Mid-Pre-Service Training Official Update #2

The calendar has rolled over to September and there is, for us, a palpable sense of relief. We’ve now had more than a month of Botswana under our belts. We’ve now been away from North America for as long as we’ve ever been away from it. The long month of awkward missteps and strange conversations with strangers in a strange land has settled into the new quasi-normal.

To celebrate the turn of the month, the Peace Corps took us to Khama Rhino Sanctuary outside of Serowe for an afternoon’s safari. Despite Botswana being a virtually people-less paradise of land and animal, rhinos are almost extinct in the country and seemingly everywhere else (something about their horns being ground into human sex dust). Thus, they are given a home of their own on several 1,000 hectares of protected bush in the middle of country, well away from the sex dust hunters. As you climb into the back of the open air truck with your 10 friends, cameras in hand, you might begin to wonder how this experience will rate compared to, say, Six Flags Great Adventure or Lion Country Safari, well, let us assure you that going on a safari in Africa is shockingly awesome. We saw a mama and baby white rhino at the watering hole, families of warthogs grazing on their knees, herds of impala with black and white stripey butts, tons of weird birds, giraffes running in the distance, and with each animal we squealed like children and hugged each other and snapped a thousand pictures. We even got to pet a black rhino and touch his horn. And we only spent a few hours in a small preserve. Camping in the big national parks where there are more elephants than people by a wide mark and lions roaring in the distance will be downright religious. If any of you are entertaining the idea of coming to Africa to see us, we will take you and it will be worth it. Guaranteed.

Last week, sensing that we might riot if we were forced to attend another class on global health or theories of international development or community assessment tools, Peace Corps let us go visit current volunteers for a couple days. We were shipped off to Good Hope, six hours south by bus. Whereas Serowe, our training village, is dotted with rolling hills, Good Hope occupies the flat lands in the country’s extreme southeast. Also, because it is now September and we are emerging from winter, our bus trip coincided with our first Botswana heat wave. The ride began as mornings do here, with cool temperatures in 50s but by the afternoon we had hit 90. Batswana (the people of Botswana, the country) have an odd habit of refusing to open any windows on a hot overcrowded bus. Add the sun beating down through the window and a man standing in your lap and you get the picture. All this to say, long bus trips in Botswana are going to take some getting used to. And possibly some ice strapped to our chests.

Moving on. In Good Hope, we stayed with Tom and Stephanie, an extremely well-adjusted couple from New Hampshire. Tom is a retired lawyer and Stephanie a clinical psychologist. Stephanie had served in the Peace Corps before, in Kenya in the 70s. They had a cozy, well-appointed two-bedroom home (water and electricity) with a DSL connection. We kid you not. Not that all was rosy. They once went for three months without water. They had to borrow it from the police station down the street. The village of Good Hope is small compared to Serowe (6,000 vs. 60,000 people) and they don’t have a grocery store or really any stores at all. They shop an hour away in Lobatse and they are two hours away from Gaborone, the capital, which they travel to once a month. A word about Gaborone: if you’re wondering where all the diamond money is in Botswana I will point you towards the shopping malls and grocery stores and restaurants of the capital. It’s truly shocking how modern and Western it is. Really, really shocking. Anything you want, you can shop for it in clean, air conditioned comfort. That being said, we wouldn’t really be able to afford to go there more than once a month. But when we do, you can get lattes and French toast and Indian food and go see a movie and drink draft beer and watch sports. Not that any of that stuff interests us.

Tom and Stephanie took us to their schools and we met their co-workers and their students and they spoiled us with greek salads and burritos and eggplant parm and chili and all the internet we could surf and on the last night we had a big party with a bunch of other volunteers and we played charades and looked at the stars. Jon can now identify Mars, Saturn, and the constellation Scorpio with very little effort. Then we rode the hot bus home. We still need more training on hot bus coping strategies. We will work on it.

Question Time!

Can we speak Setswana? Sort of! We both passed our first language exam with flying colors. Kellie is officially Intermediate-Low at Setswana and Jon is Intermediate-High.

Daily life? Much the same as last month. We have language class from 7:30 to 9:30am Monday through Friday and from 8am to Noon on Saturday. Then sessions until 5pm, after which we walk home, make dinner, take a bath, and go to sleep. When’s there time, we sit in front of public library and mooch internet or go to the bar and talk to classmates.

What about the weekends? Well, let’s see. Running on Sunday mornings. More mooching the internet. Lots of general wandering around aimlessly. Stopping in the grocery store to buy a Coke. More wandering. Going to the liquor store to buy wine or beer or another Coke. Jon drinks so much real sugar Coke but has somehow lost weight! Must be the lack of cupcakes, ice cream, Indian food, Mexican food, Asian food, bar food, and restaurants in general. Stopping in the bar near school to see if we can find any of our classmates. Wandering in the China shops (stores run by Chinese people that sell a little bit of everything including incense, electric kettles, big bags of cookies, clipper sets, fake Toms shoes called Tommies, winter coats, lingerie, jeans, pajamas, lotion, boom boxes, cell phone repair, etc.). More wandering. More stopping to buy Cokes. If anything, the weekends are a little tedious. You have free time but no money (we get $3 a day spending money!) to buy anything or go anywhere and no house to cook or start projects (garden, chickens, yoga shrine) and none of your friends have houses so you can’t visit them, either. All that will begin next month.

Is it hot? As alluded to earlier, it’s getting there. 90 during the day, 50-60 at night. Soon, though, it will be hot hot and that will last until well into 2015.

What is your favorite thing about Botswana? Kellie is really enjoying the pace of life, slowing down and taking her time. Jon is still adjusting to the pace but really likes the natural beauty of the land, the new flora and fauna, the sunsets, and the stars.

Can we get mail or packages and should we send them? We have gotten several letters. Our first package arrived the other day. And by arrived we mean the slip that indicates that we have a package arrived. We paid our 5pula20 and the actual package should come next week. Other packages should be in route. If we were you, we’d wait to send a package if you haven’t sent it already. Everything will be easier when we have a job with an address to send a package to. But by all means, write us a letter.

When do you find out where you are going to live for two years? Next Thursday. OMG. Expect another blog post soon. Until then.

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