Football, but not American style

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June 9th 2012
Published: June 9th 2012
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Yesterday morning we visited the Botswana-Baylor Children's Clinical Centre of Excellence. I was very impressed with their research, programs for HIV+ children and adolescents, and other services. I'd like to get a field placement set up there. It looks like an excellent place to be helpful, learn, and participate in community service.

I've been pleased to find that my HIV knowledge is reasonably up to date and the reading I've done to prepare for the trip was sufficiently extensive and accurate. Because this is an interest of mine, I was able to answer some questions about mother-to-child transmission for a medical doctor in our delegation who has previously answered some of mine. I asked our presenter at Batswana-Baylor some questions and, contrary to a small but strident set of unpleasant and racist reviews of Tinderbox on and elsewhere, I report that yes, the Botswana medical establishment believes the results of Ornge Farm and other studies are accurate and demonstrate that male circumcision significantly reduces HIV acquisition, and no, they don't think that Jewish scientists are secretly plotting to convert Africans to Judaism. (No, the critics don't seem to know that most Muslim cultures also circumcise; no, they don't seem to understand that circumcsion doesn't turn one into a Jew, but is a requirement for males who are already Jewish; no, the distinction between proselytizing and non-proselytizing religious groups seems to be a nicety lost on them.)

Outside the clinic, we were shown a mural in the yard of a future adolescent center to be associated with the clinic. Parts were painted by Michelle Obama. JW and I know who painted the rest.

Most of us then piled into a van and and were driven to South Africa, where we first had the fun of getting out of the van, getting our passports stamped out of Botswana, walking though the Botswana side of the frontier, getting back in the van, driving a short distance, getting out of the van, getting our passports stamped into of South Africa, walking though the South Africa side of the frontier, and getting back in the van. It was a cuumbersome land crossing. We drove to the park (seeing an ostrich on the way) and had a 2.5 (closer to 3) hour game drive in Madikwe. We saw quite a few elephants (and saw and smelled a male in must), a herd of cape buffalo (with more red-billed oxpeckers aboard), zebras, a giraffe, impala, kudu, blue wildebeest, and warthogs. My best photos are in yesterday's post, so if you didn't actually get into the entry, you missed my excellent giraffe photo. By the way, you can click on a photo to make it larger.

As I type, I'm also watching the Botswana-South Africa World Cup qualifying match. Most of the seminar group is there, but a couple of us decided not to enjoy that cultural experience. In addition to the television, I can hear the crowd through the window, as well as other people on the street. However, I'm in a pleasant room with a computer and a 3-pack of hallal oat cookies and a can of Iron Brew, a non-alcoholic beverage that tastes like black cherry and flat cola, though it was stocked with the ginger drinks.

I played a little football myself today, on a home visit lunch in Mochudi after a museum visit (at which, in the rocks behind Phuthadikobo Museum, I saw rock hyrax, which is a rock dassie in my guidebook and a rock rabbit locally). For my lunch, M. and I were placed with a grandma who served stewed chicken thighs and drumsticks with diced tomatoes, morogo (bean tops), butternut squash, diced pickled beets, and samp (more or less hominy stewed to a mushy paste). Grandma served us, her young grandson, and his friend, then left. We ate with the boys and talked with them about school and sports. This is how we came to be playing football (using a basketball) in dress clothes in a sloping sandy dirt yard with chickens all around. This appeared to be a pretty poor family and I hope they are well-compensated for making us lunch. One of the boys asked us, "Is it true that in South Africa whites could vote and blacks could not, and whites lived in big houses and blacks in small ones?" We said yes, but black people and their friends rose up and fought to make things equal.


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