Thursday, April 25, 2013

World Malaria Day

With about half of the world’s population at risk of malaria, World Malaria Day is recognized every April 25th. To commemorate the day and increase awareness in Etsha 13, the clinic and I created a mosquito net exhibit and focused the week’s health talk on malaria. We hung the net in the middle of the clinic for a few days before and my counterpart Kandondi helped me with translating the talk. Health Talks are given every Wednesday at the clinic, as this is the day that blood samples are collected for CD4 counts, creating the most traffic through the clinic. This meant that the audience was made up of those most at risk: people living with HIV and the usual group of pregnant women and mothers bringing in babies for weighing.  The talk emphasized prevention measures, early recognition of symptoms, and gave time for Q & A at the end. I was surprised to learn that many of my community members were unaware that mosquitoes transmit malaria, including the staff member at the clinic who helped me translate the statements for the net display.

Luckily, malaria is not the insurmountable problem in Botswana as many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa face. Over the past decade, malaria related deaths have decreased drastically and overall incidence is down as well. Data from the previous year showed only a handful of cases, but outbreaks have occurred in my sub-district this season. Botswana is very close to eradication!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Floods and the Importance of Layers

In Oregon, if you count the erratic weather from March to June as spring, the seasons can be divided into four pretty easily. Season are nothing like that in Botswana. 

Seasons are measured in rainy versus dry, warm nights versus cold, floods or no floods, lush and green or dry and brown. Transition periods between these seem to be days to two weeks.

What I would consider as winter is here. When I woke this morning, I could see my breath; now, at mid day, it's still in the 80s. The floods are also up, and came quickly. I left my village for the one year celebration, and  when I returned, the floods had gone from about  2 km away to just behind my backyard. Luckily, that rate has slowed down and the water has not come too much closer to my house.

While I'm not looking forward to the point when it is too cold to bathe, even with heating water, I am really excited about enjoying hot tea, soup, and not sweating while sleeping. My favorite sign of winter is definitely the full floodplain (as long as it doesn't push anyone out of their homes this year); I've been enjoying many afternoons reading by the water, plus it is fantastic to have a back up source of water, like last week when the water was off for six days. 

Kids collecting water in the floodplain, directly across from my house. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

One Year Celebration in the Tuli Block

To celebrate making it one year in Botswana, a chunk of Bots 12 gathered in the Eastern 'nose' of Botswana, spending the weekend in the Tuli Block. We went on game drives, picked through the rocks on the Limpopo River, and generally got spoiled rotten by Tarrafou Lodge between a delicious braii and comfy rooms. Above all, it was so fantastic to see Bots 12ers from all over the country. This group is full of some incredibly inspiring and fun people!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

By the Numbers

365 days ago, I flew out of PDX.

# of airplanes it took to get me from PDX to GBS: 4
# of months spent in pre-service training: 2
# of months at site:10
# of Etsha villages: 13
# of countries I’ve been to in the past year:4 
# of oceans I’ve seen: 2 
# of days gone without water (max): 16
# of significant water storage containers in my house: 8
# of months lived without refrigeration: 3
# of hours I've gone out of my way just to get a milkshake: 2
# highest (known) temperature reached, in degrees Fahrenheit: 109 
# of times I’ve really cried: 4
# of baskets currently in my possession: 8
# of kids usually at my house in the afternoons: 5
# of pula deposited into my bank account each month: 2,875 
# of dollars in interest my student loans have accrued while in deferment: 1,122.91
# of semi-poisonous spiders I can see right now: 6
# of poisonous snakes I’ve seen (alive): 1
# of times I’ve seen elephants around Etsha: 6
# of miles hitch-hiked in one trip (approx.): 1500
# of Americans in my house: 12
# of contraptions I can use to access the internet:3
# of  phone numbers I have had: 3
# of projects that I feel were/are truly successful: 4
# of books read: 47
# of shoes that have been decimated: 8
# of Bots 12s in April 2012: 47
# of Bots 12s now: 40
# of miles between my parent's home and mine in Etsha 13: 9741.81 
# of days until Close of Service: 426

More musings on reaching the one year mark to come...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Life on the Floodplain

My friend, researcher, and fellow Etshan, Jamie has been kind enough to let me follow her around on some of her interviews. She is researching environmental change and how these changes affect people; more specifically, how the changing flood patterns are affecting the  livelihoods of the Etsha community members, who often rely on natural resources from the floodplain.  In recent years people have been flooded out of their homes and fields, and the government response has been varied. These interviews have been fascinating and my understanding of the Bayeii and Hambukushu cultures I'm living among has increased tenfold. They have also given me peak into the daily lives of my community and the opportunity to catch some of it through photographs. The following pictures are from interviews that occurred just outside Etsha 13 and Etsha 6 at families 'lands.' Family units in Botswana traditionally have three homes: their home in the village, their aptly named cattle post, and the 'lands' where they farm.

This is an old Bayeii man. The Bayeii are people of the Delta, a small minority among Batswana. Speakers of their language are diminishing (most Bayeii children I know speak more Setswana than Seyeii) and government policy favors moving them out and away from their 'traditional' land near the water.

This is a Bayeii woman standing outside of her molapo, or floodplain field.  Just beyond the fencing in the background is a main channel of the Okavnago Delta. Her plot is about 5-7km outside of Etsha 6 village as the crow flies, but this channel of water must be crossed, so the pathway we took in a vehicle was about an hour drive. Women are traditionally responsible for maintaining and harvesting the crops (while men do the plowing to first prep the soil). Most people dry land farm throughout Botswana and even within the villages along the Okavango Delta.Rumor has it the land along the panhandle and western side of the delta is being reserved for tourism development, meaning that these floodplain fields are less common. The thing that struck me the most about the molapo field was the color of the soil- dark brown, very different from the sand of the dry land plots.

This is a reed hut at a family's 'lands,' Reeds and grasses used for these structures are collected from the delta. While mud huts are still quite common in this area, reeds and grasses make up a large portion of shelter materials. In town, there is also a move towards cement houses, but the reeds and grasses are still quite commonly used as roofing and fencing materials. 

The kids have been on a school break for the past few weeks, and during these breaks, children often go back to their home villages, visit other family members, and/or come out to the cattle posts and lands to help their families.  

A young girl walking back from the 'lands' through the floodplain. We were walking through about 6 inches of flood water. The floods are in their upswing right now, and from what I saw last year, peak  around June/July. The water in the delta comes from the Angolan highlands, and rumors say that there has been a lot of rain there this year. But Botswana has had drought-like levels of rain this year, so flood level predictions are uncertain.