Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Some Pictures

This type of hut is the most common dwelling in villages throughout Botswana.  It's called a roundaval and is made of a stick frame plastered with mud and a straw roof.
Not sure the name of this tree, but it's flowers are very beautiful and has a very intense fragrance.  They are all over the village, and it smells something like your grandmothers perfume.
Corrugated tin and brick are the other major building materials available.

Many straw roofs are shaved and carved with really cool designs.

Shashe River in Tonota.  This river was flooded up to the bottom of the bridge not more than one month ago.
It's been getting slightly colder here as winter is coming on.  We won't see rain again until November.

We miss you all!

Ice breakers with the kids at PACT Camp.  The biggest differenes between this camp and our GLOW Camp in Maun were that it was a mixed group of boys and girls, and that we as PCV's facilitated all of the sessions on our own (Jojo and I did sessions on GBV-gender based violence, and Safe Sex and HIV prevention).  Super fun and a great learning experience. 

Going for a little walk in the bush.

This snake was found at the nature reserve where we were having camp.  The handlers told us it was a baby.

Motswana can really dance.  We hired in a DJ for a dance party the last night of the camp and the kids were in heaven.

Our PCV crew for PACT Camp.  Lindsey, Stacey, Nate, Jojo, Erin, TJ, Octavius, Javani, Chris.

These camps are really fun (most of the time) and allow you to interact on a very personal level with the kids.  They do say some crazy things though that we as Americans are not used to hearing.  Gender rolls and norms are so different in most of the rest of the world.

Baobab Tree - Actually classified as a cactus or succulent, and are native to Southern Africa and Madagascar.  Botswana has a very large concentration of them in the north central region.  Most will live over 1000 years.

Peace Corps can be really fun.


Thursday, April 3, 2014


Hello to all.  We hope that everyone is doing well, and we send you our love.  Since our last post we have spent a week up in the north eastern part of Botswana (Ngamiland District) collaborating with other volunteers on two different Peace Corps projects.  PC has a mentoring program and last year Jojo was matched with Bridgett, a Bots 12 who lives in Shakawe.  Through many conversations and emails we learned that her and her husband Matt do the majority of their work with agricultural NGO’s, focusing on conservation agriculture and organic permagardening.  Since these are projects that I am very much interested in implementing here in Tonota, we were able to get PC approval for us to go up there and learn/work with them for 3 days.  Matt and Bridgett are not only great hosts (we had a lot of fun), but also really great teachers.  We learned so much about dry land farming techniques (basically farming without irrigation), partner crops and field rotation here in Bots, natural fertilizers and pesticides, different types of permagarden set ups, to shade your garden or not to shade, care for indigenous crops, etc. etc.  It was a really great experience and we met some amazing people who are doing incredible work with local farmers.  The main goal is to increase yields while utilizing the water which is available (which varies widely year to year) and less chemical fertilizers.  My work at the Tonota Clinic garden has already benefited from what I learned from them.  I expect to have a crop of spinach (actually chard) and rape (actually kale) in about 1 month.  These vegetables along with maize, beans, and maringa which will be ready in about 2 months, will be distributed to individuals and families around Tonota who have been identified by the clinic as needing nutritional support.  I am also very excited to begin building home gardens at many family compounds around Tonota starting next month.
One of the best parts about going up north is the chance to see large game.  Matt and Bridgett live along the Okavango River in a village called Shakawe.  It is located in the extreme northeast of Botswana about 20 km from the Namibia border (over 15 hr bus ride from Tonota).  The Okovango River forms the largest inland delta (where a river doesn’t empty into a body of water but instead fans out over open land) in the world.  During the rainy season the many tributaries of the Okovango flood the Kalahari Desert creating a maze of swamps and channels which form a prolific wildlife habitat.  There are said to be over 400 species of birds who live in the Delta, and all of the major large land mammals which Africa is known for can be seen in and around the Delta.  Matt and Bridgett live along a flood plain swamp where we listened to hippos grazing and fighting from their front porch at night.  We were able to go on a boat ride in the Delta and a game drive, I have included some pictures (mostly for the kids).
The second half of our trip was spent in Maun, which is the largest town and the tourist hub of the Okovango Delta region.  We were invited to help two Maun PCV’s with a GLOW Camp which they had organized.  GLOW is an acronym which stands for Guys/Girls Leading Our World and is a very popular youth camp put on by many PCV’s across Botswana.  The focus of the camp is to teach youth about leadership, healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS, safe sex, self-confidence, professionalism, gender based violence, etc. etc.  The camps can be 2-5 days depending on how much funding you are able to get and can be boys or girls only or a mixed group.  Our camp was held on the grounds of Trevor’s NGO in Maun and was made up of 53 boys from the Maun Senior Secondary School (basically high school).  They ranged in age from 16-19 and most were able to camp with us on site, while some had to be walked to and from the school where they boarded every morning and evening.  I have to admit that I had reservations prior to attending camp, mostly due to the fact that I was imagining working with American high school kids.  These reservations were totally unfounded as our boys turned out to be the most amazing group of kids!  They were thoughtful, respectful, fun, paid attention during sessions, and truly enjoyed themselves.  The boys were broken up into 4 teams, and rotated between sessions throughout the day along with playing games, and just hanging out.  I was just amazed at how things that I might assume to be boring or taboo for an 18 year old (sex and communication session for example) proved to be the most interesting to them.  They were also fed three solid meals per day, plus tea break every morning, which I know was a big deal because according to them the food at school is not good and not enough.  At the end of camp kids said the most amazing things to us about how much fun they had, how much they had learned, and how we were now their brothers/sisters.  Their perceptions of white people in this area are shaped mostly by tourist and white South Africans who own most of the Lodges and Touring companies, so it was so cool to hear them say how happy it made them for us to give them advice and show interest in their lives.  It was without a doubt the most fun and meaningful thing I’ve done since coming to Botswana.  We will be helping out with another camp in two weeks, this time closer to home in Francistown.  With all that we will have learned at these two camps, I can’t wait to begin the process of attaining the funding needed to host a camp for kids from Tonota.  That’s all for now.

Peace and Love,
Erin & Jojo