Corporal Punishment

Before I post anything about Botswana law and culture in regards to corporal punishment I want to cover a few things I remember about the issue in America.

America:  When I was in grade school ( 30 years ago) teachers were allowed to give children swats with a wooden paddles.   Many of us were afraid to tell our parents we got “swats” because our parents would proceed to spank us for being bad in school.  Teachers could also make children put gum on their noses, stand in the corner, and hit other children back when hit first.

When my parents were both in Catholic schools the nuns meted out punishments that would clearly classify as abuse today.  The nuns that didn’t physically abuse the children were very comfortable humiliating or embarrassing any child they believed was behaving poorly.  This is well documented and often referred to or discussed in fond ways today (Example:  Late Night Catechism has been a running play in Chicago for at least 20 years).

When my grandparents attended school (2 of the 4 only got to go to 8th grade), children were beaten, humiliated, kicked out and treated with every sort of disrespect that can be reined on children.

These days, in Illinois, if a teacher so much as lays a hand, even in an affectionate way, as in to hug or stoke a child, they could be in trouble.  If a teacher laid a finger on a child to physically hurt or restrain the child, the teacher would be facing termination and criminal charges.  Teachers also get in trouble for humiliating or embarrassing a child.  However, I did find several maps like the one below that indicate some form a corporal punishment is still legal in about 20 states.  Many states allow for it with parental permission, which I believe is rarely provided these days.

I only mention this to show that social change often takes 25-75 years and comes in bits and spurts.  I have said many times Botswana is a young country and many of their ways remind me of life in America 50 years ago – and in many ways so do the rules and issues that deal with corporal punishment.  https://02varvara.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/00-usa-map-corporal-punishment-in-the-united-states.jpg?w=1200&h=800

Side Note:  Arguably – the words “beat” and “spank” or “paddle”  are entirely interchangeable, because using sticks, boards, open hands, or fists to hit people is a crime.  Unless it is being done to children.  It seems the majority of people in the world believe specific people, usually parents, have a right to hit children.  I hope all of us think long and hard about why we allow anyone to hit children, under any circumstances.

 

Beating in Botswana:  In Botswana, many people use the word “beating” the same way we would use the word “spanking” or “paddling” in America.  I believe the word “beating” has a much more negative and violent connotation than the word spanking or paddling.  Despite that, I will use the word beating, as it is used in this country.

In Botswana, corporal punishment is allowed under the Education Act.  However, the Act does provide a great deal of oversight and thought.  It states the only person with the power to use corporal punishment is the School Head (Principal).  The School Head can delegate his power.

This is the standard type of stick teachers carry around to whack the kids. They cut fresh ones off a near by tree once a week.

 

It further states the beating stick can only be 1 metre long and 1 cm wide.  The strokes can only be applied to hand palms and the top of the buttocks.  The strokes should not be too harsh and cannot exceed the count of five.

Finally, the Act requires that each act of corporal punishment must have a witness and must be documented including the date, offense, stick size, number of strokes, students, witness, and executer’s names.

In reality, few public schools follow this law.  Interesting, nearly all the private schools do follow the law.  (Private schools in Botswana are like private schools in the USA.  Parents who pay for their child’s education are usually more involved, as a group, in the education process and private schools usually have a more behaved and motivated student body and teachers).

There are many reasons teachers don’t follow this law including:

  • School Heads do not enforce the law.  School Heads often say it is a criminal offense and they can’t do anything about criminal acts.
  • Neither parents nor students demand accountability in regards to the law.

-Some parents come to the school and ask the teachers to beat their children more because they cannot control their own child.

– Some students ask that corporal punishment be used because they believe that is the only way to make naughty students behave.

  • Classes are overcrowded (up to 50 kids a class) and teachers don’t have the knowledge or support to manage this size of class, especially when students have very mixed levels of competence.
  • It is extremely hard to get seriously bad children out of class as there are laws that prohibit the teacher from asking the student to leave class and other laws that prevent the suspension or expulsion of children except by the actual Minister of Education.  School administrators support these rules, because it keeps rowdy or bad children in the class room instead of the “principal’s office”

In addition to the reasons above people are content to have children beaten.  The biblical saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” is referred to often.  “Children should be seen and not heard”, is also quite popular.

Respect for elders is imperative to participation in the culture.  The required respect is so encompassing that there is no room to respect children.  Children exist solely to respect and wait on elders.  Children that resist this are considered very bad.

Remember that book “It Takes A Village to Raise a Child”?  I liked the ideas in the book.  In America a child’s world is usually small, and children are lucky to have two parents taking care of them, let alone a whole village.  I thought the idea of children being watched by many and exposed to many different role models, as well as being exposed to problems that over protective parents often shelter children from, was good for the child and a potential relief for over worked and over wrought parents.

Most concepts have two sides and I have seen the uglier side of this village.  Many African’s believe all adults are responsible for all children.  Therefore any adult has a right to discipline or ask for labor from any child.  Both parents and children accept this social norm.  This concept ends up allowing an awful lot of adults to beat children who are being mildly annoying, don’t move fast enough, have a smart mouth, or just don’t look right.

At Kwena Sereto (the school where I work) most teachers believe it is necessary to beat children to keep discipline.  They often tell me the beatings are a part of African culture, that American’s don’t understand. I tell them most Americas used to believe it was ok to beat children in school too – but times have changed, and they can change too.  They disregard my personal experience and act as though it must have been an anomaly.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the teachers was handing out one of her random beatings for insolence.  She was using the right size rod and the boy got three stokes.

The Justice System:  This country has two parallel systems of justice.  One is civil and mirrors the western style court system, and the other is tribal or traditional.  People can take issues to the tribal court and if both side are not satisfied they can go to the civil court which has precedence.  Most civil or domestic issues are worked out at the tribal level.

The civil penalty for inappropriately using corporal punishment is a P50 (about $6) fine or 90 days in prison.  The law was written about 35 years ago when $6 was worth about $5,000.

The tribal court method often requires people to sincerely apologize and provide financial compensation equal to damages and all is well.

Back to the beatings:  This boy went home and complained to his parents.  He said the teacher hit his testates when she beat him.  If she did, I’m sure it was an accident, as she is not one of the wild mean teachers who tries to hurt the children.  Regardless – she hit him with a stick and he was hurt in a way that made his parents decided to take him to the hospital.  Apparently his parents don’t like the village raising their child concept either.

The boys parents went to the school head and said the boy was so badly damaged that they could not name what would be appropriate compensation.  The teacher made four or five formal apologies, made several dinners for the family, paid all the hospital bills, but they kept saying it was not enough.  The family went to the police and the police asked the family to settle “this small issue”, basically ignoring their request for justice.  The police urged the family to see that the teacher was truly sorry and had done a great deal to make things right.  The family didn’t agree.  They went through the chain of command up to the actual Minister of Education.  They called all their elected officials and went to the local newspaper.

A previous event:  A similar issue [parents being furious and going to the police after their child was slapped in the face] happened at my school two years ago.  The School Head, the MoE Regional Office and the police were involved in resolving this issue.  The teacher was eventually able to placate the family.

The first time it happened the School Head sternly lectured the teachers, reminded them they were breaking the law, told them he wouldn’t protect them if the police came for them, and finally told them he thought only bad teachers had to resort to corporal punishment.  He didn’t provide for any school punishment – just told the teachers they were on their own if they caused problems.  So the beatings continued.

Back to the Beatings:  The Ministry thinks it is a big problem that this happened twice in two years at this school.  They must know it happens every days, tens of times a day, but are only bothered that parents have complained twice.

In the face of this storm including top officials at MoE, the police, tribal courts, newspapers and elected officials, the School Head has required all teachers follow the letter of the law, which means only he can beat the children.  The teachers are stoic and at this moment are worried that as soon as the students figure out that beatings are banned the children will become entirely unmanageable and all hell will break loose.

I asked the Head of Teacher Development to consider having a workshop on classroom management.  He refused saying they had long been taught that and they should remember on their own.

I am ecstatic that children cannot be beaten now.  However, I do feel sorry for teachers who are not provided tools or support to manage huge classes of children, some of which have developmental delays, some are gifted, some cannot speak English (and English is the only allowable language in secondary schools), many don’t have any parents at home, and some don’t have enough food to eat.  On top of it all, there are a handful of truly rotten kids here that will be able to cause all sorts of mayhem when all consequences for bad behavior have been eliminated.

It will be a hard go for a while – but eventually the teachers, the administrators and the MoE will  figure out how to handle this, just as most American’s have figured out how to motivate and discipline children without vehemence.  And the world will be a little better place with a little less violence happening to children in this corner!

 

Another happy kid

Another happy kid

Happy Kids

Happy Kids

More Happy Kids

More Happy Kids

 

 

 

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Public Service Announcements – via Community Events – June 3, 2013 – by Carol

Day to Day Life

Messages:  In America,  the best way to send a message, increase social awareness, or brand a concept/gadget is through mass media using television, radio, and newspapers with ancillary outputs on social media, posters/signs, motivational talks, school text books, pamphlets and web sites.  Of course a good celebrity spokesperson on the payroll is helpful.  It costs a great deal of money to run a campaign, so a lot of effort is put into getting as much free media as possible until the message becomes a mainstream thought process and standard education presentation.  (Examples:  Smoking is bad for you.  Milk is good for you.  Bullying is bad.  Responsible sexual behavior is good for everyone).  We use community events to get the free media – but the big emphasis is on building a consistent simple message that can be heard and seen by many people as many times as possible.  A community event without the media is consider a costly and unproductive use of time and resources.

In Botswana, TV is almost never used as a way to educate.  Many people don’t have TV’s and when they do, programs are presented in multiple languages in small geographical areas and it is hard to broadcast to some of the most needy areas that speak minority languages .

Community Events are the preferred method of communication as well as the primary method to advocate for social change.  Most events require a four or five hour long program that includes many speakers, most of them dignitaries (Kgosi or chief, police, a few people from the pertinent Ministry, and a couple of people who planned the event).  There is almost always traditional dancers, and dramas (skits).  Serving tea is a minimum requirement and if tea is not served NO ONE will come.  It is very good to serve lunch too.  If you have lunch and tea you can usually guarantee a crowd or 30 or 40 people.

These events often remind me of political events in America.  The only people who want to discuss the issue or attend an event about the issue are those that know everything about the issue and are usually paid to advocate for the issue.  Other people in attendance are somehow compelled to attend through friendship or employment and don’t need or want to be educated.  The room is filled with people from the choir.

I’m not sure why the community village meeting is the most used process for education, when it is fairly clear it has a minimal effect.  I suspect one of the biggest reasons is that people from outside the community and often the country are the people who want to educate a local population and everyone is up for a community meeting when employment is high and food is low.  So many international organizations send money to help train and educate  poor people, and complicated programs are rarely enacted.  Nearly anyone can put together a 4 or 5 hour program, that includes 30 to 100 people who get two free meals.  Food is always served at these events.  A community event is something that is easy to report some basic outputs (attendance), and many outside educators/developers have given up on attempts to measure real long term outcomes (changed behavior).  It is also fairly gratifying seeing a bunch of people at a community event – until you realize these events are often a standard community get-together and not some incredible educational program one was able to pull off.

I don’t believe it is efficient, nor do I think it is the best way to spend value resources.  However, it does add some value.  Anytime a message is repeated, it becomes a little more ingrained, and people often bring their small children who may hear the message for the first time.  We PCV’s are generally good at planning community events and we often end up doing a great deal of this sort of work.  John and I have supported, attended or developed several such events  with Peace Corps volunteers in or around my community.  I thought I would post pictures of a few – they are all generally the same.

International Women’s Day:  The purpose of the event was to educate people that they can have an impact in reducing gender violence.  This event was not as structured as most and had a few games and some activities for kids to play.  However, it did have the standard skit and the speakers.  Because the event deviated from the standard agenda it was hard to get some things off the ground – and I was glad when it still started after being delayed for 3 hours.  The highlight was asking children to say what they would do to end gender violence and then have them put their hand print on a memory board to be used at future events.

 

*If you go to the actual web site and double click the pictures you can see them full size.

This is a rare treat at a community event - and the kids loved it.

This slide a rare treat at a community event – and the kids loved it.

Danielle brought face paints and painted every single child's face.

Danielle brought face paints and painted every single child’s face.

The drama - or skit that is developed to deliver the message.  This drama was about the evils of domestic violence and how to get help.

The drama – or skit that is developed to deliver the message. This drama was about the evils of domestic violence and how to get help.

The community is watching the skit and listening to the speakers

The community is watching the skit and listening to the speakers

Children make a hand print and commit to what they will do to help end domestic violence.

Children make a hand print and commit to what they will do to help end domestic violence.

Alcohol and Drug Education:  This country has a huge problem with alcohol abuse, which many believe directly effects the spread of HIV/AIDS.  A couple of years ago the country put a huge (10% – huge to them) tax levy alcoholic beverages.  Funds are distributed to schools who put in applications and one of my friends had a six hour long event with both tea and a nice lunch.  She was able to convince several of her PCV friends to stay in her village and play organized games with all the children after the event.  She also had a PCV lead a community project to paint a mural on a school wall showing the dangers of alcohol abuse.

The events often start with a march that goes from a couple of blocks to a couple of kilometers.  But no one ever lines the road to watch or cheer.  However - if one is in a car or walking by the person will usually try and find out the purpose

The events often start with a march that goes from a couple of blocks to a couple of kilometers. But no one ever lines the road to watch or cheer. However – if one is in a car or walking by, the person will usually try and find out the purpose

 

The dance

The dancers

Another drama!!!

Another drama!!!

The commuity listens/watches the event unfold under tents.  They have incredible endurance and can sit through hours and hours of presentations.

The commuity listens/watches the event unfold under tents. They have incredible endurance and can sit through hours and hours of presentations.

Dana is the PCV artist and has done murals around the country that leave a message about alcohol abuse.

Dana is the PCV artist and has done murals around the country that leave a message about alcohol abuse.

The children line up to thank  the presenters for coming to their school

The children line up to thank the presenters for coming to their school

 

GED; called BOCADOL in Botswana:  I have mentioned Springboard Humanism as an NGO (Not-for-profit) organization where I teach Commerce and English to extremely disadvantaged teens.  Springboard is a start up organization and has been trying to raise funds for the program since I got here.  The organization recently received a large grant from Barclay’s Bank and are now tutoring 16 highly motivated students to complete their secondary education classes.  When it got the grant they put together a program to highlight the needs to provide an education to each student in the country.

 

Kelone is the original founder.  She also works as a professor, teaching art at Botswana University.  She brings children from her home village to live at their home/NGO to obtain an elusive education.

Kelone is the original founder. She also works as a professor, teaching art at Botswana University. She brings children from her home village to live at her home/NGO to obtain an elusive education.

The owners are making are asking on of their first students to come talk about how their NGO is helping her meet her goals.

The owners are asking one of their first students to come talk about how their NGO is helping her meet her goals.

The traditional dancers.  Children start learning this in grade school and there are hundreds of clubs of adults who continue this tradition all their lives.  Many times older people from the crowd will get up and join in - they are always welcome on stage.

The traditional dancers. Children start learning this in grade school and there are hundreds of clubs of adults who continue this tradition all their lives. Many times older people from the crowd will get up and join in – they are always welcome on stage.

When American’s come here we all want to teach local people how to turn a grinding 6 hour long public service announcement into a fun community event for a broader audience as well as different way to learn about a message.  Eventually we learn, they will not tolerate a band, booze, movement and 5 camera’s/microphones.  A successful event is defined as one that 50 or more people attended and there was plenty of food.  We learn to sit and listen and be respectful to those who have something to say.

It is very different than how we “message” in America.  I am hoping we (P’CV’s) are adding value in tiny unseen increments to improve the message.  I also hope I am learning something about quiet and respect that benefits me and has a value when I return to America.

Time will tell.

 

 

 

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Cassie told me I would know I was overboard when I started buying them clothes – May 23, 2013 – By Carol

Walking the dogs

John is walking Rati down our dusty road.

The Dogs Again!!!!:  As most of you know John and I adopted two dogs.  We got little Rati (means Lovey in Setswana) and fell so madly in love with her that we told her sisters owner we wanted little Phoenix (we shortened to FiFi) for a year – and she gave her to us.  I never loved or needed an animal so much.

I love them:  The dogs are so easy to love.  They love me so completely and unconditionally.  When I come home after a crappy day and I want to yell or scream or cry – they won’t let me because they are so happy to see me and want my love so bad, that I have to be nice and reciprocate – and it always turns my bad feelings around.

They are also predictable, which is a comfortable thing to have in Botswana with a culture that I find hard to understand and difficult to penetrate.  Batswana people think we are crazy that we make their food, take them on walks, comb their hair, give them baths, let them in our house and sleep in our bed.  They attempt to taunt me at times and say, “Are these your BABIES ???”.  I smile broadly and affirm they are.  John and I call ourselves mommy and daddy for the dogs sake in front of all.  John Kyle was asked to accept them as his sisters while he was here.  The Batswana shake their head in despair at what they consider our insanity.  Nearly all of them pity us or think we are too lonely for words.  Animals are respected much less than children if you can fathom that.

Finally, they love me more than John.  John has always had a good way with animals and turns vicious attack dogs into lay on the back and get a belly rub from my new and best friend dogs with in two minutes of meeting every time.  But these dogs look to me as there master and John is a clear second.  It is cool to be adored over the Dog Whisper of Botswana too.

One of my more level headed PCV friends told me I was in danger of going too far with the dogs, and in fact I was on the brink of becoming a crazy dog lady.  She told me when I started buying them clothes and dressing them up – that would be the sure sign.

The Mats:  After a year, my cute little Maltese puppies (the Internet said I could call them puppies for 18 months) had to many mats for me to remove with the tools I had.  The dust, sand, animal poop, thorns, stickers and other day to day dirt

After the groomer they are clean and cute with their precision hair cut.

After the groomer they are clean and cute with their precision hair cut.

became embedded and entangled and could not be washed, combed or pulled out with my hairbrush.  Of course there are no pet stores with steal combs or mat removers.  We did our best – but it finally got ahead of us.  We spent a month planning and saving to take them to a groomer in Gaborone who said they could remove all mats for P160 or about $20 per dog.  Of course everything about getting two dogs anywhere without transportation is horrid.  But we did it.

The groomers where better than most people here, but not exactly what I would call “good with animals”.  They pulled about half the hair out as my dogs, as they mostly cried and Rati tried to bite them a few times.  The workers told me my dogs were spoiled and and threatened to quit – and I had to hold them myself as they pulled out the hair by the handfuls – and I am not exaggerating.  After five employees spent 2 hours – they there beautiful and silky for the first time!!!!

I couldn’t stand the thought of them chasing chickens through the bush and getting covered with embedded dirt that does not wash out with shampoo.

The T-Shirts:  We went to the store and bought 4 infant size T-shirt for a total of $8 to protect them from the dirt/sand/thorns/poop/twigs/stickers.  And now they are SO SO CUTE!!!!

It’s Official:  I have crossed over and I am “the crazy dog lady”.  I can hardly wait to see how my Batswana friends react to this!

 

I should have bought a red and blue  - but it is fine.  They are beautiful!

I should have bought a red and blue – but it is fine. They are beautiful!

 

Enough Said!

Enough Said!

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Books and Reading – April 17, 2013 – by Carol

Books:  Books and Reading are only starting to be valued in this culture.  This country is still young, and before it got its Independence in 1966 it was the second poorest country in the world.  There were very few schools and most people were illiterate.

Only two generations later, school is compulsory for children until 10th grade and 70% of the student population continues to finish 12th grade.  However, most of these students have illiterate grandparents and many of the parents have low literacy or no literacy.  When a person is not literate, they often don’t have any value for books – so most homes do not have books.  Few parents read to their young children or encourage their older children to independently read.

Libraries:  The Rothschild and Gates Foundations have done a phenomenal job in building very nice libraries in some villages here.  In our training village, Kanye,  the library had three rooms, organized books, a card catalogue, organized periodicals, and four computers with free internet to all library card holders.  It definitely provided value to the community and it was often full of young people when I visited.

Molepolole (population 70,000) is not so lucky.  It has a very small library with no card catalogue, no computers, and no current periodicals.  A good percent of the books have been donated by Americans and American organizations, but too many of those books are books no one liked in the first place.  The books sat in libraries unchecked for years and then were donated to Africa where they continue to never be checked out.  These old boring books are not too inspiring and do not really encourage children (or adults) to read.  Some of the books from America are good books, but too specific to American culture to be of interest or value in Botswana including things like “Life on the Mississippi”, biographies of persons such as Eleanor Roosevelt or Babe Ruth, “How to Get More Done Faster” books, old cookbooks, with food that is not available here, business books discussing development or implementation that is not here and will never be here.

Kwena Sereto Library:  My school library is nice in that it is a large clean room, with air-conditioning and about 20 bookshelves of books – maybe a couple thousand books.  But, on closer examination the books leave a little to be desired with many being old curriculum or text books from 20 or 30 years ago.  Encyclopedias from 1993.  Strangely, many of the fiction books are populist books by authors such as Robert Ludlum, Danille Steel, and Judy Collins.

Good reference books, current text books, literature, African oriented books are in short supply.  There are no computers, no card catalogue and no periodicals except newspapers which are not kept for longer than a week. While there is some organization to the way the books are filed, it is obvious that the “system” has not been followed in a good long while.

Reading:  Despite the state of most libraries and the lack of books in homes today– I see children who are growing up in a society desirous of literacy, and really enjoy reading, and are in a constant state of searching for books.  They love the same kind of books that teens in America love with an emphasis on fantasy.  When I teach English I start every Monday asking what books the kids are reading and 5 or 6 kids have a book to discuss.  Some have started talking about articles in magazines or newspapers they read because they see how much I enjoy discussing what they read.

As I have mentioned several times before, there are 6 boys living next to us, now ages 4 to 17.  Three of the four oldest enjoy reading and one in particular LOVES reading and reads most books I can find for him in a single day.  At first I did not believe that he could read that fast.  I changed my mind when I found he could thoroughly answer questions about the book.  In fact, he could get perfect scores on the Sparks Notes web page test I asked him to take when I gave him books like Treasure Island, Peter Pan, and Moby Dick.  (I keep asking this boy to request to absent father to send him to a private school, where he will be much more able to use his proficient reading skills  to get a good education, and then a good job – but it does not look likely).

There are not many books available here, but several people (especially my dad) sends books in the mail that I pass along.  Many people have donated books to the Peace Corps and I have nearly gone through their entire supply.  I also take books out of our school library – but I was scraping the bottom of the barrel and the kids, predictably, did not like the last several books I found for them.

BOTSWANA BOOK PROJECT:  botswanabookproject.org.  And then – the Botswana Book Project came!!!!!  The woman who runs the project, Pam Shelton, lived in Botswana for 11 years, worked on many incredible projects and saw an endless need for books in the country.  She started a Not-For-Profit organization called “Botswana Book Project” and she spends all year collecting books and raises about $20K to ship a cargo container full of books here.

They put all the books in one huge school gym and then we sort through them.

They put all the books in one huge school gym and then we sort through them.

The sorting has started.

The sorting has started.

As you can imagine – many PCV’s are as excited as can be and try to secure a couple hundred books for their school/village library e ery time a new shipment arrives.

It is much harder to get community buy in, to the value of this project, than you imagine.  As I said earlier – books don’t have a value to many adults.  Also, adults rarely seem to think it is important to fulfill the needs of children.  It takes an effort to get a truck and get to Gaborone, it takes hours or sometimes days to make the trip and there is the petrol costs as well as wear and tear on a vehicle – and many schools or village libraries will not cooperate by providing transport to Gaborone to get several hundred good free books.  To make it all happen, the PCV’s have to move heaven and earth!  And we do.  Because we know two things:  1)  Reading books has a transformative power. Reading a book allows readers to share a collective experience with millions of others around the world by walking in another person’s shoes and by looking  through another person’s eyes;  2) that there are not enough books to meet the needs of the young hungry minds developing here.

 

 

 

After a PCV arranges transport, it takes about 2 to 4 hours to pick out 8 boxes of appropriate books for school/village.  We have to move the books to the trucks, drive back home, unload and then unpack boxes, and finally organize them for the library.  There were text books, novels, class room reading books, comics, self-help, women’s studies, world history, black history, biography and series such as Harry Potter and Hunger Games, bibles and just everything.

Pam is pretty good about culling the books to get rid of stuff no one wants to read, or stuff that is too specific to America.  It was fun to go through everything and frustrating not to be able to take more home.

Pam Shelton and Adam Hii talking about his new school library he created withbooks from The Botswana Book Project

Pam Shelton and Adam Hii talking about his new school library he created withbooks from The Botswana Book Project

Student Teachers Help Again:  When I got the books to my school, the teachers were mildly excited, mostly just to get “something for free”.  However, we just got new student teachers, who were much more excited and asked to work with me to get the books in the library.  I am working with a student teacher to teach 30 children about library organization.  We are writing procedures for adding books, deleting books, checking books out, re-shelving books and the concepts of the Dewey Decimal System.  There will be no card catalogue – but 30 children will have a much better idea of the value of a library and how to use a library.  850 kids will have about 400 new books for reference, research and for fun!

 

I can’t sing the praises of the Botswana Book Project enough!  I would like to encourage all American’s who are interested in increasing the literacy in Botswana to check out this organizations’ web site and consider how to contribute.  When I return to America I plan to volunteer a great deal of time to this very valuable project.

The children were very excited to get BOXES of new books.

The children were very excited to get BOXES of new books.

I also want to sing the praises of the student teachers here.  I often get discouraged at the school with all the bureaucracy and demoralization.  The school seems to be hopeless at times.  However, each time the student teachers come with the new idea’s and their endless energy, I get hopeful and excited about the future again.

It was a good moment in my Peace Corps Service and it will be good hours of reading the students of Kwena Sereto.

 

 

Please consider donating time or money to this valuable project.  You can see the site for the organization here: botswanabookproject.org

I asked each to hold up a book they would like to read for this picture.

I asked each to hold up a book they would like to read for this picture.

They are organizing by subject

They are organizing by subject

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lots and lots to sort through

Just one more

Just one more

Categories: Peace Corps | 1 Comment

Cape Town, South Africa – April, 2013

It is said that Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world and it did not disappoint us.

Table Mountain Cape Town
View of Cape Town from it’s surrounding Table Mountain

The city is plenty beautiful in and of itself, but with the clear blue waters and the dramatic close up mountain ranges, it definitely qualifies as one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen.

Cape Town is one of the most visited places on the African continent and is the most Westernized city we have been to while in Africa – and it was comfortable.   It is about the same size as Chicago.   It had the same sort of amenities.  Public transportation was available and simple with buses and cabs everywhere.   There were also the  familiar Khombi’s which we have become very use to. We were pleasantly surprised about how easy it was to get around.

The City is very diverse with 20% white, 70% colored, 6% black, and 3% Asian   Most of the time, the term “colored” refers to people of mixed races, but here we were told that colored refers to the aborigines also known as the Khoi or the bushmen.  Black refers to African people who speak a Bantu language originating from Western Africa.  The Bantu black people came to Cape Town after the Europeans settled there.

While South Africa, in general, has a reputation of being very dangerous, we felt safe while there.  There is a very large “tourist area” that stretches from one side of the city to the other and there are very few safety issues within that area.  When we read the local papers it was filled with stories of crime and discontent – but it seems the people try and keep that away from the tourists.  And these days when we go on vacation we want to do the tourist stuff – we have enough of the authentic Africa life already.

We stayed at a Backpackers Lodge near the Waterfront.  Backpackers Lodges are a globally known type of lodging that cater very specifically to travelers who travel light and have little money and few material needs.  We had a decent private room for about half the cost of a three star hotel.

Waterfront is one of the most popular parts of Cape Town and is similar to Navy Pier of Chicago or the harbor/tourist area of any large city. It still serves as a harbor with tons of cargo ships, cranes, and wharf like activity – but they have somehow transformed something that is almost always dirty and grimy into a great tourist attraction   I think it helps that the bay is surrounded by mountains that are rarely found directly on seashores.  There are tons of great restaurants  bars, shopping, art centers, water sports, boat rides, luxury hotels and other fun stuff.  The McDonald’s there was very upscale with a separate coffee bar and desert bar.  We split a fun meal and ate in leather chairs while we watched other patrons use the free wi-fi or watch a big screen TV.  It was one of the best McDonald’s we had ever seen or eaten at.

(Click any Image to Enlarge)

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At the Waterfront

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Waterfront Harbor Hotels and Condos

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The Giant Ferris Wheel on the Waterfront

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The Harbor from the top of the Ferris Wheel

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One of Many Harbor Cranes

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Dry Dock for Ship Repair and Cleaning

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Only 13,662 Kilometers from home!

 

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Seals on the docs everywhere.

 

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Carol the Warrior Queen

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Skins and things in a shop

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Cool mounts in a shop

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Zebra Mounts everywhere!

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Old ancient art

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The Wall of Voodoo

 

Very cool rug!

Very cool rug!

 

This is just for Aaron and Eve

This is just for Aaron and Eve

 

The other large activity area is Long Street, where many bars, restaurants  clubs, shopping and other fun stuff occurs.  We enjoyed a Thai massage, hookah bar, dancing and live music along with a few nice desserts, as well as some good live music. During the day Long Street had nice shopping as well as cheap good souvenir places too.  However, we found we are getting a little to old for the late night revelry of downtown strips and ended up spending many of our nights at the movie theater – which is also a treat for us.

City Tours – The first activity that we like to do on a vacation is to take a City Tour.  This may sound dry and action-less, however it is a great way to start planning your options for the rest of the trip and we have invariable enjoyed the tours.  Our bus tour was way cool.   They used ultra modern, brand new state of the art buses with built in audio jacks at each seat and a really great map showing the stops for the Jump On/Jump Off system.  The buses ran every 20 minutes so it was easy to stop and see an attraction for a couple hours then continue to the others.  Our first stop was at a Bird and Monkey Sanctuary, which had many other animals as well.  It was quite cool and some of the birds were strikingly beautiful.  Our favorite bird was the Rati Chicken,  so named, by us, because it was fluffy and white like our little puppy that we missed so badly the entire week.  The little monkeys were all over the place, very friendly and seemed quite accustomed to searching peoples pockets for food scraps and car keys. The owls were quite amazing, but the most incredible one was a particularlygiant (3 feet tall) owl that just sat on the railing and dared everyone to pet it.

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Click to see Carol waiving!

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Very cool Sanctuary

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Bright Birds

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Brilliant Sharp Colors

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Jack the Jackal

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A Honey Badger just for Bradley!

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Love Birds

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The Rati Chicken!

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Stealing from John’s pocket!

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Making up to Carol

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A Stare Down!

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This is alive!

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A bit unnerving!

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Porcupine

 

 

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Cute Gorilla!

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They called this a money  – but I’m not so sure!

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The Owls were cool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This baboon cage had 3 or 4 baboons inside that appeared to have a serious case of butt cancer.   We could not imagine how that could be normal.  Check out the video.

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You Gotta See the Video!

 

 

 

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Shanty Town – Our next stop off the bus was at a Shanty-Town, officially referred to as a Township Settlement.  During Apartheid  the South African government required all ethnic groups to live in in segregated townships.  Most of the townships outside the white provinces were very poor and usually built of corrugated steel, or sometimes only oiled cardboard.  Most of the townships did not have running water or electricity.  Now people are free to move around, but most don’t have money for land and a house and it seems some of the people have found ways to make peace with the poverty type living in the township, and enjoy the commerodery of the place.  The government has been slowly putting electricity in each of the townships and you can see huge electric poles with dozens of wires dangling down to the houses.  Running water is available at a shared standpipe relatively close to the house in almost all cases and most of the time water is available directly in the homes.

Some of the shanty towns looked horrible as we were driving by – they seemed to go on for miles and they would be ringed by outhouses – meaning there was probably no flush toilets in the 1000’s of homes.  Some of the townships have opened their community to the public for a couple of reasons.  They want everyone to be able to see what is like to live there and secondly – they can generate income by providing tours.  The City Tour took us to a small township where some work had been done to build real homes.  There is a system to give the original residents of the township the new homes, which were about 2500 sf, with water, electricity, glass windows, and a yard.  Residents are being provided the houses for free – but the progress is very slow and only about 5% of the people have houses now.

While the neighborhood and the houses all look very poor – the people didn’t actually look poor.  Most had nice clothes, some had cars, a few were fat and none looked staving.

Mostly, it felt weird to be walking around looking at how people lived in these townships.  It was all white people touring the black township.  It felt even weirder when children would run out and hug us and shout “Hello!  How are you?  I am fine.”  I had a bad feeling about doing this and it sort of seemed like the people were on display at a zoo.  We didn’t know how to act like normal people when we were really just tourists, seeing a living condition that we believed most of the residents thought of as a bad way to live.

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Tourist Shanty-Town

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Shanty-Town Houses

 

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The citizens of the shanty town use the same washing machine as most Peace Corps volunteers

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You can see the beautiful suburbs between the shantytown and the mountain.

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Barber and Computer Repair!  A typical business in  the Shantytown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Tour – Many of you know some of best rated wines in the world come from South Africa.  Wine tours are advertised everywhere and there are literally hundreds of huge wine estates that can be seen covering the bases of all the surrounding mountains.  Not only do they advertise the great wines – but also the history of each vineyard  most of which have been around for a couple hundred years.  Of course the wine estates are also beautiful. The next day we went on a Wine Tour.

Riian was our guide, and he knew so much about wines!  His tour was fun and interesting.  He also did a great job at keeping us engaged and even required that we play musical chairs in the tour van to encourage us to meet the other tourists, and had a little quiz for us at the end of the day.

We went to 5 wine estates, which felt like a bit much, but maybe just because the tour started an hour late and we were trying to catch up all day.   At each estate we tasted at least 6 wines and our late start seemed to be forcing us to go to faster than we would have liked. There was no lingering, leisurely sipping, or lollygagging over the breathtaking views.  There was a great deal of spitting (recommended) or pouring out (for tourists) of wine tastes because we didn’t have time to linger.  The good side to this was that we really felt like we were wine tasting, instead of drinking.

At the second estate they had great cheeses to pair with the wines, but again due to time constraints we only got a minimal explanation of the specific complimenting of the wines and cheeses.   Despite the spitting and pouring, we were also getting kind of buzzed at this point.

Lunch was on another very nice wine estate and was quite good.  They had a bunch of weird animals like little kangaroo’s (wallabies), turtles, pot belly pigs, and other fun little creatures.  This place served us a couple of estate wines with the special lunch as well.

The last estate was pretty cool.  They are a very small operation and they don’t sell their wine on the market; just at their vineyard.  The wines had been aged for 8 years or so and were very good.  The vineyard sold at cost, because they just wanted us to enjoy good wine with them.  They make most of their money selling grapes to winemakers instead of selling aged good bottles of wine.

The next time you go to the liquor store check for the Goats Will Roam wine.  We were at the estate that makes that wine, and guess what?  Goat do roam there.  The estate had a turret with stairs and a window, which goats climbed and then took in the view of the estate – just like what you see on the label.  We got a picture to prove the place really exists.  It was wild watching the goat climb the steps up the turret.

Riian also had us taste some brandy and coke, the supposed “drink of South Africa” – which was not as bad as it sounds.

Our last stop was a bar/restaurant where we had a nice dinner. It was a great day and so we called it another great night.

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Cool old goat!

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Goat in his Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Market Day – Our PCV friend, Lynn, had told us about a market in the downtown area called Biscuit Street Market and she said we absolutely should not miss it.  It was GREAT – like one of the best Farmers Markets we had ever been too – but with way more emphasis on cooking than selling fresh vegetables.   They had arts and crafts, fresh flowers, micro brew beers, and huge impressive amounts of foods cooked on BBQ  ovens, huge massive pots, and anything else you can imagine people cooking on/in.  We ended up eating mushrooms on a stick and Asian dumplings with a micro-brew beer.  It was a great afternoon.

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Beautiful Flowers

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Paella for a King and Queen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chopper Ride – Contrary to what its name implies, Cape Town is not really on the very Southern tip of the continent.  It’s about 50 miles North, on the West Coast.

Out next adventure was a Helicopter ride that went half way down the peninsula and back on the other side.  It also started on the Waterfront, our Cape Town headquarters.  It was so interesting to see everything from the air.  The entire area  looks so small and navigable from the air.  On our bus tour we had driven past a three block long public pool right on the ocean front in one of the rich neighborhoods.  The pool had looked huge.  The people living there needed the pool, because it is too cold to swim in the ocean most of the year.  From the air, the three block long pool looked so small.  It was a very interesting new perspective.

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Nice to get back in the air!

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Carol is Co-Pilot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invalid download ID.  Invalid download ID.  –  Take Off

Invalid download ID.  Invalid download ID.  –  The City

Invalid download ID.  Invalid download ID.  –  Pretty Good

Invalid download ID.  Invalid download ID.  –  (This one is long and a bit boring!)

Invalid download ID.  Invalid download ID.  –  Coming in for Landing

 

Beer Tour and Rugby Game –  We had been on a beer tour of  The SAB (South African Brewery – the largest brewery in the entire world.  They own Peroni, Fosters, Grolsch, Heineken and Miller among other beers!) in Johannesburg , but it was more of a museum and was primarily about the history of beer and the role of beer in world wide cultures.  This SAB tour was of an actual operating beer plant and we got to see the beer being brewed and bottled.  It was mesmerizing and completely fascinating to see the mechanics of the whole thing.  The plant was one of the original plants that could produce about 10 cases a beer a week 150 years ago.  Today they are producing 100,000 cases of beer a week.  You can’t believe how much that is until you see it – and it then it boggles the mind.  Funny note – that the forklift operators are some of the highest paid and most important persons in the production line!

The other couple on our tour was from Austria.  Our group was comprised of South Africans, Austrians, and Americans – all able to talk in a shared language!  It is very cool when people with different cultures, different counties, different parts of the world can sit down and fluently discuss ideas in a shared language.

After the tour we went to a bar where we “paired” sausages with beers and talked about it the way that people talk about wines and cheeses.  We came up with the brilliant idea of starting a Beer and Meat Pairing Tour Company in Chicago!  It seems like a natural business in Chicago – to take  beer loving customers and teach them to eat the right meats with the right beers!  What could be more perfect in Chicago.

The last place we stopped was at the Waterfront for a beer in the oldest tavern in Africa.  We discussed our ideas with our guide, Lawrence who gave us a great deal of encouragement.  As we assured him that we thought he had the best tour ever – he assured us that we were the best customers he ever had as well and we all paired another beer with some Kudu pizza.

Lawrence also invited us to see a Rugby game being played later that week.  In many ways it was the same as an American sporting event.  It was in the giant stadium, with thousands of people wearing silly hats.  Security was sort of the same, as they were patting down all the attendees, but they never bothered to check our hand bags.  Tickets were only about $10 for pretty decent seats.  Drinking was limited to the bar area only as a punishment to the fans because there had been a brawl the week before.  We couldn’t imagine that would be tolerated in America. I considered going and getting a drink, but the line looked too intimidating.   There were at least 200 people shoulder to shoulder with no escape route if a fire broke out.  We would not have understood one thing about the game except Lawrence was describing the rules play by play.  So we understood about 10% of the game.  It was unique and we were really glad to go with someone who took so much time help us enjoy the whole thing.

We will never understand this game!

We will never understand this game!

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The Cape Of Good Hope – Our next adventure was a Peninsula Tour.  Another small tour with an Ostrich Farm,  a Penguin Colony, the Botanical Gardens and some really awesome sightseeing.

Our guide was a bit boring and left many quiet times during the tour that we thought should have been filled with facts and trivia.   However, even those annoyances could not take away from how cool the Cape and all its views were.

We stopped at the local Ostrich farm at Carol’s request.  It was nice for them to stop because she asked.  We got to feed the ostrich’s and they bit our hands pretty hard.  We saw the little babies too which are all gray and not that cute as far as babies go.  The next stop was a huge art shop with 1000’s of cool wood and sand stone carvings.

Our next stop was the actual Cape of Good Hope – which we found out is not the furthest point south –  it is the furthest point south west (advertising!!!).  Our guide was concerned about a fog that looked very far away on the ocean to us.  We bought the tickets to ride the cable car to the light house and back and we got there just in time to enjoy beautiful scenes with bright sunshine and warm winds while we witnessed the  a Fog Wall roll in which covered the entire area in a matter of minutes and dropped temps by 20 degrees.  Pretty cool!

At the bottom we visited the waters edge, where the Atlantic and the Indian oceans meet, and Carol and I both stuck our fingers in the very cold water.

The last stop was the Botanical Gardens.  The Chicago and the St. Louis gardens are both much more pretty with much more variety, but the backdrop of the sheer cliffs of Table Mountain jettisons this garden into the top 5 in the world.

The tours bus continued down the coast and we saw where the really rich lived and, just like all rich people neighborhoods,  it was a totally over the top.  Again, the ocean was beautiful, but you can’t really swim in it.  Great White sharks are everywhere and its very very cold all year round.  They have lookout points on the high cliffs where a little man puts out a green flag if no sharks are observed, and then a red one if there are sharks.   Not sure I would like to rely on that system!

Many homes had little elevators that took them from the road to their front doors because the homes were built into the mountain side and the angles to the front door were extreme.  The homes were huge, but it was hard to separate out a house from a hotel or vacation place.

Again, it was the end of the day and we were fairly tired as we pulled in to – guess where?   You guessed it!  The Waterfront.  We saw a couple movies, ate some more Sushi and seafood and called it a night.

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The 12 Apostles (Peaks)

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JM’s new Friends

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No Swimming due to Great Whites

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We hiked way up!

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That’s where we hiked to!

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Great Views

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Standing near the bottom of the Continent!

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Touching the Indian and Atlantic Oceans!

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Tasting the salt from both oceans

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Local Eland

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These things are sooo cute!

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A colony of Penguins

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Showing us how he can talk

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Backdrop of the Botonical Gardens

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Awesome Gardens

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One of many beautiful Cape Inlets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table Mountain – We had unknowingly saved the best for last.  Table Mountain is probably the biggest tour attraction in Cape Town.  The city is surrounded by mountains with Table Mountain being the closest, biggest and coolest.  It is flat on top (ergo Table) and many times has what the locals affectionately refer to as the Table Cloth.  It is a thick layer of fog that hugs the top and comes part way down the sides and looks very cool.  They told us that Table Mountain is actually 6 times older that the Himalayan Mountains! Hmmmm.

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The scene from the top of Table Mountain

Our trip to Table Top was awesome.  It was overcast and a bit chilly, but the views were well worth it.  We saw these funny little rabbit-looking  animals, the coast, the mountains, and felt the sun and the wind.  There were well marked paths and it was easy to walk and we felt like we were on top of the world.   It was cool and the wind was blowing hard, and now we had actually seen everything.  We saw the mountain from the air, from the ground, from the Ferris wheel, from a bus, from a van, in many pictures and now from the top, itself.

We went back to our Cape Town Headquarter: The Waterfront, but could not get tickets to Robben Island, (where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner for about 18 years) which once again made us wonder why we didn’t think this through instead of just believing the 24 year old at the front desk of a cheap backpackers when he told us we didn’t need to book ahead because it was low season.  We did watch some documentary film in the museum, which we thought was a decent replacement for the actual tour.  At least we have a reason to return to Cape Town now.

We considered ending the night with movies for the third time, but thought that didn’t seem right while on vacation, so we went back to the backpackers lodge.  It turned out to be  movie night there too!  At least they were showing a good movie called In Burgess.  It was better than the theaters and it was much cheaper too.

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Taking the cable car to the top

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Resting near the edge

 

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Some Dare-Devils

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These critters were everywhere!

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Quick shot of the two of us

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Beautiful overlook

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Wish we could have seen a sunset from here

Stunning Views

Stunning Views

 

 

 

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The coast was very pretty too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We knew that while on the continent of Africa, we could not miss visiting Cape Town.   It was a good idea and will add value to our memories and our list of places we have visited in our lifetimes.  If you can take the 18 – 25 hour plane ride, depending where in America you are coming from – it is well worth the visit.

Categories: Peace Corps | Leave a comment

Health Care – May 9, 2013 by Carol

Healthcare:  Health care in Botswana is very different than America.  (Although I admit I don’t know what is going on with National Health Care in the USA now).  In Botswana health care is free for everyone, which is exceptionally important in a country where 25 to 35 per cent of the population has infectious and potentially fatal diseases, namely HIV-AIDS.  HIV can be treated over the course of a lifetime, but only with regular access to healthcare.  If one has HIV/AIDS they are also significantly more prone to get pneumonia, TB, skin rashes, and a host of other health problems over the course of their lives, which also requires regular access to healthcare for treatment.

There are major hospitals in all the “big” villages or towns (about 8) and fewer private hospitals.  The leaders of the country have gone to considerable expense building health clinics or health posts in nearly every village with more than a 1000 people. Mobile health stations are also available in smaller villages.  All of these health clinics and posts have nurses and most have a doctor on a somewhat regular, although not always often basis, as well.  It is a considerable accomplishment and testament regarding the Government’s commitment to the people to provide this level of care for free.

I know it doesn’t have to go this far – but this would be better than everyone at your office and all of your family knowing about health issues you don’t want discussed

Privacy:  It does not exist here.  There are laws, and administrative procedures that are supposed to protect each person’s right to privacy that are nearly identical to what we have in America.  However, as we all know, just because there is a law doesn’t mean the majority follows it.  In America many people do not follow the laws about marijuana, seat belts, insider trading, etc…

 

At my school and other PCV’s schools, if a teachers or administrator knows a child has HIV it is discussed widely in hushed tones, with a general idea that it is being discussed for the overall good of the child.  Even if that were true – it is completely unethical.  And – I rarely see any good come of it.

Any time any of the PCV’s gets sick the rumor mill gins up quickly, with what I speculate is 80% volunteers and 20% PC staff speaking out of turn.  In at least one case the PC doctor told me one of our friends was in the hospital.  I can’t tell you how many times our health care providers have talked to John and I about each other’s conditions or state of health.  Honestly, that is often convenient – but if I was dealing with something I didn’t want my husband or family to know about it would be an outrage.  The way it is here now, I can’t trust that anything about my health will be kept confidential.

Doctors and Nurses: Botswana opened its first medical school a couple of years ago, and it is not yet accredited.  Almost all of the doctors in the country are from other counties.

Additionally, doctors and nurses at public institutions are considered government employees.  So, overseas medical doctors are coming here for government wage jobs, which is often a better alternative than the war or civil turmoil they deal with in their own countries.  There are many doctors from Cuba – who don’t deal with war or civil unrest, but do probably earn better wages here.

I have come to realize that the majority of Americans (or a least the majority of American’s in my circle of life) think of life almost entirely in terms of money, and that may not be the best way to measure ability, achievement, and overall life success.  But, I have not yet come to fully understand other ways to measure ability.  I still think, 95% of the time, the person getting paid the most money is likely to have the most skill (I am excluding Political and political connections).  Accordingly, in my mind, these overseas, government wage paid doctors and nurses are likely to be middle of the road doctors and not the very best doctors.

Costs:  If or when a person wants to use private health care, the costs must be paid up front.  The PC almost always sends us to private doctors and I believe the costs are very low.  A CAT scan costs about $100.  Teeth cleaning and check-up is $60.  A visit to a specialist about $30.  Medication is reasonably priced, although you can never get name brands and when I look up the medications on the Internet, they are often obscure and on occasion it is stated that the medication is no longer used.

The Wait:  If you use the free medical care, the lines are exceptionally long and one will often have to come back the next day, but you get to move to the front of the queue (line) if you were there the day before.  If you have the money to get private health care you can usually make an appointment and even get tests and results back in one day.  That in itself makes the expense worth it if you have the funds.  But private health care providers are sticklers and make each person pay up-front before any visit or procedures can take place.

Record Keeping:  Another weird thing.  People are expected to keep all their health records with them at all times and bring the records to any and all appointments and doctors’ visits.  I think this happens for a couple of reasons.  It is rare to see record keeping systems here and the lack of internet or any inter connectivity precludes centralized data.   On occasion, you can find things organized very well, but that is because the person doing the record keeping at that time is responsible.  There are no systems.

Level of Care:  These medical providers also move around often as new ones are assigned to the most rural of rural areas and everyone is constantly trying to transfer to a better place.  So, doctors and nurses constantly change making it less likely to get consistent good care.

I also sense that day to day health care does not exceed a level of care I would expect for a GP in a small town about 50 years ago.  While I am sure the PC would say I was overstating this, the Organization regularly sends us to South Africa for what many of us would consider routine procedures or reviews.  There are some issues that come up within our small group of PCV’s including wrong diagnosis, too long to get to diagnosis and poor treatment options.   That being said, most of us have a fair amount of confidence in the PC medical team – by Botswana standards.

 

I often feel like the best thing to do is avoid medical treatment unless it is simple or absolutely necessary.  Anything that seems like it can be put off until I return to the States should be put off.

Carol’s Health Care:  Before I came here my asthma was pretty bad.  Maybe because I lived with Mr B. (our Feline) and Timber (our Canine).  Maybe because the bedroom was carpeted and filled with animal dander.  Maybe it was because I lived on the boarder of a forest preserve that had many trees, grasses, flowers and other allergy causing problems.  Maybe because the basement leaked and often had traces of mold and mildew.

 

I read in Yahoo News Scarlett Johansson is a celebrity mouth breather. It have learned it is one of several things we have in common.

I was relieved of asthma when I arrived in Africa.  It was a moment of nose breathing joy.  However, I got a new allergy that affects my sinuses and breathing. It’s probably dust.  There is more dust in the air than on the ground and many people seems to have respiratory problems.  I seem to be destine to struggle for breath my entire life in one form or another.  I must admit I am now and probably always will be a mouth breather.

To me, sinus problems fall under the “minor health issue” category.  I have asked for and received a great deal of medication from our medical office to treat this problem with almost no results.  I have asked for Afrin and Sudafed from the USA – which always worked like magic there.  While the Afrin works, it is not supposed to be used with the steroid I have been prescribed – so I don’t use it.  The Sudafed is completely useless here.

While I couldn’t fix the problem, I felt lucky that it was a respiratory problem since I was used to breathing difficulties.

However, John, was not used to any such problems.  Not only was he concerned for my health, he did not like his sleep being interrupted by my inability to breath and starts and stops through the night.

Eventually, John couldn’t take hearing the struggle to breathe though out the night any longer and he called the medical office and gave a much more detailed and freighting description of my problem than I ever did.

This pile size can represent a two hour long movie.  Very gross!

This pile size can represent a two hour long movie. Very gross!

I decided to go to the suggested Ear Nose and Throat specialist because it does get tiring to work so hard to breathe, the massive amount of tissues per day was gross and I felt sorry for John.

I took the 1.5 hours bus ride to the doctor.  He took a look and declared it “very bad”.  He sucked congestion out, asked a few questions and said it was probably dust allergies.  He gave me an injection in each nostril.  He asked if the Peace Corps would pay for a CAT scan.  They would.

I went down the hall, had the scan and was told to come back three hours later.

Findings:  The doctor confirmed that the CAT scan results indeed indicated the situation was “bad”.

Treatment: In addition to the two injections in my nose, I was given antibiotics, steroid nasal spray, and an antihistamine.

Future:  I have been on medication for about two weeks – and I am glad to report I can breathe through my nose about half the time!  I will go back to the capital next week to see if this appears to be permanent or not.

I know this doesn’t really have to do with healthcare – but it is too funny! Poor Piggy!

We are extra vigilant and diligent in avoiding accidents and exposing ourselves to sickness of any kind.  We have been very lucky so far to not have had any serious accidents or illnesses and we will continue to maintain that the best thing to do is just to never get sick.

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April 18, 2013 – The Hardest Part – by Carol

My Grandmother, who I love as much as any grandchild ever loved a grandma, died today.

89th Brithday!  Isn't she beautiful!

89th Brithday! Isn’t she beautiful!

She just turned 93, and was failing, and really didn’t like living anymore.  We knew she was about to die for the last two weeks and my mother has been sitting with her as much as humanly possible. She died this morning in her sleep with my mother at her side.  My mom told me she whispered to her that I was there in spirit. I knew when I left for Africa, gram would probably die while I was gone, and I made sure we had a good and meaningful good-bye with her.  However, it isn’t the same as being by her side and holding her hand and letting her know she lived a good life and many people loved her, in particularly me – and I wanted to be there and hold her hand, and I wanted her to feel the love she had earned her whole life.  I wanted to hug my mother while we told each other it was for the best.  I want to talk about all the awesome times we had with gram with my brothers and my cousins.  I want to talk about her life with my aunts and uncles. I miss my family now!

I made her this homemade card for her 90th birthday.

I made her this homemade card for her 90th birthday.

Living in Africa, makes all travel hard.  Being a Peace Corps Volunteer makes all travel expensive.  Living in the world is unpredictable and even when I tried to make plans, I couldn’t know when would be the best time, or the most right time.  And I gave up trying telling myself it would be ok – I had my good-bye. Now it doesn’t feel ok.  I wish I had magical ruby slippers.

One of the last times I saw her at my going away party.  She was always there for me.

One of the last times I saw her at my going away party. She was always there for me.

Dorothy Birchler Shevlin was undoubtedly one of the best things that ever happened in my life. Godspeed and all my and all of John’s love, my dearest Grandma.

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Another Miscellaneous Post

I couldn’t resist this fun picture of Roti after she swallowed a whole chicken!

Roti eating a Chicken Leg

 

 

Also, notice that we now have a link at the top of the site to our Video Gallery

where you can download any of our videos for easier viewing!

 

 

 

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John Kyle Comes to Africa!

John Kyle showed up at the Gaborone Airport on Monday, March 4th, 2013.  It was his first visit to southern Africa and our first visitor from the states.  He was staying with us for a week and we were going to show him a bit of our daily lives and how we are living over here in Africa.

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One of the nice things about him coming was that while a PCV is on official leave, we are allowed to drive.   Our American friends Ben and Rita were in Malta for a few weeks and we agreed to watch their really nice house with the swimming pool and their 4 dogs, kind of in exchange for using their car for a week.  So I got to drive all over town and use the car to run errands and other fun things that we could never do otherwise.

We picked JK up at the airport and took him around town showing him our offices, schools, bus routes, shopping areas and all the other stuff that we thought would give him a little taste of our local lives here.

Our house and our village and our lives in general are significantly easier and more pleasant that the vast majority of our PCV counterparts.  Our village has 5 grocery stores, 8 hardware stores and is generally considered quite advanced for Africa.  We have consistent running water and electricity, whereas most of the other PCVs do not.

So, to be quite sure that he did not leave here thinking that the Peace Corps was all more like a 2 ½ year summer camp in Michigan, we arranged for him to spend a couple days with one of our good friends, Supriya.  She lives in a very small remote village about 45 minutes away with no running water and electricity that is off more than it is on.

My mom had sent me a few hundred US dollars a while back and asked that it be used to buy clothing and shoes for the endless number of children in need.  This was a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so we met Supriya in our village and took my mom’s money and went shopping.  We bought a car full of all kinds of clothing and shoes for kids and drove it up to her village, where we were greeted by the 580 kids at her school, all anxiously awaiting our special arrival.  We had decided to take our two little dogs with us too, and when the kids saw the dogs it was pandemonium.  They were captivated and drawn to the dogs with excitement while at the same time afraid of getting too close.

(Click to Enlarge any Picture, and dont miss downloading the Videos in the Blue Boxes!)

Surrounded by Kids at Supriya's Village

Surrounded by Kids at Supriya’s Village

 

We dropped off all the clothing and John Kyle and made sure he had some money, a cell phone and some emergency numbers and bid him fare well for the next 24 hours.  The next day, after helping to hand out the clothing and shoes to many overly excited children, he managed to make his way back to our house via several hitches, Khombis and taxis.  I was impressed with his lack of fear of this foreign travel and his resourcefulness.

 

 

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We spent the next few days mostly driving around our area visiting some of the more interesting sights.  We visited some friends in Thamaga, another village that had some really cool boulder hills and tried to have lunch at a scenic Resturant in Gabane, but they did not have any food on a Saturday at 1:00 pm.  After stopping at several other places we finally found some lunch at 5:00 pm.  Welcome to Africa.

Lunch in Gaborone

Lunch in Gaborone

Posing with a Native

Posing with a Native

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we went to the Mokolodi Game Reserve.  This is a small Game Reserve that is located just outside the city of Gaborone.   It is not a real “African Safari”, however for those on a budget of either time or money, it is quite nice and they do their best to make you feel like you are really out in the bush.   As it turned out, it was quite fine with a verycool “zoo” that included some cool snakes and other animals, followed by a Guided Safari.  We saw quite a good variety of African animals!

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On the side of the roads there were many Dung Beetles.  These are rather large beetles that gather chunks of animal dung and roll them around.   Not really sure where they take them, but the result is an almost perfectly round ball of dung being pushed by these curious beetles.  Sometimes the balls are the sizes of melons and its pretty amazing!   They push the balls with their front feet (?) and then switch to turning upside down and pushing with their back feet.  Its quite fascinating!

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These are called Dung Beetles. The roll cattle dung into perfect shaped balls that end up 10 times bigger than their bodies. It is remarkable!

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We had a nice pair of Binoculars with us and John Kyle came up with the clever idea of using his camera up against the Binoculars to take closer up pictures.  He also captures a cool lightening shot from our car:

JK uses bonos and his camera for a cool effect

JK uses bonos and his camera for a cool effect

Lightening from a distant storm captured from our car

Lightening from a distant storm captured from our car

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While we saw lots of cool animals there, we did not see any Rhinos, so the next day we drove 4 hours to Serowe were the Khama Rhino Reserve is and stayed overnight there in a little A-frame chalet.   Our friend Nate went with us and we met our other friends Brandon and Cassie.  Nate and John Kyle had a little competition to see who could make a fire with no matches!   After more than an hours effort they ended up collaborating and they eventually did produce a lot of smoke and some very hot wood.

We went on a guided game drive there and saw all kinds of fun animals but no Rhinos.  Quite disappointing.  However, as we were leaving we decided to take a quick drive around the sandy roads in our own car and see what we could see.  We saw 15 rhinos!   It was very exciting and satisfying and a great end to that little part of our vacation.

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Our next adventure was a late afternoon climb of Kgale hill.  This is one of several large hills made up of huge boulders, all in a neat pile as if some humongous bulldozer had pushed them from the surrounding miles into neat piles.    Carol was going to go, but it turns out their was some movie at a local theatre not far from the mountain that she wanted to see more than she wanted to climb the mountain.  I think that worked out very well for her.

Our buddy Nathan had climbed this hill a few times before and so he was elected our guide.   Nate is 26 and JK is 23 and I am 51.  Although I walk probably 2 or 3 miles each day, I really don’t get any exercise and I was a bit intimidated about climbing the one hour hike to the top.  It started off fairly easy but less than half way up I was using my arms and hands to push my legs up each of the next steps and stopping every 10 minutes for a break.   After an hour or so of climbing, we arrived at the top and it was quite a beautiful site.  Of course JK and Nathan felt no pain, but I was panting and very worried about the next 3 or 4 days of severe hurt that that my whole body was about to go through.  At the top we took some pictures and videos and watched the sun set.  As it went below the horizon we became a little concerned about getting back down so we started down hurriedly.  As it became darker and darker we became more and more concerned and as it turned out we missed the main turn off of the narrow path we were following and ended up at the bottom of a different hill, in the pitch black.   At the bottom was an abandoned mine which thankfully had many large lights still lighting up the whole area.  We walked around most of it expecting to find a clear exit, but no no avail.  We found an old road that led into the darkness and did not look very hopeful.  Our choices were two:  To follow that road in hopes that in less than several miles we might find a gate that was not locked with razor wire and be able to get to a traveled road and hopefully get a ride back to civilization, or to backtrack 45 minutes in the dark up the path we came down and try to find the turnoff.  neither choice was good.  I think we made the correct choice and started back into the dark path we came from.   Luckily we all had our phones which had small (but life saving!) flashlights built into them, so we were able to find the path and negotiate the ankle breaking paths back up the wrong mountain and then down the correct one.  Several hours later we arrived safely, exhausted, back at our starting point.

Carol was happy she decided to forgo the climbing and saw a movie instead.

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He didn’t really paint this! It was there already and worth of a picture!

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Dad and son on top of the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JK comes to Africa!_18

 

 

 

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So, at the end of a great week we sadly took JK back to the airport for his long trip back home.   Its always hard to go back to real life after a great vacation break, but this was especially hard due having to give up the car, and the nice house with Air Conditioning and a swimming pool, but mostly to saying good bye to my fantastic son.

 

 

A note from Carol:  It was great seeing John Kyle!  I loved hearing first hand how his life is going and getting some nice updates about the family too.  Emails and Skype are nice – but nothing is like looking someone in the eyes and talking directly to them.

I must admit I was a little dismayed to hear him say that life here was much easier than he was thinking it would be.  He said our house really wasn’t worse than a crappy dorm room – which is true.  But I feel like life is always hard here, and I wondered how it seemed “easier” than he was thinking.

As John said, our living conditions are not near as hard as most Peace Corps Volunteers (sometimes it pays to be old).  However, after a few days I think John Kyle started to see what we meant by “hard”.  It really isn’t the electricity or the building you live in.  (Water is different – not having water truly gives life an entirely different value).  It is the different culture that does not value business, efficiency  or material goods .  He started to see what a huge pain it is to have to go to three stores (and we had a car) and talk to 5 people to find few commodities and most discussions about customer service or achieving a goal completely lack any understanding.

While he didn’t get to really see how we work, he certain heard us talk about how different and how hard it is to accomplish things. He didn’t just hear it from us, he heard it from every single PCV we talked too.   I felt like he did learn a little about the life style and culture of Botswana before he left and he had a better idea of what we mean when we say our life is “hard” here.

One of the things I was also glad to see John Kyle learn about, is the type of people that are in the Peace Corps.  I have commented many times, on this blog, about how special the American’s I work with are here.  John Kyle also noted that.  He said he had an entirely different idea of who and what Peace Corps people are about.  However, the more time he spent with them the more he liked them.

Peace Corps people, and my group we call Bots 11 totally rock!  They are kind, hard working, smart, committed, industrious, fun, and all around decent human beings.  One of the important things John and I wanted to do with John Kyle is introduce him to our friends so he would know who we are talking about the rest of our lives when we bring up everything and everyone we learned about and loved in the Peace Corps.

It was truly special to have him here and to share this time with him.  I believe a good time was had by all.

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JM in a dress

(Click any image to enlarge it)

 

Its been a long time since I have written any posts, so I feel compelled to write something.  This is partially due to a rather uneventful last couple months, but mostly due to Carol, as she tends to beat me to the story writing punch for anything that is worthy.

90 Degrees at night

90 Degrees at night

The weather here has been so hot this summer.  Maybe not technically as hot as last summer and for sure we had a lot more rain this year, but nevertheless, anything above 95 or 100 degrees is just plain hot, especially at night!  It is currently 8:00 pm, the sun has been down for almost 2 hours and the thermometer on our wall is showing almost 90!

(probably 120 in our tiny kitchen with the oven and two stove burners going while carol cooks dinner!)   Im really looking forward to some cooling off soon, in the next month or so, but unfortunately, there is no real Fall season.  There are not really trees with leaves here, so we don’t get the beautiful colors, and no one burns anything (probably for fear of setting the entire, incredibly dry country on fire!) so there is no nostalgic leaf burning smells in the air.  The “Fall” is really just a morphing of still-quite-hot-days with starting-to-be-cold-nights.  Followed almost immediately with colder and colder nights.

This post’s title is the result of a recent large meeting we had with other PCVs.  The meeting is calledIF Regionals and as the name implies, it’s a meeting of all current PCVs in the Region.  There are 4 regions in Botswana and ours is the biggest with around 40 PCVs.  It occurs a couple of times a year and the purpose is to introduce old “vets” like us to even older vets about to close their service, and to young newbies.  We all exchange stories and experiences and voice our complaints and solutions and other fun stuff.  It’s meant to be mostly informal with just minimal “class room” timeIF for issues on Safety and Security and some other subjects.  The PC puts us all up in a nice lodge and reimburses us for our travel expenses and provides nice meals.  It really has been a fun time so far.

Most of the people in the PC are fairly young, and as such, a nice hotel stay usually leads to some fun late nights at a local night club followed by some hotel room parties which in turn lead to some fun group games.  One of the popular ones is called 13.  We goIF around in a circle and call out sequential numbers to the number 13.  Then the numbers start over.  Whoever gets 13 makes a rule that is attached to any “open” number and has to be followed by the person landing on that number.  Rules such as “anyone who gets number 4 has to do jumping jacks on the bed until they are replaced by the next person to get number 4” and “anyone who gets 11 has to exchange all their clothes with the person 3 to their left” are common.  I was the subject of just such a rule and to my shame, caught on camera.  I also had to sing a song, do jumping jacks on the bed and several other things I can’t really repeat here.  All in all, it is a fun time and the night is always full of laughter.

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Carol and Adam Exchanged Clothing

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JM, Nate and Mation at Ozone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mens Room Drying Towel Attendant

Mens Room Drying Towel Attendant

JM loosing at party games

JM loosing at party games

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the months go by we are loving our life here in Botswana less and less, but our little puppies more and more.  We have made good friends with an older American couple (Ben and Rita) who have lived here for 8 years or so and they have a very nice house (probably the nicest house in all of Molepolole) with a nice swimming pool (an extreme rarity in Botswana!).  They live roughly two taxi rides away on the other side of town and they have 4 large, very friendly guard dogs.  We took our dogs to visit them a while back and all the dogs just fell in love with each other.  So now, when we get into a taxi with our dogs, they must know they are going to Ben and Rita’s house because they are so excited they just can’t contain themselves.  It’s quite cute and fun.  Rati has taken to the water quite well and even jumped in on her own a week or so ago.  Phi Phi is not a water dog at all and is quite disturbed with all her swimming lessons that we put her through.  They both, however, do enjoy sunbathing.

Sunbathing at Ben and Rita's

Sunbathing at Ben and Rita’s

Sunbathing at Ben and Rita's

Sunbathing at Ben and Rita’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking for fun games, I remember back at home, my old cat, Mr. B and I used to play a fun game called The Sock On The Head Game.  He was quite good at it and actually seemed to enjoy the challenge.   It seems Rati and Phi Phi are enjoying the game now too.  To see a short Video use the Blue Download Button below. 

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