Thursday, January 27, 2011

How we entertain ourselves.

(Cooking is messy!)

Well, mostly with Indian food. Have I mentioned how much Indian food we eat here? It's okay with me, because I love Indian food. Much more than Setswana food.

(I wear this shirt at least once a week.)

Our favorite weekend activity is eating out at Chutney's, a South Indian restaurant that is by far the most delicious Indian food I've ever eaten. We are going there tonight with A's parents, who are visiting! It's always full of Indian customers, too, which is a good sign, I think. Then there's Moghul, and Embassy, and the Indian place at the Gaborone Sun golf club...

We also cook a lot of Indian food. We live in the Indian part of town, so our grocery stores have a lot of Indian spices and mixes and specialty items.

And one of our best friends here is Indian and was getting ready to move back to the States. Before she did, we did some cooking.

First I drank half a bottle of wine out of the bottle. That helped loosen the brain cells for cookery.

We made vegetable biryani, chana masala, paneer butter masala, and aloo gobi.

Then we ate it.

(I got tired of uploading photos, sorry.)

Our best wedding reception so far. OR Part 2 of Part 1.

I never got around to posting photos of our first ever wedding reception. It was a really fun party, with lots of my favorite foods, desserts, and dancing. Batswana don't sit around and talk (which may make you think they don't like your party), but they do dance! So we did a lot of dancing, to a song called "Marry Me," with a line dance that is kind of like the Electric Slide. We played it on A's coworker's car's CD player. We also danced to traditional Setswana songs, which our guests sang. The theme of many of them was that the bride's mother-in-law should relax because the bride was here to do the cooking and housework.

Our party was only a couple of hours long, and thank goodness. By the end of that day and exhausting week I had the worst headache I've ever had in my life. Four ibuprofen and two tylenol couldn't kill it. Lesson learned for Our Wedding: Part Two--get lots of sleep and caffeine and don't get sick.

(Holy shit! We got married!)

(A good photographer can make daisies look romantic and fancy.)

(I made all kinds of Moroccan salads--carrots, eggplant, hummus, etc.)

(I also made potato burekas and spanikopita.)

(I really can't get over this cake.)

(The cake was made by our friend's mother (someone we had never even met!). The brownies, snickerdoodles, and Savta crescents were made by me with help from my roommate.)

(We are sweaty.)

(Coworkers and friends.)

(Cutting the cake, close-up.)

(A wore that $5 ring for all of 48 hours. Now it's in our change bowl on the kitchen table. We are feeding each other the cake here.)

(Some of the women were ululating, so I felt right at home.)

Photos of dancing are not so interesting. We have a bunch of videos but my internet connection here can't upload them. Lucky for you, we'll recreate the "Marry Me" song at Our Wedding: Part Two. If you can handle it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I don't have a computer anymore.

One of the big themes of this year is that Botswana is not America, even though it looks and tastes like America. Even though the Indian food here is better than anywhere in Manhattan. The electricity goes out a lot, and with it (and sometimes without it), the internet.

Now my computer broke and I can't get it fixed. I took it to a computer-fixing place and they held onto it for a week and then were sheepishly like, yeah we dunno.

When you're trying to experience the world, it's OK if the internet goes out. Hey, it's even okay if I don't have a computer for a week or two. I actually sort of enjoy reading and baking and going to the orphanage, none of which require a computer except for baking and sometimes reading.

But when you're trying to work for people in the U.S., not having a computer or internet or electricity can be a real handicap. You end up being a bit unreliable, a bit of a disappointer. It's hard to just embrace the experience when you are frustrated that your real life self doesn't look good. You can't enjoy, for example, being stranded for five days in the Namibian desert (I still haven't written about that??!)

Again, I wonder if it would be a very different disappointment if we lived somewhere where our expectations were a lot lower. Like a village in Mali.


The traffic here is also killing us. It took an hour this morning to drive A to work (we've finally hooked up an iPod to our tape player so we can listen to This American Life). It should take 10 minutes. Once I drop him off, I drive another 20 minutes to the orphanage. That's an hour and a half in traffic before my day even starts. Is it any wonder that I don't have patience left to help 30 five-year-olds learn to cut?

Also, where'd all these people get all these cars?


I forgot to take my travel mug home over the weekend and on Monday it stank of rotten milk. Cannot get the effing smell out. Damn it all to hell.


The orphanage preschool continues to be, for lack of a better word, a shitshow. There's this overwhelming contrast between the fact that these kids are laughing and having fun and clean and well-fed and the fact that the classrooms are absurdly understaffed, there's no nurse, there's a million safety violations, and sometimes a teacher will beat a kid with a ruler. Undoubtedly it's a sign of my skewed perspective that I totally understand the hitting. 60 kids and ONE teacher? As long as it's not too hard.

However, in calmer moments, kindergarten is a lovely place. We cut and paste. We color. We sing. We read aloud. We learn to write our names. If my comedy career doesn't work out, and my back-up academic career doesn't work out, and my back-up food blogger/cafe owner career doesn't work out, and nobody ever publishes my books, and I can't think of a good enough reason to become a lawyer, then I think I'd love to be a kindergarten teacher.

Actually, I think as long as I'm not doing anything tremendously interesting, I might as well become a dentist because then I'd make a lot of money.


We're experiencing a record rainy season. Towns are flooding. A's office's roof fell in. The other day, my roommate S and I walked past a bus shelter full of goats hiding from the rain. Half of them were perched up on the bench. It was cute.

Rain means bugs. The government has issued some new malaria warnings, including for towns not far from here. As a result, Penn has told students here to start taking prophylaxis even in Gabs. I started taking pills yesterday, so hopefully they're giving me some protection against the millions of mosquitoes currently biting me.

Just kidding, the risk is very low, Mom.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

That is so the world.

I met today with a Motswana friend, K. We were supposed to have a meeting with a few folks in hopes of starting a monthly open mic night/book club/poetry sharing fun time. Everyone was supposed to meet at my house at 4.

At 3:50, I wondered if K might come early.

At 3:55, K texted she was running late.

At 4, I wondered if anyone would come by 4:15.

At 4:15, I wondered if anyone would come by 4:30.

At 4:35, K showed up. She had texts from the others she'd invited and they'd either bailed or simply never arrived. During the meeting, she got an email from one of them apologizing profusely.

"Maybe he has a good excuse," I said.

"They always have good excuses," she said.

This led to a conversation between the two of us veteran leader-losers about how unreliable people are, how hard it is to get the energy to be a leader, and whether it was worthwhile to even try. It was just like the comedy scene in New York! We complained for an hour, we gossiped for an hour. We talked about the subject at hand for about ten minutes. The very best kind of meeting.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Halfway point

Can you believe we're halfway through this blog? And also our time in Botswana? We've been here for almost four months now, and we'll be here for about another four. Here's the top five moments from my sister and her fiance's visit to Southern Africa in late December:

1) Learning to throw a spear from some Kua (aka "San," aka "Bushmen," which is considered offensive even though the New York Times uses it) folks that we met in Kaudwane, a remote village where B has a friend doing Peace Corps. I posted about them a bit already, but displacement of the Kua and other San is one of the biggest problems with Botswana's otherwise pretty good government. You won't see a lot of people staging protests about it in the capital, but international dissatisfaction has gotten the Kua some concessions (i.e. some may be able to return to live on some parts of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve). In the background, you can see an "O.G." (their term, meaning "original" or "authentic") Kua hut. Not like some of the "fakey" houses in the village.

(Yes, I am wearing a trashbag. It was raining and freezing cold.)

(L and I spent the rest of the evening under a blanket with tea. To the left of us are the two awesome Kua guys who we spent the day with. In addition to speaking Kua, they spoke fluent Setswana AND English.)

2) Driving up the Sani Pass and meeting some Basotho people in Lesotho. The drive was full of spectacular views and "hairpin turns" as the guidebook promised. Lesotho has basically managed to stay independent because it is so freaking hard to get there. They also have one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world, in part because of an economic system that relies on men leaving home for months at a time to work in mines, urban areas in South Africa, etc. These guys were really friendly and we had a good time joking around with them. Their language Sesotho is basically the same as Setswana--we enjoyed showing off our few phrases. The men carry a big stick once they are circumcised and enter adulthood.

(Either I'm tall or those mountains are far away.)

(A got to hold the big stick. Not sure what that means.)

3) The views at Bulungula. We had hoped to find Bulungula, a small Xhosa village on the Wild Coast of South Africa, perfectly enchanting. Instead, we found it pretty mixed. The shared pit bathrooms were trying, the food sucked, the lack of locks on doors suggested all was safe, but both L and I had money stolen, and the offered activities were mostly lame. But the views, with green hills, colorful huts, and the beach, were decidedly awesome.

(Omg I was so out of breath from climbing these hills.)

(It was a nice ocean.)

4) Canoeing at Bulungula. We may have gotten the worst sunburns of our lives, but we also looked really goofy.

(The floppy hat is what sends us over the edge.)

( L and B are much better canoers than us.)

5) Getting a flat tire 20 minutes from the airport. After driving down a 4WD road to Bulungula for two hours in each direction in a Honda Civic, we were relieved to finally get off that road with our tires and car still intact. The irony of getting a flat on the highway in Durban was not lost on us.