It is hard to believe that we will be leaving Botswana 10 weeks from today. We will then be traveling until November 10 when we arrive back in Phoenix. Peace Corps Botswana is doing something different this year to prevent the congestion of 57 people trying to leave at the same time 80 more are swearing in and starting their service. Thus, we were given a month prior to the new group coming to their sites, to leave. We picked September 22 as the next week is a school break so no sense sitting around. We had reservations starting October 14 so what do you do when you can go anywhere and do anything (within budget constraints of course).
After much discussion and thought, and a little dose of reality (we are getting old and carrying heavy packs, moving every day or two is just too much for us) we opted for 10 days in Greece (7 days on Skiathos) followed by 10 days in Portugal (with a short stop in Madrid) then pick up our original trip of a little over 2 weeks in Spain then cooking school in France for 4 days then a few days in Paris, just because, and home. We will have washing machines, a car for a lot of it, ability to understand the language (except Greece) and explore new places. A dear friend of ours from the US is joining us from October 21 on. We are so excited to see her and begin the voyage home.
Enough of the future and surely our travel plans are not the reason you are reading this blog (or maybe it is?). Since we started with the future, we will just work backwards.
We are in the winding down stage. Peace Corps has a two page checklist and 13 pages of forms and instructions related to leaving. It is almost harder than getting in to PC in the first place. We are slowly working through the PC issues while finishing up projects at our sites. We still have two sessions left for Grassroot Soccer and unfortunately will not have time to do another one during the next school term which starts on August 1. (Winter break starts today for two weeks). But we will have reached 105 teens with HIV Prevention and decision-making training by the time we are done.
We have a Kids Club this Saturday and one more in August paid for by a grant then there will be one our last Saturday- September 16 but we will have turned it over to the local staff by then.
We have two more parenting skills workshops scheduled for July 26 and August 12. By the end we will have reached close to 500 parents.
Teresa’s organization is celebrating 20 years this year so there is a big event on September 9.
Teresa is also being replaced and is looking forward to meeting her replacement September 4-16 so she can pass on 2 years’ worth of information.
We do worry sometimes about the projects we started continuing after we leave but we console ourselves with knowing that even if the projects don’t continue, we have touched many lives and hopefully made a small difference for a few. And, what else would we have done with these two years of our lives?
Moving back from our last post, the major event was our Close of Service Conference and subsequent last Botswana vacation. Our group, now down to 57, convened in Kasane at Chobe Marina Lodge (up north, on the Chobe River- your tax dollars at work- thank you very much- better than spending it on a wall) for 3 days. We learned what we need to do to close our service, tips on re-entry including how to make our Peace Corps experience relevant to the workplace (like we care much about that- ha ha), and most important of all- celebrating making it through the two years. It was not always easy especially for the single folks living by themselves, but we did it and can be proud of what we did.
During the conference, we went on two game drives- one a river cruise on the Chobe and the other a land game drive. More of all the wonderful animals Botswana has to offer (other than the cats). Seeing elephants swimming was a real treat.
When the conference ended we took advantage of where we were to join two fellow volunteers and one of their friends from Germany for our last vacation in Botswana. We started by going to Livingstone, Zambia for the express purpose of rafting the Zambezi river below Victoria Falls. We visited a fabric market where we bought material to make tablecloths and possibly a skirt for Teresa. The rafting the next day was amazing- a bit chilly but given it is the dead of winter, pretty darn nice. The one picture is not anyone we know (although we met them first at the Zambia border crossing and then again on the river) but it is the only shot we have of the death defying walk down to the water We also got to pick up last minute trinkets at a local craft market (don’t have much of that in Bots).
After leaving Zambia we made our way to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary since Teresa refused to leave Afria without seeing a rhino. She was not disappointed. On a night drive we came across one gentleman white rhino who got spooked by something so thought he might take it out on us but when he saw the size of our vehicle, he veered off. I think that brings the total to about 5 near misses/charges- leopard, several elephants and now rhino. The next day we saw mom and baby white rhinos. Fortunately she did not see us (they have lousy eyesight) and we must have been downwind. Relaxing after lunch in the restaurant, we were visited by a black rhino (only about 15 in the whole reserve while there are about 50 white rhinos) who comes regularly to drink from the pool. Apparently in summer he doesn’t mind if people are swimming- he drinks anyway. We also saw lots of other animals and got closer to various species of antelope and deer than we have ever before. Every game drive experience we had, added something new and different. Saw leopard tracks but couldn’t find him/her. As we’ve said before the birds here are amazing. We watched this fellow for quite a while- We are pretty sure it is a crimson breasted shrike.
This may well be our last blog post from Botswana. Looking forward to seeing many of you when we get home. We will be visiting family for much of November and December. Next summer, who knows- probably a road trip somewhere- will need to escape that Arizona heat. And for those of you who are in or can find your way to Phoenix-we are planning a pizza party in, what is to us, our brand new 2 year old pizza oven on Saturday December 2. Just bring your favorite topping. Alisha and her Josh bought a house so we have our house to ourselves with two spare bedrooms- anyone is welcome any time!