The problem with writing these blogs is that often they are written way after the fact and many of the fun and more interesting stories are lost from my memory leaving them as somewhat dry. I try my best to write down the key points just after a trip or event so that I can share them, but more often than not, I get home exhausted and put it all off for too long.
So, this is just a chronological recount of the past couple weekends and some little adventures that Carol and I went through recently as interesting as I can make them, and if for nothing else, they will be added to our long list on this blog.
We start with a couple weekends back when a plan was made for a bunch of us PCVs to get together on the upcoming Saturday night in Gaborone (the big city!) to celebrate Carols upcoming birthday along with a couple others who have b-days around then. There were three b-day girls and a crew of 10 people or so all looking forward to a fun dinner somewhere and a night on the town. As the weekend approached, everyone watched their local bank accounts closely, waiting for the Peace Corps’ meager allowance to show up, but alas, as Friday came around, it had not. So our cell phones were flooded with text messages begging forgiveness for having to bow out of the weekend plans due to a severe lack of funds. This was not entirely unexpected and certainly understood, as we all received exactly, to the penny, the amount of money we need to eat, sleep and get to and from work. So most everyone is living literally from payment to payment, which is only made at the end of each month. It was no big deal, since Carol and I had resolved to go spend a nice evening together, anyway, regardless of company, at the 2nd best hotel in the country for her b-day. The top manager of the hotel is married to a former PCV and is very happy to please his wife by giving us all 50% discounts on the rooms, which brings it from $100 to $50 a night.
At the bus rink in Gaborone you will often see street musicians. Yes, those are
car hub caps for cymbals and the snare drum head is entirely ripped! But they jammed away regardless…
Earlier that week, we had made arrangements to visit the owner of a pottery studio on that Friday and I was going to actually throw some pots for her. For me this was very exciting because I had not thrown for over a year. Rika and her family were a delight to meet and I ended up throwing a dozen or so pots for her and getting my fix. She put us up in her very beautiful home and fed us very well. We became friends with her husband and kids and now have another fun couple in our lives. We spent the night and most of the next day there, finishing up some pots and enjoying the tortoises, snakes, dogs and wild birds along with their company. That evening Rika dropped us off at the Metcourt Hotel and Casino and we met up with our friend Abbey, a PCV who is finishing up her service in June and has a scholarship to Harvard! Also, Nelson, our Botswana taxi driver who we have come to know well and who we like very much. So the 4 of us went out for Chinese food and that was a treat! We spend the rest of the evening at the Bull and Bush Bar, dancing, playing pool and enjoying all the ex-pats and locals. That was weekend #1.
We went back to work on Monday but on Wednesday we took a long (1 ½ hours) Eastbound bus ride into Gaborone to catch an even longer (5 ½ hours) Westbound bus ride to Kang. Kang is home to another PCV friend of ours who has a very good friend, Aabrim, who owns a large Hunting Lodge next to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The CKGR is one of the world’s very best safari parks, although Aabrim’ s 20,000 acre farm borders the Southern edge of the park, and the Lions and other big game are all on the Northern part of the park. Aabrim’s family is wonderful. The three young kids are so well mannered and courteous we just could not stop complimenting them. They fed us very well and our first meal was freshly cooked Wildebeest with bacon wraps. It was incredibly good! We were there while a Father/Son paid hunting party was just finishing up their last night. So carol and I got to go out for free on a night game drive which is just where you drive around and shine a bright spot light looking for night animals for a couple hours. While this is highly illegal in the US for poaching reasons, it is a tourist attraction in Botswana while on private land. We saw some cool animals like spring hares which are these cool little critters that look like tiny kangaroos and hop all over the place. You can catch them by hand and they are pretty tame, supposedly. We also saw Honey Badgers (and yes, it’s true, they didn’t care about anything), porcupines, jackals, some strange rabbit/weasel like animal, owls, an aardwolf (which is an interesting looking ant eater), zebras and wildebeests. Aabrims’s 16 year old son was guiding us and he did a very good job as a knowledgeable, courteous, caring and professional guide. The hunters were trying to shoot the jackals with a 22 rifle with a silencer on it. They got off three shots but it was very hard to hit them while they were moving, and with the silencer I’m sure the bullet was as slow as a BB gun.
We returned to a large bon-fire and then slept in a nicely provided hut, complete with scorpions and probably all kinds of other fun co-inhabitants.
The next morning the hunters went on their final hunt at 6:30 am and invited me to go with for free too, which I gratefully accepted! They were shooting a .375 and wanted to hunt Eland, and after an hour or so we saw a heard of Eland but we could not flank them. All the herds spook easily with the truck. We saw Impala and some Kudu and tons of Zebras and Wildebeest. After a couple hours they decided to hunt Wildebeest and we came up on a heard and the hunters left the truck and ground stalked them for an hour or so. Two of us went with the truck trying to redirect the herd towards the ground hunters so we didn’t see the shot that we heard. The shooter was a 15 year old kid and he swears it was 70 yards and that he hit the animal, but his dad says it was 170. Everyone agreed they thought they heard the bullet hit. We looked for blood and found none after only 5 minutes of searching. Aabrim told us he had two good trackers who would come out later and find the dead beast. They were all very confident about this. Im not so sure it was really hit.
Then an hour later we came onto three single ones in a field that were not with aheard. When they are alone like that, they don’t run as soon as they hear a vehicle, they just stand there. So the kid got out to stalk while we drove around to flank again, and this time the kid dropped it easily. So they field dressed it and we took some pictures and loaded it in the truck. It was a pretty fun morning but not much of a “hunting” experience. Most of the hunters who come here spend tens of thousands of dollars and don’t want to go home empty handed, so killing something is an end to an expensive means. I was happy to hear that everyone was also very conscious of only shooting bulls and never shooting into a pack where a pass through could wound another one and a bunch of other decent things. The only bad part is the use of a rifle which makes it just too easy. It will be a fun challenge to shoot something with a bow when Aaron comes!
On our way back home we passed by a 20 acre corral that held some beautiful horses and a couple of white camels. The story is that one of these camels’ mother’s died during its birth and Aabrim’s family raised the camel on a bottle all of its life. This became abundantly clear as we
approached the corral with the truck from 500 yards and the camel started a full run to meet us, smiling, burping and gurgleing the whole way. It was more affectionate than most puppies and would not stop trying to lick our faces! It was pretty gross and he had very foul breath, but it was a bit fun anyway. That was our mid-week adventure.
The next day, we again took off work a bit early and hitched into Gaborone to meet up once more with Rika and throw some more pots. It was another enjoyable experience and she introduced us to two more couples in the art world; one a painter and the other an owner of a throwing school. We enjoyed all these people immensely and are starting to join a network in a world quite different from our local environment of only occasional running water and unreliable electricity. After leaving Rika’s home on Saturday morning, we set out for our friend Dana’s house at the other side of town, for a large PCV belated b-day celebration that went til late in the night. That was weekend #2.
This weekend we are travelling a short (2 hours) distance back to Kanye, the village where we did our initial Peace Corps Training. A new group of 40 PC Trainees arrived a couple weeks ago and we have been invited to speak to them about our experiences and jobs and answer questions. This was an invaluable part of our own training back in September, so we are eager to help these newbees ease their anxieties a bit. We will also go visit the older couple, Lillian and Morgan, who were our host “mom” and “dad” for two months. We have kept in touch with them, and they really value our continued contact and friendship.
On Saturday Night, one of the guys in our band has an American friend who lives in Gaborone (he’s 22 and owns his own trucking company here!) and he has offered to drive our band and it’s equipment to his house for a large house party he is having! He even offered to pay us, despite having heard our less than professional sound! This should be a great time for us.
It’s been a fun bunch of weekends and this one should be no exception!