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).