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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

it's time for Botswana updates!

Greetings All!

It's been a long while since our last blog update, and in the absence
most of our adventures have been pretty standard for our life here. We
under went about a week without running water which we made it through
by using the slew of 2-liter bottles that we had filled with spare
water. And, to make it less intense there were a few nights when the
water would come on as a trickle sometimes in the middle of the night
so we were able to replenish our bottles.

Hayley has been doing some travel back and forth between our home
village and the capitol for various committees that she is serving on.
She will also be traveling to a "language week " event in the near
future. A "language week" is an event in which a volunteer invites
five other volunteers over to their home for a week. Once the five
volunteers all confirm their plans to attend, the Peace Corps arranges
to have a language teacher sent over to their house for the week where
the teacher will give lessons for a few hours each day and then they
are all able to hang out and have fun in the afternoons and evenings.
So, its five days of practicing the language with an experienced
teacher and hanging out with some of your fellow volunteer friends. It
will also be another bit of proof that Hayley is both more capable and
also dedicated to learning the Setswana language than I am. Life in
Botswana does require some use of Setswana, but fluency is very very
hard to come by because the Peace Corps lack of focus on teaching it
to volunteers during training. The Wide use of English in Botswana
also makes it very easy to carry on life in a safe and effective way
without much knowledge of Setswana.

Another upcoming event that we are working on is an event hosting the
US Ambassador to Botswana, Michelle Gavin. The Ambassador is coming to
our village next month in order to meet us and see our region of the
country. She is interested in learning more about the needs of youth
in the Kgalagadi district (the Kgalagadi is known as the Kalahari in
US-English). During her visit, she has asked the volunteers from
around our district to host an event with the youth of the Kgalagadi
in order to have some fun with them teaching them about HIV&AIDS and
also learning more about their needs so that the US is better able to
do what it can to help.

I have become good friends with the IT guy at the school I am assigned
to, and we have plans to install a long-range wireless router in the
coming weeks. This router will help to allow computers in the
buildings and offices that are on the far edges of the school grounds.
Most of the computers are consolidated to the administration building
and computer lab, but a few other departments could be improved by
giving them network access as well because it would make it easier for
teachers to have more open access to the internet which might go on to
improve their work as teachers through the integration of wireless
internet access.

An interesting phenomenon regarding the internet in Africa is that
regular access to the internet has only become a more common part of
life for most African countries in the last decade. And, this means
that most African countries have made the jump from highly limited
internet exposure to wireless/cellular internet access. Many countries
have skipped the time consuming and expensive process of setting up
wired cable connections across their countries (Botswana is included
in this), and instead most citizens of African countries either access
the internet through their cell phones or through computers that have
some sort of satellite based connection. The increased use of cellular
based internet has led to a boom in mobile apps and internet browsing.
There is a lot of speculation about what this means for the Internet
in Africa in general, but overall there is an expectation that many
people in countries like Botswana will do most of their internet using
through cell phone apps and will never be forced to learn the ins and
outs of computers and typing. What's most exciting about all of this
is that the potential for connecting the developing countries of
Africa to the global internet-based exchange of information is already
becoming a reality with relatively little extra effort on the part of
big telecommunication companies.

If it sounds weird to think that many people in Botswana will never
have to work with computers to use the internet, just look at the
common practices of today's teenagers in the US. Many have grown up in
a world of iPhone apps and Android phones that are just as powerful as
the standard home computer and they are allowed a much more private
and personalized experience of the internet and its riches. I am
excited to see what new developments will have come around in the US
after we complete our Peace Corps service and return home. The
potential for new technologies that might further help the world
provide aid the developing countries is great, and I can't wait to see
what's next!

All of these thoughts are based off of a blog article titled: How
Africa is embracing "the cloud" on its own terms

That's enough technology ranting for now. Our cat Nola is keeping up a
regular schedule of napping most of the day and having freak out
sessions in the evenings. She has some trouble getting much traction
on the linoleum tiles of our house but she is very skilled at showing
off her parkour skills by running around our living room area without
touching the ground in her own version of the beloved childhood game
"The Floor is Lava"!

The schools are on a tri-mester system which means they have three
terms a year with varied amount of break time in between. Term two
ends at the end of this week and the schools will be closed down for a
little more than a month. I plan to spend a good bit of that time
trying to keep in contact with responsible local students that will be
in the area and can help me make sure we have some students that
remember to come to the Ambassador event we are putting on next month.
I will also do what I can to continue helping a local organization
called the Center for Excellence whose local leader needs help
learning about how to use a computer. The Center for Excellence is an
organization that offers support to people both infected and/or
influenced by HIV. They work to provide chickens and other goods to
people that come to them for help.
That's it for now. We hope to share more in the near future!

- Michael