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.

Cousin visiting

The new year is well on its way. Our nephew Tobias (9 years) has joined us from Norway to stay with us for 5 weeks. Going to school and participating in all the other fun everyday life we are living. Coming from the cold north it’s been close to impossible to get him out of the pool. Spending hours in the water everyday. His first days of school went very well and the initial nervousness vanished very quickly. He adapted quickly to hearing and speaking English and should learn quite a bit more than he would back home at school. Our boys have had squad trials and both managed to qualify for the school team. Their preparations for the first zonal gala went well and both Robin and Nicolas managed to qualify for the interzonal gala held in Francistown. A town 500 km to the east. So we packed the car Friday morning to head off. Of course Tobias wanted to join and cheer on his cousins. On our way we were lucky to see elephant, ostrich and a kudu. We had been invited to stay with one of Nicolas’ school friends. His family own a lovely farm, the house situated on top of a little rocky hill with a fantastic view.

On the last stretch to the farm we saw a Jackal that had been hit by a car.

Once at the farm the kids played with the 9 puppies that were there, while the adults prepared a carb loaded dinner. Unfortunately the spaghetti didn’t arrive until later, so the kids ended up eating Bolognese and garlic bread. Once fed it was time to hit the sack.

Saturday started early, a coffee and some food before we headed for the gala. As the boys met up with their team and got warmed up we adults could enjoy another cup of coffee and mingle, to calm the nerves. The gala started with the individual medley, where Nicolas featured for the under 11 boys. The start signal went off and the boys exploded off the starting blocks. A tight race between the first three, all from matshwane and Nicolas’ friends. They took turns leading the race, Nicolas in second on the last lap, swimming crawl. By half way he was along side the leader edging his way past on the last 5 meters, touching the wall first!! Robin was up next swimming backstroke for the under 8 boys, the excitement was just as much, him and another fighting for the first spot, and Robin touching the wall second, but improving his time by 2 seconds since the last gala! Nicolas took 3 second spots in backstroke, butterfly and crawl, close behind the first. And Robin managed a third spot in breaststroke and to win the crawl event from lane 8 swimming 3 seconds faster than 2 weeks ago! Their swimming guaranteeing them a spot in the northern Botswana schools swim squad! 2 happy but tired boys were ready for the drive back home to tell mom all about the exciting races.

Nicolas had his birthday at the end of January, turning 11! Where has the time gone?? He had been saving up for a motorbike for more than a year, so I thought I’d see if I could get hold of a bike for him for his birthday. And I was lucky to find a Yamaha 125TTR in South Africa, for the amount he had saved. My sister was in South Africa at the time and managed to go have a look at the bike. She and her boyfriend approved of the bike’s status and loaded it onto their car.

Of course Nicolas didn’t know about it, so we first gave him an old frame we had found and said he could now start buying the rest of the parts with his money…

A while later Angus, my sister’s boyfriend, said he had some spare parts on the back of his car, which nicolas could buy… And that’s where he, to his great surprise, saw the bike and couldn’t believe his eyes!

His grandpa took him on a bike trip the following weekend, driving up the dry river bed and learning how to handle the bike in the sand. Nicolas only had one fall, no injury and a lot of fun.

We are now awaiting the arrival of Tobias’ family. Aiming at taking them into the bush for a few nights during the half term school break.

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Soon to post an update on the building progress, which has started up again.

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.

Weekend adventures

While we have come to the middle of winter, Norway is enjoying the middle of summer. Meaning that school up in the north has a 8 week long holiday and families with kids can take a few weeks holiday to visit us with their kids. First up is Martha’s cousin and family. Their kids are the same age as our two oldest. They get along well having spent numerous holidays together while we were still living in Norway.

July has a few long weekends, one in respect of Botswana’s first president, Sir Seretse Khama. So we used the extra days to go on adventure.

First up was a safari trip to one of our favorite spots on the Mababe river. Camping on the edge of the river with a wonderful view down the banks, from a 4 meter raised sandy little cliff. A fantastic spot for morning coffee and hot chocolate.

Because of the lack of rain animals crowd along the rivers, most noticeable were the elephants, which moved in and around camp day and night. Because Botswana is the country with the highest elephant population in Africa one is bound to encounter them. Luckily all our encounters were peaceful. Nonetheless there were a lot of tired faces exiting the tents on the first morning, having had elephants walk a few meters past our tents and ripping branches off trees right next to us all night. We love camping in the bush and you’d be surprised what one can see by just sitting in camp. We also had a hyena come by every night, saw two crocodiles mating in the river just in front of the camp, hippos bathing in the sun, buffalos drinking by the water and small wild cats hunting on the opposite side of the river.

Being in camp gives the kids time to do different things compared to every day life. For example cooking, making fires and entertaining themselves with out electronics or abundance of toys. Life can be so simple.

Of course we also went on gamedrives and watched some beautiful sunsets.

We didn’t see any of the big cats this time around, but that just means we’ll have to come back another time.

Once back in town the kids went to school for a few days before we headed off along the western side of the Delta. Driving around 300 km took us to Etsha and a camp along the Guma lagoon, at the bottom of the panhandle. Once leaving the tar road the roads were quite sandy and one of the cars got stuck. But reducing the tire pressure by letting out some air was enough to get it out and continue the journey.

This gave us the opportunity to see a different side of the otherwise pretty dry Okavango. Although water is relatively low this year, it was lovely to see this much water and greenery. Of course we had to get out on the boat and cruise the narrow channels of the Okavango lined by papyrus walls. Seeing a few huge crocodiles catching some warmth in the sun, but quickly slipping into the water when we tried to approach for a better look.

Enjoying fishing I had the rods ready to try our luck at catching the African tiger fish or the more tricky bream (bass). Although fortune was not with us this time, it was fun giving it a try.

We now await the next visitors in a week, and are looking forward to new adventures. The next trip will take us into Moremi Game Reserve before we head to the Makgadikgadi pans and then Vic falls passing through Savuti on our way back home.

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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!!!

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Winter? More like a good Norwegian summer.

The rainy season came and it went, leaving very few showers and little water behind. The river beds are just about dry and there is little grass for all the animals. This will be a tough and long dry season for farmers and their livestock.

The end of the rainy season also means the beginning of winter. We have felt a definite drop in temperatures, but temperatures are still bearable. Sunny, warm and cloudless days with temperatures up to around 30C and cool nights with temps as low as 6C so far. This reminds us of a good Norwegian summer, except for the shorter days. We do miss the long days one gets in the far north. With the winter the tourist season arrives too. Because of the bearable and peasant temperatures and the fact that the lack of rain means a lack of insects, means tourists find it very pleasant to spend time here. Another positive side effect is that the lack of water across the country means that wild animals will concentrate around the rivers and waterholes. Giving the opportunity for some fantastic sightings.

The second school term has started and is well under way. This term the school activities have changed, there is no swimming. Instead there is soccer, athletics and field hockey. A week ago the school hosted inter house athletics. All the kids within the school are separated into two houses, either the red house which is called Lechwe or the yellow house which is called Sitatunga. Both houses named after two antelopes of the Okavango. Robin and Nicolas are in the red house, Lechwe. Throughout the school year every individual can earn points for his house, from the academic side as well as he sports side. Good behavior is also rewarded.

Robin earning himself a first spot and golden ribbon in the 80m sprint. And Nicolas coming second in all the running races and long jump, while earning a golden ribbon for the high jump. Next week the school’s under 13 soccer team will be picked for an upcoming tournament. The grandparents will be exhibiting their goods at the local expo and we are getting ready to welcome visitors from Norway. Feel free to follow @family_out_and_about on Instagram for more pics and regular short updates.