Monday, February 25, 2013

Live a life that matters

Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant -- even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

      So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose a great one. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

RIP Ceasar

Oh God, why?


I have to bury my puppy today.  My confidante. My best friend.  Guard dog, cuddle buddy, walking partner….my best friend Ceasar.


Yesterday I spend the majority of the day clearing the weeds out of my garden.  As my 13 year-old neighbor Kesa made valentine’s cards in my doorway, the sun started setting and we decided it was time to clean up and head over to Lorato’s for dinner.   As I approached the house, I heard a scratching noise. 


“Ceasar, stop it”. I yelled in the house.


It didn’t stop.


When I went inside, I found him convulsing on the floor behind my couch in a pool of foam and feces.  I didn’t know what to do.  I screamed for Kesa to go get Lorato. I tried to hold him still. I didn’t know what else to do.


Lorato came. She brought him outside and poured some milk in his mouth with hopes that the jolting would stop.


It didn’t stop.


The entire village’s power had been out all day so I didn’t have any network to call anyone.  I felt so helpless. I didn’t know what else to do.


Lorato called the old man from the next compound over to come and help.  Though I couldn’t understand a single word that anyone was saying, I knew it was too late.  One look at poor Ceasar’s jerking body and you knew it was too late.  But some small part of me was hoping that by an act of God or some miracle that somehow by me holding him he would be okay. 


He wasn’t.


The old man poured the rest of the milk in Ceasar’s mouth until it started coming out his nose. His tongue was purple.  Slowly, the twitching stopped.


Ceasar lied there, so present but so vacant at the same time.  His eyes were open…frightened…lifeless.


I couldn’t contain myself.  I started balling. He truly was such an amazing companion. He would cuddle with me on nights that I was feeling lonely.  He would walk with me to the clinic and sit at my feet until I had finished for the day.  I wish there was more I could have done. 


It must have been a show: me standing there trembling and howling in pain, holding a flashlight down at my dead dog, hoping beyond hope that he would stand up again.


I stayed the night at Lorato’s house. I wasn’t hungry. Couldn’t sleep. He’s lying in a box on the porch right now, I have to bury him. Lorato is coming over in a little bit to help me dig his grave.


We thought it was a snake bite.  That somehow by me stirring up all of the weeds in the garden I had awaken some black mamba somewhere. But when my counterpart came over, he determined that Ceasar had eaten something extremely poisonous and it destroyed his insides.


Now how am I going to sleep alone?  How will I ever express how much this hurts to the other people in the village, when they see dogs here as simply another animal? 


When will it stop hurting? 


Tuesday, February 5, 2013


It’s so humorous to me how here I find myself sweating miserably throughout the entirety of Monday, and then on Tuesday I wear my winter jacket to work. I think the weather is a reflection of the mood changes I experience quite often in Botswana.  Never is it simply comfortable: it’s either truly extremely hot or drastically, freezing cold…and the two happen within days of one another. 

Last week I spent the majority of my time with the new intake of volunteers.  I gave a presentation with the King’s Foundation on Friday afternoon; and let me tell you: it was much needed.  When we arrived to the academy where they were training, morale was extremely low.  People had been walking out of meetings and begrudgingly conversing about the Ministry of Education.  Since I had not yet met many of the new volunteers, I felt like it would be a great time to give off a good impression.  We arranged for the group to assemble underneath a grass hut (to seek shelter from the hot, afternoon sun) and began interactive games.  From the first exercise, spirits were lifted overall and smiles actually began growing on these poor individuals’ faces. We intermingled activities with information sessions, and I spoke about the success of the King’s Foundation base packs in my own village. In the end, the presentation was a victory and I got an opportunity to briefly discuss ideas with some fresh minds.  The drive back to Gaborone was enjoyable as well as Matt (the King’s main coordinator), Oliver, Tendekai, Victor (all King’s volunteers), and myself debriefed about the day and laughed so hard we cried.  That night, I stayed in Kgale View Bed & Breakfast, and ate a prepared supper of seswaa (shredded meat) and paletche (mealymeal) with the hotel clerk. 

The next day I went on a date with myself.  As dorky as this sounds, it was much-needed.  I went shopping, indulged in a bit of retail therapy and bought myself a beautiful new dress (on sale…Mom you would be so proud), and took myself out to lunch.  I found a wonderful café that is not only reasonably priced, but also has delicious food, coffee, free wifi, and an outside patio!  I started to do some work when my friend Oliver came to meet me.  Finally we parted ways and I set off for Tlokweng (a sub-district outside of Gaborone) to check into my new hotel. 

I ended up meeting with a group of other volunteers, conversing with them, and plopping my luggage in one of their rooms.  That night Oliver planned a combi ride for us all to go out.  We dressed up, had some pre-club cocktails and set off for a fun-filled night. 

It felt exciting to dance and mingle again with Americans.  I think I danced pretty much the entire night, and was drenched in sweat by the time we left (not very attractive, I suppose, but SO worth it). The music was uplifting, the company was fun-loving, and the night overall was entertaining. 

The next day I met with Claire and Elsa (two friends of mine from Bots12 {my intake group} who are also members of PSDN).  These ladies have a special place in my heart for two reasons: they’re both extremely down to earth and overall so positive about living in Botswana.  We had an “American night”: treated ourselves to dinner and a movie and a nice evening chat. 

Our main purpose for all being in the capital at the same time was to give another presentation for the Bots 13 individuals.  We sat in on different lectures and mingled with the new volunteers.  Then, we held two “mental health” sessions where we allowed the volunteers to express their challenges as well as the measures they took to overcome them.  Dominique (another bright, beautiful soul from Bots 12) also came to represent Bots12 PSDN.

Our last night in Gaborone, I arranged for another night out on the town; but this time, we went to a karaoke bar instead.  Though this bar is much smaller, and not very well-known, we spent the night singing Backstreet Boys, Queen, and all the other American classics that we had been missing.

My journey back to Gobojango was split into two days as I remained in Mignon’s house in Palapye with Claire. We cooked stuffed peppers with macaroni and cheese and laughed so hard that my abs hurt the next morning.

Though I’ve been feeling a bit lonely since I’ve returned to site (probably having people withdrawls), it feels really great to be back.  It’s as if I’ve been so distant from Gobojango for so long (what with the PSDN training and Bots 13 IST) that it has been a bit difficult picking up where I left off in my village. 

The rains have left little yellow flowers sprinkled all over my compound and my garden is entirely overgrown.  Though I love the way it looks, I know that I will have to spend some time this week tending to it and getting it back under control. 

Small things that people do for one another remind me that even though the feeling of loneliness is extremely prominent at times, people still care and worry about one another’s well-being.  Yesterday evening, as I locked myself in my house to watch light-hearted media, I heard shovels and digging in my back yard.  When I stepped outside, I was surprised to find a couple of my neighbors bent over spades, removing the massive amounts of weeds from my yard. When I slid on my flip flops, they refused to let me help, saying that I should relax and enjoy the sunset. 

So now, today, as the clouds cover the blue sky, and Caesar curls at my feet in the clinic, I am reminded of the greatness of life and of people.  The ability to experience delight and witness it from another individual is so sacred.  I think my lifestyle here is a direct reflection of what I learned yesterday: it’s important sometimes to allow others to weed your garden while you relax and watch the sunset.  After all: everyone needs to feel appreciated.

If you are reading this, please take the time to feel the delight of appreciation.  I am grateful for you, and the everyday choices you create that make this world a better place.

 I must now set off to finish entering patients into the computer system here at the clinic. 
Until next time!