Home in Gabane

On Wednesday we swore in as newly minted Peace Corps Volunteers. This means we survived PreService Training- no easy feat but it’s done. We also took the same oath as the President so we are primed and ready to defend the US Constitution from all enemies, domestic and foreign. We both passed the language proficiency interview which means Gary can greet people properly and Teresa can ask where the bathroom is. Luckily English (or a form of it) is widely spoken as long as you can remember the weird ways the British refer to things such as pegs instead of clothes pins and flapjacks instead of pancakes.

Yesterday we moved into our two year house and pictures should get loaded now that we have Internet access from home. We are limited to 20 gb per month but if we don’t stream movies I think we’ll be ok. We spent today in Gaborone searching for the largest storage containers we could find in order to store water when it comes on- usually once a week or, if we’re lucky twice for about 3-4 hours. We currently can store about 250 liters which is what we figure is half what we need for a week. Getting the 110 liter barrel back on a combi was interesting- it, loaded with pots,pans, and other sundries as well as the fan all had their own seat- costs us P3.50 (about $.35 US) but it was worth it. Also what it costs us to go to Gaborone. If you read or saw the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency- it was very realistic regarding the portrayal of combis. Think of a VW van outfitted so it can seat about 15 plus the driver- personal space does not exist but people are very nice! If water doesn’t come on, we can get water from my Center (across the street but they are running very low to) and Gary’s work which is about .5K- doesn’t seem like much until you are carrying 5 liter containers of water and 10 liter buckets! Will take a picture next time.

Our house has a lovely view and is a perfect size for us. Only one bedroom but very big- has two double beds in it so we can have company, spacious living room and a dining room table, kitchen and bathroom. No pit latrine which is actually too bad given the water situation- never thought I would say that! It is great to be cooking and living on our own. Three months in someone else’s house is a long time. The pictures were actually taken during our site visit but we couldn’t get them loaded so the person you see is the previous volunteer and there is a picture of Gary helping to defeather a chicken.

On Monday we officially start work although the first 3 months are what is called Community Integration where we are supposed to get to know as much about our community as we can as well as get known in the community to build trust.

We may not have wild animals in our village but I still get a kick out of the free wandering goats- we left our front gate open and we had visitors and chickens- the neighbor’s chicken had about 15 chicks and they seem to prefer our yard which is fine with us.


We have been in the town we will be in for the next two years, it has been pretty exciting.  So far it has been a positive experience.  We are here for two weeks as a “site visit”.

This is something new for the Peace Corps here.  Usually they send trainees out to shadow a volunteer for a long weekend but not necessarily where you will end up.  I think it is a great idea, there has been a lot of anxiety over where one will
be placed and then when you do find out you wonder  “what does that mean?”

Well now we know.  We spend the two weeks staying with a host family but if our future home is ready and available then you get to see that as well.  You also get a change to go to your work site and learn about that as well as doing a lot of community visiting to begin to get a feel for your community.  This is also what one does for the first three months of service and then you begin to decide on your projects and begin those.  You are always supposed to be working with someone so I can see why it would take a while to connect in the community for community projects.  I am not sure what the expectation is for your
main work site but I am pretty sure I will start something almost right away although I won’t have much time.  Schools are out at the end of November and closed until after New Year’s so mostly I will plan and make a few connections and then start things in January.

There are 3 terms with two weeks off the end of April and then 3 weeks in July, also 1 week the first week in  October as mid term break and to celebrate Independence Day.  Anyway I really have no idea what I will be doing exactly but probably will start some peer counseling groups and hopefully some alcohol groups, not sure how to get them to join that one.

We went to a wedding the first day here and that was interesting, we actually went to one of the receptions, the whole things is often 3 days long, wedding ceremony reception at the bride’s and then one at the groom’s. If they are from different villages then it is spread over two weekends.  Pretty typical;  speeches, lots of food, music and dancing.  The difference is that the bride changes her clothes as often as she was given an outfit, this one 3 times.  They dance out of the tent to the house where she changes and then dance back, a whole entourage dances along with them.  Food is served to almost everyone then the other town folk that are attending go through the buffet and get food.  Everybody in the village that wants to can attend but there
does seem to be invited guests and extras.

Our town is about 15,000 people and is about 20 kilometers southwest of Gaborone, the capital. There were several weddings going on that weekend which is normal. One of our projects is to map the community and we have spent a lot of
time walking around and trying to figure everything out.

Our new house is really cute, 1 bedroom, LR, kitchen and bathroom, about 600 sq ft.  It is right across the street from where Teresa works and about 300 yds from my school but it is about 3 kilometers from the main road where the transportation starts, although we may be able to call for a taxi but that is bit much, 10p just to get to the main road where we can catch a combi (van size bus) and then go all the way to Gaborone for 3.5 p.  We probably won’t do taxis much except maybe to get groceries home.  Our main grocery store is about 8 k away 3 to the main road and then 5 down it so we can probably get a combi back for 3.5 each and then get a taxi for 10.  We will probably walk the 8 k to get to the store since we will have empty packs.  The only negative thing about our new home is that there currently is no water, they turned it on for a day all of last week.  This is relatively new, although it has been going for the last month or so, partly drought and partly a broken main.  Our closest water supply is 3 k away and we will need it for everything including the bathroom.  Most houses have pit latrines even if they have modern bathrooms but our new home only has the inside bathroom which is great if there is water.  However, whenever I think of complaining I remember that there are a number of volunteers that don’t have running water at all and no inside bathrooms so we are lucky.  We do have electricity.  We will be getting about 2000p a month to live on and that is not a lot, about $200; rent and utilities are paid and of course the Peace Corps takes care of our medical needs, so mostly food and transportation.

Update from Week 6!

Hello All – I have some updates form Gary and Teresa- they are sorry that they can not talk and update everyone but the internet is not like it is here! Josh and I have been lucky enough to talk to them every couple weeks and have gotten emails on off. Even some pictures finally made it through.

From Teresa

Since we have the rare opportunity of Internet access, we will write an update even though not much is new. We will try to attach pictures but if it doesn’t work we will try to attach them to an email and get our kids to post. Email seems ok but other web sites are hard to access. This is made particularly hard since Teresa seems to have forgotten every password she ever had including the one to her Last Pass account.

We are in week 6 of 10.5 of pre service training. We find out our site on Wednesday and leave for a two week site visit on Friday or Saturday. Gary and I are pretty sure where we will be based on the overlap between our two sectors- NGO and Lifeskills- and the list of sites. But, one is surprised every day here. If we are right we will be fairly close to the capital- Gaborone- which has its advantages and its disadvantages. One big disadvantage is that the water situation in Gaborone is dire. Some people have not had water for 5 weeks and have to get it from friends who do have water. Makes California look like a rain forest. With any luck we will be able to see our house that we will be in for two years. For these two weeks we stay with another family.

Setswana lessons continue but they seem to get pre-empted for other things.  The language is tonal (only two not four like Chinese) and has cases- like Latin. It makes sense in some ways but is totally confounding in others.

We went to a cultural festival, Dithuburuba, last Saturday which is a Thanksgiving celebration. Great dancing and traditional food which we are getting used to but have not yet learned to relish. My host mom gave me traditional dress (skirt, apron and wool shawl) which won me another tv interview. This one will air in South Africa so I won’t get to see it. Shout out to Gabriel and Alisa- the show is Roots- not sure which channel but maybe Gabriel’s parents watch it. Also- if Rhonda and Jerry are following the blog!

We celebrated our 36th anniversary by buying ice cream and a candy bar to mix in (no sauce available). It was pretty good. Not really any restaurants other than fast food fried chicken (KFC and its knock offs) so if we do get placed near Gaborone, maybe next year we will have more options. I can see from email that many of you commented on Alisha’s post about our anniversary but I can’t get in to Facebook to read anything.

Our big excitement is that tomorrow, one of the staff is bringing us pizza from Gaborone for lunch. Gary and I will share a spicy chicken pizza. Since cheese is scarce and very expensive, we are all curious as to what we will actually be getting but hey- we are easily thrilled at this point.  We trade off cooking for the family with sisters and host mom but they don’t really like what we make so sometimes we just cook for ourselves like the peanut curry over spaghetti we made for ourselves the other night. We are getting pretty good at two -burner cooking but two more burners and/or an oven would be really nice.

Host mom Setoki Mokogko and sister in law
Host mom Setoki Mokogko and sister in law
Our bedroom and living room. Main house to right with kitchen, bath, living room and other bedrooms
Our bedroom and living room. Main house to right with kitchen, bath, living room and other bedrooms
gary washing clothes
gary washing clothes

traditional dress

From Gary – short and sweet facts! 

The food is very similar in cost  – some is more and some is less; Hamburger meat was about $175/lb and some soy milk was $1.70/qt. White bread is pretty cheap and vegetables are rather expensive. I still have not been abel to find decent coffee (will be in the first care package!)

The average income of teacher is $600-$700  plus housing. Taxis are like shared rides – you get in, they pick people up along the way and you eventually get to your location.

We are determined to make it on our peace corp salary and not spend much out side of that other then for traveling.

Dumela from Molepolole Botswana

We are sitting in the Molepolole Public Library using free Internet. Many of our fellow volunteers paid for such access but we know the value of our public libraries! Unfortunately there aren’t many like this in Botswana- at least not yet! We’ll see what two years does.  Hours aren’t very compatible with our training schedule so not sure how many visits we can make. Library is very new and modern but the collection is very small- mostly in English and they use Dewey.

We just finished the third week of our 3 month training. Very intense- 2 hours of language every morning then classes in culture, HIV/Aids, preparing for our sectors (Gary- Lifeskills in Schools and Teresa- will be assigned to a NGO), etc. We don’t find out our site placement until week 6 then go on a two week site visit. Can’t wait to find out!

Language is difficult. Teresa can say way more than she can understand which can get her in trouble. Gary is struggling but did a great job memorizing. Unfortunately when we had our first test, he couldn’t understand the questions. Teresa had trouble too so we will see where we are reclustered next week when they shuffle us according to ability.

Weather is starting to get warm. We walked about 80 minutes from school to the library and another 20-30 to get home. Next time we’ll take a taxi part way. Taxis aren’t door to door but run routes like buses. We are trying to make it on the Peace Corps walking around allowance which isn’t much. We will get more when we get to our site.

We have a great family for our homestay. Definitely not a lot of money but they are very nice. Food is different and Teresa is proud of herself for eating sheep and goat especially after the goat was butchered in our back yard and the carcass was splayed out in the kitchen the next morning. Only one ordinary spider so far and no snakes.  We wash our own clothes by hand outside using a series of 3 buckets/basins. Bathing is with a bucket of water heated either outside on wood or sometimes inside on the two burner gas camping type stove. No oven  but we do have a refrigerator, electricity and gas and running cold water. Have a regular toilet and a privy. Guess which we use most? We are pretty exhausted every night, as are the 25 year olds in our group so we don’t feel too old. Let’s just say 8:00 pm is the new 10:00 pm for lights out.

Typical day- up at 6, language class at half 7, bus to school at 9:30 (changes to half seven on Monday). At school until 5:15. Bus home, dinner anywhere from 6-9 with bath immediately after then bed. Studying is in there somewhere, either before or after dinner depending on when dinner is which is dependent on whoever decides to make it. (sometimes us). We were given Setswana names- Gary is Tebogo (means thanks) and Teresa is Lesedi (means light)

Given our limited access, you will see our kids posting and mediating for us. Didn’t transfer any pictures to my computer from the camera but will do that this weekend so hopefully next time we have access, we can post a picture or two.

People are very nice and are very tolerant of our pathetic Setswana. English is spoken by some but not everyone by any means. Cows, donkeys, chickens,and goats wander freely.  Molepolole is the biggest village in Botswana with 70,000 people. Next some towns then only 2 cities.

Fellow volunteers are amazing. Average age is 27- there are 5 married couples but the others are much younger. There are 3 other “seniors”- over the age of 60 and a handful maybe in their 40’s . Incredibly educated group and just amazing. Makes me very proud and full of hope for the generations coming after us. There are 76 total. There were 78 but one didn’t get on the plane and one left while we still in orientation in Gaborone- Day 2.

Our love to everyone and feel free to ask questions. We will try to answer in subsequent posts.

As you could tell from the previous post, we have arrived. The flight was long but not unbearable. The 5 hour wait in the Johannesburg airport was the hardest part. Gary’s bag (and those of 1 7others) arrived today. Plane from Johannesburg was a prop jet and just can’t handle the intense baggage of 77 Peace Corps volunteers at the same time.

I am afraid that right now Internet is too slow to be able to post any pictures so we’ll have to see how that goes in our next location. I am even having my son post entries for me so even I can’t see what I’m posting or what your are saying.

Right now we are still in Gaborone and have 2 days of training before matching with our host families on Thursday and starting pre-service training in earnest. Think about going to an all day workshop and multiply that by 11 weeks straight! It is grueling just to sit still for that long and try to focus, never mind the jet lag. We are very spoiled right now though and with hot running water and electricity, we are living like royalty. The hotel food is pretty good. Did try bogobe (sorghum porridge) today at lunch. Kind of like cream of wheat but the consistency of polenta.  On Thursday we go to Molepolole and meet our host families. It is about an hour from Gaborone.

So far we have filled out immigration papers, received our mosquito net and super-duper first aid kit, signed forms to get our bank account, got our first allotment of “walking around money” (125 pula which is about $12.50 US) and had our first Setswana lesson. All the studying we did is paying off as it isn’t as overwhelming

and is good to finally hear the correct pronunciation of words. Tomorrow is our meeting with the medical officer and a trip to immigration.

The weather is great- very cold at night/early morning but heats up nicely during the day. Haven’t seen much other than the ride from the airport to the hotel- looks a lot like a town in Guatemala actually.

May not be able to post again for a while. Our love to everyone. For those of you who know Peggy Flynn- she is doing great and is one of our trainers.

Proof Of Life

The Peace Corp so cleverly sends a “proof of life” picture when the volunteers arrive to their destination.

Gary and Teresa have arrived in Gaborone, Botswana. Here is the email sent from the Peach Corp:

Below is a picture of the Peace Corps/Botswana 2015 training class upon arrival at the airport in Gaborone, Botswana.  All trainees arrived safely after some extensive travel time.  By all accounts from Peace Corps staff in Botswana they are doing extremely well, in great spirits, and excited to get started on the next couple of months of training.  You should hear directly from your loved one soon, but it will take some time for them to get situated and the days are full of training sessions.image001 copy

So the Adventure begins!

Final hurdle jumped

Or so we hope. Gary received his final medical clearance today. Teresa got hers two weeks ago. Our departure date has also been moved up and given travel to the East coast takes a whole day, looks like we will be leaving Phoenix on July 31. We also received our “mentor” assignment today. Each volunteer is given a mentor who is currently in Botswana.  We have participated on one conference call and one google hangout with more of both to come. Lots of tips about what to bring and what not to bother with. Still very intimidating but when we get back from our cross country trip, we will focus and figure it out. In the meantime, having a great time seeing the USA , appreciating the creature comforts we take for granted, and reconnecting with old friends.  Been studying Setswana pretty intently too!

Getting Ready

sunset and elepants It’s now almost one year since we applied- hard to believe.  But, the house is sold and we are camping in it until the closing on Thursday. Then Gary goes to Phoenix and Teresa stays to work until middle to late May.  Finishing up with the plethora of medical tests- people said it was the hardest part and it really is.  We have way too much stuff for storage so will need to cut back some more. Bittersweet times- going to miss the view of the woods outside our windows and the walk in our “private reserve” but we are also excited about the adventure ahead.  And who can complain about views such as this.