Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Weekend Adventures Continued


Sorry to leave on such a cliff hanger, but no worries! My computer is now back and stronger than ever! Thanks mom for all your help! I truly have no I idea where I would be without you much needed assistance.

So where was I?

Oh yes! Francistown.

So after a very long bus ride we arrive to Francistown. It’s late; we’re all tired and want nothing more but to grab some food, drop our bags, and celebrate the night away. And we did just that!

After a little patience and about twenty or so minutes; Skei and his 3 buddies arrived. Just a reminder, Skei is the best friend or the 24 year old uncle of one of the families my friend Kelsey is doing her home stay with.

We drove to the little one room house we would be crashing at for the night, dropped out bags, and headed off in search of food. We found it! We ordered five pizzas from one of my favorite Botswana restaurants and happily fed ourselves and our Francistown drivers.

With our hunger satisfied and the final few pieces of Mexican and Hawaiian pizza being licked from our fingers; we were ready for some fun.

We had heard that there was absolutely nothing to do in Francistown, but we were determined to find adventure wherever we could. Luckily, the adventure practically found us. To make a long story a little less long I will just say that by the end of the night (actually only around 11 since we were all already exhausted) we had been to a few local hang outs (a.k.a. parking lots where everyone breaks out their coolers and blasts their car stereos), hung at an army base and attempted a game of pool, and danced with a few local girls (who had way better moves then I ever will) while signing to Shakira at the top of our lungs. Oh yes, a night I will never forget.

That night as we all squeezed into bed we knew that we would only be able to grab a few hours of sleep while the rest we spent tossing and turning. We also knew we had just made lifelong memories.

The next morning we were up bright and early! We all packed our things quickly, picked up the room, and called our cab. The thing with cabs is they don’t like to carry more than four since they could get in trouble with the police. That being said, college students don’t like paying more money than they have to. So with a little convincing we manage to persuade the driver into taking us all to the bus renke. There was only one condition. One of us would have to stay out of sight. Being the shortest among the group of five and coincidently the last one in the cab, it was I who elected to stay out of sight.

Before we knew it we were on the bus headed for the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. As the bus drove on (3 hours to be exact) it began to become more and more crowded to the point where people were sharing seats and there was not even a place left to stand. An hour or so later we had reached our destination! In this case our destination was a giant aardvark statue by the side of the highway. We squeezed off the bus and waved goodbye at the side of the road as we appeared to be standing in the middle of nowhere. To add to the adventure we grabbed our bags and hiked the next kilometer in to our lodge.

Finally, after much walking, and even more sweating we reached the lodge. It was beautiful, that was clear from the very beginning. And after what seemed like quite a long journey; we were eager to relax. As we checked in we questioned the reception desk about the excursions available that weekend. In the most polite attitude she informed us that all the excursions were booked and there was no room left

What!!!!? I’m sorry!! Repeat! I know I did not just travel 8 hours on a bus to come to a lodge in the middle of nowhere only to be told that I couldn’t even see the very salt pans I sought.

With a smile on my face and some deep breathing I attempted to keep quiet, though I must admit my mind was on fire!

With a little good ol’ fashion American force from the girls, and some quality pray, we left the reception to chill in the bar and rest our feet while we let the staff work out the problem. As I sat back sipping my guava juice, now personally in good spirits and trusting the work of God, I was all too happy to hear the receptionist announce that room was available for as all on the all day quad excursion for the following day.

Amen. In fact we later found out that one of the tents we were to stay in was broken so they had to upgrade two of us to a Hut (a very luxuries hut). I believe this is where we say “God is good”

The rest of the day was spent checking into our accommodations, Lounging by the pool, sun bathing, and meeting an American Actress and getting two know her two young daughters and camera man Husband. That’s right! Anything is possible in Africa.

We all took hot showers that night as we tried to wash away the long journey. This time as we fell asleep in our own individual cozy beds dreamt of seeing the salt pans.

A new morning brought a heavy sun and new adventures. Around 7:30am, we all climbed into a safari car and began the 40 minute drive or so to reach the quad bikes. It took everything in me to contain my excitement. We reached a small camp where our quad bikes waited. Just before heading out our slightly sarcastic and very nice guide taught us all how to tie a properly where head scarves. You know like the one you see in Aladdin! Despite his quality teaching, he had to give us all a little extra help, but soon we were ready to go. We pulled out head scarves around and tucked the ends in to the opposite side. This was to help keep the dust off our faces and out of our eyes.

Two to a quad but there was an odd number of people so got my own. No complaints here!

As we began to ride out to the pans it once again hit me. I was in Africa. Botswana to be more specific. I was sitting on a ATV, revving the engine for all it was worth, and as the wind swept by me, my eyes took in what can only be considered one of the most beautiful sights on Earth.

The salt pans are beyond vast, similar to looking out onto the ocean and how it seems to go on forever. No wonder we once though the world was flat. There was nothing in sight for miles. The pictures don’t do it justice and I wish they did. I wish everyone could see what I had the privileged of viewing that day.

After a few hours exploring the pans and seeing what I assume is only a fraction of the whole; our minds were overwhelmed and how stomachs hungry. We headed back to a prepared meal and then back to the lodge.

As the day came to a close we spent our time watching the sunset hoping to see elephants by the watering hole. We sat atop a dusty safari car laughing with our new friends who we had just met the day before. Sleep came easy that night.

The next morning, it was time to head back. Our actress/camera man couple and now travel gurus were more than happy to cram us all into their small safari car and give us a lift to Francistown. We were all too willing to sit in cramped spaces if it meant no bus fair (life of a poor college student).

The journey back to the University seemed long and draining, but none of that really mattered. The events of the weekend played in all of our minds and was more than any of us could have anticipated.

Pictures to follow, I promise

Monday, August 30, 2010

T.I.A and I'm Lovin' it!

This weekend was incredible.  There is no other word that could possibly contain the excitement, the adventure, the randomness, and the awesome God moments that occurred!

So, this weekend myself along with 4 other friends, tossed our things in backpacks, squeezed onto already crowded buses, and headed for the 2nd largest salt pans in the world! And let me tell you, This is one adventure I will never forget.

First off, I apologize now since I will have no pictures that follow this blog.  Something is up with my computer and until I get it sorted out, my Internet use will be limited.  Even now, I'm writing this particular blog while sitting on a computer at a over-priced Internet cafe and only 29 minutes left on my tab. 

Anyways, we started this weekend by lugging our very heavy backpack and bags onto very small combies.  By the time we reached the buses we were already tired, hot, and hungry. But no worries! We're young, we're college students, we're now experienced travelers so we can handle it! 

We left on a Thursday night in hopes that we would get to spend more time at the pans and it was a wonderful decision! The first bus was a 5 hour ride northwest to Francistown.   We were happy, to say the least when it was over.  Also, we were very Fortunate to have a place to stay while in Francsistown.  You see, several of the girls I traveled with this weekend are doing a "home stay" while studying in Botswana.  In other words they elected to live with a local Tswana family instead of on campus. This worked out wonderfully for us since one of the home stay girls just so happened to have an "uncle" around our age who was moving out of his house and gave us the key to crash for a night. That's right!! FREE ACCOMMODATION!

Of course, once we arrived to Francistown we realized the "house" is a very interesting term and often based on personal perception.  My personal perception was seeing a 10 by 8 foot room, a 2 inch mattress on the floor that was shorter then a twin, and a sometimes working toilet next door.  hmm.

Oh yeah! we stayed, and we stayed for free! and Yes, we all squeezed onto that two inch mattress and tried to get whatever amount of sleep we could.  But no worries! We're young, we're college students, we're now experienced travelers so we can handle it!

Sorry all! For now this is all I can say.  I will be sure to be back on tomorrow to continue the story of my weekend adventure.  But for now, the clock is ticking and I'm about to be booted off the Internet.

Hope all is well!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dear Aubrey

Too the little sister never wanted but am thrilled i got!

First off, Happy Birthday! I hope you have a truly amazing day that is filled with laughter and good friends. Secondly, sorry I couldn’t be there. I really wish I could but I promise to come back with and amazing birthday gift from Africa!

I am thrilled at the person you are becoming and can’t wait to see the work God will continue to do in your life. I know this may sound a bit big-sister-ish, but I can’t believe you are seventeen!! You make me feel so very old. Plus, like it or not you will always be twelve in my head.

I feel so very blessed to have a sister, a friend, an encourager like you. I know you will always welcome be with open arms and please know I too will never turn my back on you.

Now, to finish off my birthday wishes with some cliché, but valid advice.

Take care of yourself. If you always neglect yourself to reach out to others then, then everyone loses.

Never stop dreaming, and never stop making those dreams a reality

Go big….go far….but call home.

No riding in Cars with strange boys….don’t take candy from Strangers….look both ways before crossing the street.

Should you ever get into a situation you don’t know how to handle, talk to God first, yourself second, and then friends and family


Live life to the fullest, and learn from your experiences.

Okay love, I am officially out of cliché advice for now, but no worries I’m sure by the time I will return home I will have plenty more.

Can’t wait to sit over a plate of Sushi with you and tell you all about my African adventures. Love you and miss. Have a good birthday smalls.

Love, Sis

Baby Aubrey, and nearly baby Krisstina.
Not sure how we grew up so fast but at least we group up together.  Thank you for always being there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's not Home, but it's right

Every day as I lay down to sleep I am reminded why I have chosen to come to Botswana. I could have stayed home. I could have taken comfort in the familiar. Yet still I know, good day or bad, I have made the right choice.

Culture Exchange:

So I’m sitting in My Psychology Cognition and Learning class, taking notes as fast as I can while struggling with the professor’s all too strong accent.

The topic of discussion is that of “superstitious behavior”. The idea is that superstitious behavior is created by witnessing or being told that an action will control the reaction of something else. Scientific definition is that these two events occur together by mere coincidence. For example, a person may kiss a coin before tossing it into a pond in belief that this will increase the chances of their wish coming true. When this action and reaction does occur then the superstitious behavior is reinforced.

After, the professor finished explaining this to the class and I took a break from frantically taking notes; a guy just a few seats down from me raised his hand. When called upon the student sat tall an addressed the professor. “Yes, sir. So you mean superstitious behavior and belief like the eye-twitching thing?”

The professor responded with a nonchalant “yes, exactly” and so the lecture continued.

I must have had a VERY confused VERY intense look on my face because the next thing I knew the professor (and the rest of the class for that matter) was staring straight at me. With a slight smirk and without even asking me what was wrong, the professor looked at the guy next to me and in Swetsana asked him to clarify.

The Class chuckled a bit. At this point I felt extremely awkward and yet after spending just over two weeks in Botswana, I had become very familiar with this feeling. I responded with a “yes, please, I am so very confused”. The class laughed louder.

The guy, who sat just two seats down from me stared directly at me with a huge smile now spread across his face and happily explained. “Okay so in Botswana there is an old belief that if the top of your eye twitches then it is good luck, good omen.” “Now, if the bottom of your eye twitches, then it is bad luck and something bad will happen”.

The class was silent. Then suddenly and very loudly, the class burst into laughter, professor included. At that point I realized my jaw was literally hanging open. That’s when I began to laugh. It was at that moment it felt right to be in Botswana.

As the laughter subdued the professor continued with his lecture. He got no more than three words in before a young girl across the room (whom I had already had a delightful encounter with) shot up her hand. As she was called upon, she could hardly contain the words. “I want to hear something from Krisstina!” “Today she has heard one of our superstitions; I want to know one from her country!”

My mind was blank. I had nothing, but the eyes of my classmates focused solely on me.

Fortunately, that entire class I had been starving for lunch and was dying for a sandwich and coke. That’s when I figured it out. Soda! I began to speak hoping not to make a fool of myself. “Okay, so in America, as kids, many of us are told that if you want to make sure the soda doesn’t explode in your face when you are opening a can, then you have to tap the top of the metal a few times” “Most of us know this really doesn’t work and yet there are still plenty of us who, probably out of habit, tap the top just before opening the can and sure enough it almost never explodes.” To really get my point across I tapped the wooden table in front of me.

Once again the class was silent. Sure enough within a short second not a person in that classroom could contain the laughter. Many in fact, began to mimic the tapping motion out of sheer delight.

In this moment, this very awkward, very hilarious, memorable culture exchange the world felt perfect. Through their laughter and my own, God showed me that coming to Africa was exactly the right choice.

You Know You're An American In Botswana When....

It’s a nice 70 degrees and everyone else is bundle up in heavy jackets, scarves and hats because this year’s winter is just too cold!

You have to buy two or more outlet adapters. One to convert from British to American, or One to convert from Botswana to American, or most likely, two to convert from British to Botswana plus another Botswana to American. Sound complicated? It is.


There are absolutely NO clouds but you still see people carrying umbrellas.

You walk into the room and you’re the only white person, and the only one with blue eyes, and the only one with light hair, but most importantly the only one wearing shorts….awkward.

You find yourself missing hot water


You order beef and get liver.

No one but you shows up to class the first week.

You hold a soda can and notice it is significantly heavier then back in the states.

People ask you if you know Obama (BAHAHAHAHA!)


You can’t find anything but “full- cream” milk and all you want is 1%

People ask you where you’re from…you answer…they look VERY confused…and then you scramble to mention something about New York or California just to make them smile.

The professor is lecturing and then stops to spell some word in Swetsana as he stares at you

And last but not least, When….

You wake up one morning, sun streaming in your window, and realize all night long you had been dreaming of Starbucks.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Better...

Okay lets start with the bad just to get it out of the way. I was nearly robbed yesterday while walking with a friend to a local rugby game. We were passing through a major combe (basically a small van) station and market area. The area is always packed with commuters and is apparently a thief’s dream. At one point nearly the entire crowd must funnel over this small footbridge with stairs on either side. Just before walking across my friend who is from California and doing a home stay rather than living in dorms, warned me to hold my bag close because a ton of people get robbed here. The next moment, not even a minute later a man to my left grabbed my arm, pointed in the other direction, and began frantically speaking Setswana. Like a naïve tourist I looked where then man was pointing. In a split second I heard the Velcro on the side pocket of my canvas bag open. Suddenly it clicked. All at once I looked down, saw the man’s hand reaching into my bag, yanked it away and pushed myself forward through the crowd. He was reaching for my cell phone, but luckily he never got the chance to grab it. I hate to say this but it was probably a good lesson to learn even if I did have to learn it the hard way. I am for sure never letting that happen again.

Okay bad stuff done, now moving on.

As I write the deep orange, setting sun streams through my window making my room glow with warmth. I have been in Africa for two whole weeks now and I feel as though I already have enough experiences to last a life time.

The food here consists of mostly chicken in various forms, rice, bread, and a bland white dish called pop. Pop is interesting to say the least. It’s the color of mashed potatoes with little to no flavor. The closest comparison I would say we have in the U.S. is that of grits. It’s absolutely a staple here in Botswana and defiantly a traditional food. It’s not bad actually but certainly not something I will miss when I head back home.

This last weekend after orientation the international program here at the University of Botswana (UB) took all the international students on a short cultural excursion. We went to a small village on the outskirts of Gaborone where most people receive electricity but still live in small, round, mud huts with grass ceilings or a small, square, one bedroom dwelling. Here we walk a few kilometers through the village (followed by playful, curious, laughing children) to a place I can only describe as a historical preservation site. Basically it was a large property with traditional style houses, native plants, and a fire pit hidden away in the bush. There the owners had prepared a meal for every one of classic Botswana dishes including that of the pane worm. And let me tell you, when they say worm, they mean worm! And yes, I tried it. Actually it wasn’t bad, but it defiantly did not taste like chicken. By the time we had dinner it was dark and you couldn’t even see the food you were eating, which was probably a good thing.

Friday, I went to the local Botswana national museum and art gallery. I was great! The art consisted of sculptures, paintings, and local handmade tapestry and baskets. Much of the art was beautiful and the museum gave me a whole new outlook of the country.

Just yesterday, I along with a group of other international students went to the championship rugby game of the UB hogss. It was a blast! Honestly, I had never been to a rugby game and in reality I only new what was going on half the time but none of that mattered. It was a rush being there with the young African crowd. They cheered, screamed, and laughed. In fact you could almost feel their dedication to the team.

Today I went to the local Gaborone Game Reserve. Since we were in city limits this particular reserve was small then the ones I will see later up north but it was still exciting. Zebras, warthogs, monkeys, ostridge and plenty more I don’t actually know the names too could be found. After the CIEE group had driven all the way through we sat down at a nice picnic area for lunch. The entire time we surrounded by very curious looking monkeys who at one point actually ran up to the table and grabbed a banana right out of a girl’s hand. We were all warned that that could happen and yet seeing it actually happen is an odd a thrilling experience.

Well, that is it for now I suppose, but as more experiences come to mind I will be sure to share them all with you. Sorry this post was so long, I’ll work on that.

Love you all,


Me and a Few of the other CIEE girls.  This group is wonderful.  We are all so very different and each have a unique background.  We are all from the United States but had to go half way around the world to meet.
I few of the kids from a local village.  There was about 25 kids ranging in all different ages following us down the road.  They loved playing games, asking us questions, and getting their pictures taken.

African Sunset. Can you believe it? That outline there is of a round, one room, mud and grass hut.

Eating a Pane ( pronounced paan-ie) worm. It actually wasn't too bad as long as you didn't pay attention to the texture, the taste, or the fact that you were eating a worm.  This is a traditional food and yes people do eat it regularly.

This is a combe (pronounced com-bie) It is the main form of transportation around Gaborone. It seats 15 not including the driver. Of which three seats fold up and down so if someone in the back wants to get out then everyone in their way has to get out, let them out, and then pile back in. Its about the size of a minivan and trust me 15 is a tight squeeze. The driver usually won’t leave a stop until it is completely full so it could take you anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to get anywhere. It usually costs 2 Pula and 70 Thebe, which translates to about 45 cents. There are no actual designated stops or running times so riding regularly using them is an adventure!

One of my favorite paintings at the Gaborone National Art Museum.

Rugby!!!!! This is the University of Botswana Hogs versus some team from New Zealand. This game was incredible and so was the crowd. The Hogs are the guys in the light blue.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 5th, 2010: Here at last

Hey guys!

Sorry it has taken be so very long to get this post written. As I'm sure you have already heard, I am now safe and sound in Gaborone, Botswana (f.y.i. I was pronouncing it absolutely WRONG before I got here!).  Anyways, I haven't even been here a full two weeks and already I feel as though I have learned and experienced so much.

My first sights of Africa can only be described as surreal.  After hours upon house of flight and a couple days of traveling I was exhausted emotionally and mentally and wanted noting more then my familiar bed at home.  All of  that change as the clouds broke and suddenly I saw the lands of South Africa below.  It took everything in my not to leap from my seat and scream. It felt as though I had waited so long to reach Africa and now that is was actually happening i could believe it.  But now as I sit on my surprising cozy bed, in my dorm room at the University of Botswana it has finally hit me.  I'm in Africa

Botswana is easily one of the most interesting places I have ever had the privilege to explore. The entire country is an odd and at times, uncomfortable mix of modern elements and tradition.Yet it is this very blend that makes Botswana like no other place imaginable.

At first glance the University of Botswana appears no different then the sophisticated Universities of the U.S. In fact it may even seem far more "put-together" then most.  But should one take a closer look beyond the surface we are once again reminded that Botswana though a happy, and peaceful country is still considered a developing nation.

As the days past I am learning more and more about the Batswana and their culture (side note: Botswana is the country, Batswana is the people).  Daily I experience the dramatic differences between home and here and though at times it can be frustrating, it is also unbelievably exciting.  As, I become more settled here I will be sure to share my experiences with you all.  For now let these subtle differences (most of which I learned the hard way) tie you over. 

*no such thing as a elevator instead they call them lifts (so British)
*unlike registering for classes online they stand in long lines for hours and hours on end, days in a row just to sign up for a course
*all those lines they are standing in are actually called queues and when they want a line to form they yell out "queue up!"
*I have yet to meet any  local with tattoos...interesting
*instead of hello they say "Dumela mma" for a woman and "Dumeal rra" for a man

Love you all!

First sites of Africa

p.s. more pictures to come but for now the Internet connection is just far to slow, sorry