Monday, 19 November 2012

My Town In Photos

So I've decided I need to take more photos of Botswana, and more importantly the town in which we've been living these past 4 years, Francistown.

And then of course I must share them.

So this is going to be the start of a little series I guess.

Francistown has changed so much in four years, more cars on the roads, new buildings and shops have been built, more houses and it feels like more people around the place. I wish I'd take more photos when we first moved here but like most people you often forget to play tourist in your own town sometimes. So the changes I can't document. But I will endeavour to capture all things Botswana for the next year at least :)


I haven't really written much about the cultural differences I have encountered whilst living in Bots. And when I say cultural differences I'm not meaning between black and white, but between the local people (Motswana), or even Africans in general (if I can be allowed to generalise for a moment), and me, an Australian. I have had many different experiences, some funny, some not so, but there are a few things that seem to happen to me all the time that I thought I would share.

The first is one I struggle with. Well to be honest I struggle with a lot of the situations I find myself in here sometimes, but this one can sometimes really irk me, depending on how I am feeling on the day. And that is, the African way of asking for something. And by that I mean African people in general seem to have no qualms whatsoever in asking another person to give them something of theirs, whether it be money, a present for their birthday, food, your child's hat. It's a culture of if you don't ask, you won't get, and what's yours is mine. And for this Aussie the idea of this is completely foreign to me. I was brought up to save for what I want, to work hard, and to get it for myself.

My previous maid asked me one day if she could show me something, proceeding to show me a pair of gold hoop earrings. She explained that she liked them very much, and that I could get her some more similar. I think her birthday was coming up but I was unaware of that at the time. I was too shocked and caught off guard to reply with anything other than we'll see. But what I wish I had said to her was, that I don't even buy those sort of things for myself so why would I get them for her? It was such a strange request to make of an employer in my opinion. But she seemed genuine in her asking and not at all guilty of being impolite. I obviously didn't end up getting her such a present, yet it never swayed her from asking me for other things later including Lachlan's clothes when she latter fell pregnant.

Some weeks here in Bots I feel as if I have ATM written on my head. I am often asked for money by our garden staff, sometimes they pay me back, most often not. Sometimes they will do me a favour instead. I realise compared to these people I have a lot and most of the time I am happy to help, but sometimes it's the no sense of thanks that gets me. That its owed or deserved or a right and that I must say yes. Now this isn't always the case and quite often thanks is said many times over, but when it's not, that is when I feel used and like just another "rich" person that owes something.

Last the week my maid, Tshepiso, came to me and told me that her grandfather died. This happens here often, where an employee or worker in our housing complex will come and tell us one of their relatives has passed away. Death in Africa is a tricky business and I am completely unaware of what is meant to be said, or not said, in regards to condolences and sympathy. Initially I wasn't entirely sure why Tshepiso was telling me about this. She rarely speaks to me of her family, and to be honest, at her age, I was surprised her grandfather had still been alive.

Here in Bots when someone tells you a relative died there is always an unspoken expectation hanging in the air and I never know how to handle it. After I had expressed my sympathies to her, Tshepiso then said she would like to attend the funeral which would be on Friday and that she wanted to leave after work on Thursday. Sure I said, take Friday off, no problem. Still an air of expectation hung between us. Do you need money for the bus Tshepiso? Yes madam. How much? 30 pula. Ok I will give it to you, I said.

Mr B had told me previously that employers are meant to offer a contribution to the funeral but this is such a strange concept to me, I wouldn't even know where to start. I didn't know Tshepiso's grandfather, I didn't even know he had still been alive until that day. Why is it then I am expected to contribute to his funeral? The idea is just so strange. So instead I went a different route and offered up bus fare. Knowing Tshepiso and how careful she seems to be with her money (ie she wouldn't take the 30 pula from me that day but rather wanted me to keep it till Thursday for safe keeping) she could probably afford the bus fare herself, but with that air of expectation there between us I wasn't sure what she wanted from me, what else I was meant to say, do, or offer. How much would have been an appropriate funeral contribution?

On other occassions I have been "told off" by Mr B and other friends for being overly generous with my givings. A few months ago one of the gardeners came to me and asked if I could contribute towards a school's awards night. I gave 100 pula which is about $A12. Whilst I thought this was generous I also thought this is for a school award's night for kids that have excelled at something, what's $12 for something like that. Apparently I gave way too much and should have donated more like 5 pula which is less than $A1.

So as you can see I've got no clue what's appropriate for these things and what's not and in the end it makes me very uncomfortable, and at times unwilling to give, as I'm never sure if I'm being overly generous or not generous enough.

Crazy I know, to be worrying about being overly generous. But the cultural differences mean that I could potentially be causing offence without meaning to. I wonder now if that gardener took offence to me giving so much as a donation to the school because she would not have been able to give the same. Did she think I was "showing off"? And then I also wonder, did that money even find its way to the school or was that note too tempting not to keep? Cynical of me to think this I know, but living here and seeing some of the things I've seen, has left me with a certain distrust when it comes to money and people.

The other situation I often find myself in involves my kids. Motswana LOVE children. Everyone is an Aunty to everyone else's kids. And as a result they are typically very friendly to children when they see them out and about. Both LL and Miss J are a bit of a novelty over here. LL is fair haired and obviously both are white skinned. They immediately draw attention to themselves when we are at the shops, just by being themselves. I constantly have people coming up to them wanting to touch them, high five them, hold their hands, and even sometimes pick them up, take them out of the shopping trolley or out of the pram. And this is where the line is crossed for me. In Australia even though someone may absolutely adore children, it is very unusual for a stranger to touch your child, let alone pick them up or jokingly take them away from the mother.

When LL was a baby he was very fair haired and people were drawn to him. One day I turned my back on the supermarket trolley to get some butter or milk from the fridge and when I turned back a young girl was going to lift LL out of the trolley. I immediately put my hands on him, and told her to please leave him, which she did, but she looked at me as if to say, what's your problem?  What's the big deal? I was so shocked by the situation I was shaking. This was a huge wake up call for me about personal space and that the line here is very different to the line at home. Because of that incident and a few others when LL was small, to this day I don't ever let him out of my sight when we are out and about.

The thing is most people mean well, they just don't realise that they are invading our personal space. On Friday while at the supermarket I had Miss J strapped to me in the baby bjorn and LL in the trolley. I had turned away to get some food and turned back to find a teenage boy leaning on my trolley trying to impress his friends by talking to LL. I was not impressed and told him to move away as LL looked very uncomfortable and almost frightened. The young guy shooed me off with a wave of his hand as if I shouldn't tell him what to do. I was so frustrated by his lack of respect for my son's space and his inability to see that he was in fact upsetting LL.

Immediately following this, one of the supermarket boys offered to push my trolley to the car. This is a common thing done here, and whilst I usually turn the offer down so as not to upset LL who is always sitting in the trolley, I decided to let him help as I had Miss J weighing me down in the baby bjorn. LL was very unsure about the situation. The boy had seemed genuinely friendly though and keen to help so I attempted to reassure LL that he was just helping us and it was ok. The poor little guy did not lift his head up once despite the young Motswana boy's efforts to engage with him. LL was just too uncomfortable and unsure. Yet the young Motswana did not stop trying to get LL to talk to him. He just did not seem to understand that LL is shy around strangers. I said this to him several times, yet he did not give up or let LL be. He even went so far as to pick LL up out of the trolley and put him in the car for me. All of this with only the intention of helping, yet no understanding that he was in fact crossing a personal space line for us Australians.

Cultural differences are all part and parcel of this ex-pat life. It is something we experience and have to learn to live with daily. Generally I have a whinge or a vent to Mr B about an incident or situation, and then I move on and get over it. I'm not a confrontational person so I am never going to tell someone to bugger off and leave my kids and I alone, or no I can't loan you any more money. It's just not who I am. All I can do is recognise the situations for what they are - cultural differences - and learn to live with them.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Would you walk with lion?

A few months ago, deep in the haze of sleep deprivation, Mr B and I decided to join some friends for a long weekend away to The Ranch, a hotel resort in South Africa, situated within a 1000ha nature conservancy.

It's main claim to fame is it's "walk with the lion" experience, which initially both Mr B and I thought would be a "must-do". I don't think we were thinking that clearly, running on an average 4 hours sleep a night. But still, we were desperate for some time away, to get out of town, and to maybe break the vicious sleepless cycle that we were currently experiencing. To say our baby girl was a bad sleeper would have been an understatment. I was desperate for a change of scene.

After a rather uneventful 6 hour car journey we descended on the The Ranch, and were suitably impressed with our golf chalet and all the facilities on offer - pool, playground, and lovely grounds.


Miss J on her first ever road trip!

A few in the group were quick to get straight back in a vehicle and took off on a game drive around the conservancy. They came back with tales of lion spotting and cub handling, getting Mr B and I excited for our turn.

That night the Mums in the group - my two friends Ally, Irene and myself - were treated to a peaceful dinner on our own. It was a real treat to be able to have a conversation uninterrupted, and to eat my dinner without having to attend to someone else. I certainly did not take that for granted and savoured it for all it was.

The next day was a free day of sorts - no activities planned - as the horse-riding safari we had initially booked was cancelled due to the horses being ill.

Instead we decided to hit the shops. Polokwane is about 20kms away from the resort, and has some much appreciated shopping malls. I don't think I had been seriously shopping since before Miss J was born, and so I was in heaven. We shopped, and shopped and shopped. New clothes for the kids and Mr B, a few bits for me (hard to clothes shop while wearing a baby!), toys for Christmas, a new bike for LL, and some other things that are hard to come by in Francistown. It was SO GOOD to shop! This may all sound completely materialistic of me, but when everyday your choices are so limited, it is definitely a nice feeling to be able to get a few treats for you and your kids.

LL's eyes lit up at the sight of this ride :)

When it came time to decide whether to walk with the lion or not, Mr B and I both decided we wouldn't. Not sure if we'll regret this later, but it just seemed a little too risky when we have two small people to consider. Our three friends did it though and LOVED it! They were packing themselves the whole time, but they said it was an experience of a life time.

(Photo by Irene)
(Photo by Irene)

(Photo by Irene)

Instead Mr B, LL and I took Miss J on her first ever game drive. LL was beside himself with excitement at the "truck" we were travelling in. He wasn't too fussed about the animals, but rather wanted the truck to keep moving and for us to continue on our "bumpy ride".

It was a given that we'd see lion - this place wasn't really "the wild". The animals are all in enclosed areas and the guides know where to find them. Still it was great to finally see some lion again - we hadn't seen any since this trip Mr B and I did pre-kids. There was a distinct difference between these lion and those we had seen previously though - these lion were FAT!!! Their coats were shiny, their manes nice and shaggy, they didn't have too many scratches, and it was very obvious they didn't have to hunt for their food or fight for their women.

(Photo by Irene)

(Photo by Irene)

After our drive through one of the lion enclosures we made our way to some smaller enclosures where the cubs and female lion were sheltered. The cubs are all being groomed to become a part of the walk with the lion experience so it is important they are handled by as many people as possible. Mr B was the lucky one who got to "play" with them for a bit. Miss J was again strapped to me in the baby bjorn so there was no way I was going in the yard.

We made our way through the enclosures, admiring a very old lion who held some celebrity status for starring in several movies including this one, and some female lion that were being prepared for mating. Miss J soon became restless and fussy as feed time was fast approaching. The more she squirmed and cried out, the more the lionnesses pricked up their ears and became interested in the small creature flapping its arms about. My initial reaction was to move away quickly. I mean sure there was a high fence between us and them, but the guide had told our friends on a previous tour that they could leap over the fence if they really wanted to. As I began to back away two of the lionnesses made their way rather quickly towards us. The guide told me to stop and hold my ground. He spoke to the lion, and threw a few small stones at them to get them to back off.

Despite the fence being between us, I don't mind saying that my heart was racing and I was keen to get out of there and back to the safety of the resort.
As we headed back to Bots the next day I felt tired but refreshed. It had been good to get away, to see some new places, to shop shop shop, to spend time as a family, to see lion again, and I was now ready for what we had to do next ... sort out Miss J's unwillingness to sleep.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Three, What a Very Fun Age to Be

 A month or so ago we had a small party for this little guy ...
 He was turning 3!

And boy does he know how to party.

For weeks and weeks leading up to the big day, he was going around the house singing happy birthday to "Lachlan" or "Happy Birthday to me". It was too cute.

We'd been going to a lot of birthday parties leading up to his, so he knew what the deal was - cake, balloons, singing, playing, FUN, FUN, FUN.
We'd decided on a Choo Choo themed party, but really LL wasn't too fussed.
All he knew was according to him a party was not a party without balloons, so we had 'em.

And we had to play games, so we did.
Pin the face on Thomas the Tank, Musical Chairs and good ol' Duck Duck Goose :)
And of course there had to be cake, so we made one, Botswana style!
It was a fantastic afternoon with some great friends.

You could not wipe the smile off LL's face. And that made my heart smile too :)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Eight Months

Eight months ago a little lady came into our lives, and turned our world upside down for the better.

It's been 8 months of cuddles, of feeding, of sleepless nights.

8 months of smiles, of tears, of laughter.

8 months of settling and re-settling, of nappy changes, of holding and carrying and doing things one handed.

And 8 months of learning to be a mother all over again, but this time to 2.

It's been wonderful. And it's been hard.

So hard at times that I've thought things I wished I hadn't, done things I wished I didn't, and said things I never should've.

But we've gotten there. Slowly.

The last month or two things have gotten "easier". Or maybe our routine has finally become more normal.

And now it's hard to remember a time when she wasn't here, when it wasn't the four of us.

And I like that!

Jessica Kate, 8 months, 9.5kg, 5 teeth, sitting like a lady, smiling and chatting all day long, and as cute as a button :)

She adores her big brother, and lights up when she sees her Daddy.

She loves to squeal, laugh and giggle.

She's not a fan of pureed food, preferring to eat what Mummy is eating.

She chews and chews and chews and chews, anything and everything that she can get her hands on.

She doesn't like to sleep much during the day, but sleeps all night long, quite often for 12 hours.

She's discovered the world of books and delights in any story.

She's happiest when LL is with her, and Mummy is not too far.

She's stubborn and determined and happy and cuddly.

Quite simply, she's our little cheeky "chops" and we love her to bits :)

Four Years

I'm a little late with this post, but it needs to be written, late or not ...

Last Thursday, the 1st of November, was an anniversary of sorts for Mr B and I - four years of living in Botswana! Wow!

When Mr B and I boarded the plane back in 2008, destination Francistown, Botswana, we knew little of where we were going or how our life was going to go. All we knew was we wanted an adventure, a change of scenery and to experience something new. For at least two years, anyway.

Flash forward four years later, and I think it's safe to say we got all that and more. We now have two little kiddies, we have lived in our house longer than any other house before, and in a town that I would never in a million years have imagined living in. We have made some wonderful friends, met some incredibly interesting people, and got to see and do some amazing things. We have been very lucky.

And despite all my whinging and whining over the years, the frustrations I have with living in Africa almost on a daily basis, I honestly wouldn't change the last four years for anything. This experience of living here in Botswana has been a blessing in so many ways, and I truly am grateful for it all ...

even the potholes!

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