I'm currently living in and loving Washington D.C. I am a Coverdell Fellow at American University's School of International Service, studying International Peace and Conflict Resolution as well as the Eagle Endowment Coordinator for the university's Center for Community Engagement and Service and a Youth Development Specialist at the Latin American Youth Center. I am constantly learning more about the meaning of life, love, happiness, and peace.
I hope you enjoy my story...
have no desire to move mountains, construct monuments, or leave behind in my
wake material evidence of my existence. But in the final recollection, if the
essence of my being has caused a smile to have appeared upon your face or a
touch of joy within your heart…then in living–I have made my mark. ~ Thomas L.
I know it has been a while since my last post, but I
have so much to tell you!
First of all, let me explain that I’ve been trying
to save my pula and pennies to buy a ticket home for Tasha’s wedding in
September.For this reason, I’ve tried
more than anything to stay in my village as much as possible. Though there
isn’t too much to do in Gobojango during the lazy afternoons, I’ve been
spending my time taking evening walks around the village.To my surprise, I’ve discovered a whole new
appreciation for the people in Botswana.
One afternoon, as I meandered through a dry
riverbed, a woman called to me from her hut.As I approached her, she took me by the hand and brought me inside her
mud, thatched-roof home.Though I
couldn’t understand exactly what she was talking about she kept motioning down
to a mangled mass on a mat on the floor.I just assumed it was dried bean leaves until she reached down and
picked up a tiny, shriveled bird.My
mouth flew open in astonishment, which only made her giggle more.It turns out; at her cattle post there is a
colony of birds that lays an abundance of eggs once a year. In the Bobirwa
tribe, it is a norm to eat these baby birds just after they hatch. Not wanting
to be disrespectful, I followed her lead and began plucking the tiny black
feathers off the bird and ate the entire thing whole: feathers, beak, head, and
all.I’m not sure if you’ll believe
me…but it tastes just like dark meat chicken.
The woman was tickled with excitement at my
daringness and threw a cupful of these tiny birds into a plastic bag for me to
take home and bid me farewell.Later
that night I explained to my Botswana family what I had eaten and they all were
beside themselves with pleasure.When I
told them I ate the head and everything, Fred (the 10 year old) shook his head
and, with a look of dismay exclaimed, “Kitso, now you’re going to start
thinking like a bird”.
I was completely out of contact for the entire week
last week.I went to stay with a group
of volunteers at a nature preservation lodge in the Tuli Block.Out of all of the amazing things I have done
since I’ve arrived to Botswana, I must admit that this week was definitely top
Though ten peace corps volunteers were invited, we
packed enough food for an army.We had
organized ourselves into cooking teams and each team was responsible for
cooking two meals; one lunch and one dinner.It was such a great way to have a variety of foods for 14 people.We ate everything from jambalaya and cheesy
mashed potatoes to veggie curry to quesadillas.It was scrumptious!!!!
-it’s so funny; since I’ve moved to Botswana all of
my conversations begin with what I ate…
Now let me tell you about the rest of the week!I’ll preface this part of the post by telling
you how breathtaking the scenery is.We
were literally in the nearly uncharted African bush.There were no telephone poles, no paved
roads, no streetlights, and wildlife surrounded us from all sides.The night sky was only dimmed by the
crackling of our fire, and you could hear hippos and baboons in the distance at
night.After darkness hit, we weren’t
allowed to stray too far from camp for fear of encountering a wandering herd of
elephants, stray leopards, or a pride of lions.
Now, the reason we were allowed to go on this
phenomenal trip was because Hollis and Leia got to be good friends with this
lady named Meike (pronounced Me-kuh).Originally from South Africa, her and her husband live on this land, and
periodically buy more and more hectares for conservation purposes.In the past, they have hosted paying
volunteers, and were therefore used to catering to large groups; but nowadays
have turned their aim primarily in the direction for environmental protection
Throughout the week, we did a number of activities
including alien plant removal (digging up prickly pear cactus with machetes and
spades), tree rehabilitation (planting baobab and fever trees), wildlife
discussions (learning about what to do when bitten by different types of
snakes), learned to mosaic, and social deliberations (discussing mental health
of volunteers).One night, as Meike and
her husband Garrit grilled impala meat for us, we had an African drum circle by
the fire and got lost in the rhythms.We
hiked to the top of a mountain and looked across the entire Tuli block.I was dumbfounded by the astonishing vista, alluded
to the Lion King’s Pride Rock, and burned the image into my mind.
As I joined one or two of my peers in the mornings
over a bowl of oatmeal and raisins and watched the wildlife near the Limpopo
River from the veranda, my soul and mind relaxed. It was a much-needed escape,
whether I realized it was necessary or not. Though the week seemed to pass
extremely quickly, I feel as if I have learned more in those 6 days than I have
in a very long time.
Since Caesar passed away, I have been battling with
a lot of internal demons about my purpose in Botswana and the Peace Corps, as
well as my intrapersonal relationships with friends and family back home.It’s funny that something so seemingly small
can kick off a chain reaction of reflection. More and more I’m becoming more
self-aware, self-realized, and in tune to what I am capable of.Though I’ve discovered that an individual
within my community actually maliciously poisoned Caesar, I’ve found room
within myself to forgive, and pity them.
I’m a big believer that whatever energy you put out
into the universe will come back to you in some way in the future.I’m not hoping that the woman who poisoned my
dog receives any malevolent revenge, but I do believe that one day she will
reflect upon what she did and feel some remorse.
For now, all I can do is work on making myself
happy.Breathing and approaching each
day with a smile. Recognizing and getting through the bad days to become a more
whole, beneficial part of this community.I’m not going to let one woman filled with hate and anger destroy my
service, and I hope one day she may find peace.
A few weeks ago, Gobojango was blessed to have five
beautiful American women stay at my house.We had a small “ladies’ weekend retreat”.Daniella (from Maun), Claire (from
Ramokgonami), Hollis (Mathathane), Jessica (Tsetsebjwe), and Leia (Bobonong)
all graced my home with their presence.We cooked, laughed, and shared stories of our service.It was such a therapeutic and inspiring time!
After Hollis, Jess, and Leia left the following day,
Claire, Daniella and I baked rustic Italian bread, made sangria, and enjoyed a
picnic near the Thuni dam. As the other two ladies drifted off to sleep in the
shade of the afternoon sun, I decided that I wanted to climb a mountain.I looked off into the distance and assured
myself I would ascend the rocks that climaxed the horizon.Lo and behold, an hour later and clothing
filled with thorns, I yelled across the valley to Claire and Daniella.Their heads appeared from the bush in the
next hill over, and I turned my head towards the sun.It was a great accomplishment…especially in
flip flops (I might add).
Quickly we travelled into the Tuli block with high
hopes of seeing some wild animals.We
made it to the junction with no luck, and, a little saddened; decided we had to
turn around for fear of running out of petrol.Right as we turned the car around, we were all surprised to find a hefty
brown elephant munching on a branch and staring right at us.
The next morning we all went to Phikwe and shared a
delicious breakfast in a bakery: freshly baked donuts, biscuits, scones, and
coffee.We watched Daniella mount the
bus, and Claire and I decided that we might as well take advantage of the day
in the large town.I bought myself a
floor-length mirror and we meandered into the tourism office.With newly-inspired information, we agreed
that it would be a great day to go and see the rock paintings at Lepokole
So that’s exactly what we did.
We came back to Gobojango, changed, met up with
Lorato and her daughter Charity, and piled into the car to head to
Lepokole.All guide books that I’ve read
state that Lepokole is about 25 kilometers from Bobonong (my shopping
village).Let me tell you: they are all
We drove for about two hours on an unpaved, poorly
maintained road before finally arriving at a snug, hushed village. We
approached the village chief and requested his permission to go see the
paintings.He sprung at the idea and
assigned us our own guide to take us deep into the hills.As I collected this man from the local bar,
he instructed us to follow the two-tire path into the wilderness. We drove for
another 30 minutes until we approached a riverbed that was impassable with a
vehicle.The five of us climbed out of
the car and began hiking.
As we walked deeper and deeper into the hills,
leaving all paths behind, Claire and I began questioning whether or not it was
a legitimate trail.I was so thankful to
have Lorato with us; otherwise I would have been extremely cautious and
questionable of this chief-elected guide taking us into the backwoods.
Finally, after climbing rocks and hills, and being
stabbed by countless thorns, we arrived at a huge cave inlet. Before we
entered, the guide asked us all to be quiet so that he may pray to the
ancestors and ask permission for us to proceed. Respectfully, we advanced in
silence and I was taken aback at how many drawings stared back at us from the
face of the cave wall.
It was stunning, and very special.Not many people have had the opportunity to
be graced with the opportunity to visit the Lepokole Rock Paintings, and I am
so grateful to have had the chance. We drove back in the dark, blasting
American music and smiling to the night sky.
Although my family means more to me than anything in
the whole world, I have an adopted family here in Botswana that I spend the
majority of my time with.When I say
“adopted” family, I mean they have really adopted me, rather than me adopting
them.Lorato, the elder of the two
sisters, has become my best friend and confidante.I feel no reservations when I’m with her, and
I feel a mutual respect that is hard to come by in my community.
A week after the Lepokole Hills trip, I found myself
home on a Friday afternoon in the middle of a wonderful rainstorm.I had all of my windows and doors open and
the scent of freshly moistened earth seeped into my nostrils.I was so happy that the smile was cavernous
on my lips.
The day was perfect until Kesa, Lorato’s 13 year old
niece, came splashing up to my doorstep with tears streaming from her
cheeks.She asked me to accompany Lorato
to the hospital.Apparently Charity,
Lorato’s daughter, had been bleeding throughout the night.
It turns out Charity had a miscarriage.Nobody even knew she was pregnant, and she
was three months along. We spent that night and the following day at the
hospital until they released her.
Lorato asked me to help her speak with Charity about
safe sex methods and her available options.I’m wondering if it was a lack of information that caused Charity to
keep her pregnancy a secret, or if it was merely fear.I’ve never had to do something like this
before, so I’m definitely treading on new waters.
I HAVE A NEW
It has been wonderful!Though you could imagine the treacherous
mishaps one must encounter when taking on the responsibilities of a new
puppy.I’ve relinquished my joy in
having clean floors while potty training, and, most importantly, have
sacrificed a few hours each night of sleep during the time she cries.
Her name is Cleo, she’s going to be a small breed
like Caesar, and, comically, she is almost his identical twin!She is too small now to take the long walks
with me to the secondary school so I just carry for the majority of the
time.The people I encounter along the
way say things like, “Kitso, you have a Caesar two!”, “I thought your little
black and white dog had died” and, my all time favorite: “your dog is getting
I now just need to re-learn patience and understanding
while raising her…I was so content with the age that Caesar was that I have to
get past the annoying parts of puppyhood to be there again.
Right before Caesar passed away, Lorato’s dog had a
litter of puppies.One of them clung
onto Caesar as his best friend and began following us around everywhere we
went.When Caesar was gone, Spike would
come to my house searching for his best buddy.After he realized that Caesar wasn’t coming back, he continued to follow
me around the village and come into my house eagerly expecting to be
loved.He is a floppy, yellow lab-like
puppy who is hard not to love, so of course, I treated him as my own.
Now that I have Cleo, Spike has begun to express
feelings of jealousy.Yesterday, as I
began walking the 4 kilometers to the secondary school in the summer heat,
Spike followed closely on my heels. I tried everything to keep him back at the
house, but he was determined not to leave my side.When we finally arrived to the secondary
school, Spike’s tongue hung so low out of his mouth that it nearly touched the
floor.I went to the teacher(who had
given me Cleo)’s house to request water for the dogs when Cleo’s mother began
barking and chased Spike away.
I called for him for hours after that and was
extremely stressed and worried when he didn’t return.I walked home after the meeting with my head
hung low, imagining all of the terrible things that could have happened to him.
All night I was anxious and terrified of having to tell Lorato’s son that one
of his puppies had gone missing.
A few minutes ago, I heard a soft bark and
scratching at my door (like Caesar used to do for me to let him inside the
house).When I opened the door, I was
overjoyed to see a droopy yellow lab puppy plunk his way into my house.I sat on the floor, and he fell backwards
onto my lap (also just like Caesar used to), legs spread wide, with not a care
in the world.
He and Cleo are already best friends, and even
though he can put her entire body in his mouth, they are such a delight to be
Time to get training…
So my 24th birthday is tomorrow. For the
first time since I can remember, I have absolutely no plans for the big day.
Apparently it’s customary here for the birthday person to plan their own
party.Because I didn’t know, I’m
shrugging my shoulders and saving money for a big trip next week to northern
part of Botswana.
I’m hoping to hitch a ride with the ambulance early
in the morning on Thursday to Francistown, then head to Maun from there.I have to be in Shakawe by Friday night, so
I’m still attempting to plan the trip.That Saturday morning, there will be a huge half-marathon that has been
planned by a Peace Corps volunteer in the area.Leia and I will have a booth devoted to the prevention of gender-based
After the marathon, we are hoping to meander our way
down the Okavango Delta.Perhaps one of
the days I’ll be able to celebrate my birthday.I’ll keep you posted.