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3 posts from March 2016


A Mid-Semester Break Spent Exploring Southern Africa


Rachel 1

Post by Rachel Mow from Harvey Mudd College

At the halfway point in the semester we are given a week off of school, which means a week free to travel. A group of us decided this was an excellent time to experience as much of Southern Africa as possible in a nine day period. We hired our favorite cab driver, Bethel, to drive us in his minivan to our locations of choice. The first stop was Swakopmond, which is an adorable beach town in Namibia. The town had a beautiful path leading several miles along the beach, restaurants and cafes with real coffee, and tons of shops perfect for buying gifts and souvenirs. Swakopmond is also famous for its sand dunes, which are a quick drive from the town center. We decided the best way to experience the dunes was to ride ATVs and sand board. It turns out that sandboarding involves laying on a thin sheet of plywood and being shoved face first down an incredibly steep sand dune.

Rachel 2Riding ATVs through the Sand Dunes of Namibia

After experiencing Swakopmond, we continued the trek along the Caprivi Strip and into Zambia to see Victoria Falls. The campsite we stayed at on the Caprivi Strip was on the mouth of the Okovango River. A family of four hippos resided just across the river from our campsite and we could hear them roaring all night. The campsite also had a cage in the river so that we could swim without getting eaten by hippos and crocodiles!

After a series of misadventures, including a long border crossing, getting lost, and a flat tire, we arrived in Livingstone, Zambia. After spending a night in the Jolly Boys Backpackers Hostel, we ventured out to Angel’s Pool at Victoria Falls. The typical toursist destination is Devil’s Pool, but it was closed because the falls had too much water. Angel’s Pool is similar to Devil’s Pool, just rather than swimming out to it we only had to hold hands and wade through the river. Following our guide, we went swimming a few short meters from the edge of the falls. I would highly recommend this activity to anyone visiting the Falls, although it may not always be open. If there had been much more water it would be very easy to get swept right off the edge.

Rachel 3A View of Victoria Falls from the Park

Some of the other CIEE students I was travelling with also bungee jumped off the bridge over the river separating Zambia and Zimbabwe. Just from watching them, I would not recommend if you are afraid of heights. We also went to the Victoria Falls Park, where you can walk along a path right next to the Falls. We were warned to bring rain coats, but buying an actual poncho would have been more effective. I expected a gentle mist from the falls, but they are so large that the “mist” is actually a torrential downpour. At times it felt as if we were standing underneath the falls, even though we were several hundred feet away. However, when the mist cleared the view was astounding. Victoria Falls is even more incredible than I could have ever imagined.

Rachel 4We met up with some of the UB international students at Victoria Falls and got mildly soaked exploring Victoria Falls

On our way back to Gaborone, we spent a couple nights in Maun to experience the Okavango Delta. One afternoon we did a horseback safari through the delta, which felt like a great way to see and experience it. The horses trekked through long grass, crossed the delta several times, and went through a nice wooded path. As a beginner horse rider, I almost got thrown from the horse. But we all survived our various adventures, only losing two car tires on the way. By far the best mid-semester break I have ever had!

Sala sentle!



A Weekend in Kanye

Gen 6

Post by Genevieve Brandt from Pacific Lutheran University 

Last weekend we went to the village of Kanye, only 100 km away, to do a homestay. We arrived on Friday afternoon and got to meet our host families. After eating lunch as a group, we headed off to our homes to spend time getting to know our families. I stayed with a lady named Pelonumi, or Nunu for short. She had a beautiful house on a hill in the village, and made me feel at home right away.

Gen 4Nunu’s home, where I stayed for the weekend

Nunu showed me around her house, and I found out that she had running water available. This was surprising to find out, because most of the houses in Kanye did not. The water shortage in Botswana and the hills in Kanye make the water situation unreliable. Many villagers must walk outside of their house to fill up buckets, or have saved water inside from the few times when the water comes on. The unreliable water situation makes the cold showers at UB feel like a luxury.

Gen 2The view of Kanye from the top of the hill behind my house.

I quickly felt the slow pace of village life when shortly after arriving, Nunu informed me that it was now time for a rest, and she would be waking up in a few hours. After my week of staying up late working on essays, I was relieved to hear this and took a nice nap. When we woke up, she gave me a walking tour of the village as we went to the supermarket to get groceries for dinner. I appreciated the beauty of Kanye because Gaborone is much less green. They also had hills in Kanye, which was exciting to see after flat Gaborone.

Gen 2The refreshing scenery of Kanye was very different from Gaborone, with hills and green on the side of roads.

On Saturday, the entire CIEE group went to Motse Lodge in order to learn about traditional village life. We got to experience making clay pots, building a wall, and making phaphata, which is traditional bread. After doing these activities, we went on a short hike to the dam nearby. It was a new concept to see water in Botswana, even though I know that this dam is at much lower levels than needed. After returning, we learned how to milk goats. They were really not into the process, but one of the goats let us try. It was a fun day at Motse learning more about life in villages, especially ones that are not as large and developed as Kanye.

Gen 3A donkey drinking water from the dam near Motse Lodge. The donkey had been working hard pulling the cart of people to the dam

Sunday was my last day in Kanye, and I spent it with Nunu at her house. We have a Setswana midterm coming up this week, and Nunu was able to help me with my studying. We also went on a walk to visit the Kgotla, which is the traditional court. Villagers visit the Kgotla to see the chief and discuss matters that involve the city. I was happy that Nunu was able to show me around her village. It was a relaxing weekend away from the city, and I hope to visit Nunu again soon.

Gen5Me and my host mother, Nunu.


Spring 2016 Issue II - Volunteer Day at Batlang Education Centre



Spring '16 at Batlang Support Group Volunteer Day


When we take a  look back at the semester in  retrospect, it is  often the days we forget our individualistic needs  and look at what is happening around us that resolve in being the most meaningful. Like all places, there are sectors within the community that could use a just a little push to get through. CIEE Gaborone makes it a point to seek out an organization within the community each semester to give a helping hand. The aim of this semester's volunteer day was to try and help improve the learning environment for the children at Batlang. We coordinated a volunteer day that encompassed various activities such as cleaning, painting, fun games and a minimal book and food donation.

Here's what's in this issue:

About Batlang
All Hands In
 Moving Forward

About Batlang

Batlang  Support Group was founded in 2003 in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was affecting the residents of Mogoditshane, a village located on the outskirts of Gaborone. Batlang has grown immensely since it opened. The group first begun as a feeding center for orphans and vulnerable children in and around the area and later expanded their services to include abstinence awareness and behavior change in local schools, as well as providing, care and support for those who need it most.

Currently, a full-time pre-school/kindergarten for over 60 children aged 2-6 years is facilitated by staff volunteers . Additionally, members of staff extend this hand to a local junior school by teaching life skills at the Mogoditshane Community Junior Secondary School to assist adolescents with everyday challenges. Like most non profit organizations, small donations can go a long way. We decided to support them  by
lending a helping hand.

All Hands In

On Saturday 27th February, the CIEE Gaborone students arrived bright and early at 8 am, to get the ball rolling. The day was spear headed by our two student volunteers Luisure and Keya, along with a committee they had formed, who did an outstanding job planning and managing the CIEE team before and upon arrival at Batlang Support Group. The CIEE students, staff and volunteers had been strategically split into a kitchen crew, two painting crews, a couple handy men (well, mostly women)  and of coarse a cleaning crew. 

The first order of the day, was painting! Overall, the surroundings were run-off-the-mill and our team hoped to liven up the surroundings by painting in and around the center. The murals were to create a more educative space in order to escalate student attentiveness and a more educative enviroment. Take a look at some photos below: 

DSC_0039Nina creating a mural outside with the help of fellow students and  local friends!

Letter 1

Jake & Justin were some of our favorite painters!

Letter3          The finished product was just amazing! (check out those tyres, super awesome!)

Our students and volunteers along with the help of some locals from the community also took some time to refurbish a few of the tables used at Batlang. They added wonderful color to the classrooms and really made an impactful change; check out some scenes of the process and end product:

4Nina, Keya and some locals from the community working on the tables

Letter4Jake did a superb job painting!

13The end product was amazing and made such a difference to the classroom! What a superb job!

The rest of our painting crew did an awesome job within the center. They drew alphabets, numbers, dinosaurs and days of the week in the student rooms.  They were impressively resourceful and the rooms looked bright and cosy! 

 31Eliza  painted a beautiful garden  in the students classroom

One Days of the week and alphabets made a colorful addition to the rooms! 

In one of the rooms, Akira, Eliza and Madison created a fantastic tree and recruited a few little special helpers to assist them with their wall painting. It was such an amazing contribution and the toddlers of Batlang took part in creating something meaningful that will resonate with them and all those to follow! 

8The toddlers of Batlang making the leaves of the tree with their hand prints!

The hefty cleaning crew graciously took care of the rest rooms, sick bay and play areas so as leave a spotless environment for everyone to enjoy. A few of our students put up new curtain rails and curtains around the center to brighten up the place. We also added some bag hangers in the common room to help with space and organization.

TwoThe cleaning crew hard at work, they did an amazing job getting everything in top shape!

15The volunteers getting the curtains ready!

Whilst the painting and cleaning was under way, our kitchen crew was swiftly preparing for the young members of Batlang to arrive.  They made hotdogs, and juice and topped it off with fruit and snacks. The CIEE crew sat amongst the children and enjoyed the mini brunch.

  Three Brunch Prep!

After brunch, all the students of Batlang sat in a circle and taught our team some fun Tswana games, which included their own version of  duck duck goose.  


Playing duck duck goose !

Moving Forward

The day was a total success! CIEE Gaborone is proud to give back to such a great organization, and to support Batlang's vision. The CIEE crew donated a few items to the centre, including books, crayons,  craft supplies and some non perishable food stuff! Moving forward we hope to to continue the wonderful partnership established between Batlang Support Group and CIEE Gaborone. Till next time, Sala Sentle (Stay Well)!