I've lived in Botswana for 20 years now and still I come across the odd thought or insight that makes me understand my chosen home a little bit better. The other day my husband was talking about his trip to the dump. We have now in Botswana people called Green Scorpions. In our ward the Green Scorpions are a group of about eight middle aged and elderly women who move around our ward in fluorescent yellow vests to check that we are keeping our compounds and the land around our compounds tidy. They check that we are not burning rubbish, which is now against the law, and that we are clearing the grass and other unsightly things.
Last week we ran foul of the Green Scorpions. My husband had hired someone to cut the hedge that had grown tree like while we were living in Lecheng. The person had piled all of the hedge cuttings outside of our gate and the plan was it would be taken to the dump but my busy headmaster husband was unable to find the time to get to it. The Green Scorpions were not interested in hearing excuses and decreed that it must be gone before they returned.
So my husband piled it in the 4 x 4 and headed to the dump. At the dump he found one of those ubiquitous people- a man with small power. He declared that- no- the bush could not be left at the dump without a permit. Apparently these permits are needed to ensure that people don't dump hazardous things. Fair enough, but it was the weekend and the bush was obviously not hazardous.
In the end, my husband managed to convince the dump man that he would not be returning home with the bush as the Green Scorpions were waiting for him with red eyes. He left the dump bush-less, but not happy with himself because he had let the man get him angry.
It got me to thinking about the very different way that an American would approach this situation as compared to a Motswana. Batswana see a person who loses their temper as immature. They are unable to control their emotions, they have no self control. A respected person maintains their dignity by controlling their emotions. If he fails to accomplish what he set out to do, well that is unfortunate, but at least he did not lose his temper and behave childishly.
An American on the other hand would look at a calm Motswana facing this situation and think - What the hell!! They would wonder why he wouldn't sort out the dump man by explaining how the whole situation was ridiculous. If the American had to lose his temper to accomplish this, that's fine as long as in the end the bush was left at the dump where any sensible person could see it belonged.
I truly do not want to judge. Even after 20 years of living here I still stand with a foot in the home of my birth, a country with many wonderful attributes; I know now that's how it will always be. But I do think there is something to be said for the Setswana way. Perhaps Batswana don't always get what they want but then the handy African fatalism steps in to rectify any regrets. It may slow down life a bit, but I'm finding too, that's not such a bad thing either.