Sunday, October 23, 2005

first days in Botswana

Dear Mike: Gabarone reminds me of Leon, Mexico and other third-world cities I have seen. The expat cocoon here is quite dense: living in a gated community, restaurants that are predominantly white and foreign clientele, and a language barrier that is profound (despite an official language of English) between us and the elderly and poor because of availability of schooling in the past and present school fees.

The hospital is as expected, and reminds me quite a bit of what I have read about nineteenth- and early-twentieth century wards (11 patients to a cubicle, with the extra mattresses on the floor) and pavilion architecture (which I explained to a colleague yesterday was not about inefficiency but about TB prevention). The suffering of the people is certainly great, and borne with a dignity (resignation?) that is at once admirable and sad. I think I can be useful here, and have much to learn (and teach my colleagues gently).

The country is very warm and dry, as expected. The plant life are all desert species. We spent the weekend swimming, hiking, and at a fascinating party. The Motswana man who tried to pick up me and the medical student I was with (I had heard about this feature of African men...) acted physically wounded when he saw my wedding ring, and wanted to know why my husband let me come to Africa without him ...

But the Ugandans and Batswana I have met are also eager to dispel the myths they see in the international news, that "we are not animals." Carla

No comments: