Travel Day(s)

I wasn’t going to post anymore, but many things happened while travelling that I figured I might as well tell everyone!

At the Gaborone airport, I got a chocochino drink from the cafe there (a division of Curry Pot) and it was delicious!  It looked so cool until I mixed it up:

I was the only one flying out at 11am, but everyone would meet up again in Johannesburg since the earliest anyone left South Africa was 6pm.  I took a picture of Sheldon at the gate:

I took a picture of the Gaborone airport (since when I arrived, I didn’t have a camera yet)

The propeller plane I took down to Johannesburg:

I got to Jo-burg safely and had some time before everyone else arrived, so Sheldon and I checked out the stores:

He really wanted the vuvuzela!

Megan (Case Western), Maren (Yale), Brian (Tulane), Kameron (William and Mary), and Andrew (Rutgers) all got to the international terminal around the same time and we had a late lunch at a News Cafe in the airport (the same restaurant like in Gaborone where I watched the Premier League final).

Brian took a group photo on his camera every time someone left (kind of sad, but also kind of nice) and so when Kameron and I left for London, I took one on my camera (Brian had already left):

I got on the plane and almost immediately made a friend!

Her name is Piya and she is 6 years old.  She was sitting across the aisle from me, but right after take off, she seemed to want to sit next to me, so I let her.  She lives in London and was in South Africa for a family wedding anniversary.  She was very talkative and really excited that I liked talking to her.  She kept on saying throughout the entire flight: “I can’t believe I actually made a new friend on the plane!” in her British accent.  And she called me her best friend multiple time 😀

I flew South African Airways to London:

and when I flew them from London to Johannesburg, they were excellent, but this time around, I was a little disappointed, especially when I saw the spoon they gave me for my dinner:

Womp womp.  Good thing I didn’t need to use it!

Another disappointing thing about SA airways: their equivalent of Sky Mall is not even close to Sky Mall 😦

All they sold was perfume and watches. At least they had a couple of samples for me to smell.  Not good enough to take with me though.

Piya drew me a picture:

And her parents were very nice and thanked me for “dealing” with her for the entire flight.  She was cute!

Me and Piya before we got off the plane.

When I finally got to London, I had about and hour and a half before boarding my flight home to Houston, so I took a stroll around the airport terminal with Sheldon!

We passed by Harrods, and Sheldon wanted a picture with the bear.  Can you see him?

Maybe you can see him now.  The bear is giant!

Sheldon also got to meet the queen!

I was supposed to board before Kameron, so we waited at my gate, but my flight was delayed until after her boarding time, so we took a picture at my gate:

We had met someone earlier at the charging station who is from Austin and is flying home for a little vacation.  She is an actress in London.  She was nice enough to take our picture.

Unfortunately, my flight never actually boarded.  We found out an hour after we were supposed to have boarded that the plane was damaged and that the flight was cancelled.  Then, it took the United workers another 30 minutes to figure out how to organize re-bookings.  They separated people who had connecting flights in Houston from those whose final destination was Houston, and of course, I was at the front of the wrong line!  So I ended up at the end of the final destination Houston one, expecting to not get re-booked for another hour.  Fortunately, a very nice lady came up to me after I had been waiting for about 15 minutes and whispered to me to go to an empty counter across the way to a guy that would re-book me!  I was lucky and got on a flight that would get me into Houston by 8pm via Newark.  That flight was leaving in an hour, so it wasn’t too much extra wait time for me 🙂  I boarded the plane and was ready to head home:

And so was Sheldon!

But, since so many people on my original London-Houston flight got re-booked to the London-Newark-Houston flights, the Newark flight was delayed more than an hour.  Reasons for delay: waiting for the new passengers’ checked luggage to come on board and waiting to get more food for everyone, because they were not expecting a full flight (we filled up the rest of the plane).

We were finally able to take off, and the flight was okay (nothing spectacular and nothing terrible) and we landed in Newark with about an hour and half until my next flight boarded, but I still had to 1) get my checked luggage, 2) clear customs, 3) re-check my bags, and 4) get through Newark security.  I waited a while at the baggage claim area for my checked bags, along with everyone else who was on my original flight to Houston, but they never came (so much for delaying the flight to get our luggage on board…).  So with about half an hour left before the flight was supposed to take off, I, along with 3 other people heading for Houston, got through security (we bypassed the long waiting line!) and headed off to Gate 92, shown on the airport monitor.  Lucky for us, the flight was delayed 30 minutes, so we slowed down some.  We had all been practically running around the Newark airport.

After waiting at Gate 92 for 15 minutes, I get a call from United saying that the flight is further delayed, but the message said Gate 134 (which is actually what the gate number on our tickets said, but those were printed off in London, so I believed the airport monitors).  But at Gate 92, the digital board said Houston, so we just stayed there.  The pilots flying to Houston even showed up too, but then some guy came out of the plane and said that it was going to Dublin!  The pilots went to go see what was actually their gate, and a few minutes later, there was an announcement made that the flight to Houston was at Gate 134.  Funny thing was that one guy went to Gate 134 looking for the Houston flight, and they told him that the plane at Gate 134 was going to San Diego and that the Houston flight was at Gate 92.  Anyways, we pretty much ran over to Gate 92 (we had to back-track back to the security check-point and go the other way) and just made it onto the plane in time.  I happened to overhear one of the stewardesses talking and said that they would have left without us!

But of course, there is nothing like barely making a plane before the cabin doors shut just to sit there for another hour waiting to take off.  I was so exhausted from worrying about my checked bags, hurrying to make it through security in time, and rushing to get on the right plane that I pretty much slept through the entire flight.

I landed in Houston safely and made it out to baggage claim by 10pm, only to wait another hour (my travelling consisted of a lot of “waiting for an hour”s) at the baggage claim office to report “lost” luggage.  They said they would have my bags delivered to me, and that was the end of it.  I made it home before midnight and jet-lag had no effect on me after my exhausting/stressful travelling.  At least I made it home safely!

My bags did come in two days later, if anyone was worried.  Nothing got lost!

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El Fin

Today is my last day here in Gaborone.  It was kind of bittersweet, because I am ready to go home, but I also don’t want to leave all of the wonderful people I’ve met here.  Luckily, we got to spend at least the entire morning together on a trip to Main Mall.  People wanted to do some last minute souvenir shopping and we ended up having lunch there.  I wanted to make sure I tried everything that I could to get all of the culture here, and since so many of my UB friends told me I HAD to go eat at Chicken Licken, that’s where I had my last lunch in Gaborone 😀

The menu at Chicken Licken.  It’s like a KFC, but better food, I think, although KFC at Main Mall had a pretty nice place too.  But at Chicken Licken, they even have fancy decorations:

Maren showing off the vases in Chicken Licken.

My food + the tray.  I didn’t realize that I was about to consume “soul food.”

It was pretty good and it was kind of nice to not eat the usual rice/pasta and chicken/beef for lunch.

I came back to school and had to start packing, which was depressing, because that meant that it was getting closer to Tuesday.  We did get a little break when Maren and I brought our paper to our mentors along with the box of See’s chocolate that I brought from home.

Maabong and Cosmas opening the box of chocolates.

My mentors tasting my present.  I know it doesn’t look like it, but they really liked it!  I was also able to give presents to the three UB students who worked with us (Mosaic, Nikki, and Kay).  It was really hard saying bye to everyone I worked in lab with, because they were all really great and were a big part of my experience here.  It’s weird to think that I’m going to go back home and start doing other things, but they will still be here at the university working on the same stuff, doing the same thing every day.

I also got a picture of Sheldon outside of my room (for you Mommy)!

And we also got a final group picture at Curry Pot (the dining hall) at our last meal in Botswana.  There is a bus taking us to the airport at 8am tomorrow morning, so no breakfast on campus for us.

I’m really sad about leaving a country where the people have been so nice and great to us, even strangers, and where I have met a group of really amazing students.  I’ve had such a wonderful experience here and I am so happy and grateful for being able to come and participate in a really awesome program.  Sorry if this is sappy, but it’s been a wonderful 4 weeks in Botswana and I’m really sad that it’s over.

But I am also ready to go home too!  See you in Houston in two days!

Church

One of the things I knew I wanted to do when I got to Botswana was to go to church here.  I went to church when I was in Panama and it was a really great cultural experience, so I made it a point to ask one of the UB students to promise to take me one Sunday.  My last Sunday here, I went to church with Lebo.

Lebo grew up in Gaborone, so I think he still goes to his family’s church (because his parents were there too).  We had to take a 15 minute bus ride to get to the church and then walk for about 5 minutes.

The street where we got off and where Lebo’s church is.

The view of the church as we walked up to it.

We were all very excited about going to church because we knew it would be such a great cultural experience.  We definitely stood out at this church, but everyone was really friendly and we didn’t get too many strange looks.

Inside the church.  We came in right at the end of a service, but stayed for almost the entire service afterwards.  It was VERY interesting and not what I was expecting.  We had asked Lebo before what his church was like and he said there was a lot of singing and dancing, but I was not prepared for what it was actually like.  There was definitely a lot of singing and dancing, but it was sometimes almost like I was at a concert when they were singing.  People would run up and dance in the front.  Everyone cheered at the end of a song and one time, the lady with the microphone started shouting “We want more!” and got the band to start again.  They even had guitar, piano, and bass solos.  It was really fun and different than anything I had experienced before.  I have some videos that I took.  Take a look at them here!

We sang a few hymns and I thought I’d take pictures of them for those of my readers who are curious about which ones we sang.

The hymn book.

First hymn: There Shall be Showers Of Blessings

Second hymn: Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine

Another shot of the church.  They brought up everyone who had a June birthday, and Kameron (William and Mary) went up! She is all the way on the left with a yellow scarf on.

After we got back from church, we finished our final paper (hooray!) and had a BBQ cookout with the rest of the meat that we didn’t eat from the first BBQ (after the final presentations).  We even made garlic bread this time!

The bread was a little smooshed at one end, but I thought they looked kind of like little totoros!

And remember that watermelon we got in the village? Well we finally cut it open, and I learned that there are different kinds of watermelon:

This one is home-grown in Botswana, and it’s white!  It still had the same texture as a watermelon, but it wasn’t as sweet.  And it had a lot more seeds that were larger than the watermelons back home.  I still liked trying it though!

Only one more day left in Botswana 😦

Shapa Zebras Shapa!

“Shapa” literally translates to “beat,” so when the Botswana people yell “Shapa Zebras shapa” they are telling the Zebras (the soccer team) to beat their opponent.

Disclaimer: There are a lot of pictures in this post.  So it’s kind of long.

On Saturday, it was the Botswana vs. South Africa football match.  I put on my (newly bought) soccer jersey and was ready to go!

Maren, me and Kameron (William and Mary) ready for the game with our blue, white and black.

We walked to Riverwalk in the morning and several times on the way we got shouts and cheers because people were seeing 3 Americans in Botswana football jerseys (quite a shock).  We actually got stopped (when we got to the mall) by two guys in South African jerseys.  Not sure if they just wanted a picture with Americans or with people in Botswana jerseys…

My ticket to the game (courtesy of Brian).  We all tried to save our ticket, but the people checking them said no they had to tear them all up, so at least someone got a picture of it.

We went to the stadium right after lunch, which was before 1pm and by that time the stadium was already mostly full in the seating area where we were.  We arrived with about 2 rows of seats left, and the game didn’t start until 3pm.

All of the people sitting behind us.

A picture of us in the crowd right when we got to the stadium.  Lots of blue!

We also had to get our tickets checked twice: once at the gate into the university (they used the university pitch) and then again at the gate of the stadium (where they ripped up my ticket).  The university kind of went on lock-down mode for the game.  They closed the main gate that is always open and they were charging cars to get on campus for parking, because there was increasing traffic at the university.  This is a picture of the line of people waiting to get their tickets checked at the first gate into the university:

Since we got to the stadium more than 2 hours early, I had plenty of time to check out the international football scene.

The pitch.  The stands that you see are reserved for officials (who don’t have to pay for a ticket apparently) like the president and other important people.  They have actual seats there, whereas the other stands (next to it and where we sat) are on the cement/stone.

Flags flying at the stadium.  There is the SA flag, the Fifa flag, not sure what that big one is nor the third one, but the last one is the Botswana flag.  They also had the cameras shooting the game on the roofs of these bleacher/seating area.  I think you’ll see them in one of my other pictures.

Some fans dressed up and rallying the crowd before the game.

More fans.  Why didn’t anyone give me a zebra snuggie for the trip so I could match them?

Crowd ralliers.  They are dressed like tribe dancers (like from my cultural immersion day) and they walked around the track getting the crowd to chant things (that I couldn’t understand) and got everyone excited.  During the match, the crowd would sing chants and songs that apparently these people (the ones in the picture) made up for the football team.

Vuvuzelas ready for the game.

Zebras coming out on the pitch.  They’re in orange warm-up jerseys because the big sponsor here in Botswana is the cell phone company called Orange.

South Africa team warming up.  They got a lot of boos when they came out, especially from where I was sitting because we were on the South Africa side of the field for warm-ups.

Singing the national anthems.  I didn’t realize until the game that I had never heard the Botswana national anthem before.  Of course I couldn’t understand it because it was in Setswana, but it sounded nice 😀

Some more fans bring around a large zebra right before the game starts.  Everyone tried to touch it (maybe for good luck?)

Then the game started.  South Africa scored the first goal, not how much into the game.  It was the first corner kick of the game and was headed into the goal.  It was actually a pretty nice goal, but not really what we wanted (South Africa was expected to win this game kind of easily).  But Botswana came back at the middle/end of the first half with a not-as-clean goal (I thought it was a little messy), but a goal nonetheless!  It was crazy how excited everyone got.

Celebrating! And Megan (Case) throwing up the peace sign.

More celebration! It was wild.

Right after the goal, the people on my side of the field started singing a song in Setswana and pointing at the South Africa fans across from us:

The song basically said “we heard you were gossiping about us yesterday and now we’re mad” as a kind of chant against South Africa now that we tied up the score.  The rest of the game was entertaining with a little bit of unnecessary acting (it’s not a real game without it).  Here are some more pictures from half-time.

The same crowd of people who paraded the stands in the international friendly against Lesotho came by our stands during half-time.  This time they brought a human zebra with them!

I don’t know if you can tell, but it’s gotten more crowded since we got to the stadium 2 hrs early.  There were people lined up in front of the seats, so everyone in the stands had to stand up, and all the way up to the fence that kept people out of the track and the field.  When people got excited, they would bang and yank on the fence (a metal fence) and  I was afraid the fence would get knocked over.

So final score: 1-1, which is a good outcome for Botswana, even though that puts them at the bottom of the rankings right now (SA only has 2 points).  But there are still many more games until the World Cup!

That night, we baked a cake for one of the UB students whose birthday was that day.  We decided not to make the cake from scratch, because we don’t have an egg beater, so we had to go with cake mix.  But we didn’t have a baking pan, so, like with all of our other baking endeavors, we had to improvise!  We ended up making a make-shift pan out of tin foil and held it up in a large black tray with a utensils barrier fashioned by Andrew (Rutgers)-we’re engineers! The cake actually turned out really well:

And although we were a little bit worried about what kind of cake mix we used, it didn’t end up tasting like horse-radish!

We gave the cake to the birthday boy a day late (on Sunday) but we had candles and everything.  We’ve learned since our first birthday (Megan’s).  He loved it! And the rest of us did too, because it was like real cake!  I am now 4 for 4 on baking in Botswana 🙂

Last Week Bucket List

After Monday, I only have one week left in Botswana. Weird! But now I have to make sure that I do everything that I can here.  So I made a “Last Week Bucket List.” Sort of.

On Tuesday, we went out to Riverwalk at night thinking we would go do karaoke.  Maren and I have been wanting to do this since the first week we were here, so we were super excited.  But turns out karaoke isn’t on Tuesdays (as one of the UB students told us) and is only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  We were already at Riverwalk though, so instead of just going back to UB, we decided to go to the movies!  There is a movie theater at the mall, and since some of us hadn’t seen The Avengers yet, we had to go watch it.  But before we went in, we had to try to sneak some food in, just like back home 🙂

There was a milkshake place still open that some of the Case students had told us was good.  I spent about 30 minutes deciding what type of milkshake to get and then another 15 minutes deciding what flavor, and in the end it was delicious (I got a Milo and Milo Crumble Whizzo I think).  Now the tricky part was getting our shakes into the movie theater (obviously no food allowed).  Good thing I brought my purse that day!

How I snuck in me and Maren’s snacks for the movie!

The theater was pretty nice.  Since it was a Tuesday night, we were pretty much the only customers there and we were going at the last show time.  When you buy tickets, you buy it for a specific seat which is really cool because then you can guarantee that you sit with your friends!  Here are some pictures of the place:

A waiting area I guess.  It was roped off when we were there.

Concessions.

The theater we were in!  I liked how they call the theaters “cine” here instead.  They have 4 of them.

Hallway by the “cines.”  We were literally the last people to come out of the movie theater, and I felt bad because I knew that the employees were waiting for us to leave, but I wanted to take pictures of everything (for you guys).

Check off the bucket list: Watch a movie in a foreign country.

On Wednesday, no bucket list items were checked off.  Except that Brian started teaching me how to beat box after the electricity went out at night.  Maybe check off the bucket list: Attempt to beat box.

On Thursday, we ACTUALLY went to karaoke, and it was great!  We went to the same place as on Tuesday, but this time we went on the right day.  It was at a bar, so I got to do real bar karaokeing, but I didn’t sing by myself.  The researchers all came and we all sang songs together.

Quick pose in the middle of a song.  We all had a good time I think.  At least I did!

Check off the bucket list: Do karaoke at a bar. (Internationally)

On Friday, I bought my first fan soccer jersey (for Botswana)!  It’s not exactly their jersey, but it is what most of the fans wear.  So I feel like it can count towards my bucket list.  You can see a picture tomorrow because it’s the Botswana vs. South Africa game!  It is a World Cup qualifying match (I don’t remember if I had said this earlier) and so points from this match go to determining continent standings (top 2 teams go to the World Cup).  I’m sure all you soccer fans reading my blog already know this, but it’s for my other not-so-soccer-minded readers (do I have any of those?).

Check off the bucket list: Own a soccer jersey.

I also thought that I would get to watch the South African soccer team practice today in the afternoon, but by the time we got to the stadium, the team had already finished practicing.  False alarm on the bucket list 😦 But on our way back to the dorms, I did find a very interesting plant that has leaves with like 7 points and these weird fruits/not leaves growing on it:

Any ideas Mommy (or any other botanical-minded readers)?

Tomorrow I will check another item off my bucket list that I have long been awaiting to check off:

Attend an international soccer match in another country.

And on Sunday, I will get to check off going to church in a foreign country (Kay said she would take us!).  And soon I will be on a plane back home.  More posts to come as I get ready to go home!

A trip to the village

On Monday, Maren, Andrew (Rutgers), and I went with Megan(Case Western) and her UB partner, Zee, to the villages.  Megan and Zee are doing the economical analysis of solar panels in villages of Botswana, so they have been going out to two villages as their work for the month and surveying the people who live there.  The Botswana government started a solar panel energy program, that is available to the people of Botswana as an alternative to grid access.  Solar panels are rented from the government and provide enough energy to use certain appliances, depending on the plan that the family has bought.  For example, the cheapest plan allows for the use of 4 lightbulbs, 1 TV, charging of 1 cell phone or something like that.  I’m not 100% sure about how it all works, but Megan and Zee basically just ask the families about their source of energy, income, expenses, and other things.  Since we’re done with lab work and are just working on our paper now, we decided to go out to the village one day, to see what it’s like there.

The village we went to, Lentsweletau, is about an hour away from Gaborone and most of the village has access to the city grid, but the government’s solar panel initiative is also used here.  We went to many houses (I lost count) but we got to meet many interesting people.  I didn’t take many pictures, because I thought it might be kind of rude, but I got a few.  Of the houses, one was owned by essentially “royalty” of the village.  He is the grandson or great-grandson of the first chief of the village when they first settled in 1911 in the area.  His house was very nice and he dressed really well.  I didn’t take any pictures of his house (sorry) but Maren did, so I will try to get those from her.  When we left, he gave us a watermelon!  Zee says that the people in the village are really nice to us/them because they don’t get visitors often who just come and sit down to talk to them.

Another house that we went to was of a UB graduate but is now currently unemployed.  She is living off of donations and stuff from her parents and her brother.  It was kind of sad to see that after graduating from the university she is back in the village and cannot support herself.

At one house, we were invited to ride on the lady’s donkey cart! She called it a taxi:

It is pulled by two donkeys and just has two wheels on it.  Maren and I went first and it was kind of scary but also really funny.  I decided it was okay to take pictures of this.

My view from the cart.

She had one of her kids drive the cart!

Megan and Andrew went after us.  Look how un-level the cart is.

The sun setting while we were at the last house.  Those are red bougainvillea flowers! After we started using them for our experiments, I have noticed them everywhere.  Even though they aren’t native to Botswana, they have definitely become a local plant.

When we got back from the village, we went out to get ribs at Bull and Bush, where they have a Monday night ribs special.

The menu!

It was all in all a very good day.  I learned a lot at the village that I can tell you if you want to know, but I think that’s enough for one post.  Only one week left!

Final Presentation

Sunday, we had our final presentations in the afternoons, and then had a BBQ as a final hurrah! for the Case students in the Thermo class, because they were finally done with the class.  Since the students in the class had an exam Sunday morning, all of the research students had to go get the groceries for the BBQ.  We had made a groceries list earlier in the week, and so we went to Riverwalk and split up the job.  For the BBQ, we were having steaks, burgers, and hotdogs as the main meal, with grilled vegetables too (corn, potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers).  On the side, we got lots of chips, stuff to make guac, and for dessert we had chocolate chip cookies (homemade!) and nanners.  If you can picture it, about 8 of us got all the groceries you need to have this much food to feed 50.  We had 3 cart-fulls of food including drinks and silverware/cooking utensils/plates/cups etc. and managed to stay under $300 USD!  It was amazing.  We all brought our backpacks and stuffed as much as we could into those before getting plastic bags (they charge you for those here) but still ended up needing like 10 more bags.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera handy, as it was buried under groceries at the bottom of my bag, so I don’t have any picture evidence of how full one of the kitchen tables was.

Maren and I had to make chocolate chip cookies (150 cookies total) so we started as soon as we got back, because we still needed to prepare for our presentation at 4pm.  But this time, we had a mixing bowl and no need for a ziploc bag.  Yay for having kitchen equipment!  But we still didn’t have an egg-beater, so we used the heating oven to warm up the butter enough for us to mix with a mixing spoon.

Maren will probably hate me for putting this picture of her up, but this is how we did it!  We made 3 batches of cookies in 2.5 hrs and then went to our presentation.  It went really well 🙂 Our professor and PhD student both thought ours was the best (they weren’t biased or anything…)

The whole research crew before our presentations.

Afterwards, we had the BBQ and it was a great success! We bought enough food for everyone, and I was personally worried about the cookies, but we made just the right amount.  I also helped Brian make his nanners for the party.  We were like a little desserts factory making cookies and nanners for everyone.  If you didn’t see it before, his website is http://nolananners.com

I had a really great day and some of the pressure was lifted after we presented.  All we have left to do is to write our final report/paper for the project and then I’ll be home!