Daniel L. Manske
Our group of 13 volunteers arrived in Gabarone on July 7, 1981 and were housed at the University of Botswana for a few days before starting our 9 week training at an old Brigades site on the outskirts of Serowe, a large traditional village in the central part of the country. Karl Lunta was one of our great trainers. We learned the language and culture with intensive classes as well as excursions to experience a wedding, agricultural fair, and other local sites. Our training also included a week homestay with a family in Serowe. That was a great and eye-opening experience. Dan Morrow was my roomie on this village live-in. At the end of our training we learned of our assignments. I was lucky enough to get posted at Maun Secondary School in the far north of the country. Maun borders the Okavango Delta, and is the jumping off spot for all the amazing wildlife safaris in that part of the country. I replaced another volunteer, June Woods, who had started a great little school newspaper called the Ditswa Ganong (from the saying "Ditswa Ganong gade gae sanye" - "Words of the mouth cannot be stopped"). I overlapped with June for a semester to learn the ropes with the newspaper and the Journalism Club. Then I was on my own with 5 classes of 40 students each, 5 times a week, plus study hour duties. The students were very respectful and thirsy for knowledge. They all stood up when I entered the classroom and always called me Sir. It was a lot of work, but I felt completely fulfilled giving my time to such eager students. Our school site had been built as a missionary school in a joint effort by the United Methodist Church of America and United Church of Christ of Southern Africa, but was slowly being taken over by the government in the latter days of my stay. We had beautiful homes right on campus along the Thamalekani River where you sometimes could hear hippos grunting at night. We had an amazingly diverse staff from locals to Zimbabweans, South Africans, Dutch, Irish, British, Scandinavians, East Indians, and Americans. Maun village also had quite a few expatriates and we even had get-togethers with food and live music provided by whoever decided to bring an instrument at local houses. The school was around 700 students when I was there with about half living in the two dorms since many of them came from remote villages to our school, which was the only secondary school in the Northern Province then. (When I returned for a visit in 2003, it was about double that size with many new buildings.) We had a lot of fun in the evenings inviting various staff members to our house for cards or pot luck. My roommates in the big house formerly occupied by the Schaad family were Duane Stewart, a Brit history teacher, and Larry Kies, a Methodist missionary from my home state of Iowa, who was the new school garden manager and agricultural studies teacher. The school farm also had cattle and pigs that provided a fresh supply of meat for the school cafeteria and staff kitchens. Larry and his family are currently missionaries at African University in Zimbabwe. Our house had an amazing garden that had been planted by the Schaads,American missionaries who had come to Botswana from Zaire where they had served for many years until civil unrest forced them out. Mr. Schaad not only planted our diverse house orchard, but also brought plants from all over the world to start the hugely successful school garden that provided fresh fruits and vegetables to the school. Many local village gardens and orchards were started from Mr. Schaad's efforts. His daughter, Carol Schaad, was a home economics teacher MSS while I was there and now is employed at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, along with her husband Robin, a volunteer who served in Lesotho. There a so many positive memories I have of my years in Africa: camping out with students, a long ride (12 hours)in the back of a lorry with my Shakespeare Form 6 students to Gabarone to see MacBeth, "Stone Soup" pot lucks with all our friends (Christensen's, Langendijks, and all), dusty walks into town to "shop" for bread from the Greeks, stop at the butchery, and maybe have a ginger beer at a local shop, prepping for the Cambridge Overseas Exams, travelling to many wonderful sites in Southern Africa on school holidays, soccer matches, pouring rain (PULA!), and dreadfully long droughts . . . but the best memories are of the earnest and sweet faces of the students that believed I had something to help them on their determined quest at a better life. It wasn't just the toughest job I'll ever love; it was the time of my life I will never forget or regret.