Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We are African Villagers (sort of...)

Swearing in as Peace Corps Volunteers
Hi everyone, it has been a while since our last post.  The internet situation is not convenient to say the least.  Hopefully once I get connected at work that will change.  The last few weeks of PST flew by and we were all ready for it to be over.  Sitting and listening to Power points for two months tends to wear on you.  Towards the end I definitely began to feel anxious about leaving.  As strange as living with our host family was at the beginning, towards the end, it became very comfortable and normal.  We are going to miss them very much.  Tonota (our new home village) is only about two hours from Serowe so we plan to visit them often.  The last week in Serowe we had our official LPI (language proficiency interview) which caused a lot of stress.  Our group (Bots 14) was the first group in Botswana that the Peace Corps held to a higher bench mark.  We had to score at an intermediate low level in order to leave after “Swear In” or else we were to be held back in Serowe for an additional week.  This put a lot of pressure on everyone, including myself.  In the end we both passed at in intermediate mid so I was proud of us.  The challenge now is to keep it up and get a tutor in Tonota so that we do not lose it.  The last few days were exciting and scary, we knew we had each other but for the rest of the group, this was it.  For the next two years they will be on their own, some going to very remote villages in the middle of the country.  On Tuesday, October 15th, we had a very nice ceremony with some important people from the Botswana government, US Embassy and of course Peace Corps staff.  It was kind of surreal, as many of you know, we have dreamed of being Peace Corps volunteers for some time and this was the day it would be official.  After the ceremony, we all celebrated and said our goodbyes.  The following morning, everyone would be picked up and taken to their villages to begin what is known as “Lock Down.”  This is where for the first 2 ½ month you are supposed to stay in your village so that you can begin to get immersed and learn about your new home.   It was sad to say goodbye to our new friends and our host family but overall we were ready to get on with it.  Our host family was very sad to see us go, the experience was intimate and really bonded us all.  The nice thing is that now we will always have a home and family in Botswana which means a lot since we are so far away from our family and friends in America.   It has only been 2 weeks since we left Serowe and we miss them very much.   We are planning on going back for Christmas to visit.

Our wonderful host parents.  We will miss them a lot!
Going to swear in

Finally Peace Corps Volunteers
Us with the former Vice President of Botswana

Erika (one of our PC BFF's), Neo, Kabo

The men of Bots 14

We got picked up on Wednesday morning by the DAC (District Aids Coordinator, my office) driver.  His name is Thabang, we call him TH.  It took us about 2 hours to get to Tonota from Serowe.  Once we pulled off the highway into Tonota I had this very strange feeling, this would be our new home for the next 2 years.  All hope of trees, greenery or hills were immediately washed away as we drove down the main road into town. We drove straight to our new house.  When we arrived, it was immediately clear that it was not ready for us to move in.  There were two painters in the house, furniture pushed into a corner, overall it was a disaster.  My heart dropped, I knew that we would be doing a ton of cleaning and prep in order get moved in but this was scary.  Next we drove to the DAC office where TH introduced us to some of the people in the office that I would be working with.  We then arrived at my counterpart’s (basically my boss if you want to call it that) office where we sat for the next hour waiting for them to figure out what to do with us since it was obvious that we were not moving into the house that day.  They arranged for us to stay in a lodge for 3 nights while the house finished being painted and put together.  We were dropped at the lodge, quite a ways out of town and they told us that they would be back to get us on Saturday morning.  We were basically stuck in a hotel room for 3 days, let me just say that it is a good thing we like each other.  One day we did go into Francistown (big town about 30 min. from Tonota) to do some shopping and we had lunch with some other PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers).  On Saturday morning we were picked up and brought to the house, this time it was ready for us to move in.  The paint looked great, it just gives the whole place a clean look, and is very African in its style.  That is not to say that we did not have tons of cleaning to do but overall we are quite happy with the new digs.  We live on a compound with a few different dwellings.  There are 3 other people that live on the compound with us.  In one small house is a very cool women named Kelly, she lives there with her son (6 years old) Tony.  Squirrel (yes that is really his name, however these are all shortened names or nicknames, ie. Kelly’s Setswana name is Kelekeni) lives in the other small house.  Kelly and Squirrel are both Police Officers which might sound like a nightmare in any other setting other than living in a small African village.  It is actually incredibly comforting to live with two cops, again, I can’t actually believe that I am writing that.  They are both very cool and I think once again we got extremely lucky with our living situation.  Our house (see pictures below) has a living room, dining room, kitchen, room with a toilet, room with a sink and bathtub and two bedrooms.  We have electricity and running water, no hot water or shower, so it’s bucket bathing baby!  I will explain in a future blog post for those who have no idea what I am talking about.  We live about 15 minute walk from Choppies (our local grocery store) which is great.  They have a surprising selection of food but trust me there is plenty that you can’t find.  Francistown has many stores with better selections so we will probably make a run into town every other week or so.  You really have to get creative with food.  There are no restaurants so every meal is made by us (ok mostly Erin).  We did buy a BBQ (Braii in Botswana) so we have been grilling out.   That is all for now, there is so much more to say and show but we will wait for future blog posts, might run out of things to talk about over the next two years.  Miss you all!  Stay in touch!  Email / Calling is probably the best way for now.  If you have not called, it is really easy and we would LOVE to hear from you.
Jojo and Erin

Our African home
Our front yard

The compound
Side yard
Living room

Dining room


Toilet room

Bedroom (yes that is a mosquito net)


African braii
Our neighbors, Kelly & Tony

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Final Post of PST!


            The first day we met our family they told us about the “cattlepost”, also called a moraka in Setswana or just “the lands” for short.  In Botswana, wealth is measured by the number of cattle your family has.  A man’s family is still responsible for paying a bride’s family in order to have the right to marry her.  This is traditionally paid in cows, around 8 cows are standard.  The first evening we arrived at our homestay, Erin asked our host father how many cows he had to which our host father just laughed not responding to the question, we latter found out that is like asking someone in America how much money they have in their bank account.  We make many mistakes like that on a daily basis, it is just trial and error and through making cultural mistakes, you learn. 
            So the cattlepost is where they keep their cattle, goats, and chickens.  Most families have one, and they can be located just outside of town, or many hours away.  The Leatame cattlepost is just about 2 hours from Serowe in a very beautiful part of the country.  There are rolling hills, all sorts of wildlife, and giant (seriously giant) cactus trees.  In order to have a cattlepost, you must have a “bore hole” which is basically a well.  These can be very expensive to dig as the water table here is so deep, so sometimes several families will share one bore hole.  The cattle are tended by what are referred to here as “herd boys”.  These are men who live out at the lands and basically take care of the livestock.  Their “accommodations” basically consist of corrugated tin shacks.  They are brought staple supplies like sugar, sorgum, paleche, and maybe chibuku if they are lucky (chibuku is the local home brew made from sorgum – future post to come about that).  Everything else they eat they must kill for themselves.  When we were there we ate dried impala meat.  They eat cudu, guinnea fowl, and whatever else they can kill.  They roll cigarettes with newspaper, wear clothing that is falling apart, and basically live what appears to be a pretty hard life.  That being said, we met our families herd boy, and several of the surrounding cattleposts herd boys, and they were all very happy, fun, and joyous men.  It was an amazing experience and gives us just a little more insight into what life in Botswana is all about.

Traditional house at our host Dad's home on the way to the cattlepost.

Rooster with a traditional pot.

Our family's cows out at the lands.

Traditional pot cooking over the fire.

Kitchen area where you cook and hang out.

Biltong (traditional dried beef made by hanging over a line, left out to dry).

Herd boys

Newspaper Smokes

The green tank on the left is a "Jojo," yes they are really called that!

Junior playing Frisbee with Erin.

Setswana Wedding

            The first week we arrived at our host family house, our host mother told us that we would be attending a wedding that she was to be the bridesmaid in.  We were told to try and attend as many cultural events as possible, this would be the best way to get to know the Batswana culture.  I had no idea what to expect.  I asked many questions leading up to it but as I have mentioned before questions rarely lead to answers that are satisfactory.  What I gathered was that it is rare for Batswana these days to have a totally traditional wedding, there are many modern additions.  That is not to say that it is the same as weddings that we are used to in the States.  For starters, you do not have to be invited to a wedding, anyone can come.  Can you even imagine that being the case in America?  Weddings are usually held at someone’s house, sometimes the bride or grooms family.  The size of a wedding is measured by the number of cows & goats that were killed to serve the guests.  For this wedding, there were 4 cows and 3 goats killed, it was quite large.  A large tent was set up in the yard very similar to what we are used to, there was a head table and separate tables for the wedding party.  Food cooked in huge vats in the yard over fire and then served buffet style.  This sounds similar to what we are used to but mind you there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to how they go through the line and as an outsider it feels absolutely chaotic.  There was a DJ and dancing, the wedding party (including our host mom) had prepared a few dances that were very entertaining.  The event lasted all day, mostly just sitting around drinking, dancing and eating.  A few more traditional parts included when the “married women” take the bride to a separate area, do a few rituals and then tell her about what married life is like and how to treat your husband.  The men all gather around and eat the “choice parts” of the cow (organs and whatnot) as they tell the groom how to treat his wife.  We were told that these parts are saved for the men because they are too good for women.  I will hold myself back from commenting further on this subject but in short, this is something that I am really going to have to get used to living in Africa.  Erin and our friend Chris did have the pleasure in partaking in eating the “choice meat,” Erin said that it was quite nice.  Our host mom was so sweet and bought me a traditional skirt (the red skirt and head wrap that you will see in the pictures below).  She told me it was for both the wedding and our swearing in day, it was so sweet of her.  “Swear In” is the official last day of PST, Tuesday, Oct. 15th, the day we transition from Peace Corps Trainees to Peace Corps Volunteers.  This will be a very important and exciting day for all of us.  The last few weeks have been amazing and challenging in so many ways.  We have met so many amazing people so far, it makes us very excited about what is to come.

Wedding party doing their thing. Our mom is the third one in line.

Me, Anneliese, and CJ .

Me and Chris (Our PC BFF)

One of the many traditional pots cooking the food for the wedding.

Meat cooking

Crazy buffet line
Our plate of food (Rice, squash, beets, bean salad, coleslaw, chicken and Seswa).

Our family!

Erin and our Host Mom, she looked amazing in her bridesmaid dress, this was only the 1st attire, they changed into another outfit for the after party.

I love this picture!  You can see the bride behind us, aren't we so cute?

We will be moving to our new village next Wednesday and not sure the next time we will have access to internet so this is all for now.  We will be back up soon.  Miss you all!

Just a few more pics!
Erin getting a haircut from Owen.

Kwesi (our favorite Mostwana cousin) and CJ.

Erin and Junior

Party at our house, not much changes we still like to host a good party.

Our family getting down!

Jojo and Erin