Dinner with consequences

Gaborone Travel Blog

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Nina and Joey

It is Tuesday evening. My last two days have been very un-adventurous but fruitful:

I arrived at the office Monday morning some time before my supervisor (Mma Mtunzi, you know her name by now) arrived. She then presented me with a task that caught me off guards: The director, Mma Mogwe, who is in South Africa participating in a conference on the abolition of the death penalty had emailed that I should write a summary report about the workshop last week…problem is: I did not take any notes there and there were about 15-20 speakers! If I had known last Tuesday, I would have taken notes and it wouldn’t have been a problem. My supervisor told me that she hadn’t taken notes either, because she had not anticipated that…so we agreed that I draft a report according to my memory and she adds whatever she remembers.

Rhodesia Railways cart at the Botswana Museum
Luckily we had copies of most of the speeches, but the discussions oftentimes remained a mystery to me.

So I spent most of yesterday and today with that report. I finished it late afternoon today and will see what Mma Mtunzi has to say about it tomorrow.

A funny intermission was when Marcella told me she had seen me on the news on Thursday evening at the May Day march. Turns out they used footage of me and Mma Catherine, our housekeeper, at the rally. Ha, that makes it the third time I appeared on national TV already! Mma Catherine and I had a good laugh about us being TV stars.

I asked Mma Mtunzi about her lunch plans. So far, I had gone home for lunch and the Dutch volunteers, Marcella and Lies, had done the same. Mma Mtunzi said that her fiancée had just returned from a business trip to China and that she was going for lunch with him so I readily retracted my question. But she was kind enough to ask me to come along if I wished. I thought that was very nice. So, I met her fiancée Stanley who hails from Nigeria. He’s a very interesting conversation partner, curious and knowledgeable in many areas. It is a pleasure to talk with him. We went to a local small restaurant where they serve Botswana food (they insisted that we don’t got to the Nigerian place that Stanley had intended because the food might be too hot for me…I disagreed but went along): a plate of rice, serving of stewed beef with sauce and salads, quite a serving for I think P12 (€ 1,25) – I was invited. It was nice gesture of Mma Mtunzi and I am thankful that she took me along. There was no pressure for her to do that.

Once we returned I spoke to our administrator Andrew about my housing problems that are due to start next week (the DED had given me until May 11 to move out). We considered several options, among them dormitory at the University or looking for flat-sharing. Until we closed there was no solution.

In the evening, a woman arrived at the guest house that spoke with Lutz (the father of Joey and Nina) for quite a bit. Regina told me that it was the DED country coordinator for Zimbabwe and Botswana, Frieda by name. She is stationed in Harare (Zimbabwe) and occasionally comes to do some work here. While I was talking with Regina in the kitchen over a Savannah Dry, she entered the room, introduced herself by saying “You must be Oliver” and readily agreed to join us for a cider. We struck up a nice conversation and it didn’t take long until she asked whether Regina and I were interested in going for dinner Tuesday night. We certainly agreed, since we were both interested in what is going on in Zim and Frieda is a very likeable person. We decided upon a Portuguese restaurant (the only one in town).


Tuesday was another slow day (except that it started at 3 AM with another false alarm). I decided to follow the office rules (that had not been officially explained to me but Marcella had told me) that do not allow for jeans in the workplace. Now, in Germany I am someone who almost always wears his jeans so I did bring better pants but just two pairs one of which is rather tight fitting…:shrug: but I put on my pants and a shirt and went to the office. There I continued working on the report.

For lunch I met with the interns of FES and we had a sandwich and just talked. Judith, who had arranged for so much for me, had just returned from a trip to Okavango delta and I was eager to learn more because I will be going there end of this month with my long-time friend Alex who will visit me then. We plan to take a logboat trip on the Okavango for two days (including bush safari on foot where you get to see most of the animals), then head on to Victoria Falls for two days (Alex was kind enough to book a hotel room there) and then return, maybe via Francistown, to Gabs for another two or three days. I am so much looking forward to this! My supervisor already signalled it would be alright to be off for a week…

They also informed me that starting June 2 there would be a free room in the intern apartment since Judith will be going home then. That was quite a relief because with this information it became much easier to plan for the rest of my stay: Next week I will be in Francistown. Starting May 22 I would be travelling only to return shortly prior to June 2. That would leave me with one week to cover and that should be no problem, either in the DED guesthouse or in the intern apartment or maybe even with my Dutch colleagues. I went to Andrew immediately and told him they could stop looking. What a relief! I got myself three books at the book shop, desperately needed reading material, and returned to the office by combi.

I finished the report and talked with my colleagues and Stanley who also dropped by. While I was sitting at my desk in the paralegal conference room, quite a number of clients pass me in the course of the day. It struck me again what a vital program this is: There are so many destitute people here who cannot access legal help. My colleagues here are doing a terrific job at helping and assisting them. When one man left I asked Boitumelo, one of the paralegals, what his case was about. She just looked at me and said: “Sexual abuse”. Turned out his niece had been abused by somebody and they went to the hospital where doctors confirmed she had been abused. The police did not react, citing lack of evidence. They appealed that decision but it was turned down. Now the last resort, not having the means to involve a lawyer, is Ditshwanelo. And that is just one of many cases.

In the evening, Frieda came by the guest house to pick us up and we headed to the restaurant. It was really nice, very Portuguese and the food was excellent. Frieda invited us (which was not unwelcome to this ever-broke author) and we had very intense talks about the situation in Harare. She said it all feels incredibly absurd and unreal, coming to this island of wealth Gabs. In Harare, they have no light, hardly any functioning phone system and people are struggling for the tiniest pieces to survive. On the other hand, the level of sophistication is very high she said. People aged 40 and above are incredibly well schooled and trained. The city itself with its colonial apparel is much nicer than Gabs. She also told us about the big Harare Arts Festival that took place last week with theatre and cabaret and all sorts of activities. She said the opening play was so strong and powerful and clearly directed against the government that she feared what would happen to the actors once the festival was over. On the other hand she explained that many things still are quite “normal” and you don’t necessarily recognize what is going on in the rest of the country. She said the situation was quite safe although she is concerned what will happen if Mugabe finally disappears.

She was interested in what I was doing and when I explained she invited me to come and visit with her for a week or so to see what the human rights lawyers in Harare are busy with currently. I find the thought quite thrilling and interesting. Here is a possibility to visit Harare under the guidance of a well-connected person and therefore pretty safely. I am considering taking her up on this and she really seemed willing to stick to her offer. Will see how things develop but she definitely hit a nerve with me…

I also mentioned my housing troubles and she reacted quite clearly: Once the Pagenstecher family has left the guest house (which will be Saturday) there will be room for me, because even if another guest and Regina’s family arrive, there will still be an extra room. She did not understand why I should not be able to use it and said she’d write an email to her subordinate tomorrow advising her that I could and should stay in the guest house. I was very baffled by this, but it certainly is the best thing that could have happened, because the FES intern apartment is quite a bit from my office and I would have had to take busses in the morning and evening.

So, it seems my housing problem is settled with a mere few words…Who would have thought so yesterday?

Observation of the day: The situation reminds me of my time in Korea. When you live abroad for a while, you get to meet many interesting people that you normally don’t meet at home. These people are often in a position to enable you to do and experience things that you have not anticipated. It is a thrilling feeling…

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Nina and Joey
Nina and Joey
Rhodesia Railways cart at the Bots…
Rhodesia Railways cart at the Bot…
photo by: Niki-Travelfan