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? 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.

First days of school

Before school started the boys were scheduled to do an entry test in their respective grades to see whether it was the appropriate level. Nicolas (9) did not have any challenges, understanding most of the English and showing relative good reading skills, even though he has not read a significant amount of English book. The teacher was pleased and gave us the thumbs up for standard four, putting him into the appropriate grade for his age. Robin (6) struggled a bit with the language, but the teacher thought he was good enough for standard one. Relieved that both boys had a spot in their respective grade we then had to get uniforms sorted. School uniforms being new to the boys they found it quite exciting. When getting uniforms they were informed of the dress code and the consequences should they not abide. Forgetting your cap at home means sitting in the shade outside the headmaster’s office at break time! Luckily they are very lenient on the foot wear and may even go barefoot, which is quite the relief when temperatures are way above 30C. The excitement of the first day of school was big and when the day finally arrived the boys were ready. A mixed feeling of excitement and fear was easily visible. Of course we, the parents, were excited too on how their first days would go and how they would handle the new challenges ahead. School bags packed, cool boxes ready and the uniform in place we headed off to school. Arriving at the school with hundreds of other cars and kids scurrying into the school premises.

When the bell rang they all lined up in front of their class rooms to greet their teacher, before the girls marched in first.

We left the boys in the hands of their teacher and fellow students while we dropped Matilda (3) off in kindergarten. I spent the rest of the day getting papers sorted, certifying documents and finding out what else needs to be done before I can submit our application for work and residence permits. We picked up the boys early with great anticipation and were relieved to hear that they had had fun and were looking forward to the next day.

At the parents’ meeting we were informed how things worked here. We were a bit stunned by the strictness and competition, but it seemed to be handled in a fair manner. The teachers informed us of the consequences of not listening or misbehaving and that there were prizes for the best students at the end of the year. Coming from Norway we are not used to academic competition from first grade. In addition the kids need to qualify for the school’s team by going through trials. This was different from what we are used to. In Norway, by law everyone is included in teams, whereas here you have to show yourself worthy. First graders do not join in this, but Nicolas had swimming trials with the whole school watching and cheering. Though he was quite nervous in the morning we were very happy to hear hat he had made the school team when we picked them up, representing the under 10 team. The first zonal gala being in two weeks, where he can qualify for the northern Botswana schools team. Nicolas being a sportsman and loving competition has been training every day on his own before and after the trials. It seems he is motivated and determined to make the northern team!

Friday came and as is custom here there is an assembly for the whole school. National anthem and school song to be sung. The week’s birthday kids receiving a lollypop and the headmaster sharing information.

With the weekend here we are looking forward to spending the days together and recharging the batteries for a new week. Hoping to get the application done and submitted by the end of next week. Exciting weeks ahead. May we stay or will we leave again? The uncertainty definitely adding some spice to everyday life!