My New Setswana Teacher

January 23, Day 541
I wake up and decide to take my time this morning. I’m not teaching my media production class until about 2:30 pm today, so I won’t rush myself.

No power and water again today, as it’s been most of the week.

Meditate.

Prepare breakfast and coffee.

Iron my pants. Ironing is a big thing in Botswana. People take pride in having a neat appearance, and they consider it respect for the community to wear clothes that have been properly pressed and are clean.

During our training in the Peace Corps, they emphasized that we had to dress nicely and iron every day. I guess I’ve picked up that habit now. I don’t have an ironing board, so I usually just put a towel on the countertop and iron on top of it.

I look around my kitchen and realize it’s a disaster again. Oh well, I don’t care.

Pack my bags for class tonight and bring lots of water and snacks this time. Head out to start walking to work. As I am walking, I see a car pulling up and someone waving.

Woo hoo! Does this mean I get a free ride to work?

I realize as the car approaches that it’s Catherine’s cousin, Freddie. He pulls over and tells me he has to leave the village to go to a funeral this weekend. Cool.

We part ways and he continues driving home. Guess no ride to work today. That’s fine.

Resume walking.

Arrive at the DAC office and I might be dying of heat stroke. I really think this is it this time.

I go to sit down and chug 900 gallons of water, and there’s a guy in the office talking with Bontle. He seems pretty comfortable in my seat, but I don’t think he works in the office. I think he’s just a friend. He starts questioning about why I’m carrying so many things, and I explain the media production class I’m teaching. He says he wants to join the class. Cool.

He’s still in my seat.

I decide to go find Chedza and ask her if I can borrow her laptop. She’s not in.

GRRRR.

“Let it go, Abbie. You can’t get upset about things you cannot control,” I remind myself.

Go back to the office and work for a bit. Chat with Rra Wasetso, who is supposed to be the acting DAC while Catherine is gone. He says he hasn’t formally been appointed yet and can’t do the job yet.

Usually if you are doing work for the office, they are supposed to provide you with transport. Our DAC office car is broken down, and I have no ride. So, I call a taxi to ask for them to pick me up at 1:45 pm, that’s in about 45 minutes.

I call Moemedi, the newest taxi driver in my phone book of taxi drivers.

“Yes, no problem. I will collect you then,” he says.

Walk to Choppies and pick up some spicy French fries then walk over to the ATM to take money out for the taxi. I have only 12 pula in my bank account ($1.20) and a special taxi costs 25 pula, so I’ll have to take the money out of a credit card. Not sure how I’ll pay that, but if it’s $5 I’ll figure it out.

Walk back to the office and find Chedza 10 minutes before I leave and she gives me the laptop. Woo hoo!

I go to download the editing software I need onto the computer, and it prompts me for a password in order to do so.

Walk back to find Chedza, and find her chatting with some ladies.

“Hi Chedza, thank you SO much for the laptop! It is prompting me for a password to install the software I need for my class tonight. Would you happen to know it?”

“You’re welcome. A password? No, I’m sorry I don’t know the password. The only one who knows that password is the IT woman, and she’s on leave for a month,” she says.

“A month?? On leave? Is there anyone else who knows the password?” I ask.

“No, it’s just her.”

“So, if God forbid something happens to her, all of the government owned laptop in our entire district would not have a password?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”

My mind is blown, but I decide not to push it. Let it go, Abbie. Let it go.

I thank her for the laptop, and immediately my brain goes into plan D. Chedza’s computer is the only one that can plug into a projector. There is no way to teach the class how to use the software on the projector now. I decide to just have everyone crowd around my little 10 year old Mac. It will be fine.

Gather the boxes of heavy things for class and carry them outside and wait for Moemedi.

He doesn’t show up.

I stand, and wait, and wait.

No Moemedi.

MY BRAIN IS GOING TO EXPLODE. Why is nothing coming together for this class? It seems like it doesn’t matter how hard I work, it’s the integrity of others that always gets me.

I walk up to the window of the DAC office that faces the sandy parking lot and peek my head in and ask Bontle to call Moemedi and ask him where he is. She agrees, and I stand there and wait while she goes back and forth with him in Setswana.

“He says he didn’t realize you wanted him to collect you at quarter-to-two. He couldn’t understand your accent and thought you said quarter-after-two,” Bontle says, hanging up the phone.

“I was VERY VERY specific in saying the time very clearly!”

“Abbie, just wait. He is coming,” Bontle says.

Walk back to the waiting spot. He doesn’t come. The pushy New York City girl inside me is having a major hissy fit and thinks she has been disrespected.

Time is money!

Oh wait, I work for free. Maybe not.

Finally, I lose patience with waiting and walk back to the DAC window.

“Okay, that’s it. My class starts in 15 minutes and this place is far away. You can call Moemedi and cancel my ride with him. I have no time for these games and need a taxi,” I demand.

“Abbie, no, I will not call Moemedi. Believe me, he is one of the GOOD ones!! He’s very reliable and honest. I think if he says he misheard you, he did. Please just wait for him.”

Just then, I see Moemedi’s brown taxi come barreling around the corner. Moemedi, a plump family man in his 40s who usually is all smiles, opens the door and apologizes profusely.

Bontle was right. He’s one of the good ones. She was right to tell me to be patient.

He drives me to the Brigade, and I see Baitshepi there. She has been testing for HIV/AIDS all day and has been using the room I will teach in to do the testing. She says it was successful, and then helps me set up because she sees I am in a rush.

Lesson learned: yes, often things are done at the last minute here. But the community will always show up and help you out when in need.

Students start to file into the class, and I get about 10 people. That’s the perfect number to share the laptops I have.

No one did the homework. That’s fine, I decide to make an individual final project for everyone to work on. We review the different types of camera shots, and go outside and everyone takes the time to shoot different shots on their phones.

Back inside, they all grab chairs and crowd around my little MacBook so I can teach them how to use the editing software. No one minds at all that I don’t have a fancy projector or the equipment I planned. It’s as if it never was necessary. What was I thinking??

They take turns editing video, and then we watch a movie about HIV and discuss the movie from a production perspective, and then about HIV.

Boom, done.

Moemedi arrives just on time to pick me up and take me home. A few students ask if they can get a ride along the route to my house, too, and Moemedi agrees. One student is the woman who cleans at the Brigade, Tshepo.

Tshepo really intimidated me when I first met her. She has been very vocal about NOT wanting me as the teacher for the class, and NOT wanting to learn in English (even though all schools in Botswana are taught in English).

Every time class starts, she says “Eish, ga ke batla segkoa. This English is too difficult.”

I agree, it was supposed to be taught in setswana, but unfortunately my counterpart couldn’t make it. Tshepo tells me every week how upset she is that I am teaching in English. I told her on the first day after she complained that we would be friends by the time the class is over, and I mean that.

So, of course, as soon as we all climb into the taxi Tshepo says she is unhappy about the class because it’s in English.

“Sorry, Mma. If my Setswana was better, I would teach in Setswana. But it is not good enough for me to teach in Setswana, so I must teach in English,” I say.

“Yes, but English is too difficult. So many words. It is very hard,” she replies.

“Okay, so then why don’t you be my new Setswana tutor?” I ask.

“What?!”

“Well, that would solve our problem, right? My Setswana isn’t good enough to teach the class. So, why don’t you teach me Setswana and you can help me to learn it so maybe one day I can teach in Setswana, not English. The Peace Corps pays 100 pula for an hour, so I can ask them to pay you.”

I notice a shift in her entire demeanor and her eyes brighten.

“Yes! I would love to be your tutor,” she says.

So, it’s settled. She can teach me Setswana and be my new tutor. I’ve needed a new tutor for a while. Goaba was originally my tutor and she was excellent. But then we found ourselves diverting from the conversation in Setswana and having long conversations in English. Then wine got involved and we would sip wine and talk all night instead of studying together like we were supposed to. Now that she has moved to Gabs, it is official that we will never get on track.

Tshepo is excited, and we agree on a time and a place to have lessons each week. Moemedi drops her and the other students off and then takes me home.

Walk inside and decide to finally scrub down the kitchen. Do some cleaning, water the flowers, wash dishes.

Tacos for dinner.

Watch “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Go to bed.

Boroko 🌙

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