Monday, September 23, 2013

Some Pictures

Our neighborhood

Goats, Cows, and Chickens roam everywhere

Our Setswana language cluster

Our home here in Serowe!

The fruit orchard at our house

Cows (Dikgomo) - there are a lot of these

The fam. Junior, Shawn, Dorcas, and Cindy

Going on a game drive

Beautiful Botswana!

African BBQ


BDF (Botswana Defense Force) helping us push out of the sand

White Rhino


Shawn with a wire car

Kids make these, they're ingenious





Some other weird animal

Wire car and family dogs

What sometimes greats us when we come home from school
Erin and our hose dad

Erin and friends (Chris & Owen)

Beautiful Botswana (with pit latrine)
Our host dad making "seswa"

Water is very important here...

Paleche - a staple starch (kind of like polenta)


It does not feel as though it has been almost three weeks since I have written, time is flying by here in Botswana.  We had a wonderful time during our shadowing week.  This is where all the Peace Corps trainees get a chance to go out and spend a few days in a village/town with a current volunteer.  Erin and I got to go to Francistown (better known as “Second City” or “the Ghetto”) non neither of these terms are meant to be negative in the way that we would traditionally perceive them in America.  They are used more as terms of endearment.  I know this sounds strange but you learn quickly here not to ask too many questions, there is rarely an answer that seems to satisfy.  Francistown is the second biggest town in Botswana next to Gaborone (the capital).  There are tons of people, cars, buses, noise and hustle and bustle.  There are also restaurants, malls, supermarket very similar what we have in America.  You can get Indian food, Chinese food and plenty of fast food.  There is also a store called, “Game” that I think might actually be owned by Walmart but pretty much looks and feels exactly like one.  The only problem is that won’t be making enough money to afford most of these types of luxuries but there is something nice about knowing that it is there if needed. We stayed with a wonderful volunteer named, Jim.  He is 2/3 through his service and was a wealth of knowledge about pretty much everything.  We got the opportunity to go with him to 4 of his different projects, one being the DAC (District Aids Coordinator), this is the area that I will be placed after training once at our site.  To be honest there was not much to see there as we went at lunch time but none the less it was interesting walking around the government building meeting different folks.  The following day we went with Jim to his original assignment at a church close to his place in Monarch, sort of a suburb outside of Francistown (maybe 3 or 4 miles out).  It runs a sort of community center during the week for children to have a place to go and get involved with different activities.  Unfortunately, this assignment fell through after he learned that the organization was not a register NGO, therefore could not get funding.  Next we went to my favorite, a day care center for children with disabilities.  The kids were so cute, you can’t even image.  Jim mostly helps out with their computers, proposal, and administrative work.  The center was clean and the people that all worked there were very warm and proud the center.  They also had an amazing garden that made us very hopeful as we are really motivated to get a garden started once at site.  Finally, we had chance to go to a primary school where Jim has been fixing computers that have not worked for years.  He actually had a breakthrough that day which was very exciting.  They asked if he would do computer tutorials for the kids once a week.  It was very telling to see the excitement that what once seemed to me a very small thing, truly made his week.  One thing that we learned during our shadowing week was you really have to celebrate the small victories during your service.  Progress is slow but with a ton of determination things can be accomplished.  Patience is virtue and extremely necessary here; someone said it best the other day, “you will always be impatient, it is important to learn how to hide it.” We also had the opportunity to meet another volunteer who lives in Francistown; he is a 3rd year volunteer.  This is when you choose to stay in country and extend your service for another year.  At this point, it seems crazy but I can understand that after two years, you can get attached to a specific project or just the lifestyle.  He was also a wealth of information and a real joy to hang with.  I have to say that one of my favorite things so far is getting to meet so many people.  From the different volunteers both in our training group (58 people) the other volunteers on the ground (I think around 130 people,) and of course the Batswana.  Even getting to know the Peace Corps staff has been great.  All but three are Botswana Nationals and they give us a great perspective on the culture and language. 
            Part of our shadowing experience was to introduce us to taking public transportation.  We had it easy as Serowe to Francistown is only about 3 hours.  There are a lot of busses heading up there so it was just a matter of going to the bus rank (bus station,) getting on the bus to Francistown, waiting for the bus to fill up and then heading out.  Now mind you, the busses were not made for people Erin’s size.  His legs do not fit behind the seats and the two of us barely fit on two seats.  Again, we got lucky with a short ride, some other trainees had destinations up to 10 hours away.  Now once summer comes around and temperatures reach over 100, sitting on a cramped bus sounds miserable but I won’t worry about that until it happens.  
            I know that it can be hard to communicate but we would LOVE to hear from all of you.  Here are a few options of ways that you can reach out:
1)      Comment on our blog
2)      Email us @ or
3)      Message us on Facebook
4)      Call/text us on our Botswana cell phones (email to get our numbers)
5)      Text us @ – only works if you have an iphone
6)      Text us on “What’s app” @ (this is a great app for the I phone, download it if you do not already have it)
Jojo and Erin

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Hello from beautiful Botswana.  We have now officially been in Africa for almost 3 weeks but it feels like it has been longer than that.  We arrived in Serowe (the village where we are training and living with a host family for 8 weeks) about two weeks ago.  Immediately upon arrival we went straight to our host family matching ceremony which I can tell you was one of the most nerve racking things I have ever done.  I can’t even imagine not having Erin sitting next to me.  After the ceremony we headed back to our new home in Serowe.
 Before we departed for Africa, we had a conference call with our Country Director, Tim, and he said to us, “Congratulations you have just won the Peace Corps lottery,” referring to our placement in Botswana.  At the time we thought it was charming but as the days go on, I really do think that this was a true statement.  Botswana is a beautiful country with beautiful people.  We have met so many people in the last few weeks who are overjoyed that we are here.  So if we did win the Peace Corps lottery, we hit the jack pot with our host family.  I could go off on all of the wonderful things about our new family and home but overall we are humbled by the hospitality that we have been offered.  When Peace Corps told our family that we would be coming to live with them for two months and that we would be part of their family, they took this very seriously.  They are very happy, fun, and positive people, and we have fit right in. 
Ok let’s do a little Setswana lesson just so you understand when I use certain terms:
Botswana (pronounced, boat-swa-na) = the country
Batswana = the people of Botswana
            Motswana = a person from Botswana           
Setswana = the language of Botswana
And yes, the language is very difficult but we are quickly learning and trying to stay positive.  Our family speaks English to us which is good but it can be difficult as far as learning at home.  They are great about helping with homework and they speak Setswana to each other so that is nice.
Our host family gave us each a Setswana name when we arrived.  I am known as “Neo” (pronounced, ney-o) which means “gift,” and Erin’s name is “Kabo,” also meaning “gift.”  It is hard to get used to a new name, I find myself getting yelled at a lot because I simply do not realize that someone in the house is talking to me.  Erin is doing better with his new name, some call him “KB” for short.  I like this one.  Our mother’s name is “Dolly,” (pronounced dough-ly) and she is great.  She is always happy and has made a big effort to make sure that we are comfortable and eating good.  Whenever I say that I like something, there is always more of it the next day.  I have really enjoyed hanging out with her learning about Batswana and telling her about things back in the states.  Although she often tells me that she knows everything about the states from the gossip mags that she reads. We have two brothers, Shawn (8), same age as my favorite niece.  He is really fun and just like our niece Ellie, thinks that Erin is the coolest thing in the entire world.  Junior is 13 and super cool.  I have really enjoyed hanging out with him and learning about life here.  Our father’s name is very hard to pronounce so we just call him either “Rra” which just means “Sir” or by the family’s last name, Leatame.  He is very interesting.  He studied in England and now works as the head mechanical engineer for the Botswana Power Company.  We also have on the compound, a maid/nanny named Dorcas and Dolly’s cousin, Lorato who is studying at the college here.  We also have a sister named, “Cindy,” but she unfortunately goes to boarding school so we do not get to see her much.  The first weekend we were here she was home, she was home sick so we got to meet her.  I really liked her and wish that she lived here although we do have her room so that is nice.  So when the whole family is around there are 9 of us but there are always more people around including neighbors, other random passersby, and always tons of kids. 
We have school (Pre-Service Training) Monday – Friday from 8:00am – 5:30pm plus Setswana on Saturday for 4 hours.  The training is a series of sessions that range from Setswana lessons, HIV information sessions, health/nutrition, safety, and general Peace Corps mombo jumbo.  Most of the information is pretty interesting but it is hard to sit still all day in a room looking at Powerpoint presentations.  Most of them are required by Peace Corps and at times kind of dull.  We have a very large group of trainees.  We started with 60, lost two right away, just lost one more but also gained one so we are officially at 58.  I really hope that we do not loose anymore, it is so sad to see people go home after everything that it has taken to get here. We have met some really cool people.  It is amazing how close you can get to people in just two weeks, it is a pretty intense experience that we are all sharing together. 
After school, we usually try to take a walk around, trying to get to know Serowe.  It is fun to explore but most of the streets are dirt and there are no street signs so we have to be careful not to get lost.  Once the sun begins to go down, we head home and eat dinner.  So we have gotten really lucky as far as the food situation is concerned.  Some of our fellow trainees are struggling in this area but our family has been great and feeding us well.  The Batswana really like meat and carbs so we have stressed that we like/need/want veggies, it has not been a problem.  Now we always have veggies on our plate and even salad most nights. 
One of the highlights over the last few weeks would have to be our trip to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, right outside of Serowe.  The first weekend here, our family was kind enough to take us there.  The sanctuary is an amazing place where they protect the countries Rhino population which is in serious jeopardy due to poachers.  The cool thing is that the park has not only Rhinos but most of the other animals that live in the area.  The only animals that you can not find in the the park are Lions and Elephants which can be seen further north in the country. We were able to drive our family truck around the park which was really cool.   We saw a ton of different animals. We stopped for a few hours and barbequed just the way we would do in America, it was awesome. 
The other highlight was our training session yesterday on Permaculture.  Our whole group got to create a garden at a local nutrition clinic.  Gardening is encouraged by Peace Corps as a project that can be done at our sites.  Erin and I are both really interested in gardening and hope to make it a priority in our service.  Botswana is a land locked country with very little water, gardening is time consuming and very difficult to sustain.  Permagardening offers techniques that help to use minimal water as well as treating the soil with organic materials which help to fertilize the plants.
Looking at the next few weeks, we have a regular week of training coming up, then we will head out next weekend to “shadow.”  This is where we will leave Serowe to spend 3-4 days with a current volunteer to see how they live and what they do here in Botswana.  I am really excited to have the opportunity to get out there and really see what it is like after training.  After our shadowing week, we will find out our site placement.  We are all pretty nervous about this even though there is very little that we can do about it.  After we are sworn in on Oct. 15th, we will move to this new site for two years.  I will be sure to update again after shadow week to let you know who it goes.  Here are some pics to enjoy so that you can get an idea of what our life is like here.  We will post more when we can get a more reliable internet connection.
Jojo and Erin

P.S.  We have found that “What’s App” is the best way to communicate.  If you want to get in touch with us, feel free to comment on the blog, or download What’s App and message us.  Internet is very scarce so we are doing the best we can. 

Our family (baby is the neighbor)

Erin, Shawn (8) and Junior (13)

Papaya tree in our yard

Farmer Neo