Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Water… I have read articles that discussed possible future wars over water and logically their reasoning made sense, but I did not understand the emotions behind it until moving to the Kgalaghadi.  We have now been a week without water although luckily we spent the weekend in Moshupa for a writer’s retreat with a few other volunteers.  This allowed us to rehydrate, bathe, etc.  Although we have gone up to 2 weeks before without water normally I was able to get some at work or a neighbor’s tap works.  This time there is no water at work and a larger part of Hukuntsi is out of water.  Apparently a water main broke  week+ ago Sunday night (May 20th, the first night below freezing, so I would not be surprised to find out it froze).

There are a few main things we use water for:
  • Drinking
  • Cooking
  • Washing dishes
  • Washing clothes
  • Bathing
  • Flushing the toilet (we do have a pit latrine outside, but when water comes on we tend to use the one inside instead)

For us normally water comes on around 9-10pm and is off by 5am although this varies day to day and it is not uncommon for it not to be on at all some nights.  While reading this, keep in mind that I know that water will come on eventually and I know I can find water somewhere in the village most likely.  I also have no kids of my own whose well being I have to worry about.

Here’s what happens in our minds during a water shortage:

24 hours without water:  I assume this is just a day that is skipping and it will be on the next day.  I normally skip a bath or washing clothes and conserve when we flush just in case, but everything else stays normal.

2-4 days without water:  I assume it could be a couple more days without water and go to work with my water bottle empty and try to return with it filled. Normally 20-35% of our water storage might be gone by then. We also check the outside taps just in case the pressure can get to there but not up to the house. We might ask a neighbor or two if they have any.

4-5 days without water:  Definitely no bathing (unless we have baby wipes or something), no toilet flushing (try to only use the pit latrine), minimal amount of water is used for cooking and dishes are washed in dirty water (for example I made pasta last night and washed the dishes in the water I drained off after cooking).   We start bringing in extra bottles to work to fill and bring home.  Over 50-75% of our water storage is gone and I begin to assume it could be a week or two without water. 

5-6 days without water:  I stop even trying to drink the amount of water I should and get irritated with having so much dried food to cook like beans and rice.  Water is foremost on my mind and I become more and more irritable over time.  

Of course the whole time water is a part of every conversation I have with someone and I am often not the one to bring it up unless I am trying to find out who does and doesn’t have it to find out where to get it.  Some of the smaller villages or settlements have much larger issues with water than us and the amazing thing is that there is water in the reservoirs underground.  The big issue is the system that has been put in place to allow a standpipe brought to every house and clean water.  The idea is great and in the bigger villages it does not often go out for more than a day or two but the farther you get from the more highly populated areas the more issues there are. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dumela ditsala tsame!

The last few days have been crazy cold here.  At night it is going below freezing and the house never truly warms up during the day.  It is amazing the difference the sun makes during the day though.  Lately I have been wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves in the morning with a long sleeve shirt, thick sweatshirt, and tights under my work pants.  By mid afternoon I have stripped to just a long sleeve shirt with the arms pushed up.  This morning on my way to work I had the oddest feeling.  I walk to work through some deep sand and have finally broken down and gotten ankle cut boots to keep the burs and sand out of my shoes along with keeping my toes warm.  With the sun reflecting off of the sand while wading through it I had the feeling of walking through a foot of heavy wet snow. I miss snow, but do not want it to show up here.  Since we have no heat in the house the last thing I want is to have humidity added on to the cold.  The house does not have insulation either so after a few hours it becomes just as cold inside as outside.  I really miss heat.  Luckily the blankets we have are great and keep us really warm at night and I think we are going to try to find a space heater.  That is a major advantage we have over some of our friends who do not have electricity.

                       Blinding sunlight on the way to work (also there are donkeys under the tree)

                                               Deep sand I walk through on the way to work. 

Also, water has not been running for the last few days either.  John and I have been wondering if a pipe froze somewhere.  Luckily we washed our clothes over the weekend before it dropped.  The cold along with the lack of water has kept us from bathing well.  By the time we get home from work the temperature is dropping and the prospect of getting my hair wet just to have it freeze on my head does not sound fun.  I am so happy for the wet wipes we have left although I am going to have to break down, boil a bunch of water when it comes back on and freeze my butt off. 

Also, on the cute side we saw a bunch of really young baby goats in a pen and got a few pictures of them that I thought you would enjoy.

Go siame!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Focus groups

As Tracy mentioned I taught/ subbed for a few classes and just asked them questions to get the temperature of how things at the school are going.  Overall most of the students are very shy and quiet.  I was initially worried that it was because I was speaking English, but I have sat through some classes taught by the other teachers and the kids are just as silent (lack of participation is one of the biggest complaints from the teachers).  I think (but cannot get a straight answer out of anyone) that it is because they get pinched and insulted if they answer questions wrong or ask something deemed “stupid”.  Aside from the overall failure on tests I think student/teacher relations are the biggest challenge at the school.

I quick summary of the questions I asked are:

What do you like about school / favorite subject?
What do you not like about school?
What are the biggest challenges at school?
What is the role of Guidance & counseling?
What kind of clubs are there at Lehutshelo? 
What kind of activities would you like the school to offer?
What do you know about HIV/AIDs? Where did you learn it?
What do you enjoy doing outside of school?
What do you want to do for a living?
What could the teachers be doing better?
What can I do? How can I help?
What would you like to learn at school that you are not being taught?
If there was one thing to change at the school what would it be?

The answers to “What do you not like about school” were interesting.  Some things were of course reoccurring.  No class seemed to enjoy the practice of corporal punishment…  Fighting and stealing seemed to be less of an issue for the older classmates (Btw, this is not nearly enough of a sample size, but I’m not a scientist.  I only sampled 6 classes – 3 Form 1s, 2 Form 2s and only 1 Form 3 class.  I hope to do more and see if some of my assumptions are right), so I wonder if the older kids are the ones stealing and beating up the younger ones.  Also there were issues of bad tasting food and sometimes no food, no hot water for showers (for the boarding students) and the toilet facilities were a problem for the older classes, but not mentioned in the Form 1 classrooms.  I think this is because the Form 1 students have not spent a winter (it gets cold enough to frost up windows) without hot water for showers and have not spent 2 years+ eating the same diet over and over again.  That is one of my new undertakings: finding out the cost and raising funds to get the hot water heaters fixed.  Unfortunately it won’t get done by this winter, but they said they have adapted since it has been out for years already.  (I talked to the boy’s body master and he said they have not worked since he has been there since 2007)

In response to “What are the biggest challenges at school?” the issues of teacher shortages and teacher’s attendance came up a few times.  Some teachers skip classes and the students’ just sit there with nothing to do.  Often it is when teachers go out of town or want to grade exams during the end of each term.  As far as I can tell there is no system in place for substitute teachers.  The silver lining to that is the opportunity I have to talk to each class about these focus groups.  As I know more Guidance and Counseling exercises I will be able to handle free class time better also.

Classroom setup

At the board
Some of the kids

Last weekend I was trying to fix something and was using a sharp knife (anyone see where this is going?).  Of course it slipped and I was not using safety techniques, so I am now sporting 4 stitches in my index finger on my left hand.  So to tally it up, I had 3 stitches in my knee and 4 stitches in my finger.  Any guesses on which limb will need 5 stitches and when??

After I cut myself a good friend of ours, and my new running buddy, Dr. Yimmam picked us up and took us to the Hukuntsi hospital.  I have to say I am completely impressed with the local hospital.  They were fast and efficient, but also had great “bedside manner”.  I was in and out within an hour and got antibiotics and pain pills.  I don’t know if they are billing the Peace Corps, but they did not ask me for a dime (or a 10 thebe coin)!  Dr. Yimmam dropped us back at the house and I just took it easy for the rest of the day.  I am still a bit grouchy but recovering ok.  Hopefully this will end our spree of injuries.