I had heard about the Mopane worms. They get their name from the Mopane trees which they live on. At a certain time of the year they cover the trees and people harvest them. They are eaten in a variety of ways. One of the current Peace Corps volunteers brought some for us to try out. These were dried and had the color of boiled peanuts, but were dry, and upon closer inspection look like a caterpillar with no fur. They were about 1.5 inches long and ½ inch thick. Tish ate one first and said it tasted like “chicken skin”. I popped one in my mouth and crunched down. Tish was laughing at the look on my face as I chewed on the worm. There really wasn’t much taste, it was like eating a stick or dirt or something. It won’t be a staple in our house. Coincidentally, they served some kind of cooked version of the Mopane worms today at dinner – I passed.
(If I can ever get a fast internet connection, I will upload some pictures. That is not likely to happen for several months. In the meantime, you will have to use your imagination.)
The meals here have been really nice, a lot of starches and meat (and an occasional Mopane worm). Meats are usually chicken, fish and beef, however yesterday they served Kudu which was interesting.
The attitude of our group is very upbeat. Everyone is excited and a little nervous. We see that the job ahead is challenging and important, and life will be SO different for us.
We have been meeting from 8 am until about 5 pm. We have had several hours of Setswana lessons daily mixed with classes on the Peace Corps projects, Safety and Security briefings, and what to expect from home stay. The Setswana lessons were to get us up to speed so we could at least greet and introduce ourselves to our hosts.
In addition to the training we also have had meetings with the medical people. We get shots every day. Hep A, Hep B, Rabies, Meningitis, and others. We will continue to get shots for weeks. We are taking Malaria pills and fortunately have not had any side effects yet (knock on wood).
The best part of the training has been the presence of the VAC (Volunteer Assistance Council). These are eight current Peace Corps volunteers who are elected to represent their counterparts who do the same jobs. Some of the jobs are: Community Capacity Builders, NGO Capacity Builders, District Community Liaison, Life Skills Advisors, etc). We spent time during the meals with most of them discussing what they have been doing and how they had adjusted to life in Botswana. From them we get the unvarnished truth, from the horse’s mouth and the news is good. They are doing amazing things in their villages, and they are having amazing fun on their off time. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We are staying at The Big Five lodge which is nice – very nice by local standards. Crime is a little more of a worry in Gaborone, so it was suggested we not leave the compound in the evening, so Tish and I have not left the grounds at all. Tomorrow we leave in the morning for a 60 mile trip to Kanye where we will live with our host family and continue our Pre-Service Training. It will be good to get out and see the African countryside.