Monday, August 13, 2012

Sally and the notebook

Here are some photos of our newly acquired kitty, Sally (for When Harry Met Sally – dad I know you appreciate the name).  It is amazing how great having a pet again is.  It really helps with loneliness.  J 

Quite a curious lump

Oh, it is a cat
Sally at a distance
She looks sweet
But wait..
Crazy KAT!!

Since arriving to Botswana I have been missing one key element to my life.  That is a good notebook that fits in my pocket.  I recall having scraps of paper litter my pockets for a long, long time.  Through factory floors of Amazon, sitting in comfy chairs at various call center jobs, and a moleskin that traveled to 3 of the four corners of the USA.  Maybe 2 and ½ corners since I am not sure where the south-western corner lies, it was close anyhow.  When I arrived here I got a notebook that could fit in my backpack and then a smaller one that fit in backpack, but I never really captured more than my “to do” lists.  I am not one to open up a backpack and retrieve a notebook if I see an interesting thing during a morning assembly much less walking the 15 minutes through the baked streets of Hukuntsi.  I finally got one a week or two ago and it is working pretty well.  The main thing I forgot about capturing the vignettes of everyday life is that the more you write down small things, the more you want to write about anything.  My blog posting went up and I am getting more done at work even.  My day planner today reads:

August 13 Monday – Day 1
7:30 Start of classes for Term 3
9:30 Make copies of EDC forms
14:00 Go to Makgakgane Primary to meet the school head

With the help of my notebook:

                I began the morning with learning to tie a new knot for my blue tie.  I have not worn a tie since before mid-June and instead of it feeling like a ball and chain, it makes me feel confident and ready for the day.  It is like a superman cape for the front of my body and it seems like it could stop bullets or at least the discouraging things I am likely to hear on the first day of the term.  I arrive early to school, which can be a challenge on some days, and catch up with some teachers I have not seen for a couple of months.  We go to morning assembly with most teachers present, but it still looks like a small showing.  The students are standing around and one of the Heads of Department is making his way through the tightly packed crowd.  It takes me a few seconds to comprehend, but he is making students take off their sweaters.  It is easily cold enough to see your breath and I was berating myself 15 minutes earlier for not remembering my gloves.  He has a mountain of clothes balanced on one arm and will later advise the students this will happen every day they do not follow the dress code.  While he is going through this the students are being informed they are missing about 7 teachers since they have gone for further studies and no replacements have been found.  I knew before the last term ended on June 29th which teachers were being sent for further studies so I ask myself why with more than a month there is not a teacher for every class.  This question echoes around my head for a while until the sound waves diminish below from bouncing around.  When I next pay attention I hear the students need to behave while not being taught or supervised.  I don’t think that is going to work well, but who knows.  I look down at my tie and realize it is not in fact blessed with the gift of repelling bad news.
                I am planning on bringing in my computer to entertain some classes until replacement teachers are found.  I hope it goes well and if the past is any indication the kids will find a way to make it through.  I spend the rest of the morning on the phone and in the computer lab making some copies for another project I am working on.  Overall, good things.  When I head out I stop by a shop that sells everything a PCV could hope to buy with our needs and budget.  I buy an immersion water heater that has a picture of how to use.  It shows two wrong ways and one right way, but the only difference I see is the bucket tops’ color.  I believe they are telling me to use a pink bucket but I am not certain yet.  I will have to run this one by the wife.  The reason I am picking up the water heater is that our gas for the stove is very nearly out.  It keeps flickering off and we have to watch it close to not have gas pouring in the room.  My program manager is on it though, so I think this will be taken care of soon.  I called him on Friday and he was worried about what we were eating all weekend.  It will be nice to have a backup water heater anyhow so it is worth the money.
                After lunch at the house I collected fresh dried clothes off the line.  Then I went to a primary school about 10 minutes away from the house and had one of the most productive meetings of my life.  I am going back Thursday to interview some teachers and kids.  I got to listen to Arcade Fire on the walk there and Avett Brothers on the trek back.  Also got a fist bump and a handshake by a 5 year old girl walking the road by herself.  Things are different, things are going well, and things are going by too fast.  We are having a get together in September to celebrate being in Botswana for a year.  A full year already, unbelievable.
                It is good to remember things you learned before and even better when those things help you to remember where you are and why you want to be there.  So see everyone all those pens are getting good use!!!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

MiniRegional and GLOW Camp

Tracy and I went to a “MiniRegional” during the weekend of July 20th through the 22nd in Tshabong.  Peace Corps normally has a Regional meeting once a year, where PCVs get together to share experiences and ideas with people in their program area and to meet others in their area (to work on joint projects and the like).  So it is also a great time to see friends and meet new people.  This year was the first MiniRegional ever (in Botswana (to the best of my knowledge)) and it was a blast.  While I have not really asked why they decided to start it up I think it was for people to meet the newest group of incoming volunteers and so they can get out of their villages and hang out with other Americans – aka blow off some steam.

PCVs arrived via hitches, buses, and even an airplane.  The Hukuntsi volunteers (which include Tracy and I) got a hitch with a policeman that was going well above the speed limit so he could get home to watch Formula One racing, no joke.  We were able to stay with another couple from our Bots 11 group, Michael and Haley and got dropped at the door!  We hung out and met their kitten until it was time to meet up with everyone.  We forgot the camera in Hukuntsi, so I don’t think we got any snapshots of the meeting or Tracy and the cat.  Their kitty was talkative the whole time we were in Tshabong, which Haley advised is not normal!  It is always weird seeing another side of your pet and seeing how much they can change.

The MiniRegional was at another PCV’s home so we took a walk and enjoyed seeing another Botswana village (town?).  Motswana claim to only have one city (Gaborone) and a few towns (Francistown, some more…) everything else is labeled a village.  The times I have slipped up and called Francistown a city they get a frantic look and extent the previous explanation.  We had homemade pizza and talked about the challenges some of the new volunteers were experiencing.  Nobody had anything too serious bothering them and I look forward to see them in a few more months to see how things worked out.  We packed it in kind of late and made plans for the next day.

Not everyone was able to go along on the next day’s event but those who went were in for a real treat!  We hitched 10 minutes outside of Tshabong and visited a camel park!!  Most of us rode them for a lap or two around the enclosure and got all kinds of information from the people running the site.  Our hosts were Kenyans, but they were leaving in a few weeks and the park will be run by all local Motswana.  It was an inexpensive activity and worth every thebe.  We also go to see a porcupine’s home (a deep hole) and learned that they feed off of the bones of other animals.  They need the calcium for their quills and bones are good for that.  I found out from my mom that I did indeed ride a camel way back when the Louisville Zoo offered it.  Getting on one now I wonder how I handled the experience as a kid.  I am sure someone went up with me but it is kind of intimidating.  You do not mount a camel the same as a horse.  Instead the camel lowers itself when you get on and then rises with a zigzag motion that changes your weight around.

We ended up heading out the next day, but met up with some of the crew the next weekend in Kang for a meeting about a GLOW camp.  GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World.  We are trying to put together a weekend event for some Form 4 and Form 5 girls from the Senior Secondary School in Kang.  Some of the workshop topics we are thinking about are: self-esteem, healthy living, decision making, Gender Based Violence, contraception, peer pressure, and leadership skills.  Since it is the first meeting we spent a lot of it brainstorming different aspects of the camp.  I am going to be looking for funding through some government agencies here in Botswana and Tracy will be putting together a budget and doing a budget template for others who want to start GLOW camps in the future.  This will be some of my first attempts at writing grants so if anyone has any tips or templates I would greatly appreciate it.

John, Michael, Tracy, Tate, Dominique, Haley, and Jan.
We stayed at Jan’s place and ate like kings and queens.  Jan likes to cook and she does it well.  We had zucchini bread galore and on the last night had a great pasta dish.  I ate more than I should have, but it was well worth it.  After the meeting we went to a dancing session that Tate (the newest Kang PCV!!Woohoo!) invited us to.  She stays on a family compound and they are having a wedding on August 18th, so she has been asked to dance.  This was just a practice session so we were able join in and have some fun.  There was a drunken guy that invited himself and had some MOVES!  He is in front of Tracy in the video and that is why she is having such a hard time following the others.  The video we are posting does not do the dancing fellow justice.  I will have to create a montage of his moves and post it another time.  That is what we have been up to lately!

Hope everyone is doing well.  We love and miss you all.