Saturday, October 23, 2010


I am sitting in a coffee shop in Minneapolis right now, putting off some things I actually need to do by looking through pictures from Bots.  Of course I break into tears in public again (this happened at another coffee shop 2 months ago after I had a chance to Skype with my beloved Brenda and see some of the children from the Lorato House of Love).  I miss Love Botswana so alive, did the Lord put a burden on my heart for the place and the people there.  Anyway, thought I'd share some of the pics that did me in:
This was after spending a few hours with Mma Sibingole's family.  The little ones changed into their best clothes for us.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Well, 4 months later and I am now finally getting ready to finish out some of my stories from the last month or so in Africa.  Up first: the visit to our branch church in the village of Sehitwa!

Sehitwa is Pastor Sunny's church, and is a couple of hours outside of Maun.  The girls and I loaded up the van with all of our camping equipment, drive into town, picked up Pastor Sunny and hit the road.  The only thing to note from this drive was that I finally saw my first black and white cow in Africa.  Kirsten and I (the midwestern gals) got excited, and everyone else yawned.  That was that.

Our church!

Once we arrived in Sehitwa, we pulled into the church property and started unpacking.  Within about 3 minutes we already had a hoard children surrounding us.  You definitely make a splash when 7 white girls show up in a village of a couple hundred people!  We got to work right away on cutting the grass with slashers (think of machetes, but duller).  One of my interns (Heather) was an all-star with this.  She grabbed a slasher and went to work, and while the rest of us were taking turns with the other slasher, she finished half the property.  It was nice to have her along, that's for sure!  The best part of that experience was having 7 year old children take them from me to show me how it's done :) The kids were so sweet and so talkative.  I was videotaping a group of about 5 of them as they were teaching me Setswana; it was great.  Anytime I repeated something correctly, one of the boys would say (so encouragingly) "Yes!  That is correct.  Well done!"  After we did this for a while, I was going to play back the video for them and sadly discovered that I had never pressed "record."  The kids were disappointed, but not enough to re-enact the scenario for me.  So now I don't have any video of that.  Bummer.

After we got the tents set up and finished slashing the yard, it was time to split up into 2 groups and begin evangelism in the village.  In all honesty, this type of ministry pushes me out of my comfort zone more than any other, and definitely challenges me each and every time I did it.  This time was no different.  We spent quite a bit of time in one woman's home, having a lovely conversation with her about her family and life, and then things took a turn.  She explained that it is so difficult to make any money in the village (which I completely understood- in all honesty, I don't know how anyone could make money there).  Because of this though, she was struggling to feed her children and admitted that she felt like a failure and has been contemplating suicide. What do you do with that?? We did our best, and I still think of her and pray for her often.  I hope that she's giving church another chance.  Anyway, we spent about 2 hours doing evangelism (while getting attacked by millions of ants), then met back up at the church/campsite.  It was time for Saturday night youth group!  All of the kids returned, along with about 20 teens, and we had a great service that the youth led.  I just can't get enough of our branch churches.  The cute little boy who was teaching me Setswana earlier sat with me during the service, and he knew my favorite song was "Jo Na Na" and he kept trying to request it for me.  When they finally sang it, he grabbed my arm and gave me a huge smile.  The memory of that is bringing a huge smile to my face as I type this.  Goodness, I miss Africa.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I am back in Minnesota, safe and sound after 30 hours of travel.  I will spend some time over the next few days to go back and share stories from my last 7 weeks in Botswana, as well as let you know what it's like to readjust to life in America.  Hint: I cried in Target twice...and not tears of joy.  Eish.

Truth be told, I am so happy to be back with my family (and of course the hubby).  I feel like I saw them 3 weeks ago though!  It doesn't feel like 7 months have passed.

Anyway, I need to get some sleep.  I only slept for about an hour and a half on my 16 hour flight from Jo-burg, so time to crawl into bed (in fact, it's 4:15am Bots time, so I feel like I'm missing another night of sleep).  My prayer is that the jet lag wont be nearly as difficult to deal with this time around.  It took me nearly 2 weeks to get over when I went to Bots back in September!

Love to all!  Sala sentle!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Getting Ready to Leave

I still have many things to update this blog with- children's ministry, our trip to the branch church in Sehitwa, our trip to Vic Falls...but at the moment the only thing that I can think about is the fact that I am leaving Botswana in two days.  I have been an emotional rollercoaster the last few days.  At one moment I am ready to head home and see Roger and my family again, and the next I am weeping because I don't want to leave.  These past 7 months have been some of the best of my life.  I have learned so much, grown so much, and loved so much.  I am head over heels crazy about the people in Maun.  Not just the kids (which, if you have read my prior blog posts, you would know has definitely been the case); I have met some amazing people while working at the school, ministering at the church, and helping with the women's shelter.  I have made some very dear friends that I will have trouble keeping in touch with, as most of them don't have access to computers at all.

I am nervous about returning to the states.  In all honesty, I'm not looking forward to it at all.  I like the slowed-down pace of Africa; I love the ministry opportunities; I love spending my evenings at the baby house (rescue center).  I love getting kissed on the nose every week after children's church by Shawn, one of our 5-year olds.  I love looking at the clock at 10am on the weekdays and heading down to the offices to hang with the teachers over tea time.  I like getting frustrated at the donkeys, cows and goats that wont move out of your way on the road.  I like driving stick shift on the left-hand side of the road.  Eish, watch out, drivers.  I'll be second-guessing myself for weeks, I'm sure.  I love saying "Dumela, mma!" to every lady I pass on the road.  I love how I have to touch my right forearm with my left hand when shaking hands or transferring items.  I love seeing our plot dogs, Big Man and Livingstone, happily wagging their tails as they roam the property.  I love my Thursday night LOST parties with the Claytons after church.  I love doing prayer line ministry in the church if I am not working in the children's church that Sunday.  I love sneaking off the plot with Dietra for lunches at Wine and Dine or Nando's.  I love stopping by the playground at school and having 30 kids run at me screaming "IT'S MISS ASHLEY!!!!" to each other and then getting tackled. I love my greeting with Pastor Sunny: "Hi, Pastor Sunny!" "Hello, my dear!  How are you?" followed by a big hug...and we do this every single time we see each other, even if it's 12 times in a day.  I love playing games with Dietra and Brenda.  I love knowing that I am living on the tip of both the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta.  I love that I could go for a walk any day and see a giraffe if I wanted to.  I love that I go out for dessert so much that staff from 2 different restaurants have become friends of mine.  I love our dinner parties at the Lackey house.  I love playing "The Game" with Mason, Dietra and Godfrey in the pool.  I love the babies we are caring for.  I love that I am blessed enough to have spent 7 months with our little Olisego.  I love that you never know when a snake is going to pop up.  I love that when I see bugs, I can say "Oh, that's only a wall spider; those are good" or "That's a blister beetle.  No biggie, just don't let it touch you." I love making fun of Dietra for talking like a Motswana.  I love leading the Heart Ablaze Bible Study.  I love doing something meaningful every single day.

It's going to be an interesting adjustment, coming back to America.  For those of you who know me, please give me a grace period to readjust.  Don't be offended if I don't seem to want to be there; Africa has completely stolen my heart.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Game Park and Delta Ride

Shortly after Roger left, I took the girls on a walk in a park in town.  How cool is it that the town park has giraffes, zebras, baboons, wildebeests, warthogs, impala, and eland?  So cool.  We were there for about 2 or 3 hours.  Here are a couple of the pictures:

Rest of Vacation with Roger

I am over a month behind on this blog...oops!  I have been without internet at my house for about 6 weeks, so it's difficult to get online.  Poor excuse, I know, but it's true.

Wrapping things up with Roger...we got back from the Moremi Game Reserve Monday morning and took the day to relax and repack for our next adventure.  Off to the Tree Lodge!  We picked up my cousin Jacob and 5 of his traveling partners at the airport Tuesday morning, and took off for the Lodge.  When we arrived we went for a game drive, and then just rested.  This time at the Lodge was wonderful for the two of us.  We felt so lazy, but we basically just sat by the pool for 2 days straight.  At first it was difficult for me to be alright with just hanging out; I felt like we needed to be doing something at all times.  Once Roger convinced me that it was ok to take that time to just rest and breathe, I loved it.  Wednesday morning we all (including Jacob and the other Texas guys) went on a horseback safari early in the morning.  Talk about amazing!  I remember looking at my watch at one point, thinking "It's 7:30am and I've already seen 7 giraffe, 5 zebra, and countless antelope...I am so blessed."  We spent 2 nights at the lodge, and then it was time to head back home.

So, like I had mentioned before, Roger and I dealt with a stomach bug while at Little Kwara.  That passed, but when we retuned to Maun, Rog mentioned that he felt like he had a bug bite behind his ear.  While we were at the lodge, we realized he was developing a rash, and by the end of the second day, so was on.  On my eye.  When we got home to the plot, some of the missionaries sent us into town immediately to see the pharmacist (who is just as good as any doctor out here).  She took one look at us, asked us where we had been and then said that we must have been touched by a hairy worm while in Moremi.  She gave us some medication and treatments, but there wasn't much else we could do but wait it out.
Here's the thing about the didn't itch, it burned very painfully.  Rog had it on his neck, chest and arm, and I had it on my ear, chin and eye.  Lovely.  We pretty much spent the next 3 or 4 days shut in at my house, just laying on the couch and watching movies.  I didn't want to see anyone while I was dealing with this!  Not only was I crabby because I was in pain, but it was just so gross!!  I had to force myself to go to church.  By the time Sunday rolled around it kind of looked like I had been beat up, and I didn't want anyone to see me like that.  It took over a week for it to go away, so when it finally did, I was so happy!

The rest of the time we were together, we really had a great time just hanging around town.  We went out to all the different restaurants, spent time at the baby house, hung out with some of the missionaries, and just enjoyed each other's company.  It was really tough to say goodbye to him at the airport...tears were definitely shed, but it helped to know that we'd be back together in less than 2 months.

So, despite the stomach bugs and the hairy worm rash (ew!) we had 17 of the best days of our lives.  I can't wait to reunite with him on April 13 :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pictures' Links

Aha!  The moment you have all been waiting for...links to see all of the pictures from our trip to Little Kwara!

Group One

Group 2

Day 3 at Little Kwara (Part 3)

Ok, plan is to finish up Little Kwara with this post!  I left off after we went back for our siesta time at the camp.  Rog and I spent some time at the pool again, just enjoying the sun, reading some books, and taking a dip in the pool.

We had two more men join our group that afternoon; they were from Germany!  What I loved about this place was that we had 2 Americans (me and Rog), 2 Germans, an Englishman and a Frenchman.  So diverse!

That afternoon instead of going on a game drive we took a boat ride on the Okavango Delta (world's largest inland delta).


It was a beautiful night.  So after we were done on the Delta, it was time to head back for dinner.  That night it stormed like crazy.  It raged all night long (beautiful lightening storm!) and unfortunately continued throughout the morning.  We were supposed to go on a mokoro ride (the dug-out canoes), but the rain kept us inside.  Then at 11:00 it was time to hit the road, and off we went to the air strip.  It was tough to leave...we had such a wonderful time!  Rog and I realized that it beat out our honeymoon for the best trip we've ever taken together.  Not easy to do!  

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 3 at Little Kwara (Part 2)

After we were rescued from the snares of the hippo watering hole (slight exaggeration, but that's how I felt at the time), we drove off with no particular agenda.  As we were driving, we came back to the huge elephant femur...and I wanted to pick it up.  It was heavy!
See, I look strong, but in reality Roger had to pick it up and hand it to me, and then after about 10 seconds I had to give it back to him.

After that, we had our tea time and then headed back to the camp.  Right before we made it back there, we came across a warthog.

Hee Hee Hee 
This is a short post, because I now have to run home and prepare for a meeting with Jerry and the girls.  I'll keep plugging away at this until I finally finish my stories from when Rog was here!

Jonathon Mark Bonnema

Today marks the 4 year anniversary of the accident that took my little brother's life.  Jon was a phenomenal kid, annoying younger brother, and one of my best friends.  I miss him dearly, and it's especially difficult today.  It's hard to be away from home this time of the year, but it will get better soon.  The hardest part this time around is that nobody here knew Jon.  The interns are so preciously praying for me and trying to offer encouraging words, but it's not the same as when I'm with people who knew him.

I am thankful that I get to go to Victoria Falls next week; I was telling my dad the other day that I feel like Vic Falls is the closest thing that we have on earth that resembles Heaven.  I get to experience a tiny piece of what Jon gets every single day :)
Seriously, can you believe this?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 3 at Little Kwara (Part 1)

The next morning we woke up early again and hit the road around 6:30am.  It was lion searching time!  We drove around for about an hour and a half or so without seeing a single animal.  Not one.  I didn't mind though...the scenery was beautiful, and I was listening to my "lion huntin' music"- The Lion King's "Be Prepared."  I just sat there with a silly grin on my face the entire time.  After a while, I was starting to get a little discouraged...if I wasn't going to see lions, I at least wanted to see something cool.  All of a sudden we turned a corner and it appeared we entered paradise.  There was a clearing, and we came upon hippos, an elephant, giraffes and zebras.  All together, just enjoying the day.  It was beautiful.  We parked our truck next to the watering hole with the two hippos in it.

The giraffe was eating, obviously :)

All of a sudden we turn around, and I feel like I am in the Jungle Book...a herd of elephants start marching our way from a distance:

They were marching in a line!  It was so cute.
And then they were upon us.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 2 at Little Kwara

The next morning, Roger and I woke up at 5am (or so), had a lovely breakfast around a campfire, and then off we went to find cheetahs!  Our guide had heard that there 3 of them (they call them the Three Brothers) about an hour away from camp.  As we drove over there, we came across a few cool things:
An elephant femur!
A hyena!
Tons of zebras, and we were able to walk up to them!
The Three Brothers!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Picking Back Up...

I am almost 100% back to normal now...I went to the doctor, who thought I had pneumonia or bronchitis, and found out I had an upper respiratory infection.  That was comforting news!   I was put on antibiotics and some pain meds, and within a week I was feeling much better.

So, back to the story! I left off talking about the elephants and the hippos our first evening there.  Well, after that we went driving again and came across the giraffes as the sun was setting

After that, we had tea time, then drove back to the camp for dinner and crashed into bed.  That is the end of day one for Roger and Ashley's Safari

Friday, March 5, 2010


I want so desperately to update this blog with more stories from my trip with Roger, but at the moment I am fighting some form of the flu and can't put together a single coherent thought.
Until I am better and able to write more, enjoy these two pictures!

Elephants rule.  That's all.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Little Kwara (Part 2)

Welcome back!  This is the continuation of yesterday's post, Little Kwara (Part 1).  So, I still have stories from the first day there.  When we went out for our afternoon game drive, we wanted to follow the lions, because the guides knew they would be hunting that day.  The big question was, which group do we follow?  The one with 2 females and 3 males, or the one with 3 females?  They knew we would see more hunting if we followed the lionesses, but we could see a fight amongst the males if their lionesses caught something.  You could tell that the males hadn't been eating too well; it was actually a little sad to see the ribs of one of them.  My problem is that I don't ever want to see an animal run for its life, only to get snatched down an eaten.  Conundrum!  Well, we went back to where the lions were, but they had already left.  So, we went to where the lionesses were, but they were gone too.  So, KB went to work, and we started tracking.  Unfortunately, we were out for four hours and couldn't find them back.  Fortunately, we got to see lots of other amazing things!
My first elephant!!  Now, you have to understand that I was told by Steve that we might not see any elephants while we were there, because they aren't too common. in that area  So imagine my elation when I saw this one the first day; I was giddy!
There were hundreds of red lechwe gathered by the lagoon; they were jumping back and forth over the river a lot.  I think they were just messing with the crocodile that was waiting in the water. This is my favorite picture of one jumping.
My first hippo!  This guy was hilarious.  He was in the water, saw us coming, and ran out.  Then he would mock charge us, but as soon as Steve started the engine on the car, he would retreat.  
  This happened 3 times before he got scared and decided to run off and hide in a bush.
Seriously, he ran up to a bush, stuck his head in there and waited.  He would pop out, see that we were still there, run to the other side, and hide his head again.  Poor guy.  I loved it.
Also, look at its cute little bird friends!  They follow the hippos and elephants everywhere.
We had such a great time driving around and seeing the animals.  We went to another watering hole and found that there was a baby hippo and 3 adults in the water.  In the reeds near the water, there was another male hippo, desperately wanting to get in.  The problem was, there was already a male hippo there, protecting the females and the baby (fun fact- most of the time, female hippos have to protect the babies from the males, who try to kill them).  We actually got to see a fight take place between the 2 males!  That was really cool.  The poor loner lost the battle and had to run off and find another place to cool off.  My heart is too big for these animals...I wanted to cry at the thought that nobody wanted him around.  I need to toughen up, I think.  Also at that watering hole?  Elephants!!  We stayed there for at least an hour, watching all the animals (also, more crocodiles and tons of birds).  Here are a couple of pictures from that time:

And finally (because it's now lunch time and I have to go...):

Believe me, there are many, many more pictures for you to enjoy!  Still working on uploading them, but as soon as I can, I will post the link.  Hope you enjoyed this installment of Roger and Ashley's Adventures in Botswana!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Little Kwara (Part 1)

Little Kwara is the safari camp on the Okavango Delta in the Moremi Game Reserve that Roger and I stayed at from February 12th-15th.  We flew out there Friday morning (it was only a 30 minute flight), and when we landed we were greeted by our guide and trackers for the weekend, Steve and KB.  Right away they told us that there were some lion tracks nearby that they would like to follow; 10 minutes within landing, we came across a pride of 3 lions and 2 lionesses!  It was amazing how close we could get...

As we were driving away, Steve stopped to get a picture of Rog and me with the lions in the background:

Then as we started the drive back to the camp, KB noticed a pack of 3 lionesses 200 meters, off we went!
They were (like the first pride we saw) very tired

Within 40 minutes of landing, Rog and I had seen 8 lions.  Pretty remarkable!  We knew (and it was confirmed later by many people), that it is unusual to come across those so quickly, as they can be difficult to track down.  In fact, try as we might, we never saw the lions again!

Here is how the schedule goes at Kwara: wake up at 5:30am, small breakfast, then on the road by 6:30 for a game ride.  The drive lasts 4-5 hours (with a tea break! yum!), then we head back to the camp.  Eat a nice brunch, then siesta until about 3:30.  Rog and I generally hung by the pool and rested there (as lovely as the tents are- and they are amazing- there are no fans, so it was pretty much unbearable to stay there during the day).  At 3:30, we would meet up for afternoon tea and then head out for another game drive.  This time we would be out until close to 8:00 (with another tea break!), then when we got back it was time for dinner.  By the time we were done eating, we were so exhausted that we'd head right to bed...and start all over the next day!  It was WONDERFUL.  One of the great things about this set up is that we got to spend quite a bit of time with the staff and other campers.  We always enjoyed swapping stories of the different sitings from the drives.  
When we first arrived at the camp and were sitting on the patio, talking with the staff, we were able to jut sit and watch baboons, antelopes, warthogs, and vultures all hanging around the lagoon right by our camp.  As time went on, we also got to see warthogs running around the camp itself, along with monkeys stealing food at tea time and baboons drinking water out of the pool.

Ok, confession time.  I have no idea how to blog about our time at Little Kwara.  We took thousands of pictures and have so many great stories.  I think I am going to have to break this up into several posts with just a few pictures on the blog itself, and then provide a link for you to see all of the great pictures.  Trust me, it will be worth the time you spend looking at all of it :)  That being said, I am going to wrap this post up with just a list of all the animals we saw.  Again, stories and pictures to come!

First of all- Birds: way too many to keep track of.  Hundreds of different species, and so many were beautiful!  There were a couple of ugly ones, but that always happens, right?

Elephants (my favorite!!!!!)
Red Lechwe

Well, that's all for now!  Much more to come throughout the week...there's no internet at my house, so I can't update this as often as I would like to.  

The Beginning of Roger and Ashley's Adventures in Botswana

I just experienced 17 of the best days of my life.  It was so wonderful to have Roger out here!  He was supposed to arrive on Wednesday, February 10th at 3pm, but his flight was delayed.
His plane!  It's here!
It was only delayed by a half hour, granted, but those thirty minutes dragged on way too slowly.  I was pacing back and forth through that little airport like a crazy person, and when he arrived, I hardly knew what to do with myself.  I am sure that you can imagine how amazing it was to be reunited after 10 months!  Here's a random story from Rog's trip out here:

From Kuwait, he flew to Dubai.  From Dubai, he flew to Jo-burg, and from Jo-burg to Maun.  While I was waiting for him to arrive, I ran into 2 church members (Mrs. Roy and her son Kamal) who were waiting for his family to arrive from India.  Turns out, they traveled with Roger from Dubai, on.  When Roger saw me hugging the kids (who also go to the school I taught at last year), he gave me a funny look and chuckled when he found out the connection.  Apparently the kids were quite loud on both flights and misbehaved a lot.  Amita and Abishak were pretty excited to find out that they traveled with my husband :)

So, Wednesday evening Rog got to meet Ms Pat and the Lackey kids (they were the welcome wagon about 30 minutes after we got back to the plot).  I LOVED seeing him interact with those kids!  He brought presents for them from Kuwait, and Mmapula was calling him Uncle Roger from the get-go.  Ms Pat was just pleased as punch to finally meet him; they of course all loved him.  That night, Rog was also able to meet Dietra, Brenda, and Olisego.  Oli was crazy about him; the entire time he was out here, whenever he was in the Baby House, she would perk up.  Even if she was in the other room and she heard his voice, she would sit up high with a huge grin.

We spent most of Thursday just relaxing and resting at the plot.  He got a chance to get a tour of the school, meeting the kids and teachers.  We happened to come across the reception/standard 1 kids while they were on their break time at the playground.  Let's just say that the kids adored Rog.  I looked over at one point and saw 2 kids trying to climb on his back, while 2 others were each on a leg and he was trying to pick up a child while 2 others were grabbing his arms.  I started cracking up, and then nearly doubled over when Mmapula screamed excitedly over to me, "HE'S OUR OWN PERSONAL JUNGLE GYM!!"

Friday morning, Rog and I flew up to Little Kwara, which is a safari camp on the Delta in the Moremi Game Reserve.  Thus began the 3 best days of our lives...