Saturday, October 01, 2011

Saturday, October 1. After an intense beginning two weeks of training, we are back on line to update you all on what is going on here for us in Kanye, Botswana!

Carol, outside our front gate.  Our little house
is on the left, behind the tree and the pile of bricks

Our Host "Parents", Genasi and Thlabologo Baakanang,
outside the house they are building.  In the other picture,
this house on on the right.  People build incrementally when they
have enough money to do something - put in a foundation,
roof, install doors, etc.  

 We've finished our first two weeks of Peace Corps Training, mostly at the Kanye Training Center.  Two mornings were spent in the field learning about and working with Permagardening - there is a big emphasis by the government to get more people involved in backyard and community gardening as one approach to combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic here. The goals of the garden project are to improve nutrition, decrease food imports, and develop healthy pasttimes for people who may not always be spending their spare time in a positive way.  We PCVs had a great time with this, and it developed a lot of enthusiasm.  A number of us have done home gardening and some worked with youth development organizations that involved food production.
We are digging and making seedbeds to plant vegies.
There is a big push for community gardens, as Botswana
imports most of its food.  Big need for compost,  as well:
you can see by the red color that there isn't much organic
material in the soil.

Carol and Dolly, our Setswana teacher, working on
the seed beds.

Setswana is a hard language to learn, and learning will be harder because so many people speak English well.  But we have a group of very enthusiastic local Batswana as our teachers, and we all live with host families who supplement the class teaching.  Ours, certainly.  They get a lot of laughs out of our attempts to pronounce words and make sentences.  Of course.  It give us an appreciation of the difficulty that immigrants to the United States have in learning English.
Genasi tries to teach me
a few words of Setswana.  I struggle.  He is patient.  After
spending 27 years in the diamond mines, I guess he has learned
to be patient.  His English is ok, and he speaks Zulu and
Afrikaans as well as Setswana

Carol on her way to get a ride to the training center.
Cows like this one, as well as goats and donkeys,
wander around the village.  And they look pretty
healthy and cared for.  After all, here, owning cows is better than
having a bank account.

The Peace Corps Director for Botswana Tim Hartmann has conducted several sessions on policy, goals and methods that was music to our ears.  It gives us faith that the spirit with which the Peace Corps was created 50 years ago is still very much alive!  It remains a grass roots, people to people, capacity-building organization.  One wonders how this can continue to thrive in our current political climate, but happily, it does.

Last Friday afternoon we met with local leaders in a welcoming ceremony. Kanye is divided into wards, each with a kgosi, or chief, and a council of elders.  We met in the traditional meeting house, with some modern improvements, and it was a back and forth conversation.  Many of the elders were educated by Peace Corps Volunteers many years ago.  And they asked some hard questions about our motives and intentions.  It was a very open and educational session for all of us.

Weather.  It has been cloudy and windy today.  Yesterday started out cloudy and cool.  Not what we expected.  The clouds signal the beginning of the rainy season, but it may be a few weeks before it rains.  For now, long sleeves, at least in the morning, are a good idea! 

By far, the most challenging aspect of this experience is being so far away from family and friends.  We have nothing to complain about   - not the food, not the inconveniences such as no hot water, not being strange in another culture - but we do miss you, a lot, much more than words can convey.
Trying out the washing machine.  

Instant coffee lattes and goat chops.  This
is a really nice place to chill out after an
intensive day of training


English 241 Spring 2010 said...

We love you!!! What an incredible experience!!!

Melinda said...

Thank you so much for this update. The photos and the descriptions of the people and work are all really heartening to see! We miss you more than I can say! xoxo Melinda

Unknown said...

These reports are great. It is so good to know that you are healthy and well engaged. We miss you terribly. Cynthia

Kay Hall said...

Hi Carol and John - thanks so much for taking the time to post your photos and blogs - it makes it so much more real for me although having you so far away is still hard. Love you! Kay

Anton said...

Ho Carol and John, so proud of you. The culture shock will wear off, I promise. Hang in there and begin to drink Africa in with your soul. Feel its rythm and imagine the pulse of this old world.

You have to get into some fun places too. Experience the wildlife, but that is more to the north.

I am shooting to bring a group by June 16th next year. Anton