Friday, October 28, 2011

Khama Government to No Longer Recognise Bakgatla Paramount Chief Kgafela Kgafela II

In a turn that will likely have serious repercussions, according to an article in the Midweek Sun the government has taken a decision to stop recognising the paramount chief of the Bakgatla, Kgosi Kgafela. This follows two instances where cabinet ministers showed up at the kgotla and were refused permission to speak there. They were told that they could not hold meetings at the kgotla without the kgosi being present.

The Bakgatla tribe live in Botswana and across the border in South Africa.

I wrote before about the controversy around Kgosi Kgafela but since then things have grown quite tense between the Bakgatla chief and the Khama administration. Kgafela was brought before the court for "unlawful flogging" and the case is on going. At one point he appeared to have escaped from police custody. And throughout it all, Bakgatla have stood by their kgosi.

This move by the government seems rash in a country based on consultation. We wait and see what the response will be.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Five Things to Do In Central Botswana

I live in Mahalapye which is in the Central District of Botswana, the largest district in the country. Most tourists zip through without stopping, heading to the watery north with the Chobe River and the Okavango Delta. But we also have some nice hidden treasures you shouldn't miss.

1. The Khama III Memorial Museum in Serowe
Serowe is the capital of the largest tribe in Botswana, the Bangwato. The history of the royal family is housed at the Khama III Memorial Museum. Our most celebrated writer, Bessie Head, also made her home in Serowe and the Museum has a special room dedicated to the writer. The thing I love best is the collection of photos of Sir Seretse Khama, our first president, and his family. The love story of President Khama and his wife Ruth is a touching one. Because she was white the British colonial government prompted by the apartheid regime in South Africa didn't like the marriage and did everything to stop it from happening and then frustrated them at every point. There is a photo that I love to look at there. It is of a pregnant Ruth standing on the dusty Mahalapye airstrip waving at a plane passing overhead. During this time, Ruth was trapped in Botswana and the colonial authorities would not let Seretse enter the protectorate. She had had word that they had changed his mind and he would be arriving on a plane in Mahalapye so she went there and waited but at the last minute he was denied permission to land.

There are many lovely photos there and a nice stop for an hour or two.

2. Old Phalatswe/ Phothophotho
Before the Bangwato moved to Serowe the capital for about 15 years was at Old Phalatswe. It can be found by going out the Martin's Drift Road toward the South African border and turning left to Malaka. Once in Malaka, you need to go to the kgotla to get permission. The National Museum is trying to formalise the area so you may be lucky to find a museum official who can give you directions.

For its time Old Phalatswe was a very modern town. It had a business district and was a stop on the stagecoach trek north. Now you can find the ruins of compounds and the once I suspect magnificent London Missionary Church.

After moving around the ruins you can climb down to the (normally) dry river bed behind the ruins of the minister's house. Follow the shady river left to its end and you'll find the beautiful Photophoto waterfall. Like an ampitheater the rock cliffs tower above you often with baboons at the top watching to see what you're up to. It is a beautiful place for a picnic.

3. Kaytee's Takeaway
In Mahalapye, Kaytee's Takeway is an institution. People heading north for years knew that it was the place to stop for a good dose of greasy food in the form of fish and chips or magwinya (fat cakes) or koko ya Setswana, or as we call it in our house- running chicken. If you're coming from the south, it's located right on the A1, on your left after the first robots.

4. Bush Walks
The Central District has some of the most beautiful areas for gentle walks in the bush. If you're a bird watcher, don't forget to bring your binoculars. Our family has had great walks around Mahalapye, Shoshong, Bonwapitse, Lecheng, and areas around Machaneng. You can stop your car most anywhere and find a lovely place to stretch your legs. A good place to start might be a walk up the dry Mahalapye River in Mahalapye with its wonderful granite boulders or the Lotsane River in Palapye.

5. Khama Rhino Sancaturay
One of my favourite places is the Khama Rhino Sanctuary located north of Serowe on the Orapa Road past Paje. You can go for the day or spend the night at one of their campsites or chalets. They also have a picnic spot with braii facilities. The park is a good size so you always see animals. There are white and black rhino as well as giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, kudu, springbok, ostrich, warthogs and much more. If you're a bird watcher, this is a fantastic place. We like to wake up early and bring a thermos of tea to the bird hide and wait to see what comes along. It really is a tranquil lovely place.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

IBBY SA Reviews Signed, Hopelessly in Love

IBBY is the International Board on Books for Young People and the South African branch reviewed my book in its latest newsletter! The review is copied below. Here is the link to the review. LinkLink

Signed, Hopelessly in Love, Lauri Kubuitsile (Tafelberg, 2011)
I can quite understand why this novel was a finalist in the 2009 Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature: Lauri Kubuitsile has her own voice: the writing has an honesty and directness which appeals.

In a school environment two friends Nono and Amo share their lives – Nono an athlete, Amo the school journalist who gets the assignment to do a column under the pseudonym Aunt Lulu. She answers the letters of readers with personal problems.

Amo is in love with the head boy John Gababonwe, and when she receives an anonymous letter asking for advice by somebody who is hopelessly in love with a girl, she immediately assumes that it is from him, and that she needs to tell him that she likes him too!

The author presents the reader with a believable mixture of events and situations: school sport, studies, relationships, gossip, and the usual competitiveness and jealousy – Nono’s attempt to win a gold medal for the school is hampered by a student seeking revenge by attempting to injure her during a race; the Pig’s 1965 National Athletics trophy gets stolen, and then there is Amo making a complete fool of herself …

As she says: “They can cure terrible diseases, move genes around between plants and one day put a Motswana girl on the moon, and they still haven’t invented the invisibility button? Where is science when we need it?” A good read.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Could Learn A lot From Pigeons

We have a pair of Cape Turtle Doves that like to frequent the birdbath and bird feeder in our garden. Since both are outside my writing office window, I spend a lot of time watching them. I've realised I can learn quite a few things from them.

1. Watch out for Your Partner
The doves rarely both go to the birdbath at the same time. One will tentatively drink while the other sits in the nearby tree to keep watch. As one half of a partnership, sometimes I lose track of this. I forget, and become selfish and think only of me. But looking out for my partner is part of the commitment I've made- "I'll be there for you". Keeping that commitment is part of honouring my word.

Learn to Adapt to New Situations
All species of doves come from the rock dove or the common pigeon we all know. Pigeons are probably one of the most adaptable animals around. They can be found on barren rock cliffs and in most cities in the world. For some odd reason, humans seem to despise them for that very reason- their adaptability. We instead cherish the most rare, the most vulnerable. But evolutionarily that makes no sense. The pigeon should be our champion. Environments changes, we all could live a life with less stress by learning to adapt quickly to new situations. I know I could.

3. Don't Bully Others

Doves are among the largest birds that come to our birdbath, but I've never once seen them trouble another bird. This can't be said for starlings or masked weavers. Even a sparrow will occasionally try to chase others away. But the doves just mind their own business. No matter how crowded the birdbath might get (and this time of year when it is very dry and extremely hot it can get pretty crowded) the doves just move over and make more space. It could solve so many problems if us humans could do the same. Just move over and make a bit more space for the guy next to you.

4. Mate for Life
Cape Turtle Doves, like most pigeons, mate for life. I am neither a religious person nor conservative, but I've found that making a commitment to another person, an unbreakable commitment, helps me to have a firm foundation from which to do more experimental things with the rest of my life. I can risk other things because I know I have a safe place to retreat to. I also learn more about me by having that constant changing relationship with another person. Maybe this is not for everyone, but I know it works for me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Farafina Class of 2011- 20 Day Challenge!

People who follow this blog know that earlier this year I was in Lagos for the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop run by Chimamanda Adichie as well as others. Our group, dubbed Linguistic Playfulness, is trying to continue the work started in Lagos. We have a closed Facebook group and a blog open to the public where we try out different things and support each other on the bumpy writing journey.

To keep us writing, we launched a 20 Day Challenge that started four days ago. Each day one of our members must post a story on the blog. Please stop by and see what my classmates and I are up to. My day was yesterday and I posted a very short flash fiction titled "Breaking up the Silence".

Lots of talented writers in the group. We'll be happy if you stop by and leave a comment. Link

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Second Blog Book Tour Stop!!

I'm on the move again! This time to Kasane Botswana, way up north along the beautiful Chobe River. How I wish I was going for real not just virtually. Border Town Notes is hosting the second stop on my blog book tour for my YA adult book, Signed, Hopelessly in Love.

Karen the owner of Border Town Notes had this to say about the book:

"I actually found it to be really different, compared to the more usual type of high school stories that I've read in the past. Having been part of the adventure of raising two teenagers in my own life, I have great affection for teens, and enjoy reading about them. I have also maintained my taste in young adult literature, and this young adult book was a really excellent read! I devoured it speedily, really enjoying this endearing young lady and her world populated with amusing characters, and sprinkled with snippets of absolutely typical Botswana life! "

Read more including her interview with me HERE.
Thanks Karen!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Photos of my Life Today

It's spring in Botswana, and that means the jacarandas are blooming. We have three in our garden and they are looking gorgeous right now, my photos don't do them justice.

The purple flowers decorate the lawn.

Senor Ramon has a new game. He sits in the little cubbyhole at the back of the lawn chair (what is the purpose of that space anyway?). And he waits. Then when I sit down, it is best when I'm from the pool in my swimsuit, he pokes his little paw through the slot at the back and gives me a few swipes on the bum. Fun game for him. Not so much for me.

Below is Cat's Eye, the Cactus. He arrived at our house hardly bigger than a thumb, bought by Giant Teenager No. 1. When she left for boarding school, I was left with Cat's Eye. Immediately he began to grow a strange shaped head. When I built my office, he moved here with me. For a while he was Cactus Man but it didn't suit him and he went back to Cat's Eye...and his odd head kept growing. Then in the last few months he started bending over, as if searching for light.

Today I decided the problem was getting serious and I've planted him outside where there is plenty of sun. I hope he goes back to being straight and tall. This bended posture gives me a backache to look at. I'll keep you posted.

Another problematic plant is our banana tree. We had lovely bananas that produced the sweetest fruits, but our Tenants From Hell decided to cut them down. Mr K then planted these, which have refused to grow, probably they know what happens to healthy bananas in this garden, they've heard the rumour. But now to add insult to injury, the masked weaver bird is back and he has chosen the few banana leaves on the decrepit banana tree as his building material. As you can see he's nearly stripped it completely and his nest is not finished. Oh poor banana tree!

That's today in photos. Now it's time to get to work!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And My Virtual Book Tour Begins in Australia!!!

Today is the first day of my blog book tour for Signed, Hopelessly in Love. I'm over at Selma in the City. Selma is a long time blog/internet friend. She has a beautiful blog where she writes touching posts about her life in Australia.

Please stop by and leave a comment or question. You can find the blog HERE.

Thanks Selma!!!

Next stop- Kasane Botswana at Bordertown Notes. Link

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Miss Fatalism

I live in a fairly large village in the Central District of Botswana on the eastern edge of the country. The village is called Mahalapye, though its real name is Mahalatswe; the modern name the spelling that seemed more sensible to British tongues. It is named after the normally dry river that runs through it. Mahalapye is not very pretty. It’s not so exciting. It doesn’t even have a very colourful history having grown from a railway stop where Cecil John Rhodes’s trains from Cape to Cairo (actually Cape to Harare) would refuel. Though it is not the most captivating place, it is a typical Botswana village, it’s home, and I love it.

Perhaps the nondescript, unexciting way of my village is the reason why when the TV man asked me what I missed about Africa when I was away, I first drew a blank. I was in London having been short-listed for the Caine Prize. The winner had already been decided the night before so the TV man was asking us, the rest of the writers, the losers, other types of questions, our answers meant to be sprinkled around those of the winner, to add local colour about the continent.

Like so many before him, though he knew Africa was made of lots of different countries, the TV man hadn’t made the leap that inside of each of those countries would be found so many different types of people and lives and ways of being. So he asked me again, “What do you miss most about Africa when you’re away?”

I hesitated. Africa? Am I meant to say lions and elephants? Sand? Tropical rain forests? Hunger? So I asked- “Do you mean Botswana? Do you mean Mahalapye?” He nodded. But that didn’t help, still I was blank.

By that time I’d been away from home for almost a month. I’d been first to Lagos and then to London and I was missing home desperately, but I couldn’t put my finger on one thing I missed concretely. And then I said it. It just came out, and my mouth ran, and my brain tried to keep up and I watched the whole thing as if the person speaking was not me.

“The fatalism,” the woman said, the one who sounded very much like me.

The TV man was not pleased. “The fatalism?” he asked, his face twisted into a scowl.

I was sure we’d got the whole thing wrong, me and her, but the woman continued as if she had thought about this for some time when I know for certain she hadn’t. “Yes, the fatalism. There’s something very nice about just accepting that things happen. That’s what I miss.”

The TV man was still not pleased. “But fatalism can be a bad thing too.”

The woman accepts that but still sticks by her answer. The TV man, frustrated, moves on. He asks her to describe Africa in one word, she says without thinking, in a way I find very reckless, “Space”. Again the TV man gives her his look of disapproval and I’m sure she’s messed it up completely.

The next day I talk to the other writers and find that indeed her answers were not correct. Africa in one word? Diversity, they say. I ask nothing else for fear I’ll learn the truth about my failure. In any case, the TV man will just edit it out, that’s what TV people do when they don’t like certain parts. It’ll be fine.

But later I think further about the answers the woman who was interviewed gave. As I dig around in the crevices of my mind I begin to see that, in fact, she had got my answers correct.

I grew up in America. America, if nothing else, is a land of people looking for answers. Unanswered questions are not allowed. There is a reason for everything and if you can’t find it you’re just not trying hard enough.

In Botswana, people accept that life sometimes goes wrong. Problems happen. Sometimes things don’t work. Sometimes the outcome you expect is not the one that you’ll get. It’s just the way it is.

There’s something very comforting about that. It alleviates a lot of responsibility. I suppose that’s what the TV man doesn’t like, but for me it sets me free. Not every action requires you to be ready to accept the entire burden of responsibility, so you can be freer to make choices that might mean things don’t work out. I don’t need to search and search for the reason behind everything. I don’t need to worry about things I can’t control. I can go forward and accept that sometimes things won’t go my way and that’s fine. And in that embracing of fatalism is where I find all the space I need.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Join My Blog Book Tour!!!

I'm going on a virtual book tour for my new young adult book, Signed, Hopelessly in Love and I hope you'll go with me. Below is the schedule with links to the wonderful blogs I'll be visiting.

October 12 :Selma in the City

October 19:Bordertown Notes

November 2:
Myne Whitman Writes

November 16: Straight From Hel

November 23:Monkeys on the Roof

The way it works is that each of these bloggers have read the book. They will ask me different questions about the book and other aspects of my writing. And then on the day they put up the interview and we discuss the book there and give links to readers interested in buying it. Much like a real book tour but easier (and cheaper) for someone like me living in Botswana. I hope you'll support me and stop in at the blog stops and leave a comment to say you were there.

And thanks in advance to all of the wonderful bloggers who'll be hosting me and my book!
Ke aleboga le kamoso!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Silence of "The 1st Genocide of the 20th Century" in Namibia

The silence around last week's repatriation of 20 skulls from Germany to Namibia is a sad commentary on an even sadder period in history.

The skulls belonged to four women, fifteen men and a boy of about 3 or 4 years old. They were part of an estimated 300 heads that were removed from dead bodies of members of the Herero and Nama tribes who died in Namibian concentration camps, particularly the one located on Shark Island in Luderitz, between 1904-1908. The heads were taken to Germany for research done by a German anthropologist, Paul Bartels, who wanted to use the skulls to prove that white people were superior to black people.

The Germans ruled Namibia from 1884-1915. In 1904, the Herero people, and later the Nama, tired of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Germans, fought back and 123 Germans settlers were killed. In revenge, the German colonial authorities headed by General Lothar von Trotha called for the extermination of the Herero people. This extermination included rounding up the people and imprisoning them on Shark Island with no shelter and little to no food. Thousands died there from disease and starvation. During this time 65,000 ( some put the figure as high as 100,000) Herero people were killed and 10,000 Nama people. A thousand Herero people managed to run to Botswana and were given sanctuary. After the genocide only 15,000 Herero people survived in Namibia.

In 2004, Germany apologised for the genocide but has refused to pay any compensation to the Namibian people for the atrocities. Germany has paid out more than $61 billion in compensation to Holocaust survivors.

A delegation of more than 60 Namibian leaders went to Germany to collect the remains of their ancestors from the Medical History Museum in Charite Germany. Upon their return they were met at the airport in Windhoek by thousands of Namibian people.

For more information go here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Life- First Up, Then Down, Then Slowly Up Again

To say my life is currently like a roller-coaster out of control would be just about right. I feel like a passenger strapped in, control handed over, me just waiting to see what the ride will bring next.

Last week started with good news Tuesday morning. The negotiations between Sapphire Press and the production company Vanilla Productions had neared conclusion. My books Kwaito Love and Can He Be The One? were among the thirteen titles that Vanilla Productions had optioned to potentially be made into TV movies. It involved some money coming my way and the potential that my characters may be transformed into flesh and blood. This was fantastic news and I was flying high.

And then Tuesday afternoon the good mood took a serious nosedive. My husband came to my office and said something had happened to my cat, Catman. When I got in the house Catman was trying to move around, but it was as if both her back legs were broken. In Mahalapye, we don't have private vets, only government vets that see to large animals. The vets that tend to my pets live in Lobatse, hundreds of kilometres away. I called them. Luckily they were coming on Thursday and in the meantime I should keep the cat caged and sedated. He warned me that if her legs or hips were broken she could be saved, but if her back was broken she would need to be put down. So began two days of hope. Hoping so badly all would be okay.

On Thursday when they arrived (it's a husband and wife vet team) he felt along the cat's back and he said it was broken and the answer I didn't want was delivered. Then to make matters worse, he told me it was clear her back was broken by someone beating her hard with a stick or club. He had to put her down.

Of course the whole thing was devastating. She was only three years old. I don't know what could have happened that would have led a person to beat her so. Cats roam. Maybe she went in some one's house. Some people are very afraid of cats, that might lead them to react so violently. Though our garden is fenced, cats can escape. I can only have faith that this terrible thing will not happen again to her son Ramon. Hope and faith, the tenuous threads I hold, this woman who claims to be agnostic.

The days pass and the sadness softens its sharp edges and slowly slowly life drips back to normal.

Today is my first day back in my office trying to attend to emails and get some work done.
And then I see the people at New Internationalist are happy with my column and would like me to write for them. And the famous author I asked for a blurb for my soon to be out short story collection has received the request from his agent I took a chance and sent to, and his PA assures me she will pass it on. And I feel myself slowly rising.

Up and down and up and down and maybe that's the thing that keeps us moving, the simple unstoppable, undeniable energy of life. And it goes on.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

And the Winner is......!!!!

To commemorate Botswana 45th year of independence (which was yesterday) and to celebrate the arrival of my newest book, Signed Hopelessly in Love, I asked my blog readers to leave comments about what they loved most about Botswana. Comments were left here and on Facebook where my blog posts turn up as Notes.

I searched for a judge to pick the most deserving comment to win the book. In the end I got the highly qualified, internationally acclaimed Motswana writer Wame Molefhe to do the duty. (thanks Wame!)

The winning comment was left on Facebook and it read-

"I went to Botswana once, when I was a little girl of about nine. And I have incredibly vivid memories of flying over the bush in a tiny little airplane. I remember how astonishingly beautiful all the tributaries were, I can still play it out like a movie in my brain. Then on the ground on the last day of our trip we were chased by a hippo, it was awesome. This reminiscing makes me think maybe it's time to go back for a visit."

And the writer of the comment ....Paige Nick!!
And thanks to everyone who entered.