Monday, October 29, 2012

By the number-a busy month

It has been a really busy month for work for me.  Hence why the blog is pretty far behind at the moment.  And next month is not looking any better.  But here is a quick update of how things went this past month, and what I have coming up.  

8-days I have spent (including right now) at the training for the new group of PCVs in Kanye.  

1-extra meeting I have had in Gabs in October.

12-lessons I have taught at school in the past few weeks.

3-New plots we have made in the school garden

9-The new total number of plots

3-school parties for end of year for standard 7 and sports contests

36-new standard 1 pupils for next year

4-weeks left of the school year till January

2-new staff members we have gotten in the past 2 weeks

1-leopard I learned broke out of Khutse and is nearby in the wild (in related news I have decided to stop doing my long run where I leave the village and just sticking inside it from now on).

1-house guest (John O. came for my chief's wedding on Saturday)

30+-number of card games I played with John on Saturday (between cribbage, spades, speed, gin)

50000-the number of words I am writing next month.  This is the big announcement.  I am doing National Novel Writing Month.  Several other PCVs are going to do it too.  It starts on November 1st.  So I will be just word vomiting on a topic I still have not picked, with characters I need to map out.  If it turns out to be readable I will post pieces I like on the blog.  But that also means the general blogging will be down for much of November unless something really interesting happens.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


WARNING!  The following is pretty rambly and interlocks several different things.  It all makes since in my head so here’s hoping you can follow my train of thought.

So this is the second idea for a blog post I had on Sunday.  The first was about riding combos (taking 3 of them in one day really inspired me).  This one came to me when I was sitting in the back of a truck on the way home from Letlhakeng.  I was coming home from celebrating our 1 year in Gabs with my fellow Bots 11s when I realized exactly how tired I was.  I mean I had noticed it for a while, but that was when it really hit me.  And not tired in my normal way.  Sure, I was up later than normal the last two nights, but this tiredness was not physical.

It took me awhile, but I finally figured it out.  All of my interacting with people was just leaving me utterly drained.  I can honestly say that I am currently more drained than I have ever been in my life.  And it wasn’t even the people themselves, it is just that I am not used to it to this degree.  I have always been used to being tired.  There was one point in college that I was working 40 hours a week on-campus, an extra 20-25 off-campus, interning at the YMCA and still taking a full course load.  So I am used to being busy and tired, but this is different. 

When I was growing up I was never that outgoing.  I mean I only talk to 2 people from my high school anymore.  And I don’t think anyone from my grade school.  So when I went to college I really made a conscious effort to try and be more approachable and outgoing.  And I think I did an ok job at it.  But here, relationships are much more difficult for me.  And I am going to break this down into two reasons why I think so.

First is just based on how much of my time relationships/relationship building dominates.  In the US you can go through most of your day without having to probe too deeply into another person’s life.  At work you can get by with pleasantries and small talk.  Maybe more than that if you are friends with people from your work.  Here, I cannot get through a work related conversation without at least 10 minutes of home/personal life problems.  A short meeting yesterday for example to talk about a workshop I am planning ended up leading into talks about a relative who may or may not have murdered their boyfriend in South Africa.  And while I have no problem lending a sympathetic ear, the sheer volume of these instances is just exhausting.  And since work is based on relationships, every time I talk to one teacher I get to hear them go on a rant about whatever other teacher they are accusing for the day of being lazy/not doing their job. 

Later in the day, when all I really want is some alone time, it is seen as culturally abnormal to not socialize, go have tea and so on.  Most days I still just go home, but for a while it led to people asking if I was feeling alright.  Luckily, at least my work mates, all figured out that I like to read a lot and that I need alone time to do that. 

Even when I am away from home (or simply in transit one way or the other) you cannot avoid people.  Even if I am reading on the combi people will still talk to me.  Walking down the street you greet everyone (and some of them get really chatty building up the nerve to ask for money).  It is hard to write all of this without sounding like I hate people.  Really, I don’t.  But the culture here is just so different from America in regards to interpersonal communication.  I miss the luxury of being anonymous.  It is tiring having to be “on” 24/7. 

You would think it would be better with other Americans (aka my fellow PCVs), but actually it isn’t.  Seeing them every weekend (while very nice) is still exhausting.  Usually because of the large group numbers.  I never did well with large groups of people to begin with, so when I am seeing 27 others at once it is a bit much.  Also, having my weekends planned so far out (as in till mid-November) also means that I am sacrificing valuable alone/recharge time.  I really do enjoy seeing my friends here, and haven’t cancelled on any plans, but always at the end I am inevitably tired.  I cannot even image how those who live in bigger areas and always seem to have people running in and out of their houses manage it. 

My second problem is that while relationships and talking to people seem to be very important, it almost always seems highly superficial to me.  Part of the blame for that I lay at the feet of others, and part at my own.  The superficial conversations on the part of other people generally fall into 2 categories: people who are fishing for answers or people who are hypocritical. 

The people fishing for answers always want to hear exactly what is already in their heads.  Two big fishing questions are “How do you like/find Botswana?”  and “What is America like?”  In response to the first question they never, ever want to hear anything bad about Botswana.  So while I may be having a bad day and thinking things like “the people are always asking for handouts” (that usually happens to me in Moleps, not really ever at home) or “everyone is just trying to marry an American” I never say these.  Or rather I shouldn’t say these (I think I might have once or twice).  Even on good days I still want to say things like “Well, Botswana could do with a little less protocol.”  But the thing is, no matter what I think negatively about Botswana, most people don’t care.  They just want to hear “oh Botswana is very nice, the people are very friendly” and so on.  All they are looking for is an affirmation of their culture.  Or in regards to American culture, they never believe me when I say there are homeless people.  They want to hear about how all Americans are rich.  And ask which celebrities I know.  And when I know that going into the conversation then I immediately lose interest in talking to them and it becomes a chore.

Then there are the hypocrites.  And boy do these people piss me off.  Generally this breaks down into three different categories: religious, dating and work.  People start and end every meeting with prayer.  They talk about how important religion is.  Most of them go to church every Sunday.  But then these are the same people who are having multiple partners at once or talk about how sex is a way to prove love.  Say what now?  There are some people who I have never seen go to church.  And since my house is on the only church compound in the village I should know if they go.  Yet these same people (and even on Sunday when I am walking by their house) ask why I don’t go to church since I “should be there.”  But when I ask them why they don’t go, they get offended.  This is the only one of the three hypocrisies that has gotten better with time.  Very few people ever ask me about it anymore, and respect that I do not attend church. 

There is one that has not gotten better; in fact it happens every day.  This would be work related grievances.  Right now I probably know enough information to destroy 80% of the working relationships at my school.  Everyone here loves to talk about everyone else behind their backs.  “Ah, Ms…… is never in her class.  Mr…… is a very lazy person.  He never does any work.”  And so on and so forth.  From nearly every one.  And the best part is, while they are complaining to me about these things is almost always during class time when they are leaving their own classes unattended.  The problem is that in Botswana confrontation does not happen usually.  So instead people talk about each other secretively and nothing changes.  I swear that a little confrontation in this culture would go a long way.  And I can honestly say I am not the only one who realizes this work behavior is a problem.  One of the other teachers (one of my favorites and the only one I have not seen engage in this behavior) talked to me about this problem the other day. 

Dating.  First of all, did you know that white people and black people can’t pace a relationship in the same way?  That is what one of the male teachers at my school told me.  Several of us were having a conversation one night at the police chief’s house (we walked her home after a funeral) when the topic of dating came up.  The male nurse and male teacher talked about how you need to have sex to prove you are in a relationship with that person and love them.  If you are waiting it must mean you have another guy on the side.  The two female teachers were countering that it may just mean that the woman is not that experienced and wants to take things slow.  I sided with the female teachers and put in my two cents.  Well that was when I was told that yes that works for white men but it isn’t the same for black men.  He said it was a cultural difference between Botswana and America.  This is ridiculous since I took the side of two Batswana women in this discussion.  The other issue I have with dating is people trying to hook me up all the time.  So many Batswana tell me I need to find a Batswana woman to marry.  Often times this is also right after they talk about how much they want to find an American woman to marry.  So I ask them, “If the Batswana women are so amazing that I must marry one, why are you trying to find an American instead?”  Usually I don’t get an answer to this.  The truth is they think all Americans are rich, and want to marry one to get money.  Sorry to sound cynical and jaded, but this has happened to me so many times.  Seriously, these conversations happen about once a week at least.

I wanted to end with dating because it is a nice lead in to how I have also been a culprit in these exhausting, superficial conversations.  My problem has been that I am constantly holding back, and am always afraid to get close to people.  And that is because I am always on my guard.  And a lot of that has to do with people’s curiosity about dating.  It is funny, you never really tell your parents if you are dating in this country, but it is such a popular topic otherwise.  And that means that I always am worrying about how the conversation will turn.  I am always making sure that I am ready to lie at a moment’s notice (and that my lies are consistent).  And when I have a conversation where I am constantly thinking about holding back some things, it leads to me closing myself off more, losing interest in the conversation/relationship and finally just more exhaustion. 

The thing is if this was the biggest factor to my mood in Botswana, I could always just leave.  But, despite how exhausted I am I am still enjoying the work I am doing.  This is an amazing experience to begin with, and I love my job on top of it.  Sure there any tons of stressors, but working with kids at the school has just been amazing.  The PACT club is going well.  We actually finally just started the garden.  And I have a few teachers that are actively joining in to do sport and game activities with the kids.  Then there are still the kids I am teaching to type as well.  So all in all I am still glad I am here, just some moments are a lot more trying than others. 

Now I don’t know if I needed to go into all of that long winded explanation on everything, but I wanted to at least let people understand why I say I am exhausted by people.  It is really a large culmination of factors, and in no way represents that I hate people.  I do like seeing you all, but just know that if I seem a bit short tempered (which did happen a couple times during and leading up to our one year party) it isn’t anything against you and I just need some time alone for a few.  Sorry about the snapping at some of you.  Also, it helped me to write it all down to understand it better since this kind of tiredness is new to me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to ride a combi

First of all, before I get to the meat of this blog post, about that surprise I promised last time.  Well, if you didn’t already see it on Facebook, I am coming back to the US next May for about 2.5 weeks.  In fact I have already purchased tickets.  I leave from Jo’burg on May 13th, get in May 14th to O’Hare airport.  Then I leave again from O’Hare on the 31st, getting back to Botswana on June 2nd.  My schedule (still somewhat tentative but mostly set) is: May 14-arrive in the afternoon, staying in IL with Aunt Rose and Uncle Tom from then until May 19th.  May 19th leave for Grand Rapids and stay there till Thursday, May 23rd.  Friday the 24th leave for Katie and Sean’s wedding.  Sunday the 26th, head back to IL.  Finally, I am staying in IL from then until departure.  I am not making any dinner dates or such like that yet, but I will accept them when we get closer. 

Now then, with that out of the way, onto today’s post.  This one is meant to be more light-hearted.  This is because I am working on two simultaneously and the next one which will come very soon is going to be full of rambling and introspection, so leading into that with this. 

How to ride a combi.  Now, riding in a combi has multiple facets.  I will start with the biggest issue: selecting your seat.  Here is a terrible artist’s (me) rendition of a combi.  Seats are numbered for sake of ease.  Note there is also a conductor on board, but he is not assigned a seat, in fact if there are enough passengers he actually stands/crouches over the person in seat 18.
1   2    Driver
(18?)   3  4  5
(17?)   6  7  8 
9    10  11  12
13  14  15  16

See what I mean by bad art?  That is just a rectangle for crying out loud, and a text box rectangle at that.  But combis are just large vans so it isn’t too far off.  Row 1 and behind are all the back seat.  So let’s take this seat by seat. 

1 and 2: if this is open take it.  1, 2 and the driver are the front seat.  I don’t care if you have to drive through the window past an old woman, you do it.  There is one minor exception to this.  If you have a large bag with you that cannot fit in back, take seats 3-5.  There is a small shelf area to put your bag, and you will be more comfortable there.  As such, if 1 and 2 are taking 3-5 is prime real estate.  Take that next.  Preferably 5 over 3 or 4.  Oh, and 1 is better than 2.  Reason?  Window control.  You want it because even if it is 40 degrees people will still shut the windows.  Keep that control in your hands.

At this point we have moved beyond the ideal positions.  In fact I would even say beyond the good positions.  For someone my height, if I get anywhere else I have no leg room.  And in the very back row my head touches the ceiling if I don’t hunch over.  The other day I was in the back row and was with some other PCVs (also in back).  When I got out of the combi everyone heard my knees creak and groan when I got to stretch my legs.  So if you end up in 6-16 here is the order you should take them.  8, 12, 16, 6, 9, 13, 7, 10, 11, 14 and finally 15.  8, 12 and 16 come first for once again, window control.  Some combis have windows at 6, 9 and 13 as well, hence why they come next.  Those three seats have a drawback though.  They are the path out (folding seats) so you may have to move a lot if you are in 6 and getting out last.  But, these are also the last seats to be filled usually.  Which means that if you are in a full combi and in one of those seats, when someone leaves you suddenly have extra leg room.  Not quite as valuable as a constant window but still nice.  Those middle seats in the back just suck.  Only take them if you have to.  Finally we have the two question mark seats.  Sometimes if the combi wants more money they will put people in those.  I will say about half do and half don’t from my experience.  Both suck, and are just extensions of the same problems in the back row.  But 18 is the worst.  Remember that thing about the conductor hovering over you.  Awkward. 

There is one final consideration for your positioning, when you are getting out.  If you are dropping at a village along the way to the final destination of the combi, sit closer to the front and to the aisle.  It makes for a quicker get away and less people have to move out of your way.  On the other hand, avoid that area if you are at the end of the line (back row aisle is alright) because then YOU will have to get in and out and in and out and in and out whenever anyone wants to leave. 

Now, general tips for riding a combi.

1.       If you have a lot of luggage, load it on wherever you can before people get in.  Especially if your stuff is heavy people won’t want to lift it and then you are guaranteed not to have it on your lap.
2.       Have you money accessible.  I do not mean in your pocket.  Ever try reaching into a pocket with 4 people sitting in a seat area really designed for 2.5-3 people?  Doesn’t work.  Keep money for the combi in a front pouch of your pack (or purse for you females out there).  This doesn’t mean have it there the whole time you are walking around.  But move your fare to that spot right before or upon entering, aka before the combi is too crowded.
3.       Repeat tip 2 for cell phones.  Also hard to dig out of pockets. 
4.       Don’t close the window.  Ever.  Even in the mid of winter combi interiors get hot and sweaty really fast.
5.       Have a book (or headphones).  You need a distraction.  But be warned even these aren’t fool proof.  I was reading on my last combi ride from Moleps to Gabs and the people in the combi still would not leave me alone.  While I don’t mind conversation, it is tedious when the conversation is a bunch of people (both men and women) talking about how they need to get me a “sugar momma.”  Yeah, that seriously happened.

Ok, that is about all I got for riding combis.  See also my tips for riding the bus.  Oh wait, nevermind, busses suck.  Never take them.  Ever.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Youtube video!

Man, this one took a long time to get up there, but I finally got the video from Commonwealth Day on Youtube.  So check out the link at the top of the page.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Update, with an interactive game!

I’m going to kick off this blog with a game.  Let’s see who is successful.  The game is “Count the animal references.”  I have a funny animal story to kick off this blog, so I will talk about the rest of it in terms of animal references just for thematic fun.  Also, since this is going to be doing a more just general update on what I have been doing and am going to do, I thought I would at least make it more interesting.

First my chicken story (this is the only one I will give away, the rest you are on your own to find).  I came into Gabs today due to some meetings starting tomorrow and while I planned to hitch from Moleps, the first thing that came by happened to be the bus.  So I regrettably got on it.  I hate busses here. First of all, it was packed.  Like really packed.  It was a fricken cattle car in there.  And somehow I ended up standing next to this woman holding a rooster.  All in all not that abnormal, I can’t even count the rides I have been in that have chickens in them.  But this rooster was something special.  Something about him held me captivated.  Maybe it was how calm he was.  Maybe it was his tiny eyes, or maybe, just maybe it was when he pecked me in the crotch. 

This past month (actually make that 2-basically ever since Youth Forum in Salajwe) I have felt like a damn snail basically carrying my home on my back.  After getting back from Durban I had 3 days in my village; then I left for a retreat in Maun with the Ministry of Education.  Of course, right after I left my village and reached Moleps the retreat was postponed.  So I hung out in Moleps for the weekend then went back home for about a week and a half.  Following this brief stay at home I then had to move into social butterfly mode by going to Bots 12’s IST for a week.  And without even a brief stop at home I was off to Werda to help with a day camp for boys and girls.  The event went well, except for the jackass moment I had when I was showing the strength of condoms and broke it pulling it over my hand.  Then it was back home for just 5 days. 

Currently, I am in Gabs to attend a meeting with the Ministry of Education.  What started as a 3 day retreat in Maun for some R&R somehow morphed into a 2 day event of meetings in Gabs.  Needless to say my mindset going into this isn’t the best.  In fact, my latest horoscope (Cancer the crab for those that didn’t know) says, “You can't believe everything you hear -- and right now, you feel like you can't believe anything at all! Your suspicions are easily aroused, but you need to temper them with respect and trust.”  Might be the first time a horoscope might actually be right for me.

Following this I get to go home again for about 8 days.  And then party time for our one year anniversary!  One week after that I will be at Bots 13’s PST for Diversity Day.  The week after that school closes for a week for midterm break and I will be going to PST again for one day, then hiking the trails of Lesotho for a few days like a mountain goat.  3 days after I get back from that we have a meeting in Gabs for PSDN to work on selecting our new members.  And then two weeks after that I have to go to PST for the 3rd, and last time, for an entire week.  And then it is November.  So from now till November I am basically running around like a chicken with its head cut off. 

And with that I think I have given people a decent general update on what I am doing.  During my time at home I am still chugging along with Life Skill classes, girls, and now boys too, soccer and various clubs.  Plus I now have an active teacher to help with the garden!  Which if that gets off the ground I can maybe get some more rabbit food. 

Also, while a touch premature, happy one year anniversary Bots 11!  On the 15th we will have officially been here for a year!

And finally, I have a surprise coming soon, one I hope to reveal on my next blog post.  And while some of you know this surprise already, don’t spoil it for those that don’t!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Durban vacation

“….”  “….”  Damn this lack of a voice. 

That was my biggest thought while on my unintended mime adventure in Durban recently.  This was my first Peace Corps vacation, and during the first full night in Durban, I completely lost my voice.  I was so angry.  It came back on the train ride back to Jo’burg.  But anyway, let’s talk (since I couldn’t then) about the awesomeness that is Durban.

 See, look at that.  Awesome

First of all we left from Gabs via bus to Jo’burg.  A bus ride I was very depressed on.  I was promised terrible movies being played and they did not play a single movie!  I love watching bad movies, so this was a bit of a let-down.  Despite this let-down the bus was quite pleasant, and I even finished a book on it.  We had a several hour layover in Jo’burg while we waited for the train to Durban.  John, Carol and I spent it in the most appropriate place.


That is right.  World of Beer.  We got a private 1.5 hour tour, a taste of traditional brew, a half beer draft of Castle Lager (in a souvenir cup we got to keep), and two beers at the end.  And how much did all this cost us?  55 rand.  Which is about 7 dollars.  Yup, 7 dollars.  So far the vacation is off to a success.  Including drinking wine like a homeless man on the train.  When I went to the bottle store to stock for the train they wrapped my bottle of wine (the cheapest in the store) in newspaper.  Naturally I had to keep it in there. 

Here was where we had the first real hiccup.  The train was a few hours late in departing.  Since we were scheduled to arrive at 7am it was not a huge deal.  We just arrived a bit later in the morning, but still with plenty of time for lunch.  The train did have another issue though.  The heat went out at night, so it was pretty cold.  But we convinced them to give us all free blankets in recompense.  And on the ride back the heat stayed on all night, so nothing too catastrophic. 

 But look at that killer view!

And then we arrived at the final destination (no, not that overly drawn out film series), Durban.  The beach area has several taglines, including “Summer all year round.”  And boy are they right.  The weather was amazing.  It was so nice.  We swam in the Indian Ocean and it was the perfect temperature.   And the hotel we stayed at was right on the beach.  I mean look at that view.

 Just look at it!

But now for the real highlights of the trip.  First of all, nightlife!  There were things to do at night.  A few of us went out to this bar that had karaoke our first night there.  We also found a street that had a ton of bars, restaurants and such.  Most impressive there?  Durban’s largest pizza.  1 meter in diameter.  The thing was massive.  3 of us split it…for 2 meals.  Very cost effective.  Also, 32 rand long island iced teas (4 dollars).  All of that was just amazing. 

But there were two big highlights that topped the rest.  The first is shark tank diving.  At the uShaka Marine World you can swim in a tank in the shark exhibit for very cheap (especially with the half off tickets we found).  So I got to spend 10 minutes in a tank while sharks swam around nearby (Karla was in the tank with me).  And you better believe I was singing the Jaws theme in my head the entire team.  I would have done it outloud if I had a voice and wasn’t underwater.  It was cool, and definitely a new experience, but only my second favorite moment in Durban.

 Jaws theme!

And now for the best moment of the vacation.  Many of you already know I did this, but for those that don’t I partook in the world’s largest bungee swing at Moses Mabhibi Stadium (where World Cup games were played in Durban).  It is 220 meters (or 721 feet)!  Scary, exhilarating, “feels like you took a bunch of drugs” were all phrases used to describe what it felt like.  While I did not say the last one myself I can see why someone would say that.  After the long climb up

 Yeah, you have to walk up those stairs on the arch

you then have to go down this tiny ladder to the platform

and then comes the big moment.
This was John's turn

If you aren’t fast enough they push you.  I did manage to jump and did not even hold on to the cord for the way down.  John and I had this as our big goal.  After the swing is done you hang there for a minute, then they slowly winch you back up to the platform.  During the swing itself I felt like I was crazy.  Why in the world did I do this?  But as soon as the cord caught and I wasn’t in freefall those thoughts went away to thoughts like, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  Most just that.  I could not scream it, because remember, no voice.  As soon as I finished swinging I started tingling all over and could not help but grin like the Cheshire Cat for about an hour.  So I can see why it is compared to doing a bunch of drugs (disclaimer-never actually done a bunch of drugs, but from stories I hear this sounds about right).  In face if you head over to my youtube page you can see Kristen’s film of my jump from her spot in the stadium. 

And of course as soon as this was done (and while we were waiting for the company to finish our films of the jump) we went and had a drink.  Or three. 

The way back was bittersweet.  Great vacation, sad to be leaving, but also rejuvenated for work again.  Well after a quick stop at the McDonalds in Jo’burg for fries and a chocolate shake (there is no McDonalds in Bots).  And the bus ride back did deliver with bad movies, so all in all a fantastic vacation and one of the best I have ever taken!  Although whether that is because it is true, or due to PC lowering expectations…well ga ke itse. 

For more pictures of Durban head on over to the pictures page!  Also, can you believe that in one month and 12 days I will have been out of the USA for an entire year?!?!?!  This experience is just going crazy fast!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New youtube video!

I think the title says it all.  Just click the link at the top of the page.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

23 things for a 23 year old

In commemoration of turning 23 recently, I present a list somewhat similar to what I did for my six month mark. However, instead of varying lists of top 6’s, here is one list of top 23 memorable moments so far in Bots.  Remember, memorable does not mean good necessarily.  A few of these are repeats, but plenty are new.

23.  Getting sick from the water at Rocklane Lodge-This was the first time that I ever really got sick in Botswana.  So it makes the list, but not at the high end.  And before anyone asks, the water in Bots is fine.  This lodge was low on water and storing it in dirty tanks, hence why I got sick.
22.  New Years-First, and up till now only, time I have gone into Khutse Game Reserve.  Sure it was cool, but not the right season to see a lot of animals, and I didn’t see a lion or leopard.
21.  Village name-So village names in Botswana usually mean something.  Mia’s village of Metsibotlhoko means “painful water.”  Becky’s village, Hatsalatladi, wins the award for best name, “Cracked by thunder.”  So when I finally found out my village name I was…disappointed.  Kaudwane means “old skin.”  Yeah, Becky gets cracked by thunder and I am stuck with old skin. 
20.  The first night I felt cold-OH MY GOD!  This was amazing.  After months of trying to just not sweat while sleeping I finally felt cold.  Thank you winter!
19.  Standing-No, not standing on a bus or hitch.  I mean the evil, painful standing PC staff made us do right after we got to Bots.  They didn’t want us to get jetlagged so when we were in Gabs for the night we had to do skits and weren’t even allowed to sit until 8pm.  GRRRRRRR!
18.  Abby’s farewell party-This is memorable to me for two different reasons.  First, it signaled the departure of Bots 9.  They were the first group we saw leave.  Secondly, it made Bots 11 Life Skills volunteers the oldest group of Life Skills people (not including John Rusiecki in his 4th year and Mary Konege’s 3 month extension).
17.  PMS workshop-Another painful one.  This exemplified the Batswana ability to take forever to do things.  A 2 day workshop lasted 2 weeks!!!!  But, it may be beneficial to my service down the line since I got what I wanted in our school’s strategic plan.  The question is will it be followed…
16.  Python sighting-Ah snakes.  I see too many of you.  I mentioned this one once before, but seeing a python that had swallowed a goat is too amazing not to list twice.
15.  The wrong way hitch-This was the biggest test of my patience so far.  And I mentioned it once before under my post about the types of hitches.  So if you want more details refer to that.
14.  Running in Kanye-Every morning with Julia, and some mornings with the dog from my home stay.  Fun, and a great way to start the days.  Especially the course we had to the top of the giant hill.
13.  Caltex bar-I am sure this bar has a real name, but I don’t know it.  And even if I did, I wouldn’t call it that.  This is the place that a lot of our intake went to in Kanye after long days of PST to unwind, chat, and get to know each other better.  We even threw a birthday party there. 
12.  The paint can-My butt still hurts thinking about this.  Hitching to Letlhakeng and everyone in the back of this truck is sitting on paint buckets.  We hit a huge bump, I get air, and come back down wrong and bruise myself for weeks.  OUCH!
11.  Swearing in-The day that training stopped and I actually reached the point of being able to call myself a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I mean, it will always be memorable for obvious reasons.
10.  Getting rent-UGH!  First big instance of having to deal with government.  It took 2 days, and several offices just to get the money to pay my landlord.  Four months late no less.  And with how often I have been doing claims lately, I can easily say I learned a lot from this experience and am wiser for it.
9.  Site announcement-This is my most memorable moment from PST, even more than the end of it at Swear in.  I mean, this was the day I learned where I would spend the next two years of my life.  And I will always remember telling Rachel who was sitting next to me when we were waiting to get our sites that I wanted the one right under the game reserve.  And about 15 minutes later, I got it!
8.  Mass exorcism-This one is probably raising a few eyebrows.  Well, I went to another Youth Forum last week, this time in Salajwe.  Well the last two days were just a bunch of exorcisms.  The first time they did it they locked over 200 people in the main hall (blocked the doors with tables) and did “deliverances” to root out the demons that some Satanists attending the event had called to corrupt the children.  4 of the participants were the Satanists (and rumor has it one facilitator too).  It was honestly a very scary experience (even though I was not in the room luckily-but I could still hear it).  I won’t put any more details about it here, but if you want to know more send me an email:
7.  First funeral-So far I have only gone to one funeral.  But because of it I can say that I have aided in burials on two continents thanks to my summer working for the City of Grand Rapids at Oak Hill Cemetery.  A weird claim to be sure.
6.  Showing kids Skype-There was one weekend where I was skyping Ryan at the computer lab at school and some of the kids were around.  They were able to meet someone else from America, who was actually in America at the time.  It was really cool to see.
5.  Killing a snake-Really, this is the 3rd time it has made an appearance in my blog.  If that does not mean I find it memorable, nothing does.
4.  Dirt eating-When having a girls’ soccer practice was the first time I saw this.  A girl was hungry so she just ate dirt to fill her stomach.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was so heartbreaking to see people be so hungry that they resort to eating dirt.
3.  The sky-During the day it is just so vast.  And during the night even more.  Almost every night I can see the Milky Way.  Simply breathtaking. 
2.  Getting the gas for the fridge-This is memorable because it taunts me every day.  I received thegas for my fridge back in November.  As of today I STILL DON’T HAVE THE FRIDGE!
1.  Driving to site-And this is my number one.  The very first time I ever got to my site.  After dropping of Corey we took a fire break line past Salajwe, then turned to Kaudwane.  I got to see ostriches on the road, and in general my breath was just taken away with the thought that I would be living here for the next two years.  Nothing so far has been able to compare with that initial moment of seeing your site.  Sure, finding out where you are going is memorable, but it can’t hold a candle to actually seeing it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

John Ottersbach is always right

Yesterday was a very weird day.  And all of the random occurrences led to one conclusion: never fight with John Ottersbach, he is always right (although I am sure Tracy will disagree).

 *Personal protection note* John I forbid you from using this as any sort of evidence during any fight with your wife or myself.  For everyone else, this is fair game.  *End protection*

The majority of yesterday was fairly normal.  Did my laundry, went to school for a while to do computer lessons with some kids, and caught up on some things using the school internet.  That is where the normalcy ended.  And I blame it all on John.  He and Tracy were at a kids' beauty contest in their village.  After realizing that all the kids used the same song to come out to, he was going a little nuts.  But he described the event as "more interesting than anything else in huks right now."  I mentioned that nothing really "interesting" happens in these small Botswana villages.  Every now and then there is a rare fluke, but nothing to really write home about.  At this point he reminded me of when I saw a python that had swallowed a goat.  Touche.  Also, by challenging him that nothing interesting ever happened I had begun the process commonly known as "foot in mouth syndrome."

I went to an event/party last night out at the government workers compound next to the Khutse Gate.  It was hosted by the park to raise money for toilets for the destitute in the village.  See, even parties are about toilets.  Hence my argument of nothing interesting happening.  *Side note* It is stunning how much Peace Corps volunteers can talk about toilets, pit latrines and poop.  I am going to make a fool of myself back in the states.  *End note*  Well the person who comes and picks me and one of the teachers up is not one of the Wildlife Officers.  Instead it is one of the Botswana Government SWAT team members (I didn't even know that existed here).  He started describing to me some of the SWAT training the government had sent him for in the states, which was interesting to hear (point for John).

The second point for John (and I might give him 5 points for this due to the weight of the incident) happened in the 5km ride to the gate from the village.  We ran into a truck that was going into the Game Reserve close to the gate.  Nothing odd there, people do it all the time.  One of the guys in the back of the truck was clearly drunk and was tailgating the moving vehicle (also happens a lot).  Well we stopped to talk to them (pass greetings and all that).  And that was when I learned from the teacher with me who the incredibly drunk man tailgating was.  The President of the main opposition party in Botswana.  If they win the next election he would be the next President of Botswana!  When I told John about that he joked that he was a "man of the people" considering how much people like to drink here (ok John you get 5 points for this one if only for that comment).

Third moment for John being right.  So we finally make it to the event.  And this is when I realize that the event is basically just food and then "let's all get really drunk."  Well I have never actually drank around anyone in my village before.  But last night I decided to say the hell with it and broke that rule.  I did not get drunk, but I wanted to show people it is possible to stop after just a few beers.  Thankfully I managed to avoid the Chibuku passing circle.  That is just nasty stuff.

So I bet you are wondering where drinking gets interesting.  Well, naturally since it was a Botswana party, a lot of bumping and grinding music was played.  Funny thing about the people in my village (well the few villagers and mostly government workers that went), they like to grind on each other...regardless of gender.  Many times during the night I got to see some very drunk government workers (including a few teachers) grind up on each other with no reservations.  I tried to avoid the dance floor, but due to an unfortunate bet with Mma Bafisi anytime she danced I had to.  Well I ended up getting grinded on at one point.  Anyone got a guess as to who from the village grinded on me?  Was it a female teacher?  Male teacher?  Nurse?  Wildlife office?  The answer is none of the above.  Drumroll please.....................................I was the recipient of grinding by the kgosi.  Yup.  The chief of the village.  So I am definitely giving John a point in his argument for that one.  Soon after that I decided I had enough of the party and caught a lift with Africa (yes that is his name) back to the village.

While this was mostly just a way to try and describe my strange day yesterday, I did decide to pay homage to John and his ability to prove me wrong without having to do anything himself.  Kudos John!

In unrelated news I broke out my 2nd blanket last night.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sports Contest in Khudumelapye

So I already ruined part of this blog post by putting on Facebook how the girls’ soccer team I am coaching did at the sub-zonal sports contest, but I am going ahead with this anyway. 

For those of you who missed all of that news, I coached our girls’ soccer team this year at school.  At the contest our team got 3rd out of 5, and one girl was picked for the regional team.  Not too shabby for the first year of a girls’ team!  Unfortunately the two teams they beat were the other two Peace Corps volunteer schools in the sub-zone.  Sorry Corey and Mia!

Now for the other boring parts (the results).  I only say this is the boring part because I always think random stories are better than statistics.  Boys Football: Team took 1st place and qualified for the next level, great job boys!  Boys Volleyball: 3rd place (out of 3 teams).  This one slightly disgusted me.  I don’t care that they lost, but the coach took some of the boys’ football players after they were done, and swapped them into the volleyball team.  Boys that came to play volleyball did not even get to play while some of those kids got to do two sports.  I was asked if I wanted to swap in some Netball girls into the girls’ soccer team and I told them no since I wanted those kids who came to play soccer (and practiced for weeks) to have the chance to play.  Girls Volleyball: They were the only team.  Seriously.  Netball: Ladies sport, kinda like basketball but with no dribbling, you can only move the ball by passing.  The girls rocked this one taking 1st place!

Story time!  I am going to split story time into 4 sections: accommodation, transport, bathing and interactions with the kids.

Accommodation: You ever sleep in a classroom for 3 days with a few other teachers and about 30 students?  It is a strange thing to say the least.  And like every kid ever did on field trips, they NEVER wanted to sleep.  Between that and the three desks with a sleeping bag on top that was my bed I am stunned I actually slept at all.  Most of the kids were in groups of 3 or 4 so they could share the blankets (it is winter time here after all).  The girls’ room was more crowded so we actually had two of the female teachers crashing with us in the boys room as well, which was funny since them and the one male teacher who is dating someone all shared an area the size of a twin bed.

Transport: First of all it was expected at any time during the day on Monday.  Of course I should have known it would not arrive till 6pm.  We loaded 64 kids, 1 cook, 1 PTA member, and 6 teachers into the cab and back of a giant truck (basically almost like a semi, but the back is not enclosed).  Along with this all the luggage came too.  It was packed back there (luckily I got myself one of the 4 cab spots).  The kids treated the community to songs as they left Kaudwane and arrived in Khudumelapye (as well as on the return journey too).  I was able to ride in this truck many a time that week as due to only one field for two days the girls played at Metsibothloko (Mia’s village and the closest to Khudumelapye). 

Bathing: All of the kids bathed outdoors.  In the wide open.  In the cold.  That must have sucked.  I actually only bathed once during the 3 day contest (although I did wash my face and head each day).  The teachers had set up in the girls’ room a “privacy area” with a metal wash tub.  Basically it was bookcases pushed together to make a fake wall.  It did its job, but me being taller than all the rest much more of me was visible than all of them.  Hence the one day only.  Luckily the teachers did not know I only took 1 full bath.  They thought I was weird enough for not bathing twice a day.  I am sorry, but in the winter time there is no way you are getting me to bathe twice a day.  That is just ridiculous!

Interactions: I had two moments with the kids that really stick out.  One of them was when I spent the evening with about 15 boys.  They somehow got bit by the learning bug (seriously, what kid tries to learn while on a field trip?)  It started with a book they found on HIV and that led to questions about opportunistic infections like TB.  After that we moved into riddle contests.  These kids are clever!  I could not think up anything to stump them.  And they got me a few times.  I thought about doing some American specific ones (like what has 4 eyes but can’t see) but I didn’t think that would be fair. 

The other moment was when I was trying to take a few pictures of some of the kids.  They saw the camera.  As I am sure almost any PCV in Botswana will tell you, as soon as one kid sees your camera, they ALL know you have it.  And the ALL want pictures taken, MANY PICTURES.  Head over to the pictures page to see some of them!  As someone who is a fan of candid shots, it is really hard to get those once they see the camera for the first time. 

Now for a quick general update.  Term 2 is winding down.  Towards the end of the month I kick off basically one month away from my site.  It all starts with a meeting to help plan a Life Skills PCV retreat with the Min of Ed.  Following that is the next Youth Forum (this time looking to be in Salajwe which is the closest village in all Botswana to my site).   After a few more days is vacation in Durban with some others from my group.  Then I come back with just half a week before the actual retreat with the Min of Ed.  Oh, and somewhere in there is PSDN training.  PSDN is the Peer Support and Diversity Network which I was accepted to along with 2 others from Bots 11.  Busy month coming up (but most if not all should be fun) and it kicks off in just a few weeks.  Because of that, not quite sure when the next blog post will be, or what it will be about, but I am planning to do at least one more before Durban.

And with that, hope everyone is doing well.  Happy belated birthday to Katie, Kaylynn, and Dad!  And happy early birthday to Kesselring! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Sorry I have been MIA for a bit over a month.  But this coming week expect 1 (maybe 2 if I am adventurous) and many pictures.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pics are up!

Hey, check out the pictures page.  27 new pics from Commonwealth Day.  All are taken at the school and show some traditional dancing and skits by each grade.  So you get to see my students.  Hopefully a video will come in a few weeks with some live action of the material.


Of all the things I have done in Botswana that I would not do in the US I think hitching has to top that list.  If only because it is going to be such a hard habit to break.  It is it the only way to get to my village, and even when there is public transport in other places, hitching is usually faster.  But, not all hitches are created equal.  So for this blog post I have decided to describe the different types of hitches that I have seen.  This list only concerns rides between Kaudwane and Letlhakeng, this is because during this stretch hitching is the only option and the hitches between places like Gabs and Moleps can be very different from these. 

Note: several of the different types of hitches can overlap.  Especially in the areas of speed, comfort, and amount of people.  So there are several different combinations available. 

Type 1: Having the appropriate amount of people
This has happened to me a total of once.  Just once.  In 5 months at Kaudwane.  And this was only because it was in a car, and not a pick-up truck.  Unless the vehicle you are in is only seats and without a truck/bed to fit more people this never happens. 

Type 2: Undercrowded
This type means that there is plenty more room for people to fit, and it is only due to the lack of passengers that you have space.  Not as rare as type one, but still fairly rare.  I have only encountered this between Kaudwane and Salajwe (the first or last step of my trip depending on direction).  Once you start that trek between Salajwe and Letlhakeng this type ceases to exist in favor of….

Type 3: Overcrowded
“Excuse me ma’am but you are sitting on my foot, and have been for the last 50km.  It is alternating between being asleep which means I just know I will fall over when I stand and pain spasms.  Please be getting out of this vehicle soon.”  While I have never actually said this (at least not in this words, especially the last sentence), I have thought it an awful lot.  There is the stereotype that Mexicans can fit a lot of people in a truck.  Bullshit.  That award should go to Botswana.  It is simply fascinating how many people and things they get in a truck.  Honestly I think these hitches break at least three laws of science, yet they happen all the time.  I will never have space bubble issues in my life since I always seem to be constantly touching people due to these rides.

Type 4: Going a respectable speed for the conditions of the road
Not real.  Next.

Type 5: Going painstakingly slow
Unlike the undercrowded/overcrowded distinction, this one is about 50% of the time.  It would be one thing if the slowness made the ride more comfortable, but the drivers of these hitches always seem to be in the worst part of the road, making it so bumpy I can’t even read.  So instead I get to lazily watch the landscape go by and wonder if I shouldn’t have waited longer so I could have gotten on that truck that just passed us.  Worst offender: a red truck belonging to an old man in Kaudwane, but I always take it because I know he will take me the whole way.

Type 6: “You have a brake pedal, please use it”
Let me clarify that the general speed these hitches go is not necessarily unacceptable…if it was a real road.  But you have no reason to go as fast as you do on a paved road when we are on loose sand.  Please slow down.  Just a little.  Every time we hit a big bump everyone gets air.  And then I alternate between thinking I might fly out of the back or coming back down at the wrong angle on the paint bucket I am sitting on and bruising the left side of my butt for 3 weeks.  This last one happened to me about 4 weeks ago.  Yet I do prefer it to the slow ones for the reason that I get where I am going quicker, if only because…

Type 7: Comfortable
Also not real.  Next.

Type 8: Uncomfortable
Remember my foot story from a few types back?  Well between too many people jammed in to give adequate space, the driver always finds a way to pick the worst part of the road.  I don’t know how they do it.  And I know there are better parts, because when they swerve to avoid cows the other part of the road is always better.  STAY THERE!  But this has given me a glimpse into the reason why about 95% of the people here have big butts, they have nature’s padding for these uncomfortable rides. 

Type 9: The ideal hitch
You would think this is a combination of types 1 (or 2), 4, and 7.  But you would be wrong.  It can be any combination of types as long as it is one thing.  Free.


The worst hitch ever!  So this happened to me today actually.  I find a free ride leaving my village going all the way to Letlhakeng around 6:30am.  Awesome.  “Oh we just need to go pick up something from where we are camping.”  No problem.  “Oh we are just going to wait to eat breakfast first.” It was already being cooked, so no problem.  I had plenty of time.  FOUR HOURS LATER!!!!  “Oh we aren’t actually going.”  SCREW YOU!  The only progress I made was four kilometers in the WRONG DIRECTION, waiting for you useless wastes of space.  So I am now outside my village, in the bush, in the wrong direction.  I hear cars coming by.  So I literally run out of the bush to find….

THE BEST HITCH EVER!  So I have no idea what the South African tourists first thought when they saw a white man run out of the bush and flag them down.  But they gave me a ride.  A ride all the way to the door of the place I am staying in Moleps.  They even waited for me to pick up a package in Letlhakeng.  And they fed me.  FOR FREE!  Seriously, weird day with my two ultimate hitching extremes.

The passage of time

Between sitting under a tree the other week for 5 hours waiting for a ride in Letlhakeng (a time which Rose and I used to come up with a complete social order to all the animals in the village) and spending a quiet Easter at home drinking wine out of a peanut butter jar (this classy moment brought to you by Peace Corps!), I have had a lot of time to think about…well time.  More specifically how quickly it passes.

Over the Easter holiday I also had some free time to update the d├ęcor in my house.  This was mostly done through a few calendars and pictures sent by Tori and Erika.  There were a few pictures that really sparked this line of thought about time.  The first was a picture from a wine tasting trip in Zamora about 2 and a half years ago where Casey and I were drunk enough to sing Spice Girls on the bus.  This picture is not of that moment but from early in the day.  Conveniently located next to my map of Salamanca it made me realize that it had indeed been years since I had been there.  It still seems so recent, yet also much longer than that at the same time.  Just like this Peace Corps experience.  I have been gone a long time, but some days it feels like no time, and others I wonder how I still have so much left.

From that picture I moved on to a few that brought back fond memories: rock climbing in IL with Brandon, Halloween parties at Aunt Jackie’s, raising money for Peruvian orphans in Queen’s Pub,  or my first ever trip to Cedar Pointe for Ashley’s 21st birthday.  These got me thinking about the fact that even though I do keep in touch with many people even though I am a continent and an ocean away, there are at least some people in my life that I consider friends that I won’t see again.  First of all, this is not on purpose.  Secondly, I do not think that most of the people reading this will fall into that category.  This is just another mystery about the way time works.  Even at Aquinas there were people I liked perfectly fine that I would go a year without seeing.  And that was a small school.  Without being confined to a small campus it just stands to reason that there will be people I lose touch with.  At first I was depressed about this, but I realized that nothing I can do will reverse this fact; it is just the way of life.  Even if I spent all my energy just trying to maintain contacts, I know I would accidentally forget someone.  So I have already made peace with that, and as I said, I don’t expect to lose contact with most reading this.  Again, the quick passage of time at work.

And there was one category of pictures that brought about my last wave of thoughts on time.  This was some that I got from Tori and Erika that showed things I did not remember.  Nor could I remember because I was not there.  These things all happened since I have left.  I have been over in Africa for 7 months, so naturally a lot has happened (even if EVERY TIME I ask for news from stateside everyone assures me nothing is going on).  But it is strange to see pictures of things and think that you will never really know what is going on.  Sure, I am smart enough to figure out what are pictures from a Halloween party, or people picking pumpkins in a field.  But I will never completely understand how it felt to be there.  And that made me realize it is going to be the same the other way around.  I can post pictures and blog posts all I want, but no matter what the people reading this will know what happened, but they won’t have the experience.  And in just 19 short months from now everyone I see again will have years of experiences I did not have, and vice versa.  This is not a bad thing, and won’t stop me from blogging and putting up pictures and such, but just another of the many intricacies concerning the rapid passage of time.  There is nothing you can do against it, despite how hard you might try, but it is something interesting to reflect on (if you find yourself drinking wine alone during the holidays you should give it a try).

One thing I have learned in Peace Corps is how to spend a lot of time alone with your own thoughts.  I do that a lot.  It is just part of life being the only person who natively speaks your language in the surrounding area.  And that is what this post has been.  An attempt at making some coherence out a mind’s ramblings about the passage of time. 

Now to give a very quick update on general stuff.  I am doing well.  Term 1 is over, and Term 2 starts next week.  My counterpart and I are planning to start 2 girls’ soccer teams, one for at school youth and one for out of school.  We are also looking at reviving more clubs at the school since the PACT Club revival has been effective so far.  Finally starting to get close to chilly in the mornings.  Not to that point yet, but getting there.  And working on a putting together a video from our Commonwealth Day celebration (showing traditional dancing and such done by the school kids) as well as figuring out what pictures to upload next.  That will all be coming down the line in anywhere between a few weeks and a month or two.  It all depends. 

And with that peace out.  Happy belated birthday Heather, and happy early birthday to anyone who has a birthday before I post again.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Triple Six

It doesn’t taste as good as Triple Sec, but looks better than typing 666.  But anyway this post is all about 6.  Three of them to be exact.  6 lists.  All of different top 6 things about my Life in Peace Corps Botswana so far.  With the intention of celebrating the 6 month mark of my time here!  Yeah, officially the 6 month mark is still about 2 weeks off, but unless some technician actually came to fix the internet since the November lightning strike I don’t anticipate having internet then, so doing this now.   You might have heard some of these things, but assure you there is something new for everyone.  So without further ado, let’s jump into the lists!

The Top 6 Animals!

6.  Goats.  Annoying, everywhere, and they hold up traffic.  Because of all of this goats make the list just because they have an impact on my daily life.  And while donkeys and cows do the same things goats do, the goats won the spot since they have learned how to break into my yard and I have gotten good at herding them.

5.  Walking sticks.  These are technically bugs, but the look cool, are huge, and generally just awesome.  My dog in Kanye fought with one once, and at this workshop I am at one was just hanging out on my door to the lodge.  And the thing was bigger than my hand!

4.  Monkeys/baboons.  They look cool, will steal from you at hotels in Gabs, walk around in the strangest places (I have only seem them in Jwaneng at a diamond mine and in the capital), but they are aggressive little buggers and a little scary for that.   So monkeys, the number 4 spot is an offering so you do not attack me.  I recognize your ability to scratch my face off, and say please don’t. 

3.  Ostriches.  You don’t impact me that often.  But you are the only animal that I have seen in broad daylight both inside and outside the reserve (aka walking around my village limits).  So for your sheer resourcefulness in getting out of Khutse just to chill, and giving me something to look for from time to time, you get the bronze for this category.

2.  Dogs.  I love dogs.  Bobi ran with me in Kanye most mornings.  They are generally friendly (minus the pack of wild dogs killing cattle around the village that have since been caught) and brighten my day.  But dogs, a message to you all.  The reason you don’t win first is because almost all of you look like you belong in one of those adopt an animal commercials with sad music playing.  Your owners need to feed you more or else I will be spending a ton of money I don’t have trying to get you to the states.

1.   And the winner is…..SNAKES!  I mean how can it be anything else?  You probably read about my black mamba killing.  Well in addition to that I also got to ride in the cab of a truck where the back was a cage with a 15 foot python that had swallowed a baby goat.  They were taking it out to the Game Reserve to release it.  So snakes, you win since you have the most impact on my life.  I refuse to go to my pit latrine across the yard at night for fear of you.  And I would say that you make me piss myself, but you really stop me from being able to get to my bathroom…damn you.

The Top 6 Foods!

6.  Phaleche (papa).  General starch fill in.  Not overly impressive on its own, but nearly any sauce can be added on top to make it much better.  So way to be the base of a lot of my food (well at workshops, I still don’t have the desire to make you at home over pasta or rice).

5.  Tomato Sauce.  Think ketchup.  But then not really.  Has the same consistency and purpose but tastes better in my opinion.  And when you are poor in the Peace Corps, there is nothing like tomato sauce to add to your plain noodles in a pinch.

4.  Samp.  Samp is another food base like papa, but just so much better.  Papa has a firm, fairly dry texture, whereas samp just has so much more in regards to texture.  It also has much more going for it in terms of taste, it doesn’t need nearly as much doctoring as papa, hence the number 4.

3.  Veggie Curry Pies.  Now if you ever come to my house, odds are the food I will have the most of are cans of curried vegetables.  These have to be my biggest staple food.  Add in some garlic salt, paprika, thyme, and cayenne pepper and we got a meal.  But as much as I love veggie curry cans, there is just something magical about getting it in a pie.  Whenever I am in Moleps shopping I look for this since it is a great lunch on the go, really cheap, delicious, and I don’t have to cook it.  The fact that I can’t get you outside of Moleps keeps you at three.

2.  Fatcakes.  Warm balls of fried dough.  Sweet but not too sweet.  Filling, but you can eat more than one.  You will hate yourself for it.  But you will do it all over again.  The fatcake is just amazing.  And some are as cheap as 1 pula.  For fried dough.  There is no nutritional redemption to these magical creations.  And I don’t care.  I just love the warm sweet bread balls as you eat them piece by piece.  And I really should have wrote this part AFTER dinner.  But as much as I love Fatcakes, they cannot even hold a candle to my number one (although a lot of people will disagree with me).

1.   And the winner is….Chips!  Not like potato chips.  I mean the English version of chips.  Aka French Fries.  But that doesn’t do them justice.  When I think French Fries I think of those pathetic little crispy McDonalds potato sticks.  No, these are a bit thicker, oily, warm, and best of all….mushy.  Yes.  I like my chips mushy.  You all can keep your crispy little fries.  I want chips that still remember that they used to be a potato just smothered in tomato sauce.  And on that note, definitely ordering those as part of my dinner.  And thankfully this list is done before I drool on my keyboard.

The Top 6 Words/Phrases!

These can be in English or Setswana, but they are all phrases that I see used (and some I have started to use) everyday. 

6.  Ke kopa 2 pula! (Give me two pula!)  This can be said in either language and I have heard it in both.  I don’t like it.  At all.  But it happens a lot.  Well in the larger villages.  No one in Kaudwane has ever asked me for money.  But it is usually kids in big villages (like Kanye).  But the thing that really gets me?  It is ALWAYS 2 pula.  What can buy for 2 pula that is worthwhile? 

5.  That side.  GAH!  THAT IS NOT A WAY TO GIVE DIRECTIONS!  GIVE ME A BUILDING COLOR AT LEAST!  Ahem.  Anyway, that side is the favored way of describing where anything in Botswana is.  That side can be any distance between just a few minutes, or even across the country.  And it always has a little hand wave that gives you absolutely no idea exactly where something is.  So be prepared to hear that side a lot in one trip when you stop every ten minutes to ask more directions until you realized you passed what you were looking for 2km back because nothing is labeled. 

4.  What what.  I have used this one.  It is the Botswana version of etc.  That is the best way to describe it.  You can use what what for describing people, talking about steps to complete a form, and what what.  See what I did there?

3.  Lekgoa.  I don’t hear this in Kaudwane (thankfully), but everywhere else I do.  Lekgoa is a white person.  Literal translation is “one who is vomited by the sea.”  Yet it isn’t meant offensively at all.  Which seems strange.  But this funny literal translation and the usefulness of knowing the word is why it gets a nice spot at 3.

2.  The tongue undulation.  This isn’t a word or a phrase.  But it is awesome so I made an exception, and at number 2 no less!  All of the women here do this tongue thing instead of clapping.  The noise is loud, awesome, and you really need to hear it to believe it.  So for being way more awesome than clapping you get the silver.

1.  And the winner is…now now.  This wins for being the most useful and least useful phrase in my current vocabulary.  I use this one all the time.  Now now means now.  Now just means sometime (maybe soon if you are lucky) in Botswana.  If you want something to happen now, you have to say now now.  Yet no matter what, it is never now now.  NEVER!

The Top 6 Things I have done!

6.  School Garden.  As you can see on the youtube video it isn’t done.  But just starting the ball rolling is an accomplishment so I am counting it.

5.  PACT Club.  When I got to Kaudwane the PACT Club had fallen apart.  So this year I am working on putting it back together with Mr. Pule the teacher assistant.  And we actually have 13 students in it and started meeting.  So far a successful revival!

4.  Game drive on New Years.  This one isn’t work related, but it was the first time I got into the Khutse Game Reserve right next to my site.  So that alone was cool, but got to see some game I had not seen before too (no lions or leopards).  All in all a very awesome way to ring in the New Year.

3.  Teaching Life Skills lessons.  This is my biggest work success so far.  We finally started teaching the Life Skills curriculum in every Standard.  Major improvement over not using the materials at all.  Next step is getting the teachers to do more of the teaching and me more of the support role (right now that is reversed for this lift off phase).

2.  Playing soccer with kids.  This is the most personal success so far.  I mean, I don’t even speak the same language as these kids yet everyday (that I am in Kaudwane at least) I play soccer with them for about an hour outside my house and we have a great time.  Yeah I am super tired afterwards, but always really happy.

1.  And the winner is…surviving!  Hey, that alone is pretty damn impressive.

The Top 6 Things I Want to do!

6.  Learn the name of everyone in my village.  I want to do it.  But we all know how bad I can be with names.  That is why this is number 6, very unrealistic.  But something to shoot for.

5.  Be fluent in Setswana, Sekgalagadi, or Sasarwa.  All three are spoken in my village, so I don’t care which one.  But they are all hard languages so this will be another pipe dream.  But not as hard as the name one, hence why it ranks higher. 

4.  See the Big 5.  The Big 5 are the main 5 animals that you want to see in Botswana.  Wildebeast, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, and Rhino.  Right now I have 1 out of 5.  Only 4 to go!

3.  Garden.  Yup, this makes this list too.  While the ball is rolling on the garden I want to make sure it can work each year.  So garden gets on this one too.

2.  PACT Club.  Another carry over.  As I said in the other list, the PACT Club had been stagnant before I came.  I don’t want it to fall back to that when I leave.  So that is another of my big goals.

1.  And the winner is…organizing soccer tournaments!  The kids love to play.  The parents love to play.  The school wants more parental involvement.  And the school has a soccer pitch.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there are possibilities there.  I am hoping to start on this as soon as this workshop ends this week.

The Top 6 Stories!

My final top 6.  In these stories I have labeled 2 as learning moments, 2 as uncomfortable, and 2 as just plain embarrassing. 

6.  Learning moment.  Hitching.  In the US I would have been terrified to do this.  Here it is not an issue.  In fact I have to do it.  I have learned really fast how to just blindly trust drivers.  But it is what you need to do to get around, and it affects my life so often that it had to make the list.

5.  Learning moment.  Teaching Standard 5.  I have a hard time calling this a learning moment.  That week felt like a lifetime.  While it was uncomfortable, I did learn a heck of a lot.  Mostly classroom management techniques.  The fact that I am still alive after teaching kids with that colossal language barrier I view as a huge success.

4.  Uncomfortable Moment.  Seswa.  Ugh.  I already wrote about this one, but it still comes in at 4.  The first week in the country more or less and I have to serve meat to 50 men then at least try a taste myself since the chief is telling me to.  And I use the word meat very, very, very loosely.  Ugh.  Never again.

3.  Uncomfortable Moment.  Oops, I forgot your name.  Man if this doesn’t happen way too much to me.  The most embarrassing was the first couple days at school when a couple of the teachers’ names just wouldn’t stick.  Names are very important here, so not being able to remember is very uncomfortable, hence thing I want to do number 6.

2.  Embarrassing story.  Falling in Kanye.  Most of you know about my running issue in Kanye.  You know, the day I trip, gashed open my hand, and to top it all off lost my house keys?  Yeah, that day sucked.  Hard.  But I am almost positive I covered it elsewhere so that is enough of reliving that.

1.  And the winner is…another embarrassing story!  Yeah, these things happen too often.  Falling that is.  Yeah, another I fell story.  Although this one was in front of about 20 people.  And out of a truck.  It is so embarrassing to fall out of a truck.  Luckily it was stopped.  I was hitching to Letlhakeng and when the truck stopped I was getting out when I got bumped and fell out the side.  Not as bad a wound as the time in Kanye, but definitely harder on my pride. 

And there you have it!  6 lists of top 6 things for 6 months in Botswana.  Been a great half year so far and I hope it just keeps getting better, despite all the challenges (damn falling).  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New video!

Hey all!

New video up on the Youtube channel.  Click the link at the top of the page to go straight there.  And sometime this coming week will be a post dealing with 6s.  See if you can guess why that is the magic number before it goes up.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Howdy again ya’ll! 

Thought that since I have access to internet this week I might as well just update this one more time for the end of IST.  And I realized that I forgot a little bit to include in my last post.  So let’s do the Time Warp (insert Rocky Horror joke here) and head back a couple weeks.

So the week before IST we had a bit of a shortage at sight.  A teacher shortage.  We are still waiting as far as I know for two temporary teachers to be assigned by the government.  And two weeks ago the school head, Senior Teacher Guidance/Standard 1 Teacher/My counterpart, and one of the two Standard 7 teachers went to a week-long training.  So back in Kaudwane we had 6 teachers and me.  We are supposed to have ten teachers since three of the Standards (1, 2, and 7) are big classes.  So with only 7 of us total we each took one of the Standards for the week.  So I taught Standard 5 all week.  In nearly every subject (barring CAPA and Setswana).  I even taught have a lesson of Religious and Moral education.  But I focused with them mostly on Math, Science, Social Studies, English, and Agriculture. 

And I must say, you learn a lot about classroom management when you are thrust into a situation when you are teaching students who have English as a 4th language.  Eish!  But all in all I did survive the week, despite it being the most hectic of my life.  Because in addition to teaching Standard 5 I also started my first Life Skills lessons with every class.  So I also had to run around to 6 other classes during the week doing half-hour lessons.  And I still don’t know if we have a Standard 5 teacher yet.  I hope we do. 

But anyway, for IST.  It has been a bit of a hassle overall.  I did get to see everyone, and had a great time, but I am frustrated that I had to miss a week of work when it was just starting to pick up.  But at least I am getting my rent money on Tuesday, along with my Youth Forum reimbursement.  And they just announced that the Ministry of Education is now asking us to go to a 2 week long training for just the Life Skills volunteers starting the last week of Feb.  And we have Peace Corps regional in between.  So now I feel like I am hardly spending any time a site, which is agitating.  But you have to be flexible I suppose. 

Anyway, short one, but I wanted to abuse the internet while I had it.

P.S. Sorry to Tracy for breaking your foot the first day of IST.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hello 2012!

Well this may be a little late, but compliments on the New Year!  That is the phrase used in my village at least instead of Happy New Year.  Also, belated Merry Christmas and an early happy birthday to Uncle Tom! 

It has been a long and mostly slow month since my last post.  December does not have much going for it in terms of work.  Everyone takes leave.  And they do not come back to work till after the New Year.  But on the plus side with all of that free time I have done a ton of reading.  Speaking of which, did you know there are 40 books written about the Land of Oz? 

Anyway, Christmas was quite unexciting so I am actually just going to skip right over it, but I hope you all stateside had a nice Christmas.  It was weird being in the middle of summer for a season I am used to having snow during.  The real fun this side came for New Years.  I actually managed to struggle to stay awake till midnight thanks to some help for the Leopard Ecology people at Khutse.  And yes, it is a struggle to stay up till midnight when you usually get up at 5 and are in bed by 9 each day.  We had a cookout, enough alcohol to enjoy ourselves, a little archery contest, and the like.  The next day we went on an afternoon game drive in Khutse (which was my first time in the reserve too!).  That was hot, but we got to see some pretty cool animals (no lions or leopards though). 

As far as work goes the school year just started last week so we are still working on getting things going.  But for the positives I think we found a place to donate shade netting for the school garden, and the teachers and I are putting together a Life Skills time slot in the curriculum.  While the end goal the government wants for the program is infusion throughout all classes, you have to walk before you can run, so just having some time each week with each class is a great start.  We launched it this past week, but this was just the introductory lesson and now I am away at IST for two weeks so it will be a little while before the program is up and running fully. 

And now we come to the present.  IST.  Positive: I will have more access to internet than the past month.  Negative: Leaving right when things are getting going.  Positive: A shower and cold drinks.  You have absolutely no idea how good these are unless you have gone for about a month without either.  So yes, I still have no fridge.  But one day.  And bathing in a bucket just is not the same as a shower, so the one I had today was just phenomenal.  But for PCVs our IST marks the end of the Community Assessment phase which most people consider to be the hardest part of service.  And since all of us are still around from my group (unless I am completely out of the loop that is) we are doing pretty good. 

The fact that I don’t have anything else to add to this after a month of no posts just goes to show how boring December is in Botswana.  But I will end with a few thank yous.  Thanks for all the packages and letters I have gotten so far: dad, grandma and Aunt Shirley, Aunt Rose and Uncle Tom, Brandon, Aunt Jackie, Kaylynn, Leah, LB, Beam, and I am probably forgetting a few (sorry).  And thank you Ben and Annie for the New Years video you made.  It was fantastic.

Look for pictures soon!  And if I have time maybe another video, although I don’t know what about yet.