Last weekend ended up being one of my favorite weekends in Botswana so far. I was able to meet up with some good PCV friends and two returned Peace Corps volunteers and their friend who works in South Africa. One of the RPCVs lived and worked in the JSS in my village, Werda, in the '90s! It was incredible to hear about how things were in Werda at that time and to see pictures of my village. The students looked the same as students now because they wore the same uniforms, and the school itself looked very much the same. At that point in time the paved road ended in Jwaneng so it was much more difficult of a drive to Werda and took much longer than just a 5 hour bus ride to get to Werda from Gaborone, the capital. Besides having interesting stories and cool pictures, the RPCVs clearly looked back upon their Peace Corps experiences positively and as something that truly impacted their lives. They were inspiring, kind, and thoughtful people who seem happy with the paths their lives took following Peace Corps service.As we all visited, we ate Pakistani food in my friend's village because her friend cooked a special lunch for us in his restaurant, which usually serves Setswana food, simply because he is a nice person who wanted to cook something from his home for us. We then attended a party for the orphans and spent time hanging out with her Kgosi, who is also a very genuine seeming person, who we were able to have some great conversations with about America, Botswana, and many other things with. Sometimes it is tough being here because I feel like people don't understand me or where I'm coming from, so when I get the chance to spend time with people who do or who are least are trying to, it is very uplifting. These are the kind of days that make being here so worth it.


A Wedding and Life Here in General

   This weekend there was a huge wedding anniversary party on my compound. My landlord and his wife renewed their vows after 25 years of marriage. There was a lobala celebration on Thursday, during which there was a lot of singing, music, and the giving of cows ( The groom gives cows to the bride's family...in this case cows had been given before when they first married so there were fewer cows given, and these cows were slaughtered for the brie or bbq at the wedding). There have been many people from outside of my village who have been staying in the traditional house and the new house that was just built on my compound. On Friday people were just relaxing and spending time together, and those in the wedding were working on preparations. Yesterday was the wedding day itself. I woke up at 4:30am because I had been told that would be when cooking would begin, but when I looked outside I didn't see any signs of anyone else being awake yet so I went back to bed for a while for getting dressed and ready for the day. At a little before 6am I could hear that people were awake outside so I went out to join in on the cooking. I ended up helping with cutting a lot of cabbage and onions We were prepping food until about 12:30pm. Then people were changing into wedding clothing and setting up a tent and chairs. Some people I knew from the clinic arrived with their friends and family and at this point it was starting to get very crowded and there were not enough chairs so I brought some chairs out from my house for them and spent time talking with them and socializing until the ceremony started later in the afternoon. By the time 7pm rolled around I was spent. Although I was having a great time, being around so many people and being kind of "on display" as the only American at the party was a bit overwhelming. I felt exhausted from busting out any little bit of Setswana I could use, being proposed to, and being asked for food from my own house off and on throughout the day and having to say no over and over. I ended up taking a TO to hang out inside with Dobby and rest for a bit. Taking a break definitely helped, and I went back outside to socialize again afterward.
   Something really great that this wedding weekend made me realize is how at home I now feel here. Even though I felt "on display" this weekend, and it made me realize that how on most days I do not feel like that anymore and that for the most part the people asking me for things were people from outside of Werda who do not know me at all. Yes, of course I stand out, and of course people in my village will occasionally ask me for money or propose, that is just a fact of life of being a PCV, and it will probably always happen. However, it is rare for those things to happen in my village now, and I really do feel more like a part of my community here more days than I don't now. It is a very cool feeling to feel happy here and not just "I'm excited to be someplace new" happy, but truly comfortable.
   The one thing that is bothering me here right now is that some of my friends are in very difficult positions at site that they did not put themselves in . I feel badly that I'm feeling comfortable and happy when others aren't, even though they are trying, but there are things going on that are out of their control. I know this is Peace Corps and that frustrating things happen to all of us now and then, but there are people who can't seem to catch a break right now and that just doesn't seem fair. It is hard watching friends going through these things and not being able to fix it for them and make it better. I'm not writing this just to vent but to express that PCVs do become like a family and when you see other members of your PCV family suffering it is concerning and really does impact the entire family.




World AIDS Day and Dobby the Kitten

   World AIDS day for my district, Kgalagadi South, was celebrated on December 6th in a village called Gakibane. Although nobody from my office or clinic was going, and I wasn't involved in planning the event, I wanted to go for the experience and because a couple of other PCVs in my district who live closer to Gakibane were involved. I went the day before to the largest village and center of my district, Tsabong to meet up with the other volunteers  and to help make some red ribbons for another PCV's project. I then went to Middlepits to stay with the volunteer who lives there for the night so that I would be closer to Gakibane for the event the next morning.
   This leads me to another part of my story, which involves me getting a kitten. Ever since my PCV friend in Middlepits found out that her cat had been responsible for getting a female cat pregnant ( the kittens ended up looking JUST like her cat...oh snap haha)  a plan was made for me to take one of the kittens so we had figured that since the kittens were now old enough I would be taking one back to Werda with me following the World AIDS Day event. The power ended up being out that night so we decided to go for a walk around her compound and look for the kittens. We discovered that there was only one kitten left now because someone had taken the other one already and since we had nothing better to do anyway that it was a good time for me to take the last remaining kitten before someone else did. The problem was that the gate to the closet the kitten was living in was locked at this point so we had to try to lure the kitten out of the gated closet since it was small enough to fit through the gate. We must have looked completely ridiculous to anyone passing by as we sat for a couple of hours with string and a mouse toy trying to lure this kitten out  as he just sat and stared at us like we were insane. Finally someone suggested that we leave food outside of the gate and back far away and that worked! We spent the rest of the evening playing with my new kitten, Dobby, and toasting marshmallows over a candle. (Yes, these are the things PCVs do when we get bored).
   World AIDS Day in Gakibane was great. Two of the PCVs I went with spoke, as did people from their offices and clinic. Some youth and a support group from Gakibane also performed songs, which were beautiful. After the event there were some tables set up so I stood by one with other PCVs and handed out condoms. A lot of people came by the table to take condoms and ask questions so that was great. Next year I hope to get  involved in planning or speaking at the event since I now know more about what it is like and maybe  some more people from Werda will attend with me.
   After three modes of transportation, Dobby the kitten and I arrived safely back in Werda. Dobby is adjusting well to life living with a PCV and is likely to be spoiled rotten. He is a sweet and playful little guy.


Magical Electricity ?

   For the past four days I didn't have electricity at my house because it ran out and the place in my village where I have to buy electricity was having computer problems. I even tried going to one of the two shopping villages I live between and the power happened to go out in that village when I was there, meaning I was unable to purchase electricity there as well. I wasn't too worried about it because I figured either the machine in my village would be fixed and if not I could try my second shopping village option another day. I mean I had a couple of food items spoil and a dark house in Botswana is kind of creepy when there isn't street light or other light around my house, but I was dealing.
   This morning I slept late and then went to get some water that I had stored in my fridge and realized it was cold. At first I thought I had lost my mind, but when I checked my fridge was in fact running and my lights turned on. Somehow I magically had electricity again. Now, something I should explain is that I live in half of a house and the electricity box is in the other half of the house. My neighbor had moved out last week so that part of the house had been empty so I knew it couldn't have been him. I then realized that this meant either my landlord was being very nice and had somehow bought electricity for me somewhere ( He owns the store in my village with the broken computer system and knew I had been going without it) or I had new neighbors. I changed out of my sleep clothing into real clothes and ventured outside to find out what was going on. I found two kids sitting outside on the front step. They told me they moved in last night and that the machine in the store nearby was working early this morning ( It is now broken again! Aieesssh! I will have to make up for it by buying more electricity when I can).  It was nice to meet my two new young neighbors and their older guardian ( Maybe grandmother?) who was also very sweet and understanding of the fact that I have been trying to buy electricity and failing miserably haha.
   Today I also received in an invite to my landlord's wedding anniversary party, which will be on my compound next weekend. I'm looking forward to it because usually my compound has been quite empty  since my landlord and his family do not live on the actual compound, the new house on my compound was just recently finished and is still empty, and the other half of my house had been empty for a bit. It'll be nice to have some more people around.


Wow, It's December

   Now that it is December, I feel a bit stunned that I have now been here 8 months. It is crazy to think about what that means. It means it has been 8 months since I've seen family or friends at home, 8 months since I've seen the ocean, the colors of the leaves changing in Maine, hugged or seen my little brother dance, been in an American grocery store, shopping mall or movie theater. I still have moments when I miss "things" or food in America, but I have to say those moments are becoming less frequent. Right now I am missing my family and friends, and I think I will throughout my service, but that isn't even upsetting me as much as it was in the beginning. That is not to say that I love them any less; I actually appreciate them more than ever. I think it is just that I've been lucky to stay in touch with them and am seeing that those who matter make an effort and will still be there for me when I go back home. I've also developed strong friendships here and am lucky to have people here who "get me" and accept me for who I am. Honestly, that is something I had been nervous about before coming here, and that worry is now gone.
   A lot has changed in my life at home and here over the past 8 months, and I can't even begin to imagine how much more is bound to change during the next 18. Thinking about that scares me a bit, but at the same time I'm finding that I'm more at peace with that than I was even a couple of months ago. I guess that is how I am feeling in general right now. Things that used to stress me out are feeling more "normal" or expected.
   The past week has been pretty slow because of school being out, meaning my village is very empty, and I have had a lot of down time. There was supposed to be an event in  my village today that was canceled. I've been reading A LOT and also running in the early evening, before it gets dark, to deal with that. My electricity is also out at my house, and I can't buy more because the machine for that is broken. I'm able to charge my computer and phone at the clinic, which is definitely helpful so I can still read books I have on my laptop and watch TV that way in the evenings.Next week my district is celebrating World AIDS Day, even though actual World AIDS Day is December 1st. I will be going to that village to take part in that celebration so that will be something to do.The following week I may be attending a workshop.
   The holidays are coming, and right now I am looking forward to my upcoming vacation to Cape Town very, very much! It will be my first vaca here, and I'm looking forward to seeing the ocean, iced coffees and other yummy beverages, seeing penguins and whales, hiking, and lots of fun. I'm in a bit of a pre-vaca/ being- bored- in- my- village- because- it- is -so- empty funk, but hopefully that will pass as my vacation becomes closer.

Also, it has now been about a year since I received my Botswana invite! Time is crazy! 


Thanksgiving in Botswana

   This past weekend I celebrated Thanksgiving in Botswana with some other PCVs. We celebrated at a house that we were all invited to celebrate at with someone who works for the Amercain goverment in Botswana. The house we celebrated in had air conditioning, a televison, and a swimming pool. Being surrounded by so many Americans and being at a very American sort of house while eating so much Thanksgiving food , and watching American television made me feel like I was in America for a while. It was nice, but at the same time it didn't feel quite like Thanksgiving becasue I was swimming in an outdoor pool in Novermber and not around my family. It felt like a fun and very different day in Botswana instead. Now I'm readjusting back to the reality of living in my village. I'm actually looking forward to getting back to my little village and house though.


Yet another November Post. ; )

   I realize that I have been writing very frequently lately, and I apologize for anyone who is getting tired of seeing that I have posted something new AGAIN. I've found blogging to be a source of comfort, and it is nice to feel connected to home and like I am passing on even a bit of my experience here to family and friends. It has become more important to me than I ever would have thought.
   Anyway, this week is the last week of school. Although I'm placed in a social work office and not directly in the school, most of my work so far has involved the three schools in my village, in particular one of the primary schools and the junior secondary school. The PACT club end of the year party at the JSS was last Wednesday and the last PACT meeting for the Standard 6 students was last week as well. It is weird that those things are over for several weeks when I feel like they had just really begun. It feels like it took so long just to make those connections and get involved at the schools so I'm a little sad and lost feeling now that I can't continue working with them for a while. On the other hand, I am looking forward to the "fresh start" of school starting back up again. The Standard 6 students will now be Standard 7s, which means they will be the oldest students at the primary school, and I'm looking forward to working with them to help them develop their leadership skills more. There will be new Form 1 students at the JSS, and I'm looking forward to being involved in the process of recruiting  and training new PACT members. It was a bit tough stepping into the role of working with the JSS PACT club in the middle of their school year when they already had an established routine and into a situation where they were being left to fend for themselves without a lot of direction or support.
   In the mean time I'm trying to get involved with some other projects so I'm not bored out of my mind. World AIDS Day is coming up on December 1st and regionally is going to be celebrated in a smaller village west of me on December 6th so I am looking forward to attending that. There is also an MCP (Multiple Concurrent Relationships) training coming up for the district. The other volunteers in my district and I are also organizing a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp for February so we will have some planning and organizing for that to keep us  busy. Even though I know I will still have down time, I'm very thankful that I at least have some things going on.

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is already tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving to my family and friends at home! I'm celebrating this weekend with some other volunteers, and even though I know it won't be quite the same, I'm looking forward to being around PCV friends

Tsamaya Sentle!


Rough Week, The Kindness of Strangers, and Short Hair!

   This past week was a rough one. I didn't do the greatest job of budgeting my Peace Corps allowance this month, and then I didn't have access to my "emergency" American bank account because of an issue with my card. This meant that this past week my food supply was the lowest it has ever been in my entire life. The beginning of the week wasn't so bad because I still had some bread and a little bit of extra cake left over from the cake I made for the JSS PACT club end of the year party.  By mid week though I was down to only having dried apricots left to eat, and I felt hungry and stressed out by not knowing when I'd be able to buy more food. I knew that I had a check for my electricity reimbursement waiting in my district office and that I'd receive my monthly allowance soon, but I didn't know for sure when either of these things would happen. Thank goodness another  PCV and friend of mine who lives in Tsabong allowed me to stay with her Thursday night so that I could figure out my check situation Friday morning and cooked dinner for me. It was also nice to have the distraction of talking to a friend instead of just sitting around worrying. My check was not ready ( which is another long and frustrating story in itself), but thank my lucky stars we got paid our allowances on Friday so I was able to buy food!
   Something else really cool happened on Friday. First of all I found PIZZA at the grocery store that was already made at the take away counter! I don't think I had ever been so excited to see pizza in all of my life. I got myself some pizza and took it to wait outside of one of the smaller shops near my grocery store to eat it because I was waiting for the smaller shop to open back up after lunch. The owners of the shop showed up shortly after I sat down and invited me to come inside to eat in their store, put a fan in front of my face, and gave me a free soda! The best part was that I wasn't being singled out as a white woman because they had invited a few Batswana in to do the same thing. We all sat and ate and watched a cricket match on tv. I found out that the store owners are friends of my PCV friend in Tsabong. I had intended on going in this shop anyway to buy some hair clippers, but these kind people didn't even know that I was going to buy anything! They were just being nice because they felt bad for those of us who had been sitting outside in the hot sun! I left to return to my village in much healthier frame of mind and with food. It was a great end to a long and stressful week!
   Writing about hair clippers brings me to my next adventure. I had been thinking for a few weeks now about cutting my hair very, very short so that I just had some fuzz left. I had always wanted to donate my hair, and I also figured that there really isn't going to be another time when I will  feel as free to cut my hair so short. I also figured that if I cut it soon it would have plenty of time to grow back before I go back home. I got clippers yesterday so the next thing I needed to do was find someone to cut it. I have some PCV friends who knew I was planning on this and were ready and willing to help me, but unfortunately I do not live so close to them. Today I decided to put myself out there and ask one of the nurses in my village for help. I know it may sound like it should be an easy thing to do, but I've just recently started to feel more comfortable here, and I sometimes struggle with asking for help anyway. Sometimes I even have a hard time asking the people I know well for help; it is something I've learned about myself from being here in Botswana. I ended up going into the clinic earlier in the day because I knew it was still open then and asked a couple of the nurses who were working if they knew how to cut hair, showed them my hair clippers, and explained to them what I wanted to do. One of them helped me so I now have very, very short hair! It feels sort of freeing and awesome! Life is good today.


Holiday Thoughts

   November is a month that held a lot of importance to me at home for many reasons, and I have been thinking a lot about that.  My little brother, Dad's, and best friend's birthdays are all in November. Thanksgiving is this month, and I have many Thanksgiving memories from home that hold a lot of significance for me. Many of these memories are with my family at home in Maine. Something I've been thinking more about lately is the first major holiday I ever spent away from my family, which was Christmas a few years ago when I worked in Boston at a residential treatment center for teenage girls. I remember feeling really sad that I couldn't spend Christmas with my family, but I also remember learning what a beautiful experience spending Christmas in a different setting can be. There were 18 girls that lived in the program that I worked in.. Some of them could go home for a few days to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah with their families, many had passes for Christmas day itself and had to be back that evening, and others didn't have anywhere to go for the holidays. Staff had a shopping day for the kids during which we were each assigned a kid, their wish list, and given money to spend on them. Our program was going through a difficult time that year with a lot of very challenging kids so it was nice to have a day of focusing on the positive. I worked Christmas Eve and a double on Christmas so I got to see all of the kids open their gifts, some of whom never were given presents before and were very excited. On Christmas day there were only two kids left in the program all day who didn't have anywhere to go. One of them had just gotten placed on Christmas eve and was a high run risk so I spent some of the day sitting and playing cards with her and watching her to make sure she wasn't trying to run. The other had been in and out of hospitals and programs for much of her childhood, had been with us at this program for a while, and just had no where to go on Christmas. I got to take her to the movies for the afternoon. I will never forget how she kept saying " I can't believe you are here on Christmas to hang out with me when you probably have a good family!". She was so excited just to have someone paying attention to her and that she was getting to go see a movie. I helped make dinner with remaining kids and staff and we ate together.  When kids returned from their day passes I listened to them talk about home; some of their days had not gone so well so as a staff team we worked to deescalate them after their tough days. I ended the night going to the hospital with one of the kids who was sick and sat in the hospital all night with her. I was completely exhausted.
   That was one of the toughest but most rewarding experiences I have ever had, and I will never ever forget it. I know that being all the way in Botswana for the holidays will be a very different experience than being at work in Boston, but I'm hoping that even though I anticipate it being difficult that it is also as beautiful of an experience as the one I have just written about.


Things that are Hard to See, but Need to be Seen...

   Yesterday I witnessed something that has made me think a lot about Botswana and the HIV pandemic here. To go grocery shopping I either have to go to a village an hour and a half East of me or an hour and a half West of me. Usually I am lucky because I'm able to ride in the clinic ambulance to go get my groceries. Normally the ambulance leaves fairly early, by 9am or so at the latest. Yesterday I knew something was going on because we were waiting for a long time at the clinic before leaving. I asked one of the nurses what was happening, and she told me we were waiting on a patient from one of the even smaller villages nearby to get there. The patient we were waiting on was a baby who I would guess was between the age of 15 months and 18 months old. She was being carried in her mother's arms and looked very thin, was coughing very hard, struggling to breath, and shaking. The mother was tearful. I don't know for sure, but it is quite possible that this baby had TB or was HIV positive or both.
   When I realized that this very sick looking baby was going to be riding in the back of the ambulance for an hour and a half ,I felt very scared for her because an hour and half before getting to the hospital seemed like far too long. Nobody was speaking the entire ride there. I couldn't keep my eyes off of this baby and kept thinking about what I would do if she suddenly were to stop breathing. I knew I would breath for her if I had to and that I would yell and bang on the window to get the attention of the driver to pull over so the nurses in the front seat could help.The silence the entire way there other than the baby's wheezing and coughing was horrible. I wanted to say something to the baby's mother to comfort her. I wanted to do something to make this baby better. I didn't know what to say. When we got there all I could think to say was "I hope your baby gets well soon", which sounded so lame and pointless in my head later.
   My day of errands didn't go very well. My atm card got stuck in the only atm machine. I got it back after speaking with a few different people at the bank and filling out paper work. I didn't have very much money because I wasn't then able to use my card to get money out and the bank in that village is not my bank so I couldn't withdraw cash in the bank itself. My bank had my card turned off so I have to deal with that. It was stressful and annoying, but it was so very small of a problem compared to what that baby and mother were dealing with. At home, I know I would have stressed out more about my card and worrying about not having money to get food. It made me feel so stupid that I would ever have gotten so stressed about something so ridiculous. I was able to get some food to get by for the next week, and I know I'll deal with the rest later and will not starve.I don't know how that baby is or how her mother is doing. I don't know if she has HIV or TB or both. I wish I could say that I know this baby will be ok, be HIV and TB negative, and have food to eat always, but I have no idea.
   I have known that HIV is still impacting the lives of people here, but somehow it now feels more real. It makes me want to yell at people and say "HIV still is a big deal here! It is not ok to engage in risky behavior and think it is ok!" I know that yelling at people isn't the solution, but I don't get how people can see a child so sick and not see how big of a deal this is. I know that there are people who do see this, care, and who are taking actions to help. I think about the PACT kids here in my village, and I see that they care and want to help their peers and to protect themselves. Thinking of them makes me feel less upset and frustrated.
   I am not glad that the baby was sick or that any child ever gets that sick, but I am glad that I was there and saw this because I feel that seeing things that are hard to see is important if it makes them more real.


Highs and Lows...All in One PCV Day

   Something that I'm learning here is that my days are often not easy to define as "good" or "bad".. I can have a day when everything is going wonderfully, and then the crap will hit the fan so to speak 5 minutes later. Sometimes it is because of something totally out of my control happening, and sometimes that is very frustrating.Yes, disappointing things happen at home too because life isn't free of disappointment anywhere, but for some reason it feels harder here at times.It is difficult to explain.
   Today I was having a GREAT day. I showed the guidance counselor who is officially in charge of the JSS PACT club the slide show that I helped the students make, and he was impressed. We had a really great talk about how hard the students worked on it and how proud of them we both were.We even planned out a PACT club party for next week to send off the Form 3s who are finishing school. I then went back the clinic to talk to a couple of the nurses and found out that the Internet was back after being out for a couple of days. I got to work on planning a substance abuse talk for the primary school students in the comfort of my own home, while happily listening to some Michael Jackson and eating my lunch. Then I got to give the substance abuse talk and play soccer with a bunch of primary school kids. I even got the girls and boys to play soccer TOGETHER today, which if you read my previous soccer blog entry you know is kind of a big deal. I left the soccer game feeling pretty good.
   Then the crap hit the fan. I stopped by the clinic to use the Internet because I wanted to talk to my family. Today is my youngest brother's birthday so I figured it would be nice to check in with them and see how things were going. I have known that things at home have been difficult because my parents are going through a divorce, and I've been dealing with that in my own way here as well, and for the most part I've been dealing with it pretty well.. For reasons that I can't explain, hearing more details about home from my family today hit me harder than it normally has. Maybe it was because today is my brother's 12th birthday, and I just wanted to talk about happy things or maybe I just wasn't as strong today for some reason. I don't know. All I know is that I miss them so much, and I want more than anything to be able to "fix" things at home. I know I can't and am working on letting that go, but this is without a doubt one of the hardest things I've ever had to try to accept in my life.
 All of that being said, I still want to be here. I know that everything will eventually be ok, which is what everyone at home keeps telling me as well. In the meantime I just need patience, funny tv shows, and some chocolate.

Oh siame



Slide Show and 7 months


   I wrote before about how the JSS PACT students had started to work on skits for a slide show I've been helping them make. Today I went to their meeting and was expecting that they would need to practice more since it had been a week since we met. When I got to the school today a bunch of the PACT students met me at the library right away to tell me that they were ready to act out their skits and be filmed today for the slide show because they had been practicing together all week. They even had costumes and props prepared.  The two skits that they acted out were about teen pregnancy and MCP (Multiple Concurrent Relations). They did such a great job and clearly had worked very hard to prepare for this. I left feeling very impressed and proud of them. I've been working to put the rest of the slide show together so that I can bring it to the school head and guidance counselor for approval before the PACT students show it to the rest of the school. The original plan was to show it next Tuesday during an assembly and follow it with a discussion about the issues the PACT students present in the film so I'm hoping that can still happen. I also need to meet with the school head or guidance counselor to ask about using the library because some of the students were worried today because they heard that there were "issues" with them using the library, and I have no idea what that is all about. I'm hoping that they can continue to meet there and that if not they are given another location to meet because the school has limited meeting spots for students.
   On a side note, myself and the rest of Bots10 have now been in country for 7 months and at our sites for 5 months! Some days I think 19 more months sounds like forever, and other days I feel like 19 months is going to fly by. Although I don't  really feel integrated yet, I do feel like I am fitting in more than I did a couple of months ago. Yesterday was a great day, and I felt like people in my village cared for me and respected me. Today was a rough one because I got the "dumela babys" many times and asked for things for what seemed like all day today. Even my young next door neighbor asked me for money! today, and he normally does not! It is discouraging when those things happen. I still feel like I'm figuring some things out, but I guess that is normal. Overall, I'm glad that I am here.

Sex Ed. and Soccer


   I've written before about how I recently helped start a Standard 6 PACT club at one of the primary schools in my village and because of this I've been getting to know the students and teachers better at that school. The school head and I were coming up with ideas for educating and engaging more of the primary students in positive after school activities and came up with an idea of having a soccer game for standards 5 and 6 students and incorporating a Life Skills sort of talk with that. I came up with the idea of talking to them about STIs/ HIV so I talked to the guidance counselor and school head about what I wanted the lesson to be about ahead of time, and they approved it.
   The activity started at 4pm after school ended. I had written different STI facts on pieces of construction paper and passed the paper out to students. I made the talk more into a game. The students got into a circle and I passed out the sheets of paper to some students to hold up. I then stood in the middle of the circle with a soccer ball and kicked it to a studentand whoever I kicked the ball to kicked it back to me and then helped read one of the fact sheets out loud, and I further explained things and asked them if they had questions. The information included different types of STIs, different ways of transmission, symptoms, and prevention. I also talked to them about how if they ever needed to go to the clinic for anything whether it was because they had a question, thought they might have an STI, were worried about being pregnant or needed to go to the clinic for any reason at all really and were scared to go to let me know, and I would go and wait with them. I told them that if I'm not at the clinic or school for them to let a nurse or teacher know because they have my phone number because their teachers, nurses, and I rather have them ask for help and for someone to sit with them because they are scared than have them not go and end up sick. I also told them that the nurses and doctor at the clinic are very kind.There were 62 students present, and they seemed to be paying attention and interested.
   After the STI/HIV talk we played soccer. Originally I had planned on just splitting them into teams by having them count off and having the teams be co-ed, but I was told by the teacher who I was working with that the girls and boys could not play on the same team because the boys were "too rough" and the girls might get hurt. I was a bit surprised by this, but asked then if the girls could play against each other after the boys were finished playing, and I was told that was fine. The standard 5 and 6 boys played against each other for a half an hour or so, while the standard 5 and 6 girls watched and routed on their friends. The girls talked to me about how some of them had just learned to play soccer at school the day before and didn't think that they were going to be allowed to play this afternoon, and they had thought the soccer playing part of the activity was just going to be for the boys. They were VERY enthusiastic when they heard that they were going to be able to play as well. Some of them said they were kind of nervous about playing so I told them I would play too, and they laughed and then joined in. It was so much fun! The girls ended up being just as into playing soccer as the boys were, and the boys who were watching when the girls had their turn cheered them on just as the girls had cheered them on. We were playing soccer until 5:30, and then had to end the activity because it was only supposed to go until 5. Many of the kids didn't want to go home and were asking if we could leave the school soccer ball with them so they could keep playing on the field, but we couldn't because the school only has so many soccer balls and if they go missing they won't have any, and also because their families would probably start to worry soon if they weren't home since it was getting late. I assured them that I would talk to the school head about planning more events like this though.


50 Years of Peace Corps...and Botswana is HOT!

   Last weekend was the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps party. Volunteers from all over Botswana, Peace Corps staff and their families, Returned Volunteers (RPCVs) and their families, and special guests such as an ambassador attended the party. There was food, some dancing, and there were also crafts that volunteers brought from their villages. It was great to see Bots10s, Bots9s, and the new Bots11s, who I met for the first time at the party. A couple of the RPCVs also spoke, and it made me think about how short my time here really is and how quickly it is already going. I left the party feeling very uplifted and grateful to be here.
   It has gotten very hot very quickly during the past week. Temperatures have been around 102F pretty consistently. People are calling this a heat wave because it is still only spring! Pretty soon it will be summer though. I'm trying to be better at storing water since summer in Botswana means the water is out more frequently. I thought I was doing a good job of storing a couple of buckets of water that I can boil and drink when the water is out. However, when it is 102 degrees out, the last thing I really want to be doing when I get home and out of the hot sun is to boil water before I can drink it. I don't know what I was thinking or why I didn't think of this sooner, but when I visited another Bots10 last weekend I noticed that she had multiple bottles of water stored in her fridge. She had gotten the idea from some volunteers who have already been through a Botswana summer. It was a simple idea, but not something I ever had to think about before coming here. I am now collecting any bottle or container I can to store water in. Most of the time I have been pretty lucky because I have had water. There have been a couple of times when the water has gone out for just a couple of days though. Also, during the afternoons the water comes out of the tap hot now that is has been so hot outside so it is nice to have cold water in my fridge.There is something kind of cool about learning to appreciate things like cold water or having water in general though.


A Sense of Belonging

    Developing genuine friendships in my village has been something that I have found challenging, but this weekend I've made some strides in that area. I was invited to a goodbye party for one of the nurses who has been most welcoming to me  and is being transferred to another village. I didn't really know what to expect for this party. All I knew was that it was being held at one of the nurse's houses on the nurses' compound and that there would be food. I brought some fried rice that I made. When I got there, there were only 3 nurses there and myself. It was nice because I got to help them set up a little and just chat. When more people arrived I realized that I knew some of them because they are teachers at the schools I've been going to and that my landlord's daughter, who is close to my age and I knew a little was there. We ate so much food. I had a gigantic piece of fillet (beef), and was so stuffed afterward, but everyone kept saying that I was "a real Motswana" because I ate so much fillet ha ha. A couple of people asked me why I wasn't drinking alcohol because some of them were, but when I explained that sometimes I do drink a little but just didn't feel like it right then, they stopped asking. Many of the people at the goodbye party had plans of going to a bar and then another party following that. I went to the bar for a little while to see what it was like because I had not gone to any bars in my village yet. I had just one drink and talked to people. A couple of guys started to harass me a little, but the people who I was with watched out for me, and the guys who were harassing me backed off easily. A lot of people commented on the fact that I wasn't drunk and seemed surprised, but they weren't commenting in a way that was insulting. It was more like they were curious about it. I said they were right  and that I wasn't drunk and explained that I had just wanted to come out to socialize and meet people more people and celebrate with my friend who is moving. A couple of people told me they thought it was nice that I came there to meet people and not to get  drunk. I was glad that they sort of understood and that it was clear that I wasn't drunk because I wouldn't want people to think that I was, as getting publicly drunk in my village is not something that I want to do.
   Something else cool that happened was that one of the older nurses who has been really supportive to me offered to help make me a dress! She is from Zambia and I had commented earlier in the day about how beautiful her dress was. She told me that it was a traditional Zambian dress, which looked very similar to traditional Botswana dresses. She said she wants to get fabric for me when she goes home to Zambia to visit soon because the fabric is less expensive  there and that she could help make a dress for me. I was so touched by this. If you met this nurse you would understand why because she is literally one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She is also one of the few people in my village who has reached out to me to ask me how I'm doing and never asked for anything from me. I will of course pay for the fabric, but the fact that she thought of getting fabric for me and helping me with this is so touching. I'm really looking forward to the dress making process when the time comes.  I needed a weekend like this. Even though I have known that people in my village are kind, I feel much more connected to some of them now. It is a good feeling.


PACT Clubs


   Yesterday I attended the JSS PACT club meeting and brought up an idea that a couple of the students and I had talked about a couple of days ago to the whole group. The idea is for the students to make their own film to show at an assembly at the beginning of November for the whole school. They watched a STEPS film with teenagers talking about different issues that another PCV and I showed them a while ago and the really enjoyed it. A few of the students had brought up the idea of acting out skits and video taping it and showing that to the school. When we brought up this idea to the rest of the PACT students yesterday they were all for it. I broke them up into three groups: Acting, Singing, and Topics. They could choose which group they wanted to be in. Then I asked them to work in their groups to come up with skits to act out, songs and/or dances that relate to the issues that the PACT club learns about and teaches their peers about, and topics to discuss in the discussion portions of the film they are making. They were so enthusiastic and mature about coming up with ideas and are already putting a lot of thought into this project.  A couple of the students asked me "How are we going to act these scenes in front of EVERYONE".  Many of them are very shy, and I reassured them that I would help them practice their ideas many times and promised there would be no taping into everyone felt ready. Next week during the meeting they are going to start practicing their ideas, and I'll check in with each group, and then maybe the following time I will ask each group to present to just the rest of the PACT club so they can start to feel more comfortable. 
   Today was the first day of the new primary school after school club that I'm helping to start for standard 6 students (kids ranging from ages 11-14).I had gone to this primary school a couple of times for an arts and craft activity for the young kids and then for  a couple of STEPS presentations, and had met with the guidance counselor and school head there a few times. They said that they have been asked to set up a PACT club at the primary school for some of the older students since there have been more cases of pregnancy and substance abuse amongst the older primary school students and also to help them gain confidence in speaking English. The hope is that some of the same students will then join the PACT club at the JSS.There were 29 Standard 6 students who came to the meeting today, which was a good size for the group. One of the standard 6 teachers helped to  facilitate the meeting. I started out by explaining what PACT club is and asking them to help come up with a list of group rules that they would all agree to follow. The teacher made sure that all of the kids understand what we were doing by repeating some of it in Setswana. I was really impressed that one of the rules that they came up with completely on their own was that they should all work together to become more confident. I talked with them a little about this and about how one of the group rules is going to be that they try their best to use English during the meetings and asked if they all thought they'd be able to give it a try. They said yes as a group, but there were some nervous giggles. I let them know that it was ok to make mistakes and to ask for help and reminded them about their teacher being there to help if I couldn't understand them or they couldn't understand me. I also made fun of my Setswana speaking a little and told them that I understand how hard it is to learn a new language. After we finished coming up with rules they played the game "Pat on the Back". Each student traced their hand on a piece of paper and taped it onto his or her back. Then each of the other students wrote nice things about them on his or her piece of paper. We asked them to try to write in English so that they could learn new English words and reminded them that they could ask for help. 
   Overall the game went very well.  The kids asked for help when they got stuck on thinking of a word in English and were smiling and laughing. However, at one point I noticed that one of the older girls in the group looked like she was struggling to think of something to write so I asked if she needed help. She looked at me confused, and then a student standing next to her said "She can't use English". I tried to explain in my best Setswana that it was ok if she needed to write it in Setswana and that we could translate it for her after, but she still looked upset and/or confused so I  quietly asked the teacher if she could talk to her and see if she could help her because I couldn't tell if she could understand me or not.The teacher meant well, but  she shouted across the classroom to the student to ask her if she needed help in front of everyone, and the student stopped trying,walked away and started to cry. I took her aside and asked her if she could understand me at all, and she said yes, she could a little. I asked her if she thought she was in trouble because she couldn't write in English, and she said yes and was still crying. I told her she was not in trouble and that I was proud of her for trying and was glad that she was going to be in the PACT club. She smiled and the teacher ended up coming over too and telling her it was ok and that she just had wanted her to know she could have help with translating from Setswana to English.  I gave her a high five, asked if she was ok, in Setswana she said yes, and we walked back over to the group and told her that it was her turn to have people write on her paper this time. I checked in with her after to make sure she understood what nice things the other students wrote to her.  The activity ended on a positive note because they were all so eager to read the hands on their backs and were all smiles! I reminded them that we would meet every Thursday. The teacher and I checked in at the end, and said she liked this group and was looking forward to next week as well. 
   I still feel like I'm constantly figuring things out here, but I hope I can continue to work with these two clubs because I'm enjoying it so far. I only learned a little bit about PACT clubs during training before coming to site. I have a couple of books with activities for youth that I borrowed from the Peace Corps and one that another volunteer mailed to me from her NGO, but other than that I'm just trying different ideas, listening to the students and guidance counselors about their ideas, seeing what works, and hoping that something I'm doing is right. I have experience working with kids, but Botswana is a very different place. We'll see how things go I guess. 

A Little Time in a Classroom


   Today the schools opened back up after the holiday, and I went into the JSS this afternoon to support some of the PACT club students who were making presentations in a classroom. Every Tuesday they present, and they asked me to come in to support them because they are left in the classrooms with their peers on their own without any teachers because the teachers are all in a meeting during that time. They said that they other students haven't been paying attention to them, and they also wanted some feedback about how they are doing presenting since they have not received any in the past. There were three PACT students who presented together in a form 2 classroom. They talked bout teen pregnancy and methods of birth control. A couple of them seemed nervous ahead of time and told me they were worried about how they would do in front of me, and I reminded them that I wasn't their to judge them and just to support them and make sure that other students were showing them respect. Overall the students presenting did a great job. They presented information accurately and maturely and spoke clearly and asked their classmates to participate and offer their own ideas. I saw what they had meant by their peers not paying attention though. There were students talking in the back, a boy was sitting on his friends desk and facing the back, and they were laughing instead of listening to the questions that the PACT students asked them. I ended up stopping the presentation to ask students who were talking to stop and for them to face the front of the room and show their peers respect. I told them that if they weren't going to pay attention they would need to step out of the room. One student made a joke about the stick that was left to the side of the room that is used for corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is something that is still legal in Botswana and is used in the schools. I spoke up and told the students that no, I was not ever going to beat them, but that I expected them to show me and the PACT students respect just like I was showing them respect. After this they were quieter and made more of an effort to pay attention to the PACT students and answered their questions. At the end, the students asked me if I had any "words of advice" for them. I asked them first what kinds of topics they would like to hear more about from the PACT students and then we still had some more time so I asked what some of their goals for the future were. Some of them said they wanted to be teachers, others priests or pastors, nurses, some said they wanted to be parents, others talked about going to Senior Secondary School. I asked them what kinds of things could keep them from reaching these goals and they  listed teen pregnancy, school truancy, alcohol abuse, and getting sick. I also told them that I was glad that they were eventually able to focus and show respect to their peers, but that next time that I come in, because I want to come back, that I hope that they are more respectful toward the PACT students from the start because I know they are capable of that since they are so smart and have all of these goals. They said that they would and clapped for the PACT students and thanked them.  Afterward, I checked in with the three PACT students who lead the presentation and told them that they did a great job and that I was sorry that their peers weren't being very respectful at first. We talked for a few minutes about the PACT meeting tomorrow, and about some skit ideas that they have. They want to prepare a bigger presentation for the whole school. I'm glad that they are enthusiastic. and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them.


Half of a Year!

6 Months in Botswana!

   Today marks 6 months in country for myself and the rest of Bots10!  Here are some things that I've experienced, along with the rest of Bots10, so far over the course of the last 6 months:

Staging in Philly and meeting the rest of Bots 10!

The long flight to Botswana and all of the excitement and anxiety that came along with that!

A couple of days at Big 5 Lodge-starting to learn some Setswana, meeting some PC staff, and adjusting to malaria medication, adjusting to being far away from home

Meeting host families and moving to Kanye for the rest of Pre-Service Training (PST)

PST-2 months of Setswana lessons, trainings, getting to know other trainees better, learning from host families, learning to eat and cook new foods, exploring Kanye, shadowing volunteers, and finding out our site placements

Host family party- thanking our host families and saying goodbyes in Kanye as well as making a lot of food and having fun with a fashion show 

Moving Day- saying goodbye for now to other PCVs and moving to our new homes in our villages 

2 Months of Lock Down- Adjusting to living in our villages and away from the rest of our training class, getting to know people, conducting our community assessments, and figuring things out

IST-In-service training, being reunited with the rest of Bots10, more language learning, and adjusting to being around a lot of other Americans all over again…some of us felt a little overwhelmed at first

Past two months at site- Going back to our villages and saying goodbyes to PCV friends again after IST, but enjoying no longer being on lock down and being able to visit other volunteers and work on projects with them. Realizing that I'm still figuring things out and have so much left to learn and that's ok.

   I've been thinking a lot during the past week about how lucky I am to be here and for the experiences I've had so far. I feel enthusiastic for the next 20 months because I know this is only the beginning. There is so much that I still want to do here and so much that I am still learning, and that is a little scary, but it is also pretty exciting. Bring it on!


Part of the Beauty of Being Here

A Rainy Night 

   I've been told that it only rains about 5 times a year in the part of Botswana that I live in. I experienced some incredible thunderstorms when I was in training in Kanye, but I've now been living in my village for almost 4 months, and it had not rained here at all since I moved here. Earlier tonight, when it was just beginning to get dark, I heard thunder in the distance. I was so excited that I shut my music off to listen and opened my door to see if there was any rain yet. For a couple of hours I could only hear thunder and there was no rain, but then it started to downpour, and there was more thunder and some lightening! I opened my windows to let the cooler air  and rain smell into my house. I put on some comfortable clothes and stood out on my patio in the rain for a few minutes. I'm sure my neighbors thought that I was absolutely insane for standing outside in the rain, but I didn't care because it was absolutely wonderful. It poured for about 20 minutes, and then stopped suddenly!

Good Night! 

A Child in a Tree 

   Something that I am learning is how much the children here really bring me a sense of hope and fulfillment. I wrote about how discouraged and frustrated I felt last week, but a major part of what got me through that was thinking about the projects I have planned for working with youth here and some of the children I have met here so far. This week the schools are closed for break so I have not been able to work on projects I've started because of this. I honestly was feeling quite aimless and bored at the start of this week because I knew I wouldn't be able to start the after school group I'm working on with a guidance counselor at one of the primary schools yet or  meet with the PACT students at the JSS this week either or work with the guidance counselors there on the ideas we've discussed. I really am eager for the students to be back. I have had some positive and funny interactions with children around my village this week though. Today I was walking down the street and a group of children were playing and stopped to yell out "hi" over and over again, and I stopped to ask them how they were, and they then continued to say "hi" to me until I was out of their sight. This was not an unusual occurrence, but even though it is common, it is still very precious to me. As I walked a little further down the street, I heard a little voice saying "hi" and looked around confused because I did not see any children around. I then looked up and there was a child in a tree!  Maybe you had to be there, but it was one of the most adorable and funniest moments I have experienced here so far. I went from feeling bored and a bit lonely to feeling very lucky to be here and experience moments like these. The positive experiences don't make the negative ones go away, but they definitely stand out much more, and I hope they will have the greatest impact on me. 


The Other Side of a Rough Week

   I will start by sharing a couple of difficult things that have happened in the past week because I think it is important to be honest and write about the tough times here as well. 
   Normally once a week or every two weeks I am able to ride in the ambulance with clinic staff to go to a village about an hour and half drive away to get groceries or take care of other business I may need to take care of like getting my electricity cheque or meetings related to a project I'm working on with Tourism. When I've gone other times I've  been able to get a ride back with the nurses in the ambulance without any issue. There is never a set time when the ambulance will leave to return to my village, but it is usually later in the afternoon, and if they have left earlier the nurses have called me to let me know. This past week I went to wait in the usual spot where the nurses gather and wait for the ambulance at the end of the day and was told by someone I know who happened to be sitting there that the ambulance for my village had already left. Nobody had called me. They had forgotten me there. I was a bit upset by this but was assured that I could ride with some staff from a clinic in a nearby village and that I would be brought to my village. I trusted this and went with them because I knew the person who told me to go with them.
   The ambulance stopped several times on the way for people to run errands, and it was getting dark. I was a little worried because there are a lot of road accidents at night in Botswana because it is so difficult to see the animals on the road at night, but I knew it was better to stay with people who I knew were bringing me to my village rather than getting out and trying to get a ride with someone else and possibly not having a ride at all. As we got closer to my village, about 40k away or maybe even a little less, the driver pulled over and stopped on a nurses compound. I was  then told that was as far as they were going bring me because my village was past that village and that they could drop me off on the side of the road to hitch the rest of the way. By this time it was dark, I didn't know this village, and there was no way that it would have been safe for me to be hitching from there. I told them that I had been told that I was getting a ride to my village and that if I had known that they were not going to be driving me all the way there I would have tried to get a ride with someone else who would. I also explained that it was not safe for me to be hitching at night. One of the nurses in the car seemed to feel badly but still wasn't going to drive me to my village herself. She asked me to get out of the car and talk with one of the other nurses and see if I could convince them to drive me to my village. Then the nurses who had been  riding with and the driver left me on the nurses compound and went home. I sat there with these two other nurses who I had never met before and explained my situation. Their only responses were "Well, what are you going to do then?" and "Don't you have any friends in your village who could pick you up here?".  I told them that at this point they were my only options for a ride home because of these other people leaving me when they had told me that they were going to drive me to my village. They said again "But don't you have any friends?", and I began to cry a little out of frustration and told them that I haven't been here very long, I'm getting to know people, and that I do not know anyone well enough in my village who has a car who I could ask to come and get me. I even offered to pay p10 to whoever would drive me to my village. Then they said that fine they would give me a ride, and I thanked them. I was so glad at this point just to have a ride home.
 The car was safe and the driver drove slowly to watch for animals, which I was thankful for. However, both people in the car  laughed at me for crying and said "Don't you like it here? Why were you crying". I told them that it is not an easy thing to live far away from home, get used to a different culture, and that I had a bad week and that feeling forgotten about and like people didn't care about me or my safety was upsetting to me and now they were laughing at me, which didn't help. I also told them that I get along well with people in my village, but that developing strong friendships with people who don't always get where I'm coming from isn't easy and takes time. They seemed a little embarrassed about laughing at me after that and changed the subject to other topics like bugs and snakes. They did bring me home safely and when I offered them the p10 they wouldn't take it.
   The experience described above was the final straw of a long week of feeling angry and upset with various things. Earlier in the week at one of the schools I had met a teenage girl who had a bandage wrapped around her head and a black eye. She was sitting by the main office at the school when I was waiting for a meeting with the head guidance counselor. She looked very sad and like she wanted to say something to me but was hesitating. I said "Hello, how are you?" and smiled and she said "I am fine" and gave a slight smile back but was then quiet. I waited a while to see if she would say anything else, but she didn't. A while later when I was meeting with the guidance teachers I told them that I had met a student who looked like she had been very hurt and upset. I asked what had happened and was told in a very nonchalant way that she had been beaten by another student in the village. I was saddened and surprised by the calmness with which they said this, as if it was very common. The thing that surprised me the most was that I genuinely like these guidance counselors, and they do typically express a lot of concern and seem to care for students so the fact that their reaction to this student having been beaten just didn't seem to fit. I spent two hours meeting with the head guidance counselor that day, first listening to her talk about how she feels a lack of support from others and how difficult it is to get things accomplished and listing off all of the things that were supposed to be planned and weren't working out. We came up with a list of some things to work on together. When I left her office there were several teachers sitting around playing cards, and I felt irritated by this. In addition to these things I had received some difficult news from home. I did not like the way I was feeling by the end of the week at all and felt frustrated with myself for feeling this way. 

    The good thing about bad weeks here is that they do get better. I had spoken with one of my PCV friends about how I was having a rough week, had received some upsetting news from home, and feeling frustrated and angry and hated feeling that way, and she invited me to her village for the weekend to "escape" for a bit. I took her up on her offer, and it ended up being very helpful. We went to a birthday party for one of her Motswana friends from work, and everyone at the party was so kind, welcoming, and incredible that it was a wonderful reminder of the fact that there are people here who are genuinely caring. We spent a lot of time talking, not only venting about the difficult moments, but about the positive experiences as well. We talked about the things we can't control, here and at home,and the things we can, and I finally started to feel like myself again.  We also spent time talking to children and playing with puppies and of course ate good food and laughed a lot too, which is always a good thing. I returned to my village feeling refreshed, focused on the positive, and motivated to spend time with good people and work on the projects that I feel good about. I feel like myself only a little bit tougher. 


Talking about Sex and Rescuing a Goat


   Last week I went to the village that one of my PCV friends is working in to present STEPS and see what her village is like. We presented a film about teens talking about sex, the same one that we had presented to the PACT club at the JSS in my village a couple of weeks ago, to the PACT club there. Something that was very apparent from the discussion after the film is that the PACT club in my friend's village is at a place of already feeling pretty comfortable with each other and talking very honestly and openly. They asked questions and made comments about everything from wet dreams, to things that their peers say to each other to try to get them to have sex, condom negotiation, and sexual exploitation very openly and maturely. I was both surprised and impressed. The PACT club that I've been working with in my village is not at the same place yet. The guidance counselors have asked me to work with them to be able to talk more freely with their peers and provide more peer support so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. It was a nice motivator to see how things can be though. The kids in the PACT club here are great but very shy so I guess the next step is helping them build more trust amongst each other and with me and their guidance teachers so they feel that they can talk more openly. I actually really missed meeting with them this week and am looking forward to seeing them again this week.
   Something kind of crazy happened this week during my visit in my friend's village. On our way to the JSS for our presentation, we found a goat that was stuck on a fence. Earlier in the morning my friend had pointed out some goats that were climbing onto rocks and then a fence to get to the other side of it and eat grass. I had thought that they were adorable and very smart goats. Apparently this goat had been trying to climb the fence, but he somehow managed to trip and get one of his hind legs caught in the fence wire. The wire was wrapped around his foot very badly and there was some bone exposed. When we found him he was on the ground with just his leg behind him still stuck to the fence and was whimpering. We were able to stand him up so his foot wasn't being pulled as much, and he hopefully wouldn't be in as much pain. All we had to unwind the wire fence with so that we could get him lose was a pair of scissors so it took a long time, but we were eventually able to get him lose. His foot was clearly still very injured, there was blood caked on it, and he had a very open wound so just before we released the last piece of wire my friend poured some disinfecting solution onto his injury to hopefully clean it a bit and keep it from becoming infected. We tried to lift him over the fenced in area that he was now trapped in and wouldn't be able to climb out of on his own, but he was too heavy. My friend let her landlord know about the goat because he would know who owned him with the hope that whoever did would come and free him. We left him with some water and a pear. The next morning he wasn't there anymore so hopefully that means that someone helped him get out. He was pretty hurt so it is also possible that his owner wouldn't want to keep him anymore and may have had him slaughtered, which is sad, but I'm still glad that we helped him and ended some of his suffering that day. I definitely never would have thought that I'd ever end up rescuing a goat before coming here.


Hot Cocoa Toast to Life!

 I mentioned recently that I had been worried about someone from home. I won't write anything too specific because I want to protect the privacy of this person, but I will say that what I had been worried about is that this person potentially had cancer. I honestly don't think I had ever been as scared as I was when I heard about this possibility, and I can't even begin to imagine how scared they must have felt or how hard it must have been to be worrying and waiting during the past couple of months. Today I received the best news ever from home: this person is 100% cancer free! I wish I could have been there today to celebrate the wonderful news with them, but I know they are surrounded by loved ones and good food (hopefully a nice chocolate dessert of some sort). Even though I couldn't be there in person to celebrate, I am certainly celebrating here in their honor by listening to some Billy Joel, who I grew up listening to because of this person, having some hot chocolate, even though it is way too hot for that right now because it reminds me of home and them, and spontaneously cheering off and on out of relief and joy that they are ok. I also promise to make the most out of this whole Peace Corps experience because life is short, and there are so many things that are out of our control that can happen. What I do have control over is how I live my life, and I'm going to live mine to its fullest and celebrate the little things because those are the things that really matter. So I raise my glass of hot coco on this African summer night to one of the strongest people I know and say thank you for once again teaching me an important life lesson. 

Ke rata hot coco le Billy Joel thata! ( I think anyone could pretty much guess what that one says)


Low point...Aieeeeesh!

   I will start out by saying that most days lately, I've been pretty happy. Overall, I've been feeling pretty settled in my village and have been finding projects to work on and people to work with. I'm enjoying my interactions at the schools with the guidance counselors and students.I joke around with the nurses at the clinic. Most people in my village are friendly toward me, and I feel safe here. I'm learning that there is a difference between people being friendly  versus actually being friends with people and feeling settled somewhere versus feeling included somewhere though. I'm a pretty laid back person and usually make friends pretty easily because there aren't very many people whom I don't get along with. I had NO idea just how hard it would be to feel like I actually fit in and have true friends in my village. I thought after living in my village for a few months, I would feel a stronger sense of belonging than I actually do feel at this time. I am definitely not there yet, and sometimes I feel badly about that.
   It is often difficult to tell who is being genuinely nice and who just wants something from me . There isn't a day that goes by without at least one person asking me for money, clothes that I'm wearing, my water bottle that I'm carrying, my phone number, for me to marry them, or to marry me off to someone in their family. It feels really discouraging to have a conversation with someone and think "Maybe I could be friends with this person?" to then have them ask for something from me at the end of the conversation or the next time they see me. I know it sounds horrible, but this is making it harder for me to feel like I can trust people. When someone talks to me, I am polite, and I talk to them, and I have had some great conversations with people, but in the back of my mind I am usually wondering if they are going to ask me for something next. I'm not trying to say anything bad about Batswana because most Batswana are very nice, and there are a few people who I could see myself becoming friends with in the future, but like I said, I'm just not there yet. I want to feel like they actually want to be friends with me and not just because they think I'm a rich American or because of whatever they think they will get from me.
   I hadn't realized how much this was impacting me until this weekend. I had gone for a walk and someone asked me for two pula, which is not an uncommon occurance at all. Then some guy walking down the street tried to hit on me by saying something lame like "Dumela, baby" followed by a marriage proposal, which is not uncommon here either. Normally, I have been able to just say "Sorry, ga ke na madi" ( I have no money) or make jokes like "oh ok, I'm worth 1,000 cows. Do you have 1,000 cows to give to my family?". I ended up feeling really upset and bothered this time and wanting to just hang out in my house alone. Then, I started to feel lonely. It had been a while since I had felt truly homesick here, but YIKES  it hit me hard this weekend. I sat sobbing in my house for a long while and missing being at home and and being able to make spur of the moment plans with friends. I missed being around people who have known me forever, understand where I'm coming from, my beliefs, and accept me for me. I missed feeling like I could be 100% myself.  I missed being around people I could trust. I have some good PCV friends here, but the closet PCV lives a couple of hours away from me, and I live 5 hours or more away from many of my PCV friends.  Usually, I don't feel that far away from my friends here or even from home because I have been lucky to be able to stay in touch pretty frequently, but this weekend I felt further away than I have felt since I first arrived in Botswana. It is crazy how much something that doesn't seem like a huge deal and that I didn't even realize was making me so upset was  impacting me. It definitely snuck right up on me. 
   All of this being said, I'm working on it. I'm trying very hard to be patient, keep an open mind, and to not shut out people completely because I'm scared of trusting them. I'm also going to try and make sure I take the time to process things more often, since this weekend was a pretty clear sign that I was not doing a very good job of that. This experience is supposed to change me though, right? 

Anyway, I think I'm all cried out for a good couple of weeks at least! ; )

Go Siame! 


When the Unexpected Happens...

   Yesterday I went to one of the two primary schools in my village. The plan was that I would present a STEPS film with the guidance counselor about a child who loses her mother to HIV, and then following the film we would have a discussion followed by an arts and crafts activity. In the midst of my hour long walk to this primary school, I received a call from the guidance counselor letting me know that the power had gone out in my village and that we wouldn't be able to show the film. She asked if I wanted to cancel. I told her no, that I was already half way there and was still up for coming to the school to do the arts and craft activity even if we couldn't show the movie. When I got to the school, I felt so badly that we couldn't show the film because there were close to 100 students between the ages of 6 and 12 waiting outside of the library. I was then relieved because I realized there was no way that showing the film to  100 kids was going to work out very well. First of all, the room the guidance counselor had set up was too small to fit all of the kids, and second of all, there was no way they would have all been able to pay attention. I ended up breaking the kids into two groups of  about 50 students at a time to participate in the art activity. I told the teachers I could come back a second day if the second group of kids didn't want to wait around because it was after school, and they technically did not have to stay. However, the kids wanted to stay. There were kids waiting outside of the classroom we were using and at the windows to be able to have their turn after the first group finished! I felt horribly that they were waiting, but each group of kids seemed to have fun, and in the end, that is what matters. I had asked them to draw someone in their life who was important to them, and I collected their art work so it can be put up on the clinic walls. We told them ahead of time that their art work could be displayed, but if they wanted to keep their picture they could. Most of the kids drew family and friends. The guidance counselor told me that  some of the kids had drawn parents who had passed away, which was sad. One of the kids drew a picture of a person with a tear on his or her cheek.  I got some pictures of them working on their art work at their tables so that they could see themselves, and we also handed out stickers that said things like "Great Job" to each of the kids at the end of the activity. They were all smiles during that part.Overall, it was pretty successful, but we still want to show the STEPS film some other time. We are also talking about starting some sort of after school group that meets once a week that has a smaller number of students in it, like maybe 40, so that we can play more games and do more activities with them that work better in a smaller group than 100 plus students. I asked that if we do that we can maybe come up with a list of kids who the guidance counselor and teachers feel may benefit most from it, like maybe kids who are having a tough time in school right now or who are dealing with the loss of a parent. 
   When I got home I was totally exhausted and very thirsty from my long walk home in the hot sun, lugging a projector that was never even used. When I went to get water, I discovered that there was no water coming out of my faucet. Crap. My village was out of water. Luckily, I had some water stored that I was able to boil and drink. Just when I had finished boiling my water and was relaxing on my couch with some green tea and a book, I heard a knock at my door. I figured it was one of my neighbors checking to see if I had water, being the silly American that I am, they probably thought I didn't have any stored. When I opened the door it was my 10 year old neighbor, and he looked upset. He asked me if my house was out of water too, and I said yes, and that I believed the whole village was. He told me his dad was away at work for a couple of days, they had no water stored, and that he didn't know what to do. I helped him get water from my stored water bucket, and he said he knew how to boil it on his own, but I made him promise to come back and let me know if he needed any help or needed more water. A little while later there was a knock on my door again. It was the same little neighbor who this time wanted to say thank you. He saw the world map I have on my wall as we stood in my doorway talking, and his eyes grew wider. He asked me different questions about where I was from, and we talked about time zones. He thought it was very cool that when he is getting up to go to school in the morning, kids on the East Coast of America are still asleep because it is the middle of the night there. I told him about my youngest brother who is 11 and how he thinks that is cool too. I ended up feeling kind of glad the water was out because I don't think any of this would have happened otherwise. It felt good to be helping someone here with something so simple like having water, when I've been helped with so much since coming to Botswana. It felt good to even know how to store and boil water.The water ended up coming back later in the evening, and I got a another knock on my door "Neo, metsi is back!"
   Sometimes it is very frustrating how easily plans can change here, but then there are days like this when things that were totally out of my control happened, and it turned out to be a pretty cool day anyway.


5 Months and Counting

  It has now been five months since I left the U.S. to come to Botswana. It definitely feels strange that it has been five months since I've seen my family because I have never gone this long without seeing them. The strange thing is that even though some days feel  long, overall it feels like time has been passing quickly here. I still have so much time left. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed thinking about that and other times I feel like there is so much that I want to do before June of 2013 that I don't want time to pass too quickly.
   Something I'm learning is that it really does take a lot of time for things to happen here. It takes time to get used to living here, to feel a sense of belonging and respected, and it takes time to feel successful. It can be hard walking down the street and still having people ask for money when you have had a conversation with them the day before and thought that they were starting to accept you and not see you simply as someone who could give them something. It can be hard when you just want to walk down the street and be friendly to people and have a real conversation, and then it turns into someone hitting on you instead. I guess I thought that after being  at site for 3 months it wouldn't' happen as much as it still does, but I'm trying to accept that 3 months really isn't very much time and that I still stand out as being different. I still have to earn respect and fitting in.
   There are some positive experiences that have happened recently that I would like to share though.
   A few days ago I had to get a ride back from a nearby village from getting groceries because the bus I had taken to get to the village to get my groceries had gotten in late so I missed the last bus headed back toward my village. I was a little worried I wouldn't find a ride back. Then this man who was probably close to around my age and an older woman, his mother, helped me. The best part about that experience was that we had meaningful conversations, and there was no asking for my phone number or marriage proposals thrown at me. It felt genuine. The the man who was driving accidentally hit a chicken that was crossing the road ( I know, why did the chicken cross the road, right?). Anyway, when he hit the chicken he pulled over and got out of the car to look for it to make sure it was ok. Everything about that experience was so rare, at least from what my experience has been so far.
   I also finally got to meet with the PACT club at the Junior Secondary School here this week. Another volunteer in my district and I presented a STEPS film to them about teens talking about sex, and then we facilitated a discussion. At first the PACT students were dead silent after the film, and I was a little worried nobody was going to talk at all. I then talked for a couple of minutes about how it was a safe space, and we would not judge anything they said or be upset with them. A few students began to talk, and then some more began to chime in. There were 45 students who attended the meeting total because the PACT club had invited some other students who are interested in PACT to join, and I suspect a few others straggled into the library to see what we were doing, which was fine by me. Most of them were so shy and soft spoken that when they did speak I had to move right next to them to be able to hear them. At other points they would whisper quietly to each other and seemed hesitant to ask us any questions or talk at all. We ended up handing out pieces of paper for them to write comments or questions on for us to look at later to help them feel more comfortable, and that worked very well. Our question box was full by the end. I'm going back next week to meet with them and their guidance counselor to discuss their comments and questions and have a small focus group discussion. I'm really looking forward to it.
   I found out that my Setswana level is now intermediate low, which is something that I feel pretty good about. I was only novice high before, and Setswana is definitely something I've had to work pretty hard at so it is a good feeling to be improving.
    Oh, and It is getting warm here! I finally had to put my bug net up, which was a process in itself, let me tell you!  I'm still not convinced it keeps all bugs out though because I still am getting some intense bug bites. The nice thing about it getting warmer is that people are outside of their homes more, which is nice. There are always kids playing near my house or in my yard, and they are funny. My laundry also dry much faster, which is another plus. (Means I get to sleep in later on the weekends because I can start washing my clothes later!)
   My family and friends at home have been on my mind even more so lately because of some things going on with some of them, both positive and worrisome. Luckily, I've been able to stay in touch, and it does seem like everything is going to be ok. Things are definitely looking up for those involved. I am lucky to have some good friends here who have been here to listen as well.

Well, that is all for now.