Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Less than a week left...

So, less than a week left in the country and we have decided to leave the idea of spending another month in Namibia (we had some difficulties with work since we moved to Botswana and so we decided to limit the damage we received on that front).
But, we have also decided that it would have been a sin to leave Botswana without seeing the "beauty" of the country. So we drove to Kasane and arrived today for a couple of days in one of the most beautiful safari in the world (so they say... we'll see...).

So we're enjoying a couple of days of total relax here (a part from a couple of hours work here and there). The place is beautiful, we had the boat cruise today in the Chobe river and we saw A LOT of elephants (cutest things ever, especially when babies), a lot of hippos, buffaloes and plenty of different birds. Tomorrow we'll have the game drive and we're hoping to see some lions to be honest. If not, then it doesn't matter because Sunday we're going with Pat and Dinah to South Africa to a beautiful place where we can cuddle lions cubs and whatnot so... that will do it...

Anyway, by the 20th of March we'll be in UK, with Luke and Cherry and then we'll take it from there.

From that moment on, I won't be having a blog (I think we'll barely have the time to breath) but we'll update this in case something big changes in our lives.

In the meantime, we're going to Northern Ireland to settle and help the congregations there since there is a lot of need.

Thanks everybody for following us until now. We hope our experiences helped you in having the desire to serve where the need is great or at least to encourage you to do more in the ministry where you are. And remember... you can be a need greater in your own country and your own congregation. You don't need to travel abroad to be one. So just pray to Jah to help you serving him where the need is greater. His blessings will surpass any sacrifice you will ever make.



Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Panduro Saga

Dear affectionate readers,

the Panduro Saga is coming to an end. After 8 years, we're going home. What?? What's that? you're saying...
Well, Botswana denied our application and that means that we have until the 18th of March left in the country. We're planning to spend some time in Namibia after that so we should be heading home Memorial's time.
Unfortunately we tried, and we failed. And we did try hard, believe me. If you have been reading my preceding posts, you will realize that (and I didn't write everything we did to get that visa...).
When you are against an immigration office, there is nothing you can do to change their mind.. not this office anyway.

We were lucky they gave us 30 days apparently, even though we had just paid for 90 days and they took that away from us.
When you are rejected here, in theory you should get out in 48 hours. So we're grateful we did get the 30 days.
We're sad of course... especially if we think about the 18 studies we had, of which 7 comes regularly to the meetings. And once we are gone, it will be very hard to find someone to look after them since only 3 full time servants will be left here and their schedule is already jammed pack with studies... soo... people, if you're thinking of moving abroad and serve where the need is great, Botswana is good. It's not easy if you want to stay long term of course, but our experience is not that common now. Many brothers and sisters have been given 10 years visa. But we're not going to lie... it's not easy.

You need patience, hope, long-suffering and self-control. If you think you got them, then please, please, please... come to Lobatse. They really need you here.

So, our plans now are to go to Namibia for some time, enjoy the field and the sea, relax, recharge our batteries a little bit and then off to UK. We're looking at different places where it's cheap to live and where there is need. We'll let you know when we settle.

Thanks for reading all these years and for supporting us. We thank you for your prayers as well. If your dream is need greating, don't give up! Jah will bless your plans whatever they will be.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Botswana - Namibia... 1600km... 3 days

So the time came where we had to leave Botswana and wait for our visas to come through... I beg your pardon? Ah, no, not the long term visa. We still don't know anything about that. We had to apply for an "Emergency" visa as we didn't want to get out of the country and that should have prevented it but you know... T.I.A.
So they were so back-logged on the emergency visas as well that we had to get out for a week. So we decided to go and check out Namibia. Drove from Lobatse to Gobabis, from Gobabis via Windhoek to Omaruru, from Omaruru to Walvis Bay where the Goldman's, one of the kindest couples I've ever met, invited to stay for the weekend and enjoy the sea side.
They don't know but they gave us a wonderful gift by inviting us to stay. We were longing for the sea and some relax. Botswana with its visas, weather, finding a house, etc. had started to take its toll on us. We were exhausted and we really needed some time off.
So we took their offer and drove to Walvis Bay (which we always wanted to see).
So when they talk about DESERT, what do you imagine? The Sahara? The Gobi? Well, I imagines yellow/orangy sand dunes so smooth to look unreal.... and that's what I saw! But I think I didn't imagine what they were really like.. how big they would be or how "perfectly smooth" they appear.
So what's funny about Namibia is that is mostly flat a part from Windhoek (a lot of mountains around it). So you drive toward the sea and it gets flatter and flatter of course... and dryer and dryer... and smoother and smoother. So just before you get to Swakopmund, the landscape to be honest is pretty ugly. Nothing, zero, nicht, zilch around.... only a weird desert, not even the real one.
Then you get to Swakopmund and as soon as you drive in, you get into another world... you even wonder if you're still in Africa and not in Germany :) So beautiful... breathtaking... seriously! Then we drive toward Walvis Bay and what we saw was unbelievable unless you see it. Desert on your left... ocean on your right... you find yourself between two types of "wilderness" which is really really cool!
Walvis is pretty cool as well. And let's be honest.. you know us... if there is the ocean, anything is beautiful for us!
We're at the Goldman's at the moment who gave us much more than what they had to to be honest and we're deeply grateful for that. Their son took us out on a 3-seater plane and it was one of the coolest things ever... We're supposed to go kayaking tomorrow to Pelican Point and see some seals. In the meantime we have received the temporary visa, the "emergency" one so we can go back to Botswana when we want to... but... let's wait a bit longer shall we? :-) Here is beautiful... why rush out? We're also waiting to hear about our visa here in Namibia as, as you might recall, we have applied here before Botswana but never heard anything. If we get it, we would stay here as the country is desperate for help.. but who knows what Jah has planned for us? We'll let him decide...

I'll update you soon

Take care everybody


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Our backyard is a zoo!

Hello readers,

How are y’all doing (as my dear friends Tay and Megan would say)?

We’re okay, thanks for asking J

Although we’re still waiting for news for immigration (and we probably won’t hear any for a long time), we’re enjoying the ministry of course! Very much… And we’re enjoying the new couple, Luke and Cherry, from UK. They arrived the 1st of December here and they’re staying for 3 months. Needless to say, they’re loving the field as well. They’re already on 10+ studies after just a couple of weeks. And one of those studies came to the Kingdom Hall. She actually came the day after they found her.

They’re a blast, honestly, and we really needed some fun here! They come to us every Friday and spend the night. So we all treat ourselves to something special to eat.

As far as our ministry, Chris has 5 studies and I have about 3-4 that I can count this month. This month will be a little quiet because everybody goes to their village for Christmas and New Year, so we have to wait for them to come back to do the study. One of my studies come to the meetings as well and we’re only on chapter 2 in the Good News Brochure… So… I guess we can say that the ministry here is really nice! What’s funny is that we often go to look for an interested person to start the study after the first call and although the person is not there, we find somebody else who is even more interested and wants to study…

We’re still trying to organize where we will go when we have to get out. We’ll probably leave around the 20th of January for Namibia. We think we will spend a week here and a week there, trying to spend as little as possible of course as this whole move is costing us 2 arms and a whole body J.

So we hope we will see some of the nice places in Namibia and we’ll pop in into immigration… you never know! We might actually have a year visa there… we still don’t know!

Anywho, not much movement here for now.

Oh wait, yeah… actually, we found out that there is a small leopard living in the field behind our backyard (Luke and Cherry saw it and we heard it “meowing” one night) and… the other day we came back from the field and there were baboons in our backyard… also, if you look at our flickr album, you’ll see that not only we have plenty of birds in our garden but also an ostrich farm next to us. And we calculated that we’re about 1.5km from the border of South Africa. Cool huh?!

Well, that’s it for now!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

What you need to know in case you're thinking about moving to Botswana

This post is designed to help all needgreaters who would like to move here. You see, sometimes is difficult to get reliable information as far as visas, cost of life, transport, what to say and what to avoid, water, sickness, etc.

So as we survive out here, we'll add all those information to this blog. For now, we would like to give some info as far as Getting here, Visas, Transport, Housing as these are the things we have experienced until now.

Getting Here
When deciding on flights, keep in mind that Botswana is very close to Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport (4 hours to the closest border which is actually where we are, in Lobatse).
Flights to J'burg are generally much cheaper than flights to Gaborone. Having said, depending on your adventurous spirit, you can choose to:
  1. Rent a car from J'burg to Gaborone with Europecar and costs around £200 / $325. Then we can come and get you in Gaborone.
  2. Stay in a brother's owned B&B next to the airport (they come and pick you up and give discounts to pioneers) and then either:
    • we can come and get you in J'burg if you pay the petrol and one night for us in the same B&B
    • you can take the bus from J'burg to Gaborone which takes about 6 hours maximum but costs only around £20 / $30 per person. Then we can come and get you in Gaborone (Please let us know with some good time in advance or we won't be able to organize ourselves to come and get you)
  3. Get a 3 months return ticket from J'burg to Gaborone which costs around £250 / $400
I know these options sound like a lot of hassle but if you're looking to spend as less as possible, those are the ways to go. If you don't mind so much, then you can fly directly (with obvious stopover in J'burg) to Gaborone. 

One word of advice here. When you get the immigration officer and they ask you about the visa and how long you want to stay in the country, specify 90 DAYS. Do not say 3 MONTHS, 12 WEEKS or whatnot. Specify 90 DAYS and check your passport BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE BOOTH. When you drive into Botswana, they give you a form to fill asking how many "days/weeks/months" you want to stay. WRITE 90 DAYS and check they give you 90 DAYS. Sometimes they get confused or don't read properly and give you a week. So please, be extra careful when you get the stamp on your passport. 

Depending on where you're going to serve, you might or might not need a car. If you do, then keep in mind that decent cars are around £3000 / $4800. There's a dealer the brothers "deal" with (funny...) who imports cars from Japan and checks everything and fixes everything there is to fix before giving it to you. Once you give him a certified copy of your passport and the money, it takes about 1/2 days to register the car. He can give you a temporary registration if you live far away so that you can go home with the car and then go back to pick up the papers the next day or so. You can buy normal cars (Micra, Golf, etc.) or 4x4 (X-Trail, CRV, etc.). The first ones are generally newer years (2000 and up) while the second ones tend to be older years (1995 and up) but in excellent conditions as they have to pass a certain control before being imported. Parts are cheaper for some brands and very expensive for others, so you need to be careful. For example, VW: the cars are cheaper to buy but the parts are difficult to find and very expensive. HONDA: The cars tend to be more expensive but parts are everywhere and very cheap. So depending on how long you're planning to stay, just keep that in mind. As you know, we decided to go for the CRV because, as we're planning to stay here long, it's nice to know you can one day take a drive somewhere and not have the problem of off-roads trails and whatnot. If you're coming to check it out or want to stay in Gaborone, then you'll probably be okay with a smaller and newer car.
Petrol here is relatively cheap being at £0.65 / $1.05 per litre but it's up to you if you want a car which consume a lot or not.  

Again, depending on where you would like to live, houses can be expensive or cheap, decent or in pretty bad conditions. Gaborone is obviously more expensive with houses ranging from £290 / $470 to crazy prices like £700 / $1140 for a 2/3 bedroom (depending on the area). Having said that, Gabs has everything you can imagine of in terms of shopping while other areas further out might be cheaper in housing but have little choice as far as shopping forcing you to go to Gabs every so often. 
For example in our case, our house is £200 / $325 per month and it's too big for us with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, big sitting/dining room and very big veranda. Having said that, Lobatse doesn't fare badly as far as grocery shopping, but it's very difficult to find appliances or furniture at normal prices. So we found ourselves going to Gabs to buy a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner and whatnot. We've been lucky because our house is furnished, but if hadn't found it, we would have had the problem of getting all the furniture from Gabs to here (not every shop delivers more than 20km outside of the capital). 
I heard that houses in other villages like Otse, Ramotswa and Molepolole are even cheaper and pretty decent as well. 
So at the end of the day you need to sit down and see what you need to live comfortably here:
  1. Do you need a house with good standard of painting, finishing, kitchen, etc.?
  2. Would you be okay in an older house with wood paneling for ceiling and a couple of things not working as you would like?
  3. Do you prefer to be close to the action and malls and shopping and cafe's?
  4. Or would you rather be out in the village and don't mind driving once a week to the capital for some things?
Once you know what you want, then you can move toward that direction in a more confident way. We were lucky to find a furnished house as furniture unfortunately is relatively expensive here but some brothers have been moving toward plastic to keep their life simple. Appliances are not so bad if you shop around a little and get an offer when you see it.

One advice we would like to add here which is totally our personal opinion so it's up to you to take it or not: You're coming to Africa to serve and there is no point in pretending is going to be a walk in the park. Africa is tough. You will see and experience very stressful situations while serving Jah here and you will get over it of course with his help. BUT we noticed that we can get over it ONLY if we can, at the end of the day, come back to a place we can call HOME. Being a shed or a mansion, you need to feel at HOME. You need to go there, shut the door and everything else outside. For us it was a very old farmhouse with bats in the roof and a huge nest of wasps in the chimney, but it's out in the bush and all we can hear here is birds singing and crickets "cricketing". When we come home after a day in the field, we relax. Even if we have to work 4 or 5 hours (which we do every day), we're still working in our HOME. For some people it might take a lot of furniture to feel that way, for others it might be food they miss from home... for us it's just a duvet cover from UK for our bed, our espresso maker from Italy and a glass of wine or G&T at night while eating. 
We're all different so if you feel that you need an expensive house or expensive furniture or food or wine to feel at home, so what?! Get it and FEEL AT HOME. You need it and you know what? You deserve it! You are, after all, serving Jah out of your comfort zone!

Depending on your needs, internet is not the greatest thing IS RUBBISH here in Botswana. You can choose between:
  • BTC, home adsl line (you need a visa to put it in your name so you need to find a landlord willing to put it in his name, it's not super fast and it's fairly expensive: 2Mbps is around £50 / $80)
  • MASCOM, Usb dongle (expensive, slow and limited either in TIME or in DATA download... you can buy 1, 5 or 10 hours at £0.70 / $ 1.15 or you can buy 150MB at £1.40 / $2.30, 400MB at £5.60 / $9.20 or 800MB at £10.70 / $17.50)
  • SATELLITE, dish and whatnot at the house (super uber expensive both the installation and the monthly fee but reliable and fast. Installation is about £740 / $1200 and monthly fee is about £155 / $250)
  • ORANGE, Usb dongle (very similar to Mascom)
If you rely A LOT on FAST AND RELIABLE internet for work, then maybe Botswana is not the place to move to. You can get away with 1Mbps (maybe) and very slow upload. Video conference is very difficult to have unless you use the satellite (and even then we haven't tested it so don't take this for law).
So what we suggest is that you get a dongle for the beginning but as soon as you find a house, you get BTC installed. We're trying to do that but being out in the bush, they need to add cable between poles so we're still waiting. 
If you need to work with it, BTC is the way to go as soon as you can. If it's only to check emails and whatever, Mascom is enough and you can buy hourly and use it only when you need it. 

Cost of living
Electricity is pre-paid and about £20 / $30 per month;
Water (which by the way is generally off 2 days a week) is about £5 / $8 per month;
Food, really depends on what you like and what you can do without. We average between £50 / $80 and £70 / $115 per week and that includes the cheapest of the "treat" stuff like pasta, wine, cheese but it doesn't include imported stuff as they ask you an arm and a leg for that;
Petrol as I mentioned is £0.65 / $1.05 per litre;
Rent as we said depends on where you live and on the house you get and your budget of course;

Brothers, we won't lie to you. Visas here are a bit of a kerfuffle. Unfortunately we cannot get missionary/voluntary visas anymore which means that to be able to stay in the country after the 3 months tourist visa expire, you can try to extend for another three months and then go home or if you really want to stay, you need to get a work permit and a residence visa. Needless to say, you need to sort out your visas as soon as you get here or you will have to leave the country after the 3 months until you get your answer. To get a work visa, you need to open up a company and a bank account. IT'S DEFINITELY NOT CHEAP TO DO ALL THIS. The type of work you want to do here will determine if you will get the visa or not. There is a point system but even if you think you qualify as a business because you're getting the points, it doesn't mean that you qualify for immigration. We don't personally recommend it (we got kicked out even though we qualified) but again, not everybody is the same and there is no logic behind it so you might get or not get accepted. It's up to you if you want to try or not. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Welcome to Botswana... the proper way

Hi everyone,

I hope you haven't got bored of us already. Here are some things that happened to us in the last few days...

1. We didn't get into the house the day we anticipated. There was too much to clean and the next day nothing had been done by the Landlord so we had to wait until he's finish. We officially moved in Saturday night... So we're still working on making it a "home".

2. Unfortunately they broke into our car during the 10 minutes we decided to go and buy some icecream. They were really quick, got the lock off completely and stole (stupid me) my beautiful Mexican field service bag with my bundle "Teach/God's Love book" all prepared, my Ugandan leather magazine folder and of course my wallet with my driving licence and ATM card. Went to the police (funniest experience ever as after writing the report they asked me "Is this really the truth?" and after I said yes they made me swear it was... you know, like they do in court but without the Bible) and had the report done but little hope of finding my things...

3. We went to Gaborone to fix a shock in the car and put the alarm on it. The dealer then lent us a car to go and do some shopping, so we went to buy the washing machine and when we went back, the dealer had lost our car!!! They found it eventually but that wasn't fun!

Well, that's it for now! On Monday we start the Visa application process. Once we know more about it, we'll write in details how it works.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

So here's what we've got so far...

Hello everyone..
sorry for the delay but you know, T.I.A. Having said that.. things here are much quicker and more organized than in other places in Africa...

For example, we arrived less than two weeks ago and this is what we've accomplised as of today:

1. We've got our free temporary visas!!!  http://www.flickr.com/photos/yokorittona/10821154063/ It's 90 days so this Friday we need to get on with the Work Permits but considering that there had been a mistake at the border (we wrote 3 months instead of 90 days so they gave us 7 days thinking that we had asked for 3 days), the officers in the immigration office in Lobatse were super accommodating and helpful and they gave us our 90 days. So we have until the 31st of January to get a Work Permit.

2. We've got a car http://www.flickr.com/photos/yokorittona/10820990734/ And funny enough this is the car we always wanted to have. This exact model, not a newer one, but this exact 96's Honda CRV model. It was expensive and yes, we really tried to get a smaller and cheaper car but not only smaller cars are not exactly suitable here (unless you live in Gaborone, the capital, and don't move around much), they're also more expensive than this one. And although this is from 1996, the conditions are super excellent inside and outside. Hasn't been used much!!! It's perfect, so comfortable and spacious. A big change from our super car (Ford Ka) in Mexico.

3. We've got a house http://www.flickr.com/photos/yokorittona/10820814355/ And to be honest people, this was definitely from Jah!!! So listen up! So, we reckoned (I'm sure you will agree) that as when you arrive here you don't know if you're going to get the work permit or not, it would be great to find something furnished at the beginning so as not to spend too much on furnishing a house. Of course, it's easy to find such a place in the capital, but outside??? Well, not that common, and even when you can find one, the standard of the furnishing is... well you got me right? Okay, so we had lost any hope of finding a furnished place and we thought "Okay, let's get the smaller place possible and buy only the necessary at the beginning, you know, a bed, a stove, a fridge". Anyway, the houses we saw were huge, empty and ugly, with walls around them up to their windows... like prisons! So, we were so close to get the "Easiest" solution but it was kind of depressing to think about. Then we went to look at this farm house in the middle of nowhere just to keep our word as we had told the landlord we would go and see it. But when we saw it outside we honestly thought "oh dear, this is going to be a touch and go and no thank you". Well he wasn't there so we called him and he said that he wasn't able to come but that we could go the next day to see the house. Again, we thought "uff what a waste of time" but the next day we went and this time we walked in and... well, surprise surprise, the house was the nicest we had seen since we had arrived. The furniture is actually pretty nice and modern. I was mostly scared of the kitchen as even the nicest house here has a hideous kitchen. Well I was of course pleasantly surprised as this will definitely be the nicest kitchen I have ever had. I will post some pictures once we're in and we cleaned everything.
Another pleasant surprise were the bathroom as both of them have bathtubs inside!!! And wait for it... we're not talking about a normal furnished place with a bed and a table and a kitchen and whatnot. We're talking about plates, pots, pans, glasses, decorations, fridge, stove, sofas, tv, curtains and a fireplace in the sitting room. It's perfect not only for that!!! It's also the quietest, most peaceful place ever! Looking at the savannah, neighbours around but not too close and birds coming to visit the trees in the garden. Sooooo nice! That's exactly what we were looking for. It ain't finished!!!! It's the cheapest place we found! It's the same price we had been paying for our house in Mexico. So, how's that for being taken care of by Jah?! He never fails to amaze us! Never!

4. Chris has got 3 Bible Studies... No, they have not been handed over to him. He found them in the door to door ministry! Yeah... that's what Africa is all about :)

Anywooo... that's it folks! For now... 

We will, once we have our papers and whatnot, write a post with all technicalities on what to do to come and serve here, how to do it, what you need, etc. So, stay tuned! Any question? Ask, and we'll try our best to answer quickly!