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...