Here we are on our next-to-last night in this amazing place. We have heard about national branding and the promotion of tourism from the Botswana Investment and Trade Center, and we have heard from the US Embassy Economics Officer about the challenges of doing business in Botswana as a foreigner. We have interacted with tutors and school children in an after-school program for vulnerable youth and also heard about the national education system and English language learning and the gaps therein. Today, during an outing to Mokolodi Nature Reserve, we learned about efforts to stem poaching in Botswana. The government has a very hard stance on this issue, but in a country of just over 2 million people (and slightly smaller than the state of Texas), enforcement is an issue. Punishment may be little more than a modest fine. At the level of tribal government, however, this may be much more severe.
Botswana is full of dichotomies. There are extraordinarily rich citizens, thanks to diamond mining, and there are extremely poor Batswana as well. Yet, according to The World Bank, Botswana is classified as a “upper middle income country.” HIV-AIDS is still a huge problem here. The government pays for treatment (including antiviral drugs) for HIV+ citizens. What happens when the diamond money runs out?
Yes, Botswana is full of contradictions. At some point this week, though, our shared human values began to emerge. Despite many divisions, the “Botswana way,” as we have learned, has everything to do with human connection. Shake every hand. Smile. Acknowledge. Listen. Communicate. Listen. Listen. Listen.
If there is one thing I wish we could learn from our friends here, or one thing the importance of which we might be inspired to revisit, it is the power of face-to-face, human-to-human, spirit-to-spirit communication. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes an openness of mind and heart that, in our world of easy one-way communication, we often ignore. As we spend one last day here, I hope to think about the way my own patterns of interaction might be affected by my many encounters here in Botswana.