storm nov 17 2015

We’ve been having storms all week but on Tuesday night it was incredible. Amazing lightning (thunder and thank goodness- PULA (rain). Teresa was just trying for the lake that our front yard had become but got lucky and got a shot of some of the lightning- which went on for ours- unlike our power which went out for 24 hours which is why she didn’t post sooner.

The upside of losing power for that long is that the freezer defrosted (luckily not the meat that was in there too). We saved the ice chunks which are currently melting and will be used for toilet flushing. Now that is water conservation! Take note California!

First Wildlife Spotting

We promised to post wildlife pictures instead of the daily goats, chickens, cows and donkeys. Well, yesterday we got lucky. We went to Gaborone to take care of some Peace Corps business and then spent the day shopping with a movie thrown in to beat the heat. (Teresa had to replace the two pairs of nice shorts that got bled on in the laundry- sheets and towels are not colorfast here) We saw Bridge of Spies- very good by the way. After the movie we did our grocery shopping then headed to the combi rank to get our combi home to Gabane.

We forgot it was Friday night (rush hour) and for the first time had to stand in line waiting for a combi. We got the third one which means there were 34 people in front of us. While we were waiting, of course we had to have one of our Cool Time Guava icee/popsicle/shaved ice things. We are officially addicted! Will get a picture one of these days. Anyway, we are standing patiently in line with our load of groceries when Teresa looks over to the parking lot and does a double take. There is a baboon sitting very close by. Not sure where she/he (think it was a she as no white mane but what do I know) came from, although they live in the hills just to the east(?) of where we were standing. Juggling sticky hands from the Cool Time and the grocery bags,Teresa managed to get to her phone but not before she had moved farther off- thus the not very good picture (and not enough time to figure out if I have a zoom on the phone). But, it does count as our first wildlife sighting and in the middle of the city. We understand there are also baboons in the Gabane Hills which we can see from our backyard but no visits yet. As the water situation gets more desperate, that might change- even though down lower won’t help the water situation!
(Click to keep enlarging- still not the best but it’s a start…)


A quick word about combis since I referenced them above. Each one holds 15 passengers unless you cram in two more which is what the first combi did so it took 17. The next one took 16 which takes us to 33 and one person in front of us which made 34 ahead of us. This actually worked well for us as we got the primo seats with extra leg room which helped with all our groceries. The very nice person in front of us made sure we got those seats as two people who had not been in line decided they were entitled to get on this combi ahead of about 50+ other people but our hero didn’t let them get “our” seats.

This brings up another cultural observation. The two who went to the head of the line could well have had their place in line saved for them. We don’t think so but it would be hard to tell as you will rarely see a Batswana get visibly angry. Imagine if someone did this in the States! Road rage on steroids. While not getting angry appears to us as passivity, it is actually a much less stressful way to live and perhaps we can all learn from that.

And for those of you following our water woes- we actually had water for 3 straight days. It is off again now but we are reveling in the memory of those hot showers and looking forward to the next ones, whenever they might be.

Comfort Foods

For those of you on Facebook you probably saw Teresa’s post about water coming at 2 am. We spent the next five hours stocking up on water, doing laundry and thoroughly cleaning the house. We gave out before the water did. It went off at 8 and came back on at 1 which allowed us to refill empty buckets since we splurged and let the toilet flush- let’s just say- as often as we wanted to! The luxury of it… If anyone is interested I also found a good article describing the state of the water crisis here in the greater Gaborone area: Greater Gaborone Water Crisis

Thoroughly exhausted at 7 am we took a short nap but the sleeping moment was gone. When you have breakfast at 4, lunch was soon approaching and we are also planning pizza for dinner. Teresa was feeling like she needed all her comfort foods (pizza being one of them) and she had a hankering for bread pudding (comfort food) ever since Gary mentioned on Saturday that the bread was getting stale. Problem was, if she used all the bread, Gary wouldn’t have any for Monday snack (a peanut butter addiction has really taken hold) so what’s a person to do? Make bread (another comfort food).

Are we sensing a pattern here? So,the bread pudding was ready by 12:30 (dessert after lunch and that’s why the picture shows it half eaten) and the bread was ready about 2:30. Yes, the Honey Oatmeal bread looks a little flat- it called for two loaf pans and the only loaf pan we have was used for the bread pudding but it sure tastes good. We bought a few pecans yesterday so the bread pudding was a real treat. Jane Rognlie (bless her soul) sent some on Friday but that package is at least 4 weeks away and we found ourselves in the one store in Gaborone yesterday that has almonds and pecans in bulk (about $10 US per pound so really not on a Peace Corps budget) but did we mention comfort foods?

Comfort foods- gluten free folks beware!
Comfort foods- gluten free folks beware!

We had hoped to host Thanksgiving at our house but with our precarious water situation, we are not sure we should chance it. We are also waiting for the sponsoring government agency (called the DAC) to get us a new gas tank. The one we have is 18 months old and we are pretty sure it is going to run out any day. A new one was requested two weeks ago. We’ll see.

Since the topic is comfort foods, here are some pictures of our favorite friends snacking on theirs. One shows a goat snacking on the vegetable scraps we throw over the fence. Teresa tried for a shot of the whole tribe including the baby but the light wasn’t working. Then you have our whole favorite herd out front, a drove of donkeys having what must have been a church service and taking a break from snacking (it is Sunday after all) (or else they were waiting for school to open and being donkeys- were a day early. A few minutes later they were all lying down but were up before Teresa could get the shot because someone came along dragging a reluctant goat. And finally a clutch of chickens- there are about 3 different groups with babies of all different ages. We keep counting to make sure the one with 12 hasn’t lost any. Unfortunately this shot doesn’t show the babies. Will try for that next.

goat eating scraps

goat herd front

donkey church service

chicken convention

We are hoping to make a day trip to a nearby game reserve in December when both our organizations are closed down so hopefully more exotic animal shots will be coming!

Everyone is an artist

The previous PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) left us a bunch of empty tin cans with labels removed. We have added to the collection and have also found these to be quite convenient for storage for everything from pens and pencils to forks and knives.

For those of you who know Teresa well, you know that arts and crafts is not her strong point despite what Janis always tried to tell her. Well, today, inspiration hit. She had nature and ocean conservancy 2015 calendars with amazing pictures that she didn’t want to part with and Voila! (The undecorated cans with holes in them in the background of the picture are candle holders- left by the previous PCV)

Watch out! When we get home, this could be the Christmas present everyone gets.

decorated cans

“Lazy” Sunday


Looked out our living room window today and this is what we saw. We loved it. They epitomize how we are feeling. It is very hot (going to 99 today) and remember- no AC. Fan is helping but not much.

Got up early and attacked the grass. Batswana do not like grass. We think I’ve said this before. Snakes hide in them (you know the expression- a snake in the grass is taken literally here). Shovels are short handled which makes them more Teresa’s size than Gary’s. We also have a rake, spade and weeding tool (although a better one is on its way from America). Ironic that Gary spent the last two years landscaping our dirt yard in Phoenix just to go back to square one with the dust.

When you have a dirt yard and the dust storm hits and your doors and windows are open because it is bloody hot, well, need I say more. Let’s add no water to spare for cleaning and… you OCD types should have stopped reading by now- sorry I didn’t put in a disclaimer.

So, happy November and the start of the holiday season…Stay cool or warm depending on where you’re at.

Now, to finish Batman Begins…

One week reflections: Installment #3: Community Integration and Talking Trash

The two topics are really unrelated so don’t look for any hidden meaning.

During the first 3 months of service we are “on lockdown” (last 3 months too but can’t think about that yet). We are not supposed to do any “real” work but are to spend our time getting to know and getting known in our community and our organization. While our organizations know this, they also have work they need done so we are trying to find a balance and look for every opportunity to integrate.

So far this week we have done ok on the integration front as well as getting actual work done.

* We went to the prize giving ceremony at Gabane Primary School. It started at 9 and ended at 2 with a full lunch for the honored guests. We got there at 11 which was fine as it was very hot and all in Setswana. Our neighbor’s boy cleaned up in prizes for his grade- Standard 6, so that was a great way to relate to them. We were asked to present prizes- We gave them out for math and science and public speaking. We met several community leaders. My supervisor wanted a particular juice and they were all out so the Deputy to the President (of Botswana) offered me his which I graciously accepted. He was the guest speaker. Imagine a Deputy to Obama attending an elementary school graduation!

So, lunch- a typical meal served at these functions and it included:
rice, samp (kind of like hominy), chicken, seswaa (pounded beef- the national dish), beef (stewy type), potato salad, cole slaw, beans, beets,and bogobe (sorghum porridge that is thick like polenta). After eating ALL of this, one is comatose for the rest of the afternoon and thinking you will never eat again but you do!

* When we walk to town to catch the combi to go shopping we have been hitchhiking the 3K (very common here and relatively safe if you aren’t stupid). Pretty lucky getting rides in, not so lucky the other direction. Yesterday we got picked up by a man and two women who were going to Gabs so we got a ride all the way to Gabs. In talking to the man, he said he wants to go to the US to get a Master’s in Strategic Management. Teresa had just heard about a scholarship program for Africans going for MBAs at Stanford so she got his contact info and emailed him with the info. He also lives near us in Gabane.

* The Librarian at Gary’s school wants to learn Spanish so we are going to try to trade Setswana tutoring for Spanish tutoring.

* Gary is attending various classes to observe student and teacher behaviors and teaching techniques. So far, the biggest issue is teachers not showing up for class. Teachers are frequently 5-20 minutes late for class so Gary usually just sits and waits. The first time a teacher didn’t show up at all was a Humanities class, 80 minutes long. 3/4 of the kids talked and messed around and 1/4 took out Oliver Twist and took turns reading it aloud to each other. At one point about half the class got involved with the reading. The next class, the teacher was late. While waiting, Gary introduced himself to the class. When the teacher left for the next class (kids stay put and teachers move), Gary stayed. The teacher for the next class didn’t come so the kids asked Gary to continue speaking about himself, Peace Corps and America. It was very hard to describe “America”. Go ahead and try it! So far Gary has also learned about Physics, Agriculture, Sexual Reproduction of Plants, Moral Education (one class was sex ed and the other was on HIV with two very passionate teachers).

* Teresa is working on a brochure for the Centre which is hosting a Home Based Care fair in November and needs a brochure to hand out. She is also trying to get a handle on the Centre’s technology. First day, one of the computers up and died- nothing, nada. Will be a while before she can have it looked at for free, Others are way old- Office 97 on one. Printers with no ink and only certain computers can print to certain printers as the computer is too old to accept the new driver or the printer is too old and the driver is not available for the newer computer. Have one very new laptop that is great. Could use two more like it, a network and new printers as well as a data projector. Then training on how to use it all. We have a cellular modem to access the Internet which Teresa finally got to work Friday night! Problem is it was donated by the Cell phone company (BeMobile)- 10mb per month for 6 months- not much and after that- who knows. We’ll see what two years brings.

*Combi drivers- twice now we’ve sat in the front right next to the driver. They have both been super nice and helpful. We learned how they get their routes (they own their combi and work for themselves. They pick a route and then apply to the Dept of Transportation to get licensed for that route.) At P3.50 per ride and 15 people and the price of gas (petrol) at about $3 per gallon, they are not making much.

Now let’s talk trash. We really owe more to Lady Bird Johnson than any of us probably realize. The impact she had on how Americans look at litter has been grossly underestimated. Perhaps we should begin a campaign to nominate her for sainthood. Like other countries we have traveled to (ie Guatemala, the attitude towards trash is to drop it wherever you are when it goes from valued possession to trash. Here in Gabane you are able to get trash pickup but we are not exactly sure how. We have been piggy backing on the Centre’s system. That said, Teresa went on trash patrol this morning and gathered two grocery bags full of yard trash (yes they do have plastic bags at the grocery but you do have to pay for them and no paper available. We try to bring our own but the bags do have their uses here). There are two bushes with killer thorns (Gary had to save Teresa whose hair was having an intimate moment with one of the bushes) that seem to be where trash wants to go when it dies so for now, that trash is safe. What we do admit to doing is throwing edible trash (vegetable peelings and the like) on the ground since there is literal army of scavengers- goats, cows, donkeys, chickens, birds. We have an empty field behind our house and it is amazing how fast it disappears when we throw peelings and apple cores, etc. back there. What is hard is to actually take that plunge and throw something on the ground- which brings us back to Lady Bird and the effect she had on us. Like Teresa’s relationship with spiders, though, we can change. It is true that one person’s trash is an animal’s delightful dinner.

No good pictures for this post. Will need to get one of a combi and will post later. PC and country of Botswana has a policy about posting pictures of kids so unfortunately, we won’t be able to post some of the best shots.

One week reflections: Installment #2: Spiders, goats, kids and yardwork

Those who know Teresa, know she is phobic about spiders. Guess that isn’t true anymore. The only ones Gary has had to kill are those directly threatening her. Yes, threatening is a strong and subjective word and is purely in the eyes of the threatened one (Teresa). She has come to recognize that spiders eat lots of other bugs which abound in this country. The other problem is that spiders in Botswana could win gold medals in the 100 yard dash. They are big and they are faaaaast… And you dont’ want to make them mad by trying to kill them just to have them outrun you.

There is one breed that is particularly prevalent. They are called flatsies because they really are flat. They are harmless, scared of people, big and very very faaast. One PCV blog had recommended naming them and treating them like pets. so, that is what we are doing. Teresa decided to follow the hurricane process and name them alphabetically after flowers. So, the first one who likes to hang in the living room (literally and figuratively) is Amaryllis (amy for short but Amaryllis when we’re mad at her). The hallway/bathroom one is Begonia. We think she is different than Amaryllis but it is hard to tell. The attached picture is Amaryllis. We tried to get a shot that showed scale but she was not feeling very photogenic today, having been roosted from her napping spot when we moved the table to clean the floor.

Goats are everywhere but you don’t want them in your yard because they don’t eat what you want them to eat and they do eat what you don’t want them to eat. Long story why but Teresa has the keys to the Centre this weekend and looking out the front window, lo and behold, there were several goats inside the grounds. They had literally moved aside a concrete block to squeeze in the gap in the gate. the big billy was still outside (probably too fat to get in). So, we grabbed about 5 of the neighbor kids (ages 3-10) figuring they knew how to herd goats and we weren’t wrong. In about 5 minutes we had a stampede of 30 goats (way more than we thought were in there) making for the gate which luckily Teresa was standing near and she opened it wide for them to leave. The kids were rewarded with about a half hour playing on the Centre’s playground. Of course today, they want to go back to the playground- Pandora’s box is open.

Yardwork: We are expected to keep our large yard (about 1/4 acre) free of weeds,grass and anything that could hide snakes. Batswana take pride in having dirt yards that they sweep. We are waiting for a weeding hoe to come from the US as apparently the preference here is to bend over and use very short tools. We bought a few small implements to get us started but our neighbor took pity and lent us (the expression here is actually borrowed us) a rake and shovel (with a short handle). The shovel worked pretty well actually and is on our list for our next shopping trip. Look for the picture of Gary carrying rake and shovel home. In any case, our yard is huge and the work is back breaking. We got a fair amount done today but have a long ways to go.

Life’s lessons from this entry: Neighbors are a precious commodity. Our neighbor has offered to take us and show us where we can get wood so we can make a fire for cooking or making s’mores. It’s also never to late to change and grow. Never thought Teresa could co-exist with an arachnid.

One week reflections: Installment 1- Security , Locks and Electricity

We have been in Gabane a little over one week now and we have experienced so much. This post turned out long so it is offered in 3 installments.

Security: We never thought security was such an issue but it is. We have locks and burglar bars that would put any New York apartment dweller to shame. We also have a security system with whom I have spoken several times. They do not want to drop the previous PCV from the list so are still contacting her and don’t seem to be sure who we are. Apparently despite the strong family relationships and sense of community, there is a problem with thievery- probably related to the extremely high unemployment rate. Young people, even with education, can’t get jobs which results in high levels of drug and alcohol abuse which we know is tied to criminal and other risky behaviors. We even left some clothes on the line after dark. Our neighbor called and told us it wasn’t safe to leave it there over night- it might get stolen!

There only seems to be one set of keys for everything everywhere. We experienced this in Molepolole during the homestay but it wasnt an issue because we were always together. Here is our journey to get a second set of keys made:
1. First shopping trip to Gaborone we went to a locksmith. He could only duplicate one of the keys.
2. First week we shared one set. Thought we’d be smart and Gary would come in the back door. It isn’t on the alarm bypass so it triggered the alarm (My first call to the security folks including a visit from them!) So, Gary would come by my work on his way home and get the keys.
3. Went to Gabs yesterday, went to a hardware store that copies keys. Their machine was broken. they sent us to Gaborone Garage- nearby. The person who makes keys was at a funeral and they didn’t know when he would be back. (also, the person who sells the electricity also wasn’t there). They referred us to Kenny’s Locksmith. (for my Santa Cruz friends- guess all locksmiths are some derivative of the name Ken). Since we had to take a taxi to get there, I convinced the clerk at Gaborone Garage to call (using my air time of course) before we made the trip since this would now be our fourth try. She obliged (people are really very nice and helpful). They had the blank and the clerk told me the taxi should only be P4 each. So, when offered a special taxi for P25 we pressed on until we found the shared taxis and off we went.(Shared taxis fit 4 people plus the driver and doesn’t leave until it is full). Kenny’s made the keys for us and to our utter astonishment- when we got home- they actually worked. Better than my experiences at Home Depot with key making. The added bonus was we got to see the African Mall which is basically an area around a central square (aka parking lot with a tree in the middle) with one fabric store after another. We did manage to get some fabric to cover our dining room and living room coffee tables.

kennys locksmith

Electricity: We then went back to Gaborone Garage to buy electricity and he still wasn’t there so we went next door to another store and bought it there. Problem was, we got home and our meter hadn’t changed. Apparently you have to enter a 20 digit code into your meter to get it to register. Who knew? Apparently many of our fellow Bots 16ers as one posting on our Facebook Page and within minutes we were trained and thoroughly electrified- at least for about 40 more days.


This was a very strange day. On my way to work (crossing the street) my neighbor asked me if we had gotten water today. Apparently it came on between 3 and 7 this morning. She did her laundry at 3 a.m. Gary had tried the faucet around 6 but nothing had happened and the open taps in the bathroom never signaled there was water as had been our plan. Needless to say we were very disappointed and figured we had lost another week and were figuring out how to scrounge and scrimp.

The Center has been closed for two days as they were out of water and had requested a tank come and fill their jojo. I have been charged with the keys just in case they came when no one was around since I am right across the street. Well, they came just as everyone was leaving around noon today. So the jojo got filled about 3/4 of the way which is a good supply and could have helped us out if we needed it.

Then, about 5 pm the neighbor’s son came over and told us the water was on. Once again, we tried all the inside taps and nothing. The two outside spigots did indeed yield some water and once the air was out of the lines, it got better. The front spigot was stronger so we started filling every container we have. This gets us to about 350 liters of stored water plus our laundry got done (which takes about 180 liters all on its own). It was a great way to bond with our neighbor and the kids as their spigot is right over the fence from ours. We spent the next 2.5 hours filling slowly with the laundry done up to the final rinse which will happen in the morning and then I will hang it all out to dry before I go to work). With the outside spigots off, we do get a little in the pipes in the house once the air is out of the lines but we now understand why we didn’t know we had gotten water during the night. I guess our neighbor will be our warning system! We told them any time, day or night- let us know.

slow but steady
slow but steady

The best part is they offered to send the kids over on Saturday to pull all our weeds for only P10 each!!! We probably need to bake cookies too!

So, every time you brush your teeth, flush a toilet, turn on your dishwasher or washing machine- think what you would do if it just weren’t that simple. Certainly gives you pause and makes me truly appreciate what I have taken for granted for 60 years.


Not sure why they didn’t post with the previous post so trying separately

View from our new backyard
View from our new backyard

Our home for the next 2 years
Our home for the next 2 years
Living room of new home
Living room of new home
Kitchen of new home with outgoing PCV Mara
Kitchen of new home with outgoing PCV Mara
Defeathering chicken- Mara, Leunyo and Gary
Defeathering chicken- Mara, Leunyo and Gary