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thanksgiving cheeses

But everything else about Botswana in this moment reminds me more of the baked summers of my California childhood, the sweaty dust of my middle school days in Arizona, black vinyl seats in the hot sun of a closed car, the relief of icy popsicles dripping down salty chins, garden hoses and kiddie pools and the buzzing heat of a day deep in the middle of July. It is very very hot right now. Gaborone’s dam failed last year, water cuts in our neighborhood increased from three days a week to four, and it has suddenly become quite easy to understand why for so long this part of the world and its blistering desert have been inhabited by just a few. Humans have put in shiny skyscrapers and Italian restaurants and air-conditioned malls in the capital of Botswana, but despite these changes, this year at least, Gaborone seems to be losing its long war against the landscape.

Lila ice cream

My daughter’s traditional Christmas ice cream cone

In my own kitchen I choose to ignore this reality. While outside the grass shrivels and dies, and the water level drops farther and farther down the blue tiles of the pool each day, indoors I am making sourdough breadcrumbs and smelling onions sizzle and grating a little ginger to put in the mashed sweet potatoes. I brought out the prized box of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread mix that I’ve been hoarding for two years since my sister sent it in a care package to Africa, blowing a layer of dust off the top and adding a cup of chocolate chips to the batter because that’s the way I eat pumpkin bread. I also want to simmer cider and cook with the flavors of orange and nutmeg and make something in the oven that requires basting. And the funny thing? I received my weekly basket of vegetables from a local farm like I always do on Tuesdays and discovered that the season for fresh fennel is spring. It turns out my stuffing recipe couldn’t have been better timed.

We’re nearing the “festive” season as it is called here; Christmas is only two months away. For the last three years in Botswana we have celebrated the holiday with a pool party and barbecue: watermelon margaritas, hamburgers, corn on the cob, cooling Greek salads, and ice cream have been the mainstays of the menu. My sausage and fennel stuffing doesn’t belong anywhere on this calendar. It is heavy, rich, and fragrant: a hearty side for a cold gray day. But old habits die hard, and 37 turns around the sun this time of year are making me hold on to fall in October, even from the other side of the world.

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10 Comments

  • Andrea Reply

    Another great post!

  • Jane Reply

    Got this from Sally on Facebook. Very picturesque writing ! Really enjoyed it. Hope you write more.
    .

  • Amy Reply

    This is my favorite line, you really captured Fall: Living in the northern hemisphere for 37 years is not something that goes away quickly though: the rhythms of the seasons get into your blood and prime your cells for certain changes. Every October, I get a rush of productivity, which for many years was accompanied by an appropriate chilliness in the air and the turn towards winter. It is the season for buying books and getting scarves out of the closet and getting revved up for a play-off chase and letting the briskness in the air fill your head with new ideas

  • Julianna Reply

    I absolutely get you on feeling the rituals of fall deep in your bones even when the thermometer doesn’t reflect what every fiber in your being is yearning for. Growing up in the midwest, I still expect crisp fall mornings in September even though I’ve been in California now for almost 30 years and know that we’ll have weather in the 90s well into October. Still, when September comes, I start wanting to wear plaid and cozy sweaters, and I can’t help myself in the kitchen, either: roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, baked apples, rich soups, succulent roasts. It might still be grilling weather outside, but the core of my being rebels against it. Hang on to October! I support you!

  • Monica Carter Reply

    Way to hold on to your fall spirit in the midst of a Botswana heatwave. Just close your eyes and click your heels as you savor that sausage and fennel plus your pumpkin bread. Gorgeous photos.

  • Heather Speirs Reply

    You remind me of the first year we lived in Tucson, after moving from Detroit. I do miss jacarandas! It sounds like Botswana and California are both losing their battles, so it’s more important than ever to hang on to some rituals.

  • Mel Frykberg Reply

    Hi,

    I’m a journalist based in the Mideast and started reading your blog site today to get an idea of life in Botswana. My news agency will soon be relocating me to Botswana to cover Southern Africa. I have to do all the relocating business myself.

    I was wondering if it is possible to get a work permit/visa once I’m in Botswana or whether it has to be organised before entering. I’ve perused the Botswana govt website but they don’t address this issue specifically so do you have any idea?

    Thanks,

    Mel

    • Sara Sullivan Reply

      Hi Mel,

      Welcome to Botswana! (soon) I think you actually have to be in country to obtain your work permit, as they require you to be fingerprinted at the Department of Labour as part of the process. You can enter the country on a 90-day tourist visa and then immediately start the process of the work permit (your company should hire a visa handler as there are many forms to fill out and paperwork from your employer required). It can take quite a while so it’s best to start as soon as you can after arrival.

      I wrote a post about my immigration experience on this blog actually: http://outland-ish.com/work-permits-waiting-2/

      Best of luck and let me know if you have any other questions–

      • Mel Frykberg Reply

        Thanks for that Sara that has saved me some hassle. I will go and read your other post.

        Do you know of anybody who has a small furnished apartment or wants to share accommodation with an older woman?

        Oh there’s loads of other questions I’d like to ask you – being a journalist and new to Botswana etc. but maybe we can meet for coffee when I get go Gabs.

        By the way your kids are gorgeous.

        Regards,

        Mel

        • Sara Sullivan Reply

          Thanks very much for the compliment Mel! I’m happy to answer other questions: if you send me an email through the “About Me” page on this blog, I can email you directly. There are a few Facebook pages you should join to look for accommodation and to get all the info you need about town; I can direct you to them. And of course we’ll have to meet for coffee when you arrive!

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