Friday, September 28, 2007

Venturing out

We worked from home today, though that meant a trip out into the town as well. I was actually kind of ill when I got up this morning; achy muscles, headache, sore throat, extreme fatigue. I thought I might be sick with a flu or something. Then, I asked Rob if it might possibly be dehydration and he said that, yes, it might be. So, I started tossing back water or, more precisely, an electrolyte drink (Alacer C Electro Mix). Within a few hours of keeping on top of it, I started feeling better. Still, I did chair work this morning. One of my tasks was to put all the local emergency numbers into our cellphones, which took longer than I expected. Then I went through some local papers, clipped the interesting bits and trashed the rest. One of my favorite clippings was a story from the International Express (Africa Edition), a British paper for overseas distribution. It was “Cameron backs down over Teen Army plan”. Basically, some British government person wanted to implement compulsory community service (including rudimentary military training) for all 16 year-olds. The plan was called the National Citizen Scheme. In the end, he decided to make the scheme optional, saying that not all teenagers would allow themselves to be so compelled to comply. Here's my favorite part of the article: “The watered-down proposals disappointed campaigners who believe a spell of compulsory national service-style training would combat yobbery and fecklessness.” [emphasis added by me] Wow. I had no idea that Britain was dealing with such a rash of feckless yobbers.

We walked downtown for lunch and to mail some postcards. The bank lineups were huge today, at every bank and ATM we passed. It's that end-of-month rush that the Megahans warned us about.

We go back around 2:30PM and had an instant guest: Oteng, one of Marya's unofficial foster children. He's about 15 years old and we had run into him while we were downtown today, greeted him. He came in and I served him properly, I think (juice, oranges and Cadbury Fingers). We chatted for a while, then kind of read, each of us reading and doing different things. I realized that I didn't know how a local visit is supposed to “play out”. His sister came looking for him after a while so that's how our visit ended. That's actually our second visit since we've been here. I should probably get a greater variety of cookies in case someone else stops by.

I managed to get some paperwork done later in the afternoon (receipts gone through) but we're actually taking it fairly easy today as tomorrow should be pretty hectic: Domboshaba festival!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


We had some fun at the office this morning. First, we brought our Action Packer to put the groceries in when we went shopping. When Jo Ann brought us to the BSB office, the Rodewalds (more LBT missionaries) were there and we finally got to meet them. We talked a bit about plans for Dombashaba, then went inside. Jo Ann was there to take photos of the translation team for a fundraising effort so we took a bunch of pics also. Portia laughed and said that it felt like being in Hollywood.

After the office, we got our groceries for the next couple of weeks. Rob found an interesting Batman knockoff but we didn't buy it, just got a picture.

BTW, my pictures aren't uploading today. I'll have to work on that when I go into the office on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Home work

We decided to do a little work at home today, rather than being at the office while they're trying to finish up the Psalms. Given that I don't speak the language, I figured there were some behind the scenes things I could putter away at instead. For example, tonight Michael and I are going to look at BART and Translator's Workplace software together. He's coming to pick us up around 7PM. So, this morning I worked on a grammar tag puzzle he was wondering about. He's looking for a Hebrew construction that is only identified by a marking on the verb. So, I played around with grammar tags until I found a search string that generated a tight enough list of options so as to be useful for whatever research he's doing. After I got the list, I started digging around in the instruments in the Psalms research again. I got all the defining materials in Translator's Workplace and now I'm back on the Mac side of the computer to go over some of the Hebrew instrument resources I got online yesterday. I hope to get a look at indigenous instruments on the weekend, see what kind of matches we can come up with. It's kind of tricky, not having high-speed internet here at the flat. I've become so accustomed to just gong online and researching the minute that I have a question that I'm having to really organize my thoughts whenever I know I'm going somewhere with internet access. I'm using the Journler program (free for the Mac) to keep all my wonderings, blog-posting, tasks and random info in one place, for easy remembering.

Tonight, I'm making a chicken something or other with hot sauce from Nando's, that place with the great chicken Greek salad. I'll throw in whatever broccoli, cauliflower and peas I have left from our snack drawer since we're planning on a grocery run before the weekend. I'm thinking probably brown rice would be a good idea as well. As long as I get the rice on by 5PM, we should be on time for a relaxed dinner at 6PM.

I don't think I mentioned our trip to the museum last Thursday. There was an exhibition of various styles of batik and resist dyeing. One of the batiks is now my wallpaper (on my computer's desktop, not in our borrowed flat).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


It's actually chilly and cloudy out there today! I had to go back into the flat to put on a sweater. When we left the flat this morning to wait out front for our ride to the Bible Society office, there were a lot of people on the streets, walking to wherever they were going. I greeted one man and he returned my greeting. I commented on the weather and he said, “You don't hear in America about this [gesturing at the sky] happening in Africa, do you?” We laughed.

They're working on Psalm 102:2 right now, as I type this. Rev. Moteto was explaining what the idiom “do not hide your face from me” means in Kalanga. He explained that it is as if he loved a woman very much and always wanted her to be in his life, to be with him always, he would say that to her. A beautiful image.

Botswana news sites

Here are some Botswana news sites:
Afrol News -
Republic of Botswana news -
The Botswana Gazette -
Mmegi -
The Voice -

Monday, September 24, 2007

Literary question answered

I've had people ask about the titles used in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book series, Mma and Rra, what they mean. Well, now that I'm here, I've asked. They are Setswana words.
Mma = mother, also used as Mrs.
Rra = father, also used as Mr.
Mma holds the m a little bit, hence the double m. Rra is pronounced with a rolled Rr.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

To the outskirts

This morning, Rev. Megahan took us to a house church on the outskirts of Francistown. The congregation was much smaller than in the main church in town, about 12 people in attendance, not counting the slew of tiny children. Also, the service was conducted in Kalanga, Rev. Megahan preaching and officiating. The young women behind me led the singing portions. Some singing was done in Kalanga, some in Setswana. After the service, we hung around a bit while Rev. Megahan took care of some paperwork. I finally learned to say “goodbye” in Kalanga: kwakaluwaba. I had been feeling weird every time I left a gathering, waving and saying “bye” when my greeting had been Kalanga.

I bought a skirt after church (all my skirts are in Namibia and I've been wearing the same dress whenever the occasion calls for a skirt or dress) and a trash can for the kitchen (no more ants!).

In the afternoon, I tackled the washing machine. The clothes got clean, all right, and dried on the line in about an hour and a half. However, there was a weird bark-like substance in the water that I never did figure out where it came from. I shook it off before hanging the clothes on the line and again after the clothes had dried. Weird.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trip to Galo Mall

We decided to trek to Galo, about 20 minutes away on foot. We got going last because of sleeping in (I had the craziest dreams last night!) and arrived just in time for lunch at Nando's. They have a mean grilled chicken salad with feta. I've noticed that feta is sort of the big cheese around here in restaurants. We wandered around through the stores until about 1:45PM, when we hit the road back to home.

I found a nice cotton long-sleeve button-up shirt to alternate with the linen one that I've been wearing whenever I have to walk anywhere. I really must tackle the washing machine tomorrow. Rob says I shouldn't be so scared of using it and he's probably right. I guess I only need to use it right once to feel OK about it.

Rev. Megahan (a.k.a. Michael, I use the names interchangeably) will be taking us to a new church tomorrow to visit. Today, we're relaxing pretty solidly. Rob's practicing guitar right now and I think I'm going to play a little Age of Mythology (Titans expansion).

In foot news, I think it's getting better. The swelling has gone down a lot, even though some other veins seem to be puffier. The flight really wreaked havoc on my feet, particularly the flight from Washington to Johannesburg. I'm questioning the usefulness of the compression stockings, actually. They tend to bunch around the front of my ankle, no matter how smooth I try to make them, and much of the vein-swelling is right at that crease, where the stockings were bunched. Argh. Ticks me off, really. If I discover that those stockings caused any permanent damage to my veins, I am going to become such an anti-compression stocking online activist.

Friday, September 21, 2007


When I turned on the tap this morning, nothing came out. So, no shower. I had a scarf so I threw it on and went with Rob to the Bible Society office. We talked this morning about what we might do at the upcoming Domboshaba festival, a Kalanga cultural celebration. It looks like Rob will be doing audio recording, as much as he can get with whatever electricity is available, and I will probably do still and video photography. We're going to try to get photos and info on indigenous instruments, for work on the Psalms and also for local worship development. Rev. Moteto and Thuso gave us an impromptu demonstration of a local board game, mmili, played only by men. I recognized the game, though. When Rob worked for Edmark, they had a package of strategy games of the world that we installed and played. One of the games was called, if I remember correctly, Nine Men's Morris. Rob and I played that for a while. So, I was able to follow mmili quite well.

This afternoon, we walked downtown for lunch at a local cafe. The following video is an anecdote from that lunch.

We had water back after lunch. I went to visit Margaret in the afternoon for a short while. She's having cataract surgery on Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


We went out to do some basic household set-up things with the Megahans. Michael told us that banks and post offices have line-ups out the door from the 20th of each month until 2 weeks later so we had to get all our bank stuff done today. People receive their government cheques at that time and so banks and ATMs will run out of cash. I found the ATM in town that will take our bank card and took out a couple thousand pula, to be on the safe side. We went to the licensing office to see about getting Botswanan driver's licenses but the information desk (where they give out the numbers that put you in line for service at the main counter) was unmanned for about 15 minutes. When the office began to fill with people, none of them getting numbers and no available staff in sight for the information desk, Michael suggested that he come back later in the afternoon and pick up the forms for us.

Then, he brought Rob home to meet with Marya (missionary who works with the worship team at the local Lutheran church) and Jo Ann took me shopping. I got what I hope is enough groceries for the next 2 weeks. It's difficult to plan meals when you aren't sure what will be on the shelf when you get there. For example, last week we got large tubs of plain yogurt at the store. Today, there were only a few single serving tubs of plain yogurt so I got a bunch of those. I got a bunch of meat too, froze some for later. We hadn't been eating enough meat the last few days. Incidentally (though probably not unrelated), Rob is down to 92 kg (203 lb) and I'm currently holding steady at 55 kg (121 lb). So, he's lost 7 lbs and I've lost 4 lbs. Happens whenever we leave the US, oddly.

I also bought our cellphones. They're pay-as-you-go (which is what most people here have) and seem pretty good; Samsung SGH-X160. Hard to tell, as the instructions are completely in Italian. I have to go online tomorrow and find an English guide so we can actually use them. If you're the kind of person who'd like to be able to get in touch with us for emergency purposes and need a phone number, send us an email and we'll send you the phone number. Otherwise, we're using Skype for all our US and Canada chitchat, when the connections are fast enough… which they haven't been yet since I've been here.

Now, I have to go hand-wash some more laundry. I hope to get in touch with the Knights soon to figure out their washing machine. Either that or I'll get in touch with General Electric, see if they have any manuals for older models. It's a Microprocessor 700T. Good grief. With a name like that, it almost has to predate the invention of the home PC.

I also got some juice in big glass bottles today so I can reuse them for keeping drinking water. They've begun having water shortages here in Francistown, now that they're heading into the hot season, and I want to be ready with cold water available if it affects us in any significant way. We did have a loss of water pressure a few days ago but that just meant grungy hair for me, not dehydration. From what I saw on the local news, some other people's water loss was more problematic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A "dende" by any other name…

Tonight, I got to sit in on my first translation check. Rev. Michael Megahan called around 4:05PM and asked if I'd like to come to a check at 5PM. So, I freshened up and off I went.

We arrived at the Bible Society of Botswana office and hung around until enough people were there to start looking at the passages. The checkers ranged in age from 9 years old to senior citizen. Tonight, they were checking the recently translated Psalms 79-81, from 5PM until about 6:30PM. Most of the conversation was in Kalanga so I was pretty much out of the loop for most of it. Occasionally, Rev. Megahan would lean over and point out what the issue was, make a few notes on my paper.

As was inevitable in the process of translating the Psalms, the whole Hebrew instruments thing came up and questions were asked about the words chosen to represent those instruments. It was one thing for me to discuss in the abstract during those Sunday school and chapel sessions last fall how translation of instruments in Psalm 150 has been done. It's yet another thing to see people really wrestling in reality with the issues at hand before the Psalms hit the presses.

They're trying to teach me Kalanga, little bit by little bit. I don't know if I have the spelling right but I was taught a couple of greeting forms:

Ma muka tjini? - “How was your wake-up?”
Nda muka. - “I woke up well.”
A basic “How are you? I am fine.”

Ma shwa tjini? - “How did you spend?”
Nda shwa. - “I spent well.”
The thing that you spent could be your time, your energy. Basically, how was your day spent.

Their tone is pretty cool. Not only do the words have individual tone but the clauses, dependent and independent, have tone as well. It kind of messes with the tone of each word, morphs it into an overall tonal contour (for lack of a better word at this hour of night). Like, everything rises a bit, falls a bit back but further, rises a bit again, falls a bit further, repeat to end of clause. And depending on the type of clause, the last 3 syllables (or so) seem to have the same tonal melody as all other clauses of that type. At least, that's how it sounded to me, just sitting there in the room while the Psalms were being read in a language I don't understand yet. It was a bit like listening to someone scatting in jazz; I could pick out the tune because the words didn't get in the way.

Getting the lay of the land

We took our first walk-about this morning. Before Mike Megahan dropped us off at home from our day at the Bible Society, he drove us past the post office, Village Mall and other key spots downtown. He drove the walking route so we could get a better sense of how to get there. Much to my surprise, the walk to the Village Mall this morning was only 5 minutes! It felt so much farther driving!

Rob and I talked a bit about that over lattes at the Blue Crush, in the Village Mall. I noted that when I go someplace new, everything seems expanded for a while after I first get there. Days creep by, food tastes extra tasty, distances seem farther – you get the idea. Now, after less than a week in Francistown and exactly a week in Botswana, things are shrinking back to normal. I'm glad that we can do downtown on foot. I'm still not feeling up to confidence level with the switcheroo of the side of the street on which people drive. Once I start looking the right way before I cross the street, perhaps then I'll feel more like I could get out there and drive. Also, the car we'll be driving is a stick-shift.

The weather today is exquisite: sunny with a brisk breeze. When we went out, my hair was all wet and it's pretty bouffant right now.

This afternoon, I'll be working on Mike's Kalanga wordlist that he gave me. I'm making iFlash cards for easier studying. I'm going to check out his grammar notes too. I think I'm going to pick up some Setswana as well, just so I can greet people and say “please” and “thank you”. I've been saying it in English, though. For the rest of this morning, I'm hand-washing some laundry. Rob's jeans are pretty grungy and he's running out of black socks. There is a washing machine here in the flat but I'm not sure how to use so I'm going to play it safe until I get further instruction on it's use. I keep forgetting to buy clothes pins when we go to stores so I'm hanging things on hangers in the bathroom. It works well enough and should keep things from getting sun-faded.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Our flat

By the way, this is our flat from the outside. Yes, Rob is there twice. One of the side effects of life continuing while stitched panoramic shots happen. Ours is the flat on the bottom floor on the left, beneath the word “Continental”. The satellite dish isn't connected; boohoo, no America's Next Top Model for me. Both gates have padlocks and each door must be locked in 5 different ways. There is also a keyed security system. It takes us several minutes to physically get out (or into) the flat. We're still getting the hang of all the keys. The can behind Rob #1 is where our garbage goes. I think that wire on the wall is electrified but I haven't tested that theory. It is, at least, barbed. The flowers on the tree in the upper right corner of the picture smell delish, like honeysuckle.


Today was a pretty great day. We went to 2 services at the local Lutheran church, one in English and one in Setswana. The vocal talent in this one congregation alone is amazing! There was a small ensemble (3 women, 1 man) doing music in the first service, occasionally with percussion (drum, sticks and tambourine). They had tight harmonies and a rich, full sound. The acoustics didn't hurt the sound either – mondo reverb. In the second service, we were doubly treated, even though we couldn't understand the language. The children came in and sang a few songs with surprising skill, at least from my usual experiences with children singing in church. Typically, children singing in church seems to me to be tailor-made for oohs and aahs of “Aren't they cute!” and “Look at Johnny, trying to eat that microphone!” but precious little more. Not these kiddos. These kiddos were pitch-on and singing with gusto. After that, a small choir of the teens went to the front and did a few pieces. Again, bang on but with harmonies this time. Some call and response stuff with various leaders. Of particular interest to me was the tenor, a pretty powerful voice from a guy his size. All good singing. Basically, I felt like Rob could pretty much throw a microphone in front of any of these groups and have them hit one out of the park in terms of end product quality and local (maybe global?) marketability.

After the first service, we met Margaret, one of the smaller choir's members. Turns out she's a neighbor of ours, lives just around the corner from us. She said that some women from the church were going this evening to visit some of the sick women who couldn't make it to church. She asked if I wanted to come along. I said yes so she came by our place to get me in the afternoon. While we waited for the taxi to pick us up, she told me about her family and what she does for a living. Her husband is a nurse at the hospital nearby and she makes African women's clothing. Given that I discovered this morning that the only clothing I have that is suitable for local church is a single spaghetti-strap dress that I have to wear a linen shirt over to make appropriate, I asked if she could make me something to wear. I'm hoping to get over to her house some time this week to talk patterns and material. I'm so excited! Rob did accuse me of coming to Africa for the clothes. Margaret is actually from Tanzania (a whopping portion of the local Lutheran church is, interestingly enough) but she's been living here in Botswana for 4 years.

We ended up having to walk to the nearby taxi stand but eventually made it to the church, where the women were meeting to carpool for visiting. We only went to one woman's place, which is really all we would have had time for. It was quite a party-like event. We had a time of singing, prayer and a short message from Rev. Titus. Then, the food and drink. I had some more of that fabulous African Coca-cola along with deep-fried bready things and a stir-fry pepper steak type of dish. In fact, on my way out, I made what was probably my first Botswanan social gaffe. While I was thanking the woman's children for the wonderful food, I commented on how tasty the bready things were. They immediately offered me some to take home. I said, “Well, just one, for my husband to try.” They said that I would have to take more and, between the 3 of them, got a baggie and filled it with half of what was left (about 7 balls). Not that I was unhappy with that; they were durned tasty. It occurred to me on the way out, however, that I may have unwittingly made a request for some by commenting on how tasty they were. I haven't confirmed that this is the case, though. I'm just paranoid. Ah well. Rob certainly appreciated those bready things. They had a wonderful, delicately spicy flavor.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New blog tips

As you may have noticed, this blog went from having nothing posted for almost a week to having more than the opening page will hold. That means that there's stuff that I posted that you can't actually see without going to the archives. Basically, I don't have constant internet access at the apartment where we're living so I can't just post things as I write them. I'm writing them and deciding which pictures to put in while offline and then I'll be posting when I get near internet, whether at the BIble Society office or at the Megahans house. Today is Saturday and so I probably won't post this until Monday. My suggestion would be that you click here on the September archive link to go to all of the postings for September. This will be particularly helpful for those who are printing these postings for others to read offline.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Local delicacy

I had noticed a scattered ant here and there around the apartment and, as a result, figured I'd better be extra careful about crumbs. I fixed us sandwiches for supper and was oh so carefully picking off crumbs that I noticed on my shirt and lap and eating them. No ants were going to crawl on me, no sir. Then, I noticed something moving on my plate
Note to Peter Slayton: While you can probably guess where this is going, you should still stop reading if you're eating, nonetheless.
and realized that the ants were already here. At that moment, I decided to begin more closely inspecting those tiny crumb-like particles before popping them in my mouth.

Living in a diffuser

I am loving the way the air dries my hair. This morning, I washed it and gave it a bit of a towel rub. When I took the towel off, pulled my bangs across my forehead and shook it a bit, it was half dry already! Not only that but the ends on the sides and back kind of flipped themselves up and the bang dried straight into place when I pulled it across. Like living in a diffusing blow-dryer. The unfortunate side effect of living in a blow dryer is
Note to Peter Slayton: If you're eating breakfast, stop reading here until after you've finished eating to avoid any unnecessary indigestion.
crunchy, bloody boogers. Thankfully, I brought my nasal irrigator and some saline packets. I'm mixing them with bottled water to keep everything up there dust-free, at least until my body adjusts.

Funny side-story: When Rob saw this picture on my screen, he said, "Hey! We have a fan?" He hadn't noticed it prior to seeing it on my screen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Arriving in Francistown

We left Gaborone around 8AM and drove most of the day. Before taking us to to our new digs (we're housesitting for the Knights, some fellow LBT missionaries who are currently in the U.S.), we stopped at the Bible Society of Botswana to meet the Kalanga translation team.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Flight images

Getting on the plane to Johannesburg. See how far back in the plane we were sitting? The guy in the seat next to ours (pink shirt, brown baseball cap) was a nice guy, offered to help me with getting my bag into the overhead compartment. South Carolinian, I believe, from the accent and gentlemanly manner. Ah, LTSS memories...

Sipping lattes and rose (yes, as in the flower) Italian soda in the Johannesburg airport. They served the lattes with the milk and espresso separately; you mix them to taste at the table. Fun!

South African Air wings over Africa.

Flying into Gaborone, Botswana.

United Economy Plus

I tried to get our seat assignments the day before we flew (Sunday night) but couldn't because even though there were empty seats; they were unassignable, for some reason. So, we had to check in the morning of flying (Monday). When we did, the woman checking us in asked if we wanted to fly Economy Plus, with "up to 5 inches" extra legroom for $50 per seat. I said no (because of that sneaky "up to").

When we sat down, I noticed that the tray table in front of me had an Economy Plus sticker on it. We were in Economy Plus anyway! That's why the seats were unassignable as regular seats the night before! So, that appears to be United's new strategy:
1 - make a handful (about 12) seats Economy Plus, with a tiny bit of extra legroom
2 - overbook the rest of the regular seats
3 - fill all the regular seats with online check-ins, offering Economy Plus
4 - offer the Economy Plus to everyone who checks in at the airport
5 - fill the extra Economy Plus with the overbooked passengers anyway

I heard other people in the check-in line pay the extra $50. I'm glad we didn't. Good to know for the future: They sold me a seat, they have to give me a seat. If I check-in the day of, that'll probably mean a free Economy Plus seat.

Driving in Gaborone

The view from the backseat.

Oasis Hotel

We spent 2 nights at the Oasis Hotel in Gaborone.

Visiting the ELCB

We dressed up a tiny bit to meet some people at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana office, here in Gaborone. They're helping us fill out our paperwork for the residency permit and employment exemption. Rev Michael and Jo Ann Megahan are ferrying us about, along with their son, Peter.

We met for a while with Rev. Morekwa.


We're here! It was a long trip (of course) but we came through it relatively unscathed. When my brain unscrambles, I hope to write some interesting and coherent things for the blog. I also have a few fun flight pictures. The Megahans picked us up at the airport and took us to the hotel, then to dinner (my first Botswanan burger – yummy!). Then, we got some pula from an ATM, which meant trying 3 different ATMs until one took our debit card.
20 Pula = $2.80, 50 Pula = $6.95, 100 Pula = $13.90

It's 7:05AM here, which is 10:00PM the previous day on the west coast of the U.S. I can't tell yet but I think we're adjusting properly. We've been taking melatonin to induce proper bedtimes. I've still only been sleeping in small chunks (1-3 hours each) but last night's rest should have us on the right schedule now.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Big news!

Yes, we're flying to Botswana on Monday! The tickets were purchased at the end of last week. Here is our itinerary:

September 10
Seattle to Washington, DC (7:20AM to 3:13PM) - 5 hours
Washington to Johannesburg, South Africa (5:20PM to 2:35PM the next day) - 15 hours
September 11
Johannesburg to Gaborone, Botswana (5:15PM to 6:20PM) - 1 hour
From there, we drive about 200 miles to Francistown. That's about 21 hours actually on a plane, in the air and a drive at the end of about 4 hours. Actual total air travel time (including the trip from Woodinville to the airport in Seattle 2 hours before boarding and getting from one plane to the next) will be just over 37 hours.

So we're scrabbling to pack this week, now that I'm back from the east coast of Canada. Exciting times. It's good to finally be going.

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