Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mom (Carol) and some of our fellow volunteers at the
Gaborone airport
September 15. We made it to Botswana, after a two year process of application!  It is amazing to be in Africa.  We expected it to be hotter when we landed in Gaborone; the weather was, and is, beautiful, dry, desert like, warm to hot but hardly stifling during the day, cool at night.

We spent the first night at a lodge in Gaborone, where we received rabies shots, medical kits, mosquito netting, and did some introductory training.  We met the staff, all of whom are very impressive.  Most are Batswana, that is, people from Botswana.

This is our room at the Gaborone lodge.  Very nice, with a swimming pool, although, between training and being in desperate need of sleep, we didn't use it.  Probably none of the volunteers did.

The next morning we bussed an hour to Kanye, where we will do our training.  The countryside along the way is reminiscent of Eastern Oregon, but with trees instead of sagebrush.  Lots of trees, mostly with no leaves, many, though, in bloom.  It will be the rainy season soon, and, no doubt, everything will turn green when that happens.   In Kanye there was a presentation by a number of dignitaries, many speeches in English and Setswana, after which we met our "host families" and had lunch.  Our host family lives a short drive from the training center.  Our quarters are very nice, certainly different than what John experienced in Panama 40 years ago!
Not far from our house.  

We've walked around Kanye a bit, went to church Sunday morning, and are feeling pretty good about settling in.  Tomorrow, Monday, we start formal training.  We are excited about the people in our group, and, really, everyone we've met so far.

Mma Baakang, left,  our host "mother" and a friend, in
Mma's house.  Our house is a roomy "studio" with a
bath, in a separate building on the compound

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 5-10 --- New Orleans, the last stop on our journey across the country before meeting our Peace Corps group!  The drive from Atlanta to New Orleans was really, really long, especially  because of the torrential rain. We witnessed one car slide across four lanes of traffic into a ditch, disappearing for a moment before it surfaced, fortunately on all four wheels.  Carol called 911 and when the dispatcher asked what color the car was, Carol thought it was red or blue, John thought it was black.  So much for eye witness accounts.

We spent awesome, warm days with Nelsie, Walter, Arthur (age 4) and Ben (age 2).  And when we say spent days with them we mean it; our room was right in the center of home life.  Being awakened by kisses from two grandsons, it doesn't get better than that! 

All of the Sterns are all in school, what an academic family!  Arthur and Walter biked off every morning before we were quite ready to engage; we took Ben to school, and while Nelsie was in classes one day, we did errands and projects around their house.  The yard is ever more lush, which meant John had a chance to be a gardener once again.

Arthur has a bike with training wheels, so Ben and Bop Bop (John) went off to find a two-wheel, no pedal vehicle - called a Ka Zam.  Ben was a little reticent at first, but after we left, not only did he take to the wheels, but Arthur decided to have the training wheels taken off his two wheeler, and away they went!

Ben's maiden journey on his new Ka Zam

September 8 was the Saints' opening game, almost like a holiday.  All of New Orleans was riveted to the television!  Earlier in the day, it seems that every boy and girl in the city wore Saints' tee shirts or paraphenalia to school.  Sad for Crescent City to see the Green Bay Packers win, but there is always the next game.  Never forget:

During our visit, Walter was honored to deliver a lecture at the Louisiana State Historical Society.  He is researching first-hand accounts of the history of integration in the New Orleans Public Schools --- a fascinating, complicated, and altogether important subject. There is so much to be learned about the accomplishments and the failures during the Civil Rights Era that applies to the increasing diversity in our country in 2011.  How important that we remember this today.

Saying goodbye was difficult, but no better way to do it than have breakfast at the Laurel Street Bakery across the street from Nelsie and Walter's home.

Nelsie, John, Arthur (a/k/a Hercules), 
Carol, Walter and Ben 

We left New Orleans with huge overage of luggage and an even larger collection of amazing and wonderful experiences in this family and friends odyssey.

If you could actually see all our luggage you'd understand
why our overage fees were more than our plane tickets.
Our leaving was poignant, as now our travels to see family and friends are at an end.  Carol says her heart is "happy/sad."  We are headed to Peace Corps 'staging' in Philadelphia.  In other words, this is really happening!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Front row:  Courtney Farley Kutler, Cameron Black, Marc Kutler
 Jackson Farley,  Lindy Farley (with Langdon Farley on her lap)
           WIRT FARLEY, Carol Farley Munson with Charlie Black on her lap,
Lauren Farley Black, Jeff Black with Parker Black on his lap.
Back row:  Keith Farley, Melissa Farley, Mark Munson-Warnken,
              Megan Munson-Warnken, Fisher Munson-Warnken,  John Munson.
Missing family:  The list is endless.....

     September 2-5, Labor Day Weekend. After an all-day drive across Georgia (or so it seemed) we made it to Atlanta for Carol's dad's 90th Birthday!  Better stated --- "Birthweekend" --- because we celebrated for three days. It was a 72-hour shindig of time together, shared memories, second cousins running all around during every waking hour, great food and drink.  Carol's dad was in a constant state of either amusement or bewilderment --- probably both!

     Saying our goodbyes, we left on Monday for New Orleans in what became a torrential interstate downpour. Our fatigue after the celebratory weekend soon transformed to anxiety mixed with terror as we witnessed one car skid across four lanes of freeway into a ditch, several accidents, and slowed to 20 mph with emergency lights on at times with close to zero visibility.  For whatever reason, listening to "Rainbow Connection" repeated times on our new Muppets CD soothed our gangled nerves along the way.  As Woody Allen had it right: "Whatever it takes."

Happy Birthday Wirt!!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


August 30 to September 2. Carrying on the theme of "flexible", we didn't plan to go to Charleston or Savannah, but we had time ---so why not? A couple of "on-our-own" days sounded good!  In Charleston, after ambling around this charming city (even the churches had charming pet signs, as below!), we rode a "xich lo" (pedi-cab) to the antebellum market, had lunch at a French and Southern fusion restaurant Cru Cafethen escaped the city heat for a swim at Edisto Island.  After a beach picnic, we realized while there were many beautiful homes, opps ---- not a hotel in sight.

     On to Savannah.....
The River Street Inn is just
across the bridge

Oglethorpe Square 1743
     Savannah is a beautiful old town built around park-like squares and one of our favorite cities to visit.   Years ago, daughter Nelsie and her husband Walter lived here, so it was somewhat familiar territory for us. After booking a room at the River Street Inn, we were off to the Oatland Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Chatham County School District.  We hiked a short trail in which outdoor habitats for wolves, foxes, alligators, deer, and all kinds of birds were a surprise and delight.

No, it's not Macondo.  This old
fishing boat is on the grounds
of Oatland Wildlife Sanctuary
Oatland is a great teaching facility for elementary and middle school students from all over Georgia.  But it was getting pretty warm, so we headed for the beach at Tybee Island.  We found a long stretch of white sand, few people, and refreshing water.  A beautiful end to a great day.

     The next morning after latte and scones we went to the world-renowned Savannah Roundhouse Museum (where Nelsie did restoration work years ago).  On this twenty-acre site there is a roundhouse with a working turntable, a blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, many restored engines and cars --- and, in process, a children's museum.  It's awesome!  Carol had a tour aboard one of the trains, John got a hard-hat tour from the head of the preservation team, Stewart Dohrman.
John and Stewart
To end our Savannah tour on a pure Southern note, we had lunch at Sweet Potatoes.  It's a gem of a restaurant located in a nondescript mall a few miles from downtown.  We voted it the best restaurant         meal we've had on this trip ---  fantastic, unique, southern at its best, everything according to the name, yes sweet potatoes!

Carol on the way to lunch
John and our server in front of the
every word with 'home' sign

   We were ready for the surprisingly long drive to Atlanta..... 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

We didn't expect to go to
Provincetown, Mount Vernon,
Edisto Beach or Tybee Island.
 Amazing places!
August 30 - September 1.  We traveled from Washington, D.C. through Virginia to North and South Carolina and on to Georgia.  The Peace Corps' expectations of volunteers are to be "patient" and "flexible." We have had great opportunities to aspire to these qualities since we have changed our U.S. itinerary as we go!  We have enjoyed every moment --- or at least most of them --- on our revised trek.

Our first stop: Mount Vernon. John had never been there, and Carol's recollection of it when she chaperoned Annie's singing tour with Grant High School's Royal Blues is one of torrential rain.  Our day there was sunny and the grounds and gardens (restored to their 18th century plantings) were spectacular.

Our plan was to spent the evening in southern Virginia, which changed as we found many towns had no electricity, trees were hanging on power lines, and all the motel rooms were taken, mostly by people from the power companies who were working to get things back in order.  The only option short of sleeping in our car was to drive in torrential rain, lightning and thunder to arrive (with gratitude to have made it safely) in Fayetteville, NC shortly before midnight.
Just settin' in downtown Fayetteville

Market Square
After a leisurely morning in downtown Fayetteville, we drove on to Alcolu, SC, which until months ago for us was just a small dot on the map near Interstate 95.  En route we came upon South of the Border and we couldn't resist the temptation to stop at this other American icon (just a little different Mount Vernon).  In the pre-interstate highway days there were signs every few miles giving the distance to the store and a little bit of Pedro wisdom:  "Pedro says:  Hot Today, Chile Tamale!!"  The signs are gone, but mighty Pedro still stands, just south of the NC/SC border.
Hope not to fill this shirt
in Botswana!
Pedro sez:  "Buy something, anything!"
(We didn't.)

This is the rural south.
Pleasant Grove Road in
Alcolu, SC

Our destination in South Carolina - Alcolu and reconnected with a wonderful woman who lived with us for almost a year in 1983 and whom we hadn't seen since that time. Thanks to her contact through mail and Facebook we have been corresponding for the last year or so.  It was a blessing to meet Cathy again, have dinner, and reminisce.
Happy Reunion!
John, Cathy, and Carol