Here are a few stories I have been collecting for few weeks.
Last weekend I was able to pull off a Pottery Workshop at a rural village. I say “pull off” because it is most unlikely that any plans made for just about any activity will actually happen. Through a network of connections the head of an Art Department at a Junior High School asked if I would be willing to come and do a Workshop on Pottery. I was skeptical since I had tried to set this type of thing up at several schools and failed miserably due to the schools having no clay, no wheels, broken kilns, and lots of false promises of getting all that stuff fixed.
After several very difficult to understand phone conversations I convinced the school to drive the 100K to pick me up so I could do a survey to see if a Workshop would work. Remarkably, they arranged a pickup, brought me to the school, had some old clay, one very old wheel, a broken kiln and lots of interest. So I agreed it would be a fun project. I had to hitch hike back home because the vehicle used to bring me was attending to some road emergency.
A few weeks later we arranged for a 9:00am pickup on that Saturday. The driver actually showed up at 6:00 am which I was grateful for and he smiled as I told him to come back in 3 hours, which he did. Me and Carol and 2 teachers from our school arrived safely and on time for a fun day of slide shows, videos, hand building pots and a throwing demonstration.
There were 36 kids and 4 teachers plus us 4. Everyone was very attentive and had some good questions and at 5:30, after almost 6 hours at a volunteer workshop these kids were still going strong. We had to force them to quit.
It was a successful and rewarding day and I have been asked to come back and do a Glazing and Kiln Loading Workshop in a few weeks when they have been able to fix the electric kiln. I’m not holding my breath for that!
Botswana Survey Results
A few months ago, the Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC sent out a survey to PCVs globally. The survey was a fairly sophisticated format for getting feedback from PCVs all over the world, on various issues.
The Botswana Country Director, Tim Hartman, is a man all the volunteers really like as a person and appreciate the his ways of doing his job. The groups of PCVs who arrive in Botswana at different times are referred to by group numbers such as Bots 9, Bots 10, Bots 11 (that’s us) and Bots 12, etc. Tim decided to create a competition among the several groups and advertised a small prize of two additional vacation days for the Bots group who filled out and returned the survey in the quickest time, with the most participation of the group members. We were all up for the competition, so we heavily encouraged our own group members to help accomplish the goal.
The survey took about an hour to fill it out, but our group, Bots 11, seemed to have a particularly rapid response so we anticipated an easy win.
We have not gotten the official results of the inter-Botswana competition yet, but the below email to our Country Director was just a fun response that all of us PCVs in Botswana got as a result of one of two things…
One, We are an extremely cohesive group, with way above average attitudes and capabilities and we are driven far beyond our supervisors expectations, or….
Two, There is no internet in any of the other countries besides Botswana.
Thanks All Bots Staff and PCV’s – this is a first for PC Botswana!
Congratulations on achieving 100% AVS participation! PC Botswana is the first post in the Africa Region to achieve this response rate. Today’s AVS results were just posted; here’s is the Africa Region chart:
I just amended today’s AVS update for the Peace Corps homepage to include Botswana in the 100% posts!
We very much appreciate the support of your staff and the dedication of the PC Botswana Volunteers who made such an extra effort to participate in the AVS this year!
AVS Project Manager
Peace Corps |Research, Evaluation and Measurement| Office of Information, Research and Planning
“What we call results are beginnings.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Everyday I make part of my voyage to work along the dusty road that leads from our school, roughly a mile, to the main tarred road. It’s usually a fairly pleasant walk except for the unevenness of the surface and the dust. If there is no wind and no vehicles the dust is not too much of an issue, but with a whisper of wind or even a slow moving vehicle it can be a cause for concern. With 4 or 5 fast moving vehicles it can be a nightmare. We arrived here last September. September is also the dust season and now I see why. As we sit inside a building looking outside nearly everyday, there is a strong wind that is constantly blowing tremendous amounts of dust all over the place. There are quite a few car washes here, which are basically just 4 sticks holding up a shade tent that a car parks underneath while someone pressure washes the car.
It is most amusing and at the same time sad and pathetic to watch the entrepreneurs work fruitlessly against the blowing dust. It’s just a part of life here and I seriously believe that it contributes directly to the poor health of most of the people, which in turn explains the extreme lack of energy, drive, motivation, confrontation, responsibility and many other characteristics that keep this country in the dark ages.
Living but not Learning
This morning I got a hitch to work like I do 50% of the time. The other 50% is either a taxi or Khombi (small, entirely over crowded bus). Half way there we came to a delay caused by a four car fender bender. The back three cars had smashed into the car in front of them, quite obviously caused by the front car coming to a fast, unexpected stop. Each of the three cars had their noses wedged in to the trunk of the car in front of them. As we slowly passed the mess on the shoulder, I made the comment that this is caused by people driving too close to each other and not paying attention. There were several other people in my ride and they all made a resounding “agreement” sound and the driver himself verbally agreed aggressively, while shaking his head, as if in contempt. We had a small conversation about the need to drive better in this country, which would include more space between vehicles. Everyone vehemently agreed. As we passed the accident site we immediately sped up to reach the next car in front of us and from there to my drop-off we maintained a solid 8 to 12 foot distance from the car in front of us.
I have been here for a year now and have come upon two very bad accidents and this minor one. Both of the bad ones involved a military transport vehicle that had gone off the road at high speed and rolled many times. In the first case both axles had separated from the vehicle and were located 150 yards from the rest of the wreckage. We arrived just moments after the accident had occurred and we stopped to help and transported two very injured people to the local hospital. I learned later that everyone in that accident remarkably, had lived, but I know some of them will be in bad shape for a long time. Both of these bad accidents were probably caused by last minute swerving due to a goat or cow crossing the road. Animals are a huge hazard on all roads. At night this hazard is increased to infinity. For the most part people are quite cognizant of the animal dangers and slow down well in advance, sometimes ridiculously so, and put on their hazard lights as they come to a full stop waiting for an animal or herd to cross. The Military trucks are big and have a high center of gravity for high visibility and good ground clearance. As a result, they are very susceptible to roll overs if forced to turn quickly.
But I digress….. The reason I found this morning particularly interesting is that the actions of my driver; to see an accident, understand why it happened, agree that more distance would avoid that type of accident, and then speed up only to produce the same accident prone environment; were indicative of some of the things that I am learning about this country. There is simply no critical or logical thought processes in their actions. The concepts of Learn and Apply, Risk and Reward, Actions and Consequences and other logical ideas just don’t register. This is evident in almost everything they do; from driving, to teaching school, to starting new businesses, to not buying some cheap memory to make their computers significantly faster. They just avoid change, conflict, effort, responsibility, leadership and all the attributes most American think are so sensible and easy to employ.
Of course this is a large generalization, but it is applicable to a significant portion of the population. There is a small good side to this. This type of passivity creates a very peaceful people who are never upset about anything.
Anywhere in the world, at any time, we are all subject to the whims of accidents and driving in this country is no more risky than walking in New York City, but it frustrates me to see the lack of “learning from experience” as they drive through their streets in organized chaos.