Tuesday, December 27, 2011
So here I am sitting writing a blog post when I am supposed to be on my way to work. I was just about to step out the door when the rain started pouring down. Since I have a 20ish minute walk to work I am giving it a rain delay since rain here rarely lasts long and I do not want to destroy my notebooks and everything. Although rain is a welcome thing here since water is always a problem. Hopefully we will get enough to increase water pressure so it makes it to the house.
Most importantly hopefully people’s livestock will stop dying nice we get more rain. Each piece of livestock that dies is a big financial hit to the individual as a cow can be worth 3-4 thousand pula (I believe). Since we have been here we have seen many animals dying and just lying on the side of the road. The largest area with dead animals we have seen is at the Hukuntsi pan. Animals come there for water and end up dying. It is heart breaking and disturbing how quickly I have gotten used to seeing dead animals.
On the amazing side rain has made this place so much more green than it used to be. There are little splotches of color all over and maybe we can get a bit of a garden started soon. We just need more seeds…shopping trip time. Shopping, that’s not an easy thing this far out. In Hukuntsi we can get the necessities, but to get anything extra (which includes things like cheese, lentils, split peas, or any food that could add variety or misc things like seeds for a garden) or go to a bank to get money we have to go to Jwaneng which entails a 3-4 hour bus ride. We can make it a daytrip which would allow us to have 1 or 3 hrs there depending on which bus we take. Nothing is easy here!
Outside of my tangent, I just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday! John and I went to Kang to spend Christmas and got a wonderful surprise of taking a daytrip to Lerucama Bushcamp. It was beautiful up there and we had a wonderful time. There were 4 families there and the few of us from the Peace Corps who joined them. On the way up there we were able to spot a turtle (which we stopped to move off the road) and a chameleon. With the chameleon everyone piled out of the car to get a better look and it crawled under the car. Eventually we got it to climb on a branch and moved it off of the road as well. The whole event reminded me of a time when I was a teenager learning to drive and my dad and I were driving somewhere. We noticed a turtle and he stopped the car to move it off of the road. I felt at home immediately with our new friends once this happened.
Once we got there everyone mingled with some coffee and cookies. Next was a church service for those interested. After more mingling, we had a feast. Later in the evening once the animals were more likely to be spotted we got to go on a game drive where we saw ostriches, wildebeest, warthogs, zebras, camels, a tortoise, vultures, and some beautiful birds. There was also a lot of card playing including some Uno with the kids. It was a great way to spend the day and the hospitality was amazing! They also sent us home with some real butter which I cannot find anywhere, especially this far out. John and I cooked some popcorn last night and put real butter on it…mmm mmm.
This is our new house, or shall I say home, for the next few years.
On a side not we saw and killed our first scorpion last night. It was running on the outside wall of our house and almost ran inside. Checking shoes before sticking your foot in it is important with all the scorpions and black widows around here.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
We are in our new house and have a refrigerator…yeah! It is nice not to have to go to the market every day especially when everything closes early. The house is a 1 bedroom with large rooms and a yard. Kabo (John) and I are hoping to plant a garden soon when it rains again. We also have room to kick the soccer ball around and practice a bit.
So I am finally getting around to posting some long overdue pictures. We have attended many events including an open day for government services, a departure party for the deputy Kgosi, and a community forum for the hospital to address any issues/questions/comments from the communities (all of Kgalagadi North). The biggest issue with these kinds of forums for the district is that once you go past Hukuntsi there are no tarred roads. One community has a gravel/sand road going to it that is only 30 km from here but all the rest have sand only and a 4 wheel drive vehicle is required. There is no public transport to these places. The farthest community is almost 200 km from here.
Most events here include a traditional dance group and a choir that sings and dances. Food is also supplied to all attendees (and expected) making events expensive. There is normally a central table with the VIPs and everyone who speaks is expected to follow the protocol of greeting all VIPS and honored guests. Kabo and I have had to stand up during introductions all in Setswana, so it is important to listen closely even if we do not know the language extremely well yet.
The posted pictures depict the amazingness of sunsets, bugs, and events here. There is also a picture of our temporary living space and 2 pictures from our swearing in ceremony. Once I get a picture of the house I will post it as well.
Friday, December 16, 2011
The most frustrating thing for me is that I am missing a workshop in Kang I really wanted to help out with to move today. Sadness! Luckily this give us a chance to practice soccer a bit before the teachers return and want us to play.
The key to making it in the Peace Corps is patience and flexibility. Also a good book to read while waiting is helpful.
On the positive side we were able to get a dongle recently and have access to the internet occasionally. It is really slow and expensive so there will not be much usage, but enough to occasionally post a blog or send an e-mail.
Hopefully my next post will be in our new house.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
5:00 am – My phone alarm goes off and I get up to check for water. If there is water I run or jump rope. If not, I go back to sleep.
6:00 am - I boil water. If there is electric I boil it in the kettle, if no electric I boil it on the stove. If there is water I shower (cold water only but I am glad to have a shower) if possible. If no water and we have enough in reserve I might take a quick bucket bath otherwise I go without. Boiled water is also for instant coffee and porridge (our normal breakfast).
7:00 am – I begin my walk to work. This normally takes 30 minutes, but often someone stops and picks me up. Sometimes I know them and sometimes I don’t. We normally have a good conversation and lately it has been mostly people I know picking me up. During the walking part of my commute some days I end up stopping and having several conversations with people rarely initiated by me. Everyone knows my name as well most of which I have met but occasionally not. The problem is I do not remember everyone’s name no matter how hard I try. There is no way to be anonymous, which is hard enough in a small town let alone being a minority in a small town. It is hard to get over the feeling of being rushed which comes with the US society I do not want to be late, but I have to budget a little extra time walking to talk to people. Lately a man who drives one of the govt. trucks has taken to yelling my name and stopping and saying hi to me in the mornings. He is not heading to the RAC so I do not get a ride, but I have learned to take any positive attention as a good thing and talk to anyone who is friendly. This is extremely important because during the day there are so many things that destroy the day mainly due to misunderstandings, cultural differences, ambiguity, or just plain hitting a stress/exhaustion wall.
John and I hit a bit of a stress wall the other day and have had a hard time fighting our way out of the funk but are beginning to see the light. Right now we are in temporary housing which is a 10’ by 10’ room with multiple water leaks that began upon the rains beginning. This has been a huge stressor as there is no way to really move everything out of the way of the leaks. Today we looked at a nice 1 bedroom house that my boss is working on getting a lease signed for. We are excited and look forward to getting in it. Our stress level is seeing light at the end of the tunnel! If possible we will keep you posted.
After that we settled into an evening of reading since our computer was dead. Currently we are hooked on watching the Wire to unwind and deal with boredom. We had the door and window open to cool off the room along with a doom coil burning to keep the mosquitoes away. Within minutes a bat flew in and started circling the room. We ducked and ran out of the room laughing and slightly irritated because we were ready for bed since it was 10:30 and we had to get up at 5am. After circling the room for a few minutes it irritatingly crawled under the bed, so we waited. Eventually a bat was circling the room again and crawling in all the crevices we could not reach. I started knocking on the walls to see if it would get it moving and it did. After about 30 minutes we were able to drop a sheet on it as it landed on the bed. We quickly stripped the bed and moved our sheets outside to watch it crawl away. Relieved that we could finally settle down and think about sleep again we remade the bed and sealed the windows doors in ways we had never before. Our blood pressure dropped and John finally fell asleep while I read. A shadow flew across the room again and I jolted John awake. We threw clothes and shoes on and got out of the room. After a few minutes the bad had not moved, so we were silent listening for it and heard a rustle near the stove. After initially cautiously, then frustratedly, tearing apart that area of the room we thought maybe I was just losing my mind, although I knew I saw something. 20 minutes later I sprayed a bit of bug spray hoping to irritate the bat into moving again. It was right after that when John saw the bat hidden on our stove. I removed everything from the stove while John waited patiently with some Tupperware to drop on it. This worked although the bat was none too happy and started screeching. If you have never heard a bat screech it is a piercing sound and does not leave your head easily. We got it out of the room finally and are still not sure where it came from. Sleep did not come easily after that and we are now discussing using a mosquito net to make a screen for the door.
The next day when we stepped out of the house there were millipedes everywhere. Rain must have brought them out of the ground. Most of them are the size of earthworms, but every once in a while the granddaddy of millipedes shows up. It is a little less than a foot long and reminds me of the worms in the movie Tremors (this dates me, I know). I am told that there are some that get bigger too. I will now be shoving something under my door to seal the crack because I do not want to wake up with one of those guys in my shoe. They are pretty neat looking though and some of my co-workers said they do not get that big in other parts of Botswana, just where there is more sand.
Our plans for Friday changed as well. Right now we are going through the Community Study process where we spend time interviewing people and getting to know the community and services. We had planned to spend most of the day on this but realized we had more pressing issues. After talking to some people at the hospital we took the afternoon to get several large buckets for storing things we do not want getting wet and rearranged the room as much as possible. Some of the people at the school did get on our roof and fixed the apparent issues, but we will not be able to know if they got everything until the next rain. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
On a side note, I never thought I would use a headlamp much but this is one of my most prized possessions along with converter, bug spray, sunscreen, hat, buckets and a fan.
It is also important to learn that people will say they will do something, but it is not always true. It is a very non confrontational society. I hear that eventually you get used to the pace of things and that the first few months are the hardest. We will get there eventually, but in the mean time I need to keep reminding myself not to take it personally when people say they will take me somewhere and it never happens.
So we have now been in Hukuntsi for over a week now and it has been quite eventful. We spent the first few days settling into a tiny space (10 ft x 10 ft) that has a double bed and a stove. We are supposed to have a refrigerator and a table too, but there is definitely no room. This should be temporary yet it seems difficult to find housing here as most govt. employees are two to a house. We are staying on the Junior Secondary School (JSS) property which is nice while the kids are in session because we can go play cards in one of the outdoor classrooms and some kids will arrive and hang out with us. We have taught a couple of them how to play a game called golf. Our neighbors are also really nice as are the people in the community. Everyone is willing to talk to us yet it takes time to really become friends with someone and even more so when you do not fully speak their language. I definitely need to spend more time learning Setswana as well as Sekhalagadi. It will help once we find a tutor.
So a quick overview of our week included:
• Our first days of work
• Meeting the Kgosi for an interview
• Attempting a few runs and realizing we are not eating right and out of shape.
• Found all the shopping in the village
• Found a makwinya spot…mmm mmm
• Played cards at the outdoor classroom almost daily and met lots of great kids
• I (Tracy) went to Zutswa for a meeting about an AIDS day event
• Started interviewing coworkers
• Found ways to hang our stuff from the ceiling
• Started a map of Hukuntsi
• Two water outages
• Electric outages
• Killed two black spiders with red hour glasses (black widows??)
• Killed lots of random insects and arachnids
• John got stung by a bee from the hive our neighbor keeps
• 3 broken plastic bowls and 1 coffee mug
• Hand washed every other day
• Met lots of people and forgot lots of names
• Watched 2 movies and finished Battlestar Galactica
• Bought 48 clothes pins
• Wrote 4 letters and 2 post cards…lots more to go
• Talked about all the food we miss multiple times a day
• Mainlined coffee to get to work at 7:30 am then walked 30 minutes back home to go to the bathroom during lunch because water was out and there are no pit latrines at the RAC
• If the light is on at night you need to have the doors and windows closed no matter how hot it is – a monster beetle flew in and we both ducked and screamed like small children
• When form 3 graduates from JSS madness ensues – there are papers everywhere and John broke up a fight
• Asking people’s names is a good formality but it is impossible to remember everyone
• You can never have enough water stored
• Nighttime is the worst time to lose electric – the fan stops, I wake up then John groggily asks why I turned the fan off
• Yes means maybe, maybe means no and you will never hear no from anyone
• Transport is always an issue and kids are the most likely to be on time anywhere
• There is no anonymity and if you feel the need to just hide out at home, it’s ok
• We now know where all of America’s MSG went (what is it supposed to do to you anyway??)
• When you live with a family for two months you become an intricate part of it – talked to our family in Kanye and realized they are worried about us and miss us as much as we miss them
We miss you all! Please eat some sushi for me.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Training is almost finished! We had our final language test today and are feeling pretty good about it. We are one week away from swearing in as Peace Corp volunteers. We will be Peace Corp trainees no longer.
We are hosting a thank you party for our host families. They have been sharing their homes with strangers from another country for the past 8 weeks so I think a party is in order! It is going to be thanksgiving themed. Tracy is on the entertainment committee and I ended up on the shopping committee. Strange world. We are going to have food, entertainment (some thank you songs, dancing, and kids games) and some decorations. The tables will have chickens made from apples, carrots, and toothpicks. A raffle for food baskets should be a lot of fun too.
We will do some celebrating tonight and this Friday we are going on a visit to the diamond mine. The largest producing mine in the world. We were asking if they gave out free samples at the end of the tour. I don't think they usually run tours so we are really lucky.
Yesterday we enjoyed halloween and some people made costumes and wore them to class. I did not get any pictures but will get some other people's photos.
We hope everyone had a great holiday and would love to see pictures of any halloween costumes!
An amusing update: we met our supervisors from Hukunsti and discussed housing. It turns out they did not know we were married so I got a small 1 room place that was not big enough for a queen sized bed and still have room to cook. Tracy did not have any housing set up so they will be looking for the next week or so! Fun fun
Also the address for the school I will be working at is:
Private bag 2
We can receive packages there. If you do send a package please include pictures (for sanity and to fill wallspace), pens (they are really expensive here), and any nonmelty candy.
We love and miss everyone!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Most of the volunteers got together yesterday after class to celebrate our site announcement and it was a well needed break from our usual life here. In the last few days John and I have had a hard time feeling completely disconnected from friends and family (we would welcome any updates on life in the states as we miss you all very much). Today we are going to Gabs for the Peace Corps 50th anniversary celebration and will be meeting up with almost all Botswana volunteers. Having an afternoon out yesterday, the site announcement, and today's event will hopefully recharge us.
I had my first chance to play pool here (although any large bus rank seems to have an outdoor one covered by a roof and surrounded by a cage). This was a hilarious experience. Everything I know about pool should be forgotten. There is no chalk, the felt is destroyed, the balls are smaller, the cue ball is more like a golf ball, the table slopes away from the holes rather than toward them. I played 2 games, one with Danielle as a partner and the other with Rachel as a partner. It is one pula per game and we played a couple local younger men. They were nice well behaved men as there were no marriage proposals (the fact I am married neans nothing) and no lewd remarks. One guy wanted me to teach him Spanish and he also also referred to my partner as large in a complimentary fashion. People here are not shy to call people old, fat, ugly as well as any barrage of positive compliments. I am learning to take being called large or fat better than ever in the states although it is a bit of an adjustment. We have also learned to avoid or try to get away from conversations with drunk people as they never end well and often include physical contact or propositions that in the US would cause someone to get punched.
On a positive note everyone here is friendly and loves to talk. All we have to do is say "Dumela mma/rra" to someone and try to speak Setswana and they would love to have a conversation. After a negative interaction it is helpful to walk down the road and talk to people as I always feel much better and welcomed. Even if people ask for money you can say "Ga ke ne madi" and have a conversation that does not end negatively.
Although I am excited to get out on our own in Hukuntsi I am also sad to leave our Botswana familu in Kanye. We have made several friends and been warmly welcomed. I hope to be able to come back to visit as well as have them visit if possible. The cultural sharing has been extremely helpful and tomorrow we plan on cooking a pizza with them. So far we have learned to handwash clothes, cook some local food, and understand the family structure, school system, medical system and society from a different perspective.
Here is a link with distances too the nearest large cities in Botswana:
Right now the internet is so slow I am having a hard time posting pictures. I will try to get some up soon.
On another note, if anyone sends packages or letters, please send pictures you all as we would love to have some to decorate our walls and it is hard and expensive to get them printed here.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Since I have internet I am posting a few pics from Kanye and hope to post some from here later.
The kids braiding my hair:
Beautiful purple blooming tree:
John eating the sun:
Our host family home:
Me and Tracy are shadowing a current volunteer, so we are in different parts of the country for the week. It has been nice to get out and explore a bit. I am based in Francistown for the shadowing. We handed out some onion starters for people to use in their gardens, some towels, sheets and snacks to local people. We visited a preschool and will be checking out some more schools throughout the week.
All incoming phone calls and text messages are free for me. I'm not sure how much it costs for you guys. So let me know if anyone wants those digits.
Monday, October 3, 2011
John and I are enjoying our family and have been given local names, Wame (me) and Kabo (John). We are also slowly progressing with Setswana, but luckily our family here speaks English as well. Everyone is wonderful although the house is almost always full of kids and activity. Unlike in the US, people walk in and out of people they know’s houses pretty freely and families live right next to each other or on the same compound, a kgotla. On the first weekend we were here family came from Gaborone to visit and meet us. One of the pictures I will post is of us while we were waiting with Thato, who goes to University in Gabs, to hitch a ride back. Hitch hiking is one of the predominant ways to travel here. People tend to reimburse the drivers who pick them up with whatever the going rate is for travel.
John and I are staying in the main house on the Kgotla and seem to have a relatively large amount of space compared to other volunteers. We have electric, running water cold water, and have a bathroom that is mainly ours (we share it with the guest room when people are visiting). I think this has helped us with integration because we have an intermediate amount of privacy and do not have to just hide in our room when trying to do homework which needs concentration. We are having occasional times of being overwhelmed, but they seem to pass fairly quickly.
We also arrived at a great time of year. There has been several events at the main kgotla (where the chief is) and the Peace Corps are brought in as honored guests. We were able to see traditional dancing and get a good taste of culture. There are also a lot of weddings and funerals. We have only been to 2 weddings yet, but a cousin is getting married soon and family is coming in town for events this weekend. I think I will be going to my first bridal shower Saturday.
Well time is running short here, so over and out for now. One last note, our cell phones have a problem receiving calls from AT&T phones, so if our folks passed on our number be aware of this. Also, the families should have our address if anyone wants to write. We will try to post again soon! Love to everyone!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The last 10 days have been amazing with going away parties for friends and family and spending as much time with people as possible. Thank you everyone for reminding me what amazing people I am surrounded by. I will miss you all!
The next few months are going to be a whirlwind of meeting people and cramming as much information into my brain as possible. I can't wait to get started!
Friday, September 2, 2011
Things I WON'T miss:
1. Spaghetti Junction and how I64 west backs up at Cannons Ln for no reason then dissipates after it
2. The question "Where did you go to high school?"
3. The inability of people to drive in the rain
4. The city shutting down at the first sign of a snowflake
5. Our minimalistic public transportation system
6. Indiana and Lexington jokes
7. Not being able to get on 71 north from 64 west or 64 east from 71 south.
8. Roads changing names 3 times in 3 blocks
9. Bike lanes that disappear into thin air at the most inopportune times
Things I WILL miss:
1. Family and friends
2. The variety of local restaurants and coffee shops
3. Waterfront Wednesday, Forecastle and other live music
4. Seasons, especially actual snow (not just forecasts that don't come true)
5. The parks, especially Big Rock
6. The Derby Marathon/Minimarathon
7. Bardstown Rd farmer's market omelets
8. Turkey Bowling
9. Brew at the Zoo
11. Midcity Mall quarter machines
12. Biking the riverwalk
13. Free blizzards at DQ when it snows
14. Falls of the Ohio
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
We are making progress on some of the business end to getting ready such as getting a new driver's license so it doesn't expire while we are over seas, extending our debit card expiration dates, filling out some Peace Corps paperwork, getting a power of attorney, and the list goes on and on... We are also making a list of places we want to eat at before leaving, such as our favorite sushi places.
Some of the reality is beginning to hit home as we are having to say our last goodbye's to some people we know we won't be able to see again.
Yesterday I drove down to Berea to meet Kate since we won't be able to make it down to Knoxville again. Although I was sad not to see Michael and Sam again, some "girl time" was long overdue. It has been a while since Kate and I hung out just the two of us and I would love to make it happen more often (once we are in the US again). The day was encompassed with walking around and taking in multiple different venues. First we walked through an arts center, then hiking, then lunch and just walking around town. The hike was my favorite part. Although we were supposed to see a waterfall at the end it was dry but the area was astonishingly beautiful. The walk was typical of Kentucky scenery, with dense trees and rocks and hills.
I then met up with John, Jerry, Zue, Shawn, Amanda, and Rob to have dinner one last time before Rob catches his plane in the morning. We went to the casino for steaks and Shawn had the great idea that we will all meet up again in a little over 2 years to do the same thing. Sadly we forgot the camera. All in all it was a great day!
Monday, August 15, 2011
The morning began with bagels, thin sliced salmon, onions, and cream cheese (delicious!), all washed down with coffee. We grabbed their three bikes and grabbed a fourth from the Capital Bikeshare! This is a great idea for a city! Then rode to a large, local market and tested food samples from all the fruit stalls and ended the experience with a stop at a Mediterranean food truck. Next we set off for the capital building and took our pictures just as the rain started. All four of us were good and soaked by the time we made it to the Hirshhorn Museum. I had seen pictures of the Needle Tower and did not want to miss the opportunity to check it out. With the upcoming adventure, we are trying to save our cash so I was trying to decide if I wanted to go in or voice the dissent and move on. We went in and next thing I knew we were walking among the works. Jess advised most of the museums in DC are free. I figured it would be closer to the idea of a donation or something, but absolutely free was unexpected. Like a child with a new gift I wandered around enjoying the photography exhibits and after a time when we all needed coffee, but it wasn't hard to leave without regrets. Funny how removing money from an equation can change things. After caffeinating ourselves we headed to the National Gallery of Art and saw the largest mobile ever created by Alexander Calder. We spied some good Alberto Giacometti, Dali, Picasso, and many others too. We grabbed the bikes and headed back to rest up before going to a DC United soccer match! They smashed the competition and we destroyed some hotdogs! Good times!
On our last day, we had lunch gathered from the market: pate, olives, two kinds of cheeses, tomatoes, white peaches, two kinds of bread, and some meats. We ate down near the waterfront and went to the U.S. National Arboretum afterward. The bonsai exhibit was fascinating and I learned that if you prune back the roots then the leaves take on the small size that I think of when I think of bonsai. I always thought they had to be specific tree breeds or something akin to that. We walked through the garden and felt like we were transported to another place far from any city. Then we were worn out from the weekend and escaped into a flick on the TV.
We said our goodbyes the next day and Jess and Steven headed off to work. Our next stop was to Baltimore for a free hotel room (Thank you again Jenn!) and some exploring. We did some shopping and enjoyed an ice-cream by the water front. It was a day of relaxation and sea food - great clams! A perfect end to our US traveling. Now back to Louisville and focusing in on our Botswana planning and international travel.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Sunday morning Rob made an excellent breakfast of french toast.
-went to the cloisters
-el Malacon for lunch
-Cassie dropped us off at Manhattan Mall
-Took the PATH back to NJ
-Watched Louie CK and ordered Indian for dinner.
John & I slept in a bit and had a relaxing morning reading and enjoying coffee. We then grabbed a late lunch and gelato at Chelsea Market and continued the hunt for my size Chacos in a color I like. Although we were able to get John a pair I have resigned myself to ordering them online. Afterwards we met Rob at his work and the whole crew (Amy, Maggie, Rob, Cassie, John, and I) went to watch the movie Airplane in Bryant Park. I can't believe this wa s the first time John had seen it. We then headed to Times Square so Maggie could see it at night.
-John, Rob, and I went to Century 21
-Had breakfast out of a cart on Wall Street
-Took the State Island Ferry
-tie shopping at a street vendor
-Toured the Intrepid and a submarine
-Back to the apt to drop Maggie off at the airport
-ordered Chinese played Monopoly, had a dance off (Kinect), and drank
-Met Nat & Marina for lunch
-Jim for beers at (Old Town, McSorley's & the Birreria rooftop)
-Met Rob at his work then ate at the Hartland. Thursday
-Peace Corps conference call at 10
-Went into Manhattan to shop
-sky line to read and ran into Nat and his dad
-Chelsea garden for dragonfruit
-Gene's for dinner with Rob and Cassie
-Walked around the east Village and grabbed a couple beers
-Home to do a dance off
Friday John left his phone at Taglitalia so he ran into the city while I packed up and we are now on the road to see Jess and Steven in DC.