Sunday, June 26, 2011

Life in Botswana: Friends

More excerpts from my parent's journal, Life in Botswana.

Making new friends has been one of the best parts of being here. Being part of an expatriate group from all over the world is new to both of us. Familiarity comes quickly because you have much in common being strangers in a strange place. Unfortunately, friendship with Batswana other than through Ed's work contacts is difficult. As in any small town in the States, the social structure is set, and newcomers whether white or black are not needed or desired. We have been to private dinners with Batswana and have had them here; we have been to parties, New Year's Eve for example, where the crowd is mostly black and we've joined and attended Botswana Society functions where the membership is mixed. For the most part, however, our social life is with other Americans (several blacks among them) and a few others.

Nancy's best friend and walking partner has been a Canadian, named Judith. She is in her forties, married, a feminist, and a liberal. She and her husband Doug moved in across the street about the time Nancy arrived here. Nancy and Judith learned their way around together and depend on each other for moral support and share their ups and downs. Sadly, Judith leaves this December. Ed and her husband both work at the Ministry and are also friends so the four of us have done many things together. After Judith leaves Nancy will walk with a couple of women whose husbands work for the Embassy, one of whom, a thirty-year-old, is a favorite of hers.

Ed's best friend Jim arrived on the same plane with Ed, starting his contract the same day. Jim didn't renew and has recently begun a two-year contract in Malawi. Jim is a marketing specialist, forty-eight, divorced, good golfer and has a terrific sense of humor. Nancy is also very fond of him and he is dearly missed. We shared many experiences with Jim, good and bad, as he was going through an emotional period where he needed a "family' and we were it.

Not to go on at too great length, we will mention two other couples still here that we see often. Ray and Andie are from D.C. but had lived in Wilton. Ray worked with Ed in Fairfield International. His wife, Andie, is giving Nancy painting lessons. Chris and Mandy are friends from the yacht club. They are from England, have three children (in England), are liberal and in their late forties, early fifties. Mandy is a former dancer/actress, an avid reader, a gourmet cook, and likes sailing about as much as Nancy. Chris is quiet, intellectual, a great sailor and an architect. He is Ed's Vice Commodore. [My father became Commodore of the Gaborone Yacht Club while he was in Botswana. Are you surprised there's a yacht club in a land-locked country? If anyone could find a place to own and sail a boat, it was my father.]

Though Darien is a transient community, it can't compare with Gaborone's expatriate one. The people we became closest to had contracts running two to four years, the longer term mostly Embassy people. The US has drastically cut funding to Botswana, probably because of their secure (compared to any other southern African nation) economy, and the American community has declined drastically in consequence. We have made many, many trips to the airport and shed not a few tears in the last few months.


  1. Keep the stories coming. I'm getting to feel as if they are my family now

  2. That's the nicest thing to say Jeff. Thanks so much. There are boxes of stories still left to uncover.