Month: April 2016

6 Months at Site

We have now been at site a little over 6 months (1/4 of the way through!). April is just about over and it has been a busy month. The new school term, Term 2, started on April 5 but Teresa had a PC training from April 3-9 then a few days off before the All Volunteer Conference started on April 13.  She managed to go home for one night to pick up fabric art and pottery from two Gabane local artists to sell at the art marketplace at the All Vol Conference. Gary left that Sunday for a two day training on the Lifeskills curriculum he is supposed to be implementing.  Teresa went back to her different hotel and spent one day presenting a workshop on strategic and fund raising planning and grant writing. Otherwise, she relaxed by the pool, watched Game of Thrones and read- your tax dollars at work- thanks!

Teresa’s training was on Journey of Life which is a dual program you can use with children and with parents and community stakeholders/caregivers. The one with children is intended to help them better deal with the challenges life presents by recognizing those challenges for what they are and developing coping skills. The community parenting one is intended to teach parents/caregivers/community stakeholders what challenges today’s youth are facing and how they can help the youth navigate through them.  We are hoping to use the parenting piece as part of the community parenting initiative we are working on implementing  (more on that after our May 12 Kgotla meeting). Unfortunately, the child part is not intended for pre-schoolers so may be harder for Teresa to implement.

Gary will have to explain the Lifeskills curriculum.

The All Vol Conference was fantastic- the sessions were all planned and mostly executed by other volunteers. A lot of sharing- what works, what doesn’t, tips and tricks, etc. There were several fun activities including an ongoing game of Clue- Teresa died day one and Gary on day two. Teresa ran a trivia contest again and everyone had a great time. This could be a new side gig to supplement those pensions when we get home. The highlight, however, was that we WON the Newlywed Game for our category which was romantic couples.  Our answers weren’t always truthful but we knew what the other would say. For example- you have unlimited funds, where would you go for a second honeymoon? We both answered Banff which was our original honeymoon destination but got canceled at the last minute. Unlimited funds- not likely we would pick Banff but we knew the other would think of it. 36 1/2 years has to be good for something besides perseverance!

We have some amazing Gabane artists. You can view their work (and that of other Botswana artists) in the new Bokapanyo catalogue. We have given this link before but there is a new catalogue out now. Gabane Pottery is new in this one as is Kealaboga who is the art teacher at Gary’s school- his work is amazing. Hopefully they have fixed the pricing in the catalogue- it was listed as dollars instead of pula so was 10x more expensive than it should have been.  We will be bringing back a lot from the fabric artist so place your orders any time in the next 18 months 🙂 (Potter and paintings would be a bit harder but we can talk).

So, back to our saga. Teresa finally went back to work after 3 weeks off (1 week between term break and then 2 weeks of training) and it was a doozy of a week. Teresa’s supervisor is finishing up a certificate in early childhood education/social work and  Gary is serving as her supervisor for her service learning project. This involved creating stations in the classroom to promote learning through play. So, Teresa helped set up a store, a clinic, a house and an art station. The latter included making 6 colors of play dough and a lot of improvising overall as we had no money to spend on it. 16 kids visited the stations the first time on Friday and it was a huge success. It was great seeing the boys cook, dress up and take care of babies as housework in this country is usually reserved for girls only. It took a while but the play dough caught on and they couldn’t get enough of it. (pictures to come later)

On Wednesday at noon we found out that the Centre had been awarded a contract to provide breakfast and lunch for 60 people at a workshop on THURSDAY- the next day. Combine this with the fact that we had just used our last cheque and are waiting for a new chequebook (a story unto itself), we had to scrape up money to buy the food. Thursday was hectic to say the least as we still had a preschool to run. We did have a few additional Board members to help cook.

In the middle of the food prep, Teresa got a call that her Embassy grant had been approved. (There was a Facebook post on this so won’t go into much detail). It is for about P 120,000 ($12,000) to buy all sorts of furniture and equipment for the Centre. This is current fiscal year money so has to be spent very quickly but those who know Teresa, know this is not a problem, although Botswana could be her Waterloo.

It was also a stellar week for spiders- also posted on Facebook so not repeated here. Suffice it to say that Botswana is doing its darnedest to cure Teresa of her arachnophobia.

One of the problems with PC service is it is often hard to measure the impact you are having and even whether you are even doing anything- worthwhile or not. We have a lot of feelers out for various projects and if they all come to fruition we are in trouble but more than likely only a couple will.  It is important to have community buy in and support as we want what we start to continue after we leave. But, we continue to have realistic expectations and this is serving us well- we know we aren’t going to change the world but already feel we have touched some people.  The group ahead of us (Bots 15) keeps warning us about the slump/depression we will experience somewhere around mid-service. Maybe so, but for now we continue to take it all one day at a time- every day we seem to experience something new or different so life is not dull.

We have learned to deal with the disappointments (HOLA no longer works with Netflix) and we also know how to take care of ourselves (yes- that is a cinnamon raisin bagel made by Teresa complete with cream cheese ) and make lemonade from lemons (or more appropriately, bread pudding from leftover bread from the catering). Now, nap time to continue this vein of self care…


Love to all of you and love to hear from you- brightens our day and makes us feel not so far away.







Planet Baobab and Nxai Pans Nat’l Park

Easter was a four day holiday weekend so we didn’t need to use any vacation days to travel. We are saving the biggest attractions and vacation days for when we have visitors (hint hint) so we decided to go some place a little different. The area is called Makgadikgadi Pans but we actually went to a piece of it that is the Nxai Pans National Park. The Makgadikgadi is where the huge migration of zebras happens as well as an annual air race (think Utah Salt Flats).

If you are looking at a map, we stayed close to Gweta and the park is about an hour’s drive further west. We stayed at a cool place called Planet Baobab- so named because of the amazing baobab trees that grow in this area and have been for literally thousands of years.  The large one in the picture was about 75 ft in circumference.

The road into this park is apparently one of the worst in Botswana- who knew? 4 wheel drive only and then only for experienced drivers- sandy and lots of ruts. Our total day was 11 hours long, leaving before dawn and getting back almost at sunset.  We had an amazing guide, Jonah, who knows the area and the wildlife intimately. The only downside was the 10 hour bus ride to and from Gweta but well worth it.

The picture of the building which looks like it has a garden around it is actually the ablutions building for a campground (toilets/showers) and is elephant proofed. In the dry season, the elephants will do anything to get to water and can destroy pipes and buildings so they have concrete pieces with rebar spikes to keep them out. There is a narrow entrance that human feet can maneuver to get in. Not the place to be in a wheelchair or even crutches.

We did not see any lions- the resident pride had killed and eaten a couple of days before and were deep in the bush/shade sleeping it off. Didn’t expect to see lions so we weren’t disappointed. Next trip- that one is in July. We did get to see two cheetahs resting under a tree. They are brother and sister. One brother died early and mom left them a couple of months ago but they are good hunters and are doing well on their own. They will mate with each other then, brother will take off, leaving sister to raise the cubs.

It is also very green which we did not expect. Our recent rains (last two weeks) are what made the difference. There were wildflowers everywhere.

If you hover over the middle, you will get the caption. And for the zoologists out there- it is actually a herd of springbok not oryxes but I was too lazy to remove the picture and redo the gallery