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A Week!

Posted by on September 24, 2011

Post 4

9/22/11

We made it a week!  It’s been a week since we got here and the training is going well.  We get up at6:30each morning and get to training at8:30by a short walk and bus ride. We get back home each night around 6 or so and cook a meal for our host family, then study our language and try to sleep.

The 12” x !2” fiberfill pillows we are provided  make it very hard to sleep.  I need my old pillow.  Carol’s mom said she would send me a new down pillow.  Can’t wait!

In the mornings on our way to school, we walk past many small houses with people doing laundry or getting their kids off to the dirt paths to school.

Typical unfinished housing in our village

The kids all love to speak English and the adults all say hello as you pass them.  Greetings and formalities are very important in this culture.  So is your appearance.  Men have to wear long pants and nice shirts everyday, everywhere.  The women should have dresses below the knees, no shoulder less tops and heeled shoes.  Even when its 110 degrees out.  No shorts!  That’s tuff!

We have to iron nearly every night but we are lucky so far that our host mother has a portable washing machine.  It only washes with cold water, and seems to be broken a great deal of the time – but we will take our gratitude where we can.

Dust is everywhere and our hair is dirty and in need of a shampoo after just one short walk to the bus.  I cant imagine how their computers hold up.

The only place to get internet access is the free wi-fi at the library or one of the 4 workstations at Rob’s IT Services store.   Unfortunately, both of those places open after we start training and close just before we end, so we have no hope of using them. The class was outraged when the PC announced today in class that the wireless internet that was available (technically in their building) would not be available to us at all.  The Suggestion Box was immediately full.   Hopefully they will reconsider their policy.  That would seem reasonable.   The PC Staff has been very supportive and are in tune with our concerns and needs.   It is nice to work with the staff and I have a high comfort level with them all.  The Country Director has been here with us the whole time.  He is quite a dynamic man, and seems quite qualified for his high position.  It’s nice that he is attending to us personally and is so interested in our issues and outcomes.

I really need about 10 hours or so online so I can catch up with my banking and emails and blog and all the other real world stuff.  It’s very frustrating not being able to get stuff off my list of things to do. I have to type these posts on my laptop during the week and then copy and paste them to the blog or an email when I can connect.  It’s a very inefficient system, but at least it works.   I guess that’s all part of the cultural change I am going through.  I’m trying not to let it bother me.

We decided not to attend the funeral today since the topics at training were Security and other important stuff that we didn’t want to miss.  The PC’s utmost concern is our continued safety and they go a great distance to show it.

We got out of class a couple hours early yesterday and just about all 35 of us independently showed up at one of the bars for a beer after an internet stop at t he library or Rob’s.  It was nice to relax for just a few minutes.

Typical-Street-Scene-1

It’s fun having a 1000 lb steers walking on the sidewalks and goats eating grasses on the side of every street.  I can’t wait to check out a Safari and see some cool animals.

Typical-Street-Scene-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post  5

9/23/11

Today was a fun day. It was Friday and we spent the morning on our first Perma-garden lesson.   This is the PC’s approach to teaching gardening to local peoples with the expectations of transferring enough knowledge and motivation to the locals to keep the garden going perpetually.

PC-Permagardening-5

This may be the most visible day to day effect that the PC has here.  The PC is teaching us all that we need to know to be able to show and help locals at our permanent villages plant gardens given the agricultural environmental issues we will face.   It is interesting information and some of it could even be applied back home.

After a full morning of pick-ax’ing and shoveling through rocks and dry clay, we managed to dig up and prepare 5 50 square foot garden plots which I’m guessing we may be planting tomorrow.

PC-Permagardening-3

This is just the start of dozens more that will be done by locals and will eventually provide a substantial amount of much needed vegetables.

After the morning garden session, we went back to school covered with sweat and red dusty dirt.   I finally was allowed to wear shorts and a T-shirt.  That felt really good.  The emphasis on dress and appearance here is absurdly high when compared with the functionality of dress that most Americans are used to.

Back at school we had a quick lunch, and tried to clean up as best we could in the public bathroom, then put on our best suits for an afternoon meeting with the local Ksogi.  That is the term for the village chief.  We went to a special meeting building where town meetings are held and were introduced to the Chief.  He was very impressed with us and expressed extreme gratitude for us making the efforts we are.  The also told us he and his community would take care of us.  It was a fun meeting with lots of good questions from both sides.  During meetings it is not common for someone to take a cell phone call while in the middle of saying something.  The chief got a call and we were all put on hold for a moment or two.  I believe this has much to do with the fact that all incoming calls are free, and no one wants to ever have to make a call when they can receive one for free.

Another interesting event at the meeting was when a drunken man entered the meeting room and requested to ask some questions of us.  The chief and some of his men escorted the man outside for a moment and we were told he was not going to be allowed to speak because of his drunkenness.  However, it was pointed out that the elders had simply told him he had to leave because he didn’t have a jacket on.  They told us this is the way they deal with people.  They never want to be confrontational or rude.  However, the man came back with a jacket on.  They allowed him to speak to us – out of their need for civility.  The man simply wanted to thank us and offer his services.  So we learned, it is better to be polite than to enforce what seems as though it may be a good rule of order.

Yet another interesting observation at the meeting was that the chief and his 5 men were all dressed in their typical suits and they sat on an elevated part of the room in a row of chairs like a speaker panel in front of us.  The main assistant to the chief who was the MC for the meeting sat slouched so low on his chair that he looked like his mid back was on the chair seat.  It was so peculiar looking to see him so casual, it was almost comical.

Despite all of this, the meeting was a serious meeting, with the best of intentions and outcomes and it was truly an honor to have been invited to this, and particularly to have the chief show such interest in our mission.  In the end, the Chief was asked what message he would like us to  bring back to America.  He told us he loved Botswana and its peaceful people and peaceful ways.  He pointed out everything is resolved by conversations and never by weapons (which is slightly exaggerated based on newspaper accounts) –  and he asked us to bring the message and way of peace back to America or wherever our lives took us.

After the meetings we went home and prepared a meal for our host family.  Fried chicken using sorghum and vegetable oil.  It was pretty bad!    We are constantly humiliated by the meals we must present every night to this family.  We simply have not learned to master the ingredients and the ways of cooking without running water.  However, they still continue to request we make dinner for them each night.  They are older than us and in this culture the younger people are required to cook dinner for the elders, especially because we are to be considered as part of their family.

The food situation here is about the only real complaint we have.   If it were not for the fact that it is appropriate for us to live at the same level as our host families, we would spend our own money and have access to quite acceptable varieties of meals.  As we are heavily discouraged from doing that, we are finding that the food that the PC has provided to our host families to get us through each 2 weeks has disappeared way a head of schedule and the only remaining food is rice, sorghum, maize, samp (we don’t know what that is yet) and gigantic cabbage heads.  We already ran out of ways to make this combination of foods tasty and we still have another week to go before we get our next 2 week food delivery.  We certainly won’t starve and I’m guessing this may be all by design to prepare us for potential conditions in our permanent villages, but it’s hard to resist spending our own money for some goodies when it is readily available.

Carol’s parents are both sending packages that will contain the snacks we swore we would not request,  but the packages probably will not arrive for another month.

We don’t mean to worry anyone – I have read that it takes aerson 60 days to actually starve to death if they have water.  (Actually, John thinks it is only 14 days).

Post 6

9/24/11

Today we got to finish our garden project.  We had to dig three more beds and we planted more than 100 plants (cabbages, tomatoes, rape and onions).  It was very exhausting, and we all got filthy dirty.

PC-Permagardening-Alex-and-Caitlin

Again – everyone loved working the earth – as all PC people must do.

Today is Saturday and we were all so happy that it is only a half day of work.  Several people went home to clean up after the big dig – but not us!!!!

We went to the library to catch up with email.  Carol applied for a library card too.  She hopes to better learn the language if she can check out children’s books.

We left the library and went to the only café in town.  There were 10 PC people there eating hamburgers.  The last hamburgers they had!!!!!!!!!!!

So now we are having a few beers and sitting by the poola.   Just kidding.  There is no pool in this town but Pula is the name for the local currency.

Carol ordered the ox tail and John got the ribs.  Everyone shared a few libations before evening laundry/cooking/studying.

We are sitting in the café typing our last blog facing the prospect of cooking one more dinner with cabbage, samp and maize.  Luckily, Karyl sent us a recipe for maize – that I hope Carol can remember since we can’t print anything or pull up the email once home.  We will let you know how it goes.

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