Peace Corps Botswana Amenities Survey

Peace Corps just asked us to complete a survey about the types of amenities we have at site. It dawned on me that this information might not be known to my family, friends, and other interested people back in the states, so I’ve presented the survey to you as I sent it to them (sans the remarks in italics or links).

I live in a city, not a village, so my survey answers might not sound like the typical “Peace Corps” living situation most back home might expect. Before you read on though, I’d like to note that in my opinion a Peace Corps service is not justified by harsh living conditions as much as it is by the cultural exchanges and adaptations that occur. It’s about the process of figuring out how best to live, work productively, and adapt to an unfamiliar culture.

In other words, this survey might make it seem like I have it easy, but believe me, living in a city in Africa brings on a whole slew of new and interesting challenges that might not surface in a smaller village community. Perhaps I’ll elaborate on that in a future post.

All this being said, I realize I got pretty lucky with the housing placement, and I relish every warm shower!


Program HIV/AIDS Capacity Building Project Component: District Community Liaison (my program name)

1. Do you have electricity in your house? In your village? Is it reliable?
Yes. Yes. Yes, though we’ll have power outages during the rainy season and occasionally during planned energy saving periods.

2. Where do you get your water? Is it reliable?
I get my water from the tap. I’ve never been without water.

3. Do you have a refrigerator? Gas powered?
I have an electrical powered refrigerator.

4. Do you have a stove and oven? Gas or electric?
I have a both a stove and an oven. They are both electric.

5. Do you have cell phone coverage?  What networks are available at your site?
Yes. All of them.

6. Do you have internet access at your site?  How do you access it?
Yes. In many locations we have wireless, but I only access internet through work and home land lines.

7. Do you pay for a dongle (a USB internet provider through a cell phone carrier) or any other type of internet connection?  If yes, which provider do you use?
I split the payment for DSL in my house. I pay for half and my parents pay for the other half. I use Botswana Telecom Corporation (BTC). (This way I can video skype with my parents back home, and it actually cuts the cost for them on phonecards. Also, DSL is 512 kb/s). 

The Simple, Durable, Functional Nokia 1280

8. Does your workplace have internet? If yes, is it a school, NGO, clinic, dist. Office, etc,?
Yes, though we do have occasional outages. It’s in the District AIDS  Office.

9. Do you have a computer?
Yes, both at work and at home (computer at home is an EEE PC netbook)

10. Do you have a smart phone?
I consider my phone smart because it has a flashlight. Other than that, no.

11. Are there stores in your village? Are they chain stores and do you do the majority of your shopping there?  How far do you travel to get to major grocery stores and how often do you make the trip?
There are many stores in Francistown. Many are chain stores but we also have several locally owned businesses. I do the majority of my shopping in the central Francistown shops, like on Blue Jacket Square and in Galo Mall. I can walk 10 minutes to get to a large grocery store.

Shppers at Galo Mall

12. Is your village accessible by public transportation? If not, how far are you from the nearest public transport?
Yes. We have a large bus rank, and there are taxis all over town. The bus rank is about 15 minutes walking from my house.

Francistown Bus and Taxi Rank

13. How far are you from the nearest PCV?  How often do you see other PCVs?

I am about 10 minutes walking from the nearest PCV. I see PCVs about once a week.

14. Have you or do you plan to make a trip home to the US?

15. How many visitors have you had or will you have (best estimate) from the US, family, friends, or otherwise?
None so far, but I am planning to have between 1-3 in early 2012.

16. Is there anything that I’ve left off that you want to add or any additional comments about your site? 
Francistown is pretty awesome.


Hans Rosling on HIV: New facts and stunning data visuals

I wouldn’t normally use this forum just to post a Youtube video, but I felt this one hits pretty close to home with what’s going on with the HIV/AIDS scene here in Botswana. During a TED talk, Hans Rosling, a doctor and researcher who is especially enthusiastic for giving visually stimulating presentations on global statistics, discusses the changing percentages of HIV infections over time, income, and location.  He highlights Botswana, and shows just how relatively high the HIV rate is here as compared to the rest of the world. It’s important to also note that the issues he brings up in terms of why HIV is so abundant in Southern Africa – multiple concurrent partnerships, lack of condom use, and intergenerational sex – are some of the key issues we face on a daily basis in our behavior change and prevention programs.

Click here for more info and presentations from Hans Rosling.

Shadowing Cont’d: The Tour

First of all – Etsha 6, our shadowing destination, was not hit by the severe flood that others villages surrounding the Okavango Delta had to unfortunately evacuate from. The flood is, however, the main reason why the rest of my bus ride consisted of repetitive cattle and grassland and no sight of crazy wild game (at least in Etsha).

We arrived in Etsha 6 Wednesday the 5th at around noon. Our Bots 8 shadowing volunteer met us and walked us back to her home from the bus rank, which took a whopping 2 minutes.  Etsha 6, which is the largest Etsha village (out of thirteen), is still very tiny, and is home to approximately 2000 people. It has sand for dirt. Etsha has a baker, a butcher, a couple of clothing and food co-ops, a bar and a couple of bottle shops (places to buy alcohol), a community center (called a Kgotla – all “g’s” in Setswana have a guttural throat clearing sound), a singular clinic used by residents of all thirteen Etshas, a primary and secondary school (which are beautiful and well kept), and I’ve heard there are about twenty churches (the Batswana are known for their religious adherence). There are about 3 paved roads and a Shell station, which is a really big deal.

Our host’s house is a functional and pretty big. Three bedrooms, a large lawn of sand surrounded by a protective gate and tall wire fence which runs angled barbed wires along the top. In front of her house she has a lemon tree, a laundry line, and a water faucet. Inside, she has a stove, oven, refrigerator, freezer , electricity, running water (most of the time) and even a shower. There is no hot water from the tap, but few care about this when showering after a hot day. The shower was fantastic.

At first I was a little put off by Etsha’s small size. I worried that I might get easily bored in such a rural area  (it is still a concern). But because of its small area and population, our host managed to integrate herself deep into the community. Her Setswana is well practiced, and she would walk down the road and 5-10 people either on foot or in cars would stop to talk with her. The baker makes her special brown bread, and the school teachers leave their classes to see how she’s doing when she stops by. Now that I’ve been here I can see some benefits to living in a village this size.  She says she feels safe, and is involved in some community projects because people know who she is and that she is there to help. These things would be much harder to accomplish in a large village like Molepolole.

– So this is the part where I was going to post pictures, but for some reason the photo album program thing isn’t working.  Instead, I should have photos up on my Picasa album soon. I know that’s reliable, and I’ll work on this issue for future posts. Photos from this will be under “Shadowing”. Thanks!