Swim gala, building, visitors, a breakdown and covid-19

Tobias’ parents and brother arrived to spend 2 weeks with us before heading back home with their eldest son. We managed to squeeze in a bush trip while they were here, heading to our beloved Mababe. They spent the rest of their holiday lazying around at our home and catching some vitamin D.

Just a week after they had left we welcomed Oma (grandma) Kristin from Norway into our home. Her plan was to spend 3 weeks in Botswana traveling with a close friend. But her friend had to abandon the trip due to health issues. This meant that grandma had the choice of joining us to Gaborone the day after her arrival or to stay behind by herself. As we were taking our kids down for the North vs South schools swim gala, which both our boys managed to qualify for. She obviously joined in on a day spent in the car to make the 1000 km journey to the capital. Just 200 km short of ending the long day our car suddenly overheated and I managed to let it roll into the shade of a tree. Opening the bonnet I discovered that the pipe from the engine to the radiator had burst…

Within a few minutes I had the pipe removed and asked a friendly passer by to help me find a new pipe in the nearest town 20 km away. The only thing left to do now was wait…

Two hours later they had returned and the pipe was in place. The radiator filled up with the last of our drinking water and we were ready to roll, arriving late that evening. The following day I took the boys to meet up with the northern team for a team practice and to get their gear. All in orange they were ready for the races.

The first races were to start off in the afternoon and both the boys and us parents were excited. The southern team had created a fantastic atmosphere, complemented by the northern supporters in orange! The stands were filled with cheering parents, family and friends.

Two days of exciting races came to an end and the boys were happy to score some medals. Robin earning 2 and Nicolas 4.

Now we just had to wait for our car to be cleared. I had taken it to a mechanic to make sure the cylinder head was alright. Unfortunately for Oma Kristin the corona virus was in full swing in the rest of the world and she decided to take the next possible flight home, after she had conferred with her doctor son and daughter. She had spent a total of 3 nights in Botswana! After having gotten off the plane she spent the next day sitting 10 hours in a car, see her grandchildren swim and then fly back home again… at least we got to see her! Looking forward to a longer visit next time.

We eventually made our way home safe and sound without car troubles. Although covid-19 was a reality in most parts of the world, Botswana only confirmed its first cases yesterday. The government did close schools a few weeks ago and encouraged social distancing early to minimize any potential spread. How realistic the numbers are is difficult to say, as testing is limited. And flights in and out of the country were ongoing until a few days ago. We have had the kids home and I have stopped treating patients. We have so far enjoyed the days together doing schoolwork and reading with the kids. But also training together and engaging the kids in other activities such as baking, gardening, fixing and cooking. Learning something really useful for their later life.

Because of the travel restrictions all the tourists have cancelled their holidays to Botswana. Meaning that one of the country’s biggest industries has stalled. And with that many have lost their job… when we moved into our own space we decided to employ two women to help with the household and to support them and their families in exchange for their service. Even though the government will go into a total lock down in 2 days we will try and continue to support these two ladies and hope that things pass quickly. The lock down will also mean that the building process will have to come to a halt. Luckily we have managed to do quite a bit in the last few weeks and we are now done with the walls to window level.

The site finally resembles a house and the next step is the ring beam. When this will continue we’ll have to wait and see. But for the foreseeable future we will not be moving into that house yet. Luckily the landlord of our current space is very helpful and has dropped the rent considerably.

We hope you all stay safe and make the best of the isolation that awaits us.

Moving into our own space

After having lived with the grandparents and one of the aunties for a year, we decided it was time to find our own space. An addition of five would make an impact on any home. Especially with kids it isn’t always easy keeping it tidy and organized. Being German a certain level of order is expected culturally. So we found a place we could rent until our own house is done. It has taken longer than expected to build. And with my sister’s upcoming wedding, progress on the site was put on a halt. Energy rather being used on getting everything ready to receive everyone and transport all the guests to the bush for the wedding. We are so looking forward to that. A post on that will follow. We were very thankful for my parents’ kindness of letting us stay for so long. Living together in a big group with different ideas and systems isn’t always easy, but everyone contributed and tried to make the best. We eventually found a lovely house with a swimming pool. Although it did need quite a bit of work before we could move in. The whole house was infested with ticks, the walls were filthy and partly broken and the whole place still had rubbish from the previous tennants lying around. The pool was green and had algae growing in it. Once we had emptied out the water and cleaned it, put in the missing light and fixed the pool pump, we finally could fill it up again.

After nearly two weeks of hard work, the house was clean, sprayed for pests, fixed up and painted so we could move in. Not having had the time to make beds we got hold of some old pallets along the roadside which we washed and used as a base for the mattresses.

After a short while we also found the time to weld some steel bed frames and buy mattresses. These arrived just a few days ago and we will for the first time tonight sleep in proper beds again.


We still have minor things left to fix, but it is habitable and cosy. We are enjoying having time with just us and I am sure, though they will never admit it, that the grandparents also are happy to have some peace and tidyness around and in their house.

Break down in the bush

The months fly by, visitors have come and gone, and while we were waiting for the next batch of foreigners to arrive we decided to take a little family trip to the bush on our own. The car was packed and ready to roll when we pulled into the school parking lot to pick up the kids. A little lunch pack for the road in hand we were ready to roll towards Khwai. Cruising and joking around, the landscape was flying by, spotting the odd antelope and Elefant along the way. Just 10 km out of Mababe village in the middle of the bush the car suddenly made a horrible grinding noise!! Shifting the leaver into neutral we let it roll to a halt. Unsure what it could be I tried to engage the gear but the grinding continued and there was no traction. Our car did not move. After examining the car I found the front drive shaft had slipped out of the wheel hub… mentally preparing to overnight by the side of the road and somehow getting towed back to town, I started loosening the bolts of the wheel. Not sure how to fix this the safari seemed over before it had started. Shortly after our stop a safari vehicle came driving along the road. The friendly driver called Andy was a qualified mechanic back in the day and had now started his own safari business. Ironic that Handy Andy suddenly appeared and could help us out. Together we managed to get the drive shaft back into the wheel hub only to find out that the gap for the snap ring had totally worn off…

So I took a bolt off the roof rack and undid the suspension to remove one of the washers, using these parts to secure the axle in place.

Our safari could continue a few hours later. The sun now having set a long time ago, we drove through the dark enjoying a little night safari, spotting 3 hyenas on the road just a few kilometers from the campsite. Setting up the tent in the dark was adventurous and the kids helped, shining the torch, making a fire and getting some food ready. We all crawled into the sleeping bags together once we had gotten some food in our bellies.

Back in town our car was parked over the pit and taken apart. Luckily Maun has a Toyota dealer who could supply all the necessary parts. Though it took a few week before all the parts had arrived. While waiting for the new axle and accessory parts I found a little leak from the stearing rack and got at it.

After 4 weeks of fixing we could finally drive the car off the pit, all lubricated and sealed and ready for new adventures. Doing it myself probably took a bit longer, but at least I know what was done and that it was done proper. I also learned quite a bit along the way. Some struggles here and there and challenges arising because of the lack of special tools made it very satisfying finally finishing the job. And it sure helped having an experienced “fix it yourself” dad by your side.

Winter came and winter went

After a lousy rainy season we had a mild and short winter. In contrary to Norway where the winters are long and the summers short. Temperatures have been very bearable, dropping down to about 6C at night and rising to around 30C during the day, although only for a very short period. This comfort is no more and temperatures keep gradually rising day by day, now only dropping down to around 15 at night and reaching 38 during the day. It will be a long and hot wait until the rainy season, expected to bring back life at the end of November. There is no more water in the river and greenery is restricted to private gardens. Animals are suffering from the lack of food and water too. Livestock is skin and bones and it won’t be long before the sight of animal carcasses will be a regular one. Wild animals are also moving closer to town, looking for food and water. Leopards have been spotted on porches and we saw their tracks outside our house the other day. Elefant have been moving around our house and the other day I saw a giraffe on my way to work.

Since our last visitors left, the kids have been on holiday. Enjoying spending time at home, after 5 busy weeks of traveling. With a lot of free time they did their share of playing, but also used the time to learn some crafts for life. The boys had a shot at trying to weld. Robin, the younger of the two, had a very short career, burning himself a few times and not wanting to come close to the welder since. Nicolas on the other hand proved to be a natural, understanding the principle and welding real neat lines. The boys were offered to help fabricate ventilation frames for the walls of our house to be. Robin took the responsibility of grinding the edges smooth with an angle grinder while Nicolas did the welding. 50 frames later the boys had earned a bit of pocket money, adding to their savings, slowly increasing the amount, in hope of one day buying a little motorbike for themselves.

The house is making progress, although very slow it does seem to be edging its way closer to becoming done. We met some challenges when the mines denied everyone to fetch gravel and calcrete. Forcing us to take a break. We got back on track A few weeks later and the boys refilled and compacted the space within and around the footing.

Now the damp proofing sheets have been spread out and the steel reinforcement is being laid out. We hope to get everything ready by the end of he day so that we can start pouring the concrete slab for the floor by tomorrow. By the end of the week the floor should be done, if no hick-ups hinder us in doing so…

Once the slab is done we will have to keep it wet for a few weeks to set. Giving us time to get ready to build the walls.

The kids started school again this week and are back in the flow of everyday life, waking up early, going to school, participating in sporting activities, doing their homework and going to bed early. Another two weeks and we will be receiving visitors from Norway to take on new adventures. Looking forward to that.

Construction progress

The trenches for the foundation of our house-to-be were done a while back. With all the steel reinforcement in place and the thickness of the foundation marked, the boys started mixing and pouring concrete.

Keeping the foundation moist for about a week allowed it to slowly dry without cracking. Once it was dry we marked all the corners and t-junctions for the wall. And the brick layers got at it, working systematically and neatly.

While the first part of the wall, the footing, is slowly growing, we received the roofing sheets and gutters. Still waiting for the wooden beams and planks for the ceiling to arrive, but there is no haste as there still is lots to be done before we need these.

Once the wall has the required height we will fill up the spaces around the wall and compact the sand, filling in where need be to reach the required level so we can pour the concrete slab for the floor.

The building site has been a little playground for the kids. Playing in the building sand, running in the trenches playing hide and seek or balancing on planks across the trenches has been fun.

Although progress is slow, we do see regular development. It is interesting to be part of the building process learning and seeing the effort put into every detail along the way. Can only stress that learning by doing is a good way to learn, at least for me.

Old and used in Norway is as good as new here!

I have been offering two evening sessions of soccer a week. The attendance has been fantastic with up to 40 kids from the age of 6 to 14 joining in and having fun learning the skills of the game. Unfortunately only one or two has had the appropriate gear. The rest have either been playing in flip flops or with their bare feet. Needless to say that there is no lack of thorns on the sandy field! Not only was there a lack of shoes, but also clothing. So most of the kids played in their day to day clothes with a wide variety of jeans, school uniforms, long pants and shorts.

Knowing that most kids have more than enough in Norway we asked my son’s old team in Norway to look through their cupboards and sort out any excess soccer apparel. It didn’t take long before I got a message saying that there were a few bags ready to be collected. Martha went and fetched loads of bags while back in Norway for a short trip. When Martha came back in she had filled her bags with as much stuff as she could and brought it along. The customs official at the airport gave her a bit of a hard time insisting she give all the used items a value. That being a difficult task he was persuaded that the value was not worth declaring and let her through after 30 minutes. Next training I took all the stuff up to the ground and handed out kits, boots, socks, shorts and some shin pads.

The kids eagerly awaited their turn, following the attendance list I’ve been keeping since I started. Handing out equipment to the ones with the most attendance first.

After about an hour all the kids could show off a “new” pair of boots and some kind of kit.

The team looks more complete now and they all feel proud of belonging to this unit. As is usual when doing team sports. They are all eager to learn and the fact that they now can run and dribble without having to stop to take out thorns makes quite the difference.

I am sure we will get more things down here to give away in the years to come, lighting up these kids’ everyday life. A big thank you to the Lillestrøm Sports Club (LSK) team of boys born in 2009!!!

Feel free to follow us on Instagram @family_out_and_about for more pictures and regular posts.

Preparations for the house to come

To develop a plot and build a house is not done in a day. A lot has happened on site the last few months, but there is still a lot to be done before we can make the move. We started by clearing trees where the house is to be. A huge Raintree had to be taken out, leaving a very big stump which we had a few guys help us dig up, by hand. The boys enjoyed helping and learning to use the spade.

We cut the branches into reasonable sizes and had a friend with a sawmill cut them into planks which are currently drying and waiting to be furnished into something beautiful and handmade, maybe for the house?

Then we got at it plotting out the corners of the house and where the walls are to be. We put up some guides along the outside allowing us to tie string and making both the digging and the building at a later stage easier.

While we had a group of 5 digging the trenches for the foundation…

another group started constructing he steel reinforcements for the foundation and the ring beam.

The building inspector came and approved the go ahead for further construction. He did make it clear that he was expecting a bonus for his troubles, but left empty handed.

The thought of using a motorized digger and bulldozer did cross our minds, but we decided to rather employ more people and have it done by hand than only employing one person for the same job. It would probably have gone a lot faster with the motor. But, considering the lack of employment and the fact that every person earning a salary supports many more than just themselves, the choice was easy. We will soon start with the foundation and commence to put up the structure. Looking forward to that.