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13 posts from June 2013


Week 3 in Botswana!

Dane MelladPost by Dane Mellad from The University of Massachusetts

Week three was a very fun and intriguing week!

In the mornings I attended the clinical and in the afternoons I attended class. Over the weekend I travelled to Serowe.

During week 3 I was assigned to the phase 1 clinic. This clinic is my least favorite so far. Some of the staff seemed over worked. Phase 1 does have a maternity section though and I have been looking forward to observing a birth. Unfortunately, only one woman went into labor while I was around and she did not want anyone to observe the birth.

On a more positive note the phase 1 doctor I worked with was a superior doctor. He really cared about his patients. He was extremely professional and explained different disease and disorders and how they impacted all of the patients that he saw. I learned a good deal of information about different diseases. During this week I met a very nice midwife. She allowed me to measure the expecting mothers stomachs to estimate how many weeks along the mother was. I also used a fetal stethoscope to listen to the babies’ heartbeats. I was also in the weighing room where I watched the mothers weigh their children. It was very interesting because the young children were placed in a giant scale that looked similar to a swing. On my last day at the clinic I recorded patient information at the check-in point.

Blog 1The highlight of my week was travelling to Serowe. It took the group a long time to get there thanks to our super professional bus driver that needed to run errands along the way. When we got to the Rhino Sanctuary we went to dinner. We had an amazing dinner that included my favorite dish, oxtail. After dinner we went on a night game drive. We saw little animals that look like mini kangaroos, bush babies, and many others. That night we saw two male white Rhinos. After the game drive we had a relaxing night by the camp fire where we made smores.

Blog 3In the morning we got up extremely early and went Rhino tracking. We found five large rhinos four of which were females and one was male. The male was huge and according to the guide, he weighed 2.3 tons. After Rhino tracking we had a lovely breakfast and headed back to the city.

Blog 2Week 3 has been a good week for me. I am now looking forward to enjoying my stay in the village with my host family. I hope the upcoming weeks are just as great as week 3 or exceed my expectations.

Amazed by Art!

Image001Post by Katie Schmidt

Wow! These past four weeks have just flown by!

    Between safaris, trips to Victoria Falls and Serowe, clinicals, classes and exploring Gabs, I feel like I’ve hardly had a second to breathe! I’m absolutely loving Bots though. There is so much to do here! There’s shopping, volunteering, and eating phaphata (which deserves a post of its own because it is just that spectacular), so you can always find something to fill the few seconds that are free. Just this morning, I had the opportunity to visit an art exhibition just around the corner from the University of Botswana!

Image002The invitation

I headed out at about 9:30 with three of my friends to the Thapong Visual Arts Centre to check out the South East Art Teachers Association Regional Art Exhibition! We were on a mission – a portion of our Setswana grade depends on a cultural research project and we had chosen to look into Setswana art!  I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we were heading there, but I was excited to see what was waiting for us.

Image003Everyone checking out the sculptures!

When we got there, we noticed a ton of children there in their school uniforms. I thought it was really cool that there were all there on a Saturday morning to look at the art! We went around back and found a group of kids preforming some sort of musical or play. I couldn’t tell what they were saying at all because it was all in Setswana. It must’ve been pretty funny though because the audience was laughing at every other word. But even though I had no idea what was going on, I loved being able to watch it and see everyone light up at their performance. And listening to the songs they sang was so incredible and breathtaking. They represented their culture beautifully.

After that, we decided to walk around outside and check out some of the sculptures. They had everything there – sculptures of people, animals, and places. Someone had carved out a little seat from a tree stump. It even had its own cupholder!

Image004A kgosi (chief) by the kgotla (community meeting area)

Image005Gotta love the attention to detail!

One of the art teachers took us inside the main building and showed us the drawings and paintings inside. He informed us that all of the artwork was done by children in Forms 1-5 (the equivalent of 8th-12th grade). I finally realized that’s what the kids were doing there – they were the stars of the show! All schools in Gaborone have art as an elective for kids in Standards 1-7 and Forms 1-5. And dang, were these kids good! I have zero artistic ability so I was in awe of some of the artwork there. I can’t even begin to describe it, so I’ll just show you some pictures.

Image006This was done by someone in Form 1 (8th grade!)

Image007A painting of a traditional village

Image008An amazing sketch of the wildlife!

All in all it was one of the coolest cultural experiences I’ve had here! I may even have to go back and see if I can purchase one of the paintings to bring back to the States. The world deserves to see these amazing artists! If you’re ever in Gabs, make sure to check these guys out!


Clinics, fat cakes and Setswana!

Photo on 3-27-13 at 4.12 PM #2Post by Elizabeth Doro from University of Minnesota

DSCF0097The third week in Gaborone began with our second clinical rotation at Extentsion 2 Clinic.  Although we were all feeling a little more comfortable navigating the city, we still managed to get lost on the way there (even though it was within walking distance!) My first day was fairly uneventful; I was in the screening room where I was recording temperature and blood pressure.  Although it was not the most exciting job for me, the nurses were having a great time laughing at my attempts at different Setswana words.  I was happy I was able to entertain them!

DSCF0099The second day I was able to go to the lab.  The lab at Extension 2 is one of the biggest in Gaborone specializing in blood samples.  It was incredibly interesting to see a lab in Botswana and to be able to compare it to one in the US.  For just about everything the lab was exactly the same.  The only major difference that I noticed was the “computers” that they used in the lab.  The head tech, Elijah, explained that they referred to the ledgers that they recorded names and samples in as “computers” (I would later spend several hours of the day drawing columns in these).  Although the lab specializes in blood samples, they also do in house testing for urine and sputum.  Elijah demonstrated how a pregnancy test was performed against a positive and negative control.  I felt like I was back in microbiology lab! DSCF0098One of the other days at Extension 2 I was in the dressing room where they bandaged any patients who came in.  A lot of the injuries were household accidents like cuts and burns.  There were, however, a couple crazy cases that came in.  One man had lost a fingernail, another woman had been burned all down her shoulder and back by boiling tea and yet another woman had stab wounds up and down her arms.  Most of theses injuries were not fresh but rather the patients were coming in to have their bandages changed. 

In addition to our clinicals, we also have our classes to keep up with.  Setswana has become more challenging ever since we discovered that it is a tonal language.  Essentially, this means that what sounds correct to our American ears sounds completely different to someone from Botswana (adding a nice challenge).  Our teacher, Kenole, has been very patient with us thus far.  We’re very fortunate that she’s a preschool teacher! In addition to Setswana, we are all taking Environmental Health and the Public Health Practicum as well. 

103_1863Yummy fatcake!

We have definitely been keeping busy with everything we’re doing here so far.  Fortunately, sometimes before class we might have a free minute to stop by and grab a fat cake from the student center!


Our Rhino tracking adventure!

Image007Post by Aina Lehane from University of Rhode Island

This past weekend I traveled north about 5 hours from Gaborone to a town called Serowe in order to visit a Rhino sanctuary. We left Gaborone at 11 in the afternoon on Friday and we had a really slow start due to our driver Brian, but that’s a whole other story…

We arrived in Serowe at about 6 in the evening and checked into our rooms and then we went straight to dinner- we were starving! The food was delicious and once our bellies were full we headed out for a night safari. It was very cold and dark! I had every piece of warm clothing I had with me on and I was still freezing! Image008

We were in the back of a safari truck and the guides were shining lights into the bush and we were all searching for Rhinos. We saw some sleeping impala, and then I was starting to think we would never find the Rhino, but we did! We saw two Rhinos that were out in an open clearing and it was amazing. They are very funny looking animals; they have small short legs and a really long large body and then a huge horn sticking out from their head. They are sought after because of their horns.

Rhino poaching is actually a really big problem in Africa and the Rhino population is dwindling. At the Khama Rhino Sanctuary they have 43 white Rhino and only 4 black Rhino. The Rhinos we saw were white Rhino. Then we went back to our camp site, lit a fire to warm up and hurried off to bed.Image002The next morning we woke up bright and early at 5:15 for our 6am Rhino tracking adventure. Again it was freezing so we all took our duvets from our beds and wrapped ourselves in them. We drove around in the safari trucks until the guides found fresh Rhino tracks which took a while but during that time I was able to see the beautiful sunrise.Image010Image004Once the sun was up it got warmer and soon we were on foot trekking through the bush looking for Rhinos. We were walking through the bush for about 20 minutes and I was starting to doubt that we would see Rhinos but eventually they came into sight.

Image006There were 5 Rhinos: 4 female and 1 male. It was great to be so close to them; it was almost frightening because they are such a dangerous and powerful animal. We were able to watch them for a few minutes and take lots of photos and then we walked all the way back to our truck. I had a great time at the Rhino sanctuary! 

Settling into life in Botswana

1040168_10201430158301974_804899591_oPost by Salpi Apkarian

Week 2 of our adventure in Gaborone had everyone settling in with their living situations, getting to know each other better, and figuring out what life in Botswana is all about.  The first week of our clinicals was sandwiched by trips to the Mokolodi Game Reserve and Victoria Falls, both of which were beautiful trips into the nature surrounding a city.  Besides those, each group also participated in a Combi Safari that involved trekking all over Gaborone on public transportation and getting to know the sites as well as the members of our group.  All in all, it has been a great introduction to the city and life here overall. DSC05315

Victoria Falls

Seeing the first week of clinics in action has been eye-opening for all, especially for me. In one of the smaller clinics in Gaborone, known as the Phase II Clinic, there should be eight nurses working there each day, but instead only four or five showed up each day that we were there.  Thus, they were extremely short on manpower and this problem was not helped by their lack of supplies in general.  These two issues were clearly the most pressing problem that nurses and patients were dealing with, and all the other challenges facing the clinic stemmed from a lack of these two basics.  I learned a lot about the healthcare system as a whole from working with the nurses, and although several of them pointed out problems with patients and the government, they were all very supportive of the child vaccination and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programs run by the government.  I saw both of these programs in action in the Maternal Child Health ward at Phase II, and from what I saw the patients who come in are treated thoroughly and efficiently. IMG_5069

Besides the clinics, we also started classes last week.  Our Setswana Language and Culture is taught by teachers of Peace Corps volunteers, and they all know how to teach to Setswana to Americans who are doing almost exactly what we are doing.  Our Community Public Health Practicum involves lectures on public health and Botswana health systems as well as group discussions and reflections on our morning clinic work.  We are forced to share our stories with each other and our professor in a productive, fun way, and reflect on the implications of what we see in the clinics.  Our Public and Environmental Health lecture class is yet another opportunity to lean more about the challenges facing the Botswana health system and the involvement of environment in health, as well as interventions that take place in an attempt to improve both components. IMG_5149

As we settle into a routine of clinic work, classes, and weekend excursions, everyone is learning more about the culture, infrastructure, and day-to-day life of Botswana in the best way possible – through complete immersion.  Especially for those of us in homestay families, there is no escape from the Batswana people and their way of life.  As I am realizing more and more, there are infinitely more similarities than differences among us, and I look forward to becoming even more invested in Botswana life because of that. DSC04455


Rediscovering Africa

DSC_1107Post by Jordan Threatt from Wingate University

Image005It’s crazy to think that only a short time ago I arrived in Botswana. All the experiences that this group has shared have been filled with excitement, wonder and a tiny dash of fear. The people I have met on this trip have made such an impact on my life that I would never be able to reciprocate. Words cannot describe how awesome this opportunity to study abroad in Botswana is. There have already been countless memories and experiences that I will forever remember from this trip. Image001Coming to Botswana was a very personal decision for me due to the fact that my parents once lived here before I was born. Botswana has been a part of me my whole life and now I am finally discovering all of its treasures.

After finishing the first week of clinic rotations I realized something about myself that I never fully explored before. I never thought I would enjoy working as a nurse or health care worker due to the amount of stress and the intense medical experience required. Although I have still yet to fully experience all of the trials being a nurse can bring, I have found a new love for health care field. These nurses spend their days helping those in need by giving out medications, checking vital signs, listening to patient's life stories, and so much more. The opportunities that a nurse is given to change someone’s life are incredible in so many ways. Thankfully I was given the experience of shadowing some excellent nurses this past week. Although we still have some differences in sanitation regulations, the nurses who work at these clinics truly show what it means to be a health care worker.

Image007I’ve learned a lot about the culture of Botswana and how different it is compared to other nations. Throughout my life I’ve had the privilege to experience various cultures and traditions. Botswana so far has been similar as well as very drastic in comparison. Image003I thought that by coming to this country I would find a part of myself that I thought was missing but that wasn’t the case at all. I was only rediscovering a part of me that I had lost and that was my love for Africa. I am very thankful to have had this opportunity and to meet such wonderful people who have changed my life forever. Thank you CIEE!

Goodbye Nebraska, Hello Gaborone!

941803_10151522925674792_1255246804_nPost by Muijj Ghani from Doane College

Saying Bye Sort of 

943724_10151522925569792_513674482_nThe day finally came for my trip to Botswana. Fresh off a hectic second semester and a conference win for tennis, I was pretty excited a bit nervous but not very. I had a 24 hour layover in New York which wasn't really much of a problem. I got to enjoy the city for a day before coming back to the airport which was nice. Saying goodbye to the family in Nebraska was tough. My mom and sister cried and my dog was depressed when I left. My dad was pretty calm as always. I am sure they will be fine at least I hope they will be. Lots of people have no idea where Botswana is. I am not just talking about Nebraska but also New York. Hard to believe how ignorant some people are about the world. 


Being in the airport was fun. I've always enjoyed flying and this was one of the few times I actually flew alone. Airport security was nice, I wasn't part of any random checks unlike the guy who sat next to me on the flight to Johannesburg. Surprisingly, there was most of my program on the same flight to Jo'burg. I got to know a lot of them on the flight to Gaborone, Botswana. They all seem very nice.

934731_10201369654109641_1521453500_nThere are five guys in the whole program but we all get along very nicely. It was only the first day, but we were already cracking jokes and having a few inside ones too. After a week of getting our assigned rooms, getting introduced to our clinics, classes, and other people in our group, our group began to get used to Botswana. Adapting was not that tough for me though I knew of others having a tough time adjusting. Either way, everyone was adjusted enough by the second week to plan a trip to Victoria Falls. We were going to be in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The bus ride was long but I slept most of the way so didn't really notice much. When we finally arrived at our backpacker we ate dinner and woke up early in the morning. I had crocodile curry which tasted exactly like chicken. 

Vic Falls 

944351_10151538083449387_751587708_n (1)We got to Vic Falls very early in the morning. We were basically the only people there so that was nice. When we were walking in these guys tried selling us raincoats and we ignored them thinking we didn't really need them. We did. I didn't bring my camera, but luckily the others were willing to take pictures of me there so I appreciated that. After getting soaked for about an hour, our group sort of set up camp at a dry area to let our clothes dry off. We later saw the rest of the town and ate lunch before leaving for Zambia. Unfortunately, we could not go see the falls from this side since we got there very late and had to leave fairly early. Either way, Vic Falls was definitely memorable and was easily the best part of my second week in Africa.

Finally in Botswana!

IMG_0385 - Copy (2)Post by Garett Donaldson from the University of Nebraska (Lincoln)

I cannot believe I am finally in Botswana!  I have been looking forward to this opportunity ever since I found out about this program.  The chance to participate in medical clinics and take classes while just chilling out in Africa seemed like the perfect summer for me.  So, when I finally stepped off the plane in Gaborone, I was ready for my adventure to finally begin.

I started learning about the culture right off the bat during the bus ride from the airport to the hotel.  The first thing that stood out to me was that there were cows just wandering around the streets, with no apparent boundaries or identification for that matter.  That’s when I was told about the importance of cows in Setswana culture.  Most families in Botswana own cows, and they have been used in many important transactions, from marriage dowries to funding the University of Botswana.  They even appear on the nation’s seal and on some of their coins.  I could already tell that I was going to learn a lot from this trip. 

IMG_0426The next day, I was assigned to my host family!  I have a mother and two younger brothers, ages 10 and 8.  I grew up with only a sister, so I am excited to finally have the chance to have some brothers.  I have had so much fun playing soccer with the boys and learning about the culture here in Botswana just from living with a local family.  

IMG_0311Later in the week, we went to Mokolodi Nature Reserve, where we went on a safari truck tour of the reserve.  We saw tons of Kudu, Impala, Warthogs, and even Giraffes and Hippos!  This is when it finally began to sink in that we were in Africa.  That evening, we had time to bond as a group over dinner, outside in the perfect weather with a beautiful view of the sunset and nature. 

On Saturday, we went on a combi photo scavenger hunt in order to help us discover the city and to learn how to use the public transportation system.  They use vehicles called “combis" to transport people, and they are essentially converted vans that hold 14 passengers, although I have been in a combi with up to 19 people packed inside.  It’s been a new type of challenge learning how to navigate through town with these vans, but I am already feeling like I have mastered the routes I need to know! 

IMG_0330On the scavenger hunt, one of our first stops was at Main Mall, which has an open-air market.  We bought treats and souvenirs from local vendors, and we even got to try the odd local cuisine: dried and salted caterpillars.  The adventure did not stop there!  We saw all of the local sites, and we ended our tour with a hike up Kgale Hill, a hill overlooking the city on its south side.  The view was amazing, and it was the perfect place to end our first week in Botswana! IMG_0385

It's official, I'm adopting 20 children!

Head ShotPost by Michelle Vu from the University of Illinois (Chicago)

I've fallen madly in love with Africa and its children.

This past Saturday, I volunteered at the Tlamelo trust in Old Naledi, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Gaborone. Monday through Saturday, the trust takes care of over two hundred orphans and homeless children. They provide them with what would probably be their only meal of the day, fun games and activities to play, and even homework help. From the moment I walked through the gate to the second I left, there was always at least five children holding on to me. You could tell that they just wanted to be loved...every little kid I hugged would NOT let go! I had to keep prying them off of my arms and legs.

IMG_9854The man in charge of this amazing trust is Mr. Mathata (pictured above). If you know the Lion King, you know that his name means "Mr. Problem." But, unlike his name, he doesn't cause problems...he erases them. Mr. Mathata is such an inspiration. He grew up homeless in Old Naledi and against all odds, he did well in school and attended the University of Botswana. After graduating, he decided to return to Old Naledi to run the trust and he literally does everything: he organizes all the food and clothing donations, plans sports games for the kids to play, and, most importantly, every single child thinks of Mr. Mathata as their Father. The entire city of Gaborone knows Mr. Mathata and calls him "the beggar" because every day, he will travel to local businesses and restaurants begging for food and clothing for the orphans. I don't know how he does it day in and day out; he's amazing!

IMG_9860At the trust, I helped serve lunch to the children; the food we gave them would most likely be the only food they eat until they returned the next day. Once they were given their meal, they were sent outside to eat. However, I soon discovered that the food we gave the kids would be scarfed down in seconds, and they would quickly come to the windows in order to beg for more. It killed me not being able to give them more food. From the windows, children kept calling my name (they had learned it earlier): "Michelle please! Please Michelle can I just have a little bit more bread! Is there any more bread that I can eat? PLEASE!" It was absolutely terrible and heartbreaking to have hundreds of kids swarmed around the windows desperately asking for the last small crumb of bread. 

I took so many photos of these beautiful children! They loved having their picture taken and giggled every time they saw their face on my camera. Here are some of my favorite shots:

IMG_9658IMG_9760IMG_9844I can't wait to come back and visit these children soon! But sorry Mom and Dad, I'm not coming home unless I get to take twenty kids with me!!!


A weekend at Victoria Falls!

Post by Alvin George from the University of Illinois (Chicago)

Last week, 23 of us visited one of the seven natural wonders of the world: Victoria Falls. The journey there was very tiring, but it would all be worth it the following day. We left Gaborone before 5:00am and travelled to the Victoria Falls Rest Camp in Zimbabwe. We actually saw many animals on the road to Zimbabwe, including an African elephant and some giraffes! The elephant was especially amazing because it was right on the side of the road.

DSC01429The next day, we split off into groups according to what activities we wanted to do. Some rode the elephants, some bungee jumped, and some were like me and simply explored Victoria Falls. My group got to the park around 6:00am so we could catch the sunrise above the falls. It’s amazing how the environment dramatically becomes tropical once you approach the falls. Apparently this time of the year is “high-water” season, so most of us practically got soaked by the time we left. There’s a lot of mist and sometimes the water just pours down. In fact, some people even took a shower!

DSC01483Following Vic Falls, we visited the local craft stores to look around and buy souvenirs. When visiting any vendor, remember to bargain! Many of us came out with ridiculous deals. The salesmen here were so persistent that they asked us to trade our belongings (clothes) in exchange for souvenirs! It is interesting to note that Zimbabwe went through a period of hyperinflation, so they have now adopted the US dollar. Therefore, some people were trying to sell the old Zimbabwean dollar as souvenirs. The inflation was apparently so bad that we even saw an actual 100 trillion dollar bill. That’s right, 100 with 12 zero’s after it!

DSC01618Ironically enough, I ate crocodile in Zimbabwe. Anyway, this is just one of the many excursions available in Zambia.

By the end of the day, we crossed the border to Zambia where we stayed the night at Jolly Boy’s. We didn’t have the time to really explore Zambia, so we just went out and ate in one of their restaurants. There were people in the streets playing their vuvuzelas as the Zambian soccer team had just won a World Cup qualifier match against Lesotho. It was nice to relax after trekking through Zimbabwe earlier.


This is the lower part of the Zambezi River where people go zip-lining and bungee jumping.

We crossed the Zambia-Botswana border with a free ferry ride. The ferry was basically a large platform that transports trucks and other vehicles…with people clumped in any available open space remaining. We then took the bus back to Gaborone. It would’ve been nice to have spent more days around Vic Falls, but you’re not always going to have the amount of time to do all the things that you want. This trip definitely took lots of organization, and we learned quickly to always have a Plan B. This was an excellent opportunity to explore other parts of Africa and only makes me more excited for the weeks ahead!