Friday, June 22, 2012


Beautiful Modern Buildings Nestled Between Dirt Lots - this is right near the center of town
The Ministry of Health Complex
I went to the Ministry of Health first thing yesterday morning (after spending about an hour and more than $40 USD at the business center in Riverwalk Mall getting print outs and additional copies of my translations) to submit the Setswana translations and finalize my research proposal.  When I walked in to the office, the man working there recognized my research proposal immediately and said "oh, we already approved that one."  I was shocked, because when we checked in two weeks earlier (on my first day in Gaborone) they told us they were waiting for my translations before they would approve the study.  Not that I would have begun to interview people before I had the translations anyway, but the great news is that now I can go ahead and get started!  Yippee!  That means I've got 8 solid weeks in which to interview people.

Above are some photos of the ministry of health - one of the nicest buildings in Gaborone, and rightly so given that Botswana has been so affected by HIV/AIDS.  The office staff was very friendly and my visit was incredibly efficient - not exactly what I expected.  I had a much harder time figuring out how to navigate my initial administrative approval in the US.  On my victorious departure from the research department, I snapped this photo from the 7th floor (taken from inside the tall white building with all the balconies in the photos above):

Inside the Ministry of Health
To celebrate my approval (and being finished with long hours of fine-tuning my translated documents) I took a stroll down to the main mall.  On the way I passed the parliament building, which has a huge fountain along the front of it:

Botswana Parliament Building
The parliament faces a nice plaza which contains a statue of Botswana's first president, Sir Seretse Khama (see link at the end for more info on this sweet dude).  If you walk away from the parliament building, past Mr. Khama's statue, and cross the street, you will find yourself in the main mall.  While perusing the main mall, which is not a regular shopping mall but is a wide pedestrian area with lots of shops, banks, and street vendors, I saw the President Hotel.  I just finished reading the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency this week, so I decided to find out if there really is a terrace on the hotel where I could have a coffee like Mma Ramotswe does every weekend.  Well, not only does the hotel have a terrace, but they have actually named it after Mma Ramostwe!

The Mma Ramotswe Tea Corner at the Cresta President Hotel
 I did not see Mma Ramotswe there (sorry, mom), but there was one guy out there eating his lunch so I hope he didn't mind me snapping his picture!

Looking out on the Main Mall from the Mma Ramotswe Tea Corner
I decided to stay for a cup of coffee when I realized it was just about lunch time and they were about to serve a buffet lunch - so I went all out and had a delicious lunch, which seemed more like a Thanksgiving dinner to me!  Roast chicken, grilled beef, macaroni, beef (or was it goat?) curry, sweet potatoes, curried plantains, morogo (dark greens cut up small and cooked w/ other veggies), samp (cooked hominy), pap (white maize ground up and boiled), some kind of pickled carrot and cabbage thing, and maize with beans, and that doesn't include the dessert buffet.  It was delicious and well worth the $20 USD.

My Victory Feast!
After my massive meal I stopped by the tourist office to get a map and then decided to walk to the hospice - I'm not sure the exact distance but probably about 2 miles based on google maps and my personal estimate. It was a warm day, although rather windy, and it was fun to walk through the neighborhoods surrounding the hospice as I wound my way through the streets.  Here are some things I saw along the way:

I thought this sign was cool - the lot behind the fence was filled with
what looked like stolen cars which had been sitting outside for ages.
Is that a lion on the logo?

Well-trodden foot paths
These are EVERYWHERE and will get you from one end of the city to the other

Mother Hen With 10 Chicks - can they ALL be hers?

Everyone here is SO friendly - there is a certain amount of attention I get for being white (and they can probably also tell I'm foreign) - but really people here are very giving, warm, and honestly curious about other cultures.  On my walk I saw lots of kids who had just gotten out of school, and they always smile shyly and say "hello" to me while staring curiously.  Lots of adults sitting in their yards will wave and say hello or "dumela" as well, and occasionally they will stop me to ask where I am from and find out more about what I am doing in Botswana (this happened twice on my walk yesterday).  Sometimes the adults stare at me with suspicion and/or curiosity until I say hello first, but they always respond with a genuine smile and a wave.  Based on my experience in other countries I am instinctively wary of any stranger who tries to start a conversation with me - especially when I am alone - but the overall graciousness, politeness, and genuine curiosity of the Batswana has begun to break down my defensiveness.  This is a welcome change, and it is so nice to be in a place that feels so inviting.  It is hard to remain a cynic with so much positive energy around! Of course I will continue to be a cautious and conscientious traveler.  I keep an eye on my belongings at all times, and I still won't walk anywhere alone at night.

Today I returned to the hospice for the 7:30am staff meeting and then went along with some of the staff to pick up the patients who come to the hospice during the day.  It is interesting and incredibly informative seeing where patients live, regardless of what country I'm in.  Many of the hospice patients live in one-room cinder block apartments with a thin tin roof, no electricity, and an outdoor pit toilet shared with many family members and neighbors.  Despite their living situations, I am encouraged to see the patients well dressed in clean clothes and ready to go when the hospice van pulls up.  I should also mention that some of the places do have electricity, and I have seen many of these one-room apartments that house several people with satellite dishes attached (working or not I have yet to find out).  I am planning to start interviewing families on Monday, so I will get a closer look at their homes then.  I keep thinking it would be great to film a documentary or do a photo essay of people and their living situations here.  I will try to get some good photos of the neighborhoods while I'm out doing my research.

Seretse Khama, an awesome dude who, among other great things, refused to annul his interracial marriage back in the 1940s:
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency:'_Detective_Agency


  1. Just wonderful! I am so thrilled. What a great post! Congratulations! Mom

  2. That is not the sort of hotel I expected when Mma Ramotswe was having her tea. It's much too western and modern. With pictures like yours, you will make us readers question the accuracy of those books! Seriously, thank you for the pictures and the excellent commentary. People reading your blog will be tempted to visit Botswana. It sounds like a lovely place. Thank goodness your research is approved and you can get started. We'll be waiting for more details from that facinating country.
    Sue Grant

  3. It looks so neat and clean and well developed. I thought it would be a dirty, dusty shantytown looking place.
    I love the square outside the mall - at first glance, it could almost be a mall square anywhere in Europe!