Tag Archives: Rakops

City

In a matter of a week, my life has completely transformed. I am now a resident of the “big” city, Gaborone. Grocery stores are mere walks away, restaurants and movie theatres abound (sort of), and I can often find access to good internet.

I said my farewells to Rakops a little over a week ago. Some of it was sentimental, and I was surprised to see some misty eyes during my departure. I think that the impact I had in the village will be remembered, and that gives me warm feelings. To be honest, I have been so excited to start the next chapter of my service that I don’t think I have fully processed the end of my village life.

There will always be a lot of struggle associated with that place for me, both environmental and interpersonal, but the end was quite positive. In the last week at my site I learned that the US Embassy Self-Help Fund approved the grant I wrote for my NGO! It is among my greatest accomplishments of Peace Corps. Rightfully so, as the process was grueling beyond any other project – it took my entire 2 years to transfer the land title into my organization’s name, and about a year between our first submission of the grant to the final approval. Luckily I will still be in the country and might get to see some version of the final product.

I also had visitors for my farewell party! I love having people see where I lived in the bush – it’s hard to appreciate that rustic lifestyle unless you live it.

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Enjoying my last weekend in the ‘Kops with friends – my house in the background

Since I have moved, I have been busy settling in. I finally found a place to live – I’ll be sharing a nice-sized flat in the city with my good friend and fellow extendee, Tija. Shared housing is an uncommon practice in PC Botswana, but they see the benefits: saved cost (for us and Peace Corps) and improved safety. Plus we’ll have fun. Hopefully I’ll get to move in this week, because I start work with CDC on Monday!

My weekend will feature a triumphant return to the annual Overthrust Winter Metal Fest in Ghanzi. This is one of the most unique sub-cultural experiences I have had in Botswana, indeed, anywhere. It’s weird. It’s raucous, fun, and there are cowboys. Here’s a picture from last year:

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A gentleman, who made this vest himself, let me wear it for a photo op

Cheers

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Winter

Whenever friends come through my village, their reactions are always the same: “There’s not a lot here, is there?” I live in the middle of nowhere, even by the standards of such a sparsely populated country like Botswana. Rakops has about 7,000 people, but it’s the largest settlement for 2 hours in any direction and as a result is considered a major town on most maps. There’s a certain amount of comfort to be found in such a rural setting. I never feel unsafe in regards to crime, and I have plenty of space to breathe. When I first arrived at this place, I was put off by its geography and my relative isolation, but it has definitely grown on me.

The most startling thing about my corner of the country is the extreme lack of vegetation, especially during the dry season. I live so close to so many pans that the village is basically a dust bowl, and small sand storms are not uncommon. Though greenery and trees can be found near the river, the majority of my life takes place in a desert setting. Close by (45km away) is the entrance to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where one can find the entire menagerie of wildlife Botswana has to offer. I don’t live in the wild, but animals have migrated past the edge of the village. Also weaving through my village is the Boteti River, which is always the first thing people mention about Rakops. The riverbed had been dry since the ‘70s and began to flow again a couple years ago. Now that winter is setting in, the water levels in the river are rising and I expect a few hippos will start to show up.

It has gotten to the point in winter where bathing decreases from my routine and my body temperature takes precedence over cleanliness. It’s not that terrible, though, since I don’t sweat anywhere near as much as I did during summer. The amazing thing is how much the sun dictates life here; the temperature in the shade and inside my house is generally 15˚ lower than in the sun. I’ve decided to use this to my benefit and I’m finally growing a few vegetables in the support group’s garden. It has been so underutilized since I’ve been here, with only a few orange trees still standing. Hopefully the relentless sun’s weakened winter state will allow some of the young plants to survive.

That’s all I have for now. Keep chugging along.

Cheers

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Back in the Kops

I offer to you, dear readers, my sincerest apologies for leaving my blog so vacant these past few weeks. Everything here seems to have changed for the better, if only in my outlook. Our In-Service Training conference provided the rejuvenation that I needed in every way.

Allow me first to declare my renewed love of showers. To me, they are the most glorious and sorely missed luxury about life in the developed world. I am now back to bathing in a bucket, but those 2 weeks of hot water from above left my body beyond pleased. The city also treated me well, and I got to experience nightlife for the first time in a long time! It felt great to be around friends and to be able to go out for food and drinks again (though not great on my diminutive bank account). Financially, it is better to be in the Kops; socially, Gabs.

The technical aspect of our IST was helpful in shaping my plans for service. I have to say that being thrust into a strange village for 2 months with little direction beyond “get to know your community” was scary and, at times, altogether miserable. I was certainly left in an existential crisis, and lacked the tools to dig myself out. After receiving a bit of guidance, I feel ready to handle the many challenges before me. My NGO has some cleaning up to do, but we’ll soon be on our way to exciting projects. First on the list is getting our vegetable garden up and running!

It seems that my departure from the north resulted in the disappearance of winter. Gone are the days of mild to cold weather, and I am facing a long and very hot summer. The river here is rising as well, and I see potential environmental challenges in my future. Thankfully, my new demeanor has me in a state of no worries – ga go no mathata (yes, just like hakuna matata).

Cheers

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