Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Preschool Graduation

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a graduation for St. Joseph's preschool in a little village near Francistown. I was there with a good friend of mine who raised much of the money to build the school. He was there as the guest of honor and I tagged along and took pictures.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Did That Really Just Happen?

Did that really just happen?

Did I really just see that?

Are you kidding me?

I have had many funny, weird, and otherwise bizarre experiences here. The following are some of the more memorable ones (so far):

I was in a car, driving on a rural road, when I saw a few trucks parks on the side of the road and a group of a few men standing around. The car slowed, and as we got closer, I saw what they were doing. The men had come across a dead cow and were butchering it right there on the side of the road. The men were walking away with large hunks of the cow and putting them in the backs of their trucks. The severed head sat on one truck's tailgate. I looked over at the driver and we both shrugged. Nothing about what we saw seemed abnormal.

Every year a certain type of caterpillar appears. The locals call them mopane worms and are highly prized as a delicacy. The caterpillars also happen to be quite beautiful. They are about 2-3 inches long and have bright orange, blue, or yellow streaks down the length of their bodies. I was walking home one day after work with a woman from the organization and noticed a particularly large mopane worm in our path. I stopped, crouched down, and pointed to the caterpillar. The woman got a big smile on her face and reached down to grab it. Before I could do anything to stop her, she had twisted off the head and squeezed the insides out on the ground. She then held it out and offered it to me to eat. I politely declined and was mad at myself for pointing it out in the first place.

I was standing on an already over-crowded bus when it stopped to pick up a few more passengers. One of the men we picked up crammed in and stood next to me. I looked over and he had a chicken in a plastic grocery bag under one arm. He had put the chicken in the bag and then tied the handles so that just the chicken's head was sticking out. The chicken spent the ride slowly opening and closing its mouth and I tried  to stay far enough away from it to keep from being bitten. When the man got off the bus in a small village, he set the bag with the chicken in down next to him while he collected his bags. The chicken just sat there, in the bag and didn't try to get out. 

I was in the dreaded middle seat on a bus, sandwiched between two rather large women. The temperature was in the 90's outside and both women fell asleep quickly. After a rather uncomfortable hour, I felt sweat dripping down my right arm. It was from the woman to my right.

I was taking my normal walk home, where I usually talk to the neighborhood kids and give them high fives. One little boy had just finished a bath, and when he saw the kids crowding around me, came running out -  not wanting to miss out on giving me a high five. So here I was surrounded by small children and this little naked boy, about 4 years old, comes running up shouting "high five!" I almost fall over from laughing, but I do give the kid a high five. I stand up and tell the kids I have to go home and they scatter, except for the naked boy and another little boy. As I turn to leave, I see the other little boy point emphatically to the naked boy's penis and start laughing.  

I was with several children and we were all hunched over, drawing pictures in the dirt. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a small boy walk over and stand behind several of the children. When I looked up to greet him, I noticed that his pants were down around his ankles and he was peeing on the other children. It took several seconds for the children to process what was going on. Once they turned around and figured out why they were getting wet, they all started bawling. The small boy pulled up his pants and scurried off before I could catch him. One little boy who had been peed on was so distraught that he ran over and tightly hugged my leg.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ridiculous Heat

The high temperature was over 100 from Thursday to Monday. I thought I was going to pass out from the heat. On Saturday I drank over 6 liters of water and it didn't seem to make a difference. Another volunteer told me it got up to 101 degrees inside his house, and  I have no doubt that it was that hot in mine.

My fan seems to have little effect and does little beyond pushing hot air around . I do my best to continually drink water and not move too much. I hope the rains come soon and cool things off a bit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quad Biking in Namibia

The Namib desert in Namibia is one of the oldest deserts on the planet and is home to the tallest dunes in the world. One of the major attractions in the dunes is quad biking. Everyone I talked to that has been to Swakopmund insisted that I try quad biking. I have been on a quad bike before, and while it was fun, I wouldn't put it in the "best-times-I-have-ever-had" category. I just didn't understand the hype surrounding the dunes and quad biking. I can now say I was wrong. It was easily one of the coolest experiences I have had in Africa (and maybe all time - seriously - no hyperbole). 

Words really don't do the experience justice. One minute I was looking at breath-taking views of seemingly endless sand dunes and then the next I was flying down a 150 foot tall dune at 50mph. It was incredible and is something I would do again in a heartbeat. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Namibia Vacation

I spent the last few days in Swakopmund, Namibia. Swakopmund is on the Atlantic ocean and has a mild climate because the ocean is so cold. The temperatures were between 50 and 70 F -  just what I needed after having a solid week of above 100 degree temperatures in Botswana. It is always interesting to get out and see other countries around Botswana. Despite their proximity, I have found the other countries in southern Africa to be quite different and Namibia was no exception. 

Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia. It was a protectorate of Germany for many years, then became part of South Africa, and has only been an independent country since 1990. There is still evidence of German influence, especially in Swakopmund.

The town is quite interesting. The architecture is quite German and there were even restaurant menus and signs in German. There was fog each morning that would burn off in the heat of the day only to return later on in the afternoon. It vaguely reminded me of San Francisco.   

The highlights of the trip were the food and the ocean. 

Each morning, I got up and went to a little German bakery for an apple danish and a big mug of coffee. 

We also ate at a sushi bar. The place was at the end of a long pier and we sat outside looking out into the ocean. When I saw the first sushi roll I could have cried for joy. It was the first sushi I have had since leaving the US and it was quite good. I ate 8 rolls and could have eaten more. 

I also was craving fresh seafood, which is difficult - not to mention expensive - to come by in landlocked Botswana. We searched high and low for a fish market but couldn't find one. Then on the way back from the beach another volunteer and I saw some guys clustered around some faucets cleaning fish. We figured they would know about a fish market and asked them. As it turns out, there really is not a fish market in the town, but they offered to sell us some of their catch. We bought 3 large fish for the equivalent of 18 US dollars. They were even cleaned, gutted, and salted for us. That night we smothered the fish in butter, garlic, and lemon and threw them on the grill. The fish was bony but delicious and we even had enough to make fish tacos the next night. 

Another highlight was eating at the Brauhaus. Ever since traveling to Germany, I have loved German food and beer. The Brauhaus did not disappoint.  I had a liter of dark beer and an order of eisbein, which is a favorite of mine (and one of the better foods I tried in Germany). 

I also really enjoyed getting to see the ocean again. After being in a desert for 18+ months, I relish getting to swim in any body of water. The South Atlantic ocean is quite cold, and despte being a huge wimp about cold water, I got in and swam anyways. We got tossed around a good bit by the waves but it felt good to be swimming in the ocean again.

As with all vacations, this one was just not long enough. I could have stayed for a week or more exploring the streets and trying out new cafes and restaurants.