Monday, July 2, 2012

It's been so long!

I apologize it has been so long since my last post, many things have been happening and the network has been down this whole time so I haven’t been able to update!

Let me start off by saying that I am safe and sound in Gobojango (Gobas) and I’m in my comfortable, beautiful home.  Slowly I am learning the individuals that live here, though the names are quite difficult to remember.  Whenever someone says, “Dumela Kitso!” (Hello Kitso), I simply respond, “Dumela tsala yame!” (Hello my friend!).  It seems to help in getting me out of an awkward situation.  I’ve mapped my community and continue to add onto the map as I venture out more and more into the cattle posts and farms surrounding my village.

Next, my work at the clinic has begun.  My tasks change daily as the needs of the clinic change as well. For example, yesterday I assisted the lay counselor with conducting rapid HIV tests all morning while today I’m in an office counting pills.  Luckily for me, the clinic gets extremely busy in the mornings (from 7:30-12:30) and then is completely dead from 12:30 on.  This will give me many opportunities to work with the community and begin implementing programs.

Tomorrow is a big day here in Gobas.  But before I tell you why, let me give you a little background on the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate here within my community.  I am living in the Bobirwa subdistrict which encompasses the entire eastern “nose” of Botswana up to the town of Phikwe.  Here, the HIV rate is the highest in all of Botswana; and everyone who is administered to the HAART program (or a strict cocktail of different antiretroviral medicine {especially for those with a CD4 count below 350}) must go to the clinic to take their ARVs (antiretroviral medicine) once a week.  Normally, there are various facets of reactions to this weekly dosage of ARVs.  When I was staying in Kanye, people would have to line up every Tuesday in front of the clinic to await their treatment.  This, in turn, sparked a continuous stigma associated with the individuals in that line; and would therefore encourage people to either travel to different clinics to take their medication or, more rarely, to simply not take it at all.

Here in Gobojango, the reactions are a bit different.  Though there isn’t particularly that stigma associated with those taking ARVs, the individuals do not have access to the medication within their immediate village.  Hence, those who are infected by HIV/AIDS must pay 20 Pula a week to travel to and from the closest village of Bobonong where the ARV clinic is located. If, perhaps, one week an individual cannot afford to travel as far, they simply cannot afford to take their medicines that week.  A whole other dilemma arises. 

Now back to the story of Gobas.  Tomorrow, the official IDCC (Infectious Disease Control Center) of Gobojango will be opening.  With the opening of this clinic, it will mean that those individuals who have been consistent in taking their ARVs will now have immediate access within their own village to the medication.  It’s a huge step for Gobojango, and hopefully for the individuals within the village.  I have been put in charge of writing the program as well as decorating the clinic for the VIPs who will be coming.  The past week has been focused around the opening and has therefore kept us all busy!

Tomorrow morning, I am also supposed to go to the Junior Secondary school to meet all of the students! On top of all that, my landlady is supposed to be coming tomorrow as well, which means I must discuss with her the rent situation.  I think I’ll be doing more tomorrow alone than I’ve done in the past two weeks that I’ve lived in Gobas!

But then, Saturday I am planning to go to Phikwe with my neighboring volunteers Jessica and Hollis for a nice, relaxing day in the town.  I will be able to see Tsetsejbe (where Jess stays) and learn to better navigate the bus system. My hope is that I will be able to find out about getting internet for my house, because I’ve felt so out of the loop out here with no communication with the outside world!

I think it’s quite funny that my mom cannot fathom the fact that I am not able to buy stamps here in Gobas.  Or bottled water.  It’s just that small of a village!

The other day, my friend Lorato came and took me out of the comfort of my home and walked me to her family’s “garden”.  What she called a “garden” turned out to be hectares of land bursting with freshly growing veggies!  We walked around her family’s compound, I met her aunts and cousins, drank some tea, then returned to the garden.  Before leaving, her little sister (Josephine) approached me with her arms overflowing with carrots, tomatoes, beets, and kale greens just for me.    We both walked back to my house, brimming with veggies, while Lorato showed me how to clean and prepare some of the food in a traditional way.  We ate a yummy lunch and she left me satisfied and happy.

Oh gosh! I almost forgot to tell you one of the biggest things that’s happened to me! I HAVE A NEW PUPPY! Last weekend, I accompanied the ambulance driver to Phikwe to run a couple errands.  There, I was able to sit in on an internet cafĂ©, eat a yummy lunch with some police officers, and explore a bit.  Along the way, I mentioned to the woman from my clinic how lonely I felt in my big old house all by myself and she made a phone call and told me to come with her.  We hopped in her cousin’s car, drove to his house, and were taken to a cluster of puppies in which she turned to me and said, “Take your pick!” At this point, I was pinching myself because I didn’t know whether or not this was really happening.  These puppies were not even 8 weeks old and already they wanted me to take one! Needless to say, I now have a buddy named Caesar; he’s a teeny tiny little black and white pooch with a fat belly, pink nose and paws, and short legs.  I take him with me to the clinic every day after lunch so he can get out into the sunshine.  He’s so small that I have to carry him half the way since he tires so easily.  The first couple nights were torture as he yelped and whined and screamed for his mom, but we have come a long way and now I’m undertaking the task of potty training him.  Luckily for me, he’s about the size of a small kitten so I plan on taking him with me on the bus this Saturday to Phikwe. 

What else can I tell you? I think that’s everything for now. I’ll just show you a picture of the sunset outside my back window. =) (more pictures to come soon!)

Au revoire!

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