Friday, June 15, 2007

Days 8-9: More on Francistown - by Amitesh Aggarwal

After spending 6 days in Gabarone, we finally embarked on the trip to Francistown, the site of first of our international schools. The 5-hr trip in a much bigger combi (where even I can stand up straight), entertained by Dave, Ben and Mario's humor seemed like a breeze in spite of the closed quarters. The highlight of the journey was a stop at an orphanage midway at Mahalapye. The orphanage caters mostly to kids suffering from HIV, born of parents who've died of the killer disease. Although it was heartening to know that technically none of these kids were orphans as they all were cared for in the evenings by extended family members, typical of familise in Africa.

Our arrival as usual was greeted by a mob of about 70 or so 3 - 6 yr old kids. The smiles on all their faces hiding their plight completely overwhelmed us all. Dave dove in headlong, Mark completely surrounded by google-eyed kids excited by his digital camera and all of us high-fiving, shaking hands, and talking to them all. And then Lida revealed the bank of toys which gave the chaos theory a completely new definition. The chirps and shrieks for the toys were just too great.

Tyler showed the kids his soccer skills, I helped create an Ultimate Frisbee team. Deb, Lida and Mark decorated little girls with all the girly things we brought, Jeffery showed off his camera skills, while Rafael played with the groups of kids. The departure from the orphanage was saddening but we left with a mission to organize donations for a shaded playground for these kids. For those of you who are interested in assisting us, don’t worry… we will be in touch! Another highlight of the drive was when we crossed the point where Tropic of Capricorn crosses Botswana.

We arrived in Francistown to a magnificent resort - Marang hotel set in a beautiful tropical forest. Evening dinner was organized by the Anglican Church Parish in Francistown. It seems like it’s in Botswanan culture to overwhelm their guests with huge welcomes. The crowd broke out into synchronized African singing and clapping. After the pleasantries, we were treated to a huge banquet prepared at the homes of the parishioners. I had the best dinner so far in this trip as even I had at least 6 different sumptuous dishes - vegetable rice, 2 different lentils, spinach, greens, salad etc. etc. All of us mingled with the crowds and I met my first Indian family in Botswana. It was great to talk to the mom in Hindi.

After the festivities, a grand departure, we took our tired selves to the hotel for a much needed sleep. I fell asleep dreaming of Sedibeng choir, African dances and lentils.


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