Doggie Dance Party February 2, 2013- By Carol

Dance Party:  I am often heartened by the ways the PCV’s find ways to keep their spirits up – especially the young ladies who live in the middle of nowhere.  If they want to go out and enjoy themselves as we could in America they are setting themselves up for endless sexual harassment as well as community elders/teachers thinking less of them.

I often see Facebook posts on Friday night saying they are having a great time at home with popcorn, wine and a solo Dance Party.  Good for them for finding ways to make the solitude fun!

The other night one of our friends came over and said the five of us should have a Dance Party.  Five?  He was including Rati and FiFi.  He put on some Meatloaf – and oh my goddess! we enjoyed dancing with those dogs!  Paradise By The Dashboard Lights was never so fun!

Rati does a great table dance

Rati does a great table dance

I decided to join her

I decided to join her

We are one big happy Family

We are one big happy Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids Reading:  John and I love living in our neighbourhood.  There are hoards of kids that come over all the time.  They are in our yard all day everyday if we are home or not.  If we are inside and don’t want to play – they ask for books, puzzles, crayons and toys to play by their selves outside.  The other day I told them it was a reading day and those that didn’t know how to read English must read to those that did.  They all took their jobs seriously.  The picture below shows kids reading from books sent my many of you.

Reading Day

Reading Day

 

Not just posing - really reading

Not just posing – really reading

 

Bontle is one of the smartest girls I know.  She is a rare student getting mostly A''s.

Bontle is one of the smartest girls I know. She is a rare student getting mostly A”s.

The readers all got lollipops sent by John’s Aunt.  The little kids can get a lollipop when they can write the alphabet in capital and small letters.

I often think the biggest impact we are making here is our interaction with the kids in the neighbourhood.  Many of you have helped us with your generous gifts of books, crafts, toys, sporting items and of course candies.  I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I do especially my parents, Nadine and Josh, Angela, Pat and Susan, Gina and Jason and Louie who have sent multiple boxes loaded with goods for the kids.

Donkey Races:  John’s office funded the Men’s Sector (Police men who encourage men to participate responsibly in the community to eradicate HIV/AIDS) Donkey and Horse Race in a little village called Kubung about an hour from our house.  There were cash prizes for the winners.  An HIV mobile testing van came to the site as well.  Lunch was provided for everyone who got tested for HIV/AIDS.  People were able to get the results on the spot.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the race and there were at least 100 people who stood in line for HIV testing.  It was a fun and productive day.

Donkeys don't race so well.  The "jockey" seem to always get pushed off.  The donkeys often went off the main road and followed each other in herd fashion.  It was fun to watch

Donkeys don’t race so well. The “jockey” seem to always get knocked off. The donkeys often went off the main road and followed each other in herd fashion. It was fun to watch though.

 

This beautiful horse cam in 3rd place

This beautiful horse came in 3rd place.  The jockeys dress a little different.  It is about 90 outside.  I have no idea why this guy is wearing a long sleeve jacket.

Here come the horses

Horseraces were normal (or like I see in America).

John looks like he was born to ride!

John looks like he was born to ride!

I look like I don't know how to dress for donkey races

I look like I don’t know how to dress for donkey races

If you want to see more pictures of the Donkey Races check out the Newsletter John created for his office at http://kwenengeast.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/men-sector-donkey-and-horse-races/

You can see all the newsletters for John’s office here.  They are pretty cool.

 

 

Khombi Rides – Dad sent us masks to wear over our faces when we walk down the dusty dusty roads.  John sometimes uses the masks when he has to sit next to people who possibly don’t have running water at their home, or maybe they have lost their sense of smell.  (I just suck it up ((literally)) and take it as a state of the human condition).

Nobody else act's like John.  The rest of us

Nobody else acts like John. The rest of us just suck it up or smell it up and act as though everything is fine.

The Dusty Road Update:  John and I have been working to get the village to address problems with the road outside the school.  Not only is the road so dusty it impairs all regular pedestrians health – it is also grated just enough to allow people to drive about 70 MPH in front of the school, often oblivious to the danger children face with speeding cars.

The teachers and students alike complain and the School Head said he would need some documentation before he took it up with the village counsel.  I volunteered to do a survey and write a report.  While doing that, John ran into the Paramount Chief at a wedding and mentioned the problems with the road.  The Chief gave John the name and number of the councilman who is responsible for the road.  I wrote the report and gave it to the school head.  John met with the councilman.

Nothing was done.

John and I started putting big 1 kilo rocks in the road forcing people to drive slow when they came down the road.  Amazingly, the councilman from the village 50K down the road found out who we were, where we lived, and who we worked for.  He met with my School Head and told him we were breaking the law and we be charged if we didn’t stop immediately.  It is amazing how resourceful these people can be when they want to stop something from happening.  Resourcefulness NEVER seems to be around when attempting to accomplish something!

It was aggravating to be chastised at the Senior Management meeting at the school and also to be called into the School Heads office for a warning about breaking the law.

However, John had also given my report to the District Commissioner (like a Governor) and she just sent a reply stating how useful my report was.  The District had already included paving the road in the next budget, but there were not funds to start the project.  However, she agreed with two of my other less costly suggestions to put in speed bumps and put up speed limit signs.

Right when you feel like giving up – something worthy always seems to happen!!!!  This joint project made John and I both feel good for a least two days.

Snakes in the house:  After we got our dogs John cut a doggy door into our screen door.  We leave the big hard door open and lock the burglar bars, which allows animals in and keeps people out.  For weeks I have been Snakes in the Househaving nightmares that snakes are crawling in the doggy door.  John thinks it is funny.  Finally the other day, while sweeping I came across this freaking snake.  John says it was tiny, and they eat a lot of bugs and I should get down from the chair.  But he told me to keep the dogs away while he was corralling it out the door – in case it was poisonous.  WHAT?????

I will never be able to leave my bed and step on the floor in the middle of the night again.

 

Running the Tuck Shop:  A Tuck Shop is a little tiny store that sells candy, chips, and soda.  The school has a little tuck shop which the PTA is supposed to operate and proceeds are used for the good of the school.  There are many problems with the PTA running this – mostly that the PTA never meets and does not have officers.  As I have said many times, parents see little value in participating in their children’s lives, and many of them are poor and feel inferior to the teachers.

Last year the PTA hired a women to work full time running the Tuck Shop – and paid her P600 a month, which is about $80 – which is so significantly below the poverty level it is ridicules.  The Tuck Shop barely made enough money to pay her salary.  I suspect she stole a lot of food or money since we were not paying her enough to buy groceries for a week.

Teachers incredibly volunteered to run the Tuck Shop themselves.  Which  heavily cut into their time to grade, develop tests, and meet with students.

There is no inventory lists, no register, no receipts, no procedures.  During the day money is taken out of the vault (a bucket on the candy counter), to purchase supplies.  The person who volunteers to get the supplies is to receive P50 for transport costs.  Every teacher volunteers to do this and it is costing about P250 a week to buy supplies.  At the end of the day money is counted by recorded by how many of each bill/coin are in the vault/bucket and then calculating the value times the number of coins/pula.  They check their calculations, and not the money.  Total recipes, expenditures, and cash balance are recorded in a note book, which is passed around from teacher to teacher.  The teacher in charge for the day takes the money home at night and at the end of the fortnight (African for 2 weeks), the money is turned over to the PTA to deposit.  There does seem to be one rule:  If you are working in the shop, you can’t give yourself change if you buy anything.  I am glad to see at least one rule.

This plastic container is the cash register and vault.

This plastic container is the cash register and vault.

I was going to write book keeping procedures for them.  But I really don’t know how to start this project.  I have brought up several suggestions along the way – but there is always resistance to change.  They do seem to be making a little money – and they could probably earn a decent amount if only, if only, if only, if only too many things.   They are using a bucket,  for a cash register and vault…………

The Post Office:  Thought I would let you know where we go to get all those great boxes that you all send us:

 

A line like this takes about two hours to get through

A line like this takes about two hours to get through

If you can see under the awning there are many old people waiting to get in line.

Categories: Peace Corps | 1 Comment

Mosi-ao-Tuny (aka Victoria Falls), Livingston, Zambia and Jungle Junction – by Carol and John

Expectations:  I have not enjoyed the vacations in Africa the way I have enjoyed them in other places.  People here prefer to go back to their family village instead of travel to new places where they don’t know anyone on their holidays.  It seems the culture does not place an emphasis on historical preservation, appreciation of natural wonders or entertainment as I have grown accustom too.  Another reason I have not enjoyed our travels as much is mostly because of the expense and difficulty of the travel part vs. the “being there” part.   Coupled with our lack of resources and our Peace Corps friends even less resources that puts us in sub standard travel situations, experiences in Namibia and in Durban make me leary of African “vacations”.

But I was holding high hopes for Victoria Falls which is called Mosi-oa-Tuny meaning The Thunder that Smokes.  It is considered one of the 7 Wonders of the World and I hoped that would translate into Western style tourism.  As it turned out, it did, and we really enjoyed this vacation.

Leaving Botswana in my favorite shirt

Leaving Botswana in my favorite shirt

Our chariot from the Airport

Our chariot from the Airport

The boat to Zambia

The boat to Zambia

In the beginning – Zambia:  We were picked up at the Kasane airport in a 16 seat safari truck all to ourselves.  At the border, there was a boat waiting that took us across the Zambezi River to another van.  The driver took John through immigration which was painless besides the US$50  each just to cross the border.

Trucks lined up to cross the River

Trucks lined up to cross the River

We notice the huge long line of trucks about four miles long trying to cross the border from both sides.  There is only one fairy that takes 1 or 2 big trucks at a time across the river.   In addition to the lack of infrastructure there is much bureaucracy to getting ones papers for border crossings.  Everyone knows this is counterproductive to economic development – but the government cannot stop itself from growing a system that allows each individual participant an opportunity to enrich themselves with bribes.  Most of these trucks were to sit in line for more than 3 weeks, inching forwards each day.  Its no wonder there can be no food importing or exporting!

We also noticed throughout the trip that many of the Zambians have a particularly bad body odor.  We think it may be because there is not much plumbing in this country.   This country is much poorer than Botswana.

On the plus side, many Zambians could speak English very well.  English is the language of money and with scarce resources from the government, English is required to earn decent money. Nearly everyone could hold a complete conversation with ease.  In many instances it seemed as though English was their first language.

Jollyboys pays local artist for the wall murials

Welcome to Jollyboys! It even looks from from the outside.

Jollyboys Backpackers Lodge:  In Africa they have Backpackers Lodges everywhere.  Backpackers are geared towards people who want to travel for longer periods and have less money and are carrying all their stuff in a backpack.  The accommodations include anything from $5 a night camping to 16 room hostels with shared bathrooms to single simple rooms for couples.  The most expensive accommodations cost less than a two star hotel in most places.

They usually provide a shared kitchen with dishes, tons of books, games, an organic or healthy food menu, a cheap bar, a pool, a large screen TV and tons of lounging and couches. The people who use the Backpackers are generally well traveled,  fairly educated and in a frame of mind to make new friends and help fellow travelers.   Jollyboys is one of the best in the area.  It was clean and the service was great!  We really enjoyed this place and used most of the amenities to keep the cost down.

The vacation coordinator helped John and I plan the next three days.  She was honest about costs and helped weigh the experience/activity against the costs, which is important because the activities are generally very expensive.

Livingston, Zambia:  We explored Livingston which is a quaint small town that has blended its European beginnings with local culture quite nicely.  It was the capital of the country until 1935 and now it is the center of the countries tourism.  We felt safe there.

However, as always, there were people on the take for those who become complacent.  We had someone promise to return with change and never did.  Also had someone rip us off with stories of new currency and needs for change with the old currency.  We lost $27 U.S. to the schemes – which isn’t really that bad. It is very annoying and embarrassing – but it is hard to always treat every single person as if they are a thief when it is probably only 1 in 500 that will rip you off.  I would rather pay $25 – $50 a vacation and keep a kind heart than never be ripped off and be cynical all the time.

Our first order of business was exchanging money.  The Zambian Kwacha exchange rate was $1 to K5,053, so K50,00 notes (about $10 U.S.) were very prevalent.  Zambia was changing currency January 1st by dropping the last 3 zeros off all notes.  People are always nervous when currency changes and the lines were very long at all the banks every day we were there.  There was a K2 million (about $400 US) withdrawing limit and it was awkward carrying around huge amounts of bills.  John once said, “Don’t flash that big wad of money around.” But I noted that literally everyone was doing this.

Carol's K150,000.00 Painting

Carol’s K150,000.00 Painting

The downtown area had two blocks dedicated to vendor booths with mostly amateurish art that was selling as souvenir crafts – but I found a picture I really liked for K150,00 plus a four t-shirts trade; especially since 3 Of the T-shirts were Johns’.  I love the paiting.

John was fascinated with the huge currency bills being sold in the markets.  Apparently not too long ago the Zimbabwe currency became worthless and was ditched, so the Zambian’s sell these huge, worthless novelty bills to tourists.   John bought a bunch of them including some real 100 Trillion Dollar Notes!  (No, that is not a misprint!)

Over the course of the week we checked out the banks, grocery stores, malls and museums.  It was all decent and comparable to what I have seen in other large cities in southern African counties, even though this was a fairly small city. Livingston also had a black market mall with tons of tiny tin-building shops selling food, clothes, booze and other items for pretty cheap.  There were several ethnic foods there too – but the food was so covered in flies that even I couldn’t chance eating it.

Cruising the Zambezi River:  After our exploration of town and stock of Kwacha’s we decided to go on a Sunset Cruise with Karla.  It was US$60 per person with a dinner and all the booze you could drink with a sunset, hippos and crocs.

Hippos Galore!

Hippos Galore!

Zambezi River Sunset with Karla

Zambezi River Sunset with Karla

The river is huge, looking bigger than the Mississippi in its southern girth. It was clean and smelled fresh too. It was overcast and the sunset was beautiful, but not the brilliant I was hoping for.  We did see the tops and open mouths of many hippos.  The drinks were heavy and the food was ok – but we loved being on the Zambezi River at sunset, with wildlife and a friend.

We met a young woman who raved about what a perfect couple John and I appeared to be and how much she wanted to be like us when she grew up.  At first it was great – but as the drinks were flowing, she went on for hours and hours bringing her friends over so they could see who she wanted to be like one day, and it eventually became sort of embarrassing, but finally it came around to being nice again – it is hard to resist adoration.  It made us both feel like someone else could see the special we always see in each other.

Upon return we found a few other PCV friends had made it to site.  However, one poor soul – Brandon, had forgotten his passport half way into his full day travel trip and been turned away at the border.

We met Mozambique Peace Corp people and talked about the differences in PC Service in each country.  It is amazing how nicely all the PCV’s in the world fit together.  We are really the same sort of people and are having the same sort of experiences.  It makes such nice shorthand in getting to know new people.

After several hours of talking we decide to play Jenga and the game became quite imaginative with 8 players.  We built some interesting structure before heading to bed.

Jenga Engineering

Jenga Engineering

 

Fun Border Crossing Story:  The next morning Brandon had made it –with quite a story:  He had made it home and back to the border but not until right after it closed at 6.  They told him if he went to the Zimbabwe side he could cross there – but he would have to pay for two border crossings and he didn’t have the money or the transportation.  So he and a Zimbabwean and Zambian that wanted to cross the border hung out at a gas station hoping for transportation and when it didn’t materialize before the gas station closed the attendant told them he would give them the storage room for 20 Pula (US$3.00).  They rearranged the storage room to barely make enough room for the three of them to spoon on a tiny filthy mattress   Every two hours they would all turn together.  He was between the smelly Zim and the loudly snoring Zam, and he said it was the most uncomfortable night of his life and he had gotten no sleep and would not be able to participate in activities that morning.

 

White Water Rafting on the Zambezi by John:  Carol and I have done a fair amount of White Water Rafting and have enjoyed it for the most part.  Class V rapids can be very exciting and gratifying. With a heavy suggestion from a stranger who had just completed the trip, we decided to spend one of our days on the river. Fortunately for us we had already slept in too late that morning to catch the full day trip and our only option was the half day trip in the afternoon.  We were ok with this as the morning portion was the tough Class V rapids and the afternoon was just Class II and III.  After all, we are older now and maybe we preferred a “safer” experience at our ages.

Starting our decent

We were picked up and arrived at the “base camp” where we got a very short safety briefing and were told that the nice river shoes Carol was wearing were quite fine and the very loose fitting thin rubber Crocs I had on would be tough to walk in for the hike down to the river but once there I could take them off in the boat.  I wasn’t too concerned.

Armed with life jackets, paddles and a helmet, we drove 30 minutes to the edge of the top of the river gorge. The hike down was 1000 feet, and pretty much strait down! They had rigged up a walking ladder from local tree branches and cleared a tight winding path down the side of the mountain.  For the next 45 minutes we defied death with each step, as we ever so cautiously stepped from branch to branch, all the time cursing ourselves for not having the right shoes nor the sense to turn back. Once false step and the legs stays wedged in the rocks while the rest of the body tumbles to the bottom.   Every few minutes we had to pause to wait until our legs stopped shaking uncontrollably, while the locals scurried, barefoot, past us carrying supplies on their heads! The decent seemed to take forever and I can’t tell you how relieved we were when we finally caught sight of the river at the bottom.

Our Descent Guide

Our Descent Guide

This goes on and on and on...

This goes on and on and on…

Backwards is sometimes better

Backwards is sometimes better

 

At the river we met up with 4 boats of rafters who had just done the 1st half and we joined them for a short lunch.  The rest of the trip was fun and easy and very enjoyable!  We rafted some Class III rapids and even went through several sets of rapids outside the boat just floating along in the very warm water with our life jackets.  That was really great. At the end of the trip we were grateful to see a primitive cable car that we all climbed into to take us to the top.  We were hoisted strait up by a winch to a connection device which loudly and violently attached to a single strong cable and then pulled us to the top by a giant electric motor.  It was a bit scary, but the alternative of scaling up another set of walking suicide ladders was out of the question. The Zambezi River was beautiful and the rafting was enjoyable and exciting, so all in all it was a good trip to remember.

 

Carol’s version of the same story:  The drive to the river bed was quite educational.  The people here are considerably poorer than the people in Botswana.  There were literally mud huts everywhere – there were no doors or windows on the huts, no cars, electric lines, or running water.  There were many big gardens without a whole bunch of food, which is sad because the majority of the people grow most of the food they eat.  Most people are very thin.  The children were all in dirty rags and ran to the street just to see the cars go by.  Most had tires or sticks for toys.  We again were thankful about our placement in Botswana.

This is a house

This is a house

Kids in the small village live very simple

Real mud huts in Zambia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The climb down the gorge was even worse than John explained.   I quickly became exhausted and wondered how I could possibly make it down this thing – I kept thinking I could see the end and I could make it that far – but it twisted and turned in ways that started to seem like an endless torture route.  The guide eventually took my arm and started walking me down one step at a time.  I could not have made it without him to lean on and balance with.  Near the end I literally felt like I was going to collapse.  I rested for about half hour before I could walk the final 10 yards to our boat.

After the miserable part – it was one of the greatest river rides I have ever had.  The gorge was so deep and the rocks were smoothed over and looked ancient.  There were only small patches of sand or beach and mostly the river was edged with huge black boulders.  The water was deep and we didn’t need to worry about getting caught on rocks.  Several times they let us out of the raft to swim through the rapids and it was so cool.  Our bodies were moving about 25 MPH and it was effortless to float.  The water was clean and warm.  I would definitely do this again if I had the chance (but I would much rather face the Class V rapids instead of the cliff climb).

We met Leah and Will from Bots 12 having lunch when we met the group.  Leah was a little freaked about the class five rapids they had just gone through – but I was having problems with empathy considering the torture chamber mountain I just descended.

 

The Museum:  The next day John got a massage (crappy) and I shopped and went to the Livingston Museum with some other women in the group that morning.

It Cassie - Not Dr. Livingstone!

It Cassie – Not Dr. Livingstone!

The museum was packed with information – it was mostly passages of reading with a few drawings, and some odds and ends of the time.  There were many maps with bad keys making it very hard to follow anything, but we could get the gist.

I have noticed in a lot of these museums (that are meant to provide the history of the indigenous people) that they always start with the formation of the Earth and move into evolution and then the first humanoids.  After you do that at one museum you can skip the first half hour or so of just about every other museum here.

 

We had scheduled the DEVILS POOL months ago as a must do.

John explains Devils Pool:  We had heard some stories about this place and from the name alone, it sounded exciting and since it seemed to be a large tourist destination, we expected that it was a fun and safe activity. On the Zambian side of Victoria Falls there is an Island called Livingstone Island.  It is where David Livingstone discovered the Falls and named it after his Queen Victoria.  The Island is bordered on one side by the very edge of the falls.

Taking the Boat across to the Livingstone Island

Taking the Boat across to the Livingstone Island

A little scary on the edge

A little scary on the edge

There is one expensive operating company that takes limited tours out to the island in a small boat for some great views and a nice lunch.  During specific times the volume of water is low enough that the operating company allows tourists to visit the Devils Pool. The Devils Pool is a small pool at the very edge of the falls about 10 feet in diameter.  Due to its formation, water rushes through the pool but is fairly calm in the center  while the edges of the pool area are surrounded by fast and furious flow.  There is a large rock at the edge of the pool where you can jump off into the calm area, being extremely careful not to jump too far to the left or right.  There are no guard rails, safety ropes or any other safety precautions, so when the sign says “swim at your own risk”, they are dead serious.  (PUN INTENDED!)

Standing on the edge (solidly!)

Standing on the edge (solidly!)

There are some Liability Release Forms we all had to sign, that would never hold water in the US, but I’m pretty sure they would here.

We heard the story of David Livingston “discovering” the Falls and got to see the Falls from his first point of view.  Standing close to the edge seemed scary – until we got to the Pool and then we got to know what fear was.

The historical part of the tour

The historical part of the tour

To get to the pool, once you are on the island, you have to do several combinations of precarious walking on slippery rocks and swimming quickly upstream and across stream to land at a safe location. We had about 25 yards to get to the pool, but between us and the pool were sparse patches of relatively calm water surrounded by furious rushing rapids.  The three guides separated us 6 into 3 groups and we locked hands as we walked slowly and carefully on slippery and painfully coarse rocks for the first 5 yards.  Then we were given a safety briefing of how to swim upstream at a 45 degree angle to arrive at the next safe location, 10 more yards away, oh and then they asked if we were all very strong swimmers! The first one in our group did not swim at the right angle and we watched nervously as he was quickly swept 10 feet down stream towards the thundering falls edge but managed to correct himself and arrived safely, though shaken.  We all learned quickly and followed our guide EXACTLY!

A second and a third short, but frantic swimming session got us all to a very shallow (1 foot) section where we had to crawl on our backs like crabs for 5 yards to finally get to the jumping rock. It was a relief to be out of the water and on solid ground, although now we were standing just 10 feet from the edge of the Falls and the water rushing by on both sides was very intimidating. As we got organized and were trying to decide who would be brave (foolish) enough to go first, one of the guides did a running back flip off the rock and landed perfectly in the clam, slowly swirling waters of Devils Pool.  This did little to relax our anxieties, but it did allow one of our other guides to show off his amazing picture capturing skills with my wet camera.

(Click any image to view in Full Size!)

The guides are very comfortable here!

The Guides are very comfortable here!

Hmmm... Who is gonna go first?

Hmmm… Who is gonna go first?

Brandon as Flying Tiger

Brandon  Jumping in as Flying Tiger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cassie gets a perfect 10!

Cassie gets a perfect 10!

John leaping into the Devils Pool

John leaping into the Pool

Carol - In Delicate Fashion!

Carol – In Delicate Fashion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each of us jumped, posing in our own personal way for the camera, as we conceded to our fates.  Once we landed in the water we were hurriedly herded to a sitting area in the center area so as not to get sucked out in to the current.  I was last to enter and I could not help but be concerned that the only place left to sit was at the very edge of the “safe” area.  I jumped and found there to be no current or scary water until I was seated at the very edge of the group waiting for eternity for some pictures and videos.  Meanwhile my swimming suit filled with water or air (not sure which) seemed to be acting like a bucket being pulled at by the raging current just inches from my waist.   And to make matters just about as bad as they could possibly be, we were all being viciously attacked by dozens of 2 inch fish, meanly nibbling at our feet, legs and whatever else was under the water surface!   I could not wait for this to be over and I was genuinely terrified and kept thinking how absolutely senseless this all was.

Carol Swimming to the Edge!

Carol Swimming to the Edge!

 

Picture of crazy people #2

Crazy People

While we were waiting for one guide to get a picture, the other guide with my camera stood nimbly on the very edge of the pool and walked casually along it, barefoot and life-jacket-less of course, as he took the camera to each of us for an interview of how much we were enjoying this brush with death.  I had to edit out my own comments on the video, as I was truly terrified and on the verge of a panic attack.  To get out of the pool we were thrown a rope that we used to haul ourselves upstream and out of the pool with.  We reversed the whole crab walking, swimming and chain walking process to return to dry land and looked back at what was surely the stupidest thing any of us had ever done. The next day we found out that the operating company closed the pool for the season due to the high waters.  Most all of the season the waters are plenty low and in pictures on the internet you can even see the top edge of the protecting wall at the very edge of the pool that keeps you from being washed over.  That would explain the happy, smiley faces on most of the guests.  The water level for our experience was well over the top of the wall and made for a very dangerous and risky situation. After the pool trip we were served a very nice lunch and had the opportunity to meet with others who had just experienced the same excitement.

It was hard to enjoy the meal with the thoughts of what we had just done, but at the same time we very much celebrated the fact that we all made it without incident.

All is well that ends well is how the saying goes, but really, this was much more of a lesson about having prudent expectations and accepting that some things just should not be on the bucket-list.

Here is a Link to download the Videos of us in the Devils Pool.  Its quite impressive!

[ddownload id=”2289″ text=”Devils Pool From a Distance” style=”button” color=”blue”]  [ddownload_size id=”2289″]

[ddownload id=”2290″ text=”Devils Pool MUST SEE!” style=”button” color=”blue”]  [ddownload_size id=”2290″]

 

If you are interested, here is a link to the blog that belongs to another couple we met at the Devils Pool.  They have some interesting stories too.  Mike and Sarah’s Blog.  They talked about meeting us and the Peace Coups on the tab called “Vic Falls day 4”.

 

Additional note from Carol:  While I was scared about the swim across the river and the jump in the pool there was no panic attack feeling for me.  I checked the Internet and only one person a year dies there (at least that is reported) and we have done way higher risk things before.  I think being required to sit on the very edge of the safe zone with inflatable shorts (they are not really swimming trunks) is what really freaked John out.

We ate the follow up lunch with a very nice older couple who obviously had lots of money.  They were talking of their luxury experiences and we were comparing our experiences as Peace Corps Volunteers.  The women told us she had brought half a suitcase of food from America in case she didn’t like the food here – she asked if we would want it.  We declined at first.  She insisted, saying the other Peace Corps persons at Jollyboys would probably like it too – and she wanted to do something nice for people providing such a good world service.  They drove it over and it was an ample supply of good high end food, which was enjoyed by all.  It made them very happy to get rid of half a suit case of good food to some people they thought deserved it.   It is nice to be in an organization that is so well respected.

 

After the pool we were taken directly to our last sun set cruise on the river and this time we saw crocs as well as hippos.

A small crocodile approaches our boat

A giant crocodile attacks our boat on the sunset cruise

 

 

Our last lounge in civilization

Our last lounge in civilization

The Jungle:  The next day we were to leave for Jungle Junction Lodge.  Which I understand to be a fantastic hide away in the Jungle.

Cassie said we could bring our own food or they would cook for us – and we have learned that it is often better to bring your own food.  We shopped for food and other supplies. John finally arranged to get the Zimbabwe notes he wanted, and we did our last walk around – sad to leave such a fun, clean and nice place.  We hoped the Jungle would be very relaxing!

We lounged around Jollyboys a while, waiting for our ride. I was so intrigued by these Backpackers and I could not recall any such accommodations in America.  I started a conversation with the owner and she said if I was interested in learning the business she would be glad to employee me for a while.  Hmmmm…..maybe a new business idea.

Joe, from Jungle Junction picked us up in a truck which easily fits 5 people plus luggage – except there were now 11 of us traveling there!  The luggage was squishd on to the rack on top of the Land Rover, which was fine until it started to rain buckets half way through the 45 minute trip.  All our backpacks with clothes and belongings were wet on arrival.

We put 3 in the front, 5 on the back bench and 4 in the back bed along with all of the computers that we didn’t want to get wet.  We rode this way for about 45 minutes before we meet up with a different driver who took half of us into his 4 x 4.  This was very good because we are about to go for a seriously off road bumpy ride for the next 45 minutes of the trip.

John and I had booked four days instead of three (like everyone else did) because we couldn’t get a flight back sooner.  We asked the driver about things to do on the island.  We are told there is fishing, swimming, hiking, and if you can be creative you can figure out other fun stuff like taking a nature walk for 3 miles to visit the school.  Well, visiting schools, especially over the holidays, has never really seemed that fun to me – but maybe I was just not being the creative sort.

Along the rutted and muddy road we saw a “village” which was made up of a few mud huts with straw fences and raised chicken coops and goat pens.  These villages look just like the ones we saw on the way to the river rafting.  There is no electricity, no running water, no roads, and not even one car  anywhere.  I was finally seeing the Africa I thought I would be sent to when I joined the Peace Corps.

Finally we got to the island where canoes carved out of tree trucks were waiting to take us across the river.  That felt very native and adventurous – but as we started to load our gear in the Mokoro (the wooden tree canoes) the top of the canoe got nervously close to the water.  One wrong shift and we would all capsize.   After crossing the river we carried our supplies another 200 yards up the bank to the final destination.    Jungle Junction.

 

I saw this as one of those nature, eco-lodges.  A real one, though, not one that is advertised to make you feel good about the fuel you used to get there; but a real eco-lodge.  Everything is built from the land and the local tribe is staffing the place. I thought we had booked the chalets, but as it turned out John misunderstood the difference between a “chalet” and a “fisherman’s hut”.  We got the Fisherman’s hut.  Three bamboo walls, a grass thatch roof built on tree limbs with two beds – sort of like Camp Ondesank.

Our luggage almost swamped the canoe

Our luggage almost swamped the canoe

Transport across the river to the lodge

Transport across the river to the lodge

Our Fishmans Hut

Our Fishmans Hut

I also found out that our hut is about 1k from the shared flush toilets (4 of them) and the shared showers.  (It turns out the Chalets were a lot like the huts – but they had four wall and one battery operated light bulb). There was one gas operated refrigerator on the entire island – which did a very poor job of keeping anything cold – and 4 solar panels that sometimes work to recharge phones or computers.  They had to carry the 2 very heavy truck batteries between the lodge and the closest open sunny spot, twice a day to charge them on the solar panels!  Uuughh!   No electricity anywhere.  Running water is only available for the toilet and showers and one sink in the main kitchen – which we were not allowed to cook in.  So, we cooked on camp fires.

John and I must have only read the reviews on Trip Adviser  which really raved about the place, and we must not have looked at the actual web site that clearly explained all these things. (http://www.junglejunction.info/index.htm). I’m not sure why our travel research skills are waning so.  We were quite unprepared for this primitiveness.   We did not have bug spray, a flashlight, grungy clothes, towels or camping gear.  I did have a nice dressy dress and a curling iron to celebrate NYE though. I told John I wanted to check out the next day, but we decided we would spend NYE with our friends as planned and would check out in two days.  While the place was a paradise if you were looking for a peaceful quiet jungle hangout – I am a Peace Corp Volunteer living regularly in a peaceful quiet jungle hangout, on $350 a month and when I go on vacation I want to have a few nice things.

The owner spent some time talking to us and assuring us we could leave when we wanted without paying for unused rooms and was sorry that we were disappointed.  He was a really decent guy.

I was still sort of sulking about this snafu when the owner brought out the festive party hats for the holidays and some were very strange.  I couldn’t help but start to smile – and once the smile was cracked all was good.

Sunset with festive party hats

Sunset with festive party hats

Danielle's festive party hat

Danielle’s festive party hat

There were some interesting animals here.  Below is a picture of a Genet – which is related to both the cat and the mongoose family.  They were beautiful and came right to our dinner table to clean our plates after each meal.

A Genet Cat visits the dinner table at every meal

A Genet Cat visits the dinner table at every meal

 

Home made chicken coop

Home made chicken coop

The Effects of Progress:  The lodge owner is working closely with the local tribe and creating something sustainable, educational, and exposing the locals to a western culture they would normally not see.  He is also building a modern school for the local children – which in fact turned out to not to be a mud hut school and it was something I was glad to see. He also provides 10 full time jobs.  He barters job skills such as fishing guide and nature guide, teaching them in exchange for them providing cheap services at the resort.  If or when they choose to leave their village they will have better skills to get a real job.

We had all been ooing and awing over the good things Brett was doing for the tribal people. Then he told us one of the results his efforts that he has witnessed is that the village has one of the highest rates of alcoholism and malnutrition.

This is a house

This is a house

Brett told us that has happened at the several similar projects he has done over the years.  Some people do well and advance 6 generations in one leap while many others simply can’t make that adjustment and only become envious, jealous and hopeless about their own future.

Village Scene

Village Scene

While I hate that this depression/alcoholism/prostitution seems to be one of the constant outcomes of introducing modern life and education into a primitive environment,  it seems even more wrong to deprive an entire community of an education and a chance to make choices and move forward to avoid this outcome.  I am confident we should continue to do everything possible to give people opportunities to learn and achieve as much as possible.  Obviously, Brett thinks it too – or he would not keep doing this kind of work.

 

 

John let me hold his big one for the picture!

John let me hold his big one for the picture!

Fishing the Zambezi:  Nicely for John, morning activities consist mostly of him sleeping in and me reading.  We decided to go fishing in one of the afternoons.  John was rowed over to an open, flat sandy island where he practiced his Fly Fishing in waist deep water.  Later the locals were all crowing him so “brave” for standing in the crocodile infested water for so long!

John fish with the Hippos

John fish with the Hippos

I’m pretty sure he was not even aware of any dangers although the Hippos just a hundred yards away should have been a clue.   After he was all practiced up, we fished with spin casting reels from the canoes with a guide.

Carol got a nice one too!

Carol got a nice one too!

The guide caught a few minnows on a bamboo rod and hook and let John cast and he caught two small Tiger Fish.  He gave me the line and I caught a little one too.  We gave all the fish to the guide to take home and cook for dinner, and he was grateful.  Those Tiger Fish have nasty looking teeth!    It was very agreeable to fish with the Hippo’s in a wooden canoe on the Zambezi River.

 

Sunsets:  We came in to watch the beautiful sunset from the shore – and it was spectacular!  I once again had to say my prayer of gratitude.  I truly can’t believe I get to live this life – especially when I start some days pouting that I won’t be able to wear a pretty dress and fix my hair for a holiday.  Nothing could have been nicer than that river bed, in my tee-shirt and ponytail celebrating a new year with some new friends and my husband.

Sunset with festive party hats

Sunset with festive party hats

Purple sunsets most every night

Purple sunsets most every night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end of the Sunset Cruises

The end of the Sunset Cruises

 

Happy New Year:  Later, we play girls against the boys at Taboo and the girls won each game.  As midnight got closer people started engaging in more public fun.  Several men knew how to juggle balls of fire and others performed  fire dances – which was interesting.  Many of us brought fireworks that were better than you would think and then there was the stroke of midnight and a new year was here.

2013 Starts –

In the morning I was surprised to find several people had stayed up all night long.  Most were old broken down alcoholic men, not a part of our group. Regardless of their fun – they were a still little obnoxious and we all avoided the bar area for the rest of the morning as they slowly dropped off one by one.  This made our tiny world seem even a little bit smaller, but I was impressed with the amount of patience and acceptance everyone had with each other.

The Crap Sandwich is the last game:  Eventually we all decided to play a card game called Crap Sandwich – and people liked the game.  It was fun to play with 7 players at a time and everyone did play one or two games.  We made the game last for the afternoon and then after dinner, with another awesome sunset in between.

We were on our third day here and faced with a choice of staying alone another night here while our friends all left or heading back to Livingstone for our last night.   While this place is specially peaceful, Livingston was so alive and with so many choices (and there is so little of that in Africa so far) that we decide to go back for one last day. In the morning everyone was preparing for a trip home; most of them hitch hiking for the 12 or 14 hours, which is miserable.  I am very happy we had booked a flight several months ago.

 

Victoria Falls:   Since we had an extra day in Livingstone, I wanted to see the Falls from the Zimbabwe side, but it was US$30 for a Visa plus US$20 for the Park Fee’s so we settled for a walk on the free Zambian side.

Victoria Fall Bridge built 105 years ago

Victoria Falls Bridge built 1905

The Zambezi

The Zambezi

Another great view

Another great view

Right after the falls end

Right after the falls end

John at the Boiling Pot

John at the Boiling Pot

It was beautiful. The Falls go on for about 2K and the river is beautiful on both sides of the Falls.

The park is very nice with safety fences and well groomed trails.  Every spot seems like a great spot for a perfect picture, until you see the next one. We hiked down to the Boiling Pot which is the point past the falls that the water starts to flow like a river again.  It wasn’t such a rager but it was beautiful and overall it was pleasant and cooling to dangle our feet in another part of the Zambezi River.

It started to rain and we got soaked.  It was a little uncomfortable but the environment and the view were so incredible we never considered looking for shelter or turning back. We just walked all around the Falls and saw its worthiness of being called a wonder of the world. We were allowed to cross the Zimbabwe Bridge for free as long as we did not go into the country (past the guard gate and the guys with machine guns).

 

 

Watch these short Videos of Victoria Falls:

[ddownload id=”2293″ text=”Monkeys at Victoria Falls” style=”button” color=”blue”]  [ddownload_size id=”2293″]

[ddownload id=”2291″ text=”Victoria Falls Bridge” style=”button” color=”blue”]  [ddownload_size id=”2291″]

[ddownload id=”2292″ text=”Victoria Falls” style=”button” color=”blue”]  [ddownload_size id=”2292″]

 

There were some insane people bungee jumping off the huge bridge.  The platform was just “hooked” over the railing and had duct tape on one of the joints and I just couldn’t see how anyone could overlook the widely reported story of the rope breaking last year.  (The person lived to tell about it – but still!)

Bungee jumping of the duct taped platform

Bungee jumping of the duct taped platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back at the border where all the trucks wait for weeks to cross, there were baboons everywhere.  There are so many monkeys it is sort of freaky.

Baboons are everywhere and share scraps with the dogs and cats

 

Another day ended with some sushi at a chain seafood place called The Ocean Basket and a big beautiful Chameleon outside our air conditioned hotel door.

A Chameleon outside our hotel room

A Chameleon outside our hotel room

 

Going Home:  The Jungle Junction owner had given us some good advice about getting back through the border and enjoying a few hours in Kasane, Botswana, for much cheaper than we paid to get to Livingston.   While in the relatively “functioning” city of Livingstone, we had quickly fallen back to a state of complacent expectations and had forgotten that nothing works right in Africa.

We got off to a late start waiting for the promised taxi, who then made us wait again for a long stop in a long line for gasoline.  We were then stopped twice for road checks, and finally we got to the border and had to go through a lengthy exit immigration in Zambia and then take the slower free ferry.   We were stopped as soon as we get off for another passport check and then to the immigration entry station in Botswana.  Another very long wait.  Now I see the value of paying the lodge $40 to pick us up at the airport and get us to the hotel which took 1 hour instead of 4 hours as the much cheaper return trip did.

Once we arrived in Kasane, we killed a few hours before our flight home at the Chobe Safari Lodge.   The lodge is beautiful and situated right on the delta (an expansive and beautiful river system).  We looked over the river and had a nice buffet and then walked the grounds.  We saw lots of bandit mongoose, warthogs and huge lizards – right in the camping grounds – eating out of people’s pots and pans.  I was glad to see such a luxury place also provide camping facilities and fun camping with lots of wildlife too – I will look into staying there if we go back there.

TONS of Bandit Mongooses!

TONS of Bandit Mongooses!

Two giant lizards come close

Two giant lizards come close

A Mongoose and a family of Bushhogs in our camp

A Mongoose and a family of Bushhogs in our camp

Two baby Bandit Mongooses (Mongeese?)

Two baby Bandit Mongooses (Mongeese?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we landed safely back in Gaborone Airport and now all we can think about is to pick up our cute cute little puppies!

I missed them the whole time

I missed them the whole time

Categories: Peace Corps | 1 Comment

December 25, 2012 – Merry Christmas to All! By Carol

Merry Christmas to our friends and all our family.  We will be celebrating with some friends later today.  They asked us to come cook the dinner together.  They are Indians so, if we are lucky, it will be a big Indian Christmas dinner.  We have our trees (sent by family) up and we plan to wrap little tiny presents under them!  

Christmas trees 2012

Christmas trees 2012

 

Santa in Gabs

Santa in Gabs

 

What else………….from Carol

 

John and Price running healthy puppies

John and Price running healthy puppies

The Dogs:  Rati seems to have fully recovered from her horrible experience with the home spaying.  However, I’m not over it.  I think I will forever be traumatized by the event.  Any female dog ever spayed again will be over my objection.  We should put all our efforts on getting the boy dog snipped instead!

To help make it up to Rati, we talked the owner of Rati’s sister into giving us Phoenix for the next year.  Little 3 pound cute Phoenix lived in a cage with two other mean dogs and had to stay under a chair so she would not get bitten.  We changed her name to FiFi (when she goes back I think she will still respond to Phoenix) and now Rati has a full time play mate.  We also found excellent babysitters.  They have a four year old daughter who comes to visit the dogs and she asks to keep them overnight sometimes – so we feel very comfortable when we have to leave them.   Finally – we are hoping the dogs will learn to bite all the people we don’t have the nerve to bite ourselves!  And we will say “Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry” – but not really mean it.

The nice babysitters.  Work with the teacher at school.

The nice babysitters. Work with the teacher at school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Fun – One of the most fun foods here is “fat cakes”.  Deep fried dough, sold in the many Tuck Shops for about $0.15 (A tuck shop is usually a tiny shack or perhaps a table with netting over it that sells candies or other treats along the road).  The local people eat these fatcakes pretty much every day during Tea Break and if they can afford it, they buy two or three at a time.  (The picture below portrays exactly how the women at my school cooks the fat cakes).

The other day some of my colleges got fat cakes for tea, and a few others bought French fries or chips. I was shocked to see them pull out the insides of the fat cake (and eat them) and then re-stuff them with the French fries!  I cannot imagine how this concept has not reached downstate county and state fairs in Illinois!!!!

Tea:  Tea break is a sacred thing.  If you want people to attend meetings you must serve tea at 10:30.  Tea consists of tea or coffee and biscuits (cookies) at a minimum and more usually has spam sandwiches cut in fourths as well.  Tea is observed at every school, workplace, and social function.

To be fair, it is sort of a breakfast and considered the first meal of the day.  I recently looked up the how, why and history of tea breaks.  Botswana seems to follow the tradition of simply supplying food for the hungry, much more than the American/British version found in the closest Four Seasons with Miss Manners for ladies of leisure.

The other day I saw how serious tea is here.  I was with the Deputy District Commissioner (like a Lt. Governor) and we went to a meeting several villages away that started at 9:00am.  Miraculously, it really started at 9 and was done by 10!  We had brought tea in the trunk of the car to serve in the anticipated middle of the meeting, but the meeting ended before the tea time.  We started home, but at 10:30 we pulled over in the middle of nowhere, along the road, with a bunch of cows, and pulled out the hot carafe and pre-prepared bowls of tea, coffee and biscuits.  Five of us spent 30 minutes standing around the back of the car having tea, instead of going home and eating like civilized people or going to work and doing our jobs.  Everything will stop for a tea break.

Language Test:  Our language skills are tested four times in the Peace Corps.  Twice before swearing in, once at mid service and once before we leave.  There are 12 levels of proficiency   John and I both scored at level 2 (with 12 being high) when we swore in.  Of course, I have been relieved that my school is required to teach in English and teaching children English is very important here.  I get the adults to speak English by promising to take minutes at all the school meetings if the teachers and staff promise to speak in English.  I am usually chastised for not learning the native language.  My response is that I agree that is a significant fault, and then I tell them to go ahead and use Setswana, but I will have to decline my position as secretary.  So they all grudgingly agree to speak in English.  I live in an urban village and most everyone can speak English here.  Soooo I have never learned a word of Setswana since I left training.  John said he didn’t either and he said he didn’t care if he failed our mid-service test.  I took this as a cue (or excuse) that I didn’t need to care if I failed either.  I did learn how to say, “I have a dog named Rati and I love her.  Everyone loves her.” – but that was it. (Ke nna ntsa e bidiwa Rati.  Ke rata Rati.  Botha rata Rati).

After our recent grueling Mid Service Exam, we got our scores and I was still at level 2, but John, who insisted he was going to fail scored at level 5.  He swears he didn’t purposely learn without me – that it slowly snuck up on him and he had no idea he knew how to speak Setswana.  He swears he would have helped me learn more if he only knew that he actually could speak the language at the Intermediate Middle level.  Only one person scored lower than me and it was a person who refused to speak Setswana for the test, but I know she speaks much better than me in the community.  I have the lowest grade of everyone in my class.

While I hate that I failed this test, I am grateful to have been sent to a country that’s official language is English. I am so lucky or blessed that all my life failures are muted and the way to go forward is always laid out in front of me.  I still have one more year to get up to level 3 (Novice High), which is the minimum expected although not required. But I am making due at level 2.

(I put a bunch of fun pictures from Mid Service Training on Facebook – if anyone is interested.)

 

A Rally at the Kgotla (Community Center) to kick talk about Gender Based Violence

A Rally at the Kgotla (Community Center) to kick talk about Gender Based Violence

Gender Committee:  I was asked to join the District (like a state) Gender Committee.   Modern Botswana is only 45 years old and when the constitution was written men and women were given equal rights for education, voting, and other various things.  The constitution was far advanced of the culture.  It is interesting to be in a place where the rights were guaranteed before being demanded.  Most all the work towards equality is changing the culture instead of the law.

I often aligned with the men on the committee and one of the men tells me he knows God sent me to them.  Yes – I swear it is true!  The more progressive men in the community seem to  want there to be equality, but don’t know how that is supposed to work with the strong culture of men being the leaders and commanders in home and community.  When we go to community meetings the men regularly ask, “What do you want to take from us, so that you can be equal” – and it is a genuine question. While I often want to reassure their fear and say, “We only want you to castrate yourself.  You can keep your testes in a jar – it worked for the Eunuchs and the royal court in China and it will work for us here too” – but I don’t.

Eunuch Jar

It wouldn’t be appropriate and they don’t really get sarcasm here.  These men are sincere and change takes a long time – I am happy to be a part of a real discussion on gender equality, with men willing to truly engage in a dialogue.

I have been asked to make several presentations and design media for many of the local events. I recently worked on an international campaign called 16 Days of Activism.  We sponsored two events that were well attended and got good writes-ups in the paper.  I love how many men participate in these events along with the women!

A parade starts the 16 Days of Activism

A parade starts the 16 Days of Activism

Parenting:  I often struggle to understand how or why people parent their children here.  In the USA there is rarely anything more precious than ones child.  If a parent doesn’t care about their own kids, society is supposed to intervene – and if another family member does not step in, government usually does.  Everything is …..”for the kids”.  Here, nothing is for the children.  (Oddly while there is little respect for children, children are expected to and do totally take care of their parents when they grow up. I mean entirely take care of them – pay all their bills, give them transport and build them a home).

There is one special place I like to walk to about 2K from my home that I call The Rocks.  It is beautiful and you can see all of Molepolole from the little cliff which is easy to climb.  The dogs love climbing the rocks and it is a breath taking scenel at sunset.  I took a few kids, along with the dogs one day.  The next day 10 kids wanted to come and the next day every single kid in the neighborhood wanted to come.

puppies on rocks

puppies on rocks

I told each kid to ask their parents.  Many parents came to talk to me about this.  The parents couldn’t believe I would take the kids on a walk.  They wanted to know how I thought of it and why I would want to do that.  They also wanted me to know they thought I was being kind when I took these kids. They speculated about how much I must miss my own children back home.  They would gush about how much their kids liked me and liked hanging out at our house.  They were being gracious and also curious about how we get the kids so excited and interested.  I could see these parents were happy that their children were engaged and that people liked their children.

I am flummoxed!  What I can’t see and I don’t think I ever will – is why can’t they take their own child for a walk?  What prevents this thought process?  I simply cannot grasp this part of the culture.  It is very very hard not to judge this and to try and believe it is simply something cultural beyond my grasp.  I try to stay focused on the seeds of love that are visible.

Beautiful Sunsets to watch with your children or not.

Beautiful Sunsets to watch with or without your children.

 

Culture:   Some things are the same in every culture.  When I worked at the probation office (28 years ago) I remember several girls said they got pregnant because their religion would not allow them to use birth control.  They didn’t seem to mind blowing off their religion when it came to pre-marital sex.  It’s the same thing here.  Everyone says they can’t get married because their culture requires that they pay 7 cows (or equivalent) before they can marry.  So they are forced to have children outside of marriage since they cannot afford the cows.  Of course, if you strictly follow cultural rules – there should be no sex outside of marriage as well.

A special dinner:  If PCV’s come to our house for a weekend we usually make them a special dinner.  It is easy for us with all the goodies we get from home.   We pretend it is a dinner party and occasionally even light a candle and ignore the chipped plastic plates, and pots instead of serving dishes.

Now that the holidays are here most people have left the neighborhood and we are basically alone.  However, two of the six boys that live next door had to stay here (by themselves) an extra two weeks because there was not enough transport money to take them to their grand parents home village.  John and I felt sorry for them and invited them over for their own special dinner.  They are in the cooking club, so they sort of know how to bake, but we planned and served a big and formal dinner, trying to teach them about social graces, and planning as well as cooking.

We had Mexican night with burritos (thanks to many people back home for sending Mexican fixings).

Most of the food in Botswana is on the bland side.  But these boys  have learned to appreciate some of the spices and often ask to borrow some of my hot spices and recipes to make more textured and tasty food.  They were very excited about all the hot sauces, hot peppers and hot spices.

Mexican Dinner with Jay and Ompile before the hot peppers took effect

Mexican Dinner with Jay and Ompile before the hot peppers took effect

I warned them to be careful – they were creating something I would not be able to eat – but they are 11 and 12- the invincible ages.  They told me they could handle it.  After Jay drank about 10 glasses of water and sucked on 10 ice cubes he admitted his throat was burning pretty bad.  A few minutes later he said he was getting scared about how much it hurt and acquiesced to the yogurt I suggested he substitute for the rest of his meal.

I asked him if he knew what was happening.  When he said he didn’t, I told him, he was learning a lesson right now.  I was glad he laughed and agreed.

After dinner John showed them some card tricks, we all played Concentration and then watched movies. John won at Concentration and he told them he was the biggest winner because he was spending every second of the game and every atom of his brain Concentrating.  He said he concentrated his butt off – and they would have to learn to do that too if they wanted to win at anything.  He taught them many good memory tricks.  Their mother told me they said it was one of the best nights of their lives!  I think it was a darn good night in our life too!

Friends Celebrations:  We have met some wonderful friends here and have been invited to celebrate some milestones with them.  Kelone and Jez run the NGO, Non Governmental Organization, we both do secondary project work at.  I tutor girls from minority tribes in Commerce and John takes care of their computer needs.  If you want to learn more about the NGO you can do it here:  http://springboard-humanism.org.  They had a very nice 25th wedding anniversary that we were both invited too and greatly enjoyed.

Two of the best people I know

Two of the best people I know

 

I'm enjoying with swing outside the party

I’m enjoying with swing outside the party

Their daughter Tshamo knows both cultures inside out - I go to her for so much

Their daughter Tshamo knows both cultures inside and out – I go to her for so much

Kelone is a great story teller and she had the crowd in the palm of her hand

Kelone is a great story teller and she had the crowd in the palm of her hand

 

 

 

 

These are the three girls I tutor.

These are the three girls I tutor.

Kelone and Jez 25th Anniversary Party_29

PCV friend Nate and Berry Heart. Ms. Heart is Kelones’ niece and also a famous African poet. She and Nate have been working on an album together to generate funds for the NGO.

 

Variety Show:  My school had a variety show on the last day of school.  The boys all sang and danced and the girls dressed like little tramps and “modeled”.  My school is so strict about everyone being in school uniform and so conservative about the students behavior and dress – I was a little shocked by how easily the staff allowed the girls to dress this way.  It was one of those transcendental moments when I realized there are as many similarities as differences in people.  Girls love having an opportunity to show off what they have –

The children loved it - some stood in the window sills for two hours watching and cheering the other kids on

The children loved it – some stood in the window sills for two hours watching and cheering the other kids on

The MC had on a tiny amount of clothes while discussing program with Assistant Deputy

The MC had on a tiny amount of clothes while discussing program with Assistant Deputy

These girls slow walked around the entire hall to relentless guttural cat calls.

These girls slow walked around the entire hall to relentless guttural cat calls.

There were about 600 students in attendance

There were about 600 students in attendance

These boys did a fun dance routine

These boys did a fun dance routine

 

 

 

 

 

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Hair, Gardens and other Important things…

Double click any pictures to see them full size.

 

Both of us have “adapted” well to the significantly lower level of expected hygiene here in Africa.  No more daily showers or weekly laundry and much less concern about our physical appearance in general.  As a result,  our hair has lost it’s priority.

In my case, I was half discouraged about the full day’s vacation travel and expense to go get a haircut and half intrigued with having long hair again (like my high school days in the 1970’s).  I just decided that I would let it grow for the two years I was here and then cut it when we came back.  After the heat of last summer and continual disappointment looking in the mirror each day, I decided I had had enough.  I asked one of our friends who used to work in a hair salon to cut it, but I was tortured by the thought of a dramatic cut, so I requested just half cut off.  That left me with something better than before, but still a mess.  A few weeks later, I bit the bullet and took a vacation day to travel to the big city and get it cut professionally.  Again, tortured, I requested the girl to use her imagination and do “something” fun with it.  For $30 (about 10% of my monthly living allowance for food and transportation) I got a very pretty, GIRLS haircut.  Uuggghh!

There are plenty of “barbers” right here in our village, however, not a one of them has ever cut “strait hair” (white people’s hair), so I was not too excited about that option.  I ended back at the same professional salon again 2 weeks later in hopes of getting a credit for my own mistaken directions, but to no avail.

However, I did end up with Clyde, who was a very good cutter and he got me back to my old short-hair self! What a relief!

John's First Ponytail

John’s First Ponytail

 

Starting to get out of control

Starting to get out of control

 

Definitely out of control!

Definitely out of control!

 

The problem!

The problem!

 

First Attempt at a solution

First Attempt at a solution

 

Second Attempt at a solution

Second Attempt at a solution

 

Not sure

Not sure

 

Sure!

Sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our friends was nice enough to send Carol some Do-it-Yourself Hair Coloring and she was feeling over confident in my abilities one evening and asked me to give her just “a few highlights”.  Seemed easy enough and I read the directions and went to town on her hair.  You can guess the results.  Orange hair. Everywhere.  What?  I didn’t know it would do that!  So that is how we met Clyde.  He was happy to help us fix my miserable mess and it came out fairly well, but once you start with the hair coloring, the roots grow out and there’s a lot of maintenance.

JM give Carol Orange Hair

JM give Carol Orange Hair

 

Clyde saves the day!

Clyde saves the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our garden appears to be a bit more of a success this year than last.  Last year, our first garden, we dug up a bit of sandy, rocky dirt and planted all kinds of great things that had been given to us by our friend Jason, the Master Gardner.   Unfortunately, with a combination of no rain, too shallow digging, little to no nutrients and no top soil whatsoever, it failed pretty miserably.  At the end of the season we decided to compost for the next season.  We got two 5 gallon buckets and took all our left over vegetables and peels and all kinds of great stuff and layered dirt in the buckets and then buried it all in piles as the buckets got full.  We figured this new dirt would have lots of good nutrients and be much better for our next garden.  So this year we planted the rest of the seeds that Jason gave us in little seedling containers and raised them with all the tender loving care we could give them.  Most of them grew, although weakly.  We hired someone to dig our garden plot down nice and deeply and made it much bigger than last year.  We built a new chicken and bird proof structure covered with the extra PC-issue mosquito netting we had (because we are two PCVs) and churned all that great compost into our new garden bed, marveling at how sumptuous it looked!  We planted the seedlings and watered well and waited.  All of the seedlings that we had planted died almost right away, leaving us bitterly disappointed   However, soon after that tons of sprouts came bursting through the earth and we quickly deduced that the compost we had created apparently had tons of tomato and squash seeds from food we had thrown away!  We accepted our fate and pruned like mad.

Now we have many tomato plants and squash plants bearing little fruits and we are hopeful that they will continue to grow to some eatable size.

Our Chicken and Bird Proof Garden

Our Chicken and Bird Proof Garden

Looks good, doesn't it?

Looks good, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few months back the Soccer season started.  I had promised the neighbor kids a year ago that I would take them all  to a Zebras Game.  The Zebras are the Botswana National Football Team.   They are pretty good, but  not really world class.  As it turns out our village of Molepolole has the most modern and news stadium in the country, so the Zebras play here very frequently.   Again, the stadium is difficult to get to for us and there is no published schedule of games so planning a night out to see the game is not easy.  The team is made up of 7 divisions ranging from the professionals to the youngest team which is for ages 16 and under.

A few weeks ago we heard from a taxi driver that the Zebras were playing the next Friday for a free game. Of course it turned out that it was the youngest team, but Carol and I grabbed the opportunity and arranged with the parents of 17 kids for them to provide 8 pula ($1.00) for taxi fare to the game and back.Friday came and I took off work early and we called two of our taxi friends who we were sure we could convince to squish 7 or 8 kids in each taxi.  Of course, 5 of the kids did not show up at all, and another 5 of them showed up with no money.  Nevertheless, we piled the 12 of them into two taxi and went to the game. It appeared to be the highlight of their lives as only 1 or 2 of them had ever been to a game before.   We brought snacks for everyone and bought them all water at the stadium.  We tried to show them the Buddy System to help keep Carol and I from panicking when we could only count 11.  It was a fun event and very gratifying to see how happy and grateful the kids were.

Botswana Vs Algeria

Botswana Vs Algeria

 

A Happy Bunch of Kids

 

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone

Hello Everyone!

We wanted to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving and let you know that we will be enjoying a special meal (although not a Turkey – in fact, Carol is currently boiling a giant, family sized cow tongue) and enjoying our screensaver as it whips through the thousands of great pictures of all of you!   We are living vicariously through Facebook posts and emails letting us know how Thanksgiving is still celebrated back home.

 

Rati is improving slowly – with several fits of pain a day – but still improving – and we are grateful for that.

Weak, but recovering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wish you all the best!

Jm and Carol

 

PS>  The giant, family sized boiled cow tongue is NOT for us!

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The Empty Part of that last 1/2 full Glass…

I just couldn’t resist.  Especially after today.  The last couple of days have been particularly difficult.   A couple tough events occurred and I’m feeling a bit dejected.   I decided I would just write down some of the stories , if for no other reason then just to remember them all someday, and to be reminded that our 2 year stay in Africa had many uncomfortable sides.

 

I will start with the most significant event, that of someone close dying.   When we prepared for leaving for Africa a couple of years ago, one of the things we considered was the possibility of something bad happening back home while we were away.  Marriages and babies might bring us back early, but at least happily.   But family or friends befalling misfortune was going to be a tough issue.  A few days ago I got the news that one of my very best friends’ dad had passed on.  His dad was also a good friend of mine.  Of course he and his family are devastated and fully unprepared as it was a sudden event.  It’s hard to be prepared for something like this and its next to impossible to imagine all the emotional, financial and logistical issues that must be faced as a result.  No matter who you are or how tough you are, when someone close unexpectedly passes, it hurts.  A lot.  Needless to say, I am sorry and in mourning.  I am sorry to mourn alone, and I am suffering the loss without being able to console and consort with all the others that loved Jim.  Carol is also mourning.  I feel bad knowing how much that family is hurting and I can not do anything from here.

While trying to get a handle on the grief and helplessness of Jim’s death, I had another event that felt like a kick in the gut while down.  Yesterday marked the saddest and most disturbing day of our experience here in Africa so far.   We have had the wonderful blessing of our little Maltese puppy about 2 months ago.  We both fell completely in love with Rati, and we love taking good care of her.  Because there are many large, nasty mongol dogs around here, we made the somewhat difficult decision to have her spayed.  Much research on the internet agreed with this.   Checking with several vets we decided on a local one as it would be very hard to get her to and from Gaborone, and the procedure costs twice as much there.  The local vet also volunteered to come get our puppy and take us to his clinic and back, which was a huge benefit.

The African Vet’s Mobile ER

However, that morning, he couldn’t organize transportation and said he would take a cab to our home and do the surgery here.  We were hesitant but somewhat in a jam.  He came to our house  with his assistant and a patio box of tools and medications.  He is the local vet for the Department of Agriculture and licensed as a Veterinary Surgeon.  His primary job is taking care of the many cattle and goats and horses in this area and he sees to many dogs and cats on the side from his home.  He was nice enough, and we (us and our two PCV friend who had stayed the night with us) were eager to see how this was going to go.

It was a two hour surgery and the whole time we 4 were giving each other looks of questionable remorse.

Rati – Preped for Surgery

 

The surgery took place on our dining room table, with some newspaper to cover it and the IV bottle hung from an old rusty nail in the cement wall that currently holds up the mosquito trap.  The surgeon had all his equipment and a sterilization liquid but my living/dinning room is not really a sterile environment  and I was  concerned about the “operating room” environment.  It was 90 degrees in our house and I had the job of wiping the surgeons’ brow every time he said “brow”.  None of us had ever witnessed this kind of operation before nor did we know much about it.  The doctor talked as though it was a very routine procedure, and many of the cats and dogs we had as children in my family had been spayed or neutered, so we were not prepared for this major operation.  He gave Rati a shot that knocker her out in my arms and then prepped her for surgery.   Next was a large needle of anesthesia and then he made a 3 inch cut (on her 5  inch stomach.   That is when the looks began.

Rati Under the Knife

 

We had assumed that a small incision would be required and adequate.  We were wrong.  He then pulled out most of her guts and set them aside while trying eternally to find her little ovaries.  Once located they were tediously tied and then cut out.   I was quite disappointed in the way this “surgeon’s” hand was not nearly as steady as the ones you see in the movies and also concerned about his lack of organization of his tools.  The whole time I was wiping the brow of the surgeon and holding a flashlight, along with Adam holding a second one so he could see better.  After 40 minutes or so, Rati made a small noise and we all just about collapsed.   They rushed to give her a second shot of anesthesia through her IV but there was an air bubble in the line that had to be sucked out backwards with the needle before the anesthesia could be injected.  This took an additional 10 minutes during which we were all praying the dog would not wake up with her insides on the outside.   Once the two ovaries were removed, all the insides were stuffed back in and again we were all thinking the same thing; hoping they were put back in the same functioning order.  Two inside layers of stitches were applied over the next hour, using absorb-able line that was as thick as 100 lbs. fishing line.  The final outside stitching was done with line that will have to be removed in 2 weeks and the whole sewing project seemed very much like it must have been done in the 1800’s Wild West.

Rati in the Recovery Box

 

We spent the rest of the day nursing our poor Rati while she was in terrible pain and shock after the anesthesia wore off.  We both feel terribly guilty as she is laying there weak and wounded and we couldn’t help but wonder if we should have spent the day of travel and double the money to take her to a different vet.  Or maybe we should have built an impenetrable fortress around our house so the mongrel dogs couldn’t get to her and let her keep her tiny, hard to find ovaries and avoid the entire ghastly traumatizing event.

The four of us sat in stunned silence for a while not knowing how to digest what we saw or how to comfort each other.  Carol was/is especially scared the dog will get an infection.  We all wanted to ease her mind but could not not come up with any words of conviction.  I can only hope that everything was put back inside adequately.  We questioned the vet afterwards about all this drama and about how it’s not like this in America, and his sensible reply was simply that in America we just drop the dogs off at a vet and come back the next day and they are done.  No one ever sees the effects that we witnessed today.  I sure hope this is true.

One tragedy and one slasher movie starring our little puppy in the same week puts me in a bad place.   These events, coupled with our day to day challenges and discomforts, makes me want to record some things for future reference.    Please indulge my complaining for a short while.

 

Its 90 degrees in our house all day long.  It does finally cool down to 80 in the  evening, so sleeping with two heavy fans on us is bearable for the moment.  An even hotter summer is still around the corner as December through February will be the very hot months.  There are many moments when I seriously question my devotion to what I am doing here, due to the miserable discomfort.  I cannot even imagine our fellow PCVs who deal with even more heat in the northern part of the country along with swarms of mosquitoes and the constant real threat of Malaria, and some of whom do not have the running water and electricity that we have.  I am fortunate enough to have AC in my office and have often thought of sleeping there, but that would be absolutely culturally unacceptable.  I would spend the $800 in a heartbeat to install an AC unit in our little house, despite only being here for maybe one more year, but there is no way we could get away with that kind of luxury item sticking out the side of our house while the other 35 identical houses go without.   Both the Peace Corps Admins and the school staff would have something serious to say about us putting ourselves so far “outside” the community standard of living.   I am seriously terrified about the coming summer months.  I can barely remember, but I’m pretty sure that last summer should have been the same, and although we somehow made it through, on a day to day basis, it is getting harder and harder to accept the cumulative discomforts we are living with.

The dust continues to plague me as there is just no escape.  Even on the tar roads, when the wind blows strong, there is no avoiding the grit in your teeth and the instant filthy hair.

The electrical power in this country is a huge issue.  It goes off for just a moment several times a day, every day.  Sometimes its only off for 5 seconds, which is just enough to ax another notch in the health of our computers, and destroy the current unsaved documents we are working on.  Sometimes it’s off for an hour, and sometimes for longer.  It’s constantly annoying and difficult to deal with.  I am worried about our computers and records, and our work disappearing and corrupting all the time.  I have pulled my hair out on several occasions trying to copy very large computer files, only to be interrupted 4-5 times in a row during the last couple minutes of a 3 hour copy job and having to start over, again and again.  Uuugh!

Want to go somewhere on a bus or train?  Want to see a Botswana Zebra’s soccer game at the stadium?  Or a movie at the theater which is ½ a days’ travel away?  Be prepared to be turned away no matter the tremendous effort to get there.  Nothing is planned properly, and communication about dates and start times are never available.  Don’t count on their web pages.  Although there are webpages, and although there are schedules posted, they are NEVER correct.  Not even close.   The only way to do it is just go to the station or the theater and wait for the next event to happen.  There is absolutely no reliability in what ANYONE says.  5 people will tell you they are sure, but you will find they are very wrong.  If you are lucky enough to find a phone number for some place and then to have someone answer it, they will just tell you their website is wrong, but they are not sure what is right.  It is so difficult to travel here and scheduling anything just bring frustrated waiting and wasted time, over and over.

We have internet at our house.  We pay roughly $90 US per month for .5 Meg speed.  By comparison, in the US most business have 10 or 20 Meg service.  That speed we have is adequate for the most part to do basic emails and browsing.  It is very slow for remotely accessing another computer, or streaming  video.  We could purchase faster speeds, but it takes months to get it done along with dozens of very angry calls to people who couldn’t care less when it happens, and it is quite expensive.  We have to worry every time there is a weather event that the internet will be out for hours or days.  We recently had a problem with our Capital One Credit Card.  It took a full month of unimaginable frustration with emails and shouting matches on expensive paid Skype audio calls to get it resolved.  Every conversation starts with, “I am calling from Africa; this is costing $2.00 a minute.  Can you hear me?”  They often say they can – but the conversation continually gets bogged down with “you are breaking up – I can’t hear you” or “Can you please say that again” – and my favorite – “can you please enter your number into the keypad” – which is maddening because there is NO KEYPAD!  The agitation is beyond words.

Being in a foreign country with people whose official primary language is English takes some serious caution.  It’s a daunting task to continually step back during conversations and appreciate that English may be their official language, but that doesn’t mean they use words the same way we do – and many many people still struggle to communicate at in English at all.  Many things have no direct translation and so the closest way to it is used, often times coming out significantly different than meant.   The native Setswana language is what is called a “command based” language.  There is no concept of please or thank you or other gratuities in the written language.  So every time someone would like to borrow a pen or ask if you want to go somewhere or would like to know if you have seen Carol recently, you have to put up with “GIVE me that pen!” and “LETS GO!”, or “WHERE is Carol?”.  This wears on us daily and accounts for a tremendous amount of bitterness and frustration.

Meetings here are the most frustrating and maddening part of all of our work experiences.  The Botswana people are infatuated with protocol and so afraid of change, that there appears to be no common sense whatsoever.  During a typical meeting of 20 to 70 people, you will see people reading and writing text messages, sleeping, and slouching in their chairs to the point of amazement.  Everyone keeps their phones on during meetings and when a call comes ringing in at full volume they immediately stand up and exit the room while taking the call.  It is more disruptive than you can possibly imagine and the reason they do it is because all incoming calls are free and they are all too cheap or poor to turn off their phones during a meeting and then call someone back later.  It is truly amazing that the chairpersons of these official meetings tolerate this on one side of their mouths  while talking out the other side about how poor it seems to come to a meeting late.   There are no consequences in this country for anything.  Drunk driving, theft, rude behavior  not coming to school, fighting, anything!  It all gets dealt with a small and courteous verbal reprimand.  People are so afraid of confrontation that they cannot even consider raising their voice or demanding explanation or accountability.  It is more than maddening to work so hard here to be efficient and productive and continually be beaten down watching others behave this way.

I could go on and on about the things we very much dislike in this country and about the many frustrating and angering issues we all deal with every day.  But I have gotten enough out of my system to spare you that, at least for now).  Please understand this post is a bit of a vent for the first two bad experiences that I am currently lamenting.  I hope you will all take it for just that.

Also, if you know Tom Boyd or his family please reach out to him now.

Tommy – I am praying for you and your family.  I am so so sorry I can’t be there in person.  I am doing everything in my power to be there in spirit.

 

 

 

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November 5, 2012 – Namibia Vacation by Carol and John

Warning!   This is a bit of a long post!   Sorry!  

If you want to skim through it and just check out the pictures we will certainly understand.  

Double clik a picture to see in full size – some of the dunes are impressive!

There is a fun Seal Video Link towards the end too!

 

We just returned from a five day trip to Namibia (the country just west of Botswana).  Namibia is a relatively new country having received its independence from South Africa in 1990.  Before it was administered by South Africa it was a German colony.  Most recently, Namibia was in the news because Angela Jolie and Brad Pitt decided to have their baby and now often visit.

We decided to attended the Oktoberfest in Windhoek and then head to the beach at Swakopmund.  We couldn’t decide if we were going to drive, hitch or fly.  Flying is expensive on our budget, driving would be 18 hours on the wrong side of the road and somewhat dangerous – and hitching is always very time consuming, unpredictable, and extremely uncomfortable.

We booked a direct flight.  The day before we were to leave, Namibia Air lines changed our flight to include a layover in SA adding 4 hours more to our travel schedule.    There were only 14 people on a plane for 100 people – but the air lines did provide free lunch with drinks for our 45 minute flight.  We enjoyed a few art shops at the SA airport and made a plan to purchase some ostrich eggs on our way home.  After we left the airport we remembered we would not be returning this way – but we did get good pictures which are hundreds of dollars cheaper than the actual eggs.

These eggs are machine printed

African Art on an Ostrich Egg 3

African Art on an Ostrich Egg 2

African Art on an Ostrich Egg 1

The flight to Namibia was packed, and there was another free dinner with drinks (including alcoholic) served in economy.  Africa airline companies provide significantly better customer service than American airlines companies, but I doubt they are earning more money.

In Windhoek we landed in the middle of nowhere!  You can’t see a village or anything looking like it might lead to a country capital anywhere around.  There is one small two lane road that seems to meander – I hope to the countries capitol.  As we made arrangements to enter the country, I realize now that I am not nervous, afraid or timid about any of this – I am truly getting to be an experienced world traveler.

The airport is about 50K from the capitol.  Windhoek is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area. The population of Windhoek is 300,000.  The city is nestled between some beautiful mountains.  The view reminded me of Telluride – except it went on 10 times longer.

The Presidents Residence 2

The Presidents Residence!

In Africa many of the hotels offer rooms from campsite up to luxury – which seems like a good idea and I wonder why it is not more prevalent in America or Europe, especially Europe.

We had booked at one such place for economy accommodations, but they let us upgrade for nearly nothing since we told them we are celebrating our honeymoon!  As most of you know, we got married to join the Peace Corps and the Peace Corps was our planned honeymoon.

We met our friends at the Festival later that night.  There were at least 1,000 people and only 1% was non-white.  People were dressed in German garb and drinking out of Africa steins, which mean they were plastic instead of glass, and had stickers instead of printed designs.  There was only one band – but they played a lot of international songs, and many people were dancing and enjoying.  There was good German food there including pork, dumplings, sour kraut, and pretzels. There was one sort of hangy ornament from the tent top that you would not recognize to be a decoration unless you knew it was supposed to look like the bier tents in Munich.  They also had cookie hearts on strings with little love messages just like Munich.

Real German Boys!

Real German Girls

Our best Liederhosen!

Carol’s Beer Buddy

The band eventually started playing less popular songs – and the crowd slowly left.

The Oktoberfest Band

The next day we checked out Windhoek.  We stopped at the Maurau Mall – which was a unique indoors/outdoors multi-level curving and turning around mall.  Most of the stores were the same as in Botswana or Durban – but the setting was unique.  I was surprised by the percent of white people, which seemed to be about 60%.  Upon further research I found the actual percent of white people in Windhoek is 16%.  Apparently white people like hanging out in the malls as well as going to festivals. We did not trust there would be much of a downtown – and lingered at the mall for quite a while.

Finally – we started walking for downtown and came upon the “Las Vegas Strip” of Windhoek – which had about 6 or 7 “casinos” comprised mostly of slot machines.  We did win 29.00 Namibian Dollars!    The only disappointment was that most shops closed at 1:00 PM (on Saturday).  It is so strange to see so little value put on making money.  We could hardly believe the capitol city of the country closed nearly all it shops on Saturday afternoon! We found a nice park and there were a few traditional women covered in clay and mostly naked selling souvenir junk that was reasonably priced on Fidel Castro Road – which I found slightly ironic.  We wanted to take pictures but it seemed way to exploitative    However, they would let you take their picture for N50.00.  Instead of pay these extortion prices, we decided we would download a picture for the blog.  The clay is meant to protect their skin and hair, and these women did have flawless skin.

The African Vegas Strip!

Interesting African Art: Fake boulders on pedestals

Nice way of saying Local Jail

Clay Women

We tried tapas at a restaurant owned by a Venezuelan married to a Spaniard.  The food was definitely tapas – but with many weird Indian/African twists and accents.  After we adjusted our expectations it was enjoyable – and now we know what African/Spanish tapas taste like.

We proceeded to the festival for the second night, that was much the same as the first, except there were more PCV’s there.  In total, 16 of us came to the festival.  It took some people 2.5 days to get there using hitches, buses, and khombi’s.  It took another 2.5 days to get home too.  I’m sure glad they had the energy to do that – because they made the festival a lot more fun for us. At the end of the night we got a baked chicken and dumplings.  We sat at a table with a man who had passed out on the table – which indicated it had been a good party, but was coming to the end.

Towards the end of the night!

The next day started off with a challenge.  We were to leave for Swakopmund, about 400K from Windhoek to enjoy the rest of our vacation on the beach.  While making plans to pick up a rental car we realized we had not brought a driver’s license.  We don’t carry DLs anymore!  The hotel had good Internet service and John was able to remote into Aaron’s computer system and retrieve a copy of his license he had left for Aaron.  Of course the hotel computer did not have a PDF reader so we were not able to print the document.  So we saved to a flash stick and hoped we could see it on my computer and maybe print it at the rental place???? When we got to the car rental place they did in fact require a driver’s license – but the image from the computer was good enough!!!! It is in these small moments I love living in Africa.

We got a Nissan with automatic transmission – which was twice as much as manual – but we thought it was necessary as it was going to be hard enough to navigate with the steering wheel on the right and the cars on the “wrong” side of the road.  It is a 5 hour drive to Swakopmund.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  It was the sort of picturesque stuff we see and read about in Africa.  Mountain ranges all around – and a new shade of green previously unseen in Botswana made us think it rained a little more here. About 2 hours into the drive we came to a little town called Usako, and there appeared to be a restaurant – or a cafe    It was called The Tree House.  There was a beautiful bier garden, and five nicely decorated rooms.  They served German food as well as pizza, burgers, tea and coffee.  It was just like real cafe in Europe – in the middle of nowhere on the way to Swakopmund.  I ordered the curry wurst – which was not quite as good as Munich, but better than all my attempts to duplicate the dish.

The Tree House – Main Stage

The Tree House – a pleasant Surprise in the middle of nowhere

 

Another deli in town sold what they called the “Best Biltong” in Namibia .  Biltong is supposed to be a kind of beef jerky – but for some reason this jerky was very wet – and we decided there were probably a lot of eyeballs or other parts ground into this meat so we simply could not bare to try a second bite!

About 20K from Swakopmund we saw a sign for a Camel Farm.  An elderly German woman was running the place with about 20 camels, one crazy dachshund, one cat, 50 chickens and 10 geese.  She had carved a little oasis in the dessert with special plantings here and there as well as a bunch of beautiful animals.  She would charge N125.00 for a 20 minute ride – and we asked how much too just climb on one and take a picture.   She said it was the same costs – because the hardest part is getting the saddle on the camel and then the human on the saddle.  But she did let us take any pictures of the place – and gave us a good history and botany lesson and offered us a cup of coffee.  We paid her N50.00 – which probably is not enough – but it is all we had at the moment.

The Namibia Camel Farm

Happy!

JM communicating with the Camel

 

Looks so uncomfortable!

A friendly Camel

On the plane ride we had read an article about when donkeys mate with zebras.  The article said it is a rare mating and even more rare that it results in offspring (which are all sterile).  The off-spring are called different things by different folks.  Coincidentally we saw one of these creatures on the Camel Farm:

A Zonky or a Debra?

The whole gang at dinner

As we approached the ocean from the East, we could now clearly see dark clouds ahead – and it looked like a giant waterfall in the sky was ahead of us. When we arrived Swakopmund seemed deserted and overcast.  It was cold and windy outside!  John and I cannot believe what bad travelers we have turned into.  We can’t believe we forgot our drivers license and we can’t believe we forgot to check on the climate conditions –we later found it is only warm one month a year!  And I was feeling so good about my travel skills just a few days ago at the airport!  This was disappointing – but we tried to make the best of it.  We met with a smaller group of 10 PCV’s that had also continued on to the beach via hitchhiking.

Seals by the hundreds

We started every morning well.  The free breakfasts in Africa make American and European hotels look like cheap insults.  I believe the restaurants in America and Europe are making money and I suspect the restaurants here are supported by the government.

We had troubles making plans because one of the more active persons was very sick, and he was hoping we would save the fun stuff until he felt better.  We were procrastinating as large groups tend to do before John and I decided to take advantage of our car and drive 30K south to Walvis Bay in a desperate hope there would be sunshine and warmth there.  Another couple drove with us.

It was a nice 30 minute drive with the cold, grey/blue Atlantic Ocean on one side and the huge golden sand dunes on the other side.  The dunes are pretty unique looking and they just go on and on with little vegetation or any signs of life.

Alas, Walvis Bay was also cold and windy – with even fewer things to do.  Of the 10 of us, only 3 of us had spent the few dollars to get a Namibian Cell Phone SIM card for our phones, so communicating with anyone was next to impossible.  After hours of driving around and trying to hook up with other group members we finally found a small Catamaran Cruise business that was open and had “seal excursions” and would take us out in the late afternoon.  For about 75% of the other excursions costs we would get two hours on the water, get to see seals, get two bottles of wine and a dozen oysters.  Perhaps it was cheaper because it is much colder in the late afternoon on the beach.

We learned that our white captain grew up in Nigeria, but his family was from Australia, and he had gone to school in Texas.  He had a big scare on his face and told us of a recent return from jail.  He seemed like a character out of a book.

He explained how oyster farms are made and grow.  They take long cable lines in the sea and sink large plastic containers filled with small purchased baby oysters about 30 feet down.  It takes about 8 to 10 months to grow a little oyster into something eatable.  They have to retrieve the containers every few months for cleaning and pruning out the bad ones.   There were dozens of the 1/2 mile long lines growing oysters on our way out to see the seals.   We finally made it out to the peninsula where there were at least a 1,000 seals.  They had told us there would be 50,000 – but the 1,000 was impressive.  We saw flamingo’s dining in front of the light house.  There were tiny little baby seals, and big huge sloughs seals with extra fir all around their necks.  Seals frolicking, and fighting, loving and biting – seals everywhere.  We took about 100 pictures.

A Fat Seal on the Beach

Oysters and Sherry on the Cruise

When we had had enough we headed back home and the Captain poured us some sherry, which was very warming.  We got back to shore about 6:30 pm and felt like we had won the tourist prize for the day.

Next up was our free dinner included with the “Sun Downers” special at our hotel.  As soon as we sat down I felt the bug in my stomach.  I told John I knew I was going to puke later that night. I could barely get down the appetizers before I raced to the bathroom.  I felt it was so unfair for this to happen on my free dinner night.  I refused to admit I was sick and returned to the table and tried to eat my salad and even took a few bites of fish.  But it was not meant to be.  I left John to dine alone and went upstairs to start a night of alternating ends.  It was exhausting and it hurt my whole body most of the night. I was done with the puking by morning, but still had some issues at the bottom.  I was tired, but didn’t want to miss out on our vacation.  John suggested we drive to Cape Cross – about 120K north to see more seals because we would be able to sit in the car for a few hours.

I took my bucket and cautiously agreed.  We drove up the Skeletal Coast – which looked like a place people come to die.  It was ancient and desolate. Called Skeletal Coast for all the sunken Portuguese warships, I believe.  There is persistently nothing for miles and miles.  And then out of nowhere is a small town.  Each house had a water storage tank and there were no power lines.  We wondered how or why anyone in the world would want to live is such desolation.  In another 50K is another village.  It looked like a nice town.  Electricity, power lines, and there was even a golf course.  It was all sand with little grass greens around the hole.  The buildings were nice and the coast was gorgeous, but still grey and cold.  While this did look like civilization – it was still just too far from anything for us to think of as a pleasant place to live and really to even visit.

About 10K from Cape Cross we started seeing little rickety, rusty broken down tables.  Each table had 10 – 15 big chunks of salt crystals and a sign that said N100.00 , N50.00 or  N30.00.  We shook a few cans and none appeared to have money – I can’t imagine how people could make money – but there were about 100 tables.

Portuguese Cross

Salt Crystals for “On you Honor” Sale

Finally we come to the Cape Cross Lodge.  A huge, nice, elaborate lodge.  It nearly looked like a fort castle on the ocean.  It was built for a huge crowd of vacationers – but there were only 3 cars on the parking lot. We had a bowl of soup in the elegant dining area overlooking the cold immense Atlantic Ocean.  We could hear the roar of the ocean.  We were the only one’s dining there. A short way off is a famous seal sanctuary.  At the height of breeding season there are over a million seals.  We were 20 feet away from 1000’s of seals.  They stank to high heaven!  Much the same as the day before – but it was a nice activity for a sick person.  Just watching the seals.  We saw several large crosses that were replicas of what the Portuguese laid down nearly 500 years ago when claiming parts of Africa for European kings.

If you want to see a Seal Video, click here:  <Seals in Namibia Video>.

It is impossible to explain how immense this space is and how small we are as human beings.  It seemed foreign to even be there – like humans are not supposed to be there.  I slept in the car the two hours back.   After resting a bit and feeling mostly on the incline, I decided to try the dune bikes at Walvis Bay.  I had a lot of trouble steering and the guide had to stop several times to tell me things like I have to do more than move my knees or my head  to make the bike turn.  I felt good that I tried it and that in general I don’t just refuse to do things that don’t come natural to me, but it was not the most exciting part of my trip.

 

Quad Biking the Namibian Dunes

Quad Biking the Namibian Dunes

 

Digging up a Dessert Lizard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half way through the tour our guide stopped us and scrambled off his quad and thrust his hand deep under the sand and pulled out a fun little lizard!

Quad Biking on the Namibian Sand Dunes 4

Walking the ridges in the Namibia Dessert

Quad Biking on the Namibian Sand Dunes 2

Taking a break for some pictures

I was grateful to see the incredible  landscape of big massive dunes and the pictures were great.  We were both exhausted when it was over.  Overall I feel like I accomplished something – and I am glad I pushed myself through the discomfort.

Our last day in Swakopmund was Halloween – but nothing feels like America here and we don’t even notice or give a single thought to dressing up.  We headed back to Windhoek in our rental car giving a ride to two other volunteers, while the others assured us they would make it home in a few days via hitchhiking.

We dropped Corey and TJ at the Cardboard Box hostel – which was cheap –N95.00 ($12.00 US), and included free internet, pool, and breakfast – but bathrooms are shared and there were six nasty bunks in each room.  No way for us – especially since I was still feeling a bit sick.  I felt confident I could get a room at the Kalahari Sands (an exclusive 5 star casino hotel in downtown)  for $100US and wanted to stay there.  John was skeptical   We went and they laughed in our face!  They were not filled up, but the thought of $100 room seemed more crazy than an empty room getting nothing.  Second choice was the Chameleon Backpackers for $50US a night.  We had our own sleeping room and bathroom and it was clean – so we were happy.

While souvenir shopping we walked by a hidden, private little club and went in to check it out.  It was a Snooker Club, with about 12 old German’s all sitting around classically drinking bier and playing a Snooker Tournament.  It was not exactly a basement – but it was below ground level.  It was small and dank.  Cigarette smoke hung in the air.  The people were most welcoming, and they had the largest pool table we ever saw in our lives.  We found out it was a snooker table and John was invited to play.  He made a good showing getting in several good shots, but they lost at the end and had to buy the other team a round of shots, never mind that that had not been agreed upon first!

JM Playing Snooker

The men talked of their roots in Namibia, and of the language and always threw in a few fun rules about the bar.  For instance if you cuss someone really bad (not including shit or even the f word) you had to pay N1 into the pot.  You could just pay and not say the word and the person being cussed could be equally insulted upon learning of your payment on his behalf.  We finally couldn’t breathe anymore and took a ride to a local sushi place which we not had an opportunity to enjoy the whole vacation.  The place was super nice and very Japanese – but we ordered dinner instead of sushi and were disappointed in our own choices.  John said he ate to excess and his stomach was hurting – so we went home to get a good night sleep before our early flight the next day.   About 11:00 PM John started vomiting and crapping too.  It went on all night and throughout the next day too.  John was super happy to be on a plane instead of a bus or hitching to get home. It really sucks to travel when you cant trust your butt!    We made it home by 11:00 AM.

 

Overall – it was an ok vacation with some decent pictures, but it would have been nicer to have sat on a warm beach, or spent much less money considering we were not in New York City.  At least we will enjoy a few good memories we made there.

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Snow in Africa?

It has not really rained here in about a year.  Maybe a total of ½ inch over the past 365 days.  It is as dry as can be, every day, with tiny “wannabe” dust storms popping up frequently.  About a week or so ago, on a Tuesday morning around 10:00 am a severe storm began.   It had been sunny and about 80 degrees so far that morning.   Now, all of a sudden our little village was the focus of a years’ long pent up weather anger.  I was at work as usual, working frantically on the upcoming National World AIDS Day festival where I have the responsibility for the design of the Billboards, Posters, Calendars, Programs, Press Conference Invitations and a whole bunch of other publicity materials.  It was already a high pressure morning when the power went out and the winds became a concern as the pelting rain turned to marble size hail.   We all watched tree after tree being blown down or uprooted in our office courtyard as what must have been 80 or 100 mph winds blew the huge hail sideways and even upward.  I was very concerned about the windows blowing in and advised everyone to stay away from them, but even I could not resist the need to observe the most severe storm I had ever been in the middle of.

The hail continued to accumulate all over the ground as the entire brown sandy/rocky ground became white.  As the accumulated hail melted it became what looked just like hard packed snow for just a brief 10 minutes or so before the storm ended.

The whole thing lasted only about 30 minutes and before an hour the sun was shining again and it was back to 80 degrees.

The only real difference now was that several buildings were missing their roofs, many giant trees had been uprooted and the roads were covered with hundreds of grapefruit size rocks that had been washed on to them by an ocean of flash flood waters, completely bringing traffic to a 5 mph crawl for the rest of the day.  Power in most of the village was out for at least 3 days.

Fortunately, the roads were cleared in one day, and the roofs and smashed structures that were impeding daily work were being attended to.

It’s not New York by a long stretch, but it sure caused some fun conversations here!

 

Here are some pictures taken during the storm that I am sorry wont do the story justice.

Hail Accumulating

 

 

Trees Falling 1

 

Trees Falling

Our African Snow 1

Our African Sno

Our African Snow 3!

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Seeing the Glass more than half full….

That last post by carol with all the pictures and stories about the condition of the school where we live was highly accurate and an appropriate way to let folks back home get just a taste of how the poorer, but very real side of our everyday lives is.  As correctly assumed, this country is plagued with poverty and dirt and living conditions that would make most of our circle of friends cringe.  And although there are plenty of places in America where the environment is equally grotesque, living here, in the heart of poverty has created lots of interesting thoughts and conversations.

We, as Peace Corps Volunteers, have been fortunate to be provided with US Government policies that require high enough standards in our housing, food and transportation around town that we can’t really say we are living in poverty. Not by a long shot.  It’s a drastic step down for almost of all of us, but it’s all quite livable and tolerable and with the right attitude, our lives can be described as quite happy.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  Today, while walking down the mile long dusty road from the tar road to our house, fruitlessly trying to avoid breathing too much dust from passing cars, I arrived at the gate of our School and began the ¼ mile walk to our house #5.  As I looked around I noticed that the some of the bushes on the school grounds had just been trimmed and that the few Jacaranda trees along our short road were getting thick with beautiful purple flowers.  I also notices that most of the garbage around the two insufficient school garbage dumpsters was gone (probably just blew away into the fields of Africa – but maybe it was actually cleaned up). I noticed that one of the old school signs had been nicely re-painted and that a new metal sign had been installed with some promising messages and hope inspiring statements on it.

I started thinking about the good things about us being placed in this country instead of any of the other African countries; English, Peace and Potable Water right out of the ground.  These things are so hard to imagine living without.  As I continued walking I thought about our little house compared to most of the other PCVs who live without electricity or water or both.

Of the 35 or 40 houses on the school property, we happen to live in the house that is closest to the school water storage tower.  That means we have fairly high water pressure all the time.  Unlike many of the other school houses, ours is almost never out of water.  In fact, for some unknown reason (that could coincide with me removing the one-way safety valve from the water heater about two weeks ago), our water pressure has been very strong, so taking a shower with our home made, hose shower contraption is actually quite a weekly pleasure!

Our house also happens to be right under the only lighted street light in the whole school.  There are a dozen more lights posts on the one street, but not a one of them has ever worked.  This is very nice when coming home after dark.  We also live in house #5.  Of 35 or 40 houses, ours is close to the front gate which really makes for a much shorter walk to and from home.  We also have two giant gas cylinders.  This is nice because when one runs out, it will take no less than two months to get it refilled and without that second one we would not be able to cook until it was refilled.  Last, but not least, I noticed that our house also has 3 of the only 5 nice tall trees on the whole school, which really makes for a nice, welcoming view as I approach our home gate each day.

Besides our house being quite acceptable for a Peace Corps Volunteer, we also now have a new addition to our comfortable little house.  A most wonderful little Maltese puppy named Rati.  She greets me at the fence each evening and bids me good-bye each morning.  Her sister, Phoenix comes to visit and stay with us for a week at a time, frequently.  Seeing the two of them playing constantly together and their constant need for our attention has added another very enjoyable element to our lives.

Roti after a full day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I  just got some pictures from one the computer projects I did a while back that shows the 4 computers I fixed at a very remote village being used to teach typing. This is very gratifying.

Mmanoko School Computer Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend I built a new garden structure to keep the birds, chickens, goats, donkeys and our little Rati out of the garden.

Our Old Pathetic Garden

Our New Modern Garden!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At least currently, the days are a perfect 80 degrees with the nights a very pleasant cool 65 or so and that makes for some really awesome sleeping.

All of this combines together to create a home atmosphere of very satisfactory pleasantness and a glass that is quite a bit more than just half way full.

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October 6 2012 – Kwena Sereto Junior School – By Carol

A life in the day of a student:

The students must walk at least 1K down one of the most horrible dusty roads I have ever seen.  John also has to walk down this road to get to work every day and he took these miserable pictures.

The last mile before school requires each child to breath in at least 1T of dust and dung

The last mile before school requires each child to breath in at least 1 Tablespoon of dust and dung

This is the entrance of the school – the sign used to read Welcome to Kwena Sereto – I doubt that it will ever be painted or readable again.

Welcome to Kwena Sereto CJSS - is what it used to say

Welcome to Kwena Sereto CJSS – is what it used to say

This picture is of the Head Girl with the school logo.  Most schools are trying to transition over to a student body instead of the old Prefect system – but it will probably take another 10 years.

Head Girl Olorato - She asked me to take some pictures of her one weekend

Head Girl Olorato – She asked me to take some pictures of her one weekend

The school day starts at 7:30 AM.  A teacher waits at the gate for the first 30 minutes and if a child is late he/she gets beat with the stick.  However, if said child can figure out how to crawl through the fence or walk to the other entrance about 3 minutes away he/she can easily sneak in.  The guard at the main gate may or may not think it is worth his time to enforce tardy issue.  So if you are going to be late – you might as well wait until after 8:00, when there is a 50/50 chance you can miss the beating.

 

Me and the guard - he only enforces the tardy rule 50% of the time.

Me and the guard – he only enforces the tardy rule 50% of the time.

 

The school day is as follows:

7:30 – 7:40 attendance

7:40 – 7:50 Assembly

7:50 – 10:30 – Four classes that are forty minutes each

10:30 – 11:00 – Tea – Served by kids

11:00 – 1:40 – Four classes that are forty minute each

1:40 – 2:00 – Lunch, served by kids

3:00 – 4:30 – Study – with no teachers

The school works on a 6 day class system instead of 5 days.

Children are required to wear uniforms.  About 20% of the student’s uniforms are in tatters.  The teachers, the parents and the children do not mind wearing tattered uniforms to school.   It is perfectly fine to show up in ripped, threadbare and worn down, clothes, belts, and shoes. Many children have shoes in which the soles are completely worn through, since there is little or no rain, it isn’t that big of a deal (as long as you don’t step on the thorn bushes).

There are no furnaces or air-conditioners.  In the winter when classrooms are freezing the children seek out sunshine and skip class to bask in the sun as much as possible.  In the summer, when the temperature is regularly over 100, they return to the classroom to seek the shade.

 

This looks like a fun classroom until you realise the students spend six hours a day on concrete benches, with no desks regardless of the weather.

This looks like a fun classroom until you realise the students spend six hours a day on concrete benches, with no desks regardless of the weather.

 

A close up.  This is a full time classroom for 45 to 50 students.  My butt and my back hurt after sitting here for 40 minutes.

A close up. This is a full time classroom for 45 to 50 students. My butt and my back hurt after sitting here for 40 minutes.

Kids are required to take 9 subjects of which 7 are tested.  Computer class and Guidance and Counseling class are required but not tested.   A passing grade is 40%, which obviously (to us Americans) indicates the student does not have enough knowledge to move forward, but they are pushed forward anyway – making it harder and harder to succeed.

Below are pictures of typical class rooms.  About 90% of the students have a very uncomfortable plastic chair to sit in – the others share.  The desks are all metal and about 20 years old.  Most look like someone took a ball-peen hammer to the top.  About 20% of the desks are in pieces and students must balance them all the time to keep them up.  About 95% of the students get desks.

Many of the doors are broken and the rooms are never locked.  It is often hard to hear in these rooms too.

Many of the doors are broken and the rooms are never locked. It is often hard to hear in these rooms too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard Classroom.  45 to 50 students are in each class

Standard Classroom. 45 to 50 students are in each class

 

These are the desks the students get to use.

These are the desks the students get to use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lockers are in bad disrepair and only 50% of the students get lockers.  The

Only about half the lockers are usable.  Three or four students share one locker with one lock and one key.

Only about half the lockers are usable. Three or four students share one locker with one lock and one key.

others have to carry all their books all day back and forth and then to home.  It isn’t as bad as it might be since only half the students get books and no student has a set of complete books for all 9 classes they must take.

 

 

 

 

 

.......This student is hoping against hope no one will break into his/her locker

…….This student is hoping against hope no one will break into his/her locker

 

Below is a picture of the student toilets.  The toilets at Kwena Sereto are superior to most schools, which smell so bad gagging starts 10 feet outside the door.  The students are required to pay an extra 35 pula a month to have the bathrooms professionally cleaned.  There is one flush toilet at school for teachers, administrators and staff.  Lack of toilet facilities is one of the regular reasons many teachers go home during the day, including myself.

 

The don't actually have to go in this hole.......yet

The don’t actually have to go in this hole…….yet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When this hole fills - they will move the toilet to the other hole.  No running water and no toilet paper - EVER.

When this hole fills – they will move the toilet to the other hole. No running water, no doors for privacy  and no toilet paper – EVER.

See the gas pipes to vent the sewage on top..........  At some schools you can't walk within 10 feet of the toilets without gagging.

See the gas pipes to vent the sewage on top………. At some schools you can’t walk within 10 feet of the toilets without gagging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The picture below is our supplies office.  John gets about half the things he needs to fix or upgrade our home from there.

 

Now you know why are garden looks the way it does.

Now you know why are garden looks the way it does.

The eating conditions are the very very worst thing about the school.  Even the teachers constantly beg the school to do something to improve the “feedings”, which is what they call tea and then lunch.

This is the outside kitchen where they cook the meat.

This is the outside kitchen where they cook the meat.

They make the Prefects serve meals every day.  The school mostly serves palache (like grits), samp and beans (like hard corn and beans) or porridge (sorghum) for every meal.  Twice a week they get a piece of meat.  Once a week they get a vegetable, and twice a week they get a piece of fruit.  They must bring their own dishes, and they only bring a plate, which means they eat with their hands.

This is the indoor kitchen - that is sunlight at the top of the walls.  Lunch is cooked for 850 children and 100 adults here.

This is the indoor kitchen – that is sunlight at the top of the walls. Lunch is cooked for 850 children and 100 adults here.

 

 

The lunch is served from dishes that are laid out on the ground.  Children are in charge of serving and many fights take place as everyone believes they are getting cheated.  No one wants the chicken leg because they consider it the smallest piece.

 

 

There is no cafeteria, no table or chairs and the children wonder around the school until they find a place to eat, under a tree or on a sidewalk.  When done they must take their dishes to the water pump outside and rinse them out.

The food is in the bowls on the ground.

The food is in the bowls on the ground.

Lunch is 80 minutes long because it takes that long for the students who must serve the food to get it out, serve it up, eat and then clean up.  While those students are working, other less responsible students finish their lunch in 15 minutes and remain mostly unsupervised for the remaining hour.  Again – lots of mayhem occurs during the lunch hour.

When students finish their meals they wash their dishes at the public sinks:

850 kids wash their plate and cup here or at the pump below

850 kids wash their plate and cup here or at the pump below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is also a water fountain

It is also a water fountain

 

 

 

 

Below is the picture of the famous computer lab.

 

 

No chairs and hardly any computers.

No chairs and hardly any computers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the three computers in the whole school that work

These are the three computers in the whole school that work

Here are all the computers that don't work

Here are all the computers that don’t work

 

 

 

 

The picture below is of the Science Lab.  As you can see the science lab has a sink, which does not have running water, and outlet that has no electricity, and a gas valves that do not have gas.  Regardless of the function, the children still leave their regular classrooms and come to the Science lab for science class.  At least it allows them to walk around a bit.

 

I have actually seen some experiments here - despite the equipment

I have actually seen some experiments here – despite the equipment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The science lab as stools and tables instead of desks and chairs.

The science lab as stools and tables instead of desks and chairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are pictures of the school gardens.  Children taking agriculture must each plant a plot.  The children take the responsibility for the plot very very serious.  Most children come to school on Saturday and Sunday to water their plots and the plants grow pretty well.  It is obvious that this country still has a lot of agrarian roots.

 

Spinach plants

Spinach plants

While the teachers “offices” are much nicer than the classrooms – many professionals would be upset  to have to share this space and the lack of resources.  This is the “Senior” teachers offices and 22 teachers share this space.  As you can see there are no computers.

This is nice compared to the junior level teachers office.

This is nice compared to the junior level teachers office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back desk is mine - which I share with my counterpart.  This is where children come to get counselling.  Not much privacy.

The back desk is mine – which I share with my counterpart. This is where children come to get counselling. Not much privacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite all this – I work at the second highest preforming school in the district.  80% of the kids score high enough on final exams to go to Senior School.  Sadly high enough is 50%.  But it is better than nothing.

On to a less serious subject:

The Dogs – For those of you that don’t have Facebook:  One of our friends wanted us to have a little Maltese puppy, which we didn’t really want and claimed allergy issues.  She told us to take her puppy for a week and if we liked it we would get the available sister.  Well – we loved her!  We got the sister that we didn’t think was near as cute, and she was also a lot bigger.  However, she was 10 times sweeter.  She almost never barks and took to potty training pretty well.  But we could see she is lonely.

So this week we went and got her sister so they could have a week long sleep over.  They love each other so much and we are the hit of the neighbourhood with these two cute cute cute little dogs.  We have spent weeks teaching children how to be nice and not have fear.  Below are some of pictures of the girls – Rati and Phoenix (Rati is our dog and she is brown)

 

Carol and Shuby and Rata

Carol and Shuby and Rata

 

John's little girls

John’s little girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are so cute I can barely stand it!

They are so cute I can barely stand it!

 

I feel like I am in America with my cute little puppies!

I feel like I am in America with my cute little puppies!  The played with each other endlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoying the cool morning air.

Enjoying the cool morning air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A puppy for each of them.  Shuby comes over every day and tells he that he knows Phoenix loves him!

A puppy for each of them. Shuby comes over every day and tells me that he knows Phoenix loves him!

 

Matching hats

Matching hats

 

Rati and Mphoyanna

Rati and Mphoyanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When all her fur is wet she is so so tiny!

When all her fur is wet she is so so tiny!

 

 

 

 

 

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