Some great new friends – We recently met some great people from other counties who have chosen to live in Botswana. People that choose to make Botswana their home seem to be a special breed. Living in Africa is hard and people who choose to live and raise their families here seem to be very special people. They are hardy people, filled with love for the African culture and pioneer sorts of people trying to live or introduce western ways to this continent. I am impressed with their ability to hold on to their heritage and also find a place in a new culture to thrive, raise children and share their lives and gifts.
We have recently met four unique families that have given me food for thought and strength to go forward.
Kelone and Jez: have recently started an NGO called Springboard Humanism. http://www.betterplace.org/en/organisations/springboard_humanism. They have opened a hostel to take in children/young adults that have not been able to move past Form III (10thgrade). They are helping them study for exams to gain entrance to senior school and also helping them develop job skills in case that does not work out. Kelone is the head of the Art Department at Botswana University. Jez is the head of the German version of Peace Corps in Botswana. Jez came here decades ago as a German “Peace Corps” and fell in love with Kelone and the Batswana people. They went to Germany where Kelone secured advanced degrees. However, they decided to return to Botswana to raise their daughter.
They are both incredibly dedicated to all the children of Botswana. Kelone is so sweet and worldly! I can easily see how Jez fell in love with her, and remains dedicated to making her happy. They have a beautiful home that they share with everyone they meet. Jez is the kindest soul I think I have ever met – it is amazing how he can empathize with disenfranchised youth at a one on one level. He seems to have a bottomless heart of compassion and works tirelessly at his NGO and at his job with German version of the Peace Corps.
They asked me to help tutor some of the young women going to night school. I must admit when I first met these women it seemed completely hopeless. The women are from minority tribes and Setswana is their second language and English their third language. I felt it was impossible to teach them with such a huge language barrier – but when I came back the second week – the girls had learned 10 times what I thought possible! I’m still not sure they will be able to pass the test to move on to the next level of education – but they are learning and improving their life skills and it feels very good to be a part of something so positive. I have always believed there are two important components to being able to learn: 1) You must have hope that you can and will be able to be productive and make something of your life and 2) you must have someone believe in you! Kelone and Jez have totally created an environment for this to happen! I am so happy to have found them.
Rika and Mickey: We recently met Rika and Mickey. Rika left German 35 years ago and come to Botswana as a UN volunteer. She is an artist and has started a few art communities/schools that have been in existence for more than 25 years! She met Mickey (from South Africa) and they fell in love at first sight. They both decided to travel around all of Africa on a 1940 BMW motorcycle with a side car. They then fell in love with all of Africa and they decided to make Botswana their home. Rika is now writing a book about her travel experiences.
They have a beautiful home they designed themselves which is completely organic. I felt both luxuriated and simple native at the same time. I don’t have the words to describe the amazing paradox of feeling their home provides. They have three very smart and delightful children ages 14 to 17. The children are so responsible and mature. Mickey owns a hydraulics company and Rika owns a pottery studio and sells her art everywhere. She has trained scores of Batswana to pursue art as a means of supporting themselves and some have done exactly that for 25 years now!
We completely enjoyed last weekend. She asked John to throw some pots for her and she was very excited to share ideas and methods about creating and designing pottery with him. She gave me lots of insight to the Batswana culture and thought processes which has allowed me to open my mind and think of new ways to try to motivate teachers and students at the school. She has invited us back next weekend too – and I am looking forward to this.
We recently met two other incredible families. John has been trying to find a suitable hunting place for him and Aaron and we had been invited to a hunting ranch for a few days to try it out. When we got there another family was there that lives in Gaborone.
Shawna and Darren: are missionaries in Gaborone and they have three of the best mannered children I have ever met in my life. These were teenagers that said ma’am and sir and were happy – let me repeat happy to be with their parents and were mature and helpful in every way parents hope their children to be. Shawna and Darren have lived in Africa for 15 years and plan to spend the rest of their lives here. They are sending their oldest son to college in America next year and I am slightly worried that he is just to kind and decent to fit in with the rest of American standard 18-year old spoiled indulged life – but then again I see this child has been brought up to be strong in beliefs, gracious around manners, and grateful for goodness, and in that light, I also can’t imagine youthful immaturity having a big impact on his life. We are supposed to go visit them after we leave Rika this Saturday and I am looking forward to that too.
Shawna and Darren have worked tirelessly to bring religion, meaning and peace to people’s lives. A part of that work is helping find water sources in communities, building schools, and working with refugees from other counties. They have learned to speak several native languages and have clearly shown their children the value of caring for your fellow man.
Nannet and Aabran: Finally – we met Nannet and Aabran who grew up in South Africa. Aabran had a very successful dairy farm in South Africa, but he was gone from sun up to sun down and he decided he didn’t get married and have kids so he could run a successful dairy farm. He sold the farm, moved to Kang, bought a 20,000 acre ranch and is a hunting guide. His whole family works together to run the guide service and his kids are even better than all the other kids I have described. His 16-year old son took us out on a night game drive and he clearly had worked with his dad for years. He was very knowledgeable and also humble in his adolescence, and constantly deferred to us as adults.
His children were doing the same kind of hard work as the parents, but were so respectful and obviously filled with love for their parents and for their own lives. The 16-year old boy hugged his dad good night in front of us all – and you could just see the respect and love between them. Neither father nor son worried what anyone thought – they just clearly loved each other. I spent hours talking to his 14-year old daughter about travel and hobbies and it was the type of conversation I would have with an adult. Anyone who raises such good children is living life as we were intended to live.
There is something in this African air that seems to weed out the weak and whiny and bring out the strength and kindness in all it calls to set down roots.
I hate to be repetitive, but I am so very happy and so very lucky to be able to experience this. I pray and hope with all my heart that I can live up to the opportunity I have been given.
Thank you: for all the great birthday wishes, gifts, cakes, and cards. I truly felt loved by family and friends!