Thursday, February 26, 2009

Can a Goshawk Eat My Jack Russell?

Every morning Monday to Friday I wake up, make my bed,eat an apple, do some stretches, and I’m off on my 40 min walk/run with the dogs. (Can you tell I’m an anal retentive have-to-have-a-schedule Capricorn??)

Anyway, for about a week now I’ve seen a goshawk out where we go on a dirt road at the very edge of the village. It is usually sitting up on the huge metal, electricity pylons hunting and ignores us, but today something changed. Suddenly on our way back, it started swooping at the dogs, especially Chelsea my old lady jack russell. At one point the hawk even knocked into her back with its feet. I was swinging at it with the dog leash and shouting, but I think it was hard of hearing because it didn’t even look at me. It’s not very big, maybe the size of Chelsea, so I don’t know what it wanted.

The mother to a friend of mine had jack russells and she was once sitting on her veranda and the dogs were playing in the garden and a marshall eagle ( a very big bird about as big as a bald eagle) swooped in, grabbed a dog (this is an adult dog) and flew high into the sky and out into the field and dropped it. Then landed to eat. Like a horror movie.

I don’t think this goshawk is strong enough to do that, but what does it want? At Wikipedia they say they eat small mammals and insects. I think it is a Pale Chanting Goshawk, I’ve checked in my Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa. Maybe it’s just wanting a bite. Whatever the reason, I’m a bit scared for tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sweet Pussy Cat Dreams

(This week's Search Engine Fiction prompt is 'Sweet Dreams' and it led me to writing this non-fiction piece)

I have three sisters; two older and one younger. At the time my parents were getting a divorce there was a lot of chaos and my eldest sister, who must have been about 15, managed to get herself, me (I was 8), my sister who was about 13, my little sister who was 2, and my almost newborn brother from an apartment in downtown Baltimore to the airport, on a plane to Wisconsin, and back to my father. When I think of it, I’m still astounded. I remember her announcing to my mentally ill mother that we were leaving and I remember the violent confrontation that followed.

From that point, my eldest sister for me was just someone who could do things. She was an adult in my eyes. A capable person. Since then depression, isolation, and the messed up psyches of some ill chosen friends have squeezed her into herself, forcing her strong capable self to run and hide, and instead the convenient, though soul-crushing, persona of victim has taken centre stage. I haven’t seen her like this; I only know it from talk, and honestly I’d like to keep it that way if I could. It is sad to see heroes crushed.

My little sister was too young to remember any of this. She knows more of our oldest sister the way she is now. So when she was visiting, I told her my memories of that time. The memories I thought I knew. I wanted her to know that 15 year old girl with such power.

When she returned to the States she related what I said to our other sister, the one just older than me. This sister, too, has taken a break from sanity, but unfortunately in a way that society finds acceptable, so they leave her to it. She told my younger sister that my memories were faulty, that our eldest sister wasn’t so powerful back then.

I suspect she is a bit of a revisionist, but I also know that my fiction mind plays havoc with my past, creating memories that are not quite true. So I don’t know. I suppose the truth is somewhere in the middle, I still hope it is more on my side; I still believe that really.

So that experience sometimes has me questioning one of my few clear memories of my mother. My mother had a sister who she adored who died of leukaemia when she was a child. This event, like so many in my mother’s life, caused irreparable damage to her sensitive mind. She was desperately afraid that one of us would get leukaemia too. What she remembered of the disease was that her sister got big bruises on her arms.

So every night before going to bed, I was required to go to her and pull up my sleeves. She would check my arms thoroughly, any bruises had to be explained or she would very quickly jump to the conclusion that I was soon to be taken. If all clear, she would give me a hug and whisper, “Sweet pussy cat dreams”. It was a nightly ritual, whenever we were with her between her stays in various mental hospitals. Sometimes when she was not around, I would forgo the search for bruises but still whisper sweet pussy cat dreams to myself before falling asleep.

She’s dead now, having died a sad, tragic death after a short life of the same, but I sometimes wonder if she ever had any sweet pussy cat dreams of her own or, being the best mother that she was able to be, she saved them all for me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zadie Smith- Speaking in Tongues

The New York Review of Books has reprinted a speech Zadie Smith gave at the New York Public Library at the end of last year. It is primarily about Barack Obama’s straddling of voice and culture that positions him in a unique place where he can be disassociated from the confines of any one culture, and, unlike what many believe of biracial people, not hovering in some no-man’s land, voiceless, but rather flying high and many-voiced. She explains how this multi-voiced state is endemic among writers, but rarely seen in politicos and how it will be interesting to see where this takes Obama and America, and perhaps the world.

Many things in the speech resonate with me. Issues of bi-racialism are part of our household with a black father, a white mother, and two brown teenagers. I felt sad when Smith spoke about how both Obama and she held tightly to their black side, ignoring the white, for fear of being labeled racist. I felt sad thinking of my own children and the obstacles they must face now and in the future in a world still firmly stratified by race. It doesn’t sit well for me, the donor of the white side, to be shoved away in a corner cupboard, but that is a discussion for another day.

At the end of the speech, she says something that is so important. She relates being at a party with primarily white academics on election night and getting a call to go to Harlem where all of the excitement was. After the call, she realises again that maintaining a varied perspective is not a one off event, but a constant process a process that can so easily be derailed. She says:

In truth I thought: but I'll be ludicrous, in my silly dress, with this silly posh English voice, in a crowded bar of black New Yorkers celebrating. It's amazing how many of our cross-cultural and cross-class encounters are limited not by hate or pride or shame, but by another equally insidious, less-discussed, emotion: embarrassment. A few minutes later, I was in a taxi and heading uptown with my Northern Irish husband and our half-Indian, half-English friend, but that initial hesitation was ominous; the first step on a typical British journey. A hesitation in the face of difference, which leads to caution before difference and ends in fear of it. Before long, the only voice you recognize, the only life you can empathize with, is your own.

Since I am often the only white person in many situations I find myself, I sometimes hesitate before proceeding and think about how embarrassed I will feel and how perhaps I shouldn’t do it. Last year, I knew I’d be by far the oldest beginning jazz trumpet player at Music Camp and considered backing out for fear of embarrassment. Reading Ms Smith’s wise words, I think it is time to ban that silly emotion- embarrassment. God how it stops us from living, seeing, experiencing! Once we have let embarrassment take over, we miss so much and are left with only our own voice and experience. The many varied perspectives disappear. As writers that is the beginning of the end.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Facebook Frenzy

I have been trying my best to not get involved in Facebook. I very quickly get technology overload and since I have email, this blog, obligations at Blood Red Pencil and I now know how to send SMSs, I feel I’m just about at my limit as far as technology goes. But there is a problem with Facebook. You get emails from people asking you to be their friend. That’s quite a big deal. I’ve never been someone with a big group of friends. I have a few friends that I am dead loyal to. So when I get these requests for friendship I always hesitate. What should I do?

Accepting seems to be such a big step. Initially, I was getting requests from kids, mostly children of adults that I used to teach with and who have since moved away. Do I really think it’s acceptable to be a friend to these young people? They are nearly half my age.

Then you’re stuck with ‘Confirm” or “Ignore”. I can’t quite confirm, but to actively ignore by pressing that button seems so antisocial. So for a long time I just left the messages in my email inbox.

Then I got a request to be a friend to an editor. Well you certainly can’t ignore that. So I joined up properly and friend requests started piling in. Still I was in a quandary when each arrived. To compound this, I have no idea how to work anything at Facebook so I never really know if I’ve been successful at anything I’ve done.

This weekend I was asked to be the friend to Colleen Higgs. Well that was no problem as Colleen is my real friend. Then in a wild frenzy I got a bunch of requests from Colleen’s friends for me to now be their friends. I’m beginning to realise that friend on Facebook is not like friend in real life. You don’t have to be a real friend to these people. They just want to get a bigger list. When I saw my friend list going towards double digits I panicked. How on earth would I have time to be friends with all of these people? Now I realise they don’t expect me to, so I feel much better.

On the left side of the Facebook page, the folks there like to write people they think you might know and that you’d like to invite to be friends. This morning I was shocked to see they thought I might like to be friends with Chimamanda Adichie. Who wouldn’t? But I certainly wouldn’t have the audacity to ask her to be my friend, it’s so forward. I’m not ready for that just yet.

Enhance your writing abilities with an online degree in English composition.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One World has Arrived!!

The One World anthology has arrived!!! This is me with my copy and a new haircut, which looks better in real life....hmmm... the hair cut not the book.

The whole thing seems amazing. A group of writers (click to see all of us) get together virtually, in the internet. They submit stories to each other, crit them, polish them up and make a collection. Then a couple volunteer to send the collection out to a publisher and VOILA! We have a book!!

Yeah Yeah Yeah!

BUY IT HERE! (though it looks not just yet- keep checking AND Amazon seems to forgot all the rest of the writers.... hmmm.. .....)

All proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders.

AND there are BIG names in there like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (who knew some of the writers in the group and early on agreed graciously to submit a story), same goes for SA/PEN, Caine Prize winner Henrietta Rose-Innes- my story is right between theirs in the book- does that mean anything? Am I superstitious? (Likely answers: No, Yes) And we have the Super-Big Gun- Jumpha Lahiri.

International cooperation.
We all knew writers would lead the way.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Doctor’s Hill

(This week's Search Engine Fiction prompt was 'The Hill', here is my attempt)

I met him on a windy day while walking along the bottom of what I was to come to know was his hill. At the top, sat his house, a 20th century gray glass and cement block that when I first saw it forced a gasp out of me for its ugliness. No one said it out though. Everything about Doctor was revered, no matter what the truth of it might be.

It started as an accidental encounter which slipped into a daily meeting and soon after, while his wife sat in her ghastly house drinking tea and organising charity events, we became lovers.

“What do you even see in me?” he’d ask most days. I had no answer. He was right, though; there was nothing sensible about it. He was more than thirty years my senior. We had nothing in common to discuss, so we discussed everything in the world that was not a part of us. We lay for hours in my sunny bedroom with rainbows dancing on the walls made by the batch of crystals hanging in the window and talked of the silliness of afghan dogs and the beauty of the Sahara Desert, the taste of squid and the sound of the bells of Notre Dame.

Since I promised myself there would be no tears, I pull my mind away from those sunny days and I concentrate instead on this gray one, full of clouds low in the sky aching to drop their heavy load but being considerate enough to wait until Doctor was properly buried. Though he once told me both he and his wife came from poor farming families up north, she has the arrogance of the first generation rich and is burying him in the ‘family graveyard’ up on their hill. I wonder what’s written on the other tombstones: “Goldie- our fishy friend, rest in peace” and “Bobby- May he enjoy the big hamster wheel in the sky”. I smile at that, thinking how Doctor would have laughed; he was a fan of my sarcasm.

I stand at the back hoping I won’t be noticed. I know they all know about me, but I don’t care. I’m not here for them, I’m here for him. Besides to acknowledge me and what I was to him would be acknowledging Doctor was an adulterer and no one was prepared for that. His grown daughter keeps giving me looks over her padded shoulder hoping I’ll understand. I understand, I just have no notion of leaving.

The wind blows ever so slightly warning that the rain won’t wait much longer. The priest hurries along. Doctor’s wife sits on a chair near the grave, she looks like a maple leaf in late autumn, I fear she may crumble and blow away. I’ve seen her once or twice in town, the queen of her small kingdom; she gave me no notice, another of her subjects, nothing more. Doctor rarely spoke about her, so she was a stranger to me too.

Seventeen years with him; it seems a lifetime but then again only an instant. When I came to this town I was on my way, it was only a stop, a stop to sit and think and decide my next move. Seventeen years later and I’m still here. I’m too proud to say I stayed for him; a man is not a reasonable reason to slow down a woman like me. I didn’t stay for him, for seventeen years I was just stopping, deciding my next move; decisions needn’t always be made in a rush, he taught me that.

The priest is finishing and the group, larger than I expected, head toward the house. When I see the grave diggers move in to cover Doctor up, I walk to the grave. They stop when they see me and move away.

I look down at the expensive casket at the bottom of the hole and force myself to see him lying dead inside. I want to make sure I accept that my seventeen year stop is over.. Many might say wasted years as the other woman; the second choice. Not for me. Purposeful, chosen, secret special moments for us only. Wives get non-stop public appearances with no meaning, but me, I know each second spent with me was a gift he gave me on a golden tray with red roses in a thin porcelain vase. Not seventeen wasted years, seventeen years lived.

I nod at the grave diggers to let them know they can continue and I make my way down his hill. My car is packed, my direction mapped out, my stop here is now over. It’s time to move on; I’ve been released from my indecision. And the raindrops, finally, are allowed to fall.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Prayer for Today

New Internationalist, the publishers of the One World anthology, sent all of the writers a beautiful desk calendar with pictures from around the world and bits of information about life in other places. At the back, I found the most wonderful prayer from the Pueblo Indians of the southwest United States. It touched me this morning and I thought I’d share it.

Hold on to what is good,
even if it’s a handful of earth.

Hold on to what you believe,
even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do,
even if it’s a long way from here.

Hold on to your life,
even if it’s easier to let it go.

Hold on to my hand,
even if I’ve gone away from you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What is the first thing you think of when you see Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade??

If your answer was The Jackson Five, then there may be an investment opportunity for you in Nigeria. According to a BBC report reprinted in today’s Mmegi, Marlon Jackson of the Jackson Five is apparently planning to build a theme park and resort at the historic slave port Badagry in Nigeria to the tune of 3.4 billion US buckaroos.

The plan is to combine the genocide of 10 million Africans who died in slave ships heading to America to do the work that would create a country that runs around telling people they’re a Super Power because of that good old American work ethic, with the disco beat and pop memorabilia of the Jackson Five- a perfect match, dontcha think? There will be replicas of slave ships where visitors can be strapped in and feel the experience and a 5-star hotel to relax in after a long day of slavery and disco. They don’t mention it, but I imagine there will be roller coasters called things such as ‘The Whip’ and “Journey to Hell’. They do say that they intend to entertain the throngs with holograms of the five jive fellows in full ‘Blame it on the Boogie’ mode. Yaoza! In between the glittering get-ups and the mirrored balls, there will be a museum all about the slave trade in the area. Combining education with entertainment in such an innovative way- how tasteful!

Being the quick thinker that I am, I’m wondering if Donny and Marie would not be interested in setting up a mega deal with the Holocaust Museum in Berlin. If I’m anyone to go by, I would say the extermination of 8 million Jewish people and the Osmond Brothers just feels like a hand-in-glove fit.

Why stop there?? I’m sure Rwanda would be interested in setting up a genocide museum with Boys2Men. And what about Cambodia? I’m thinking Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores- he has that Khmer Rogue air about him.

Monday, February 16, 2009

President Ian Khama in Mahalapye

President Ian Khama speaking at the Mahalapye Kgotla

This post is mostly for people living outside of Botswana, people who don’t know how things work here, people who will find most of what I’m about to write refreshingly enlightening , or so I hope.

Last Thursday our president, President Ian Khama, visited my home village of Mahalapye. He does this to find out what is happening in the country he is responsible for. He came with the Finance Minster, the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, the Minister of Agriculture, and the Vice President who is also our MP in Mahalapye Mompati Merafhe. They gathered at the main kgotla, the traditional meeting place and traditional court.

They had little to say because, instead, they were here to listen. The way that these presidential talks work is that people from the village, anyone- and people from the village take this seriously- should come forward with their grievances. Along with the high-powered delegation from Gaborone, sitting at the front are all of the heads of the various government departments. The reason they and the ministers are there is to give the people an answer- on the spot.

On Thursday there were various issues raised. One man claimed the police are useless and he suspected they were in cahoots with the criminals. The President looked around until he spotted the Mahalapye Police boss who went to the microphone to address the man’s allegations. Another well known chicken farmer told the President that government tenders for buying chickens were not done fairly. A parent complained that many children could not proceed to senior secondary school because the junior secondary schools were not giving them a waiver since the children owed for lost books. Another complained that the sewage pipes are leaking sewage into the Mahalapye River. Another told the President that Mahalapye only looked nice at the moment because civil servants were running around fixing everything once they knew he’d be visiting. One old man wanted the old age pension amount increased. A woman commended the government for our new hospital.

In each case, if the problem was with the government workers, they would come forward to answer and explain how they would address the problem. If a higher power was needed the Minister, Vice President, or the President himself would answer. Throughout the entire meeting, President Khama was taking notes.

The President travels all over the country like this. Perhaps it is not the most efficient way to gather information, but it is the most people-friendly. He doesn’t need to worry about civil servants milking down an issue; he can see with his own eyes the passion behind the speakers’ words. This is important for a man who grew up in a way very different from his compatriots. He is trying his best to understand what his fellow citizens feel is important, what they want help with. I think it is a commendable thing.

Time was running out and the queue was still long so the President skipped his meeting to allow for another hour of talking with the people. When that time had passed there was still a man who was adamant he must speak to his president. He was perhaps a bit crazy and likely drunk and the police and security folk stepped in and got him sat down in a chair and gave him a drink. This seemed to placate him. But as we were dispersing, and President Khama was making his way from the kgotla, I saw him stop at this man and bend down and listen to his concerns. Perhaps I’m easily manipulated by such things, but I was touched and the act moved me a little bit closer toward the President’s side. If nothing else, the man has a good heart.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lay, Lie, Laid

I always get these three words mixed up in my writing so to deal with my own grammatical hitch I did a bit of research and wrote a post at Blood Red Pencil. Check it out here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Good Night’s Work

(This week's Search Engine Fiction prompt was Be Still, here is my attempt)

The hot, wet words were whispered in her ear- “Be still”. She could feel the cool edge of the knife pressed against her neck, and she concentrated on the words and the knife and everything else melted away. She tried to steady herself and take in details; somewhere hidden among those was her escape. Calmness and attention would show her the way.

He was behind her so she couldn’t see him. Only his smell left clues to who he was. The day-old yeasty stench of Chibuku was mixed with the sulphury scent of a body last washed weeks before. He was taller than her and stronger. She felt him harden against her back and she knew he would try to rape her. The question now was- would he succeed?

She’d taken the shortcut through the abandoned field. There was no one around at this time of night, so screaming would do no good. She calmed her voice. “I have money and a good cell phone. You can have them both; I won’t say anything. I won’t go to the police. I promise.”

He laughed then and spun her around to face him. His rough, wind-burned skin meant he spent little time indoors. His yellowed eyes were veined with red. He gave her a sharp push and she fell to the dirt and he laughed at her like a school bully. “Do you think I give a shit about the cops? They’re fuckin’ useless.”

He was right, though, the police were useless. She’d learned that the first time she was attacked, when she still had faith in the rule of law.
She tried to sit up and he fell on her pinning her arms above her head with one hand, while he struggled to open his trousers with the other. She watched him as if studying a recently unearthed new species. Every move he made was carefully noted to be analysed and understood later, to provide details that might assist her in the future.

He tore her panties away and using both hands tried to push himself into her. She paid no attention to his actions, she concentrated on only one thing- the knife he’d let fall next to her hip.

She took three breaths, slow and steady, and on the exhale of the last she had the knife in her hand and sliced it through the side of his neck; a quick, precision cut, finished before her body felt the need to inhale again. In seconds, they were drenched in his sticky blood. She tasted the metallic on her tongue and gagged thinking she’d swallowed some. He fell on her and she rolled him off onto the bare ground. His eyes, at first, wide with surprise, slowly lost the life in them until they were opaque and inanimate like the button eyes of a stuffed toy. She sat still, watching him bleed out, his wilting penis still in his hand. The sand darkened around him in a pattern, as if a black sun was rising behind him.

She wiped off the sand that stuck to her and looked down at the man, satisfied. In the best case scenario the police would find him; worst case would be like the last one, when hyenas got there first; either way, a good night’s work she thought as she turned to make her way back home.

Rejection Acceptance

I have a new post at Blood Red Pencil about dealing with rejections, something ever successful writer needs to find a way to do. Read the post here and add a comment about how you deal with rejection.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Aussie Fires

The year before last I was chosen by our local chapter of MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) to attend the science journalist conference in Australia. At the last minute I was unable to go because of a mix up regarding who was funding the trip, but from the moment I knew I might be going, besides being excited about my Australian writing friends I’d finally be able to meet in person, I dreamed about holding a koala bear. I thought about the feel of its fur (I thought it would be a bit like a raccoon’s) and the solid roundness of its belly and the rubbery feel of its hands. So though it is tragic that human lives were lost and so many homes and other buildings burned to the ground, a bit of my mind has been wondering about the fate of the koalas.

This morning one of my Aussie writing friends, Wendy Noble, a great writer and a lovely, supportive person, sent me these pictures of some of the rescued koalas. She also passed on this link. I love the idea that a volunteer fire fighter named Mr Tree saved Sam the koala bear.

It’s all very sad and tragic so a few happy stories are always welcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Plug Problem

Plugs are a BIG problem in Botswana. I don’t know the history of the current situation, or even if we are alone in this dilemma, all I know is it is hair-pulling-out infuriating. For some reason there are houses in the country that have round outlets and other houses with square outlets. Because of this you get appliances with round plugs and square plugs and sometimes, just to add that little bit more joy, two little pins. To deal with the chaos, we then have adaptors. We have round to square and square to round and sometimes round to round and square to square adaptors. Invariably you come home from the shop with the wrong one.

You also can buy spare plugs and, if you ‘re handy that way and a donkey seriously living on the edge, you can actually remove the plug you don’t need and put the one you do back in its place. I don’t do that. Getting the wiring wrong, I believe, can burn your house down (don't quote me on that). Electricity is a scary, magic thing that I don’t want to mess with; I don’t even like changing light bulbs. I’m a crazy person when my husband climbs up on a chair and starts fiddling with a faulty socket- even when the mains switch is down- I don’t trust it. There could be hidden, evil electrons hiding in the wires waiting to shock my husband, shooting him many metres into the air to let him fall dead from a heart attack while they giggle their little negatively charged heads off. No, I don’t like messing with electricity.

To live in Botswana every household has a ‘ plug box’. In that box is every conceivable combination of plugs and adaptors. The plug box needs to be pulled out whenever a new appliance is bought or you shift house which I recently did. You can only imagine the craziness when you have finally got everything plugged in after trying to match adaptors with plugs and then with outlets, then only to find that you must shift from a house with round outlets to one with square outlets. Fun times I can assure you.

A recent development that is adding more excitement to the mix is the shoddy adaptors that have now flooded the Botswana market. We all need adaptors, every house has them. Now imagine the fun when they melt or , even better, explode. I’m now quick to identify a melting shoddy adaptor- the smell is a bit like a burning rat’s tail. The first time, you’ll look outside wondering what the neighbours are up to, until you see the smoke and realise it is all about you.

There is nothing that can be done now, of course. The government can’t give a directorate that all houses must be square because the people in round houses would be in a serious and costly problem. So we struggle along.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spreading the Love

I was tagged by freelance editor Helen Ginger of Straight from Hel. It’s called Scrabble Tag and here are the rules:

List at least five things you do to support and spread a love of the written word, then tag five people. (If you list something that touches youngsters, you get a bonus letter!)

So here goes:

1. I’m the vice-chairperson of the Writers Association of Botswana (WABO) and post at our blog and, until recently, put out the bi-monthly newsletter, as well as quite a few other things.

2. I try to cover books written by Batswana writers in this blog and when possible in national publications and even occasionally international publications.

3. I was one of the organisers of the Bessie Head Festival and ran the writing and art competition for secondary school students that coincided with the Festival.

4. I participate in the weekly Search Engine Fiction prompts and try to get around to reading and commenting on all of the stories from other writers.

5. Last year I spent two days at Westwood Primary School in Gaborone talking about writing with the students and they said that they’ll invite me again this year. I’d love to do much more of that-so for anyone out there who is listening….. invite me!!- I swear I will say YES! (I used to be a teacher and miss being in the classroom-Boo Hoo!)

Count them I get two extra letters- yeah for me!!

So who will I tag????? I think I’ll stick to four.

Tania Hershman
Selma Sergeant
Groovy Old Lady

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Make-Up Game

(the Search Engine Fiction prompt this week was Wild as the Wind- here's my attempt)

He lost her the second the fight started. He thought he heard the snap of that last straw but in the heat of things it passed unnoticed. Now alone in their one room house, the snap’s memory echoed off the cinder block walls mocking him for his inattention.

What was it they had fought about? A broom he thinks. Something about a broom. She’d pushed him and he slapped her. It felt good. At the time the solidness reaffirmed his rightness in whatever it was they were fighting about.

She stood up from the floor where she fell. Straight and tall she stood, her eyes furious and deadly silent. He was pleased with the flowering outline of his open hand blooming on her cheek, a light red in colour. It would remain a few days, maybe blue-up; he was satisfied with that. It would teach her a lesson looking at it each morning.

She stood still, her hands balled at her sides. “I’ve had enough now.” She spoke in a hard, black, monotone, but he let it bounce off him. Her dramatics were part of the game.
He looked away and when he looked back the door was open and she was gone, out into the heavy noon-day heat. He knew she’d walk and walk through the sand where sweat was not given the chance to runoff , evaporating in the 50 C+ heat before it even formed a droplet. She’d be melting away without even realising it. She’d walk until she collapsed knowing he’d come after her; to save her, he always did.

He’d done it many times before; their strange make-up ritual. He’d carry her bird-light body home and lay her in the zinc tub, stroke her tenderly with bubbles and perfume until the fight washed off and they could love each other again. The finding and the bathing were his own kind of apology, the only one she ever accepted from him.

He waited some before taking off to collect her. He let the bath fill and poured the blue liquid in, splashing it around to form bubbles. He heard the door slam hard against the house and at first paid it no attention. By the time he stood up to go, it was already too late.
The wind had picked up suddenly, wild and raging. Her footprints, his guide to finding her out in the vast Namib, carried on for only three steps and then were blasted away by the fury of the wind, as if she’d been sucked up into the clouds. He called out and his voice was thrown back to him in contempt. The wind was not playing their game today.

He stood a moment allowing the meaning of events to seep through, but the understanding didn’t mean the accepting. Head bent, he set off in one direction then veered toward the opposite. Started back at the house, sitting alone at the edge of the ocean, and ploughed into the wind yet again. Over and over until dark.

Now he sat. The victorious wind still howled in celebration. Sand blew in the open door and drifted in a heap on the floor. Somewhere she was waiting for her apology and he froze statue-still by the thought of it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

JM Coetzee Could be Reading My Story at this Very Moment

....or so that is what my writing friend Petina Gappah says. One way or another he will be reading it and the question now is -what will he think of it??

YES!!!! I am a finalist in the inaugaral SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Awards. For those outside of Africa this is our new big cash prize. It is open to all citizens of African countries. There are 34 of us on the shortlist and all are read by the final judge JM Coetzee. The 34 stories will appear in an anthology too. The prize money is huge- 5000, 3000, and 2000 British pounds for first, second and third place.

My story is called Pulani's Eyes and it's about two women; Pulani the old woman with the questioning eyes and a knack for sorting out infertility problems, and Entle, the rich, wife trapped in her gilded cage of a life. MmaEntle drags her daughter north to the Delta in search of the magic woman who can save Entle from her infertility, but instead, Pulani offers Entle a colour-filled path to freedom.

Others on the short-list include Ken Kamoche, one of the writers included in the upcoming One World Anthology I've been involved in, and my writing partner, Wame Molefhe.

Good luck to all of us!!!

Two Thin Books

I’ve been moving, busy and running from snakes so my reading time somehow slipped away. I’ve been trying to finish two slim books for ages and finally have.

The first is Love by Toni Morrison. It’s a complicated book to read in the piecemeal fashion that I have and I think I might give it another run through, though it is a borrowed copy and the owner is likely wondering if I’ve now made it my own.

When I finished, the first thought in my head was how useless human beings are. The majority of the problems we find ourselves in are created by our very own selves. I even thought last night as I closed the book, about how I could spend a whole career writing only stories about people, who by their own hand, mess up their lives. It is dead infuriating and very, very sad. There is just so much we don’t have control over, why can’t we be a bit better with the things we can? Anyway, very powerful book.

The second book is a short story collection, Long Time Coming Short Writings from Zimbabwe published by ‘ama Books. The title is a bit wrong since two Batswana writing friends have stories inside both set in Botswana- Wame Molefhe and Gothataone Moeng. The book is deceptive. I’m not sure if it is the layout or the size, but there are 38 substantial stories and poems inside a very thin looking book. Zimbabweans are masters of economy.

Mma Molefhe’s story Six Pack is named after the practice of Batswana police collecting illegal Zimbabweans in the country in groups of six they call six-packs. The story is a painful account of a Zimbabwean woman who must work as a prostitute in Botswana to raise money for medicine for her husband back home.

Gothataone Moeng’s story also looks at the plight of Zimbabweans in Botswana. It is called Who Knows What Season Tomorrow Brings. It is about the xenophobia Zimbabweans must deal with in Botswana. The title alludes to the fact that who knows what the future holds; perhaps tomorrow Batswana will be in the position of Zimbabweans so maybe its time for some empathy.

The Cracked Pink Lips of Rosie’s Bridegroom by Petina Gappah is an excellent tale about HIV/AIDS and the community’s response to those infected with the virus. The First Lady’s Yellow Shoes by Peter Ncube is a lovely take on the day THEY leave. I liked the writing in Brian Chikwava’s story Fiction, though the ending disappointed me. I also liked Miss Parker and the Tugboat by Byrony Rheam.

The stories are always framed in the dire circumstances of political collapse, HIV/AIDS, poverty hunger, and desperation, that is modern Zimbabwe. An eclectic collection that, despite the setting, is not always heavy and depressing which I thought was very nice.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Today’s Adventure

As you might know, for the last six years we have lived in a village in the Tswapong Hills called Lecheng. Lecheng is quite rural and, since it is near the hills, is notorious for snakes. We had plenty of snakes in our garden as my artwork clearly showed.

Now we’ve moved back home to Mahalapye. Mahalapye is a big village, one of the largest in the country, located on the main A1 highway about half way between Gaborone and Francistown. It is well developed with modern facilities. Our house is near the edge of the village, but nowhere near being in the bush and we are surrounded by plenty of other compounds.
The reason I’m telling you this is because one would expect snakes in Lecheng, I got used to them, at least as used as a person can get, but I wouldn’t expect a snake in Mahalpye- especially in my sitting room.

This afternoon, I was happily eating my lunch sitting in the chair to the left. (refer to photo) I got up and went to the kitchen passing the door to the right a few times; to answer the phone, get coffee, and wash dishes. I was sitting down to drink my coffee and watch Judge Hatchett and I kept hearing a hissing type sound. I thought it was the ceiling fan so ignored it. I looked up again and there behind the door to the right was a two metre long cobra. It obviously thought my trips to and from the kitchen were some sort of human pre-fight ritual as it was up, hissing and ready to fight. I, on the other hand, had turned to jelly. I was surprised at my reaction. I know I am not a fan of snakes, but I was shaking and panting and scared out of my mind. I grabbed my cell phone and ran to the bedroom.
Meanwhile, Buster the African Sausage Dog and Chelsea got to work. I heard them barking and fighting from my bedroom where I was busy calling my writing partner 200 km away, the police and my husband. I pushed a towel under the door and waited. By the time the troops arrived, Buster and Chelsea had the snake outside and were guarding the very dead reptile in case it tried to resurrect. They are thorough heroes on top of everything else.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Life Copies Fiction

I won a copy of Uwem Akpan’s fantastic short story collection Say You’re One of Them some months ago on Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah’s web site. We had to give a caption to a photo she had there. I was chuffed I was among the winners as I’m a greedy book hog and I loved Akpan’s My Parent’s Bedroom which was short-listed for the Caine the year before last. It is the most tragic story I’ve ever read about the Rwandan genocide. It’s one of those stories you never forget.

When I got the book, I was even more excited to see the two quotes on the book jacket came from writers I love- Louise Erdrich and Peter Orner, who has another fantastic short story collection. If you haven’t read Esther Stories, stop what you are doing and go out and find it. You will love it. I love Peter Orner’s writing. His novel the Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo is one of my favourite books and not just because it is set in Namibia.

In Akpan’s collection there is a story entitled Fattening for Gabon. It is very long, probably at almost novella length. It starts slowly. He is expert at giving the reader time to develop a strong bond with the children and their uncle; a bond that makes the story all the more devastating. He drops tiny pieces and you almost want to give up at his stinginess. Don’t. The story is another that you will never forget. It is about child trafficking and it will break your heart. The ending, especially the last line, is almost impossible to read it is so sad. Wonderful. Wonderful.

This week’s Voice newspaper had an article that made me think again about Fattening for Gabon. It was a tiny article, a bit sparse with details. Apparently two children where trying to be taken through the border travelling on Botswana passports, but the immigration officers became suspicious when neither child could speak Setswana. The article said that Botswana is becoming a transit place for child traffickers and these children may have been part of that.

Then this morning front page in The Sunday Standard, is a big article about how Al Qaeda is apparently trying to set up a cell in Botswana for a planned attack during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Apparently, Botswana is a soft target for this type of international crime. Scary.

Some days ago I mentioned the DIS, our new spy unit in Botswana. I guess there is some work for them here if they decide to lay off Batswana and focus on these dangerous international criminals.