Wednesday, September 21, 2011

PC Botswana Amenities Survey

Recently Peace Corps Staff here in Botswana sent us out a survey to find out what different amenities us PCVs in Botswana in the four different project areas have. I thought I would post my answers on here so you all can see how I live. I don't have it too bad, but there are other volunteers who have better living arrangements and amenities than I do. Regardless I am happy with what I got. On days when there is no running water I just pretend I am down at the cabin on my family farm and that seems to make things a little better :) (Italicized text and links have been added in for your clarification)

Program HIV/AIDS Capacity Building Project Component: CCB (Community Capacity Builder)

  1. Do you have electricity in your house? In your village? Is it reliable?
I have electricity in my house and village and it is pretty reliable. There are power outages every once and awhile though.

  1. Where do you get your water? Is it reliable?
I have a tap in my house, which supplies cold water. I do not have a geyser (geyser is a small water heater that is mounted on the outside of the house. It is run off of electricity, so volunteers who have them usually only turn them on a little bit before they want hot water and then turn it off when they are finished bathing). During winter time it is reliable but during the summer the water in the village goes off multiple days in a week or will be on for only a few hours a day.

  1. Do you have a refrigerator? Gas powered?
I have a refrigerator and it is electric powered

  1. Do you have a stove and oven? Gas or electric?
I have a stove and oven. Both are powered by gas.

  1. Do you have cell phone coverage?  What networks are available at your site?
There is cell phone coverage. Orange, Mascom, and Bemoblie are all covered here.

  1. Do you have internet access at your site?  How do you access it?
There are two internet cafes in my village. I also have an Orange Dongle that I use for my internet.

  1. Do you pay for a dongle (for internet) or any other type of internet connection?  If yes, which provider do you use?
Yes I pay for the Orange dongle (the orange dongle is a USB stick that plugs into my computer and runs off the cell network. It has 3G+ coverage, but being that I am out in a rural village, my internet is pretty slow, some days it works well and other days not so much. It's really hit or miss. I have noticed that it seems to work better at non-peak cell usage times. I got this so I would be able to Skype and keep in touch with friends and family back at home. Going to internet cafes seemed like it would be more costly than paying for a monthly plan to have internet at my leisure. I pay for 5G a month of loaded information, which seems to be fine. I rarely go over that.)

  1. Does your workplace have internet? If yes, is it a school, NGO, clinic, dist. Office, etc,?
My workplace (clinic) does not have internet

  1. Do you have a computer?
I have a personal laptop from home. (Mines a Sony VAIO Laptop with 64-bit OS, 4G RAM, and Intel Pentium CPU P6100  @ 2.00 GHz. This is also the second laptop I have been through since being here, my first one got over heated, which fired the motherboard)

There are also 3 computers and two printers at my workplace (the clinic).

  1. Do you have a smart phone?
No (the phone I use is a very basic Nokia 1280. It's simple and durable and has a flashlight! When I go back to the states and get a phone I won't know what to do with myself when I have all the options available for phones these days haha)

  1. Are there stores in your village? Are they chain stores and do you do the majority of your shopping there?  How far do you travel to get to major grocery stores and how often do you make the trip? 
There are no stores in my village, only general dealers. I have to go to Mahalapye to shop for groceries (typically SPAR) which is 70km away.

Outside of the big General Dealer/Butcher in my village

Inside of the big General Dealer/Butcher

  1. Is your village accessible by public transportation? If not, how far are you from the nearest public transport? 
My village has a bus that goes to it pretty regularly. (There are times I do hitch, due to the fact that my bus only comes a few times a day, typically 8, 9, and 3 from Machaneng and 11, 2, 3, and 5 to Machaneng)

My bus stop..spend a lot of time here trying to hitch a ride :)
  1. How far are you from the nearest PCV?  How often do you see other PCVs?
I am 40km from the nearest PCV, but she is harder to get to than the ones that are 70km away. I see other volunteers a few times a month.

  1. Have you or do you plan to make a trip home to the US?

  1. How many visitors have you had or will you have (best estimate) from the US, family, friends, or otherwise?
My family came to visit for a few weeks (4 people).

  1. Is there anything that I’ve left off that you want to add or any additional comments about your site? 
Nope Machaneng is a nice small village that I enjoy living in for the time that I am here :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

10 years ago on this day I was sitting in Mr. Wheeler's Freshman Earth Science class. Someone came into the room and whispered something into his ear and he went over to the TV and turned on the news. The next thing I knew the classroom became very silent as we all watched then second plane fly into the second tower of the World Trade Center. As the day went on, I remember most classrooms had kept the TVs on so us students would know what was happening on that fateful day. The seriousness of the events became more evident as the news of death tolls of the innocent American citizens and more details of what was happening came through. I remember the fear of what might happen next. I remember the sadness from classmates who had family members in NYC.  I remember the brave firefighters and policemen who risked their lives to pull people out of the rubble. Most importantly I remember the way the country came together after that fateful day.

On the 10th anniversary of a such a terrible tragedy I wanted to remember and say thank you.  Thank you to the men and women who risked their lives on that day. Thank you to the men and women who volunteer to serve our country even while we are at war.  When asked, they leave their family and friends behind to ensure an attack like this never occurs again. During this day and after I will continue to think of these young men and women. I will also think about their families who also make tremendous sacrifices for our nation. I am thankful that they are out there keeping me and everyone in our beautiful nation safe. Please take some time to remember that fateful day. Have a moment of silence for those whose lives have been lost that day and since. And be proud to be an American, God bless America!

Ground Zero the summer after 9/11
"Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children. “   
- President George W. Bush, November 11, 2001

Friday, September 09, 2011


Things are starting to get warm here in Botswana. Thought I would give a list of 10 ways you can tell winter is gone and summer is upon us:
  1. The water is out in the village multiple days in the week. If the water does come back on it is only on for a few hours and usually at weird times during the day like 3am.
  2. You no longer need to boil water for baths because it's too hot for a warm bath. If you have a solar shower you only need to put it outside for an hour or two instead of all day for the water to warm up. Better yet,  you can just wash off in cold water from the tap; it's much more comfortable and a good way to cool off.
  3. Having to slather arms, chest, and neck in sunscreen before going outside or else by the end of the day you will be super burnt.
  4. Before going to bed making sure to spray yourself in a good coat of bug spray. Along with putting the mosquito net up and around the bed to prevent getting eaten alive or have the constant buzzing of mosquitoes in your ear as you are trying to sleep.
  5. Washed clothes take only a few hours to dry instead of all day.
  6. No longer hanging out inside the house, due to the fact that it is an oven trapping in heat.
  7. Now have to exercise in the mornings instead of evenings because it is cooler in the morning.
  8. All the weird creepy, crawly bugs are showing up in the house.
  9. Eating dry cereal, muesli (granola), or really anything that doesn't take heating up for dinner because turning on the oven/stove makes the house unbearable.
  10. Walking any distance outside causes you to be dripping in sweat, even if it's just to the front gate from the house.
It's going to be a long hot summer and I am already missing the cooler weather of winter time here. Maybe my next project should be mobilizing my community to build a pool??

Friday, September 02, 2011

African Snipe Hunt

You know what a snipe hunt is right? You know where you go out at night with your paper bag and a flash light and try to catch snipes. Wait what's a snipe, you say? They are these kind of birds that run around in fields and mostly near woods but they hate the light. Hence why you need a flashlight. You go to a field and sweep your flashlight back and forth so you can spot them. Then you catch them in your paper bag. It's a great past time and if you have never been on one I will take you when I get back to the states.

When my family was here we went and visited my friends Len and Marina at their farm. After eating a wonderful meal they started talking about how we were all going to load up into the Land Cruisers and catch the Botswana Baby Kangaroos. They told us to bundle up and grab some drinks. My family and I just looked at each other as we thought to ourselves are they taking us on a snipe hunt? Then Marina proceed to describe these "baby kangaroos". She said they are small, hop around, have long tails and are super cute. Once again we just thought sure they are….

Regardless of what we thought we played along with this "Baby Kangaroo" hunt and loaded up into the vehicles. So here my parents, brothers, Lennie, his cousin Dankie*, and me are all piled in the back of the cruiser with Jolandie driving. Lennie has this huge spot light that he is sweeping across the fields. After a little while they say they spot one and next thing we know Dankie is out of the vehicle running through the bush and we are chasing after him with the vehicle. I don't see what he is chasing after, but because I still think we are on a snipe hunt, I assume it's nothing. He doesn't catch anything, of course; gets back in the vehicle and we drive some more.

A few more minutes pass and once again they say they spot something. So Dankie jumps out of the vehicle and the vehicle chases after him. As we get closer, I look at where the spotlight is shining and what do I see? First I see some blue eyes. Then I see that the eyes are attached to something that is small, hopping, and has a long tail! Wait so these things really do exist??? Crazy!! Marina and the rest of them weren't pulling our legs. Once again Dankie doesn't catch it so we drive on.

At this point I am amazed that these "baby kangaroos" actually exist, but I am still a little skeptical that you can actually catch them. They hop fast and through big thorn bushes. I keep thinking there is no way you can catch one. Lennie spots one again and this time hands the spotlight over to my brother and jumps out of the vehicle to help Dankie try to catch it. After they run around for a little bit Lennie jumps into a bush and says he caught it! He brings it up close to the vehicle so we could have a look. It was the craziest looking thing ever! It looked like a rabbit but had huge hind legs, huge claws, and a long tail like a raccoon. Later I would find out that these "baby kangaroos" are actually called spring hares. I was amazed that you actually could catch one. Apparently after you catch one you are supposed to mark it by biting a little piece of it's ear off to mark it. Yummy...

For the next couple hours we drove around the farm trying to spot and catch the hares. Both my brothers tried to catch them. I would have tried but was feeling a little under the weather, so I was on spotlight duty. It was hilarious watching them run after these things. You would see them running and then disappear (because they wouldn't be in the spotlight anymore) and out of nowhere they would pop back into the light and maybe fall (because they hit a hole or a bush or something) or dive into a thorn bush. One time my brother, Dankie, and Lennie were chasing after one and all three of them tripped on something and fell at the same time. It was soo funny! They didn't end up catching another one, but we sure had a great time.

Once we got back and showered my brothers were showing off all their scrapes and scratches from diving into thorn bushes. They hadn’t dressed appropriately because we had no idea what they were taking us on. The next morning they were pretty sore and had lots of battle bruises! I was a little glad I didn't try to catch one. 

If you ever find yourself in the bush of Botswana at night and have a flashlight on you look for the Botswana Baby Kangaroo and maybe you might be quick enough to catch it!

*Lennie's cousin's real name is Heinrich. When we were out on our game drive earlier in the day Heinrich was driving. Every once in a while Lennie would yell down directions to him and then say dankie (which means thank-you in Afrikaans). My mom thought Lennie was saying "donkey" and after the 4th or 5th time of Lennie saying dankie she asked him "why do you keep calling him 'Donkey'?" So the rest of the time that’s what my family called him and it kind of stuck. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Warners Take Over Botswana!

Back at the end of June I was fortunate to have my family come to visit . When I say my family, I mean my WHOLE family;  my Mom, Dad and two Brothers. I was very excited for this trip. We started planning for it back in January. Since then I had been preparing and eagerly anticipating their arrival. Ever since I was young my family has gone on trips together. We've been a lot of places all over the US. Each trip in itself brings back many memories of camping, long car rides, seeing great sights, and experiencing awesome things. Unfortunately we haven't had a full family vacation since 2003. This has been due to me and my older brother, getting older and moving on with our lives and not really having the time or money to go on vacation with the family. But this year that would change. This year would embark the trip of a lifetime. The best family vacation ever to Botswana!

As my Mom and I planned the trip over the months, I became quiet nervous and stressed. Originally we were supposed to spend a week in Botswana and the fly up to Egypt, but because of the turmoil in Egypt the flight tickets became cancelled, and now we would be spending the entire two weeks in and around Botswana. Botswana is a great place to travel, but expensive. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer I have a little bit of inside knowledge on things to do and people to use that is a little more affordable. This meant most of the trip planning and trip booking fell into my hands. I was able to get everything booked and set to go, but was still worried things wouldn't go so smoothly. This would be the first time my family had been out of the country. My parents have been to Mexico for a cruise before, but that isn't the same as traveling on your own in a foreign country. They were going to be in for a real adventure and I was super excited to show them a little bit of what I have been doing and experiencing this past year.

I got to the airport nice and early to make sure I was there when their plane landed. Gaborone airport has had some upgraded renovations since I had been there when I landed here in Botswana back in April 2010. It was looking pretty snazzy. As I was waiting for my family's flight to arrive, I got to watch Mrs. Obama board the Air Force One. She had been to South Africa and Botswana one vacation with the two girls the past week. It was an exciting time for Botswana. It was cool to watch all the security vehicles drive out to the plane and watch the plane take off. There was much commotion in the airport during this time.

Air Force One!!!

Finally my family's plane arrived! I got up and went to the window to see them get off the plane. I was ecstatic and basically controlling myself from jumping up and down out of joy. I am sure the people around me thought I was insane. Once they came through the gate I greeted them all with big hugs and tears were shed all around. It's a weird feeling to be with someone you love after you have been away from the for soo long. They were finally here in person and our trip together was about to begin.

The family getting off the plane :)
After picking up our rented car and exchanging some of the family's money into Pula we headed to the  Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge. I had been here during training and thought it would be a cool way for my family to learn a little bit about the Botswana culture. We got there a little later than planned due to the fact that it took longer to get our vehicle, but it all worked out. On the drive there the family was surprised to see goats and other cattle life crossing the roads, even main highways, wherever and whenever they liked. They also commented on how I talk funny due to my Setswanaized English. I had to  remind myself that I was talking to Americans and not Batswana. Lol! Once at the lodge my family really enjoyed the show and had many laughs, when they were told to participate. Afterwards we were fed some traditional food which they all enjoyed. Then we were off to stay at the Mokolodi Backpackers for some much needed R & R.

Mom smashing up some mebele

Learning how to shift mebele
The next day we headed to my village. On the way my we passed a few signs that would have a picture of a tree with a bench and say 5 km. They asked what that was and I told them it was a rest stop. They thought that was interesting and sure enough the next one we came to they had to get out and take pictures. In Mahalapye we stopped for lunch and groceries. We met up with a few other volunteers in the area and once again had some traditional food. My brothers really enjoyed the huge madombi, which are steamed dumplings. Then we were off to Machaneng. I cooked them pizza the first night, which they also enjoyed. The next day I showed them around the village and we went to the preschool to play with the kids a little bit. We also went to the Primary and Jr. Secondary Schools to drop off some boxes of books from the Botswana Book Project. I also had them try some megwinya (fat cakes) which they throughly enjoyed. In the evening there was a braii at my house. I invited all the people I worked with in the village. There was tons of food, because all the people from the clinic brought traditional dishes for my family to try. In Botswana fashion all the food was gone fairly quickly. Luckily my family got to dish themselves first so they were able to try a little bit of everything, even the mopane worm! They were also very surprised and thankful for the many gifts the clinic staff got for my family. Of course they had to make speeches afterwards, which was funny to watch. My younger brother doesn't like to get up and talk in front of people but he did well.
Family with the Machaneng Clinic Staff

The rest of the family and the rest of the clinic staff

Playing with balloons at the preschool

Hanging out on the stoop

All the wonderful presents including the "Adventure Hats!"

Mmmm Mopane worms!
The next morning we drove over to Matlhako to see the library where I help out at and to deliver the rest of the books I had picked up from the Botswana Book Project. Then we headed over to Len and Marina's farm. They took us out on a couple game drives and fed us really yummy steak and potatoes. We all got to have steaming hot showers and sleep in nice warm beds.

Limpopo River

The next day we were off to Nata to see the Makgadikdadi Salt Pans. We stopped in Francistown to eat some meat pies for lunch. We got to Nata Lodge in the afternoon, just in time to get on a sunset drive out on the salt pans. The view was breath taking and we got to see soo many flamingos that were bright shades of pink! The chalets we stayed in were very nice and apparently had really hot showers, but I didn't get to enjoy it because my brothers had used up all the hot water by the time I went to shower :(

Then we were off to Kasane. My Dad had been driving this whole time, doing a very good job staying on the left side of the road. Once you get past Nata the road to Kasane becomes a little rough. This is where my Dad decided to take a break and let my older brother try to drive. He also did a very good job driving. One in Kasane we had a little trouble finding the Serendipity Self Catering Lodge we were staying at. We finally found it and checked in to our rooms. The place was gorgeous and the lady who owned it was super nice. Then we got lunch at this really good pizza place and headed out for a sunset cruise out on the Chobe River. Originally we were supposed to be going with a different guide but I couldn't get a hold of him, luckily the owner at Serendipity had some contacts for other guides and we were able to get on a cruise at last minute. We got to see lots of animals, elephants, giraffees, steenbok, impala, crocodiles, water buffalo, and hippos among other things. The sunset was beautiful and my family really enjoyed it. Once home we cooked up some food. My dad really likes how they build their "grills" here, and he kept saying he wants to build one back in the states.
Fields of sunflowers on the way up to Kasane

Serendipity Self Catering

The next day we got up bright and early to head over to see Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side. Getting through the boarder was pretty crowded and crazy but we made it. It took us a little over an hour to walk around the falls. It was still high water season so we got pretty wet but the views were great when the mist cleared. After wards we went and had a yummy lunch at the Victoria Falls Hotel. My Dad and older Brother tried crocodile meat, Mom ate some warthog meat, while I had some ostrich. My younger brother wasn't as adventurous and stuck with the chicken. After lunch we headed over to the craft market. It was pretty crazy how aggressive the stall owners are at trying to get you to buy their stuff. They like to haggle the price and trade. They wanted everything from hair ties on my wrist to the shoes off my feet. My Mom and older Brother were great at bargaining and ended up with a lot of crafts and paying very little. David even traded one of his shirts off his back for something! Once back in Kasane we headed over to the Old House Restaurant for some yummy food.
Traditional Dancers

Victoria Falls Hotel

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Huge Hippo at the Craft Market...wonder how long it took to carve that?

Disinfecting our shoes to prevent the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease
The next morning we got up and were picked up by our safari guide to start our 3 day, two night safari from Kasane to Maun. We headed through the Chobe Safari, Savuti and Moremi Game Reserves. We did a lot of driving in those 3 days but we saw a lot of animals. We got to see zebra, giraffes, impala, various antelope, lions, bat eared foxes, jackals, lions, wild dogs, and a leopard! It was a true bush experience, not your typical high end safari, but sleeping in tents and cooking over a fire. On the first night as we were waiting for dinner to be ready we heard some noise and looked across the river to see an elephant chopping on some tree limbs. It was great entertainment for the night. The second night we got to listen to some lions bark and my Dad and two Brothers all tried some Chibuku (home brewed beer made out of maize). My Dad thought it was ok, but my Brothers both said it was disgusting. 

The elephant across from our campsite

Carnage from the lions

Bush pigs

Checking out the rock paintings

Yummy Chibuku!

Once in Maun we stayed at the Old Bridge Backpackers Lodge. Got some much needed hot showers and relaxed. The next day we had a long day of driving back to Gabs. We stayed at the Big 5 Lodge, where I stayed when I first arrived to Botswana. It was a little weird being back there again probably because now I have a different perspective on things then when I first arrived in Botswana. The following day we went and petted the cheetahs at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve and saw some hyenas. Then we ate lunch and caught the new Pirates movie at the cinema. I was pretty excited to see it!

Dad had to have a picture at the Tropic Of Capricorn Line

The next morning we packed up and my family dropped me off at the bus rank before they headed to the airport. It was sad to see them go and I had to fight off tears. All in all the trip went very smoothly. We only had a few blunders but it was all part of the experience. It was great to be able to spend so much time with them and I look forward to seeing them again in 9 months. I have missed them very much and am very fortunate to have been able to share this experience with them. I know they had a good time and will always have the memories we share from this trip.

Thanks for bearing through this incredibly long post! I need to learn how to either shorten my post or break them up into multiple posts....nahhhhh! haha

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine