This blog represents my personal reactions to my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer. It is not an official communication from the United States Government or the Peace Corps.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On the ground in Botswana!

On March 31 I met the 38 other people I will be with in Botswana. They are a diverse and fascinating group. A few tidbits: One is a trained opera singer, one is an organic farmer from northern California, one is a large young black man from Kansas, one is 83 years old.

We had a one day session in Philadelphia on April 1, and then left the hotel at 2:30am (that is not a typo) to bus to JFK. We arrived at 7:30am, checked in, and finally took off at 11;15am. We then spent 15 hours on the airplane to Johannesbrg. That is cnough time to watch 3 movies, eat two meals, and spend substantial time in the aisles and galleys getting to know each other better.  By the way, South African Airlines serves south african wine and it is excellent.

We did have one member who decided, at the airport, not to continue with us. I am sure it was a very difficult decision for him, and all of us wish him the very best, and perhaps to see him at another time for another adventure somewhere in the world.

We landed in Johannesburg at 8:30am on April 3. Immediately we were treated to an airport full of exotic fabrics, models of all sorts of wild animals, skins, and people of all sizes, ages, and colors. Then on for another one hour flight on a Dash 8 to Gaborone. The small airplane meant that most of our luggage did not arrive until the next day, so we did spend one day in the same clothes, jet lagged, and openly confused, but ready and willing to dive in.

Dive in we did - four hours of Setswana instruction, paperwork to complete, and two injections - Hep B and rabies. I now do not worry about meeting slathering dogs - ha!

When we arrived it was hot, but then a terrific thunderstorm came through and cooled us off for the evening. Today has been cool and cloudy, reminding my of Denver's weather.

This hotel has wifi in the lobby, with 6 chairs available for 39 people who want to email home. So we all try to be considerate of each other so everyone can let everyone at home know they are safe.

We spent quite a bit of time today talking about our homestay period. On Thursday, we will be taken to a village named Kanye and spend the next 9 weeks living with a family there while we continue our training. We will spend 4 hours per day on Setswana, and also learn about Botswana culture, HIV/AIDS and the joys of working in the Peace Corps - which I recommend so far!

The attitude here is upbeat even in the midst of jet lag, frustration at learning a difficult language, and adapting to new food, strange beds, and malaria medication on top of other immunizations. The seriousness of what we are about to do is dawning, but does not seem to daunt anyone.

I must close and let others have the internet. More from Kanye, when I can find an internet cafe.