Month: December 2015

Helicopter MOM!

bataleur eagle

We were sitting at our computers diligently working on our PC reporting form when we heard a major ruckus in our backyard. We looked out our window and a mama chicken (there are currently two mamas with a total of 13-not sure how many each) was screaming her head off and her chicks were nowhere in sight. Looking closer we saw this guy sitting on our clothes line. He flew down and she went at him so he backed off. Following a couple minute stand off (during which Teresa was able to get this shot), he flew off and four of the chicks emerged from under some bricks. (ok- could be a She eagle)

It appears to be a young Bataleur Eagle (but if there are any bird experts reading this, feel free to correct us). Another possibility is the Tawny Eagle but the face looks more like the Bataleur.

The next day, we got this shot and all chicks are accounted for although this only shows 6. While we are sorry Mr/Ms Eagle went hungry, we would prefer not having brunch be one of our own.

mom and 6 chicks

We wish we had seen her from the beginning when she decided to hide her chicks- maybe next time. Chickens have a reputation for not being the smartest animal but this was a brilliant display of resourcefulness.

The closeness and reality of nature is so powerful and immediate. This is one of the things we love most about being here. Our neighbors think we are crazy- they just accept it all as “normal”. Maybe in 2 years we will too.

Since we probably won’t post again before tomorrow- we wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year!



Merry Christmas from Mokolodi


We had the good fortune to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the Mokolodi Animal Reserve which is only about 10 miles south of Gaborone. This doubled as Christmas and birthday celebrations. Since we don’t have a car, getting there and back were the biggest challenges. (the picture above was going to be our new Facebook picture but we like the giraffe better)

Christmas Eve Day began early with water arriving at about 6 am so we spent the next few hours stocking up, doing laundry and cleaning. As Teresa was coming down with the cold Gary had the week before, she started out pretty tired. Luckily we got a ride to the combi rank and then on to Gabs. But when we go to the main bus rank, it was literally a zoo with several hours wait for any buses going anywhere and we needed one to take us south of town towards Otse/Ramotswa/Lobatse. So, we got a taxi- cost us P100 instead of P4 but given the heat and Teresa not feeling up to par, we decided it was worth it.

We arrived around 2 pm and were taken about 3.5K into the park, passing impala and zebra on the way to our chalet.

chalet hartebeest

We spent a pleasant afternoon watching the wildlife come to drink at our pond which many of the pictures show. One of the highlights was a display by two leopard tortoises. One (guess who) only wanted to get to the water while her pursuer only wanted one thing as you will see in the video. Should have kept filming as she just kept walking… We later learned that the male has a concave bottom shell while the female’s is flat for reasons the video makes obvious. (for both videos in this posting, if anyone can tell me why the final shot is a montage of FB postings and how I can get rid of it- please let me know. Otherwise- just click on the X to get rid of it. I can’t afford to waste any more data trying to figure it out)

Another was a visit by four zebras who marched by right in front of us. Most of the other action was at the other side of the pond.

zebra at chalet

We had a kitchen so we had an early dinner and were picked up at 7 for our private night game drive. Saw a giraffe and a millipede before it got too dark. After dark saw mostly kudu and impalas but did get to experience the bush at night. Two hours with a full moon and cool air extended the peace we had felt sitting outside our chalet. We did get to see a hyena but she is kept in an enclosure as she was orphaned and cannot survive in the wild. Her brother died and she is alone but watching her in her little pool- she sure was having fun.  There are leopards in the park- pretty much the only predator but pretty impossible to see despite our valient attempts.

We were up early Christmas Day and watched the pond parade again over breakfast. Got picked up at 7 am for a morning game drive- lots of impalas including lots of babies, kudu, an eland (only got a picture of his rear end so not included), two giraffes and amazing scenery. Unfortunately, no rhinos and the cheetahs (also kept in an enclosure) weren’t cooperating either. In the pictures, you get to play Where’s Waldo with one of the giraffes who was very thirsty. Camouflage is absolutely amazing!

After the drive, we hung around for our lunch reservation as the restaurant is supposed to be very good and it did not disappoint. Our table overlooked the bush and a small waterhole. sure enough, two duiker came to visit but are very shy and we didn’t get a good picture. Gary spent the better part of lunch taking a critical view of the pizza oven at the restaurant- a barrel shape rather than a dome like he did. Whatever, the pizza was amazing.

Then we had to find a way back home. Our intent was to walk to the main road (about a mile) and catch a bus back into Gabs but Teresa was feeling pretty poorly by now and it was threatening rain so we wimped out and took another taxi. We had been told that the stores at Game City Mall would be open and this is one place we can get a direct combi back to Gabane so we got out there and did our grocery shopping at the only place open in the entire mall. Then voila- no combis to Gabane. So we had to take a combi to the main bus rank and then easily got one to Gabane with a taxi from the Gabane combi rank to home. Our driver is an aspiring motocross professional. Teresa then slept for the next 12 hours and is recouping so she is feeling better by birthday Monday.

All in all, a wonderful getaway with our appetites whetted for more wildlife adventures and eventually the Big 5. For now, we are content with the Big 5 Antelope/Deer family- Kudu, Eland, Waterbuck, Impala and Duiker (yes- just made that up as there are probably at least a dozen in the antelope/deer family but we are well on our way to seeing them all). This is good since we used to count successful vacations by the number of deer we got to see until we moved to deer country in Oregon and California.  And, giraffes- they are the most incredibly majestic and calming animal ever.

If you made it this far- go ahead and click on the link to see 50 more pictures from how we spent our summer vacation (literally cause it’s summer here 🙂 The house at the end (in the background of our picture) is the owner’s house- Mokolodi is privately owned and exists for the education and conservation of the animals. The tree growing out of the rock is called a rock fig and literally grows in rock.  On one of the hidden zebra shots you get a close up view of the amazing thorns (a botanical survival adaptation). I used one of these to take a splinter out- that’s how sharp they are! What plants and animals do to survive is amazing

Rules of the Road


Basically, there are none. Oh, there are lane markers and stop signs and stop lights but these are mere suggestions, seemingly not legal requirements. And what do these donkey pictures have to do with it. Absolutely nothing but two moms and their babies were hanging outside our gate all morning and Teresa took lots of pictures that will get posted periodically because she can’t choose between them and yes she is obsessed.  Karen understands!

At best, a stop sign means downshift one gear from where you are at.

Blinking red means the same as no light or a green light. Not sure why they even bother with lights at all.

Technically, this is a drive on the left hand side country, like England. But poor road conditions on your “assigned” side or a too slow driver in front of you are perfectly acceptable reasons to use the other lane for as long as you need to.  Or until another car approaches from the other direction. Then, it’s a game of chicken. The other option, of course, is to pass on the left which means leaving the roadway since most roads are two lanes. This may sound like no big deal but remember this is opposite so the normal passing side is the right and we did say-leave the roadway. Carpe diem!

Speaking of chickens- chickens, goats, donkeys and cows do get respect and do get slowed down for (forgive the bad grammar). They will even get honked at which they actually respond to. Technically, one is to put one’s flashers on when confronted by crossing wildlife (domestic or otherwise). We have observed it happening on at least one or two occasions- the flashing that is, the stopping and waiting- many times. Dogs and people- not so respected. It’s every dog and person for themselves out there. Let’s not even start on the fate of bicyclists. If we get bikes it will be to explore the depths of our village, not to venture out where cars might attack us sooner than a lion or a rhino might.

Then of course there is the stopping wherever you want because you just saw your friend/relative/acquaintance and need to greet them appropriately- Dumela Rra. O tsogile jang? or if this is the second time today- O tlotse jang? And them you- Sentle, Le kae? (that’s the short version)

But, in the end- it works. Drivers allow other drivers back in when faced with the prospect of a head on collision.  Sometimes it feels like a dance but everyone seems to know the steps and no signs of road rage- EVER!

I do appreciate why the PC doesn’t want us driving and I can hardly wait until we have visitors and decide to rent a car (we are allowed if/when on vacation). Watch out Botswana!



Culture Clash

Today’s entry was written by guest editor, Gary:

For me this whole Peace Corps experience is about experiencing a new culture.  I do want to do some good but have been in the field too long to have any illusions about doing good.  I have always believed that random acts of kindness probably do more for an individual’s day than trying to “help” them in some way.  Random acts can be dramatic and huge,  by the way.  Anyway,  my motivating reason for being here is to experience a new culture, one that I have to live and not just window shop.  Sorry to shatter the illusion of those of you who thought I was truly altruistic.

There are many differences in my culture and the general one in Botswana.  I say mine because as I try to describe America to my students and co-teachers I find it impossible because the cultures are so diverse depending on so many things.  We really are a unique country.

Every day here there is something new, most of them small and not at all hard to accept, just different.  We went to a funeral  sitting which is seven days of sitting in the yard praying and talking to each other.  Official prayers in the morning and evening and people just drop by and add their well wishes.  My school head’s (principal) father died and we went with a group of the teachers to her home village to pay our respect.    After the prayers (read dramatic, in your face and very loud prayer)  one person tried to translate for us but the pastor said no because it would interrupt his flow and he was absolutely right. It was all in the presentation and we didn’t need  the translation to get the message.  The singing is all a cappella, somebody starts and others follow and the starter usually continues to do one thing and the others slightly different.  I am sure there is a name for that but I have no idea.  Soooooo  gooooooood.   That is all a bit different than in “my” culture although I know we have that in the USA.   Plus they sing for every occasion and although I can’t swear to it I think it all is in perfect harmony.  Absolutely amazing.   After the prayers all the men go sit together and get served tea and talk just outside the courtyard.  All the women sit together inside and get served tea together as well.  However, I was told that it is not always done like that In other parts of the country sometimes they intermingle.  So again not really very different.  I could go on for pages detailing all the little differences like the tea came with milk in it and the sugar was passed and I didn’t see anybody take less than two heaping tablespoons

The only big one that I can’t reconcile yet is the state of accomplishments.  I am not sure how to title it but supposedly this is a culture that is community centered and America is individual centered.  I get that to a certain extent.  Things move very slowly here. We asked for a replacement gas bottle for our stove and it took 7 weeks and we only got it then because somebody donated it rather than have it continue to go through the “process”.  Go to a meeting and you almost always have to wait for up to an hour and often for  2-3 people to show up.  This is normal and totally ok and is expected and accepted.  Clearly it drives the Americans up the wall.

The culture is not about the time but about the event and if it happens tomorrow that is just as good as today.  So this is good, the accepting and being relaxed part as it almost makes your stress disappear but not much gets done and that definitely causes stress for us Americans and probably for a lot of Batswana who actually had hoped to accomplish something or that their gas had gone out and they couldn’t cook dinner.  (Oh the electricity probably went out as well and it had been 6 days since the water was on)  Overall this is one of the cultural practices that most do not want to change.  I think they see it as defining them although they complain about many things that the inefficiency causes such as lack of water, although of course none of the problems that  abound are that easy.

There are multiple causes and just like in our own country it’s the Republican’s fault, no wait that’s the Democrats or now just in general it is really all due to the Muslims.  There are several cultural practices that most people think should be changed; domestic violence, gender equality, less concurrent sexual practices and other things mostly related to health and moral beliefs.  Just as in the US we all think that too but it still goes on and at a higher rate than here for the most part.

Back to my clash though.  I want to push and tell people that they have to be on time and to get off their butts and get the job done and at the same time I do believe that we, as Americans, are way too concerned with getting the job done.  The ex-president of Uruguay commented on materialism and talked about not thinking about the money one spends but the time it took to make that money and see if perhaps that new TV is too expensive.

Our culture is aware that we overwork to the detriment of spending time with our families but we keep going full steam ahead and just regret it when it’s too late.  There is something to being more relaxed than we are and to have the ability to accept the situations as they are and not constantly battle everything.

Change the things we can, accept the ones we can’t and have the wisdom to know the difference.  This has been put in a new light for me and I find it difficult to be able to know what to push to change and what to accept since it is no longer about just what is important to me but to an entire people with a different value system.   Even though, at this point, I would really push for a little more water, at least once a week,  but so would the Batswana if they could.

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Reflection on 2 months at site

partial rainbow

  1. Feels like we have been here at least a year- this is not a positive or a negative- just an observation
  2. 100 degrees without AC is not fun.
  3. Thankful we have a fan and a freezer (and a fridge)- see number 2
  4. Water- thankful we have 11 days storage and thankful when it comes on in less than that.
  5. Hurry up and wait so quit hurrying up. Teresa is trying- goes against her nature so learning patience is a process. Requested replacement gas 7 weeks ago from office responsible for our housing. . Quotations were rejected by approving agency above that office so back to square one.  Hope gas and electricity don’t give out at the same time. Just in case, we are collecting firewood. Be prepared! (update- gas arrived today due to someone’s generosity in donating the cylinder)
  6. Batswana are beautiful people- literally and figuratively. (except the person who stole the shovel from our backyard).  Literal: About 85% of the people we meet could be models- no exaggeration (we aren’t supposed to post pictures of kids but sure wish we could.) Figurative Example: Long story but we were at Pelegano Craft Village with an appointment for one of the shops to open up for us. While waiting we went into a nearby pottery store. We debated about buying a teapot and mugs (so we can serve tea to visitors- a tradition here) but didn’t want to deal with carrying it home (it’s about an hour walk from our house and Teresa is a klutz). The potter gave us a ride home and we feel like we made a new friend.
  7. Amazing music! Have danced more than in the past 30 years. Went to listen to Ndingo Johwa (look him up) last night at a local establishment. Quite the experience- a lot of drinking and very noisy so it was hard to hear the music but I did dance with my new friend Lorraine.
  8. Laughter- not taking it personally but as a sign of friendship. Laughing with us not at us. Delusional, maybe. Naive, maybe but makes us happy, so there.
  9. Spiders- two steps forward and an occasional half step back but coping. Two favorites are now Amaryllus and Euphorbia. Did finally see Amaryllus, Begonia and Chrysthanemum at the same time so have canceled split personality meds for Amaryllus.  But Euphorbia decided to rent out condo space to two friends by the toilet/tub. Not sure her lease allows for subletting but tolerance is another virtue worth cultivating. More bugs in general than one could ever imagine which is why the spiders are so necessary. Seems like bugs like to come into the house and die.  Lizards too- people here hate them and kill them but we welcome them. Saved a teeny tiny one in the bathtub the other day- no idea how it got there. Had another attack of termite wings all over the kitchen floor after a rain-would be pretty if termites weren’t so disgusting. They look like gossamer wings.
  10. Food- can’t say we like paletshe but spices are more available and in use than we thought. Love Peri-Peri sauce. Great chutneys.  Getting used to meat has been challenging but coping.  Have made and shared cookies- going to start a cooking class! This was dinner at the place we went to hear the music- this is braii and paletshe- you get the meat raw and then cook it yourself on a big grill. This is beef and boroso  (beef sausage)- both are nicely spiced but we still would have killed for some mustard and sauerkraut and maybe a bun. Paletshe speaks for itself- we shared one serving. BTW- meat was P20 each which is about $2. (Warning to Alisha- you might want to skip these pictures- at least I spared you the raw version) Yes, Teresa ate the meat! And yes, paletshe is eaten with one’s fingers, as is the meat.

11. Setswana- and Teresa thought Chinese was hard!

12. The work- not sure how meaningful yet but there is time and results may not be apparent until long after we are gone. We’re ok with that. Getting back to basics is refreshing when it isn’t frustrating but there is always a way.

13. Animals- not why we came. We didn’t even ask for Botswana. But, we’ll take them as a reward and bonus. Looking forward to seeing them. (see #20)

14. Handwashing clothes- do miss the washing machine but line drying is pretty nice and we hope we can keep it up when we return.  We adhere to the philosophy, if it smells ok and no visible stains then it is CLEAN. Would prefer to do laundry at an hour other than 3 am but beggars can’t be choosers.

15. Family and friends- do miss people but more because we want to share our experiences so come visit.

16. Getting good exercise walking into town. Will be better when it isn’t so hot. If the scale at the PC office is to be believed, Gary has lost about 25 pounds and Teresa about 10.

17. Love the chickens, goats, donkeys and cows walking around. Never have been big on caging animals. Learned the difference between Setswana and English chickens. The former have better meat and the latter have better eggs. According to my great neighbor and friend, Tumelo- eggs from Setswana chickens smell funny. Eggs from the store are so fresh they don’t need refrigerating.

18. Amazing storms and sunsets. (see above and below- single partial rainbow is at top- out our front door. Love the way it appears to shoot straight up from the hill. Below- technically- double rainbow- squint- you’ll see it). Maybe next storm we will remember to put out a bucket to catch rain water- yeah- we’re a little slow

19. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Went to our neighbor’s for a birthday party for a 4 year old. Ate a huge amount, danced, sang. No presents, no visits from Spider man, no jumping castle. We all had fun anyway.

20. Biggest problem- Definitely a First World Problem (that is biggest besides when our water will come next- truly a 3rd world problem)- figuring out which trips to take- balancing expiring miles, time share points that have to be used and free IHG hotel nights- Jane and Kevin- we need you! (Not very Peace Corpsy but hey- we aren’t spring chickens anymore)

partial double rainbow


Twelve Days of Christmas Botswana Style

In the December PC Botswana newsletter, a challenge was posted to rewrite the 12 Days of Christmas. Yes, I have a lot of spare time right now, so I did it. Actually two versions but one won’t be appreciated by anyone outside our Bots 16 family and I shared with them already. Here is the general Botswana version. I do feel bad leaving out the chickens but maybe next time…

On the first day of Christmas Botswana gave to me a hoopoe in a thorn tree

On the second day of Christmas Botswana gave to me two flatsy spiders

On the third day of Christmas Botswana gave to me three termites flying

On the fourth day of Christmas Botswana gave to me four donkeys prancing

On the fifth day of Christmas Botswana gave to me five hours of water

On the sixth day of Christmas Botswana gave to me six mosquitoes biting

On the seventh day of Christmas Botswana gave to me seven hours of lightning

On the eighth day of Christmas Botswana gave to me eight thorns a pricking

On the ninth day of Christmas Botswana gave to me nine goats a feeding

On the tenth day of Christmas Botswana gave to me ten lions hunting

On the eleventh day of Christmas Botswana gave to me eleven elephants tromping

On the twelfth day of Christmas Botswana gave to me twelve hippos grunting

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! (no cards this year so consider this our Holiday Card and the blog in general, our Holiday letter)



Once again, two unrelated topics but beautiful in their own ways

Gabane has an artists’ colony called Pelegano Village Industries. It’s more like a business/industrial park with two art studios still operating.  Peace Corps Volunteers in Botswana publish a quarterly catalog to promote Botswana artists and a fabric artist named Tracy is in there. Since we live in Gabane, we are the designated liaisons with Tracy. We got an order from a volunteer for a wall hanging so we made an appointment and walked 3.5 miles one way to get there. Well, she couldn’t make it that day after all (another story unto itself) so we went into the open pottery shop where we proceeded to buy the teapot pictured here. The set includes 6 cups and saucers, a creamer and a sugar bowl. We bought two additional mugs- one is pictured here. The manager of the shop and resident artist- Martin- drove us home so we wouldn’t have to carry it all- and he doesn’t even know what a klutz Teresa is! Such nice people.

teapot and mug

So now we are ready for someone to stop by so we can give them tea which is the traditional way to entertain guests.

Undaunted, we made another appointment with the fabric artist and went back another day to pick up the wall hanging for our friend. Walked both ways this time but at least it was overcast. So, of course we had to pick one up for ourselves- why waste a trip. This picture does not do the colors justice but we already know about the Landers photographic skills.

wall hangin

This is a mini and it was about $15(US). They go all the way up to large fora about $35. We plan to go back to both places over the course of the next two years and collect more beautiful pieces- plates, bowls, table cloth, place mats, larger wall hanging, etc. How we will get it all home is a thought for another day. Will we take requests?-  let’s talk. The full catalogue is available via a Facebook page by  searching Bokopanyo Craft Catalogue.

As for the weeding- American ingenuity meets available resources. Shovels, hoes, weeders, etc all have very short handles here which require bending over to use them. Gary (aka McGyver) said “no way” (actually what he said is not printable)  and we have to keep our yard free of any grass- yes, they sweep the dirt in their yards here- haven’t gone that far yet but then it’s early days. (Snakes hide in the grass, ergo- no grass allowed). We did buy a shovel but it got stolen from our back yard. The kids sent us a weeding tool but obviously the handle did not fit in the box. Last Sunday morning, we went for a walk in a nearby open field with wood for the taking and found this stick- de-thorned it and the maintenance person at Gary’s school lent him a drill. Voila- one long handled and very effective weeding tool.

weeding tool

Now, if it would just cool down enough so it would be comfortable working out there….



close up head frameable

Gary just spent a week in training in Ghanzi at the Tautona Lodge (which means Big Lion). So, sort of cheating as they weren’t in the wild but behind a fence. Still, great shots- closer than we’ll probably ever get. Notice the black manes- unique to Botswana- they are called- surprise!  black maned lions. The one on the bottom looks like he wants Gary for lunch.

But fear not,these lions are extremely well fed and cared for!


Baby Donkey


baby donkey

OK- not the most exciting blog post but since it is serving as our journal, you get to suffer Teresa’s obsession with animals. Was battening down the hatches for a dust storm (the picture isn’t out of focus but seen through a haze of dust) when Teresa saw this baby donkey running around like crazy.  Pretty sure he is very close to newborn. Did get some video but still working on uploading it as  had to use the phone since Gary has the camera in Ghanzi where he gets to see lions. Teresa got to share the bed with a spider while the power was off so the battle was by flashlight. Yes, she survived, the spider not sure about it (Sprayed with Doom but he disappeared) and actually slept in the bed afterwards.For those of you who know about Teresa and spiders, this is a major accomplishment. (Doom is the equivalent of Raid but smells better).

Traditional Dancing

At many community events including weddings, there is a  traditional dance performance. We have never been able to get good video or pictures. At my preschool’s graduation I had a good view although I was facing into the sun so some of the videos are not as great as they could be. If you stick it out, the long one ends up pretty clear.  These particular dancers then chose to embarrass the lekgoa (white person) and made me get up and dance with them but there are only still shots of that phenomenon so only two are included but you get the idea. A new career is not in the offing.