Monday, August 30, 2010

Can You Understand the Words that are Coming Out of my Mouth?

I have begun learning a second language called Kalanga, which is spoken by the majority of people in the northwest part of Botswana.

I am back after two weeks of training in the capital. It was nice to see everyone and catch up on stories from the last two months. One commonality we all seem to share is there have been some rough times and being at our sites is hard in ways we never imagined.

We had a panel of current volunteers come to speak to us and the words of one really stuck with me.

First, a little background: The Peace Corps has three goals and these have been the same since it was founded in 1961.
  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
The volunteer said that many of us were frustrated at times because we focused so much and worried so much about goal number 1; our work. Americans are a very work oriented people and Peace Corps Volunteers are no different. The current volunteer said we often get frustrated by our work because work and attitudes towards work is very different across the world. It is typical for volunteers to want to immediately dive into projects and see results because we don't want to feel that our time has been wasted. She mentioned that we should spend some time focusing on goals 2 and 3. We are supposed to be exchanging culture while doing some meaningful work.

Today was a good day in those terms. I went down to the small market in town to buy peanuts (I am going to try to make boiled peanuts, but that is a topic for another blog). I spoke to the woman in Setswana asking her how to say "peanut" and then asking how much the peanuts were. She answered a few of the questions and then switched to English. She mentioned that her Setswana was not so good. I then asked her if she knew how to speak Kalanga. She was shocked to hear me speak it.

"Who taught you Kalanga?" she asked. I told her about me and that I had just begun learning it. She insisted that I come back to see her so I could get some more practice. I have feeling that whenever I need beans, peas, or peanuts I will be stopping by.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Part of getting settled into my new community is a project that all volunteers must do. The report is quite detailed and covers topics such as socio-cultural context, political structure, economic outlook, demographics, environment, and the current HIV/AIDS statistics. All in all, it is a very detailed report and it has been challenging to compile the information.

One tip I got was that the museum here did historical walking tours of the city. The museum happens to be a block away from where I work. Perfect. We took the tour with the director of the museum, a woman named Stella. Stella is a second generation white African and is fluent in Setswana. Overall it was a great experience.

Francistown has a really fascinating history. Settlement in the area dated back for thousands of years. White explorers passed through the area in the 1860's and discovered gold. They quickly opened a gold mine which was the first in Africa in 1868. Control of the city was granted to the mining company, called Tati Company. Tati owned a huge swath of land in northeastern Botswana and administered it until independence in 1966 when the city was given and/or sold the land.

The museum. It is around 100 years old and first served as the city administrator's house.

The original jail.

The jail warden's house. Rumor has it that he lived alone and so whenever a European was detained at the jail, the warden would him over for dinner and drinks.

This is all that remains of the first doctor's house. It served originally as the guest house and then was the dispensary for the hospital. I walk by this on the way to work every morning.

This rail line runs from Zimbabwe through Francistown, before continuing on to the south. When it was built, settlers in what is now Zimbabwe badly needed supplies. The men that built this railroad averaged laying over a mile per day. At one time (and still may be), it held the record for the fastest built railroad.

The home of Daniel Francis. Francis was the president of the Tati Company and the city was named after him. His house has been restored to how it looked when he lived there and is the only restored building in Francistown.

Inside the Francis house with tour guide, Stella.

Central Park. I can never quite figure out when it is open to the public (there is a large fence that surrounds it), but it is really beautiful.

Interesting statue in Central Park. I cant figure if they are trying to keep thieves from taking the statue or if it has a more subtle meaning.

Boabab Tree. These are my favorite trees in Botswana. They are commonly referred to as "upside down trees" because of the rather large size of the trunk and its short stubby limbs. This one is still relatively young, but here is what it may look like someday: Click here

And speaking of that Boabab Tree, it was planted in Central Park to mark the day Botswana became an independent nation - 1966.

The first Anglican Church in Francistown.