Monday, February 15, 2010

Being Lost and Found

This past Saturday Amanda, Joey, and I decided to visit a village called Oodi. Oodi is a small village famous for its weavers. As Amanda loves to knit and is in constant search for yarn, she thought it would be worth checking out. I, having nothing else to do on this particular Saturday, tagged along.
We left UB around nine in morning taking a combi to Station and then from Station to Oodi. At the sign that said "Oodi Weavers" with an arrow pointing to the left we asked the driver to drop us off. We start out along a small dirt path next to the sign. Right away we see a man working on a shed/building and we ask which direction the Weavers are. The man points us off to the left, we thank him, and we keep walking. About five or ten minutes later we come to a construction site. Amongst the usual greetings Joey asks where we can find the Weavers. One man, with a very confused look on his face, tells us that they are out and points to a building next to the one they are constructing. The building didn't quite look like what we had imagined, but it very well could have been the Weavers. We were then told to keep walking in the direction that we had been.
A few minutes after leaving the construction workers we ran into some boys. They explain to us that Oodi is in the opposite direction! So we head toward Oodi. We eventually come to some houses. Amanda makes the smart decision to walk towards the paved road. Shortly thereafter, a kind Motswana man, who had driven past us twice now in different directions, stops and asks us where we are going. We explain that we are trying to find the Weavers. The man laughs jovially and proceeds to give us detailed instructions. Amanda was right, we needed to follow the paved road.
Fifteen to twenty minutes later as we were walking on the paved road we saw yet another Oodi Weavers sign. this one, exactly like the first one. However, this one led us down another paved road. This was a good sign. Amanda realized that the previous sign probably meant, 'turn left on the next paved road." However, the sign did not explain that, it's just one of those things you have to know.
Finally, we make it to the Weavers. The looms were pretty cool and rather majestic looking. We also got to see where the women spin and dye their own yarn. Then we wandered across the yard to the shop and looked at the tapestries. I am continually amazed at what individuals can do with their hands alone. They were quite lovely; there were so many different colors and designs. Amanda bought some items and we started thinking about lunch.
We asked the women who showed us around where we could find some food. She vaguely waived her hand in a direction and said, "In town." We wandered in the direction she pointed. Joey speculated that if we followed the paved road we would find town. Amanda and I agreed that this made perfect sense, and we started off. For quite some time we followed the road slowly becoming more and more hot and thirsty (it was 95 degrees that day). Eventually we see fewer and fewer signs for random businesses among the houses. We stop to ask a young girl where town is. She gives us a confused look and points us back in the direction we came from. Slightly disheartened, confused, and a little bit amused, we turn around and head back towards "town." We turn right near a sign for a hardware business, which we had previously assumed was nothing but a small business in the middle of the houses we had just been visiting. Shortly along that dirt path, we find a very small convenience store. At this point we realize that we have been in "town" the entire time! The poor villagers must have thought we were crazy, no wonder they all looked so confused. Our preconceived ideas about what constitutes a town completely threw us through a loop. So far, we had been visiting larger villages with more retail shops and restaurants. Oodi only has the one little convenience store, a couple bars, and the Weavers. So, we bought ourselves some much needed beverages and caught a combi back to Gaborone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time to Catch My Breath

These last few weeks have been so busy! A couple of weeks ago, I went to Mochudi. Mochudi is a very famous little village in Botswana where Isaac Shapera did his work. It was very exciting for me to be there. We went to the local museum, which, according to Nyugen's guide book is "the best museum in Botswana." It was lovely. Very small, but run by a very sweet couple who showed us around. The man who showed us around also showed us his studio where he prints designs for museum souvenirs. Every one in the town was especially helpful. Whether they were showing us where the museum was or hanging out with us at the bus stop.
Last weekend a few of us ended up in Lobatse. We intended to climb some of Otse (a large hill/mountain), but instead ended up just hanging out around town and at the hotel. It was really interesting to talk to people that we met in town. A lot of people had no idea why we would even go as he put it, "There are only really old people and rich people in Lobatse." We also visited the new psychiatric hospital for An, as she needed information for her independent study project.
This week has been full of proposal's and research. Our preliminary research proposal was due on Wednesday. I think mine's not too bad. I plan to research whether or not there's been a significant cultural change in regards to women's attitudes about child custody. I am focusing on the current debate of whether or not to place the child's name on the birth certificate. I think that a lot more women intend to place the child's name on the birth certificate due to laws that don't necessarily take into account previous cultural practices. However, some of these laws are necessary in light of a cash economy and changing views about relationships, etc. My goal is to do a series of interviews of young, pregnant women around campus. There are a lot of them here. I plan to ask them whether or not they put the father's name on the birth certificate and why. I am running into difficulties on how to approach the women though. I want to put out pamphlets around campus explaining my research and seeing if I get any volunteers. However, a sample based purely on volunteers might give me skewed results so I have to find other ways of contacting women. There are definite ethical concerns with me hanging out in the clinics, since they are supposed to be a safe space for the women to go and get medical care. I might have to, in addition to the pamphlets, just walk up to pregnant women around campus and ask if they would mind having a conversation with me. Although, I'm not sure if this is okay either. Perhaps, the stigmas associated with pregnancy in the U.S. are influencing my choices. Pregnancy for young women is not as big a deal here.
Overall, these past few weeks have been fun and full of thought. I don't think I will ever stop enjoying meeting new people or visiting new places. Each village is a new experience filled with different attitudes, new people, and interesting scenery. I'm sure I'll get my research figured out. If you have any suggestions about approaching potential interviewees, don't hesitate to let me know.