09 September 2010

Botswana Time by Will Randall

Genre: Travelogue, memoir
Year of publication: 2005
Setting & time: Kasane, Botswana; early 2000s

Will Randall went to South-Africa to attend a friend’s wedding and maybe do some travelling, but eventually found himself volunteering as a teacher at a small school in the town of Kasane in Botswana. He ended up being the class teacher for the first grade class and also coached them in football, taking them on outings and to football matches with teams from other schools, and making friends with their parents.

This is a funny and mostly positive book, told with typically British self-deprecating humour. The descriptions of the people and places are delightful and make one want to visit Kasane. While the book is mostly light-hearted, Randall does mention and is clearly displeased with, the racist attitudes of some of the white people he met in the country, and he also does not shirk away from mentioning the HIV/AIDS problem that is decimating the adult population of Botswana, which he witnessed first hand. Mostly, though, this is a description of his adventures and occasional misadventures as a teacher and eventually temporary principal of the school.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is planning on visiting the area. 3+ stars.

Here is a sentiment expressed by Randall that reflects his travel philosophy:

“As I had noticed on other travels so many times, the vast majority of people who visited foreign countries on holiday were happy to observe, even occasionally to sample, the day to day life of the local population, but it was a shamefully small minority who actually wanted to participate in it. To watch, record, but not actually engage in the culture was unfortunately the norm. There seemed to be an invisible wall of mistrust that kept the two sides apart so that the visitor remained in a comfort zone. Of course, it is perfectly understandable that people should have a fear of the unknown, but that is hardly the fault of the unknown."

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