Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Life in Botswana: Work

My mother kept dozens of journals in her lifetime, many of which I am now uncovering as I carefully go through her things. These upcoming posts are from a letter my mom mailed to many of her friends and family to brief them on their new life in Gaborone, Botswana. Since it is lengthy, I will post it in sections, as it had been written. At the end of each post, I've added an update that she wrote prior to the end of my father's four-year contract with AED. She called this letter Life in Botswana.

Nancy and Ed arrived in Botswana, in southern Africa, in 1988. Botswana is located just north of South Africa, and the capital, Gaborone, is six miles from the border and 4–5 hours to Johannesburg, by car, all on good, paved roads. Namibia lies to the west and Zimbabwe to the east. North of us is the narrow Caprivi Strip, which belongs to Namibia, and 25 miles north of it is Angola. At the northeast corner of Botswana there is a ferry which crosses the Zambezi River to Zambia on the other side. Now that you know where we are, we'll try to tell you what we've been doing the past two years since letter writing is not our strong suit.

The reason for coming to Botswana is that Ed received an assignment from the Academy for Educational Development (AED) in Washington after responding to an ad in the Wall Street Journal. AED has a contract with the United States Agency for International Development (AID) to recruit for, and administer, a project entitled "Botswana Work and Skills Training (BWAST). At peak this ten-year BWAST project had 35 operational experts (OPEXERs) and their families in Botswana. AED also administered 150 Batswana (plural) students each year in U.S. schools and colleges. Each OPEXER assignment is initially two years, and some are renewed for one or more years. Ed's contract was extended by one year, so our last day will be August 28, 1991.
[My dad's contract was then extended another year after that, for a total of four years.]

Ed's assignment is Advisor to the Trade and Investment Promotion Department (TIPA) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The Ministry is located in a U-shaped enclave in the middle of Gaborone. The Ministry of Education is next door and on the other side, at the bottom of the U, is the National Parliament building. The inside of the U is a nice park, and across from our Ministry are the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Works, Transportation and Communication. Ed's office overlooks the park, where often I see one or two of a favorite bird, the hoopoe. From his window he can see the front of the Parliament building, where often speeches, presentations and honours are given, sometimes with accompaniment by the Botswana Defence Force band.

TIPA has 22 people in it, and has six unfilled positions (recruiting is a slow process). There are four sections – Investment Promotion; Export Development; Fairs and Missions; and Publicity, Public Relations and Information. Ed works with all sections, giving advice and assistance where he can. In TIPA there is a woman from Ghana, a man from Pakistan, and United Nations volunteers from Burma and England. All the rest are Batswana. The Director is a lovely woman in her early forties. She is married to the Permanent Secretary (a senior post) of the Ministry of Works, Transportation and Communication. They have three sons, all studying in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Ed assists the Director with reports, analyses and memoranda which she often must write. She also is asked to write briefs and speeches for the Minister and the President of Botswana on subjects relating to commerce and industry, and Ed usually ends up writing them. He is proud to have written five speeches for the President, and once, before the President's trip to the U.S. to receive an honor and to meet President George Bush, Ed attended a briefing for the President.

The working day is 0730–1230, and 1345–1630: a long morning and a short afternoon. Most people take a short walk to the Mall about ten o'clock, when possible, to break the routine.

UPDATE: Ed's work has continued well, and he is pleased that the advice and assistance he has provided has contributed to the development of TIPA's staff, which now is clearly stronger and more capable than before. Other high points have been 1) the creation and production by Ed and Bob P. of Darien, a consultant, of a promotional brochure which won an award from the Advertising Council of New York. This effort took almost two years from writing terms of reference for the consultancy to clearing customs at the Gaborone Airport for the 20,000 copies (of 70,000) which were air-freighted from Mt. Vernon, NY; 2) participation on the committee which drafted a new Tourism Policy Act and an Industrial Policy Act; 3) contributing to Botswana's seventh National Development Plan, which has just begun; and 4) coordinating the approval, selection and funding process for a new publicity and investment promotion program for Botswana in the U.S.

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