Sunday, June 10, 2012

Time to Pack...with freezing fingers!

I can’t believe that I’ve already been here for over two months…though the days seem like they drag on, the months truly fly by. 

I’ve received my other bag from storage and am currently in the process of packing up my things. Either I’ve acquired so much crap, or I’m just not packing right! I have no idea how so many little things can accumulate to make such huge piles! I’ve already filled my big bag to its maximum capacity and I still have to pack my clothes! Eeesh, it’s going to be a long Sunday.

Yesterday was the family appreciation ceremony.  I’d say even with all of the running around, it was a complete successJ.  The hall was filled with families and trainees, everything worked properly, and I even had 5 people in the audience just for me!  My host mom came with her sister and niece, and two of my Batswana friends arrived from Joaneng (Keitumetse and Tshidiso)!  It was wonderful! The ceremony started by me singing the Botswana National Anthem, then my friend Chelsea sang the U.S. National Anthem, Jeff said a prayer, we served everyone a delicious meal prepared by the cooking committee (corn bread, chili, cole slaw, and rice pudding), then a slide show was playing while people ate, there was a dance party, Claire sang “I’ll be seeing you”, we had a raffle for some food baskets, and we concluded the ceremony with my official thank you speech in English and Setswana and the closing prayer.  It was completely nerve-wracking but we did it!

My speech was as follows, “Hello everyone, my name is Kitso.  I will thank you on behalf of the volunteers.  Your act of generosity in allowing us to stay in your homes has helped us in more ways than one.  We have become daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts in your wonderful families, and in becoming so, the pain of leaving our families in America has not been as difficult.  Sharing your culture, your knowledge, and your lives with us has not only allowed us a glimpse of what life will be like in Botswana, but it has also given us an opportunity to build long-lasting friendships that we can never forget.  We hope that our presence in your homes has been a pleasant experience and that you have learned a little about where we come from and why we are here.  We have learned that the people of Botswana are kind and loving and it is with this understanding that we take our next steps. Thank you very much.” 

(For those of you who are interested ( i.e. Liberty ;), this is how it looks in Setswana, “Dumelang bagaetso, leina lame ke Kitso.  Ke tla le leboga mo boemong jwa baithaopi.  Bopelontle jwa lona, mo go re letleleleng go nna mo malwapeng a lona go re thusitse mo disteleng tse dintsi.  Re nnile barwadia, barwa, bokgaitsadia, bomalome, bommangwane mo malwapeng a lona a mantle.  Fa go ntse jalo botlhoko jwa go tlogela bamalwapa a roma kwa Amerika jwa tokafala.  Go kgaogana ngwao le, kitso le matshelo a lona le rona ga go a re letlelela fela gore re lekeletse gore Botshelo bo tla nna jang mo Botswana mme go re file nako y ago aga botsalano jo bo nitameng bo re senang go bo lebala.  Re solofela gore bolenteng jwa rona mo malwapeng a lona e nnile boitemogelo jo bo lebosegang le gore le ithutile go le  gonnye ka kwa re tswang teng le gore kagoreng re le fa. Re lemogile gore bathoba Botwana ba botho gape ba lerato.  Jaanong ke ka kitso e, re bo re tsaya kgato e e latelang mo botshelong. Re a leboga thata thata.”)

It was a total success! Those of us who did not cook stayed after to clean, and then we retrieved our bags that had been in storage this whole time.  Jessica and I hailed a cab and went to our respective houses to drop off the bags and I decided to meet up with a group of other volunteers at my friend TJ’s house for a goodbye party. 

I hitched a ride from a very nice man from Zimbabwe named Gibson who was going to church and offered to give me a ride whenever I needed it.  Then, Tate, Jvani, Mignon, Dominique and I took off to TJ’s house. 

The goodbye party was a BLAST! TJ’s host sisters spent like an hour playing with my hair (apparently, my hair here is “so soft” to everyone who touches it...I felt badly for them since I haven’t washed my hair in a few days...!) Although it was literally freezing outside, and the power had gone out throughout Kanye, we huddled in the side house on couches and under blankets, sharing laughs and stories.  TJ’s host mom came and prayed with us and welcomed us to her home, started a fire, and we had the most delicious brii I’ve had since I’ve been here (for those of you who don’t know, a brii is a bar-b-que) Apparently they slaughtered a number of chickens just for this party!

Periodically, more trainees came and went, and I learned how to make the most delicious Paletshe in Botswana.  TJ’s host mom kept asking for me to come visit her and if she could come visit me in Gobos. It was such a nice afternoon/evening. 

Unfortunately, it came time to depart and Tate, Stacy, Dominique and I grabbed a cab home.  Once home, my friends Tshidiso and Goitse were waiting for me to say their final goodbyes.  We watched the news like every night, and even with sweat pants, socks, two sweaters, gloves, and my new blanket wrapped around me, I was STILL freezing! (I cannot believe how unbelievably cold it gets here in Kanye!) I drifted off to sleep and decided it was time to cuddle up in my blankets.

Oh! Before I forget, a couple days ago, we went to the Steinmetz Diamond Polishing Plant in Gaborone.  I saw the entire process of diamond polishing, from a raw stone in the ground to an impeccably gorgeous, shimmering diamond.  Sadly, we were unable to take anything with us, including cameras, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures.  I wasn’t really a huge fan of diamonds before, really and truly, all I imagined for my wedding ring was a simple silver wedding band, but after that visit…after holding a 14 carat diamond between my fingers…future fiancée beware! The process was so intriguing.  Did you know that in order to cut the diamonds, they constantly cover their machines in “diamond dust” since no other gem/mineral is strong enough to cut it? Also, we were taken to the office where a handful of people use computers to process the images of the raw stones to decipher what the largest, most profitable cut would be.  I didn’t originally want to go, but after leaving there, I was so happy I did.  And plus, I saw my first zebra’s in Africa there as we were departing!  The security is so tight at the plant that the workers are on lock-down from the minute they arrive until their shift is up.  There is a hospital, game room, and personal café for all of the employees and the bundles of diamonds that they are working on are weighed every couple hours to make sure that nothing, not even a 0.05 carat diamond is taken.  The best part of the whole tour, I thought, was when I asked one of the employees if she liked diamonds, she shrugged and said, “It’s just a shiny rock, really”. 

This morning, I was supposed to go to church with my host mom’s nephew, but after soaking my clothes for laundry and beginning the task to pack, I realized that I probably won’t be doing much today besides just that.  I’d like to make a tasty goodbye dinner for my host family as somewhat of a going-away present...but I’m realizing more and more that that might not be a possibility. (1. Because I’m freezing and don’t want to change out of my sweatpants and 2. because there’s just so much to be done!)

I can’t believe that I will swear an oath to the US Ambassador and Peace Corps Country Director in just two days time and become an official Peace Corps Volunteer!!!!  The next step of my journey has almost become realized!

Ok, I think that’s all I have to tell you for now.  I guess I’d better stop procrastinating and actually start packing again…ughhh…. Why can’t my mom and dad be here to help me!? I hate packing. I’m not sure I know anyone who thoroughly enjoys it.  In fact, if anyone out there wants to come pack my stuff for me, I’ll take them on a free safari!

Haha! Well, here’s a beautiful quote to keep in mind, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darknes”

=) Keep your candles lit!

Monday, June 4, 2012

You can do nothing, or you can do everything

As the date nears, I’m getting more and more excited about moving to Gobojango (Gobos).  I am also realizing even further how truly alone I will be in exactly 8 days. 

My Peace Corps experience thus far has truthfully been a unique one.  Though Botswana is fortunate enough to be considered a “middle-income” country, I am not necessarily living the “Peace Corps experience” I had originally intended or expected.  I have access to the internet, I have running water (sometimes) and electricity, and I feel pretty dang safe here walking alone.  What else could one ask for?

Though I have been fortunate on many fronts, I believe we are faced with different predicaments that go alone with our kismets.  Adversity considering race relations is one thing I’ve had somewhat of a difficult time with.  Whether I like it or not, I stand out here.  I cannot walk to the tuck shop right up the street without everyone staring, trying to get my attention, or attempting to talk to me.  Normally, if you know me, this would be a grand thing, but on those gloomy days where I would like nothing better than to fit in, the frustration arrives.  
Next, the whole topic of loneliness came up in training today.  I know this is probably evident to you reading this, but a shocking realization I've come to has been that "life goes on" back home.  Whether I'm there or not and regardless of if I like it or not, life continues back in the United States.  I have found solace in the fact that my dad can understand more than anyone so far how painful it is to live vicariously through a computer screen.  It sucks to want to be two places at once! And I've only been here 2 months!
One thing I keep reminding myself is that my life back home is exactly that: home.  I can always come back to the gorgeous Colorado Rockies and my loving, supportive family who help me feel like I can conquer the world.  How many 23-year-olds can say that they've spent two years of their life working with HIV/AIDS prevention in Sub-Saharran Africa?  I keep reminding myself to not let the yuck ruin my yum and to keep my head tilted towards the sun
I've discovered alot of things about myself so far on this journey of life:
1) I really don't mind spending time with myself.  In fact, after I've been surrounded by people seemingly 24/7 I'm actually a pretty cool person to be around ;)
2) I joke when I'm nervous.  And doing so in a different language can prove to be difficult...
3) I'm very vocal when it comes to working out my problems. 
4) I like being in a group setting where people can voice their opinions and be surrounded in a mutually learning environment
5) I hold many props to people who do not get frustrated with themselves while learning new languages.  Although I love learning new ways to express myself, I have crashed multiple times into a wall of frustration with my learning of Setswana
6) I like being sought out.  It makes me feel important.
7) I love feeling important.
8) Although the Peace Corps keeps reminding me that we are not here to change the world, I still plan on changing the world.  (Even if it's just something small in one other person's world)
9) I'm surprised at how quickly I adapt to certain situations and still maintain a smile
I think that's it for now.  One thing I've learned about the Peace Corps that I hadn't originally intended was that it attracts a cornocopia of people and personality types.  Even in our small group of 46, we have people of all ages, all backgrounds, and all experiences.  The one thing that keeps me motivated is that they are all amazing in their own individual way.  How lucky am I to be a part of this great group of individuals?

Today we had a guest presenter.  Caitlin, a lovely volunteer who sold me her set of cooking knives, is closing her service and leaving Botswana in 3 days.  In expecting her return to the US, she read us a letter of advice.  Many things resonated with me, but the most inspiring statement she declared was, “When you wake up in the morning, you have a choice of doing two things: you can do nothing, or you can do everything”.  I’ve learned that living through all these surmounting stressful situations has its ups and its downs.  And as I’ve already told my parents, the highs are extremely high and the lows can get very very low.  Though I haven’t experienced a low low yet, I will be sure to keep this in mind.  I think it’s a great way to look at not only life in Botswana, but at life in general. 
Wake up.
Decide to do everything or nothing
Commit yourself to your decision
And hold no expectations as to the outcome, to avoid disappointment.
Even if the "everything" I accomplish that day is making a great dinner for myself, or teaching an 18 year how to play the guitar, I plan to do everything I can to make the most of this experience.
So now, to leave you on a good note, here's a lovely picture of our visit to the cultural lodge and the dance that they did for us =). 
Keep smiling!