Yesterday my second to last day here, I really got another lesson in culture differences and in the lessons I have yet to learn in patience.
There was a scheduled staff potluck, which was brought forward a day for me. It is a monthly event to celebrate birthdays, note departures and other significant event.. It was to start at 1 pm and I was hungry. There were several people there on time. Then some people wandered in and out again. This went on for an hour and a quarter. People were still preparing food, going to the stores to buy the gifts and then to wrap them.
It all seemed crazy to me. After all the talk about team, I thought that nothing had penetrated. And I was hungry. Eventually, everyone did arrive and we all sat down, with a plate and / or cutlery, depending on its availability. I had no cutlery but thought I would just follow along. I thought; “Great now we will eat”. Whoa! The protocol dictated otherwise. First there had to be the appreciation of the birthday person and the two people leaving, of which I was one. I was amazed at my impatience – there is still more to learn, I realized!. Later I found out that social events like a dinner party can be called for 7 pm and the cooking will start at 9:30. The potluck apparently was done in pretty good time and other times the actual meal does not start until after 4 pm. Patience, going with the flow and eating ahead of time seem to b e necessary preparations!
There were lovely, laudatory speeches from many of the people present each taking about 5 minutes. Most people in turn acknowledged the three celebrants and it finished with the final words by the coordinator. In the middle of that I got a call and had to leave the party for a while. When I returned they were all waiting for me to say my piece – which of course I did. It was very moving and I really appreciated it. A lovely custom, which we would do well to learn from; a built in form of collective appreciation.
Then a bit after 3 pm, we got to eat. I had no cutlery but neither did some others, so I followed suit and used my fingers and a roll to eat my salad, spicy beans and other gooey stuff.
Last night, I finally remembered to go out after 9 pm and look at the desert, southern sky. Without all the ambiance of city lights and clear dryness of a desert atmosphere, the sky was utterly fabulous. Crystal clear and glittering like thousands of Botswana diamonds strewn across pitch black velvet catching an individual light ray that culminated in a majestic sparkle. Breath taking.
This will be my last post for a while – for at least four days and maybe until I get back to Canada. I know there is no Internet availability in the Delta and will see what is available elsewhere after that. I will write them as I find time and catch up later, hopefully augmented by good photos of my adventures.
In several hours I will be in a small propeller airplane heading north to the Moremi Reserve in the middle of the Delta, one of the last great wild places, I am told.
Until next time.