Wednesday, May 28, 2008

55 Kalahari Lane

Since returning from holidays, Roger is now working for the client, Saber Energy and enjoying working as part of this team. That makes me very happy, and I am also enjoying life at the south Saber camp.

We are still living in a tent (in an address we've dubbed 55 Kalahari Lane because of our tent number), but we have power and wireless internet access which are big luxuries for us. The camp has quite an infrastructure in place including trailers with offices and accommodation for some of the U.S. personnel, hot (well....usually) showers, and the always appreciated....flush toilets! There is even satellite TV in the dining tent and I get a kick out of seeing lots of the men watching African soap operas!

Above clockwise: Our tent, trailers, sinks, showers/toilets.

All the employees now live and eat together and spend time around the campfire at night. I’ve met fascinating young people from Zimbabwe and Angola – their grasp of international politics is remarkable – but as they say – their lives depend on understanding what is happening in their country and around the world.

I am in awe of the kitchen and cleaning staff. There are anywhere from 60 – 100 people in camp and 8 people do all the cooking and cleaning. And consider this:
· The kitchen has one small double sink to do all the dishes
· There are 6 burners and one regular-sized oven
· There is no microwave

The next time you’re making Christmas dinner for a fraction of the people, look around you and see all the appliances that help you! The kitchen staff is enthusiastic about learning North American recipes, so I’ve had a wonderful time finding easy recipes on the internet and then making them with the ladies. Getting to know them, and working along side them has been a very special experience for me. In return, they taught me how to make roti, and mayunga (which is like a Yorkshire pudding/donut/deep fried dough ball – also known as “Fat cakes” --- I wonder why?!).

Oh yes, and all the washing is done by hand and comes back neatly folded with no evidence of the mysterious single sock phenomena that used to plague me. And to think I had problems sorting out Brad and Roger’s socks, let alone trying to do it for all these people!

Many of the worker's Setswana names have beautiful meanings: Kabelo (a gift), Keipeile (I sit here myself), Oneilwe (she’s given), Tshegofatso (she is blessed), Kemmopile (I have created), and Otlaadisa (he who looks after cattle). Ironically they have a hard time pronouncing “Heather” and so are very patient as I try to learn theirs. I still try to speak some Setswana and am always greeted with big smiles – probably because I butcher the language – but also because they’re happy I’m giving it a shot.

I’ve heard Roger has been described as “a great and wonderful man who teaches me”, and “the old man who walks like a young man”! His gray hair (and mine) certainly stands out in a country with very few old people (current stats say that life expectancy at birth is around 50 years). And I’ve been told the guys in camp think I look like Hillary Clinton! Not sure what to do with that information...I don’t even wear pant suits!
So, 4 months have passed since I stepped off the plane in Gaborone and I have run the gamut of emotions from “what the hell am I doing here?” to feeling incredibly lucky.
I have gone so far out of my comfort zone, that I've created a new one.

I’ve become friends with people I never would have met in North America, and have come away with a much better understanding of this beautiful, complex and troubled continent.

I burst with pride when I hear the workers tell me how much they respect Roger’s work ethic, what a good teacher he is and of his kindness to them. They have not always been treated that way by whites, and it’s good they see not everyone is the same.

On June 3rd I head to Calgary and will spend a couple of weeks visiting and then head down to Idaho for the summer. Roger’s plan is to come home later in July and go to the lake as soon as possible. He was in Madagascar all last summer and really missed Idaho, so we are looking forward to lots of visits from friends and family while we get time on the water.
It is said that tourists return home from a trip with souvenirs, but adventurers return with stories. And boy, do I have stories.....

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