Se Ke Seromamowa Sa Botswana

"Dear Mum and Dad . . ."

I recently found a letter I wrote home a month after arriving in Botswana. In it I described rather arrogantly:

"Radio Botswana is a bit different from the BBC! ......the whole system design is like a telephone exchange, not a broadcasting studio!"

I cringe at the rest of the letter, which is very patronising and basically shows how naive I was at 25. However, it does also talk of plans to "...expand the facilities with a grant of about £100,000 to make 3 new studios and update the continuity operations. It really is exciting to be in a position to give something..." (see, I said it was patronising!)

airmail envelope

In another letter a couple of months later I wrote: ". . . you might like some impressions of life in Botswana. It is quite hot (max summer temperature about 100 deg F) but as it's also mostly dry as well, it's quite bearable. Rain (during the summer only) comes in quantities of about an inch or two at a time, from enormous thunderstorms which are (mostly) over in a couple of hours.

Scenery round Gaborone
A "postcard painting" of the scenery around Gaborone. These were often hawked round door-to-door.
"We have a very pleasant 3-bed house, standing in a plot about 120ft x 100ft of "virgin" soil - that means that the builders just dumped topsoil on top of all the rubble and weeds and made it look relatively clear! It's about 2 miles out from the centre but it seems right in the country. From our living room we can see hills in the distance, one of which rises about 1500ft from the surrounding 3000ft of the table-land.

"Gaborone is not short of water - we have a dam which is reputed to have 3-5 years' supply in it at the moment, so we are almost morally obliged to use our hoses on the gardens so that the Water Corporation can make a profit. In fact, more water is lost from the dam from evaporation than is used by the town. [That situation soon changed; drought and rapid development quickly led to regular crises.]

"Shopping is . . . interesting. Most of the goods come from South Africa - a little from Rhodesia and some from the UK. We find the cost of living (in Sterling) about the same as UK, although the emphasis is on different things. For instance, meat is very cheap, but milk is expensive (and frequently "off") and green vegetables very scarce. Result - we're planting our own! [We had been warned before travelling to bring plenty of plastic kitchenware, so we stocked up with washing-up bowls, plastic plates, buckets and the like, all of which took up valuable space in our luggage allowance. The first thing I saw in the local hardware store the day after I arrived was a mound of plastic buckets and washing-up bowls! We never listened to such advice again.]

"Quite the most interesting thing as far as we are concerned is relations with the local Batswana. There is a definite change in the air - although the older people tend still to have an (unhealthy!) respect for white people, the younger ones see it much more on a business footing. There is an amazing lack of racial prejudice - very refreshing compared with South Africa, where you could almost feel the tension in the air. Of course, there is an occasional harsh word from both sides, but it's far less than, say, the UK. The more I become accepted (much easier for me in my job than many other Europeans) the more I can see that many upsets come from misunderstandings due to cultural differences.

"I've now been to at least 2 local events and found myself the only European there. One was a "gumba-gumba" (or pop) concert, and the other a local derby football match. The gumba-gumba was very enjoyable - well played - although it's a sort of mixture between Western trad jazz and Zulu and Tswana music, which is not really approved of by the more educated Batswana, who tend to go for the more traditional music or Western music. [Nat King Cole and Jim Reeves were firm favourites in Radio Botswana request programmes!] The football match was attended by about 4-5000 people and the play would certainly have done credit to, say, a 4th division UK side. One anachronism, incidentally - the referee was British. Apparently, the local referees have a tendency towards favouring one or other of the teams and in the interests of harmony the local football association asked for non-local referees! The match was very clean though, and the crowd well-behaved."

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