Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It is the holiday season and we have been in Goodhope a month and a half, which seems like a very long time! Our lives have settled into somewhat of a pattern. Still, there are variations from day to day and definitely when the school is in session or as now, on term break.  We have recently returned from a visit to Gaborone for our Friday meetings and to see PCV friends for Christmas. Our school campus, as all others in Botswana, is like a ghost town; students, faculty and staff travel to their home villages for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. 
Now is also the time when Batswana plough the wet ground and plant summer crops.  We have learned that summer has a different definition here! In Portland, we look forward to summers of  sunny skies and less rain.  Here, summer means rain, and even though summer solstice was just a few days ago, we have had some of our coolest days.  Today, as we write, the skies have opened up.  A real “gullywasher” - with thunder, lightning and a stiff breeze.  Most days the sun shines, but when it starts getting really hot, clouds appear --- huge and dramatic --- covering the sun and mitigating the heat.  
Today is the first real rainstorm in a year when the rains have been late.  Pula is the word for rain.  It means good luck.  And it is the name for the currency. Pula! It is precious here, very precious. Without it, the dry red soil produces little except thorn bush and cactus. The rains produce an almost magical green all about. In our garden we know are seeing squash, beans, morogo (greens) and marigolds sprout up. And many many weeds.  
I'm a little incredulous after
three months of incessant

Rain, and lots of it.  The first big
storm is already causing the JoJo, our
auxiliary water supply from the gutter,
to overflow.

So, with the rain, the absence of everyone but us from our school community, and in the spirit of Mma Ramotswe, we think this is a good time for a cup of bush tea with milk and honey.  An excellent accompaniment to the cookies we are baking from the Peace Corps Botswana cookbook.  What is our daily life here in this very new environment?   Now on holiday, the pace has been very slow, and by that we mean: slow!  We are learning the Batswana way.  We awaken without an alarm, enjoy a breakfast of cereal or eggs, sometimes yogurt and fruit. And always yummy coffee made in our french press.  We are quite fortunate to have such a well-equipped kitchen: four-burner gas stove, a refrigerator, and, most of the time, running water.  The water problem is the bane of Goodhope. when the school is filled with 2400 teachers and 160 teachers, the almost daily water outages are not much fun.

Tea time during the storm!

Our commitment to Peace Corps service is one step at a time, each day.  Often this means arranging a meeting with a village leader or business, government or medical worker.  Goodhope is a 3 km walk from campus -  as strange as it seems to Batswana professionals, we do not have a car and do not drive.  Few people walk, but we walk a lot. And always people notice us, as the “makgoga” (Setswana word for white folks, literally “washed up from the sea”)!  

My kitchen in Panama in first PC service had nothing like this.  Come to think of it
I didn't have a kitchen in Panama.  Just four walls and a roof.  Still,
this isn't the Posh Corps.  

This is Phase One of Peace Corps service: community integration.  We have met with the staff at the primary clinic, the hospital, district government offices, agriculture and forestry ministries and the police.  We had a wonderful meeting with Kgosi Lotlameng II who is the traditional leader for Goodhope and all villages 
between here and the South African border (He explained that the border split the Barolong lands in half.  His cousin is the kgosi in Mafikeng, on the other side of the border).  John is engaged in contacting various community persons for participation in the school Job Shadowing program, which we hope to develop this year. Carol was invited to present an in-service talk with medical staff at the Goodhope Primary Hospital on substance abuse (major problem in Botswana and linked to the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus) and treatment options, and has found interest there in beginning a recovery meeting. So there is hope in Goodhope!

 At our dining room table, sewing
table, game table, all-purpose and only
table,  beginning my quilt project.

The two weeks that school was in session before winter break gave us an idea of what is to come.  We spent those days getting up early to be at morning assembly at 7:10 a.m. We met with teachers and students, individually and in groups.  With the help of several students, we cleaned out a big room that will serve as the Life Skills and Career Counseling Center and may also be the headquarters of the Goodhope Bridge Club.  
Now on term break, we are home for lunch, and spend afternoons working on life skills plans, Peace Corps reports, emailing family and friends, washing clothes in a tub, hanging them to dry, cooking, playing guitar (John), sewing curtains and now a quilt (Carol), reading and gardening (both of us).  We both read John Hersey’s A Single Pebble - must reading, we both agree, for Peace Corps volunteers.  We each borrowed the same book, purely by coincidence,  from the Peace Corps library,  Nadine Gordimer’s  A Sport of Nature.  A riveting story of Africa and liberation. Hardly a day goes by without playing “Bananagrams”. Quite a competition between us, often making up our own rules, such as “must use a family member’s name” or  “one word required in  Setswana.”  And the most challenging one yet: “only words that begin with vowels.” We are getting sharp to take on local Portland friends who are geniuses at this game (you know who you are!). Just wait until our return... 

Our gratitude to have one another as good company is immense! We often think of single volunteers. which was John’s experience during his first service, and feel thankful for the companionship and fun we enjoy while at the same time feeling so lonely for beloved family and friends.  And gratitude for all of you, our loved ones so far away.  We send holiday blessings, love and every wish for 2012 to be an amazing new year.


Jean Tuller said...

Happy New Year to you both!!! Much love from Anna and Jean

Unknown said...

Dear John and Carol,

I can not believe that we finally got on this blog! We love it, the pictures are amazing and we are so impressed with what you are doing. You both look great. Here is to a wonderful happy New Year to both of you and big hugs and love from all of the Wilson-Weersings.

Love, Nonnie and Bruce

Marie said...

Pula - water and wealth as synonomous, if I'm understanding correctly. Perhaps here we suffer because we can take water for granted. T'would be nice to revere and celebrate it, without the scarcity that so many suffer with.

As always, thanks for sharing your adventures.

Love and blessings -