Monday, December 10, 2012

Someone up there is laughing at me...

So...funny story...I woke early this morning to hang my laundry.

Scrubbin' at 6 a.m., my mom would have been so proud!

And lo and behold...it downpours.


It hasn't rained in Gobojango since I've moved here five months ago, and yet it was raining so hard the ground was flooding.

Just. My. Luck.

At least the garden got some rejuvenating natural rainfall!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Better to Spread a Smile than a Scowl


The other day, a woman came into the clinic on her last leg of strength.  The doctor even said he wasn’t sure she was going to make her next appointment.  It was so disheartening seeing how, by not adhering to her medication, this beautiful twenty-seven year old woman was allowing the vicious virus infesting her body to take over.  I’ve seen her vivacity and vigor diminish over the past few weeks, and am at a loss at trying to understand why she won’t simply take her medication. 

HIV is truly a brutal virus that, if left untreated, will consume every last healthy cell in your body.  Though I have lived amongst and interacted with people who have been affected directly by this virus for the past eight months, I still feel as if I am a novice to understanding the influence it has upon its victims.  Deaths are a common sadness that occur, and funerals are just about as normal to attend here as weddings.

I wonder why some women are so hesitant about discovering the status of their newly born children, or why they resist taking the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child) ARV (Anti-RetroViral) treatment.  I’m stunned at how many people choose to feel sick rather than suffer the side effects of the ARVS, and I’m troubled more than anything when I hear there has been a death and that a once-smiling face that I greeted in the morning has been taken away forever.

In the past month we have lost at least 5 people in Gobojango that I knew and interacted with.  One of them was a two year-old baby.   My purpose here becomes much more poignant than I ever thought, and though it’s great I’m doing all these things for the community, I feel insignificant and useless when I hear that there’s been a death due to defaulting on medication. 

I knew joining the Peace Corps didn’t mean I was going to change the world in a day, but days become much shallower when I realize that every power that I possess will not save these people. I need to hold onto the fact that I have the ability to inspire change in someone else’s world.  Though the vastness of the universe seems to have some deep, dark holes, it’s much more important to stay smiling through the tears than to allow it to consume you; essentially it’s better to spread a smile than a scowl. 

It’s just so hard sometimes.

I don’t usually pray, but if anyone reads this that does, please send your positive thoughts to the people who are infected and affected by this vicious killer.  It’s so much more powerful and ferocious than I could ever fathom.

------------------------------------------------------

So let me keep you abreast of everything that has been going on (because, trust me, it’s A LOT).

The Gobojango Women’s Soccer Team (Big Sister’s Football Club) has turned out to be a great success.  We have had the great fortune of getting a donation of uniforms from the King’s Foundation as well as HIV/AIDS Prevention Curricula and a soccer ball from another organization called Grassroot Soccer. Word is spreading like wildfire throughout the village, and each practice seems like it has more and more enthusiastic girls. This coming Tuesday, a representative from King’s Foundation will be here to donate the uniforms and to take pictures of the girls.  In the future, I hope to correlate with some other PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) to create a soccer tournament.  This is such a huge project, since gender roles are extremely stark in the small villages.  The Big Sister’s Football Club gives young ladies a chance to have something to call their own, and also allows them an opportunity to engage in activities that encourage them to make healthy choices.
 

Next, I got extremely ill this previous week.  With so much to do, and so much on my mind, I kept ignoring the warning signs.  Fever? Take some Ibuprofen. Painful ears? Take some non-Aspirin. Tummy ache? Take some tums.  Diharrea? Anti-diharreal, wham bam thank you ma’am.  When I finally fainted, I realized it was time for me to call the doctor.  I spent the night in agonizing discomfort, and was taken to the clinic the next morning.  After my counterpart Topo realized that perhaps I was a bit sicker than he had originally thought, I was transferred to the larger clinic in Semolale.  There, I discovered that I had not one, but TWO pretty severe ear infections (hence the fainting) as well as a gastro-intestinal infection. 

Just in time.  I was supposed to travel with the World AIDS Day Fundraising Committee to the Tuli Block to collect donations both Tuesday and Wednesday, about 6 people were coming to stay at my house on Thursday, and the Celebration that I had been planning since September was to take place on Friday.

Needless to say, I stayed in bed both Tuesday and Wednesday, and was graced with the presence of my neighbor Lorato.  She came with me to both clinics, and slept out on my tiny couch the night I was running a fever.  Her niece came over and cleaned my house for me, and made me some tea when I refused to eat anything. Even Caesar could tell that something was wrong and wouldn’t leave my side.  It’s so amazing to me that even though I’m thousands of miles from my home and family, I still have people looking out for my wellbeing here in Botswana.

Thursday rolled around, and I attended an early morning, extremely frustrating meeting in the village of Mabolwe in which nothing was accomplished.  Then, my day improved entirely when I was greeted with four fellow volunteers at my house back in Gobojango.  We spent the night preparing for the next day, gossiping, cooking and eating (a deliciously home-made minestrone soup), and being normal for a bit.  Then, we went to bed early in preparation for what was to come.

What I thought would be a stress-filled, chaotic Ceremony turned out to be a great success.  Though stress levels were high throughout the entire day, everything that my team had put on resulted to be triumphant.  We had a community art table where participants were asked to sign pledges against Gender Based Violence, as well as write down how they choose to live positive, healthy lives.  The pledges were woven into a hand-made frame that stated I AM AGAINST GENDER BASED VIOLENCE in the shape of the Botswana flag, and the positive living phrases were made into a long, colorful paper chain.  We had a “get to know your PCV” table with information about each one of us, and we displayed free condoms.  We conducted aerobics twice throughout the ceremony, once will the Wellness Committee of Bobirwa, and distracted the children with the King’s Foundation BASE Packs.  When the touring of the stalls had commenced, and the last vote of thanks had been read, I felt an immense weight be lifted off my shoulders and I immediately felt the knot in my stomach loosen.  By golly, we had pulled it off.


I spent the rest of the weekend relaxing.  Both yesterday and today I think I only left my home once, to walk a friend to the bus stop.  The rest of the time I’ve been catching up on my sleep, and nursing myself back to health.  Now, after I get through these next nine days, I’ll be leaving Botswana to head HOME TO THE UNITED STATES!!!!!!!!


I think that’s everything for now.  I just spoke to my family and it brightened my entire room to hear their voices.  My mom informed me that it was a balmy 14 degrees (Fahrenheit) and snow and ice were stifling the ground outside.  I cannot WAIT to not sweat for a couple minutes. But what I’m most excited for is seeing everyone again.  I’ve played and replayed it in my mind, seeing the family at the airport, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years…it’ll be nice to have a bit of old-school normalcy for a couple weeks.

OH! MY COUSIN NATASHA IS ENGAGED!!! And to a wonderful guy too! I’m so ecstatic for her, I actually cried when I saw the pictures.  In fact, Andre sent me an email the day he was to propose to her, letting me be the first to know.  I can’t wait to start helping Tasha plan out the perfect wedding. 

Ok, well it’s almost nine pm now, and I have to wake up early tomorrow to hang my laundry. 

Until next time!
Positive Vibes!

~Nina

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Learning to Dance in the Rain

Aish, it has been far too long since my last post, and for that, I apologize!

Usually when so many good things are happening, it’s hard for me to take the time to sit down and reflect over them! However, this cloudy/rainy morning, I’m curled up on my couch with Caesar, listening to some good music and ready to dispense an overview of the past month!

          Let me first begin by saying that the Peace Corps is a journey that has lead me through some of the most trying times of my life.  I’ve learned so much about myself and the world that we live that it’s oftentimes been extremely difficult to digest it all.  I’ve worked so hard to come this far, and in doing so, I feel as if I cannot allow myself to fail.  So when a small project is unable to see its completion, I feel like I’ve failed on a personal level.  It’s been a learning experience to be able to grow and not take the fault in small disappointments.  I’ve learned that a lot of times there are so many outlying factors that determine the accomplishment of something that even if I’ve set everything on my end up for success, and it doesn’t see its way through, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t try my hardest.  Hopefully in a few years, when I look back on this experience, I’ll be saying, “I remember when I tried everything for that to succeed” rather than “I remember when that failed”… Though I’m usually a glass-half-full person, so I’m sure that’ll happen anyway!

On a lighter note, let me tell you about the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans a few weeks ago!  I spent the night in Palapye with a group of volunteers before heading up that way.  It was fun! We met, drank, ate, and were merry.  Then the next morning, all ten of us hitched rides to Francistown and boarded busses to go further north past Nata.  At long last, we arrived at a wonderful location called Planet Baobab seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  What was originally going to be a small group of us camping turned into the entire camping lot being speckled with Peace Corps volunteers’ tents.  25 volunteers came from all over Botswana to soak in the sun, sit by the pool, and spend time with one another. It was such a wondrous vacation! My favorite times spent were sitting around the fire as the sun set with the other PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers), eating yummy food, laughing, drinking, and singing to the tune of guitars.  Nate, a Bots11, even brought tambourines and other fun noise-makers to assist in the sing-alongs.  Those nights felt like I was living in a movie. 
Piling in to get to Planet Baobab


On the second-to-last day, a big group of us all went on an ATV expedition through the Ntwetwe Salt Pan.  We woke up early (a little too early for my liking), jumped in the back of jeeps, drove through the brush and learned about different flora and fauna of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.  After about an hour we arrived at the site where the ATVs were, were assigned a bike per couple, given a brief introduction on how to maneuver the thing, and then took off.  I’ve driven an ATV before, but I was a bit nervous so I told Stacey to drive first.  We followed the cue as it snaked through the dust and sand of the pans, then, once our adrenaline started pumping, Stacey and I began screaming hoots and hollers into the nothing of our surroundings.  It was exhilarating! At the top of our lungs, we screamed the Lion King Song, Bohemian Rhapsody, Spice Girls, and more.  (It’s probably a good thing no one could hear us over the sound of the engine because we sounded hilarious!)  Once we arrived at a clearing, we all walked over to where a group of meerkats lived.  I was surprised at how small the little things were! Silly Lion King led me to believe that Timon was about the same size as Pumba! Alas, I discovered that meerkats are merely the size of little ferrets and behave like little groundhogs. We then were served a yummy picnic breakfast and took off again on the ATVs (this time I drove…) }=)  We drove out to the middle of the pans, stopped, and all stared with mouths agape. This was literally the middle of nowhere.  The crystalized ground crumbled under our feet, the sky stretched to no end, and nothingness swallowed us whole.  I ran out as fast as I could into the void, and felt the emptiness of the pans envelope me. 
In the middle of the Ntwetwe Salt Pan
 It was therapeutic to be able to experience a feeling of such immensity, while at the same time feeling so miniscule.  It felt as if all of my concerns and worries were minute compared to the vastness of the universe.  After our individual realizations of the colossality of the world, we reconvened, took some fun pictures, and left. 

 By the time we had returned back to Planet Baobab, many of the volunteers had already packed up and left and only a few of us remained.  That night, we made spaghetti, pulled our sleeping bags from our tents, and slept under the stars.  It was just what I needed to have a relaxing, fun vacation.  


Sleeping under the Stars


So that happened near the end of September.  Let’s see what has happened since my last post?  I went to the Health Fair in Bobonong and demonstrated the proper way to apply condoms (both male AND female), I hosted a new PC trainee as part of the shadowing process, I began planting my garden, and I took a trip across the country to the Namibian border!



In order to swear-in as a volunteer, Peace Corps requires each trainee to stay with a volunteer for an entire week to see what life is like.  I was selected to act as hostess for a trainee, and in doing so, was thrilled to share my life with someone else! I planned all of these great activities, including staying at the nearby private Tuli Safari Block (fo’ free!) Though my shadowee wasn’t as appreciative as I’d have hoped, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and my fellow PCV and her trainee were delighted! 

Picking lemons from a nearby tree
We were able to take showers, stay in beautiful guest houses, eat a delicious braii (bar-b-que), and go on at least three game drives where we saw a vast array of animals.  My favorite drive was the night-time game drive.  Here in Botswana, there are these hilarious-looking creatures that look as if their creator was Dr. Frankenstein himself! They have the head and body of a typical rabbit, but their hind legs are those of a kangaroo, and their tails are bushy like a fox’s.  When they run, they hop around with the posture of a tyrannosaurus rex.  The first time I saw them, I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop crying!!  Then, I pulled a full-grown African moth out of my friend Johan’s ear, and we came across a family of elephants bathing in the local watering hole.


Kangaroo Rabbit

What's next?  I now have a full-on vegetable garden in my back yard!  Complete with watermelon, lerotse (Botswana cooking melon), maize, sweet reed (sugar cane), onion, purple lettuce, carrot, green beans, green pepper, pati-pans, gem squash, and Jacob’s fruit, the seedlings are beginning to peer through the soil and reach towards the sky.  This feels like a huge accomplishment, since I’ve never gardened before in my life (besides attempting to grow a tomato plant in my studio in Tucson) and one of my personal goals for joining the Peace Corps was to learn to garden.  

Plowing in my back yard
Don’t let me fool you, I’ve had the immense help of my neighbors Lorato, Mothusi, and Charity, but it still feels great to be able to see the fruits of my labor (in this case, the veggies of my labor) pay off =D. Also! I’ve planted herbs in little egg cartons in my kitchen (thyme and basil) and moringa trees in Chibuku boxes as well.  In an attempt to fix my fence to keep the chickens and goats out, I also was introduced to the creepy crawly creatures that live around me (including scorpions, maggoty-looking ants, and a freaky scorpion/ant/spider hybrid called the roman spider).  


 
Last Wednesday I set off on a journey to visit some friends on the west side of the country.  It was so much fun! I literally went from where I live in Gobojango (15kms from Zimbabwe), to the Western-most village in Botswana called Charleshill (8kms from Namibia).  Now, the 14-hour bus travel wasn’t very much fun…but it was exciting to see another side of Botswana that I had not yet had the opportunity to experience.  I saw people from different tribes including Herero and Saan and also spent some time with volunteers whom I had not yet had much time with (including TJ, Maureen, Ryan, and Shanta).  One of the things that I loved was that Maureen loves to cook and bake as much as I do, and she’s phenomenal at it!  We had a small get-together one night at her house, and while the ladies cooked, we made the gentlemen clean the kitchen. The way she put it: “this may be Botswana, but this house is American, and when one person cooks, the other cleans. So get to it, boys!”  It was fun being able to let loose and enjoy one another’s company. Though after so much travelling, I was happy to finally be home in Gobas. 
Ready to cook =)

Today I’m waiting for one of my Program Managers to call me to discuss the grant I wrote for the Primary School’s Shade Project.  I’m hoping it will be a success, since it’s been over three weeks since I submitted it and I really don’t want to revise it too much.  Otherwise everything else is going really well here, the aerobics class has been moved to the Junior Secondary School Hall where we’re able to use the sound system and alternate teachers. Today we are starting a month-long “Biggest Loser Challenge” in which we will weigh ourselves once a week and the person who loses the most weight over the course of 4 weeks wins a pot of money.  I weighed myself yesterday and was pleased to discover that I’ve lost 14 pounds since I’ve arrived in Botswana.  The best part is that I haven’t even really been trying…we’ll see how this competition goes!

The weather has been satisfyingly chilly, with afternoon showers yesterday and cloudy, windy skies.  Last night, I made a nice hot cup of hot cocoa, and was about to snuggle up in bed to watch a movie when I spilled my nice, hot, boiling cup of chocolate all over my legs, feet, and bed.  I’m glad no one was around because I think I cursed in over three languages and probably would have offended someone…or their mother. 

I really think Caesar notices when I’ve been gone for a while, because when I return, he never wants to leave my side.  Yesterday, he walked with me to the clinic, and coiled at my feet for the entire day.  He’s still a puppy, but is pretty well-behaved most of the time.  I like playing the “what will Caesar be chewing on today” game.  In the past, the result has been a severed donkey’s hoof (bone still attached), and a quarter of a cow's jaw bone (teeth still in).  Yesterday I was horrified and mortified to find that he had found a skull somewhere and was eagerly wagging his tail, awaiting me to let him into the house.  After assessing the teeth and the shape of the skull, I assumed the its prior owner was probably another dog, so I scolded Caesar for cannibalism and sent him inside with his tail between his legs and with his mouth free of any remains. 
 

I’m no longer able to join some other volunteers on the trip to Namibia for Oktoberfest and instead am going to Francistown for a Halloween party this coming Friday.  Unfortunately, I’m usually pretty crafty when it comes to Halloween costumes…but I’m having such difficulties trying to decide what to make! I’m thinking if I can find a bowler cap, I might just be Charlie Chaplain…stay tuned for more pictures. 

Well, I think I’ve exhausted every topic I have for now.  I’ll keep you posted more frequently so my posts aren’t so encumbered with information!  I hope you have a fabulous rest of your day!

In the spirit of this weather, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain”
Getting some air time at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans with some of my favorite people
 

Monday, September 17, 2012

So much going on!


Whew! What a past couple weeks I’ve had!

It’s busy busy here in Botswana, lots of great things are happening, and the rainy season is a’comin’!

Let me keep you abreast of the recent going-ons in Gobojango alone. 

First of all, I’m in the process of writing a Peace Corps Partnership Program Grant for the primary school to get shade in their newly built playground.  The students of the school out-scored every other school in our district on their 2011 aptitude tests and therefore, the school received a sum of 30,000 pula to put towards the development of the school. Well, after buying a new copy machine, updating a roomful of computers’ software, spending money on some small prizes to encourage kids to continue athletics, and building a new playground, the development money has run out.  The only thing is that, though the playground is beautiful, the sun scorches the equipment so quickly that children are not able to use it or play on it during the summer months.  So all the hard work that they’ve done to receive an entirely new recreational park is going to waste unless there is shade netting put around the enclosure.  I’m working closely with the deputy school head and arranging for the grant to be posted soon so that the playground opening can happen in late October.

Secondly, last weekend I travelled to Talana Farms in the Tuli Safari Block.  There, I lead an aerobics class with my fellow volunteers, we put on a condom demonstration (both male AND female), and I met the manager of the farms. Pretty much, I played with the kids for the majority of the day and fell in love.  The living conditions in Talana Farms are not the best, and alcoholism is a prominent dilemma that they are faced with daily.  It was a great success, and after sitting with the manager of the farms and enjoying a cold beer under a 600 year-old tree, listening to the wildlife outside, I left with the Semolale ambulance.  On the drive home, I saw elephants, impala, kudu, and spring bock.  Without those small reminders, I would forget that I’m living in Africa.   


I’ve continued to put on health talks in the clinic (except for today since I’ve been sick and losing my voice).  That’s been going well, the doctor likes to record me and show the videos to the neighboring villages of Semolale and Mabolwe.  He hopes that by increasing health education will decrease the amount of recurrent patients who come to the health post.

 

I’m also creating a garden in my back yard.  I’m hoping that by using perma-gardening techniques that we learned during PST, I will be able to maintain a vegetable garden on my compound.  Lorato, my neighbor and friend, said she would be willing to help me since her family owns the garden on the outskirts of Gobojango.  
 

This weekend I will be having two things going on.  First, on Saturday, I will be travelling to my shopping village Bobonong for a Health Fair that is going on.  There, I will be an assistant in the DHMT (District Health Management Team) tent, and conducting condom demonstrations.  Next, the following day, on Sunday, I will be leading a training with the Kings Foundation for facilitators within my community.  I have arranged a group of 20 volunteers who work with children and who could be perfect for this training.  Pretty much I’ll be having people come here on Saturday night, then have them leave on Sunday morning.

What’s next? I went to Kanye this past weekend for a wedding.  It was really refreshing to be back in that village.  It was nice to see where I used to live and feel how much I’ve grown since arriving in Botswana.  I met a few of the new volunteers, and almost found it comical how wide-eyed and eager they were to listen to every word of advice I had.  I know exactly how they feel, and by golly, I wouldn’t trade anything in the world to be where they are now and have to go through PST (pre-service training) a second time.  It’s definitely a necessary training…but I’m much happier now that I’m at site.

I’ve started planning for some trips to happen in the near future.  Soon I’ll be heading to the Salt Pans of the northern region to see a flamingo sanctuary and to stay in Baobab Tree house Hostels.  SO awesome. Then, In October, I’m going with a group of other volunteers to Namibia for Oktoberfest. Hopefully, I’ll have enough vacation days to stay in the country and go sand boarding and sky diving. If not, I’m still excited to go to Namibia! November marks the month where I will be heading to the third largest town in Botswana: Maun, for Thanksgiving.  As many of you are aware, individuals throughout Botswana do not celebrate this wondrous holiday, so we are going to go big, volunteer style ;) We are having a huge potluck and are going to somehow get our hands on a turkey and some cranberries.

Then, happily enough, I can report that only a few weeks after that, I will be going back home to beautiful Colorado to see my magnificent family!

So joyous. =D

Well thanks for reading! Until next time, have a great day and don’t forget to tell someone how much you love them!

Friday, September 7, 2012

So, I met the president!


“Come, my friends.

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world

For my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset

And though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven

That which we are,

We are.

One equal temper of heroic hearts

Made weak by time and fate

But strong in will

To strive

To seek

To find

And not to yield.”                             -Alfred Lord Tennyson

                With each passing day, I’m faced with more opportunities to seize the world in new ways. Yesterday, I ate lunch with President Sir Ian Keretse Khama.  It was wonderful, and flattering to feel so important, but the most inspiring thing was the president’s willingness to listen to the citizens.  During both ward meetings (both in Semolale on Wednesday and Mathathane on Thursday), he alloted as much time as necessary to allow the villagers to come up to the microphone and tell him the dilemmas they are faced with in their everyday life.  

                He joked with the people, ate with the elders, listened to their histories, praised the children, shook hands.  It was so rejuvenating, so nice to see a president who cares so much about his people.  Not that this doesn’t happen in the US, trust me, I was there for the hype when Obama came to Tucson (even for a somber occasion, people were throwing around t-shirts), but it was just so invigorating to see how much influence even one man’s presence can uplift a community.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A day at school


I awoke this morning from a splendid night of sleep and opened my curtains to a stunningly sunny morning.  Ceasar, my growing puppy, stuck his nose under the mosquito net hovering over my bed, and looked at me eagerly to take him out.  I made a quick breakfast of earl grey tea (thousands of thanks to my wonderfully generous mom) and set off to the primary school down the road.

I arrived just in time for the morning assembly, in which the children line up according to shapes outlined by rocks in the ground, and sing a medley of songs.  I followed the standard 6 teacher to his classroom and got a brief summary of what they were learning. 

As we approached the front door of his classroom, he turned to me and said “So if you could teach about the present continuous tense, that would be great.  You have an hour until the next class comes in…there will be three classes total.”

I stared at him blankly, caught my composure and said, “Well, how about you start the class and I can ease in whenever you’re ready?”  (Unbeknowest to him, I had no idea what the heck the present continuous tense was; let alone how to teach it to a group of wide-eyed pupils)

 Class began and, in sync, the students declared, “Good morning teacher, good morning Kitso” A bit startled I said, “Hi everyone! How are you this morning?”

Almost as mechanical as the hello, they responded: “We are fine thanks and how are you?”  There was enough space between each word that it sounded like I was standing in a roomful of robots.  I concealed a smirk and affirmed that I was doing great. 

Thankfully, the teacher took over from there, introducing me to the students and beginning the lesson.  It turns out the present continuous tense is much more simple than I had anticipated.  It’s just adding +ing at the end of the present-tense verbs.  So after a brief preamble, the teacher looked at me and said, “Go for it, Kitso”.

The rest of the morning was entirely fulfilling.  I had the students complete a number of exercises, we played Simon Says while practicing the verb tenses, and I even had a great group debate going on in the second class regarding future continuous and past continuous tenses. 

The reaction I received from the primary school children when I first arrived in Gobojango was a series of giggles and blank stares.  Today in class, however, I was approached with an entirely different response.  Students were raising their hands, and honestly trying to get the right answers.  When they tackled a difficult task or corrected a mistake, they would look at me with enthusiastic eyes until I would give them a high-five. They performed like superstars, which made me feel like a superstar…it was such a rewarding experience. 

The headmaster and teachers keep pressuring me to come in to the school at least three times a week, but I keep explaining that my primary assignment is in the clinic. In all honesty, if it were up to me, I would only go to the schools.  I feel that the children are our best resource to make a positive change in the future of Botswana.  And they’re so eager to learn! For now, once a week is the most I can commit to.  Perhaps in the near future, once the clinic receives another nurse, I will feel less of an obligation to be there daily and have more time to do what I love.

((Quick side note: the damn baby goat is in my yard again! I have no idea how the bugger keeps getting in!  He just sits by my window baying until I let him free. *rolls eyes* I’m not sure if I’m hearing things, but when he baas, it literally sounds like he’s saying “heeeeelllllp”)).

 Now I’m currently sitting in my living room.  The sunny morning has transformed into an overcast and windy afternoon.  In Colorado, this weather would mean a rainstorm or snowstorm is coming; in Tucson, this weather is only seen during the monsoon season.  But here in Botswana, it just means the wind will blow more dust around my house and the tiles on my floor will keep my toes cold.  I love this weather.  I feel so much more productive and less obligated to go enjoy the sunshine.  It’s a Jack Johnson Banana Pancakes kinda weather, and I couldn’t be happier.

I apologize if my recent posts have sounded a bit dull and gloomy; I’ve felt pretty disconnected and therefore a bit lonely since my network has been having severe difficulties and I’ve not been able to speak with anyone from home.  It’s funny how something as small as a phone call or even an email can really make my week. 

I just found a couple crayons in my couch cushions.  I have no idea where these came from..?

Well, tomorrow I set off for Mahalapye to stay with Jeff and Elsa for a night.  Then on Sunday, I will head to Gaborone with a group of other volunteers; catch an afternoon showing of THE NEW BATMAN!! And then settle into the Oasis Lodge where we will be staying for 10 days or so for our in-service training.  Can you believe it has already been three months since I’ve arrived at site?

Some days it feels like these three months have flown by, other days it feels like years have passed since I’ve been home.  When I think about certain things from home, particularly people and certain food items, I get this pressing sense of longing that is very hard to explain.  Like a Chipotle burrito…or Guero Canelo…yumm….But on days like these, where the baby goat whimpers outside my door, the wind howls through my closed windows, and Caesar is curled up on my lap, it’s hard to wipe the smile from my face.

Before I leave you for the day, I would like to share this beautiful quote by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.  It seems appropriate for this post.

Enjoy your weather in your corner of the world =)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some lessons learned


Before I left, many people parted some words of wisdom with me that have kept with me very well.  Though I appreciated and accepted each word with eagerness and open ears, none have resonated better or have made more sense to me than those shared by my dad:

“You will feel the loneliest you’ve ever felt and learn more about yourself and the world than you had ever truly anticipated.  But take it with a grain of salt, and live it to its fullest, ‘cuz it’s only going to happen once.  Once it’s over you’ll think, wow that went by fast”

You know, I’ve held a lot of animosity towards my dad for moving away when I was younger, and more recently for opting to move to the Middle East for a second time.  More and more, I’m discovering that in an ironic turn of events he has been one of the individuals in my life that has understood what this process feels like.  As a result, I’m discovering a sense of guilt about making him feel blameworthy for all these years.  It’s pretty funny what time spent alone does to you.  The network has been extremely unreliable lately which not only means I am not able to use my phone but my internet as well.  I find myself longing for things that I never even would have imagined and missing even the silliest moments.  Especially the silliest moments.

That’s not to say that I allow the loneliness interfere with my personal pursuit of happiness.  In fact, some of my most treasured times here in Gobojango have been spent sitting on the dirt around a fire with about 8 kids, learning Setswana, and looking up into the stars.  It’s gotten to the point now that after my aerobics class in the evenings, I don’t even come home right away, I walk straight to my neighbor’s house and plop down beside the fire.  I share supper with them, share laughs with them, and for a brief instant in my day, I don’t feel the need to try and make a good impression on anyone.  I let the three and five year old girls tangle my hair, while the 8-10 year old boys ask me questions about their English homework while the others cook and listen.  Last night’s conversation, for example, went a little something like this:

Me: “No Fred, beach is not spelled with an i, that would make it an entirely different word and change your story altogether.”

Kesa: “What would it mean if he did use an i?”

Me: “Trust me, he does NOT want to go visit the bitch…ouch, play gently Fatima”

Fred: “Fatima, Kitso’s hairs are not weeds, they need to stay in”

Fatima: “Her hair is like donkey hair”

Me: “Did she just say my hair is like donkey hair??”

JohnJohn: “Kitso, help me, I need to use spread in a sentence”

Me: “JohnJohn, I will help you but I’m not doing your homework for you.”

JohnJohn: “No, this is helping me, I’ll give you a word and you use it in a sentence.  Ready? The first word is spread.” 

It’s a good release to be around such kind-hearted, innocent people.  So even though there are intense feelings of loneliness that creep up on me unknowingly sometimes, I hold those moments close in my heart. 
This is a picture of myself that Kesa drew for me

This past week, Gobojango hosted a region-wide arts festival.  Youth groups from surrounding villages all came to our community hall on Thursday afternoon and competed in acting, choir, and dancing categories for the top spot to go to Bobonong and compete against others in the district.  I had so much fun, sitting on the floor and watching all of this occur.  I even got a special recognition in the welcoming speech.  Though it was all in Setswana and Sebirwa, I could pick up here and there what was being said throughout the presentations.  The dances from the Bobirwa tribe are so colorful and fun, I cannot wait to upload the videos that I took! For now, here are a couple pictures to hold you over…

So while the loneliness does show his wretched face here and there in my service so far, I’ve found solace in the time I share with friends and the projects I’ve helped get going. 

(Speaking of, Gobojango would be a geologist’s heaven since the ground is sprinkled with semi-precious stones of all colors.  I have begun collecting them with my friend Lorato and we’ve decided that we are going to start an art project of arranging them with different color soil found throughout our village in glass jars.  I’ll keep you posted how it’s going!)
Different colored rocks found on my walk to work

That’s it for now; hope you all enjoy the rest of your week!

Feel a hug from Africa!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A couple laughs that I call Life.


The Goat Incident:

This afternoon I walked home from the clinic and found a single white baby goat trapped inside my compound.  Eyes wide, the poor little goat trotted around aimlessly searching for a way out.  I smiled to myself and opened the gate thinking I would just be able to chase the little guy out so he could go find his mom. What I thought would be a simple task turned into a 20 minute fiasco.  The stupid goat wouldn’t even let me get near it without scampering off in the wrong direction.  After sprinting around my yard, having the neighbor children laugh at me, and clapping and jumping at the goat, I watched as it FINALLY scuttled outside the gate.  I wiped a drip of sweat off my forehead and couldn’t help but feel a small sense of accomplishment. I smiled, as the one word that swirled around my head was, “FREEDOM!”

Just a normal afternoon in Gobojango.



----------------------------------

Doing Laundry:

I’m not sure if I’ve shared with you my distain for doing laundry.  I’ve always hated it.  Even in Tucson I would go a couple weeks before actually getting around to washing my clothes…and that’s when I had access to a washer and dryer.  Now, it’s even worse that I have to devote an entire morning to doing it since I must wash my clothes by hand.  Anyway, yesterday I woke very early to begin washing my sheets and blankets.  I let them soak for an hour before I began carefully scrubbing them.  About a half an hour later, I used some intense elbow grease to ring out the water and soap from the fabric, and pile them in my laundry basket.  As I reached high to hang the ornery sheets on the line, the chord snapped and all the clean, fresh-smelling laundry that I had just washed slumped into a massive pile of mud, material, and mess.  I looked helplessly down at the mud-spattered sheets and let out a feeble sigh.  This meant I had to wash them all over again.  I collected the dripping fabric, threw it back into the laundry basket and began the process all over again.  During the soaking procedure, I re-tied the cable to make sure that it would not break again.  Finally, after what felt like eternity of scrubbing, I collected the clean sheets again and set off to dry them.  I hung each sheet and blanket up again, clothes pin by clothes pin.  With the last pillow case, I stacked a couple cement blocks atop one another to reach the height of the chord near the top.  Tippy-toed, I closed the final clothes pin and smiled to myself in accomplishment.  Next thing I knew, the cement block under my toes doubled over, my feet flung over my head, and I was staring up at the dripping laundry from the flat of my back.  My lip quivered and tears welled in my eyes (whether it was because I had landed on my shoulder or more from embarrassment, I don’t quite remember), and to my horror, I watched as the cable snapped yet again in a different location over my head.  My laundry glided down towards my face, tauntingly, and assumed its position on the ground.

I never want to do laundry again.

--------------------------------------

In conclusion...

Monday, July 30, 2012

So I got peed on today...but this is what else is happening

Today has been such a great day!
Which is pretty odd..considering it’s a Monday. 
Let me fill you in a bit on what’s been going on in Gobojango this past week:
My counterpart is still on leave, which makes me sad, because I usually just sit in the consulting room with him during the day and talk and joke. But it’s given me an opportunity to actually accomplish some work in the clinic.  I scheduled a series of health talks to begin today (which they did) and also arranged an aerobics class (to begin tomorrow).
I’ve met with the Village Development Committee, the Social & Community Development Officer, and Primary school and have begun to make arrangements with them to focus on some goals to accomplish during my two years here.  Near-sightedly thinking, I am hoping to build shade for the Primary School’s new recreational park, and in the future, I would love to begin the arrangements of applying for funding for a new Library in Gobojango. This would not only help the out of school youth to have somewhere to be besides the bars, but also bring a sense of unity between the community and the schools.  The ideal operation would be to get internet as well. This week, I still must meet with the Junior Secondary School to schedule when I will be going there for the next couple years and meet with the village kgosi (or chief) to get some information regarding the history and logistics of my village.
Enough of the boring stuff! Let me fill you in on today!
So I was originally planning to hold my health talks at 8:00am when the majority of the patients were waiting for the doctor to arrive, but as I stepped into the waiting area and faced with an empty room, I decided to change the time to 9:00am.  I am so happy I did.  Once the doctor arrived at around 9, the swarm of patients arrived as well.  The whole staff congregated near the front of the room, and I began my discussion about maternal health.  This morning, I threw together a poster with some material that I had printed out last week.  It served as my guide, and as I spoke, more and more people came to listen.  I tried as best as I could to speak in Setswana, but unfortunately, words like “preconception” and “postnatal care” are not quite in my vocabulary yet.  Therefore, I had the head nurse of the health post translate for me.
After the session, a number of people asked questions, and I provided them with Jolly Ranchers as a special surprise for participating.  The doctor filmed as much as he could, and everyone left with a bit more information than they had originally intended. 
It felt glorious.
A couple weeks from now, my counterpart is throwing a small get together for me.  Of course, I invited my buddies from the Central District and Topo invited a couple of his as well.  It will be a fun braii!
Also, in-service training is coming up! Which means I’ll be able to travel to Gabs for a couple weeks and see everyone again.  I’m finding myself missing everyone here and there, so IST will be a good time for me to decompress and catch some r&r. 
A child just peed on me.
But other than that, things are going good.
THE BEST PART:                                                                                              
My parents bought me a ticket to come home for Christmas/New Years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
No number of words or exclamation points can portray my excitement at being able to see everyone again and, shoot, maybe even take a shower!
Here’s my itinerary for those of you who are curious:
Departure from Africa…
TUESDAY Dec. 18:              Depart Johannesburg, South Africa at 8:15pm
WEDNESDAY Dec. 19:        Arrive Frankfurt, Germany at 6:15am
                                               Depart Frankfurt, Germany at 10:00 am
                                                Arrive Dallas/Ft Worth, TX at 2:15pm
                                                Depart Dallas/Ft Worth, TX at 3:55pm
                                                Arrive DENVER, CO at 4:59pm
Total Travel time: 29 hours, 44 minutes
Arrival to Africa…THURSDAY Jan. 3:               Depart Denver, Co at 2:55pm
FRIDAY Jan 4:                      Arrive to Frankfurt, Germany at 8:30am
                                                Depart Frankfurt, Germany at 8:45pm
SATURDAY Jan. 5:               Arrive to Johannesburg, South Africa at 8:30am
Total Travel time: 32 hours, 35 minutes
Then, at some point, I have to figure out the bus system from Jo-burg to Palapye, since it only takes a few hours to get from Gobojango to Bobonong to Palapye.
I’m hoping that when I’m in Germany, I can see my dear old friend Rainer.  I looked online, and it appears he lives only a couple hours away and there is a train that takes from Stuttgart to Frankfurt.  AH! How cool! I’m going to Germany! It will be really entertaining to go from the scourges of heat to the blistering cold in just a matter of hours, but I couldn’t ask for another plan.
Well, besides the being peed on part, this day has been great.  I will update you again soon!
Have a fabulous day!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sick to my stomach...with homesickness


You can kiss your family & friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time, you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you. -Frederick Buechner



There have been a few times since I’ve arrived that I wish more than anything I could be back home with my family, sitting on my comfortable bed in my wonderfully-smelling house with Geoffrey playing games in the room next to me, my mom watching Ellen downstairs, and my dad cooking a delicious dinner. 



This moment is out shadowing all of those times.



The shooting in Colorado only makes it more real how far away I really am.  I’ve spent the majority of the day pondering the episode in my mind, and it hasn’t really hit me until now that it really happened.  I can’t stop thinking about my poor cousins, what they’ve seen, the unfortunate families who have suffered losses, the pain everyone must be feeling, and all of the hatred that penetrated from this incident. It breaks my heart; I normally try to find the goodness in everything and occurrences like these really and truly make my heart shatter.



How can there be so much suffering from the unreasonably insane actions of one individual?



I am feeling very lonely right now, my friend.  Though I have made very good acquaintances in my village, I have no one’s house I can really go to and cry.  My Peace Corps family is only a phone call away…and yet the phone servers have been down for the majority of the evening, which also means I am unable to access any internet. The only thing keeping me from feeling entirely alone right now is a little black and white puppy whose tail wags every time I look at him. 



Moments like these remind me of the sadness and hopelessness I felt when we lost Meghan and I wanted more than anything to be with my family in the hospital rather than a 2 hour plane ride away.


Only now I’m an 8 hour bus ride and an 18 hour plane ride away. 





…………………..





I’m supposed to be having “movie night” with the neighborhood children tonight, but right now all I really want to do is crawl into bed and watch a feel-good movie that reminds me of home. 



I need to pick myself back up and thank my lucky stars that I am able to communicate with my family and that everything is okay for the now. I need to realize how thankful I am that I was sent to such a peaceful country with such understanding and warm people.  How, even though these brief moments of weakness may seem like they last forever, they are only brief paragraphs in this wonderful story I’m able to live. 





My friend Tate sent me a beautiful array of quotes the other day, one of which resonated with me deeply:



"Everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”



Being so far away has really truly made me appreciate and love my home for the little things that I took advantage of before. 



And imagining being home again has made me appreciate new reasons to love being here.



Every little thing will be okay.



My heart goes out to those affected by the shooting in Aurora. May their souls find peace and may time heal their hurt.