On Monday Rafael (another Rotary Scholar) and I went to early mass to meet up with Sister Abba. I rode my bike to the Cathedral and stopped off on the way there when I smelled a wood fire. See, I don’t smell wood fires here like I remember from Haiti. Botswana street vendors are almost all on propane, natural gas, or paraffin. So with this smell in my nose I rode my bike up to the “tack shop” (just four wood poles, 3 sides, and a tin roof, to see what was cookin’. I was determined to buy whatever it was just to support the traditional (if forest ruining) way of cooking. To my suspicions they were making up some fat cakes, basically big wads of oily dough deep fried in more oil until they fluff up. There are similar things in Haiti (and I imagine all over the world for that matter) but they are smaller and called “marinade.”
Anyway, after the stop over at the imagination and memory inspiring tack shop I continued on to the Cathedral. Rafa and I were meeting Sr. Abba to spend the day with her as she tended to a couple of groups of HIV/AIDS. Sr. Abba is one of those people who can do more than almost anyone else I know could with a shoestring budget and 16 hours of working in a day.
The first place we left for was a town about 30km outside of Gaborone called Mogoditshane. We stopped by the Catholic Church there, one of the oldest in Botswana, to pick up a propane cooker, 5 gallons of water, and about 10kg of assorted food. We then drove behind the church to a patients house and dropped off the propane burner and the 5 gallons of water. The house was about 35 feet by 20 feet, of block construction and with a tin roof. It has a cement floor, and other than at least one of the occupants having HIV/AIDS I’d say it wasn’t that bad. Nonetheless, they need something to cook on and something to store water in.
Soon after this venture we took off to Mmopane to go visit the HIV/AIDS support group. The road to these towns are part of the way paved, but then once they arrive in the town they turn to sand/dirt. Some of then are rough, some of them are bellow grade…which means they turn to rivers when the rains come and get washed out. This is a recurrent problem in developing countries.
Once again we convened at the Catholic Church to find about 20 HIV/AIDS positive women sitting under a 15 meter tree, in a semi-circle, sewing. Sr. Abba left us to hang out for an hour or so. I learned how to do a running-back stitch. The group meets twice a week, but Sr. Abba wants them to be able to meet 4 or 5 times a week, especially because the meal at the social group is the only significant one most of them eat all day or week. Speaking of the meals, did I mention all the cooking is done in the tiny sacristy? And all that work is done by volunteers. I asked one of the volunteers why he volunteered, he responded “It is my vocation.”