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!
~Nina

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