October 15, 2017

Gaborone Urban Garden

In my last blog post, I mentioned that our transition back to Gaborone has been seamless and that we were enjoying being back.  Our household goods container finally arrived on September 5th and we worked feverishly to put our house together.  It has been wonderful having our own furniture this time.  The week after our container arrived, school started so I have been busy shuttling the kids around.  The school day here is from 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM for the early years kids, so we have had to adjust to getting up early and having our afternoons free (and let’s be honest, I’ve had to get used to having less free-time during the school day!).  The girls have been enjoying spending afternoons next door at the American Embassy’s Recreation Center (Rec Center) where there is a playground and a posse of children who play most afternoons from 3-5 PM.  Jeremy has been at work and is getting settled back in. We managed to find a second car and that made life so much easier for us as Jeremy had been walking back/forth to work (about a 15 minute walk from our house).  He didn’t mind the exercise, but his shoes took a beating from walking in the red African dirt on the sidewalks.  All in all, we are really happy here and just looking forward to what God has in store for us. 
JW & CK first day of school Sept 13, 2017

Now to the reason for this post.  We were paying what felt like an exorbitant amount of money to water our grass our first month here.  Imagine growing grass in Phoenix, Arizona where it rarely rains.  Now imagine the amount of water it takes to keep it alive in that climate.  Our climate is similar, though not as intense.  It is raining more here than our last 3 years we spent here, but it is still very hot and very dry.  We cannot use the city water supply to water our gardens/lawns, so we must pay for borehole water to be delivered to our giant green JoJo in our yard (a JoJo is a type of giant reservoir where our water is delivered).  Our garden hoses are then pulling water from the JoJo to water the lawn, and that water costs more than city water, but due to years of drought in Botswana, the water restrictions have been in place to maintain the drinking water supply.  It seemed such a waste to water the grass just so we could have a green lawn.  So, we decided to stop watering the grass and let nature take its course with the lawn, and rather spend the money to water something that will give us something back in return.  A garden! 
Our garden:  green cylinder in the corner of the photo is our 'JoJo' water tank

We have been busy buying seeds, compost, fertilizer, potting soil & pots, and a host of other things necessary to make our urban garden work.  We live ‘in town’, but the plot of land our house sits on is quite large.  There was a ton of dirt space without dessert garden landscape or grass, so our gardener has been busy tilling up the soil and making the soil ready for seeds and transplants. The girls really get excited about the growing process. They are fascinated by it all, and to be honest I am too. There is immense satisfaction in growing something from a seed.  It is really a miracle to see something go from nothing into an amazing plant.  There is also sadness when a plant doesn’t make it due to transplant shock, extreme rain, lack of water or the extreme heat.  We are doing everything we can to make our urban garden work.  

Watermelon seedlings - gonna have to thin them out because I planted 4 just in case 1 didn't work!

Parsley seedlings

Basil seedlings

Mixed baby lettuces

I just love this one - catching the action of the seedling bursting forth

However, we are not just gardening for our own use.  Sure, having a stable crop of vegetables and fruits would be fantastic as sometimes we find it difficult to find tomatoes or carrots at the grocery store on a given week, but our garden has a greater purpose.  Community.  We really want to bless our staff who work with us with the ability to have “free” fruits and vegetables.  The goal is to allow them to feed themselves and their families from our garden.  The pay here is very low compared to wages in western countries, so sometimes meat is scarce on their table and vegetables if not grown in their own backyards may be limited to just 5-6 staple ingredients each month in addition to the local traditional foods of corn meal (mealie meal/super maize meal) and sorghum (mabele).  Can you imagine going to the store each month only to be able to afford onions, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and greens (kale/spinach)? 

Mustard greens in the foreground and 'rape' in the background - a spinach-like green that is soooo tasty
We also want to bless our neighbors.  We have a tight-knit community here and we all pitch in to care for one another when spouses are traveling, folks are sick, or when you need a helping hand with a project or a lift around town when your vehicle is out of commission. God has blessed us with this amazing space and opportunity, so we want to be good stewards of what he has given us so we can give to others freely.  It’s kind of a throwback to the olden days when you said thank you with a crops or a pie! 😊  The crops don’t belong to us anyway – every good and perfect gift is from above (God), after all!  So, as strange as it may sound, would you pray for our garden? We would love to have a bounty to bless others with.  There are garden pests, lack of rain, harsh dessert sun, and a host of other things to contend with, so we are going to do our best to combat it all with our staff pitching in to help us.  If you have any gardening tips, please let us know by leaving a comment!  I have somewhat of a brown thumb when it comes to growing things, so I have been reading up a bit and mostly watching YouTube tutorials to get a better sense of what we need to do to make our garden the best it can be!  Thankfully, our new gardener, Boyce, seems to have a good grasp on when to water or not, so at least I won’t be drowning my plants with too much water 😉  I can't wait to update in a couple of months to show you the produce! 

Aphids taking over the new growth on our citrus tree

Sweet little baby lemons, I'm told

Container gardening our tomato plants - need to make some trellis/stakes

We grew this one from a seed - cherry tomato plant

Our first squash blossoms - zucchini

I spy with my little eye - tomato blossoms forming :)

August 15, 2017

August So Far...

Since I last posted, we have managed to get CK assessed at two of the primary schools. The school year here runs from January to December with 3 school terms and breaks in between in mid-April to Mid-May, mid-August to mid-September and from early December to mid-January.  Since Term 2 was finishing up as we arrived, we had to hustle a bit to get assessments scheduled at our top 3 schools.  The first assessment was during our first week here, and that particular school was on the fence about whether to put CK in reception (for 5-6 year olds) or standard one (6-7 year olds).  Claudia's birthday is right at the cut off for that school and while she did an entire year of kindergarten and was ready to start 1st grade in the USA, she would be joining in Term 3 of the school year here.  So she either does Term 3 of reception (much like the work she did in kinder) or she would do Term 3 of Standard one (and be a bit behind).  Initially we thought she'd skip ahead, but after some tears going for the first assessment as she did not know what to expect, we realize that maybe letting her start in Term 3 of reception and start Standard 1 in the new year will give her the emotional confidence she needs to be at the top of her class instead of catching up.  Regardless, the assessors at the two schools both remarked at how clever she is!  In the end, we didn't get an offer for a spot at the first school, even though we called regularly for an update and were given the 'we don't know if we have space' mantra.  The second school she was assessed at offered her a position in reception for Term 3 the same day she was assessed. We prayed about it and slept on it over the weekend and payed her school deposit to secure her spot today.   Our alternative was to have her go at the beginning of Term 3 to the third school to have her assessed after school started or home-school her.  I'm so thankful she has a place to attend school and we can not feel in limbo about that anymore!

JW will be going to nursery school for Term 3 at CK's old nursery school.  In the new year, she'll be joining a different nursery school that has smaller class sizes and we hope she'll get some more one on one attention there.  Now it's just a matter of collecting all the school fees and paying deposits, buying uniforms for CK, and preparing for school to start mid-September.  In the meantime, the girls have been enjoying playing next door at the Recreation Center that the US Embassy has.  We became members so we could enjoy invitations to social gatherings and play on the playground anytime. It has been a great way to meet neighbors and fellow Americans and other community members.  This week they are also attending a school holiday program together.  I drop them there for 4 hours each morning and they get to play, craft, socialize, and get out of the house.  Our shipment has been delayed several times, but we just confirmed our container made it off the ship in Durban, South Africa on Sunday evening.  We still don't know when it will make it to our house, so the girls are enjoying having some play time since our house is pretty boring.

We have enjoyed seeing old friends, making new acquaintances, and finding our new normal this week.  I've started physiotherapy again, Jillian has her speech therapy appointment tomorrow, and Jeremy is back to work full-time.  We did manage to buy a car last week and have it serviced before the weekend, so we've been getting used to our new set of wheels.  I have never named a car in the past, but this one is special enough that I named her, "Ellie".  She's a gray color and apparently big enough that an elephant in Namibia thought she was snuggle-worthy.  Her previous owners said they were asleep at night and woke to hear an elephant squeezing between the car and their tent (which was up high on a wooden platform).  So, I figure the elephant thought Ellie was another elephant and thus the snuggle action.  Despite the whole left side of the vehicle getting dented and crushed from the elephant snuggling, the vehicle looks pristine from the repair.  Therefore, Ellie gets her name from the elephant encounter -- Ellie the Elephant.  We also managed to make Ellie sport our Ohio pride.  Thanks to whoever gave us our Buckeye magnet!

"Ellie" says 'Go Bucks!'

Here are some photos of our recent happenings around town....

First Baby Chino - (e.g. foamed milk with cocoa powder)

Pizza making at Dros at Riverwalk Mall

More pizza making - the restaurants really try to cater to kids when possible!

Loving the hand-pulled noodles at Eastern Crescent Chinese Restaurant

Maybe someone can tell me the church where all the people dress in white....

Reunited with our good friends and had a lovely dinner on the patio

His People Church - for those wondering what Sundays look like for us.  It is in the auditorium of Legae Primary School

The red light is called a 'robot' here. This is the extent of the Gaborone skyline.  Not quite Houston eh?
Overall, it is nice to be back and to settle in so seamlessly. Once our container arrives, we'll feel fully settled, but with a car, a network of friends, new acquaintances, new stores/restaurants to explore, and a slower pace of life where we get to soak up Daddy being home at a decent hour and lazy weekends, we are really loving this chapter of our lives.  Thank you for all your prayers and for reading the blog!  Let me know if you have any burning questions I can address. :)

August 1, 2017

Settling In - Gaborone 2.0

The last couple of days I've been busy looking at car advertisements; meeting our security guard, housekeeper, and gardener; and getting out to do a little shopping.  The transition has been a great one so far.  We moved into a house with minimal necessary furnishings, but with plenty of pantry goods and some refrigerator/freezer foods.  Our house help stayed on from the last family, so we have not had to search for domestic helpers.

My crazies sitting at the breakfast bar giving cheesy grins
 Monday was a day full of firsts.  We met Pearl, our housekeeper.  She lives in the apartment on our  property so she is what they consider a 'live-in' helper.  She is a really lovely lady who has worked for many US Ambassadors and former embassy employees before finding work almost two years ago with the doctor's family that lived in the house we are now living in.  We had tea yesterday morning to chat and get to know each other a little bit.  Throughout the day, I found myself high-fiving her because we are on the same page about how the house should run and the children should be cared for.  She agrees that sweets are a treat that parents should be asked if the children can have, and not automatically handed out at the request of a hopeful child.  (Believe it or not, that mentality was one of the hardest things we dealt with last time when our helper wouldn't follow our instructions.)

The girls were thrilled to meet the gardener, Mahama.  After about 20 minutes, CK declared she'd like to become a gardener like Mahama because it 'looks fun'.  The girls and Mahama set about the yard cleaning up the leaves and tree debris.  They were envious of his broom, so they collected all the twigs they could find and he made themselves replica brooms which they used to sweep up the yard (which is actually like Astro turf).  It was really cute how they played with him and he spent plenty of time pushing them on the climbing ladder as though it were a swing.

Pardon Mahama's back side, but his shadow shows the posture of how they sweep here.  Seems back-breaking.  The brooms are made of reeds.
CK & JW collecting sticks from the trees for making their 'brooms'

Mahama and the girls picking up the product of their sweeping work. 

Finally, we met our security guard, Ookeditse, who is a very nice young man. He was in need of a hot water kettle for drinking tea and keeping warm at night, so today (Tuesday) I managed to purchase him one.  Our housekeeper's heater was broken, so I bought one for her as well.  We were also running low on bread, so I bought some bread, juice and rooibos (a type of herbal tea that is made of a red bush from South Africa).  These food items are the daily requirements the house helpers would like me to keep in stock, so I made sure we had plenty.  Later this week or next, we will still need to purchase some boots for the security guard and uniforms for the gardener and housekeeper. You may be wondering why on earth I am buying all of these things for people we employ, and the answer is simple:  they make very little compared to minimum wage in America and so we take care of basic necessities so they can keep more of their income for their families.  Though we are their employer, they are like our extended family. We will help them and walk along side them with funeral costs for loved ones, weddings, illness, transportation (bus fare), Christmas bonuses, etc.

 As I mentioned, I went out today (Tuesday) shopping for some of the above necessities they requested. I also bought some things we needed.  I headed out in the rental car to Sefalana Hyper.  It is sort of like a Sam's Club or Costco, but there isn't a membership fee.  Since I last lived here, they've started a reward card program where you gather points, so I signed up for that today.  I managed to find a blow dryer (the American ones don't work here without a voltage converter), an air purifier that I can put my essential oils in, a small humidifier (the air is dry and the heaters dry out our noses at night), a hot water bottle for keeping our feet warm in our bed at night, a small potty for JW, and a few other food items.  I crossed so many items off my shopping list by visiting the Sefalana and Clicks (sort of like a CVS pharmacy).  The selection in each store was astounding especially compared to what it was like nearly two years ago when I left. I was shocked to find marshmallows (mini ones!), some of our favorite specialty sauces, and specialty foods like coconut flour, almond flour, coconut sugar in the shops today.  Normally a shopping trip requires trips to multiple stores (2-5 stores), but the Hyper and Clicks combo was a hit today.  Two stores and 3/4 of my shopping list could be scratched off!!  So, I highly recommend those two stores for folks new to town with a long list of things to buy!
Sights of Gaborone.  Driving on the left from the right side of the car in this part of the world.

Riverwalk was close to where we last lived; it is still a favorite shopping centre

Typical view of the entrepreneurial spirit of Gaborone - roadside car wash using a grey water tank and a lean-to (4 pole) shelter. Look at those tyres on the SUV though!  They sure do shine! 

Cashew nut butter, coconut flour, polenta, quinoa, almond flour... This is all new to me at Clicks!

Sefalana Hyper - like Sam's Club or Costco --without the membership
 Overall, the last couple of days have been swell.  We even managed a play date with friends next door at the recreation center for the US Embassy.  We were members there before and need to get a family membership soon, but in the meantime we love living so close to a gathering spot for Americans and other community members.  It helps that the best playground equipment in town is there as well, so we will be there frequently!  It feels good to live in the heart of it all.  Thank God for an easier transition so far!  I cannot stop marveling how when we follow His will how He knows exactly what we need.  Life won't always be sunshine and roses with Christ.  We expect there to be bumps in our path.  Those are lessons we can learn.  Right now the lesson is patience as one disappointing piece of news is that our container on the ship with all of our household goods is delayed and won't come in port in Durban, South Africa until August 10.  It was initially supposed to come to port on July 25, so we doubt we'll get our container until the end of August by the time they truck it through South Africa to Gaborone, Botswana and then it will have to pass customs which could take a few days.  Prayers for a speedy delivery once it is in port please!
Marshmallows & our favorite Hot Chocolate packets - more Sefalana finds

The girls were over the moon about their special treat - hot cocoa with marshmallows

Hot water bottle - kinda old school but my feet will thank me tonight - Clicks find

The air is super dry here - found a 'mini' humidifier and hope my nose wakes more happy tomorrow!

Tomorrow Claudia also heads to our number one choice for primary school to have an assessment. They don't technically have a spot for her, so they are going to 'see what they can do'.  Please pray that if God would have her there, that things would work out and if not, that we can get her a spot at our second choice school (which has yet to reply with an assessment appointment). 

I'll write more again when I can!