The Pan-African Universities Debating Champtionship began yesterday (Monday the 8th). One of my tasks on Sunday was to take the care the debate organizing commitee is renting to the airport. I was to collect 8 people, 4 from Zimbabwe and 4 from Uganda. Luckily another guy drove his car so we could take them all in one trip. Double luckily the airlines lost all of their luggage so we could fit everyone in our very small vehicles
VW Chico circa 1991. You can still buy these new in Southern Africa.
As it ended up (and appropriatly enough following up on my last blog post from over a month ago) I ended up with the Zims in my car. We had the following conversation.
Me: “So where do you go to school?”
Lucy: “University of Zimbabwe”
Taylor: “It is the only university in Zim that isn’t closed”
Me: “Oh, I see”
Lucy: “But we don’t have any lecturers”
Me: “Because they havn’t been paid?”
Lucy: “For over a year.”
Me: “So do ya’ll stay on campus?”
Taylor: “Campus has not had water or electricity all year”
Lucy: “So it is not sanitary or safe to stay there”
Me: “Oh, so do you commute?”
Lucy: “Most students can’t afford to commute, so they don’t come”
Taylor: “Those that can aford to commute come once or twice a week”
Even though I gathered they probably had not been to class all semester they were still keen on finishing school and their declared majors. Taylor is studying journalism. We both laughed when he said his major. I asked if the atmosphere was still oppressive and he said that even the Intelligence Officers complain openly. The last person left pretended everything is salvageable will be Robert Mugabe. It will be a case of one person believeing a lie at the expense of a nation..
In a previous blog entry I mentioned about my namesake town here in Botswana, Sowa. Well we had our spring break, or ‘short vacation’ as the emic term goes, and I convinced a friend to visit the salt pans in Sowa town. He brought along three other people as well and we all set off Thursday night on the train from Gaborone to Francistown. Boarding the train was an event. The line was hundreds of people long and everyone rushed foward to get on the train (and get a seat to avoid standing for the 8 hour ride). Well, the train had not even stopped moving as people came to blows while holding on to the side of the train car. I saw lugage knocked under the cars, but thankfully no people. We were riding first class, which ment we got a sleeper car. These expensive (20 USD) tickets were not in such demand, as we were two people to each four person room. The train is popular because it is about 7 USD cheaper than the bus.
Daily train from Gaborone to Francistown
After arriving in Francistown we had to pass a few hours waiting for the bus to Sowa Town. The landscape changed as the minibus made its way to Sowa. I noticed that trees were becoming more sparse and the heat was more intense. Upon arrival in Sowa Town we got a ride to the Country Club (yes I am serious) where we were generously greeted with free water and bags of chips and then got a free ride out to a lodge near the salt mine and the salt pans. We then walked out to the salt pans (Sua Pan) to set up camp.
Did I mention I had a 70 pound backpack? And it was pushing 110 degrees F?
So we would sit out on the salt pan during the day and watch the horizon melt, then reform, distant rocks looked as though they were floating, and at high noon heat the heat waves off of the salt in the distance made it look as though we could tell the earth was spinning as fast as it is.
A couple of weekends ago I was awaken by sounds of the loud speakers from the national stadium that is just across the street. It was Saturday, and National Police Day was starting at 7:00am. Things usually start early here, and the 6:30am business call is not out of the question, but 7:00am on a Saturday? When I got to the stadium 30 minutes later the best seats were all taken. I underestimated the draw of police day. The crowd was mostly adults with children…very few people my age. I guess that explains why some people laughed when I asked if they were going to police day.
Because the stadium is not closed in the roar of the crowd during penalty kicks during a soccer game to be heard for miles away.
The Botswana Police Service is just over 120 years old, making it one of the oldest institutions in the country. The police serve under the Office of the President, His Excellency Khama Ian Khama, so of course the President came out to inspect his keepers of the peace. This was a highly anticipated event, as the man on the loudspeaker kept reminding us of the President’s immanent arrival every 30 seconds for the hour before the President actually arrived.
The President is the one not soluting and looks more pink than everyone else.
I was impressed with the Police Band and the officers on review. They put on a stellar parade show with precision marching…reminded me of being in marching band at Grapevine High School.