Monday, October 27, 2014

352 days to go.

As of mid-October I have been an official PCV for one year. Half the battle is over! Peace Corps is really just a bunch of smaller battles. Like battles to get the amenities you are entitled to (gas for cooking, beds for sleeping, chairs for sitting, etc) which every PCV has different luck with. Some volunteers are driven to the furniture store where they select brand new pieces that they want in their house, and some people are dropped off thirty year old wooden-framed broken-springed love seat and chair. But I know volunteers who never even got the furniture they were supposed to, or they ended up buying their own (I was lucky enough to get a lil sumpin sumpin). Good thing I got the lower end of the deal because declawing a cat would be a laughable request here, so Boi has been sharpening her claws on most of my furniture, and I only stop her when it's my bed at 3am.
Battles with yourself. I fight myself often to do things because, well for one I'm really not doing anything else, and two I know I will feel better after doing it. It is so incredibly easy to shut yourself off from you community by staying in your house all the time. Just leaving the house, even for something simple, is work here. No matter where you go, or how used to seeing you they are, people are watching you more often than not, and chances are they are talking about it. Most days I would LOVE to sit in my house and binge watch some horrible TV show, and I'm not going to lie to you, I most likely would, if I could. But not having electricity has, in the grand scheme of it all, been more of a blessing than a curse. It forces me to go out and if I do want to watch a movie that night, I have to sit and socialize with my neighbors, or walk to a friends house, in order to charge my computer. I always feel happier after a day of interacting, even if 86% of the interactions were awkward or confusing. Plus, every dinner is a sexy candle-lit dinner at Gaone's, how will people know when I am TRYING to seduce them? There is still talk of getting me electricity. I'm actually texting with the person who is waiting at the power company to pay, right now, as we speak. Will it work? Will a dragon swoop in and brutally terrorize Francistown which will divert them from paying? Will Gaone ever get power/will it even be a good thing for her socialization skills? Stay tuned.
A Common PCV Battles with...
...neighbors over not sweeping our lawn. They are dirt lawns.
...neighborhood children over the correct time to use the word 'lekgoa' (that time is never).
...neighborhood children. Trying to like them every day is hard.
...supervisors who either 1) don't give a shit that we are there and have no suggestions on projects, or 2) give way too much of a shit that we are there and think we should be there forty hours a week. Everywhere you go there is failing technology.
...our bowels. Sometimes for no reason, sometimes for reasons you know all too well.
...the bus 'schedule'.
...Africa time.
All of these make up a good Peace Corps service. Many are cultural differences that I will just never understand because I wasn't raised thinking that way, but that is why we are here, to figure out these differences and try to understand them. If we cannot understand them, accept them and move on (unless it is to justify beating a person or an animal, then NOPE). We aren't here to change anyone's culture, nor would we want to. We're here to squeeze ourselves into their lives for two years, cross our fingers, and hope something good happens.
Here's to the weirdest year of my life so far, and probably an even stranger next year.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Funday

Let me just break down this past day for y'all at home.

Last night, at about 8pm for all those night owls, I was closing up shop (getting ready for beddy), when I walked into my back room, the one without the curtains, and noticed my neighbors tree was on fire. Under normal circumstances....actually, it's pretty weird to find someone's neighbors tree on fire so I don't have an acceptable response for this, so I tried to call their phone because I didn't want to walk the twenty steps to their house because, ya know, night time and all. I like to use the 'it's not safe card' with lots of stuff here, because to people who don't know where I live, I could say that perfectly justifiably. But when I say I 'don't like to walk to the general dealer-it's near a bar and eish, you know men' I really mean 'I was WAYYYYY too lazy to even consider walking 800 meters to get tomato for dinner. Rice is fine.' I can handle walking by a bar and the twenty steps to the neighbors are quite safe. So anywhoooo. I bucked up and walked to my neighbors house (her phone was off) to tell them their tree was on fire. He looked at the tree and said 'well, that tree does cause shade sometime, I'll put it out'. It didn't matter that it was ten feet from my house or anything, it causes shade.
This morning I slept until SEVEN AM. Extraordinary. I proceeded to have breakfast with Americans. I think it was probably quite normal for people to dine with other Americans so I won't go into detail. After, I immediately had two children at my house, eager to use my colors and subtly ask for food. At this point I realized I'd been awake for nearly four hours, so quickly shuffled them out and rested for three hours. I don't like to wear myself out.
After playing 'wordsearch' on my ipad for thirty minutes I decided to go buy airtime, because fuckit, I like Internet and lack self-control. The tuck shop (tiny little shop that sells random goods) next to my house was CLOSED. Tragedy. I decided to go sit at my neighbors house until it opened. While there I was told by a five year old (bffl for last post) that my nails were too long and dirty, I needed to clean my feet, and that I had dots all over my body (acne/freckles/moles/white people marks, I can only assume). Then he found his mothers bra, wrapped in around his head, and did karate in the living room. I also adamantly fought, to the point of fist pumping and chanting 'Scooby Scooby', that the nine year old change the channel from Nickelodeon, where they play strange shows about weird child ghosts, to boomerang where they were playing Scooby, obviously. I hid the remote on top of the TV.
Their littlest boy, Tumo, aged 1.2 has apparently been talking. I knew he has been saying my name for a while-Gaone. When I first met him a year ago, I didn't see him smile for the first three month, and no laughing until 6 months. Now, the kid can not look at me without bursting into his two-front-teeth-only fits of giggles. I very vainly thought that the only word he could say was, in fact, Gaone. Apparently, all that other baby babble he's been spewing for months is actually words, just baby version. I call it Setswanyana. For those of you who don't know, you can add 'yana' to the end of any word and make it baby form! Pudi (goat)/pudsana (baby goat), ntsa (dog)/ntsanyana(baby dog), Setswana (setswana)/Setswanyana (child Setswana). See, it works.
My village is what I like to call a ghost town, because compared to the closest nearest villages near me, it's insanely quiet. I can walk from my house, across the entire village and not meet anyone along the way. I love it. Generally there are a lot of cars around, because it's a mining village so it is wealthier (people are buying more cars), and because the mining buses pass my house a lot as it's on their route. But I like know there will be people around, they just always aren't. It is a copper mine, called Mowana Mine, if you are wondering, not diamonds. This may be a reason that the HIV rate is so high here, but honestly it is high all over Botswana, so I'm not sure how much worse it is. There are a lot of orphans, but to be considered an orphan here you only have to have lost one parents, which I assume is because of the immense amount of single-parent households here. Most orphans are orphaned because of HIV, but of course not all. Orphans very rarely go into foster families, although they do exist here, because there is such a STRONG sense of family here. I could go to my great uncle's twice removed, brothers, step- sister, ask her for twenty pula, and BOOM, I'd have myself twenty pula. So taking a family member's child here is a no brainer.
After braving the walk to the further away general dealer (but don't worry, I could still see it from my neighbor's house) with my two pals, I acquired my $2.50 worth of internet money and will continue to relentlessly check facebook zero, which is the super boring/free version, without pictures, for the remained of the day.
For my Auntie JoJo: I am honestly not sure how the teachers will work for the preschool if it happens. Right now the school is not looking promising, not enough time and not enough help from the community members. I should have started the project earlier but I honestly just did not think it would be able to happen, I didn't think we would have the funds to start one. I recently found out that we would possibly be able to use a classroom that already exists in the primary school, meaning we wouldn't have to try to build a whole new building, so when I found that out I thought it could be done, but I found that out a little too late I think. I do know that the preschool teachers don't have to be licensed, they only have to be qualified, which is awesome and I feel like there wouldn't be trouble finding some. It will still be a bit of a challenge getting money to build junior-sized outhouses and sink, and pay the teachers. I think their school fees would cover food and some class materials (although a school fee will still be hard to pay for some families). My struggle now is trying to get the kgosi (chief), school head, social worker, and head VDC member to meet and discuss solutions to this problem before Tuesday.
The water treatment business hasn't opened yet. They have gotten the money in their account and are waiting on the water purification machine, there seems to be some trouble getting in contact with the company. But I expect it to be in production as soon as the machine is here, and the people are trained! Clean water! PULA!
So that's the Sunday Funday. Now all I need is a mimosa, Stephanie, get on it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sweet. Sweaty. Summertime.

Today I'm focusing on the good things going on in Botswana.
1. I can do bikram yoga for free, at anytime of the day!
2. I'm so comfortable with my lack of electricity that I opted to not watch my neighbors awesome TV alone, but sit at home and stare at my cat.
3. I didn't even feel like having a full conversation with my cat today. I'd say a success.
4. I got a hitch in about five minutes today. Wasn't even a race-special ride, they didn't even want to take me at first! Hurray!
5. I scheduled a meeting to schedule a meeting to start a preschool. Half the battle is over.
6. Not many people can say they 'got dragged to a funeral they didn't know about, for someone they didn't know, and accidentally sat with the family because there was an open seat and the planning didn't make sense'. Unique.
7. I got a shit load of free food this week.
8. I ate ten cookies in about five minutes.
9. I have decided firmly that you will never see a more beautiful sunset or sunrise than in Botswana. It can't be done.
My sad news: My neighbors/BFFLs Prince, Luda, and Tumo (aged 4, 8, 1.2, respectively) are out of town for two whole weeks. Which, for real, is about the longest I've gone without a Tom and Jerry date in quite a few months. But I'm weirdly getting a lot of yard work done....huh.
All joking aside now. I have been a little bad about keeping up with my blog. I just do not have the motivation and often times I feel like there is no point in writing a blog if it is not going to be funny (I still think that is true) and I have not felt particularly funny lately. I'm going to be more like Stella and attempt to find my groove, or maybe more like the emperor and just try to get a whole new groove. I haven't fully decided. Either way, I'm going to stop making really awful movie references about movies I've never seen.
Things about going well here. No huge projects or anything huge. Biggest thing is trying to start a preschool; refer to #5 above to see where I'm at with that. I am also starting to teach women how to make Zulu (a tribe mainly in South Africa) necklaces and sell them for profit. I live in a peace corps time where I'm the one teaching the African women how to make African necklaces...because I learned it on the Internet.
I also live in a peace corps world where the post office lady drops my packages off at my house because she wants to leave work early. This I am incredibly and exuberantly happy about. It's like someone handing me a birthday present (which I know sounds normal, but no one hands you things here; you have to walk three miles in 100 degree weather to obtain a shred of American love). Or you could catch a ride with one of the numerous donkey carts that travel my roads. I never do because I feel so damn bad for those donkeys.

I feel like I could write heaps more but I hear most of my friends/family have 'lives' to go about doing and I'm just rambling.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Big Bertha. Eating up all that flour.

In the past couple months some wonderful things have happened. I made a sourdough starter and named her Bertha, got my friend to also make a sourdough starter, Bubbles, so we could raise our yeastlings together, and Boi killed her first mouse. It was a horrible death and I thoroughly believe she intended it as payback for forcing her to wear a pink collar with a bell as well as making fun of her constantly for being a bad hunter (her feelings get hurt easily). In fairness, she used to only hunt the neighbor's puppy, or the neighbor children. But seriously, I do not even know what happened to the mouse and I am a "stronger person for having cleaned it up". For those who do not know Boi, she is my cat and yes, I need to get a life. Moving on.
However stellar those first few gems were, the best thing that has happened was my parents braving the 20 hour plane flight to visit lil ol' me. Considering before about 1.5 years ago they knew little to nothing about the country of Botswana (I am not exempt from that either), I would say that they enjoyed it. My mom was obsessed with the monkeys and elephants and my dad was too focused on trying to drive stick shift left handed to really see anything. Just kidding, he loved it, and he drove like a champ. They saw that I do in fact live in a house, not a mud hut, and they even washed their clothes by hand like true villagers-so proud. Everything worked out swimmingly and the only bad part was two weeks was just not enough. We could have spent two weeks in Cape Town alone! I even brought along my boyfriend, who they had never met, on a 20 hour road trip through South Africa and we are still together so that is saying something, amiright?
I got the news while on vacation that the grant we have been working on was approved, yaaaaa buddy! Mosetse Village will have another small business rolling out the red carpet in a couple months. And that is about it for the work I have been doing.
In 7 days we will have been in Botswana ONE WHOLE YEAR. And guess how much Setswana I know? Yup, not much.
And for those wondering, the sourdough bread turned out quite well, thanks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Two weeks in the Delta.

For the past two weeks I was camping in the Okavango Delta, the main hub of all things safari in Africa-google it, with 35 orphans from my village. There were also about eight social workers and maybe seven other helpers, so in all roughly 50 Motswana.....and me....for two weeks. Ok fine, Mike was there too. He was nice enough to talk all the social workers into letting me come, we badgered them to the point of annoyance, they even told me so. The camp was a wilderness therapy camp aimed at counseling the orphans on dealing with their rough home lives and encouraging them to talk about their feelings with orphans like them. Mike and I went along to lead a Grassroot Soccer (GRS) camp simultaneously, we were supposed to be given an hour each day to do our lesson. GRS is an interactive program for HIV prevention and education that involves different football-esque games that can be related to HIV, it is really a pretty cool program. Unfortunately, the facilitators did not exactly seem like it was crucial so they did not have enough time for us for about three days straight in the beginning. Granted, it is only an hour, but we still felt like we were doing something, when we weren't given any time we awkwardly hung around the camp, chopping vegetables and being told how we were doing everything wrong. They have one way of doing things here, and any other way is wrong. Normally I can deal with the occasional comment like that because I can just go home and eat whatever I want and do whatever I want, but two weeks of constantly being told I was doing it wrong became slightly frustrating. There were some communication issues and cultural differences that made this experience not the most enjoyable at times. There are certain things I will never be ok with here, like not using the word 'please', or whipping children. And now I know to never agree to an outing longer than a few days in total isolation with 50 people from a completely different culture. I would have regretted not going, though, because the children were great and I had fun whooping someone's ass in chess everyday. I used to say how non-competitive I was and how much I did not care about winning, well, after getting obnoxiously angry multiple times and acting like a six year old, I have concluded that I was wrong, when it comes to chess I am very competitive. I have to have rules about when I can play or it will just ruin my whole day. Exhausting. It also gave me vivid flashbacks of eight-year-old me sitting behind the big chair in our living room, crying because I did not win at the board game Sorry. I guess I have not really changed much.
If you are wondering how you take a butt load of kids on a really cheap safari, let me tell you! First, you get a huge truck-like the ones you would carry half of a house in or a wind turbine propellor (oh Iowa, I miss you). Next, you throw 35 kids in it and drive around a game reserve for 13 hours until the kids are freezing, dehydrated, exhausted, and covered with dirt from dodging branches all day. It was like a really sketchy roller coaster with absolutely no safety guaranteed. I am honestly surprised no one got hurt or fell out of the truck. We were passing white people in safari trucks all day, I tried to take pictures of them in their cars because they were taking pictures of us in ours, it seemed fair. We came across a part of the dirt road where the trees had grown together at the top and created a sort of archway that a normal safari vehicle could maneuver under but our truck was way too big. Well at this point, our driver decided to just take down the archway; branches, dirt, and spiders pelted all the lucky people in the back, who were all crouched and covering their heads, much like we had to do during tornado drills in elementary/middle school (again, heavy sigh, the Midwest). It was hilarious only because of how absolutely ridiculous everything was. As far as the safari is concerned, we got to see a surprising amount, considering how loud our truck was; you can tell the animals are used to the constant traffic. We saw elephants, hippos, monkeys, baboons, a leopard, giraffes, lions, antelope type things that I can't remember the name of, warthogs, and wild dogs. We also saw ostriches on our way home, and two hyenas on our last night at camp. Lion King nailed it when they depicted the hyena. They are very creepy and big enough to take down a cow. It had jerky head movements and I initially thought it was a wounded leopard because it's movements were so odd. He was probably only twenty feet away and didn't run away when we shown the light on it, two of them sat there watching us, waiting for us to go to sleep so they could search the camp. Hippos were constant visitors at night, we were camping down by the riverside, so we got to listen to them talk all day, too.
The monkeys and baboons were all over our camp. They knew our feeding times and came daily to ransack the grounds for our leftover food, or steal food on the table if they were fast enough, and they were a couple times. One managed to get into our store room, I could hear the screaming of the kitchen ladies to get him out. He flung poop everywhere; it was all very sanitary. I kept referring to them as racist monkeys because every time I tried to shoo one away from our food, it would come after me! Naturally, I would scream and run away. If a Motswana shoo'd one, it would leave. Damn tourists, ruining my street cred with the monkeys. They expect white people to feed them, not chase them away. Quite a few of the baboons would come with their babies which was pretty damn cute, I could watch them all day. They looked like little aliens.
Other than the camp, I have just been hanging out in my village, dreaming up some nutrition projects to start implementing. I also helped a group of women submit a grant for a machine for their water purifying business. It was a very short, simple grant, but this is Botswana, so it took about four months to complete. I understand now how some volunteers spend two years completing a grant. It took four months to ask for one machine, I cannot fathom the pain and stress of a whole building. Just the thought makes me sick.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Travelin' fool

Time is flying by. The days are long, the weeks are fast, and actually sometimes even the days are fast. I peg this on my contentment of my life here, I have no desire to go home early or even for vacation. I refuse to stay in my village too long, I mean, I am only living here two years, I NEED to travel Africa. I congratulate those who are able to stay in their village for month on end, but it is not for me and I would go stir crazy. I do get very happy, though, when I know I have a weekend of nothing going on and I can just hang out, reading in my hammock or playing with the neighbor boys. From now until June 22, when my parents arrive, I have absolutely nothing planned. Perfect time to start my garden.

Beginning of April was glorious because I was on vacation and travelled to Lesotho with another volunteer, Mike (who is conveniently my boyfriend and closest neighbor). Lesotho is one of two small landlocked countries that resides inside of South Africa, along with Swaziland-which I would also love to visit. The country (with the exception of the capital, Maseru, which really is not very beautiful) is absolutely amazing and plucked straight from a National Geographic. Maybe you can blame it on seeing the same dry, arid landscape for eight months, or the fact that we have not been able to leave Botswana yet and we were getting anxious to peace out and explore, but regardless, it was wonderful. I can say that with confidence because my blisters that completely riddled my feet last week are healing quite nicely and the memories of me pathetically hobbling over mountains with my bandaged feet are starting to fade and be replaced with the beauty of waking up every morning surrounded by insanely isolated villages. Let me just throw in a little back story here. A few months ago Mike and I started to look into hiking through Lesotho, because it had always been a dream of his since realizing he would be living in Southern Africa. I was just like everyone else, meaning I finally went and googled 'Lesotho' after he talked about it enough times and it seemed likely enough we could travel there. I looked into pony treks, which is what the country is famous for, and then remembered I was not especially fond of ponies and I would much rather backpack, Mike agreed. I should have realized by the complete lack of any reviews of backpacking in Lesotho, that not many people did it, and now I know why. We did four days three night backpacking with a guide, which we absolutely needed or we would have been lost in roughly 25 minutes. We stayed in remote villages along the way, in predetermined and booked huts. It was four days of going up, and down, and up, and back down. Which makes sense, they are mountains, but we were unprepared for how hard it would be. I do not remember the mileage but it was between 8-10 hours a day. Luckily, we had amazing views to keep us going. By the fourth day I would have given my left kidney for a Sherpa or a minibus, and don't you worry, I attempted to find both. But alas, we happily (haha) limped back to our lodge, Mike with a painful knee, and me with a couple bum and blistered feet. I am ready to start planning our next trip.
The lodge, Malealea, was great and I would go back. It had a great backpackers vibe and we were lucky to meet some interesting people from all over, including seven Americans. I thought it was strange to talk face to face with another American that is not in Peace Corps, considering I had not actually done it in eight months. It was exhausting. It's easy enough my write out 'Yeah, everything is great here and I love Botswana' in an email, but actually having to talk to someone about it, and to stay positive is really hard, I was not expecting it. It's not that I don't like Botswana, because I do, but people want to hear about PC as this awesome life changing, doing amazing projects and stuff, and that's just not me right now, and I don't like to be a negative nancy. I think most volunteers agree that we have a weird on again off again relationship with our host country.
The projects I'm doing now are fitness classes still, computer classes, I've done one nutrition talk with many more to come (these I actually do quite like), trying to get the HIV support group functioning, trying to work with mothers of malnourished children under five. Trying to get a couple grants done with some community members. Lots of trying, little doing. But I'm ready to bust out these next few months and start some good stuff.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Can someone mail me an iced caramel macchiato? Thanks.

Mornings are my favorite and hands down the best time of the day. First, they are usually cool, cool to the point where I can sleep cuddling my heavy-ish faux wool blanket, and secondly, it doesn't matter if I wake up and get an early start or if I take advantage of the cold and sleep in, it’s great. Unfortunately, I am human so occasionally I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and not because my kitten insists on trying to nurse from my furry blanket as I sleep, completely disgusted, next to her and I am too lazy to muster the energy to throw her out of my room (I eventually do though). No, sometimes I just wake up unhappy. Annoyed that I am awake and I have to get out of bed and heat water so I can have a proper bath (unless I am feeling up to a cold shower). Angry that I have to go and talk with people who may or may not be interested in what I have to say. Upset that I slept with my face on my insecticide treated bug net and probably am currently developing some rare malignant tumor on my face (why can’t it just stay tucked in?!). Overall, sometimes I am just a grumpy bear in the mornings. This makes my whole training-for-a-half-marathon-so-I-can-beat-my-mother thing a little tough, since it’s pretty much too hot to run any other time. And yes, the main (only) reason I am “training” for the Vic Falls half marathon is so I can beat my mother. Is this sad? Probably.

I think I am lucky, even if I do have my grumpy mornings, it never stays long and I pretty much always end my days happy. I have had a few moments where I think “If this is how I felt all the time, I’d leave”. I have never truly wanted to leave, because I know that whatever went wrong that day, it’ll be OK and I will move on. I also usually think about what I’d be doing at home and realize I’d be doing nothing of importance, and my grumpy mornings would be more like, “Oh God, there’s 7 people in the Starbucks line! I hope they don’t run out of feta and spinach breakfast wraps!”. Now I’m not saying that isn’t a legitimate concern because I know how good those are, but it’s just a reminder that no matter where I live in the world, I will always have those days. I generally don’t like to write about feeling down (or feelings in general) or being homesick, because it doesn't really matter. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon because I genuinely like it here.  Every day is an adventure, and sometimes my adventure is watching baby goats fight, or practicing carrying a basket on my head (it’s impossible, they have flat heads or something).

So before arriving we were told about all the free time we’d have and how If there is anything we have wanted to learn or skill we wanted to develop, now is the time. You have two years of seemingly endless free time and I have been trying really hard to start learning all sorts of crap since arriving in country. I think I currently have like, ten books started? And none of them are super interesting to me, it’s all stuff I WANT to know, but there is a reason I don’t know it; it bores me. But, I continue to try and one day, I will know everything! Right now I just look at all the books, articles, and my harmonica, become overwhelmed, and then resort to making potato bread and reading Harry Potter. I stick to what I know, apparently.

I’m also considering trying 30 soups in 30 days. It’s always a party here in Mosetse. Please stay tuned as my blood pressure skyrockets. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A rainy day is a happy day in Botswana.

Last night was (surprisingly) the first time my candles have generated a problem. Boi finally lit her tail on fire. Luckily, I saw right away how stupid she was and blew out the small flame. She proceeded to get pissed at me for blowing on her and began swatting me with her less-than-ferocious little paws. I’m now accepting ideas for cat proof candle holders. I even considered super gluing candle holders to the wall, but decided against that. I don’t think my landlord would appreciate a $1 candle holder inexpertly glued to her wall.
The big exciting news of my life is getting a new (to me) big bed! I can have visitors stay the night now, and they don’t even have to sleep in a hammock! I’m planning on having a little gathering at some point soon. Also, next week all 130(ish) Botswana volunteers are heading down to Gabs for the first ever all volunteer regional meeting. It will be exciting to meet all the volunteers from all the Bots groups, most of the volunteers have never met some of the other groups.
Last week I went to the primary (elementary) school to talk with the headmistress about downloading a fun typing program onto the 14 computers in the lab. She took this to mean I wanted to start teaching computer lessons and that I should probably do it four days a week. I talked her down to two days a week, and even that I thought would be something I did not want to do, but I reluctantly obliged. I went in yesterday, with absolutely no idea what to teach them except how to open the typing program, but turned out I had TONS to teach them. There were about 30 in the class (standard 6-age 11ish) and about 95% of them had never touched a computer. It finally dawned on me that it didn’t matter how little I knew about computers, I could teach them anything and it would be new. We started with the basics; it involved how to hold the mouse, and how to click the mouse. Watching them struggle with the mouse, I could see how foreign it was for them to use their hand that way. The right click and the left click on the mouse were hard concepts to grasp, but toward the end of the hour, most of them had gotten it down. I realized that this is how I probably look to them when I try to do anything new here in Botswana, like dance or make bogobe (porridge). I never remember being taught how to use a mouse, it seems like such a innate ability for anyone in America because we have used computers since we were seven (probably like two now, who knows). Overall, I really enjoyed the class and the hour flew by; this means I am excited for my next class today! They cannot wait to play games, but I figure they should learn how to open a program first, then they  can move on to the really fun stuff. It’s really exciting to be the one to teach them such a useful skill. Technology is becoming more prevalent in Botswana and when they go to University (and they better go!), they will need to know how to use a computer.

Me- “Hello, children. How are you?”
Children- “Hello, teacher. We are fine and how are you?” *erupts into hysterical fits of laughter*

Every. Time.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hitchhiking, IST, and finally working-oh my!

Dumelang! Word on the newsfeed is that the US is still a little bleak-looking with the snow. Well, let me tell you, we’re in rainy season here and I love it! I’m rarely annoyed of the rain. The only time I ever curse the gods is when I am waiting for a hitch and the rain comes out of nowhere (I’m not kidding it rains when it’s sunny) and who wants to pick up a smelly, wet person? No one, that’s who. Oh, have I talked about how hitchhiking is the norm here?  Story time! So when we all first got our village assignments, the map showed my closest neighbour was only 45k down a road. That’s great! I asked around because the road on the map was labelled a ‘track road’, which I had no idea what that was. I asked some Motswana LCFs and they said it is a road directly to the village, but you can only ‘hike’ it. Hiking? I love hiking! Who knew there would be places to hike so close to me in Botswana?! How silly I was, they meant hitchhiking, of course. The closest grocery store is in that village, which is called Tutume, and it costs 10 pula to get there, or I can go to the main road and get a combi (mini-bus-type-van-thing where they squish 4 people in a row and it is never fun) and go to Francistown for 30 pula. It’s just the way of life; if you want to go anywhere you hitch or take a combi, both you have to pay for. Hitching is USUALLY more comfortable, considering you’re not crammed in a small van, it’s often just cars and trucks and they never make you share seats and I usually get a seatbelt. PC doesn’t like us to hitch (there have been problems in other countries, but very few issues in Bots), but it is not against policy, you just have to be smart about the hitches you take. If it’s just me and a car with 3 guys pulls over, I exercise my best judgement and kindly say “no thanks”. Just don’t be a dummy and you’ll be OK.
All bots-14s were reunited for three weeks in January for our IST-In Service Training. This is the time when we were able to talk to our program managers about what we have planned for our villages and discuss the challenges our peers were facing at their sites. It was three long weeks. But I can’t complain, the hotel was awesome, I didn't have to cook, there was electricity, AND there was a pool. Oh lordy, I almost forgot the wifi! It was wonderful and beautiful. For those of you in America, make sure you give your wifi router a little pat on the back, maybe a French kiss or a quick snuggle, because it is amazing. I really lived the highlife there for a few weeks, but now I am back in my reality of candlelight dinners with my cat. I also came back to a broken toilet (which I kind of fixed with a rubber glove *pats back*) and an angry kitty. She was kind of pissed I locked her in the house for 3 weeks-whoooops. It’s tough being a mother.

The beginning of February brought the start of my full-fledged service. How many times can I write “this is when my service actually begins”, because I feel like I’ve said it quite a few times. But honestly, it really does begin now. Now all 56 of us our off lockdown and we are able to start implementing our projects and programs we’ve been dreaming up since October.  I’m working on a lot of stuff and my schedule is actually filling up pretty fast, surprisingly. Unfortunately, none of the stuff I am doing is really at the clinic where I am based, it is all community stuff. Here is some of the stuff I am doing/trying to do: weekly fitness class, HIV/AIDs support group (support groups are very different here, they involve singing and dancing and it confuses me), computer lessons at the primary school and the library, grant writing for a small business in the community, working on implementing nutrition education into primary school and community, and I am trying to start working at the refugee camp in the next village over! So yeah, that’s what I am doing in Africa, I finally have an answer when people ask and it isn’t, “I sit at the health post and watch babies being weighed”. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It's too hot for kitten mittens.

Greetings! I’d like to start off this friendly post by saying that my kitten is better than your kitten. You don’t have a kitten? Well you should because they’re adorable. And they’re better than cats because they’re tiny kitten claws are not strong enough to shred the curtains and bug nets they continuously claw, but watch out because kitten claws do pierce flesh. But hey, skin grows back….curtains don’t. The ‘Kitten Facts’ on the back of the food I bought says they are “no longer considered kittens after one year”…so basically I have one year until she’s out. Just kidding......kind of. Oh, and another reason I'm glad I got a cat over a dog. Dogs you have to love and nurture and pay tons of attention to. Cats don't really care about you, so they do their own thing and you can just throw them in a room with some food and water, maybe a string if you're real nice, and BOOM it's like the Marriott..and they'll be OK for WEEKS! That is how that works, right?
You know that wonderful feeling of love and warmth you get over the holidays? Don’t worry, I still had that this year, even though I am thousands of miles from my beloved family, because it was 100 degrees outside (warmth) and the mosquitos wouldn’t stop kissing me (love, and by kiss I mean bite). No, really though, it was a good time. It was indeed very hot, and truly did not feel like Christmas. But you know what? That’s OK. We talked about it many times and it would have just been sad if it actually felt like Christmas and we were missing it. There was a group of about 8 of us who went down south to a friend’s house. It was a very fun time, and a nice break from village life. Plus, it’s not a proper Christmas without any snow!  I hear snow is a touchy subject in the Midwest, what with the ‘polar vortex’ and all. We all greatly enjoyed our sleeping arrangements, which involved a triple decker hammock tower! We only broke one burglar bar-success!
I’ve had two visitors come stay at my house and experience the thrill and raging nightlife that is Mosetse (just kidding, I go to sleep at 8pm). It’s been awesome because I have one twin bed that barely fits me and Boi (she’s a bed hog) and I offer my guests the next best thing, maybe even better-my hammock. AND THEY LIKE IT. How great is that? When else are you going to find people who are so comfortable sleeping in a hammock in a really sketchy looking, non curtained, litter box smell infused, spare bedroom?
On Thursday I leave for In service training (IST) for 2.5 weeks in Gabs, the capital. I’m a mixture of emotions about the whole thing and I can bet that I will be pretty much ready for my own bed again…and privacy after about a week. I’ve never lived alone, but I dig it. If IST is anything like PST, then we’re in for a real treat (start sarcastic voice now). We’ll get to do all sorts of fun games like talk about our feelings, and our personal struggles within our community. We’ll probably do some more wonderful safety talks that are forced upon us from Washington, and we might even do an ice breaker, just for old time sake. I really shouldn’t be complaining though as I will have a lukewarm shower, no dishes, decent wifi, no cleaning, countless friends, and a pool, every day for 2.5 weeks. Yeah, the more I think about it the more I think I’ll be ok.

New Years Resolution-stop eating popcorn for breakfast. Life is really hard.