Post 1 9/16/11 The trip here was quite long and a bit grueling, and the PC would not allow anyone to upgrade to Business Class for any flights for obvious reasons. However, I must say that the 16 hour flight from NY to Johannesburg, South Africa was on a brand new, HUGE plane and even the economy class was quite satisfactory. Free food, drinks, socks, movies, snacks and the seats were more than accommodating. Never the less, we all arrived after 3 days of travel completely exhausted. The PC did an excellent job of accommodating us with the first night in a high end lodge with nice rooms and great food. Yesterday we were introduced to our Host Families and we all split up and went to live with them for the next 2 1/2 months. Our host family is an older couple in their mid 60s with a 30 year old son living at home, Lillian, Morgan and Legos. I won’t bother with their last names, nor trying to show off my newly learned Setswana language skills. Lillian speaks pretty good English and we have our own room in an out building with a shared bathroom. There is hot water and electricity and although our room is very small (12′ x 14′) we have a decent bed and a couch and a small rickety mobile closet.
Our stuff is still all over the place and it probably will be so til the end, since there is no dresser or anywhere to put all our stuff. Many of the homes we have seen have one or two light bulbs, a small fridge, a small source of cold water and an out house. We are quite grateful and satisfied with our current arrangements. The PC heavily discourages us from spending our own money and from living at any higher level than our host family. This means we can not just buy many of the little conveniences we would like to have, even though they are readily available. We are paid roughly $30 per week each for the training period, but all our food and living is paid for. Extra water bottles (we are again lucky because the tap water in this country is fine to drink!), taxi rides, cell phone minutes, minor electricity costs, critical missing house furnishings such as a wall mirror, alarm clock, wall hooks, additional bath towels, curtains and lots of other little stuff are all our responsibility. Lillian and her husband are very nice.
In fact, all the people are quite friendly. Everyone waves to us and smiles and says hello as we walk by. The kids love our broken (mostly just totally wrong) Setswana language and they all giggle endlessly. It’s a fun environment. We are not allowed out after dark at all, but that is fine, as we have much to study and do for the time being. Lilian and Morgan are of the 7th Day Adventist religion and are very strict about it. There is no drinking, smoking or swearing allowed and Saturday is the 7th day, and there will be no laundry on the clothes lines on that day.
They are teaching us a little about their religion and are curious about ours. For the most part, there seems to be just about the same food here as in the states. So far, and probably the way it will be til the end, Carol and I are cooking or helping to cook all the meals. The kitchen we have is a one person kitchen (6′ x 6′). They have no running water in the kitchen at all, so clean food and cleaning dishes is scary. I have been cleaning most of our dishes in our bathroom sink with running hot water and inspecting the cooked food as best I can. As it turns out there IS fruits and vegetables in Botswana and plenty of meat and other stuff. Sorghum is the main meal that just about everyone eats every day. It is basically a grain that they prepare a few ways, but primarily like cream of wheat. It tastes awful if eaten plain. But with enough sugar and butter (they only use margarine – bummer!) it can taste like sweetened cream of wheat and is tolerable. Contrary to what I was preparing for, I will not be required to eat caterpillars and other strange foods just to stay alive or to avoid insulting someone. Also, it appears so far that no one eats kittens or puppies, although pets don’t seem to be around at all, either. Our host family wants to cook whatever we want, so we will try to prepare as healthy meals as possible. Most houses we have seen so far are one or two cement rooms with tin roofs and one or two light bulbs. However there are also nice houses with good cars. The neighbors don’t seem as segregated here as in America. The currency is the Pula and it’s roughly 7 Pula to the dollar, but food and hardware and everyday items are only slightly less than the US. It really hasn’t hit me yet that we won’t be going home after a couple of weeks of vacation in Africa. I think we are both enjoying each day more than the last and looking forward to getting through the 2 1/2 months training/acclamation period and into our own house and to work on our job assignments. The plan is to get language skills down pat and get familiar with the culture and practices of the Botswana people. It’s only been 2 days but we can see more and more that the language will be very difficult to learn. There are 36 of us in the same boat. We got to know the first names of all 34 others during our 3 days of travel. We can mostly see why they all made it through the PC two year application/filtering system. They are all people who can cope and figure out and deal with most any situation. Some of them better than others, but overall, they all seem to be good, qualified people. We will be working with all 36 of us every day, 6 days a week, 10 hours a day for the next 2 1/2 months and then the PC will split us all up and assign us to some other location in the country and we will probably only see them at the semi annual meetings. We won’t know where anyone is going until probably October 15th or so. We graduate from boot camp on 11/8/11. Then off to 24 months for our jobs. We have been issued cell phones by the PC and much to my dismay; my Droid Pro Global Phone is not working on the local system. We are 7 hours ahead of Chicago time. Please see our Contact Us section of this blog for how to call and write and email us. We hope America is continuing on ok without us. Our biggest fear was what we were leaving behind. We are very distracted here with a new, exciting life so we are happy and content at the moment and we anticipate that will only get better and better for both of us. Certainly email as much as you can. It will be nice to get emails once a week or so when we are able to connect. I don’t think Skype will work too well for now and hopefully we will have internet at our permanent home in a couple months. If not, we will have to make appointments and try our best to connect! Post 2 9/17/2011 We were given a full weekend to get to know our host families and move in and get our homes set up. It’s very nice to have this relaxing time. The PC has encouraged all the trainees to experience as many cultural events as possible such as weddings, funerals, town meetings, etc.. Yesterday we went to a funeral. Actually, it wasn’t the actual funeral. The cousin of our host Mother died a few days ago. She died in her sleep. We went with Lillian to her sisters’ house for them to mourn together. Many families here are inter-related where cousins have married cousins and therefore it seems that almost everyone is related to almost everyone else in some way. After her sister’s visit, we went to several other related folks’ houses and visited with them. The actual funeral will take place in a couple days. We are hoping the PC will allow us to take off the day from training so we can attend the funeral. Post 3 9/18/11 Today was Sunday and we were supposed to be able to sleep in late. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Malaria is a major concern in Botswana (biggest non-war killer in the world). It’s a deadly disease carried mostly by mosquitoes. Although it is very rare in the entire southern part of the country (were we are currently), when we arrived here we were issued mosquito nets for sleeping under and given a bunch of shots for Rabies and a 6 week supply of Malaria pills. We had to take a pill for each of the initial three days to build up a quick tolerance and we then go down to once a week. Some of the side effects of the drug are Insomnia, nausea, restless sleep and vivid wild dreams. So far, our sleeping has been difficult and since there are only sheer curtains on our widows, the blazing sun comes right in very early every morning. We started wearing eye masks, but the masks and the flannel sheets and the two very heavy blankets required to keep us warm at night, become very cumbersome inside the mosquito netting in the early morning heat that instantly builds up in our tiny room. We do have a decent full bed so we are grateful for that! Talk about dreams! We have both been having some wild ones in wild colors. Not quite some exotic drug trip, but a noticeable side effect.. We expected to continue setting up our house today and relax a bit before our big first day tomorrow, but that didn’t happen either. As in many cultures, families tend to spend a lot of time visiting with friends and family and neighbors. Today we met several of Lilians’ children and nephews and cousins. They came to visit us because our being here is a big event for all of them. The children were fun to play with and couldn’t get enough of the games on the Nook Marlaina bought me for this trip. We spent most of the day visiting and drinking tea. When the visit was over, I got my hands dirty for the first time. Part of our deal with the host family is to help around the house with cooking, cleaning and whatever else we can manage. Morgan used to be a farmer and rumor has it he was very good by local farmer standards. He is now retired and the family barely lives on an incredibly small government pension of some kind. They rely heavily on their garden for most of their food.
This evening I spent a couple hours pick-ax’ing through the very rocky ground to make small holes or planting spinach.
We carried 30 5-gallon buckets of dried cow dung up a tall hill to the garden and hand squished the large, barely moist chips into finer parts to put in the holes we dug. Hmmm.
We only finished about 10% of the holes so I’m looking forward to digging holes and carrying heavy buckets and hand squishing dried cow dung a lot more!