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Our Dusty Road
I think I wrote about this road in front of our house when we first got here. It is about a mile and as dusty as any road can be. I walk it twice a day along with 850 kids, none of whom are remotely aware of the damage being caused to their lungs. I wear a mask all the time, thanks to Rick Reckamp, but the effects are still there.
About 7 months ago I started a campaign to find out who was responsible for this road and see if they could help with this devastating problem. To keep a very long, boring, uncomfortable story about my failure after failure, short, I will just say this; I ended up spending many frustrating hours and a lot of my own money on un-returned phone calls but finally managed to get through to the right people and put enough pressure on them that they finally installed 4 speed bumps on our horrid little road. This has dramatically reduced the speed that cars travel, which in turn reduces the danger to all us pedestrians of speed and dust! Although this accomplishment may seem rather mundane, here in Botswana I rate this as one of the most significant accomplishments in my service.
Ghanzi Metal Music Festival 2013
Each year in early June, Ghanzi, Botwans is host to a music festival that brings together hundreds of young people who share a common interest. The theme of the music festival is Heavy Metal and metal music enthusiast from all over come to share a fun evening with a variety of bands performing live music while attendees dress appropriate to the theme and share camaraderie.
Along with “metal” music not being very popular in Botswana it is also quite misunderstood and misconceptions about the musicians and the followers of this type of music run wild. Many people think that Heavy Metal enthusiasts are radical, gay, violent, or drug users. It is not a common occurrence in Botswana, to see expressions of individuality that are radically outside the mainstream culture. However this brave minority, who attended these events and dress and act the parts, are just regular people, the same as anyone else. They are generally good people who just enjoy a different expression than the vast majority of others. Although they may look scary or intimidating, they are not violent or angry people and they do not use drugs or alcohol any more than any other group of like kind.
One of the main jobs of the Peace Corp Volunteers is to help people look past labels (such as thoughts that a person with HIV/AIDS must be a bad person) and treat each person fairly. Occasionally, I have taken the time to have conversations with “regular” people about what “kind” of a people like Heavy Metal music. I always enjoy the surprised looks of disbelief when I tell them I am a 52 year old man, married, educated, hard working and drug free, and I very much enjoy the loud, fast and crazy sounds of Heavy Metal music. This year 3 Peace Corps volunteers from Molepolole and several others from other villages around Botswana joined together to take advantage of this great opportunity to directly reach a prime crowd with an HIV/AIDS message.
We made arrangements with the show producers to address the crowd during the middle of the show. Carol was the MC and spoke to the excited crowd about the Peace Corps role in Botswana, which is entirely dedicated to issues related to HIV/AIDS including, treatment, prevention, and organizational support. She also addressed issues about safe sex and the importance of sexual responsibility. The Ghanzi and Molepolole District AIDS Coordinating offices provided us with many boxes of Condoms to be distributed during the event. The crowd listened intently as Carol pointed out the many Peace Corps Volunteers in the audience who were there to pass out over 1000 condoms.
After the announcements, me and my buddy Nathan went up on stage and played a guitar and drum solo for the raging crowd. They loved it and we spent the rest of the night getting compliments and listening to people telling us how much they loved it! It was great time for us!
Below are links to download videos from our fun. The first one is a short video of a local band. The second one is a long (6 minutes) video of our solos. I had to compress it to reduce its size and lost much of the quality and the audio did not record too well, but it is still fun to watch if you can manage to download them.
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Ghanzi is normally about 7 hours if you drive normal and strait through. A long way to travel for a very short one night weekend. We had met a man on a hitch hike several weeks before the event, who offered to drive us there since he was heading that way anyway. We very gratefully accepted as we recalled the 12 hour hitch hike nightmares we went through last year. However, when he showed up at our door on Friday morning with his junky old car we had doubts about it. He assured us he has never had a drop of alcohol in his whole life, nor ever even tried a cigarette and we had no choice but to believe him so we climbed in. The trip up took us over 9 hours as we stopped every hour or so for one reason or another and as he drove 80 kph (50 mph) the whole way worrying about his fragile car! Luckily, we made it safe and sound and on time. We were not so fortunate on the way back as we made it 3/4 of the way before we had to stop every 20 minutes to add water to his leaky overheating radiator. It took us more than 10 hours. Welcome to Africa.
Letlhakeng Pottery Workshop:
This past Saturday, June 8th, myself and 3 other Peace Corps Volunteers in Molepolole to went to a village about an hour away to host a one day Pottery Workshop. This was the second one I had done at this school in the past year. The last one was for 35 students and this one was aimed at the staff and other adults.
The morning session was focused on Hand Building and included a projector presentation as well as some instructional videos. Attendees had a couple of hours to get their hands full of clay as they made their own pots. After a surprisingly good lunch was served, the rest of the afternoon was devoted to Wheel Throwing. I showed some more instructional videos and pictures of my pots and then did a demonstration of wheel throwing. It was a really fun time for me and everyone was very thankful and happy to have participated.
Molepolole College of Education (MCE) Music Department:
My buddy Nathan lives about 30 minutes from us in a very small village called Mmonoko. He has no running water and must walk long distances to get anywhere. He is 26 and has played guitar all his life and is very talented. There is a College here in Molepolole, on the other side of town (read as two or three taxi rides away) that has probably the best Music Department in the whole country. Music is not at all developed or appreciated here and its virtually impossible to find musicians with interest beyond traditional extremely simple and basic cultural music. We are more than lucky to have this Music Department in our village and because I have done much computer work for the college, the Dean of the college likes me and has agreed to allow us to come twice a week and teach any interested students about guitars and drums and, in general, about rock and roll music and bands. There are 51 students in the music curriculm and very few know how to play a single instrument. Further, there are about 10 staff in the Music Department and not a one of them knows how to play a single instrument. The school teaches only theory and history but since there is no one who knows how to use the instruments, there is no hands-on teaching at all. The school has about 20 nice, modern brass instruments, most of which have never even been taken out of the very expensive cases they are in. There are 15 new acoustic guitars, 2 electric guitars, 2 new bass guitars, about 40 very expensive electric pianos, 4 large mixing boards (one of which is a $3,000 top of the line board), a very nice drum set, amplifiers, speaker stacks and lots of other musical equipment. When we first came to the school all of this was locked in the huge, very modern, completely sound proof “practice room” and most of it covered with dust. This was a band’s dream! We spent three weeks cleaning everything, organizing, repairing broken items and setting everything up the way a real band would have it. About 30 students came to a meeting we held when we were done to see who would be interested in private (FREE) lessons. As it turned out, 3 of the 30 actually pursued us and we ended up teaching a few lessons, until they eventually just lost interest. After that Nate and I invited the bassist from our old band to come and so now on Tuesday and Thursdays we enjoy a couple hours of fun playing time in this incredible studio. The pictures below show the really nice drum set, complete with 10 microphones going to that fabulous 30 channel mixer board. Note that the mics are propped up on old broken speakers, taped to broken drum sticks as boom extensions, and in general, just rigged to work. This is how we do it all here in Africa.
Top 10 Items our Friends and Family have sent us that have helped us survive better!
0) Double Bass Drum Pedal and good Drum Sticks!
1) Face Masks for the dusty road 6) Coffee Press
2) Movie Projector 7) Gorilla Glue
3) Big Screen PC Monitor 8) Listerine Mouthwash
4) Lightweight clothes 9) Knife Sharpener
5) Flannel Pajamas 10) Endless DVDs!
You are all life savers!
Our Little Spider:
The other night our dogs were barking in the yard and when i went to see why, they had cornered this little Tarantula. It was about 8 inches from tip to tip. It was night so I had a flash light and could see its white fangs displayed when the dogs got too close and it reared up in defense!
And of course, what post would be complete without some little mention of our puppies…
and last but not least, a Doggie Feast fit for a King!