer, and a Tropicana truck backed into us while the car was parked in front of the hospital. I'll try not to use the word "shitstorm" too many times from here on.

(And then Festus was granted three wishes and used one to become this car! But then he wished for more wishes and was disqualified.)

The damage isn't that bad, luckily. But it's bad enough that the hood needs to be banged back into shape and the lights need to be replaced.

First, we waited for over an hour for the police to arrive so we could file a police report, which took another hour and a visit to the police station. They also said they were going to fine the (pretty nice) guy who hit us, who as it turns out was at the hospital for a rather unfortunate medical reason, which then made us feel bad for getting the police report, which we now think we can't even use because we don't have time to file an insurance claim before we leave the country in two weeks.

Basically, after visiting four different car repair shops, we're resigned to paying $300 out of pocket to fix the car. But now, our buyer has decided to back out--he had taken a loan out for the full amount and the bank had charged him about $400 in fees, so he didn't have the money anymore. Since the car had been damaged, we had to return his deposit, and even though we offered, in our desperation to fix the damage AND sell the car to him for $400 less, he wouldn't budge, and actually went out and bought a different car later in the day.

So where does this leave us?

Now we have to get the car fixed as quickly as possible so we can show to any prospective buyers we might be lucky enough to stumble upon in the next like three days. If we can't sell it to an individual, we'll have to sell it to a used car dealership and potentially lose another $2000 or more.

All because this truck driver didn't use his mirrors and really just tapped us.

Needless to say, dealing with this is not how we want to spend our last two weeks here and have I mentioned we're hosting 12 people for Passover and I'm not sure how we will deal with not having a car this week?

I'm making a sacrifice to the irony gods asap.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Botswana theater scene

Last night, A and I were determined to see one of the plays that is being put on as part of the city-wide Maitisong Festival and not to just spend another night eating pizza in our pajamas. Although doesn't eating pizza in your pajamas sound good?

We picked a series of short plays put on by students from the University of Botswana at Botswanacraft. Here's the play-by-play:

7pm - We arrive at Botswanacraft and park nearby. Even though the play theoretically started at 7, I wouldn't let A convince me to get there a minute before. As we got out of the car, I felt something hit my foot, but couldn't see anything in the dark.

7:05pm - For P30 each, we are handed paper tickets by a man sitting at a table out front, and then told to put the tickets directly into a box on the table. Classic. We get some beers and take our seats. The crowd is small, but I've had smaller.

7:15pm - I try to turn my phone off and can't find it. I send A out in the dark to look in the car. It is on the ground by the driver's door.

7:20pm - The show starts! Almost on time! First the cast performs a couple of songs. Not to be racist, but everyone in Botswana has a wonderful singing voice. Then they start the show.

7:25pm - A 30-second scene where a woman gives birth to a baby boy (clearly visible teddy bear), sending the audience into hysterics. Then she dies, and we all feel bad for laughing.

7:35pm - Ten minutes later, they figured out which scene comes next. A father is holding the now-concealed teddy bear. The grandmother of the baby demands he hand over the baby. They do a really good job of not letting us see the teddy bear.

7:50pm - We sit in darkness for ten minutes or so, and then they do a choreographed children's dance. One dancer's shirt is distractingly close to falling off. It's weird. Why doesn't she change? I wonder. The boy is now 16, and his grandmother is a drunk who mistreats him. Her performance as drunk old woman with comically large behind gets huge laughs.

7:55pm - Big chunks of the show are in Setswana, but we can still follow it. They are at the kgotla and the father argues for custody of his son. He loses.

8:00pm - They go to the magistrate court, and the father argues for custody of his son. He wins! Yay, modernity and progress.

8:20pm or so - We sit in the dark for a while, and then they remember to perform the final scene, in which the boy wins a scholarship in humanities to the University of Botswana for his excellent performing arts skills. The father and son dance and are happy.

8:40pm - The lights come back on and they take a bow.

8:45pm - I am satisfied and ready to go after almost two hours but A wants to stay for the rest of the shows. We don't have to wait long for the second one to start, and it's actually pretty good. A jilted girlfriend befriends a funny melted-ice-cream seller. An engaging 10 minutes.

9pm - The last play is getting ready to start. I'm antsy, but A wants to stay. We stay.

9:15pm - The last play starts. It's about two children who want different careers than their parents want for them. It's kind of like reading a Unity Dow book in that everyone is extremely overt about their feelings and motivations and the plot progresses So Slowly. (And I liked that Unity Dow book I read!) At the same time, there's clearly a lot of hard work going on onstage, and I think it must be hard to perform a show in your second language. Some of the actors are really quite funny. We eat a banana muffin I had in my bag. The play is still going. Finally, it ends!

All in all, a great night. As funny as it may seem, I left Botswanacraft feeling nostalgic and sentimental. I love Botswana in all its JV glory!

Monday, April 11, 2011

19 days to go

(Have I mentioned there are elephants everywhere?)

This whole "we're leaving Botswana in three weeks" thing is really distracting. I feel like every day is sort of sliding by with very few noteworthy accomplishments (I did fix the internet in our apartment all by myself today, though). So many big things are happening whether we like it or not--we have to pick an apartment this week, I have an interview for a job I'm excited about, and we're theoretically selling our car.

And at the same time it feels like we are so close to leaving Botswana with (fingers crossed!) no major problems to speak of, except one shotgun wedding, one broken rib, and one week stranded in the Namibian desert.

I think my tendency now is to sort of curl up and keep my head down and try to just get through the rest without screwing anything up.


Probably that is why my major concern today is chickpeas. Specifically, dried chickpeas. Does anyone else have trouble with these?

I'm trying to get through all the it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time purchases in the pantry, like risotto and dried beans, before we move to Penn housing.

But every single time I try to plump up dried chickpeas they're still "al dente" (as A says) by the time I give up. I started boiling these yesterday morning, turned off the heat and let them soak 10 hours, then boiled again, turned off heat, let them soak another 20 or so hours, and now they've been boiling for an hour and a half (on high! in fresh water!) and they are. still. hard.

Is it because I used them as gelt in a game of dreidel last Hanukah?


There's some kind of theater festival going on and Friday evening we had the option of going to one of three different plays. Needless to say, we were so overwhelmed by these possibilities that we spent the night at Fego and then watched The Wire in bed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Manyana and others

We're trying to hit all the sites in and around Gabs in our last few weeks here. A couple of weekends ago, we headed to Manyana, a nearby village, to see some 2,000-year-old San cave paintings.

In case you were wondering, "manyana" means "playful" or "childlike" in Setswana, not "tomorrow."

It was a beautiful day as we drove out of Gabs--sun shining, blue sky, pretty hills and trees. We got to Manyana and asked for directions (even Lonely Planet thinks "ask for directions" is an acceptable form of directions). Luckily everyone had a vague idea that they were "that side" and eventually we found them. They were closed.

We contemplated hopping the fence, but some neighborhood kids informed us that the man who worked the site was on his lunch break and would be right back. After 15 minutes or so, Justice showed up. "This is my place," he said.

Justice led us all around the rocks and caves, and pointed out all the faint and hidden cave paintings. We never would have been able to find them on our own, but jumping the fence might have been a good story.

Justice said before the fence was built, local kids used to come draw their own cave paintings on the rock. Some of those drawings are still there, so it's important not to get confused.

He told us about how this rock was a holy place for the San, who would hold religious rituals in front of and under it.

The views of the village as we climbed through the rocks were really pretty.

This is a plant called a strangler. It kills trees, but looks awesome while doing so.

Here are some giraffes, which were my favorite paintings we saw. Mostly because it's cool to think giraffes were wandering these parts not too long ago. But also because cave paintings of giraffes, like actual giraffes, are way sweeter than antelope or people.

All in all, our visit to Manyana was a success.


On Sunday, we headed to the Gaborone Game Reserve, a modest game reserve inside the city limits. While there wasn't all that much game to speak of (plenty of monkeys and warthogs, one zebra from afar), we did see some lovely trees.

I didn't mind that there wasn't more exciting game at the Gabs Game Reserve because the fences weren't all that good.


Lately, A and I have been working on taking photos of things we see in our everyday lives. This is the termite mound across the street from his office.

And here he is working at a clinic!

He's almost done collecting data, which means we might get to sleep in past 6am sometimes. Hooray!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More Things I will not miss:

11. Mosquitoes, especially ones that fly near/into my ears at night.
12. People being able to talk about me without me understanding what they're saying.

Monday, April 4, 2011

More Things I will miss:

11. Endless summer.
12. 89.9 FM

Lists from Botswana

We're down to 26 days in Botswana. Time to make some lists.

Things I won't miss:

1) The drivers./The roads./The traffic.
2) The internet sucking.
3) My unhelpful, somewhat racist landlord.
4) Blackouts when I really need to do something that uses electricity.
5) The lack of black beans, fresh fish, chocolate chips, health food, etc.
6) Talking about medicine with medical people constantly.
7) Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I eat almost every day.
8) Not having television.
9) The almost-hilarious bureaucratic nightmare of doing anything at all.
10) The speed bumps.

Things I will miss:

1) Having a car.
2) Blackouts when I don't have anything to do and we drink beer and hang out.
3) Being able to see the sky./The clouds./The storms.
4) Being able to count on most people being really nice and helpful.
5) Not having television.
6) Having time to cook dinner every night./Having time to read./Having too much time on my hands.
7) Having someone wash and iron my clothes twice a week.
8) Animals./Nature./Bugs.
9) Not having a full-time office/desk job./Making my own schedule.
10) Adventuring.

How to give directions in Botswana:

1) Start out by mentioning a neutral landmark, like a robot (traffic light). Ex: "Go to the robot." Do not identify which traffic light you mean.

2) First say to make a left, then later on when the directions need clarification, say right. Agree with whatever direction the person seeking directions suggests.

3) Refer to a recent neighborhood event to explain where you mean. Ex: "Where those men are working with the trucks."

4) Mention a landmark that is actually useful, like a major intersection or shopping center.

5) Explain that the person seeking directions should go there and ask someone else for directions.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cape Town, baby!

Last Friday, A and I took off for Cape Town, our LAST big trip of the year. We met up with A's friends J and B, who were still on their marathon adventure through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa!

We also met up with their friends J and C, who were wonderful hosts during our week in Cape Town. The very first thing we did Saturday morning was climb Table Mountain, which we kind of underestimated as being no big deal.

Actually, it was so hard that I was forced to wear this extremely dorky visor to protect myself from the sun. I can't believe I wore this visor for any amount of time. It might look good on someone lithe and athletic but it made me look like a soccer mom.

The views from the top were nice. Above you can see Lion's Head in the distance and closer, some people rappelling. And there was a really well-air-conditioned restaurant at the top, too. It was nice to look at Table Mountain all week and be like, I have conquered you.

Sunday was wine day! We headed out to Stellenbosch, one of the wine towns. On the way out, we passed a lot of townships. It was a really strange contrast--the city, which is sort of glitzy and LA-like and these third-world remnants. Not to mention us, zipping along in a private bus on our way to spend an entire day drinking wine.

Luckily, nothing wipes away white guilt like drinking at 10am!

(Don't I look romantic?)

We visited four vineyards throughout the day, plus a fifth one where we had lunch. The scenery was beautiful, and the wine was delicious. We had a lot of fun hanging out with friends of friends and seeing all the different styles of wineries. My favorite was the really old one covered in cobwebs and spiders. Now I want to do this again in Northern California! Of course, the difference is that these tastings were either $3.50 or free, whereas in NorCal they'd probably be a lot more.

(He cut off the top of the champagne bottle with a sword. Whatevs.)

By the third winery, A and I were wine-d out. So we did a chocolate and brandy pairing at the third place, and then skipped the tasting at the fourth place and went for a romantic walk under the trees. Who would have thought wineries are so romantic?

That night, we headed out for a kosher dinner, as we hadn't had any meat since November. I have to say, those chicken kebabs were the most succulent, perfectly seasoned, amazing things I have ever eaten in my entire life. Omigoodness, my mouth is watering. When did I turn into such a carnivore?

The following day we paid penance for our luxurious wine day by visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other members of the resistance movement were held during apartheid.

(Leaving Cape Town's charming waterfront)

The trip to Robben Island required an especially nauseating ferry ride. As we sped away from Cape Town, it disappeared into the fog, until you could just barely make out the top of Table Mountain. I conquered you, I thought, trying not to vomit.

Once we had our land legs back, we made our way onto a tour bus. The first part of the trip is a narrated bus tour of the island, and we had an awesome tour guide. While he was never held at Robben Island, like most tour guides there, he was a big player in the anti-apartheid movement and he was also a really dramatic and funny host and performer. (I can't remember if he was IKP or PAC. Does anyone who was there remember?)

(Adam looked great on Robben Island.)

After touring the island, which has been used variously as a leper colony, military base, and prison, we headed back to the 20th century prison that was used for political prisoners under apartheid. But not before passing a revolting rotting whale carcass on the beach. This evoked by far the most dramatic response from the passengers on our bus, who all jumped up to take photos of it.

Our guide at the prison was a former prisoner who spent five years living there. I could not get over how new all the buildings were, like wait a minute, you guys JUST did this? You're kidding me.

(I think if I was ever imprisoned I'd be really claustrophobic, because I was claustrophobic just touring this prison, even though we were allowed to leave.)

As we were frequently reminded, the reason so many former prisoners work as tour guides is Not because they want to hang out there more, but because it's a steady job at a time when South Africa is experiencing high unemployment.

This sign was in the bathroom on the ferry. Don't ask me why they felt the need to specifically warn against flushing g-strings. Perhaps the intense emotional impact of a visit to Robben Island causes people to want to rip off their clothing and make love to the next person--white, black, or coloured--that they see, in a orgiastic celebration of racial diversity?

I don't know why they can't just take their g-strings with them afterward, though.

After our morning at Robben Island, we headed to downtown Cape Town, where we experienced the wood-oven-baked pizza and ethnic market offerings of the city. Then some of J and C's South African friends hosted a braai (a barbeque) and we got to have more. kosher. meat.

Tuesday was our last full day in Cape Town and we decided to head down to the Cape of Good Hope. This is not the furthermost southern point on the continent, but it is the farthest south I've ever been.

I wore that pink shirt I always wear in photos for the occasion.

We hiked up to Cape Point, which was just okay, and then took a dramatic and beautiful hike from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope itself (no I have no idea what the difference is). On the way, we passed this gorgeous small stretch of beach, where I took dramatic and beautiful photos of cliffs and waves.

In a surprising turn of events, after going down many, many stairs to get to the beach, we then had to climb all the same stairs to get back to the path.

(A and J. BFF. I made A carry my purse.)

On the way back from Cape of Good Hope, we stopped at Boulders Beach, where there is a colony of penguins that you can hang out with! They were really, really silly.

And that was our trip to Cape Town! Now we're back in Gabs (for another 32 days) and just chilling and enjoying being in one place for a while.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tonight at the orphanage I completed (with *some* help from the kids) a 200 piece puzzle in 43 minutes flat.

I'm just really good at puzzles.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Botswana (tries to) gets excited!

Recently, A called Botswana "JV," as in, not Varsity. This has become our favorite way to describe the way things work here.


Yesterday was the biggest soccer game in Botswana's national team the Zebra's history. If they won this game against Chad (apparently they spell it "Tchad" in Chad??), they would for the first time be eligible to play in the Africa Cup.

So naturally nobody knew what time the game started.

There not being any sort of website we could turn to (including FIFA, which seemed equally baffled), we called D, a driver for Penn and soccer buff, who seems to be plugged in to the underground networks that determine soccer schedules. He said it started at 6pm.

With that in mind, we headed for a nearby village called Manyana, where there are some 2,000-year-old cave paintings of giraffes and other animals (photos coming). We joked with our guide that we hoped he got off work in time for the game at six. Not 6, he said. The game was at 4.

On the way home, we stopped at this weird amusement park-resort place (definitely merits its own post) and asked the people working there. 3 or 3:30, they said.

So we started texting. Our Motswana friend R said actually the game was at 5. But our American friend R said no, the game was on RIGHT NOW.

Other people variously suggested 4:30, 5:30, and that the game that was on right now was a re-run of the last time Botswana played Chad.

We finally decided the game started at 4:30 and headed to a bar to watch it. It started at 5.

The feed was direct from Chad, the broadcast was in French and they mispelled Botswana as "Bostwana," and when not skipping and stalling, the video was almost too blurry to follow. There were also no replays, not even when Botswana scored the only goal and the camera missed it. I guess Chad has bigger problems.

But we won and there was an impromptu dance party at the bar, and that's all that matters.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This has nothing to do with Botswana or anything, but it's too funny not to share: China Say Dalai Lama has to Reincarnate

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Two more countries to check off the list

After a couple of weeks of "real" life, we were ready to go on vacation again with some friends. First to arrive were J and M. J went to college with A; M is his lovely girlfriend. We had a great time showing them the iced coffee-related sites of Gabs, visiting the airport to see if their bags would ever arrive, and going to an actually really awesome comedy show that I will cover in another post. I did not take any pictures of them, because they are hideously ugly.

They left after one day to head to the Delta and then my sister E and her husband P got in a few hours later. We took them to Mokolodi to pet a cheetah, ate at Fego, and had a delightful brunch at Sanitas. We also went to our first rugby game! Could not follow the game for the life of me, but I enjoyed beer and sitting very much.

On Monday, the four of us headed up to Kasane, the base for visits Chobe Game Reserve. There we met up with A's college friends B, J, and J, which is when referring to people by their initials became overly complicated and was abandoned. We started our trip with a sunset safari by boat on the Chobe River. It was awesome! Probably one of our favorite activities this year.

Immediately, we understood why everyone says Chobe is the place to see animals. We saw tons of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, baboons, and more.

In the morning, we went on a game drive through the park and saw even more!

Later that day, we headed for the Zambian border. We took the ferry into Zambia (they are building a bridge, but currently trucks must travel one by one on the ferry, which is insane). It was pretty much immediately clear that Zambia is way more African than Botswana. People tried to sell us stuff, the currency was wildly inflated, our Motswana taxi driver warned us that the Zambians would try to rip us off, and in general there was a frenetic energy that is missing in Botswana.

Just when we became convinced that we were really in Southern Africa, we ended up at a restaurant called Fez Bar.

That naturally served Mexican food.

With our understanding of Zambian culture now firmly established, we headed for the falls!

Which were even more impressive when we zoomed out!

We hiked around the falls a bit, and got completely drenched. I seriously have never been so thoroughly soaked in my life. When the mist briefly cleared, we could glimpse the power of the falls. Luckily my sister's raincoat provided some protection for camera, passports, etc, but it took the rest of the trip for everything to dry. Which is partly why I did not take any photos of the Zimbabwe side.

We also hiked way way down to the river (and way way back up again) to see something called the Boiling Pot, a place where different streams of water meet to create an awesome-Lord of the Rings-type tempestuous whirlpool.

That night we started a nightly tradition of playing "Hats" also known as "Naked" which is a Charades-based game. It's great!

The following morning we headed into Zimbabwe for the day. We walked across the bridge to get there, and then hiked around the park on that side. The views were definitely better from the Zimbabwe side...but we still got drenched. Lesson learned.

Zimbabwe was full of tourists, all of whom were us. The tourism police, who apparently are not just people trying to rob you, followed us all around town, and literally wouldn't let us go anywhere without them. That's always a reassuring feeling.

The place seemed dead. But it didn't matter because we only had one place in mind--the distinguished, colonial, creepy Victoria Falls Hotel. We finished off our day in Zimbabwe with high tea and cocktails on the terrace of the hotel, overlooking the view of the bridge you see above.

On our last morning in Livingstone, we went on a walking tour with a guide from the Livingstone Museum. It was really nice to see the town and not just the falls. We asked him to show us the old synagogue, which still has a big Jewish star painted on it. We also bought fabric for a wedding project I'm working on because I've turned into one of those people who is obsessed with their wedding.

Back in Gabs, we FINALLY hiked Kgale Hill, the big hill in town, with the three boys from college. It was extremely hot and difficult, and we ended up hiking in the middle of one of the hottest days of the year. I don't want to exaggerate, but I nearly died. When we finally made it back down, we each drank an orange Fanta, which tasted exquisite. It literally took us all day to get back to normal, as I think we were all really overheated and dehydrated. Would definitely do this hike differently if we ever do it again! There were also giant baboons everywhere!

Saturday night we had a Setswana cooking lesson with our old housekeeper and ate dinner with her family and some of the dermatologists. If you want recipes for Zimbabwean/Setswana food, like spicy beans, spinach, porridge, dumplings, chakalaka, etc., let me know!

Sunday night we headed to jazz at the Gaborone Sun golf course with sister and brother-in-law. It's a fun time. We also went for a tour of the grounds, including a lovely playground where the kids worked off some steam.

On Monday I took E and P to see the orphanage and to get a tour of "downtown" Gaborone...and to eat at Nando's again. We ate at Nando's four times in a week. It was intense. 33 hours of travel later, they were safe and sound at home in LA. Meanwhile, J and B are still traveling (!) in Namibia and are meeting us in Capetown tomorrow. The adventure continues!

All in all, we had an amazing vacation. Traveling with 9 people is the way to go.