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.

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.

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.