Shadowing Fin – Maun

Saturday morning we hitched a ride in the back of a truck to the bus junction. It saved us about an hour’s walk, and I greatly enjoyed experiencing the business-like practice of hitching in Botswana. Hitching is how some locals make their car payments; others give them out in exchange for the company. Unless the driver is drinking or rowdy, one can assume that it is a relatively safe thing to do on occasion in Botswana.

We took a bus from the junction to Maun – and I began to count the immense number of hours I spent on a bus during my trip so far. After everything was said and done I’d spent 28 hours on a bus in five days.

Maun is a heavily visited tourist town. There are white people everywhere, I hadn’t noticed until then was a strange sight to see. We had some time to kill before our second evening at our comfy hotel room, so we hit up the Education Park to try to catch a glimpse of some animals.

The Education Park was pretty amazing. Though it was built for humans, the setting consisted of an expansive bushy grassland, with tall trees and termite mounds reaching 6 ft. from the ground. Animals were just living there, not separated from the human observers, and thrown rocks and loosely made signs pointed us on some sort of a trail. There we encountered warthogs, impala, strange blue-headed flightless foul, and lastly, a couple of incredibly tall giraffe. I mean, I know they’re tall, but I had forgotten just how tall. These creatures are like dinosaurs. 


My trip up to Etsha 6 enlightened me on what is to come, and helped solidify my desires for my own site placement. The announcement for our permanent sites will be on May 22nd.  I’ll be sure to post the news up then!!


Shadowing Cont’d – Birthday Braai and the Flood Plain

One of the most mysterious things to me before joining the Peace Corps was the daily schedule of the average community development volunteer. What do they do all day if they are not in an office from 8:00-5:00? Watching my host I learned that there is some downtime, usually around lunch, but the mornings and afternoons (at least for our shadowing host) appear to be somewhat busy with community meetings, clinic work, and other new and ongoing projects – such as helping a basket weaver’s group raise money. I also observed that the job really is as busy as you make it. It’s possible to sit around for most of the day and read, but that lifestyle would drive me mad with boredom and I would feel like it was a waste.

Friday was our host’s birthday, and to celebrate she planned to visit the flooded plain near the Delta and to cook a braai. A braai is like a barbecue, except without the sauce. People gather and cook meat outside, drink a little, listen to music, and socialize. Our host planned this by collecting 10 Pula from each eating attendee, and essentially delegating tasks to her Motswana friends.

The flood plain was surprisingly elegant. A friend of hers ferried us around in a large, wooden canoe, and the cattle and cattle egrets wandered lazily around us. We spent about an hour an half at the flood plain, and arrived at around 4 to begin preparing for the braai.

Around sunset people started trickling in to our host’s house. A Motswana friend brought the electric braai stove, another brought the freshly slaughtered cow meat, and another brought an axe and chopped some wood for a fire. The other trainee and I prepared a pasta salad, I tried a new alcoholic beverage called Hunter’s Dry, the ipod played some familiar hip hop, and everything came together as it was supposed to.

Getting to experience a local Motswana party was really something I needed. I learned more about their sense of humor, how they relax and socialize, and I also got a chance to see the beautiful starry Botswana sky. In Molepolole, aside from the fact that during training we have to be home before dark, the stars are muted as they would be in any well populated city. Out in Etsha though, I saw shooting stars and the Milky Way, and looked forward to living at my site and perhaps seeing that sky on a regular basis.

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!