Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ke rata Botswana ka kagiso le thokgamo.

-I like Botswana for the peace and harmony. I use this when I'm either trying to suck up to someone and/or make them laughter.
I spend 80% of my day people watching, 10% reading, and 10% doing various other normal activities (baking, entertaining children on my patio, perfecting 'Oh! Susanna' on my harmonica, crying over my Setswana dictionary). I've concluded that I need no practice, I have watched enough mothers strap their children to their back with towels and blankets that I can do it. Store-bought, expensive, safety guaranteed, horn, air brakes, shocks, and 5 storage compartment stroller you say? No, thanks, I have a towel. I really wish I could post pictures to show the women rocking it, but it is probably exactly what you're picturing anyways. I've also decided this method of carrying children is awesome and if the, what I assume will be, unpleasant experience of motherhood is ever bestowed upon me, I will be toting my spawn via back towel. Just think of the back sweat that accompanies such a method! Yup.
The Batswana in general have some issues to work on in the hospitality department. I feel like I can say this without being offensive because I think it is common enough knowledge. When I am walking by a person, more often than not, they look kind of mean. Like someone you maybe do not want to talk to, but that is exactly what you should not do. When you do say 'dumela' to that person, often times something amazing happens! Their expression goes from utterly terrifying, to the kind face and warm smile of an old friend. It's frustrating a lot of times because it takes effort to say hello to someone who looks like they want to beat the crap out of me, but I do it, and I'm usually justly rewarded with friendliness. University of Botswana is graduating their first class of hospitality students, I think this year, which is awesome. Most store employees are also equally as friendly as the people on the street when you enter their store, it seems like an inconvenience that a shopper has entered, they have never been taught otherwise and are usually very friendly people once you speak to them. Botswana is trying to up their tourism game for 'when the diamonds run out', which is another huge question in the future of Botswana, and also one most people here never talk about. Fingers crossed that Botswana has magic lands that somehow continuously produces diamonds for thousands of years to come.
Batswana are proud that their country is known as peaceful and non-corrupt, and they will brag about it to foreigners. I think its great and I love them for that.
It has been about 1.5 months living without electricity and let me tell you, it's really really....not as bad as you think. It doesn't impair my life in any horrible way and if anything I'm gaining valuable life skills, right? The most frustrating thing is that I have to charge my computer and phone at the clinic during the day. All the PCVs here are given Nokia brick phones (T9 word anyone?) which are pretty great, the battery lasts forever! Ok, like a week, which is about a week longer than my stupid galaxy lasted in the states. It's quite a handy device for someone without power. I think it's probably good I don't have access to my computer all the time, or else I know I'd be watching shows and not socializing as much as I should. The second most frustrating thing is the fridge situation, man, I'd really like a fridge, if only for cold water. They keep telling me I will get it, still doubtful.
Gompieno ke letsatsi la matsalo wa me. Today is my birthday! I celebrated by walking all over the village telling everyone! Haha, not really....Kind of. Some awesome things happened today:
1. It was partially cloudy and the morning was cool enough to sleep with a blanket on! Score!
2. I got a free slice of pizza! So what if the sauce was 'tangy mayonnaise' and not red sauce? I'm not picky.
3. I watched THREE episodes of Friends. I saved my computer battery in preparation.
4. I found someone who will teach me basket weaving. She speaks no English so it'll be great.
5. Reptar ate the cockroach in my kitchen!! At least I think he did...
6. Prince, my 4 year old neighbor boy who may very well be the cutest thing ever, was wearing destroyed hot pink corduroy skinny jeans.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Village Life

What Up, Mosetse?!
If anyone has the burning desire to send me love notes (which is encouraged and appreciated):
Christy Nekvinda
PO box 131
Mosetse postal agency
*To those who already sent me cards/letters-THANK YOU! I loved them all so much and they are proudly displayed on my fridge. Unfortunately, the post office here doesn't believe in carrying stamps apparently so I have the letters written, just need to wait for postage to become available!
I've officially been in Mosetse over a month! The people here are awesome and friendly and I've had no problems. My house is pretty great, I really wanted to post a picture of a mud hut and try to convince everyone it is my house, but of course, posting a picture takes way more Internet than I will probably have. It's a government issued house and there are hundreds of the exact same house all around my district. I only have one close neighbor, who is the head nurse/supervisor at the clinic. It has four solid walls, a lovely in-tact roof, and doors that almost all close (the important ones close, at least). I have a spare bedroom with absolutely no furniture in it, but my living room have a solid broken couch, chair, and a decent kitchen table. Please keep in mind my standards have drastically plummeted since leaving the US. My kitchen is really great though, tons of storage space, a pantry, working gas oven/stove, and a fridge (but I don't have electricity so I use it for decoration in my living room). I am told "the chief will put light in your house". I'm skeptical. I'm not sure if my house is actually nice or if I'm just so pumped that I actually have my own house for the first time in my life that I'm overlooking many the fact that only half of my doors close. Also, it wouldn't be weird at all if I did indeed live in a mud hut, I'd say about 40% of the village does.
There is a lizard living somewhere in my house. What does he eat? Is he in my bag of rice? What if I step on him as I'm walking in the dark to the bathroom at 1am because I'm unable to sleep due to the fact that I'm POURING sweat? Does he want to cuddle? How do I feel about that? I know he's here because I saw him chilling in my pantry and he also scared the living bejesus out of me. I thought it was a snake because I've been told we have those since there is a river running through the village (Which is bone-dry, don't you worry). Anywho, I've named him Reptar and we shall be great friends (and he's definitely a boy because of the way he is). I also killed a scorpion in my bathroom that same day which was horribly traumatic and I was probably a little over-dramatic about the situation, but C'MON PEOPLE IT WAS A SCORPION. This also leads me to believe Reptar is doing a particularly poor job of eating the insects in my house and I'm considering reevaluating his tenant-ship. My friend killed a cockroach in my house the other day and said he felt bad because "I felt like I was taking a life"...BECAUSE THEY ARE MASSIVE. Men in Black style cockroaches.
The 'clinic' I work at isn't even really a clinic. It's technically a health post, which means it is very, very small. The staff is two nurses, one health education assistant, one cleaner, and one driver. The best part about this is we don't actually have a vehicle, although I've been told we used to. What does the driver do you ask? NOTHING. Welcome to Botswana, where nothing makes sense and don't ask why! But the clinic is right next door to my house. It is roughly a 30 second walk but let me tell you, 30 seconds in this sun is enough for me for the entire day. I usually only pull out my umbrella on walks longer than 60 seconds. In the morning the clinic is PACKED with people. There are only two rooms, and one storage room, which I've seen the nurse treat patients in before. Babies are weighed in the morning, rations are distributed, and the nurses see patients all day. Afternoons are very dead and we all just sit in the waiting area, which is basically a covered patio with benches, and talk. By talk I mean they all talk in Setswana and I sit there trying to understand at least one word every 5 minutes. I usually fail and just zone out. The staff is all really awesome though and everyone speaks English, they just prefer Setswana, which makes sense, it is their language. I have also been charging my phone, computer, and light at the clinic. My computer holds little charge so I don't use it very much, I've been able to watch a few movies though. I entertain myself by writing blog posts, reading, rewriting a cookbook by hand so I don't have to use power when using it, and baking! My oven is gas powered, terrifying, and the temperatures are either 'Might As Well Throw This In A Fire' and 'Off'. The bread cooks fast. I also play a fun game called 'How Long Until it Spoils?!' Milk last 2.5 days unrefrigerated until spoiling, by the end of the third day it's chunky. Stay tuned for various vegetable and fruits.
Although I barely do anything during the day, I'm exhausted at night. It's similar to that feeling you get after you've been in the library for 12 hours cramming for an exam the next morning, your brain is exhausted. Can you tell I just got out of college? And that I crammed a lot? This weekend my friend and I were literally dragged into a wedding, taken by the shoulders and pushed through the tent. Even though we got there way later than everyone else, they gave us a spot under the tent. They even tried to serve us before the rest of the table, but we refused, which was definitely the right thing to do. We are trying to integrate into this community, not be guests for two years. It was exhausting.
I sweat. All. The. Time. If any two parts of my body touch, whew, it is game over, I will sweat in that place. I sleep in snow angel position to try to get air to any place on my body that air will circulate. I often wake up in the middle of the night sweating. I've considered sleeping on the floor to cool off but ever since the scorpion incident, I'm hesitant. I'm going to find a battery powered fan ASAP, but everything takes about 5 times as long as it should in Botswana, so give me a few months.
A lot of kids here have told me they've never actually seen a white person, or 'lakgoa' as they call it, in person. And I think that's true for most of the young villagers. The population is about 3,000 and tons of kids everywhere (but no high schoolers, they all go to boarding school in another village). They've only seen a white person on TV, so no pressure or anything. An entire village's perspective on the Lakgoa's and the citizens of the United States is entirely dependent on a 22 year old girl who has no idea what she's doing 90% of the time.
Until Saturday, I thought there were only two languages spoken here, which was horrible enough, but now I found out there are three. People here really don't understand how hard it is to learn a second language, because they began learning their second language at the age of 5 and their third and maybe their forth. I am only focusing on learning Setswana, but that angers the Ikalanga people since this is more their region than the Setswana, and the third one is the bushman language (It's a dying language, Carly, get on it) and yeah, never in my life will I learn that. It has all sorts of clicks and noises that I'm simply unable to make with my mouth. Some older people won't even respond to me if I don't greet them in their language, but how in the world am I supposed to tell if they speak Setswana or Ikalanga? Eish.
A huge struggle for me is the water. I live close to the salt pan so the water is salty, but the bad part is that it is thick. I have no idea what makes it that way and I haven't heard of anyone else with this issue, but it's horribly unrefreshing, no one in the village drinks it, and my filter is already half clogged. Everyone drinks rain water, or carries their water in from Francistown, I'm still debating on if I want to carry in 80 liters of water a month on a tiny bus.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


There are few things more cute in the world than a 2 year old speaking Setswana. The kids here grow up speaking Setswana until they start school, where they are expected to learn English. In Botswana, English is mandatory in every school, but often times (especially in smaller villages) English-only is not enforced. Our communication is limited to numerous high fives, fist bumps, and repetitive name-saying. I say 'Game' and she responds 'tee-tee' because the name Christy is practically impossible, then we laugh and make faces at each other. We repeat this roughly 20 times before we're both tired. The word 'ko-ko' is how they say knock knock here, so when you walk up to a door you say it. One time, my friend and I were sitting in my living room and we hear this tiny voice saying 'ko-ko' probably five times before Peggy (host sister/Game's mom) tells us Game is at the door waiting for us to let her in. She also calls my friend Mike, 'Mikey', which no one ever does so she made it up herself and it is hilarious. Anywho, I think I like her so much because she can't speak English. Oh oh oh! Have you seen that YouTube video of the little kid who laughs and then makes a serious face really fast, and then bursts out laughing (it's adorable, look it up)? Ok, well, she does that. I've been trying to get it on video, but taking out a camera here creates the same responds as throwing candy into the air, the kids go freaking NUTS.
So technically, I'm not actually a volunteer.....yet. I'm still a trainee, and if I were to leave bots now, I can't say that I have ever been a volunteer. Not until Tuesday! Tuesday is what we in PC world call 'Swearing In' and it is kind of a big deal. PC Botswana makes it a real ceremony full of speakers and food. Some other countries do not do anything celebratory, but our country director is pretty celebration-oriented. It is going to be at a really nice hall in the hospital here. We will each have our name called and everyone's host families will be in attendance cheering us on, then after we will all celebrate the rest of the day as full-fledged PCV's while we sit and tally all the rules we have already broken (.....just kidding). Wednesday though, it gets real. Every site is responsible for providing transportation to our village from Serowe. Mosetse is, I think, roughly four hours north of Serowe? I'm pretty sure I will be riding up with another volunteer who lives even further north than me. We are going to demand to stop in Francistown at a store called Game (actually pronounced like English game), which is the bots equivalent to Walmart. If we aren't able to stop on the way, it's going to be really hard to buy anything big for our houses because trying to fit a huge basin, a large fan, or a table on a bus will be horrible and awkward.
Right now, I know that I indeed have a house, which is great because some people have barely heard from their villages and may not even have a house set up yet. If that does happen, they are going to be forced to stay in Serowe another week until it gets sorted out. I also am supposed to have electricity, but they were still working on it, last I heard. All the houses have to be inspected and up to PC security standards, and if they are not, then the pcv will have to stay in Serowe until it is all secure. Crossing my fingers that everything is alright, because I'm really ready to go. I love my host family, but for the love of god I want my own kitchen....and privacy. I'm going to make Rice Krispies later and I almost do not want to because I cannot stand having four kids and often times Peggy surrounding me the whole time. Deep breaths. I have also not only increased my number of starch servings a day from 10 to 15, but I have actually been going out of my way to eat more white bread, they make the best damn rolls. Other than trying to wean off my addiction to bread (I feel like Steph), i'm also really excited to start introducing myself around my village. Some people are replacing a volunteer in their site, so they already have the scoop on the ins and outs of the village. While that definitely has some wonderful perks, it also has its downfalls. If you are replacing someone, you might have some pretty big shoes to fill. The villagers may always be comparing you and may not like it if you do something differently than the previous pcv. I'm basically trying to justify this to myself, because I am the first pcv in Mosetse. People are going to go CRAZY when I move into town. Tea for days! Let's all hope they speak English, for the sake of my sanity.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A very Motswana wedding

What we call a reception in America, they call a wedding in Botswana. With few people in attendance, the couple gets married the day before the reception. In general, everything Batswana do is a celebration and there is always food involved. You can't hold a meeting without having 'tea', which is really just tea and food, like sandwiches and bread. If you don't offer tea, don't expect anyone to show up. Anywho, I've had the opportunity to go to two weddings here and I will say, they know how to party. If I were Motswana I imagine weddings would be awesome. It's essentially just a huge neighborhood block party with all of your friends from the ward, and I feel like there are quite a few weddings (not nearly as many as funerals, but that's for a different day). Well, I'm not Motswana so I don't think they are awesome, I think they are slightly nerve-wracking and incredibly awkward. I would throw out a guess that most PCV's feel awkward attending new celebrations/stores/streets/neighborhoods (are you grasping that I mean everywhere?) during training, and especially alone. We get stared at everywhere and no matter how fluently we speak Setswana they WILL laugh at anything and everything we attempt to say in it. We have been told numerous times that the laughing isn't meant to be mean, but it isn't exactly encouraging when they laugh every time you state your name.
Peggy, my host sister, asked me this afternoon to go to the wedding with her and we would meet mma there. I am usually really busy and unable to attend such functions, but finding my whole afternoon open, I obliged (even though I really just wanted to lay on my bed and try to nap because it's COLD today and awesome because it rained, that's right, it rained here, it's a big deal). We walked the 3 minutes across the street to the wedding and immediately we are handed a spoon and told to start serving. There are at least three serving stations full of women throwing food everywhere (which are all equally terrifying to walk up to) at this place and roughly 200 people in attendance, but it's hard to tell because people are just moving all over the place. There are seven bowls of food and you would think it would be easiest to just form an assembly-like line to pass the plates through, but no, we just randomly grab plates and scoop food on whatever is in front of us, with many plates missing multiple bowls. After about thirty minutes of scooping semp, Peggy pulls me out of the line and battles her way through not one, not two, but three serving lines to get me a plate of food she thinks I will like. I love her. The meal consisted of a meat substance called seswa that I like to pretend is pulled pork (it really looks like it after you get passed the veins, bones, and creepy trachea-resembling tubes in it), pumpkin-squash, semp, cabbage, and even fresh salad greens. After eating we walk back to her place, find some random guy in her lawn to deliver the leg and rib cage of a dead and skinned cow from the bed of his pickup truck, help him move it into her kitchen, and then went back to the wedding. As we were watching the bride walk in with her second dress on, a little kid just throws down his drawers and pees right in front of me, then the song 'Silent Night' comes on. Not one person is phased by either of these things.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Site announcements

Site announcement
After discussing this with a couple of people, I realized that when thinking about the PC life for the past two years, I rarely gave any concern to PST (pre service training) . PST was just a 2 month blip that, in the grand scheme of things, meant nothing to my overall service of 27 months. Well, right now I wholeheartedly disagree. It feels like we have been here for years and thinking that I have only known my fellow trainees for six weeks is practically mind blowing. We have concluded that they make this 2 months long and grueling just so we all bond a tiny bit better. Well done peace corps, well done.
The site announcements are a huge deal and staff makes it a ceremony, complete with cookies and tears (usually of joy...usually). In the weeks before placement, the staff sits down with each trainee a couple times in order to get a feel for the needs and wants of the PCV (although many people feel that it doesn't really matter what you preference and they just do it to seem like you have some say in where you end up, they give you what they give you). I decided from the very start of the PC process that I do not care where I go. I have this feeling that wherever I get placed in the world is fate and I should not mess with it, it will all work out. Plus, one of the reasons I did PC was to challenge myself and go outside of my comfort zone. I made no preference to what country, or even continent, that I wanted and I could not have been placed in a country better than Botswana. As for my village, my only real concern was that I would be placed far from other volunteers. For those who know me (especially my roommates), know that I dislike being away from people and will often sit in the living room yelling at people until they come hang out with me. I also really wanted the north but I did not want to say that out loud, for fear that if I said it and did not get it, I would be disappointed, and you really can't be disappointed if you just don't care. For those wondering, the north has all the wildlife and is hotter, while the south is not as scenic but is cooler. Once again, the PC gods helped me out and handed me just what I needed, a village called Mosetse. For those looking at a map (I'm talking to you, Janet!) it's in the central district of Bots, about 100km northwest of Francistown, and a little to the right of the Sua Pan. The trusty Wikipedia told me that in 2001 they had a population of about 1,600. And that, my friends, is literally all I know about this village. I have no idea what my house will be like, or if I will have electricity or running water. I know that it is in the region that speaks the Ikalanga language, which is pretty unfortunate because the last six weeks I've been learning Setswana. But don't worry, "you will still need to know Setswana". I'm skeptical, but again, I will figure it out. I am placed about 50km from a couple other volunteers and there are probably about seven or more within 150km. I will not be completely alone! It's great because I can live in my small village with my few amenities, but when I get really desperate I can go crash with people who live in larger villages nearby and have, what I assume will be, nicer places (meaning they might have showers and grocery stores). Or I could have a nice, new, amazing house with all the bells and whistles.
I'll be working in the clinic, probably just weighing babies and passing out food for kids until I can figure out what projects the community needs and work on those. I really want to start a garden and do some sort of nutrition workshops but I really can't do anything for the first few months because we're just supposed to be watching, doing our community assessment, and integrating into the community. It's called lockdown, we are not allowed to leave our village at all except to go to our shopping village. Many volunteers break this rule immediately.
I went into PC with average to low blood pressure, now I'm pretty sure I'm hypertensive. The amount of salt Mma adds to the food is unreal. I do not even want to purchase salt when I leave Serowe. Food is the main reason I'm pumped to be done with PST. I lucked out with an awesome host family and housing situation, but god almighty I really can't wait to cook for myself, and have my own kitchen. Everyone feels pretty much the same about that. I'm excited to eat food called whole grains (if those even exist here, I'm not too sure), and buy skim milk. Ah yes, the milk. When I first arrived I saw full cream milk in the fridge and just assumed it was for Game, the two year old. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Full cream milk is the norm and you have to go out of your way to find skim milk and pay an extra ten pula. I also am excited to just wake up in the morning, walk out of my room, and be completely alone.
In every site each volunteer is supposed to have a counterpart they work with in their village. Well today, all 58 counterparts are supposed to be coming to Serowe for a two day workshop where we talk about our feelings or something along those lines. PC loves having everyone talk about their feelings for extended periods of time, it's really great. We've heard stories of really awful counterparts and really great ones, so it can go either way. We shall see!
2.5 weeks until site!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I really want pulled pork.

The past few days I was shadowing a volunteer who lives in Mokgomane which is about 3 hours south of gabs. Most of us went to different villages/towns to shadow, but I had another trainee with me, so there were three of us. The village is small with about 800 people. Her sector is life skills, so her primary assignment is to work in schools. After those few days, I am happy I am not life skills. I am not very good with kids and it doesn't seem very appealing to me. However, I did have a really fun time, and the kids were very excited to have us there! We decided it was probably the most white people they have seen at once. They just sit and stare at us, and often run away when you try to approach them, it's pretty entertaining. Her house was big, lacked furniture, no running water, but she had electricity!
We find out our site on Thursday and everyone is freaking out about where they are going to be placed and praying it will be close to other volunteers. I have no idea where I will be placed, and I had no requests when they asked. I'd rather be rural than in a bigger city, it would be very hard to meet people and integrate into the community in a larger village. The south is cooler, but the north is better scenery-wise. I will make the best out of anywhere I get placed. I do hope I am placed in a clinic and not an office, we shall see.
Today is exactly one month since entering botswana, and it feels like YEARS. We are only halfway done with training, which is crazy because I feel like we've already talked about so many things, I'm not sure what else they are going to try to throw at us. Sessions are very long, and usually boring. We even have homework......which I should probably start actually doing. It's not very motivating to do the homework when you know you aren't being graded and the last thing they want to do is kick you out of peacecorp after they have invested thousands of dollars in you already.
I'll post on Thursday where I will be placed for the next two years!

Also, I'm craving pulled pork and ice cream. And basically anything American.

Monday, September 2, 2013



Talking with everyone else about their host family situation is probably the most common conversation we have with each other as PC trainees. The more we talk the more I realize how awesome my house is. I get fed often, and a lot. My mma isn't overly protective like one I know of, but she still cares a lot and she lets me pretty much do my own thing which I greatly appreciate. She usually cooks every night while I still awkwardly stand in the corner learning how to cook the way she does, and she always over feeds me, unlike some of my starving classmates. If we have extra food we are supposed to bring it for those whose families may not have the most. The only problem (and its not even a problem, really) currently is that she really wants me to go to church with her. And sure you could say "well gosh Christy, this woman took you into her home as a total stranger, the least you could do is go to church with her".  Well let me tell you something...she was at church for EIGHT HOURS TODAY. The actual church part is four hours, then the next four they go around preaching to those who can't make it to church. I'm all for expanding my cultural knowledge of Botswana, but no, no thank you. I can hear the church next to my house three nights a week praising Jesus as I try to go to sleep at 8:30pm, so I feel like that is plenty. I explained to her and a couple others today that I just don't go to church, and that blows their minds. Motswana are usually quite religious so it's uncommon to have someone come who isn't.

Today was very productive. I got up at sunrise, about 6am (which is common now since I go to bed at roughly 8:30) and took off with a friend to walk pretty much all over the village and to the top of a hill that overlooks everything. Then came home, made an epic egg and tomato sandwich while the kids watched us cook and grabbed egg off our plates with their dirty hands. Oh yes, sanitation. Let's talk about that for a minute. I've realized that it is much better to actual not watch anyone prepare food if you have any sort of standard for cleanliness in the kitchen. It's common for some of the families to cut raw chicken with a knife and then cut a salad without washing the knife. Luckily, my fam is and cleans pretty well. Some of the stuff they don't refrigerate, like mayo, so I went for a while eating it and not even realizing they don't put it in the fridge, and I'm still alive, so that is a relief. Anywho, I also cleaned my room, did my laundry for the first time, and helped Peggy cook dinner.  Boom, productivity at its finest. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bits and pieces

I have officially eaten white rice four nights in a row and three lunches this week. I cannot explain to you how much Motswana love carbs. It's not uncommon to eat porridge, spaghetti, and bread all in one meal (all white, unfortunately). My host mother is literally trying to fatten me up, she told me so. They all want to be fat here and "look like the chief's wife". Statistically speaking, women tend to lose weight during PST and gain it during their service, so we shall see, but if my mother had her way I'd be eating about 3,000 calories a day in damn starch! I have to watch her and grab the plate away after about the fifth scoop of rice. Along with rice or spaghetti we have usually chicken cooked with spices, or beef (which I fricken love) that she cooks with spices, too. Super simple recipes but all pretty good, haven't had a problem yet except that she just gives me way too much and I never finish it. 

I don't know if I've touched on the bathing situation very well yet. Aside from taking bucket baths, which in all honesty I don't mind very much, we are supposed to take at least two baths a day. For pretty much anyone who knows me, is aware that bathing that much is a huge struggle and I had to lay it down right in the beginning, "Mma, I only bathe once a day". She just shook her head and walked away, and we've been swell ever since. Also, I dress roughly five thousand times nicer here than I did at home. Dresses pretty much daily, sometimes I really doll myself up with some mascara, I can see that ending pretty quickly, though. 

After class today (Friday) we got out early and they took us to the gym on campus and it was a blast. We all did yoga, basketball, ran, just blew off some steam after a week of being stuck in a classroom. After that we went to the bar right outside the college campus and it was even better. The locals were filming us in the bar because everyone was dancing and singing and acting crazy at 4pm. But, alas, we all have to be home before dark and all the zombies come out, so we left by 5:30pm. Great end to our first full week of PST. Here's to the next 9!

Oh oh oh, PS! They have great cheddar *flavored* popcorn. I don't care  if it's real cheese or not, as long as it tastes good, and it does. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A nine year old is my best friend.

Botswana- the country
Batswana- the people 
Motswana- a singular person from Bots
Setswana- the language of Bots, although practically everyone speaks English, especially the young.

I have been in bots for about a week, and at my host families for 5 days. My host family is comprised of my host mother Mesego, and her grandson Lesego, who also lives in the house. Lesego's mother and three other children live next door with her 87 year old mother, as well as a plethora of her sisters whose names I cannot and will not ever remember or be able to pronounce. The community has been incredibly welcoming to us and we've had quite a few ceremonies to meet city officials as well as chief of our wards. There are many wards within the village and each ward has a chief who is born into the role. Their job is to oversee their designated community.

Every volunteer gets a Setswana name from their families when arriving and community members will always ask your English and Setswana name. No matter what, after you say your Setswana name, they will laugh. I've realized they aren't laughing at me, it's just what they do. Most people get names like "blessed one" and "gift from God" but nope, I am Gaone which means young one. I like it, I think it's endearing and not cheesy, it's the name she calls her children. 
Things I've learned about Botswana....a vast generalization:
1. Motswana  women have hands of steel. They can pick up a metal kettle that that has boiling water in it and think nothing of it, while I, very clumsily try to pick it up with a towel while also trying to not light the towel on fire and swearing profusely. It's an ordeal. I'm pretty sure she takes baths in boiling water.
2. They LOVE cooking oil and salt. I've grease stained 3 articles of clothing so far. It's been 5 days.
3. I don't know if it's peace corps or bots, but we EVERYTHING. "Oh, you stood up...*clap clap clap clap*"
4. Get this, cows actually WEAR cowbells. And they are everywhere! I watched a little boy chase cows through my front lawn last night.
5. They love sorghum. I hate sorghum. I love corn flakes.
6. Donkey carts are an acceptable method of transportation.
7. Every single family is different. It's awesome comparing our homestays with other volunteers because often times they are quite different, for example: I have electricity, a stove, a fridge, a TV (although there is only one channel and I'm already sick of it), and my room is huge. Some people don't have any of that and some people have that plus more. Also, many people have had to kill their dinner with an axe...not my cup of tea. 
8. Walking around topless of near topless in front of PCV's is ok (luckily, I have not experienced this). 

I could go one for hours, but I will leave it at that for now. I barely have Internet so who knows when I'll even be able to post this.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Finally in Bots!

Dumela (Setswana for hello, which is all I remember so far)!

So the past few days have been crazy/awesome/scary and I love it. My PC group has 61 people in it, which is a huge group for Botswana. We all met on the 11th for what is called staging, in Philly. It was long, and quite boring. Buuuuut, we finally got to meet everyone in person, after SO MANY months of Facebook meetings! Crazy seeing people in real life, felt like I was meeting an online date. On the 12th at 2:30am they bused us to JFK where we sat in the airport until our flight at 11:30am. It was super long, but solid bonding time. My group is from all over the United States and the ages vary greatly as well. My fellow PCV's are all very welcoming and "normal", so that's a relief!

Ok, so 16 hours later we arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa. From there we took a flight to Gabarone, Bots which is the capital and where we have been staying. Our hotel here is definitely one of the nicer ones and we have all the amenities! Hot(ish/sometimes) showers, wifi, and yummy food. The are wining and dining us before the REAL show starts.

Tomorrow we take a bus to meet Serowe, which is our training city, and we meet our host family. We are all pretty scared, but excited. The families that host are usually very respected citizens in the community and it is seen as an honor and privilege to host a PCV. The houses are required to give us our own room with a lock, and they're job is to teach us the Botswana lifestyle, while we attend classes during the day with our group.  I may or may not have Internet, so of course I'm trying like hell to get as much in a possible (because that totally makes sense). 

It will be nerve wracking, but I know I am lucky to have really awesome fellow PCV's to be there with me. Also, even though our hotel has wifi, it's hard to find time to be on it because we are busy ALL day. We have barely left this hotel so tomorrow will be an adventure.  I'll try to post pictures and more interesting things about the culture when I have more time!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Medical clearance, yay!

To a future peace corps volunteer, the words "medically cleared" Instill the same happiness as the words "would you like 1000 dollars". The medical aspect is by far the most daunting and so far the most frustrating part of my process to serve, and judging by the obvious rants that plaster the Future Peace Corps Volunteer Facebook group, I am not alone. They ask for about 5 shots, depending on what you had during childhood and stuff, as well as multiple blood draws and labwork, full dental exam with X-rays, paps for the ladies, eye doctor exams, and a very detailed health history where they examine every sneeze and sniffle you have ever had. Ok. Maybe it's not THAT in depth. Luckily, we are reimbursed up to a certain amount of money for each thing so it's not a whole lot of out of pocket expense (except the gas it takes for the multiple drives back to the dr office because you forgot something on one of the 5,000 sheets they have to fill out). I did my medical stuff very quickly. I made the appointments practically the day I found out what all I had to do (even though it was during a really busy time of my school semester, because I wanted anything to get me out of studying, even needles). I would have been done a month sooner, but no one told me (or my doctor, apparently) that live vaccines must be given on the same day. After educating my doctor in very harsh tones, I waited a month to received two more shots and was finally MEDICALLY CLEARED! No more doctors and anger! It's just smooth sailing from here, folks.

Moral of the story: do not administer live vaccines three days apart, but instead on the same day...your arm will thank you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A little summary of why I want to live in Africa for two years.

Hello friends! So many people have asked why I joined the peace corps, and for some reason this is a really tough question because my initial response is "well, why not?" but then I realize they want a legitimate response, so here is a little bit of how I became interested in PC and I'll try to answer a few more common questions! One and a half years ago I was sitting in my Food Issues class with my friend Joselin. The whole class is about food issues globally, and focused a lot on food shortages, GMO's, and first world countries.  Well, I was not particularly fond of that class (or any class for that matter) so Joselin and I joked around saying how we were sick of school and "I'm just going to join the peace corps". Well, after joking around for a few weeks, I really started to look into it, and I fell in love with the idea. I applied the next semester while I was studying abroad in New Zealand, had my Skype interview while I was there, and was nominated in July. It took me a full YEAR, almost to the day from the day I applied, to be invited to serve in Botswana. I checked my email roughly ten times a day waiting for that damn invitation. Initially, I did not really tell anyone for fear I would realize this isn't what I wanted to do and have my family get used to the idea and then me back out. So basically I applied because...
1. I like the idea of getting to help people. 
2. I will *hopefully* get to do some sort of medical type work which will help me in the future if I do end up going back to school.
3. It is awesome.
4. I get to learn a new language (Setswana) although they speak a lot of English there.
5. Everyone needs a picture surrounded by adorable African children (You know the one I'm talking about)
6. I want to see if Tom is really giving out $60 shoes.

Would you like to know where I will be living? ME TOO. I could end up in a house with running water and electricity, orrr I could end up in the opposite. Do not know yet, and won't know until until September-ish.

So far I've had three blood draws, four shots, one dental exam, one physical exam, and numerous calls to the insurance company. There is many more of that to come! Knowing I'm going to be leaving has made my motivation to do school work drastically plummet. Only 9 days......just 9. I'm starting to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel they call "senior year". I know that this was the best four years of my life, and I truly have loved pretty much every minute of it, but I am definitely ready for the NEXT best four years. Bring it on Bots.

P.S. I am not a great writer, or a consistent one. Buuut, I will try to post them as much as possible once I get over there in August, it all depends on my living situation.