Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mochudi and witchcraft

Sorry for the delay on the blog. My internet has been on the fritz, so I haven’t been able to do anything on the world wide web. But here I am and here is last week.
Sorry for the lack of photos, as in no photos. My camera is dead and I need new batteries to get them onto my computer. They will be up once I can get them.

So after my quite eventful morning on Monday, with the whole waking up grandma and confusion reigning supreme, my week continued mostly uneventfully. I had to wake up at 5am everyday to make it to classes on time, taking the very crowded bus into Gaborone. Once I managed to get a seat, which was wonderful and made me appreciate chairs.

Taking the bus home was always more eventful, as people were more lively in the afternoon. One day, my friend Michael and I sat next to this middle aged woman who was quite friendly, evident after she offered the two of us snuff. We kindly declined, but continued talking to her, in Setswana, trying to figure out what she was asking us. The entire back two rows were invested in this conversation, giving us hints as to how we should answer.

By the time I got home every day, it was already around 6pm. I would walk from the bus stop to my house then help prepare dinner. One night I was chopping up onions, which is always never good for your eyes, but these were especially potent. I was chopping with tears streaming down my face, eyes barely open from the painful burning. My host brother looked at me and started laughing, asking me if I thought onions should be outlawed in Botswana because they make people cry.

Other than the embarrassing onion chopping, the meals were quite good. We ate a lot of chicken and beef, as well as rice with a tomato, onion, and pepper mix. One night we had a chicken stew, which was mighty tasty. I believe that was St. Patrick’s Day, so it was as close to corn beef and cabbage that I could get.

On Wednesday, as I was walking to the bus stop, I noticed a commotion up ahead. There was a man carrying a bike surrounded by a group of people yelling. At first I thought he had been hit by a car, as his face was quite bloodied. However, then I noticed that the bloodied man’s hands were tied to the bike, just as the man walking next to him hit him on the back of the head and pushed him. I realized that I was witnessing the street justice that I had heard about. This man had been caught stealing a bike, jumped by the crowd there, and beat up before being taken by the police.

Every night, after dinner was prepared, we would take our food outside and eat on chairs in the yard. I spent every night just sitting, eating, and looking up. The stars above were like nothing I have ever seen. My constant staring at the sky always made my host family laugh. I suppose they always have amazing night skies.

On Saturday, I once again woke up at 5am, not for school, but for the cattle post. I was picked up by my friend Alex’s host dad, and then we headed out to the lands. It was around a 40 minute drive, but finally we reached the much talked about cattle post. It consisted of two huts and a corral, where the calves are kept. The head boy lives in the hut. He is hired to look after the cattle all year round, as the owners normally have other jobs that keep them away from the post. The cattle boy was around 18 and spoke no English.

While out there, I learned a great deal about cattle. Here are some interesting facts:
-The calves are kept in the corral all day so the mothers have to come back at night. A type of ransom I suppose.
-To get a brand, you have to go to the department of agriculture and they type in your name and print out your brand. This was quite disappointing, as I hoped you could design your own brand.
-Apart from your unique brand to distinguish cattle, a micro chip is also put into the stomach of the cattle. When the cattle are sold, the stomach is scanned and the microchip provides information about the cattle. This helps prevent the stealing of cattle.
-Cattle sell for more when they have no horns.
-A high end cattle sells for 5,000pula, or around $650. Your basic model goes for 1,100 pula, or around $130.
-The punishment for stealing cattle is 5 years in prison.

I returned from the cattle post to find no one at my home. So I took my note book out and began working on my story. I started a young adult book a few weeks ago and I’m around 20 pages in. I’ll let you know if it progresses any further.

Anyways, while I was sitting outside, my host mom and siblings showed up. The kids were carrying boxes. My host mom told me that they had gotten them at the church down the road. I looked at them and was blown away. I realized that these boxes were wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. What they had just gotten were exactly what churches in the US, including mine, do every year. Every year people bring presents to the church for the poor children in Africa. I was sitting there watching my host family unwrap presents that I might well have sent, in 80 degree weather, in the middle of March. It was a very surreal experience, especially since they gave me some candy that was in the box.

Saturday night there was a party for all of us who stayed in Mochudi that week. Alex and I ended up the ones working the braai (grill). We cooked up some mean steaks, sausages, and pork.

We were to be picked up around 2pm on Sunday, so I wasn’t able to make it to church. However, I did have a fascinating conversation.

I was sitting outside my house, working on my story, when one of my older brother’s friends dropped by to visit. He sat down next to me and started a conversation about witchcraft.
Here are the notes I took after the talk:
-flies on roofs while chasing devils
-can call for someone and they must go to where they are called
-the person who is called feels lost; they don’t know where they are but know where they are going
-the person called is killed for body parts used in potions. These potions are used to bring a person wealth, good luck, and power.
-in 1996 a 14 year old girl was killed by a witch doctor for body parts. The man who was arrested for the killing was not convicted, even though he was found with the body parts in his house.
-this man threw a party for himself after he was released, and at the party, people showed up and burned his house down and proceeded to riot for weeks.
-the government was persuaded to carry out an investigation, with the help of Scotland Yard, but the report was never released. It is believed that some high government officials were implicated in the killing.
-in 1996, students at the university went on strike because of the government withholding information. 200 were arrested.
-there are “too many” of these witch doctors around

It was a fascinating discussion and I have been doing more research into witchdoctors in Africa. I think it would make for a sweet movie.

So I hope I can post this up soon. My internet has been out for over a day now and it is getting quite annoying. I’ll probably have to use someone else’s connection.

No comments:

Post a Comment