Ubuntu, Botho, And Other Free Stuff

Some of you might be familiar with Ubuntu, the computer operating system, while most of you might stumble upon Botho for the first time. Well, as it turns out, this blog is hardly about computer related affairs and technology in general, so what point am I trying to make here?

The truth is, Ubuntu operating system was named after the Southern African philosophy of Ubuntu (“humanity towards others”). This African belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity is a motto of the everyday life, and Botswana people make no exception to that. As I was told by a local, Tswanans have their own intrinsic philosophy within Ubunto, called Botho – “me through you” (this is an approximate translation quoted from memory). While Ubuntu (South Africa) refers to community in general, Botho makes the next step towards a special personal growth of an individual through their peers.

Although we had previously been warned that the people in Botswana are not as friendly and cooperative as South Africans, we discovered exactly the opposite. There is a certain type of friendliness and openness in the Tswanans that the Botho concept reflects it the best, although it might be hard to see it at first. The lack of a big grin on the cashier’s face when going to the supermarket might come across as lack of courtesy and potentially, unfriendliness. But you soon learn that a big smile on your face triggers a similar response, letting your interaction partner open up.

Botswana has made a significant progress towards dealing with AIDS and the orphans situation. But even so, what one can see here is far from what we are used to in North America. We had the chance to visit a couple of day care centers. The first we went to was in Kanye, a growing village of considerable size. A fancy (and unique in the entire Botswana) Dodge Durango waited for us in the morning, soon contrasting with what we were about to visit. Kgodisong Centre is a small day care center dedicated to help support young kids with HIV/AIDS. The experience, for me, was unforgettable: the fact that I was mostly silent throughout our visit was because too many thoughts were going through my mind.

Being around death must be frightening, but walking among dying young souls is incomprehensible. Lindsay and Nani played games with them, sang with them, and for a couple of hours made their day brighter. I could not do that. I was not prepared. All I did was to shut myself behind cowardly maneuvering one of Carolyn’s video cameras, while pondering on life’s meanings. Imagine 64 innocent souls, age 2-5, whose parents are no more, and whose home givers (most of the times relatives) receive the food basket (a program developed by the government in order to feed underprivileged kids) and keep it for themselves. The thought that our departure back to Gaborone brought their doomed lives back to where they were before us arriving there, without being able to do something concrete in order to help them, still haunts me.

For the past two days we have been visiting the St. Peter’s day care centre, this time in Gaborone. The kids here were a lot more joyful, also because not all of them are orphans, and not all of them have HIV. We’ve been playing games, singing and dancing with them, and you should have seen my face when I saw a couple of the staff members pulling out an old Samick upright piano. Who cared the pedals weren’t working, it was a real piano!

At least someone is eager to practice...

At least someone is eager to practice…

Apart from these visits, we’ve been really busy with preparing our singers for the Friday concert, showcasing the local talents. Apart from the regular coachings, I even gave a piano masterclass.

We have also spent some time at what we were told to be the best restaurant in the whole country — Caravela. I find it interesting that the best resto in Botswana is… Portuguese. Yesterday, while visiting the Botswana Crafts, I decided to lose yet another culinary virginity, thus trying oxtail for lunch. Not bad at all.

Just two more days left in Botswana, before we head back to South Africa. I will sign off now, leaving you with an ad I happened to see in a local newspaper. And just when I had some pula in my pocket… the cheap/free stuff one can find in Botswana, even without the help of Craigslist.

Growing with quality, they say.

Growing with quality, they say.

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