The Cactus Patch
Volume 10       October 2007      Number 10

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

We finally reached Bakersfield on Saturday 25 August, but a lot happened before then and I shall continue to write about it. This month I'll report on leaving Botswana. We knew it would be an uphill battle, but I had hoped it would be easier this time as there had been a government edict stating that all benefits would be dealt with within one month of the end of contract. HA!

I started with a letter to the Permanent Secretary in April. On the 24th of May I received a response (dated 21st May) that acknowledged that my contract ended on the 31st of the month. I then applied for the gratuity owed me on the 25th. (This is part of the contract to guarantee that I will stick it out.) On the 28th I applied to passages for tickets home.

On 6th June I was asked for a marriage certificate and managed to produce a photo copy. Next day I was told this was unacceptable as it was not certified. (This was to legalize giving Polly a ticket! I pointed out they brought her to Botswana and were legally required to return her, but logic got me nowhere. They suggested the US embassy should have my papers so I could get it certified there! I pointed out that Botswana Government, not the US, had my documents--but not a marriage certificate since it had never been requested.) Next we got a letter from the Deputy Head of the Museum and took the uncertified copy of the Certificate to the police. When asked for the original Polly explained that it is in a box in her mother-in-law's house in California --maybe. The policewoman laughed and stamped the copy.

Next hurdle -- on the 19th I wrote another letter to the Permanent Secretary requesting a deviation from the normal route home as well as cash so we could go part way by train. On the 25th I received a response stating we could deviate, but we could not have cash. We were informed we could not mix air and train travel and we could not fly to Canada since Air Botswana (the government airline) does not connect with Air Canada. After much to-ing and fro-ing between passages and Air Botswana (and changing reservations three times), we finally reached a compromise whereby we flew to Boston, left the middle of the ticket blank (so we could take trains etc.) and picked up the plane again in Seattle to fly to LA and Bakersfield. This was questioned by passages where I was asked if I had paid the difference between the direct flight and the deviation. I pointed out that the deviation was cheaper as we would be paying for the train. They finally accepted this.

Finally Catch 22 -- to get the gratuity we had to clear the house. Since government only pays for the last three days in a hotel, this left us with the problem of where to stay while clearing out the house. We finally booked a Chalet at Rob Patterson's Nursery (best succulents in Botswana) for the nights of 8th through 10th July, got the packers to pick up book boxes on the 4th and pack the rest on the 5th and 6th and we moved out on the 8th. The furniture was checked off on the 8th and on the 9th we managed to get both Housing and the Landlord to inspect the house.

The power, water and telephone had been turned off on the 8th and we cleared them (but didn't get deposits) on the 12th. That day we got the gratuity check in the morning and deposited it in the bank. Leave money owed did not arrive until 3:30 - too late for the bank. On the 13th we got traveler's checks, paid the packers and deposited the leave check. Theoretically we could have left that afternoon, but to be sure we had changed our booking and actually flew out on the 14th. We spent our last three nights in Botswana at the Oasis Motel. This is flanked by the Cactus Lodge on the West and the Desert Inn on the East!

While doing all this, we managed a last trip with the Botswana Bird Club on the 1st of July, had a turkey lunch with the Cooks (who are also leaving to return to the States) on the 2nd, and Lunch with the quilters on the 3rd. The Museum held a farewell party on the 4th (with me on a chief's chair and Polly on an antelope skin on the floor) and a reception for visiting Native Americans on the 5th. On the 6th we went for traditional Friday drinks at Capital Players and then to Kung Fu Kitchen for dinner. We had breakfast with the Pattersons on the 9th.

In the midst of all this we did manage to buy out a book sale and I found a beautiful volume on "Fynbos Fairies" (Antjie Krog, text; Fiona Moodie, illustrations and Gus Ferguson, translation, 2007 Umuzi Randomhouse, Houghton, South Africa). It has several succulents with their fairies in beautiful color. The Geranium Fairy accompanies Pelargonium cuculatum and is described by the poem:

Now come and rub a malva* leaf
Between your thumb and finger

Other fairies are: the Dew Vygie Fairy with Drosanthemum hispidum, and the Chinchincheree Fairy with Ornithogalum thyrsoides and the Acraea horta butterfly.


*The Afrikaans for Pelargonium is malva which is even more confusing than the English geranium since malva is the scientific name for mallow, which is a totally different family

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