Friday, May 23, 2014

Mariga e kae (Winter is here)

It is so very hard to imagine when the temperatures are soaring past 100 degrees that it actually gets cold here but sure enough we have taken out our socks, sweaters and fleeces.  We have even had to put an extra blanket on the bed.  Who knew it actually gets really cold here? During the day, it has been warming up to the 70/80’s but at night it cools down to the 40s.  This does not sound cold when you compare it to Vermont or Colorado winters but you have to think we live in a cement house with no insulation and there is no way to heat it.  Honestly we are both enjoying it.  At night we fill our hot water bottles and bundle up.  It is nice change from the searing heat.  I still ride my bike to work every day which is a bit chilly but again I just bundle up with my hat and gloves, by the time I am half way there, I am already warm.  Our plants and herbs are not very happy about the cold though.  We had planted some tomatoes that were looking so good but now that it’s getting chilly at night we will have to wait and see if they make it to fruiting.  We have continued to grow herbs and other plants that we have taken from around the neighborhood.  Some of the herbs love the cooler temps (thyme, sage, oregano), but the basil and cilantro are not as into it.  Our yard is looking nice, I can‘t wait until the spring when we can really start planting again.  I am hoping to build a few plots so that we can grow some greens.  Greens (lettuce, mixed greens, kale) are so hard to find.  We can usually get pretty sad looking iceberg lettuce from our supermarket but that is all.  I really miss salad!

Erin got some great news last week, the proposal that he sent into the Ministry of Agriculture was accepted and they are giving him everything that he needs to build an amazing large scale covered garden at the clinic.  He has managed to get transport to pick up all of the supplies from the Agriculture Department in TNT and deliver it to his clinic (this is actually a HUGE accomplishment).  As we’ve said in previous posts transport is a really big problem here in Botswana, so getting an open bed truck to bring the 5000 liter water tank, 20 gum poles, all of the irrigation piping, and shade netting to the clinic was nothing short of miraculous.  Now he needs to find the funds to hire laborers to help dig post holes and construct the physical structure.  After that he will need to pick up fertilizer (actually chicken poop) from a local poultry farm and find more seeds.  This is a really big project but it is great because it has been keeping him busy and looks like will continue to keep him busy for months to come.   We will post pictures of construction in the next few weeks.

Other than that, I have been working with our local Gender Committee, trying to get us registered as a society.  Once we are registered with the government, we will qualify for funding that we can use to host workshops, do community outreach and hopefully host community events that will help build awareness around Gender Issues and Gender Based Violence.   Erin and I have been doing short presentations for the committee, trying to get them up to speed on the issues.  I have also been working with our local Youth Club, helping to plan a business expo for the end of the year.  They are very enthusiastic and have great ideas.  I am really hoping to use my skills to help them plan a successful event.

I few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with some awesome Peace Corps girls.  It was the first time that Erin and I had been apart since we arrived in Africa which was really strange.  They say that one of the hardest things for Peace Corps couples is that they end up spending so much time together, and they just are not used to it.  This is not one of our problems.  We are used to being together and really enjoy each other’s company, thank goodness.  But that being said, it is still nice to get away and hang with the girls.   Erin went camping with several of the guys and had an amazing time, they hitch hiked to a remote village which is located next to some hills.  I’ll let him expand on the trip in a future post.  As for the girls, we had grand plans to camp in the bush and after plan A, B and C failed (typical when traveling in Botswana) we ended up at a cattlepost, known as a moraka in Setswana.  Ever since we had visited our host family’s moraka, I have always wanted to go back and camp there.  Cattleposts are where Batswana keep their cattle.  Cattle in Botswana are sort of like cash and thus the moraka is kind of like a bank account.  Wealth in this country is determined by the number of cattle you have.  The moraka is sort of like what we think of as a ranch / farm in America but most every Batswana family has one.  A lot of people end up retiring out at their moraka.  This was the case with Ntate Hill, our host.  He was an older man who had worked in the mines for most of his life.  After he retired he moved to the moraka and spends his days taking care of his animals.  He was the most amazing man, a gracious host and welcomed us with open arms.  It must have been the craziest day for him.  Imagine living out at the cattlepost at least 100 km from the nearest small village and having 5 white girls randomly show up at your door one day.   When we took interest in his cows, he was overjoyed to introduce us, even teaching us how to milk the cows.  Spending time out there was such an amazing experience.  It is truly a different way of life where people live with and depend on Mother Nature for most of their needs.  We were so impressed with the passionate way he took care of all of his animals.  I guess it could be compared to the way an American takes care of their bank account.   I cannot wait to go back!

Lissa, Jojo, Kristen, Kim, Shanley.  Farm girls!

Our little piece of heaven at the moraka.
Ntate (father).  He loves his cows.
The cats and dogs were so healthy and happy.  They only get fed fresh milk, and are on their own for anything else they can catch, kill, and eat.
Madila - Fresh milk which is left in the sun for 24 hours to sour.  This is very popular in Botswana and is usually added to soft porridge (motogo) or drunk plain.  Needless to say none of us were into the madila.
Hiking the beautiful hills of eastern Botswana.