Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kudu Steaks

I was walking through the grocery store the other day and decided to quickly pass by the meat section. This particular store seems to specialize in selling bits, pieces, and organs, rather than the cuts of meat I am used to. I generally do not linger, but that day I decided to have a look.

I passed by the packaged chicken feet (a real bargain at $3 per kilogram), chicken hearts, and cow intestines (they look and smell awful); then I saw some packaged meat that had big "special cut" stickers. I picked one up and it said the meat was Kudu and it was only 10 Pula (about $1.50). A Kudu is like a big deer and I have seen several of them on safari since I have been here.

Having never cooked "bush meat," I decided to give it a try. I really had no clue what I was doing or how to cook it but I figured it couldn't be that hard. I broiled it in my oven like I would a steak and then sat down to eat it. It definitely tastes a little "gamey" but was good. I think I overcooked it slightly because I didn't know if it was okay to eat it with a little pink.

After doing a little research today, it turns out that Kudu is a very popular meat in South Africa and is a very lean type of meat. I will definitely be cooking it again (but maybe with a little pink next time).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Change of Seasons

In Botswana, there really is only a hot and a not-so-hot season. This week, the weather got a little cooler and some leaves began to change colors. It wont last for long, but I am enjoying the fall like weather.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Year 1: By The Numbers

Peace Corps

Days since I arrived in Botswana: 365

Number of Days left in Botswana: 425

Total Volunteers that arrived in my group: 57

Volunteers who are still here a year later: 50

Number of Country Directors: 3 (1 official, 2 interim)

Distance in km to nearest volunteer: 1

Botswana Pula per American Dollar: 6.45

My monthly living allowance: 1,800 Pula


Number of pictures taken: 1,400

Number of books read: 52

Number of movies watched: 103

Number of movies watched in a theater: 1

Number of electronic devices destroyed: 5


NFL games watched: 2

MLB games watched: 0

Soccer games watched: 20

Cricket games watched: 4

Times watching cricket where I understood what was going on: 0

Golf rounds played: 1

Times I have been swimming: 3

Times I have been fishing: 3

Number of fish caught: 1

From Home:

Number of packages received: 21

Number of visitors from home: 3

Living Arrangements:

Number of locations lived: 2

Number of people in Francistown: 100,000

Number of people in F/town that know my name: 50

Number of bucket baths taken: 75

Number of showers per week: 7

Longest power outage: 18 hours

Longest water outage: 14 hours

Number of weddings attended: 0

Number of funerals attended: 0


Number of mosquito bites: 15

Major illnesses: 0

Visits to the doctor: 0

Immunizations and boosters received: ~25

Times I have cut my hair: 3

Times I shave per week: 1

Weight (in pounds) when I arrived in Botswana: 200

Lowest weight (in pounds) in country: 180

Weight (in pounds) today: 190

Hours I sleep at night: ~9

Food and Drink:

Number of animals seen butchered: 5

Number of meals per week eaten with rice: 4

Number of meals eaten per week with meat: 1

Number of eggs I eat per week: 12

Times I make pizza per week: 1

Liters of water I drink per day: 3-4

Cost of filet mignon per pound: $3.50

Cost of ground beef per pound: $2.90

Cost of a beer from a store: $1.00

Cost of a beer in a bar: $1.50 to $3.00

Cost of lunch from a food vendor: $2.00


Hours spent traveling in buses: ~100

Hours where I was comfortable on a bus: 2

Average time in hours of a bus to Gaborone: 6

Number of countries visited: 3 (Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe)

Number of currencies Used: 4 (US Dollars, Botswana Pula, SA Rand, and Zambian Kwatcha)

UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: 1 (Victoria Falls)


Percentage of days with sunshine: ~95

Percentage of days above 85 degrees F: ~75

Nights where it fell below freezing: 6

Days with rain: ~25


Hours spent working on budgets: ~500

Hours spent in meetings: ~150

Presentations given: 1


Times I have been asked for money: ~1,256

Times someone has asked me to take them back to America: ~30

Times I have been asked if I know a movie star / famous person: ~487

Times I have been asked if I want a Motswana wife: ~15

Times I have seen women breastfeed in public: ~20

Times I have seen people urinating in public: ~300

Blog Page Views: 8,160

Blog Posts Written: 80

Number of texts received: 4,202

Number of texts sent: 3,176

Miles walked in average in a week: 10

Distance in km to the nearest border (Zimbabwe): 50

Number of times I have seen President Obama’s likeness on a t-shirt, belt buckle, or bag: ~25

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Best of Year One: #1

Victoria Falls and Devil's Pool

This is hands down the best thing I have done in Africa. We walked across the top of the falls and could even walk right up to the edge and look down 100 meters. Then we got to Devil's pool and got to swim in a small pool right on the edge of the falls. It was surreal. I blogged more about the experience and you can read it here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Best of Year One: #2

Visitors from Home

One of the toughest parts of coming over to Botswana was leaving behind friends and family. I figured that it was too long a distance and too expensive for anyone to visit. Luckily, I was wrong and my aunt, uncle, and mom got to come for a visit. We had a great time and I was shocked that everything went according to plan.

It was a little strange at times to be a tourist here but it was also nice to get to go on safari and get a chance to show off the best parts of Botswana. It is difficult to describe in words how meaningful it was for them to visit. It was a great trip and it meant so much to me that they would fly halfway across the world to see me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Best of Year One: #3

Seeing Lions

I will never forget what it was like to see a lion. I was on safari driving slowly along when one of the other volunteers with me told the guide she thought she had seen something in a clump of bushes that we had just driven by. Our guide reversed the truck and sure enough, there were two female lions in the bushes that had just killed a waterbuck.

We parked the truck within about 15 feet of the lion and the guide whispered for us not to make any sudden movements or to talk too loudly. The lion seemed to be staring right at us and, while I never felt unsafe, it was unsettling. He lions had stuffed themselves and were laying under the brush and breathing heavily. A lion only eats about every four days and so when they do get a kills they will gorge themselves. Their stomachs can expand so much that it actually squeezes their lungs and they can’t take a full breath.

We drove along and planned to check on them later in the afternoon. Several hours later we returned and found them eating the waterbuck. It was quite disgusting and fascinating at the same time. We sat and watched them slowly tear the carcass apart. The lions had their fill again and went to go lie down.

No sooner had someone made a joke about them being too fat to move than they quickly stood up and came walking right by our truck. A hyena had come into view and was 300-400 yards away. I had no idea how the lions ever saw the hyena, we could barely spot him but they quickly gave chase. One of the lions walked by so closely that I felt like I could have reached out and touched it.

We headed back to camp for the night and planned to track them in the morning. At night sitting around the camp fire we could hear the lions calling to each other. It was not a loud roar but rather this low grunting noise that can carry for several kilometers.

The next morning we found two male lions on the kill and they were eating what was left of the waterbuck, which was not a whole lot. Seeing the lions completely devour a waterbuck was an unbelievable experience. We got to sit within feet of them while they ate, napped, and walked around. It is an experience I hope I get to repeat but will never forget.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Best of Year One: #4

Seeing Elephants

Okay, so I have seen an elephant before but it was in a zoo so it shouldn’t count. The Greenville Zoo had an elephant named Joy and I remember going to see her on a field trip. You could smell her enclosure from about a hundred yards away and all she did was stand around. I don’t remember if I felt bad for her but I do remember thinking that elephants didn’t really do anything.

Seeing elephants in the wild was a rush. I am fascinated by them and could watch them for hours and not get bored.

They are incredibly intelligent and can live as long as a human being. Elephants also are either right or left “handed.” You can tell by looking at their tusks. The tusk on the elephant’s dominant side will be more worn down than the other.

I feel very fortunate to have seen them in the wild, and in the future I will be hard pressed to visit any zoos.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Best of Year One: #5

Petting a Cheetah

Yes, you read that correctly. I petted a real, live cheetah. The Mokolodi Game Reserve near Gaborone has two male cheetahs that were rescued from the wild after their mother was killed. They were too young to care for themselves and so they have stayed at the game reserve since.

A guide drove us down to the cheetah enclosure. It is sad to see animals caged up now, but they would have never made it in the wild. We walked around for a while, looking for them. We finally found one curled up sleeping under a tree. I could walk right up to it and pet its head.

I was surprised when the cheetah started purring, just like a house cat. We squatted and stroked his head and he purred and stretched and acted just like a big cat. the whole experience was a little surreal. It just didn't seem like the cheetah should be so calm and not care about a bunch of people petting him. It was a great experience and I doubt I will be that close to a big cat for a while.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Best of Year One: Honorable Mention

The Kids

No matter how bad a day or week I have had the kids here are an instant pick-me-up. They are in a word incredible. Some of my secondary projects involve working directly with kids and I love it. When I show up they come running yelling my name and want to be picked up or just hold my hand. The kids here generally do not get a lot of positive attention from adults and so they just eat it up. The fact that I am a strange, foreign white man just is a bonus for them.

They love playing with my watch. They grab my arm and push all the buttons they can. They are also fascinated with my hair. I think if I let them they would stand there and just run their hands through it. My arm and leg hair also enthralls most of them. While I stand there they will squat and pet my leg hair. One little girl grabbed my arm and vigorously rubbed it. I figured that she thought my whiteness would rub off if she tried hard enough.

One memory that sticks with me is of a little girl. She had to be around 2 and maybe younger. I could tell she had just learned to walk and each step seemed precarious. This particular day she was wearing a big fluffy jacket and had an open bag of potato chips in one hand. The group of kids she was with ran off to go play and she tried to follow along. Her little legs churned but couldn’t seem to catch up and she fell flat on her face like she was trying to do a belly flop in a pool. I ran over to her and stood her up. Her eyes welled with tears and then they streamed down her face. I brushed her off, wiped her tears and snot away and tried my best to console her. She took one look into her bag of chips and seemed reassured they were still there. Then she looked straight into my eyes, spread her arms wide, and hugged me. She took another glance inside her bags of chips and waddled off to go play.

Another time I made a little baby bawl simply by being there. This baby was probably around one year old and was being taken care of by her little sister who couldn’t have been more than 10. I walked over to say hi and as soon as the baby saw me, she started bawling. I tried to soothe her but she just cried harder. I finally gave up and walked away. She quit crying as soon as I left. I tried to go back later but as soon as I came into view she started bawling again. Just as before, as soon as I left she stopped crying.

My favorite little boy by far is named Zhu Zhu. Whenever he sees me he will run over, hold his hands up and ask to be picked up. He speaks no English and babbles constantly in Setswana. I generally have no idea what he is talking about but his smile always makes me feel good.

Another favorite is the little boy who I see outside of my work. His mom runs a tuck shop and whenever he sees me walking by, he will repeatedly yell “Legkoa!” (white man) and come running. I have been teaching him how to give a high five. He is slowly picking it up and some days he is the best part. He puts a smile on my face as I walk into work and when I leave in the afternoon. A highlight with him was realizing that he wasn’t wearing any pants after I squatted down to give him a high five. I laughed about that one for a long time.

I like to think I am making a difference in the lives of these kids. Many of the kids I interact with come from the poorest section of the city. They wear ratty clothing that might be filthy or have holes. Many of them are losing hair from malnutrition and all of them are skinny. Despite this they laugh a lot and have smiles that beam. One thing I am sure of is that they have left a tremendous impression on me and have been my saving grace.