Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009, departure from WAR

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.


  1. Your account of yesterday's pot-luck is very accurate. I knew you would be pissed off waiting. So was I! I'm sure you noticed that Kabo didn't get there till the singing started! One of the main lessons I have learned in the 10 years I lived here is that (especially in Botswana) you have to have bucket loads of patience!!

  2. You crack me up, Adriaan! And by the way, I'd probably be just as impatient to sink my teeth in FOOD!