Umbrellas and China Shops

Umbrellas in Botswana, just like Peace Corps Volunteers, have primary and secondary projects.

Back home, if I see someone at the mall looking through the umbrella rack, I know they are thinking about rain.  Here in Botswana, protection from rain is an umbrella’s “secondary project”.  The main purpose for an umbrella here is to provide shade from the sun.  I think I have mentioned a few times in previous posts how hot it gets here (this post, and this post).  I am sorry to go on and on about it, but it is a fact of life here, causing a significant number of people to carry umbrellas for shade.  It seems to be mostly women, but a few men carry them as well.

Tish even has gotten into the habit.  She bought her first umbrella for 40 Pula (about $5) and it only lasted two months.  She just bought a replacement at a china shop for 18 Pula (about $2.50), that is already showing signs of wear.

I am departing from the subject of umbrellas, but I must explain that a “China shop” is not where you go to buy fine China for your dining table.  Here in Botswana “china shop”  is the name given to any of the many small stores usually run by Asians (Chinese maybe?).  The stores carry cheap imported goods (from China?), which are cheap, but the quality is usually very poor.  Every village of any size has several china shops.  This should give you an idea of how poor quality is pervasive in these china shops:  When Tish picked out her umbrella and took it to the cashier the sale was not rung up right away.  First an Asian clerk took it out of the wrapper and opened it right in the store to be sure it worked.  Even the proprietors of the china shops don’t trust the quality.  The first umbrella that was opened in the store as it turns out was indeed broken.  Tish went and picked out another umbrella and handed it to the clerk…it too was broken.  At this point I asked Tish if she was sure she wanted to buy the umbrella at this china shop, I mean they were zero for two at that point.  As Tish reached for umbrella number three, she reasoned that at 18 Pula, if it just lasted one month, it was an equal  value to the previous one she had bought for 40 Pula.  Umbrella number three worked, and is still working as of this morning.

See below for pictures of umbrellas and china shops…


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2 Responses to Umbrellas and China Shops

  1. Ken Krueger says:

    Marion & Tish –

    My wife Anne and I are waiting for placement. We were suppose to leave in March for Eastern Europe, however the suspension of programs in Kazakhstan and Central America caused a domino effect and we lost that assignment. We just got a call from our Placement Specialist with a potential assignment to “Africa” with a departure on April 10th. Sure looks like it could be Bots12.

    She wanted to check with us since the assignment would be more “remote” with limited local transportation and a “more challenging” food situation, although there is supposed to be a “grocery store from a national chain” in the area. She said there were currently 4 couples serving and that one of her placements, a 84 year old PCV had recently ET’d. It is a posting with lots of 50+ volunteers (we are both 63, in good shape physically). She offered to get us in touch with a 60 year old RPCCV who served his full two years there. She didn’t know about the housing situation however. I got the impression she wanted to be sure we were still up for going “anywhere” as we first told her.

    I have been following your adventure and thought I’d ask you both, it you had it to do over, would you have taken the assignment to Botswana? What are the issues that we should factor into our decision? What other advice would you offer to help us make the choice? It’s not much to go on, but any idea where in the country a more “remote” site might be?

    Be warned however, that if we do end up in Bots12, I’ll bug you to death with questions before our departure.

    Thanks for your help –

    Ken Krueger
    Anne Christman

  2. Marion says:

    Sure sounds like you are in BOTS-12. You should be receiving an invitation soon and will know for sure. Let us know. I will send you an email with more information in it.

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