Bothle’s Birthday: Bothle’s is one of my favourite kids from the neighbourhood. She is the youngest of three children. She is super smart and is one of the few students who consistently gets good grades. She is a natural teacher translating for me and helping me teach the other children. She absorbs and then implements every single study method I give to her. She has flashcards for everything! She sets aside study time and won’t let anyone take her off her schedule. She speaks perfect English and is one of the few children that can constantly translate for everyone, on every topic. She just turned 9 last week.
This little girl is one those children that always offers to clean my house and she washes every dish in my house even when she didn’t dirty it. She has perfect manners, always knocks, takes her shoes off when entering, never gives me a guilt trip when I don’t want to play, and is just an all around perfect little girl.
Many kids are good here, but there are few that have perfect manners, are very smart, and are constantly openly grateful for the part I play in her life. I truly love her.
Her mother teaches Moral Education – which is ironic since she drinks nearly every day and is rarely home to take care of her children, each of which have a different father. She is completely neglectful (by American standards) – with the focus of her life being to “find a man”.
Bontlhe told me her mother was going to have a birthday party for her. But Bothle’s mother told me Bothle thought that John and I were having a party for daughter. I said John and I could bake a cake, come to the party, and help supervise the children, but it was her job to have a party for her very special child. She reluctantly agreed. I failed to remember that reluctant agreement means “I am not doing this”. I remained hopeful that I had convinced her to be a good mother.
Mom cancelled the party two days before the birthday saying it would be the following weekend – which is another way to say it will never happen – I also failed to understand this. So I helped Bontlhe make formal invitations to send out to her rescheduled party. We made a guest list and planned a bunch of games. The mom told me she was buying the decorations, food and drinks.
I did prepare for complete lack of preparation from mom and I had plan B in case mom did not stay home for the party. I did not prepare for mom not being there and taking the child with her so there could be no party!!!
She had 10 stories about how or why this got messed up.
Bothle came to my house 2.5 hours after the party was supposed to start with big sad cow eyes. Her mother had told her John and I cancelled the party I told her we could have a party now now (at this moment) at my house if she went and got her friends.
That is one really cool thing about Africa – Plan Z always exists and often is the plan that eventually gets implemented. It is likely not what you want – but something will usually happen.
As we all know – Plan Z is often very inferior. In America we usually have provisions for Plans B and C, sometimes even plan D – but we don’t accept the sort of planning that occurs at Plan Z and the event would be cancelled with blame accessed so appropriate consequences can be paid for total failure.
I like the way America does it – because the events or programs enacted are usually quite nice with a decent output and outcomes. I like the accountability in America too. But I’m not in America.
We had a party with half her invitation list, half the games, in half the time, with almost no food (we did have cake and I whipped up popcorn along with crackers and peanut butter) – but it was a birthday party!
The children were happy to be able to come to a party no matter how late with no knowledge of what was compromised. The children had so much fun that they all wanted us to plan for their own birthday parties. We told them we would have one huge neighbourhood birthday party – and then they must plan their own parties from now on.
Maybe we should try to enjoy plan Z a little more often in life. I have decided to forgive the mother for abandoning her daughter, me for not understanding the mother was never going to do this this, and Botswana for not loving her children. Everybody went home happy – so why shouldn’t I?
I served as a translator in Setswana: The University of Louisville sends a group of students and teachers here three times a year as a part an international program. I often serve as a liaison between them and the administrators at my school. I had a glorious moment when the teachers started talking to University students in Setswana and the students had no idea what was being said. They turned to me and I could actually interpret for them. It was basic “How are you?” “Where are you from” “How long are you staying” – but I don’t care how simple – I was actually Interpreting! Me! I was the one!!!! Oh my Goddess it felt good.
Cross Cultural Communication: While the Louisville students were here they worked in a class room that had smart board. They asked if they could use the boards. The Deputy Head told them, that no one at the school knew how to turn the smart boards on. When the reason was relayed to me I assured them that the teachers did know how to turn the machines on and in fact the smart boards are used nearly every day. The school administrators didn’t want people who had not been trained to use the boards– so they said they didn’t know how to turn it on.
It seems likely to me, that in America, we would always provide a policy reason instead of say something that would allow people to think we are stupid or incompetent. Here, no one ever wants to confront anyone or say anything that may be challenged or hurt someone’s feeling.
I knew the Deputy head meant, “You cannot use the board, because I don’t trust you not to break it”. But it is also likely that if the Deputy had told a Batswana no one knew how to turn the computer on, the Batswana person would not consider the actual implications of the statement and would know the answer simply meant “no” – no more and no less than “No, you cannot use the board”.