Official Transmission: October 2014

Before we left for Botswana, we used to stalk various Peace Corps blogs trying to get a better handle on the ups and downs of life over here. We always wondered why people didn’t seem to post very much during these first 10-weeks of training. Now we understand. You’re up at 6am every day (or 5:10am if you do you yoga in your driveway to watch the sunrise and the moonset at the same time) and you’re never home until 6:30pm and you’ve got to study for language exams and prepare presentations and cook dinner for your family and wash the dishes and scrub your laundry by hand. It’s Peace Corps boot camp. We fall asleep before 9pm every night. Jon has 7 canker sores.

It’s OK, though. We are a week away from the true beginning of our journey over here. We’ve been on Peace Corps time for 10 weeks but in a matter of days time becomes ours again. We get our own home. We get to cook our own meals. We get to go to our own jobs all by our own selves. We even have our own bank accounts stocked with a cool 3600 pula each.

Most of you who check Facebook already know that we’ll be spending the next two years in Kanye. Besides having a great name, we can report the following: Kanye has a population of about 50,000 which makes it one of the biggest towns/villages in the country. It’s an hour SW of the capital (Gaborone) in the country’s extreme southeast. Kanye has a brand new shopping plaza with an outlet of the fancy South African grocery chain, Spar; a KFC; a Debonair’s Pizza; and various stores that sell cute clothes and home goods. We are told that Kanye lies on a high plain and has rolling hills. We also hear that it’s 5 degrees cooler than the rest of the country which is great because it’s already 98 every day and it’s not even summer.

But Goffbergs, you say, all of this doesn’t sound very Peace Corps. And you are right. We often think the same thing. Our home has running water and electricity and there’s a KFC down the street. It’s important to remember that Botswana is a middle-income country which means that it has infrastructure and amenities that many Peace Corps countries don’t. What is also important to keep in mind is that Botswana’s income status doesn’t change the fact that close to 1 in 4 people is HIV positive. It’s also important to keep in mind that despite the grocery stores and the KFCs, the money in Botswana is not well distributed. For every BMW squealing out of the grocery store parking lot, there are 4 shoeless kids rolling tires down the dirt road towards a one-room house they share with 6 other people. Another thing to keep in mind is that we are among the lucky ones. Many of our fellow volunteers will be living in homes without water or electricity. Some have to go as far a 4 or 5 hours to get to a grocery store or a bank.

Our jobs will put us in touch with the kind of people that need us most. And when we say jobs, we mean it. We both have two. Kellie will be teaching Guidance and Counseling at the Senior Secondary School (high school) as well as assisting the Ministry of Education’s (which she refers to as the Ministry of Information) regional educational psychologist doing behavioral/special needs assessments. Jon will be working out of the Kanye Social and Community Development Office which distributes food, clothing, and other services to the country’s most needy including orphans, the disabled, and the elderly. Jon will also be assisting at an office in a small village 20km from Kanye, called Lothlekane East.

But more about all of that soon. It hasn’t even started yet. What have we been up to these past few weeks, you ask? Making lots of friends! Despite our weird ages that make us 15 years older or 25 years younger than everyone else here, we have decided to suck it up and make friends with anyone and everyone. We are happy to report that many of our new pals will be placed close by us in Kanye. Others will be many hours bus ride away but, rest assured, we are already so dedicated to them that we will sit on the hot bus with the windows closed for a long time just to see them. Or maybe we will rent a car. Also, we have two-week training session in January so we will see them then.

We celebrated Botswana’s 48th birthday on September 30th. Those of you that are mathematically inclined may have already figured out that Botswana will turn 50 in 2016. That’s the same year that both of the Goffbergs will turn 40! Crazy. Botswana is like a weird older brother that our parents had when they were teenagers and got adopted and we only just found out about him now. But he’s cool! Whew, that could have been awkward.

We mentioned the 98 degrees. It’s getting hot! But it’s still nice in the evenings. And when we have our own place we won’t have any qualms about lying around naked and/or taking ice baths and/or sleeping on the floor and/or sleeping outside.

On Friday, they took us on a bus to Orapa Mine, the world’s largest diamond mine by volume. The world’s most valuable diamond is in Jwaneng, about an hour west of Kanye. The good folks at Debswana (a joint venture of DeBeers and the Botswana Government) showed us the big hole in the ground and the giant trucks that carry dirt. It’s a 24-7 operation that sorts 30,000 tons of dirt every day. And has for the last 42 years. Those 30,000 tons of dirt produce a hand full of usable diamonds every day. The most important take away from the visit is this: when Botswana became independent in 1966 there were 6 collage graduates and 13km of tarred road in the whole country. Diamonds started being mined at Orapa in 1971. Now in 2014, we can buy feta cheese in our grocery store. That big hole in the ground pays the bills.

Other than that, Botswana is still Botswana. The sun is out. The dust is still dusty. The sunsets are still amazing. There are cows and goats and donkeys everywhere. The children run across the street to tickle you. Everyone laughs when you speak Setswana. But they are so happy to meet you. And we are so happy to meet them. Botswana is great. So, why don’t you come have a look? You can come anytime between February 1, 2015 and July 11, 2016. That’s only a year and half of available travel time (we aren’t allowed to spend the night outside of Kanye for the first 3 and last 3 months of our time here). Pretty crazy to think about how small the window is! Send us an email if you’re seriously considering it. We can talk whens and wheres and hows. And look at the whole map: Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland. Or maybe even farther afield places like Tanzania (Zanzibar, yes!) or Ethiopia. A little birdie even told us we can get el cheap-o flights to Bangkok and Mumbai from Johannesburg. The world is our oyster. Let’s see some of it together.

Did we mention that Jon will be giving a speech at swearing in (graduation) next week? We’ll try to post a 5 second snippet if the internet will allow it. Until then.

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