Here's a long one
A lot has happened in the past week or so, so this is going to be a pretty long update.
There are about 15 kids that live in our neighbourhood. For the first few weeks, they were pretty shy, but that's changed. After explaining that Graham and I aren't brothers, and that nobody is married to Amy, we became friends. The kids range in ages from about 3 to probably 13, and they play outside until dark every night. Last Thursday, Graham and I joined them in a game of Touchball, which I think they just made up. Anyway, it was just tag, but whoever was It had to hit someone with a soccer ball. I was pretty good at it. The younger kids were pretty fascinated with us; we had to show them our X-rings about a hundred times, and I've officially become kind of an amusement ride. There's one kid, Tonto, who's about three, who won't let me in my house unless I pick him up over my head.
On Friday, Graham and I were part of a parade that went through the city. September 30 is the 40th Botswana Day, Botswana's Independence Day, so to open up the month, there was a torch lighting ceremony and parade on September 1. Graham and I went down to watch, but then we saw that a lot of random people were joining in the parade, so we followed along. We probably walked about five miles, in between a marching band and a group from the military. The parade was followed by a short concert, from some traditional dancers, a group kind of like Stomp, and a choir. Then, after the torch lighting, we walked back downtown. I was about an hour and a half late for work, but the 40th Botswana Day only comes around once.
On Saturday, I travelled to Orapa (about a 5 hour drive) with some other BONASO employees to attend the 2006 Miss HIV Stigma Free Beauty Pageant. There were 16 contestants, all of whom are HIV positive. It wasn't really a traditional pageant, on the basis that whoever was crowned winner had to personify "living positively." Between 100 and 200 people were in attendance, and the ceremony lasted from about 8pm to 2am. The contestants varied in appearance from tall and slender to short and squat. They all, however, were seen as role models for any of the thousands of Batswana that have not gone public with being HIV positive. The pageant was a celebration of the contestants' bravery as well as a reminder that not everyone with HIV/AIDS looks "like they have HIV/AIDS."
After the winner was crowned, there was some entertainment. A singer called Maxy, who's very famous in Botswana, sang a few songs, and then a popular gospel singer performed, followed by a DJ. If there's one thing Batswana love to do, it's dance. People wouldn't even go to the dance floor, they'd just stand at their tables and dance up a storm.. Unfortunately, I dance like Janet Reno, so I saved myself some embarrassment and sat out most of the songs.
Speaking of songs, I don't really know who the musical director was, but he or she knew what he/she liked. As each contestant walked onto the stage (about a minute per person), and then after interviews and when the five finalists were announced and again brought on stage, the songs "I will be you Hero," (or maybe just "Hero," I'm not sure) by Enrique Iglesias would play. I'd say that, without a hint of exaggeration, it played for about an hour and half. I guess it wasn't that bad, we got through it anyway, but now I have to explain to people why I know all the words to an Enrique Iglesias song.
During the night, I ran into a man from Botswana named Brian. He couldn't quite figure out why I was there after I explained that I wasn't with the TV crew, which was why any other white men were there. After he responded with, "Then why the hell are you here?" I told him I was "the other white guy, sitting with people from Botswana." He got pretty excited and wanted to introduce me to his aunt, Lillian, from Zimbabwe. They were asking all kinds of questions about why I was there and what kind of work I was doing, and Lillian was pretty interested in getting involved in it. Brian was more interested in asking me to buy him another drink.
I don't really have a good segue for this, so I'll just say it. The cleaning lady at BONASO thinks I'm from Botswana. She hasn't really said anything to me about it, but apparently when talking to other BONASO employees, she calls me, "The little one from Molepolole."
They've tried to tell her that I'm from Canada, but she won't hear it. She just says, "No, I know his family, Khana, from Molepolole."