Upcoming Shenanigans

For your enjoyment, here’s a photo from an upcoming post….exciting stuff!
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And yes, that is a real hippo, the fiercest of all safari animals.
-Jen

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Critters All Around the Garden

Croak!

Croak!

I can’t quite emphasize how much I LOVE critters in the garden. Seriously, if you want to see me get insanely excited, just ask me about starting a worm farm or building a frog pond. Toss around the idea of building a chicken tractor or constructing a lizard hotel. See my eyes light up and be prepared for an excited tirade on the benefits of having such critters in your garden.

Yes, I’m from small-town Iowa, and I use the words critter. And yes, I may have some redneck blood in me.

Anyways, this term my school has built a few lizard hotels and a frog pond. Now, before you get too impressed, a lizard hotel is essentially a pile of rocks. The lizards sleep inside and sun on the rocks during the day. Before you don’t get excited enough, the frog pond is seriously impressive, considering I live in the Kalahari Desert.

Our frog pond!

Our frog pond!

Actually, the frog pond is even more awesome because it is made of 100% found and recycled materials. No money invested whatsoever. We took an old basin, some rocks, empty feed sacks, a few bamboo branches, and some bricks and constructed this beautiful frog pond. And since we wanted to recycle water runoff from the garden tap, we constructed this beautiful swale to channel water into the frog pond. Plants will grow around it to shade the pond (notice the little peach tree and spinach…other things will soon be planted as well).

My counterpart and I had asked some learners to collect frogs from the temporary watering holes (they have finally filled up with the rain!), but none of the learners had brought them. Last night, after I had locked my burglar door and was settling down to read, I hear a knock on my door. My host brother and sister had found a frog in the yard, but we too scared to catch it. Oh I laughed! So the “little white girl” had to catch the frog and find something to keep it in. I caught him without so much as a squeal-I am proud of myself! I did have fun scaring my host family and teachers the next day, and now I’m 100% certain my host family thinks I’m crazy.

Me with my new friend.

Me with my new friend.

So now I have a pet frog, and will hopefully capture 1 or 2 more. My worms are happy and I need to harvest their compost soon. I haven’t seen any lizards, and I might have to catch some of those-as long as I can determine they aren’t poisonous.

Critters are awesome in the garden because they eat bugs, but not the plants. Since most of the bugs eat our plants, I am super excited to have nature be our pest control. And frogs are pretty cute after all. I kinda want to keep one as a pet, but I don’t have a good home for it. And maybe someday we can have a chicken tractor at school, though I think they villagers would steal the chickens.
-Jen

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Letting him into his new home!

Letting him into his new home!

They Will Bite Me and I Will Go to Heaven

Worms! This is one BRAVE girl!

Worms! This is one BRAVE girl!

The title of this post was something one of the garden workers told me awhile back. We weren’t talking about fierce creatures, like snakes, lions, or vicious-flesh-eating-ants. We were talking about….earthworms.

I started a wormery at school in September, and I underestimated how terrified people are of worms here. In the US, some kids will be squeamish about worms, and a few adults will have nothing to do with them. But any gardener worth their weight in compost LOVES worms, and would love to have some in their garden.

Don’t get me wrong, my counterpart was excited to have a wormery. But if she even saw a worm, she’s scream and occasionally run out the door. I found about 2 adults that will stand to touch them. The kids are a little better about it, but when I pass worms around to a class, one inevitably ends up on the ground, quickly rescued by me before hoards of trampling feet claim it. The boys squeal as much as the girls.

Tswanas equate worms with snakes, and do not trust me when I tell them they aren’t. I explained that worms have no teeth, worms cannot bite, and worms are not snakes in Garden Club today, and the club chanted after me in Tswana smiling. Apparently I’ve said this to them more than once!

The good news is that the more I handle worms, the more the kids are willing to touch them. They think I’m less crazy as time goes on, I guess. I had a Garden Club meeting today where kids made their own wormeries to understand how worms turn stuff into compost, so the kids had to face their worm fears. When I took out my camera, most of the squeals turned into smiles, so this is now my secret weapon. Want a picture? Touch a worm!

I even got my counterpart to touch (TOUCH!) a worm today!!! Big BIG big deal!!
-Jen

Preparing the wormery.

Preparing the wormery.

Handed out worms and terrified the girls (esp girl on the right-face of terror!)

Handed out worms and terrified the girls (esp girl on the right-face of terror!)

Honestly, I have no clue what was going on here. These kids are nuts.

Honestly, I have no clue what was going on here. These kids are nuts.

Family Pictures

My sister took a few pics of my parents and I, so I can print them off and show people in my African village what my family is like.   Here’s a few of them.  Which one should I print off?

This one?

Or this one?

Megan was singing, so we put on the ear-protecting earmuffs that Dad uses when shooting.  They didn’t really block out the sound, but they did help.

And here’s Megan and her dog Cooper.  I didn’t want to leave her out of the family photos.

-Jen

Shenanigans

I’ve been pretty busy while I’ve been back, as lots of people want to see me and there are a lot of things I want to do (and eat).  However, I have had some time to play some pranks and be pretty goofy.   🙂

Last week, my Mom, sister, best friend Vic, her sister, and I went to the Dutchman’s Store in Cantril.  The Dutchman’s Store is run by the Amish, and is a “traditional” general store.  They have EVERYTHING! I always love going there, as I always find fun, odd snacks and treats.  And they have a great selection of gummies, including gummy chicken feet.  We went a little overboard with the gummies, maybe. Just maybe.  Oh yeah, and we spent the whole ride there and back talking without showing our teeth, mainly saying the names of vegetables.  We were really goofy, but try it. Asparagus!

My Mom, me, Vic, and Sam with our snacks.

It doesn’t look like it, but Vic has 4 tubs of gummies on her lap.  I’m not the only one that bought multiple packages!

Vic and I in the gummy aisle!

Later in the week, Vic, Mom, and I went to Le Claire, Iowa to Antique Archaeology, from the show American Pickers.  DJ, from Khayalethu Backpackers in PTA watches the show all the time, and he was excited when he found out I lived in Iowa.  So I convinced Mom to go (which wasn’t hard) and we checked out the store.  It was really small, but cool.  And I found a little present for DJ.  On the way home from Le Claire, Mom accidentally drove into a construction site.  That was really embarrassing, so every time a construction worker came near the car, Vic and I pretended to be asleep.  This video explains this method of avoiding embarrassment.  It would have worked better if we could stop smiling.

We stopped for Starbucks, and decided to visit the apartment of a friend.  He wasn’t home, but we had a key!  Sooooo we convinced Mom to drive us there while we thought of what we could do.  Vic mentioned taking his cat and every single thing associated with the cat, but as we were all allergic, that wouldn’t work.  So I mentioned rearranging furniture, which we decided was a good idea.  We ended up flipping his coffee table upside-down, the piling everything from the table on top of it.  We got a call a little later….he had called his landlord to find out if any workmen had been in.  Hahaha!!

It was way more fun than it looks.

We met up with Vic’s family, my family, and my grandparents at Pizza Ranch, which is a delicious restaurant.  Vic doesn’t like it, which I didn’t know. I managed to get a “hostage” picture of her, to prove she was there. Ha!

 

This morning, my sister and I dug out our old marshmallow guns.  They are awesome, and Meg and I staked out the camper and attacked Mom and Dad when they woke up.  The dogs really liked helping us clean up the marshmallows.  Because part of our roof is missing, Mom and Dad are sleeping in the camper and Meg and I are in the house.  About a week before I came home, straight line winds tore part of the roof off and caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.  Good thing we have insurance! Meg and I have some other pranks planned…mwahahaha!

-Jen

Lockdown Unlocked

A PCV’s first three months at site (worldwide) is called the Community Integration Period by PC staff.  We call it lockdown.  Why?  Well, during the first three months at site, you are not allowed to travel or even spend the night away from your site.  This is to help you make friends with community members, learn about your schools (for us education PCVs), learn the local dialect of language, and figure things out all on your own.

As you can imagine, this is a very trying time.  We were told you will hit your highest highs and lowest lows during lockdown.  It is also a bit maddening to be in a country for 5 months now without having done any traveling or sightseeing.

However, I realized yesterday that lockdown has really done its job well.  I embarking on a journey that will keep me away from sight for more than three weeks (10 days training and 10+ days of traveling and visiting PCVs).  I realized yesterday that I did not want to leave my little home and host family, I would miss my fellow teachers, and I wouldn’t get to see my semi-adopted dog for quite awhile.  And I was sad.  Integrated into the community?  I think so.  In love with my site?  Yup!

Lockdown has been particularly challenging because it is the end of the school year.  This means that teachers are frustrated and frantic to teach things they ignored all year, learners are not coming to school unless they have an exam, and everyone at the school is attempting to enter marks and wrap up the school year.  So there was either a massive amount of work for me to do in just a few hours, or nothing to do for days at a time.  I was also trying to complete my Phase 2 assignments for PC, which was composed of (sometimes silly) tasks to do each week to help me understand my schools and community.  I was not teaching regularly, which meant I didn’t ever know what I would be doing from one day to another.

Can you imagine why lockdown is a challenging time?  And I haven’t had a shower in three months (tomorrow….Praise the LORD!!)

But I have survived, and am prepared to take on the new school year and be a rockstar PCV.  And surprisingly, NOBODY in our SA24 has ET’d during this period-impressive!

-Jen