This is my Life...

   I've been thinking a lot about how things that have been new and difficult here so far are also amazing. It is hard sitting in 4 hours of setswana lessons, but I get to learn a language that most people will never get to learn.  Sometimes it is hard eating the same things every day (maize and cabbage mostly), but I'm eating those foods because my host sisters care and take the time to cook. This is all they have to cook, and they are sharing it with me and letting me stay in their home. It has been raining a lot, but I have gotten to experience some of the coolest thunderstorms I have ever seen. I get woken up by roosters at 5am, but there are roosters in my back yard! Sometimes when I'm walking to and from training or to the store I stop and think "I'm in Botswana! Is this for real?".



   Yesterday ended up being a lot of fun in very unexpected ways. My training classmates and I were supposed to be going into the Peace Corps office and to some other Botswana governmental offices to complete paper work. However, we were not able to do all of the paper work because government workers in Botswana are on strike right now so the office separate from the Peace Corps office that we would have needed to go to was having staffing issues/ technical difficulties. Therefore, we ended up sitting around waiting a lot as the PC tried to sort things out, but then they took us to a mall! We were all in food heaven! I know it sounds ridiculous because I have only been here for a couple of weeks, but I have missed food from home big time already.  As I have written, I was quite sick initially and still have had some issues eating certain foods that are very common here like maize and meat. My brain wants to try new foods, but my stomach is fighting it. It was so amazing to have some familiar foods today! I haven't spent much of the walking around allowance that the PC gives us so today I got a chicken sandwich, french fries, and ice cream!  I know it will probably be a while before I have those things again. I also had fun hanging out with my training class without stressing out over studying and outside of our homestay homes.


   This past Sunday was the first day of homestay that I felt more "at home". I had been worried that my homestay family was going to expect me to attend church with them for 5 hours again like I did last weekend. I was glad I went to see what it was like, but I did not want to go again because it is fully in Setswana and 5 hours is a long time to sit after spending all week sitting in my training classroom. My host mother was the only one who went to church in my family this week though so I was able to spend the day at home with my host sisters, which was nice. I slept in until a whopping 7:30am (crazy, I know). I then did some dishes and helped clean around the house a little. I tried to bath and discovered that there was no water coming from the pipe outside, which is where my family gets water from since there are no faucets inside. My host sisters tried to give me some stored water to use to take my bath. They were going to give me some of what was left and not use any so I told them no that I was ok and that if they couldn't bath today I didn't need to either.I just washed up and changed my clothes. I then made my mom's "white chocolate crunch" recipe, which is the one thing I really know how to make, for my host family. I had to alter the recipe because of not being able to find all of the ingredients here. I ended up melting some white chocolate bars instead of using white chocolate chips and instead of pretzels, cheerios, and nuts I ended up just using cheerios. However, it was still a hit with my host family! They kept saying "monate" which means "nice".  Later on my youngest host sister, who is 15, taught me some dance moves, and we then showed our dance moves to my host mother and two older host sisters. I looked like a total mess I am sure, but I had fun. It also made them laugh, which was nice to see.  I went to sleep feeling like myself again, and it was "monate".


Pre-Service training/ Homestay so far...


  My homestay started out rough. I was puking right before the matching ceremony during which we met our homestay  families. I spent my entire first night with my  family vomiting. They were really nice and understanding about it. My homestay sisters brought dinner into my room for me. I tried to eat a little because I felt badly, but I immediately vomited it back up into my bathing bucket, which was the closet thing to my bed. I continued to get sick all night long. I thought I was still sick from the malaria medication, but continued to not be able to keep any food or liquid in my system Friday so I was brought into Gaborone to be seen by PC medical. I was so scared/ sad/stressed out when I got there because I had no idea what was wrong with me. PC medical staff are so nice though, and they made me feel so much better. They gave me medicine for my stomach/ hydrating power and let me rest for a while.They said that initially it was probably the malaria medication that made me sick but that something else must have then irritated my stomach as well and told me that this happens often.  If I wasn't well enough they were going to keep me in Gab's overnight, but luckily I was able to keep fluids down so they allowed me to come back to the training city with some other trainees who had been brought in for other medical related issues after me. It was nice knowing I was not alone in my health related struggles, and we stopped at a shopping mall briefly on the way back so that a couple of us could get converters so we can charge computers/phones/etc so that was nice. 
   Overall, my homestay is going alright. I live with a mother, 3 sisters, and a brother. Two of my sisters are older than me, one is a teenagers, and then my brother is an older teenager. I very rarely see my homestead brother; he is out with friends a lot. My two older sisters are nice and helpful with teaching me Setswana. Sometimes I have to ask them to slow down and explain what word they are saying means what so I can learn, but my sisters are more helpful than my mother because she speaks very little English and it is hard for her to explain things/ for me to understand her. My teenage sister started out being very quiet, but is now opening up to me. Today she was singing very loudly to some American rap music during breakfast, which I thought was funny since she has barely said two words since Thursday. I have another sister who is the oldest and lives outside of the house and has two small children, who are adorable. I have also have met various other relatives including some cousins and their children who are also adorable. 
   There are some things about homestay that are tough. It is hard feeling like a child. My family here is very conservative and very protective of me. I appreciate the fact that they care, but at the same time it can feel a little smothering. I'm learning how to take some time to my self in the evenings in my room to write/ listen to music though before bed. Also, it is just awkward staying in someone else's home in general, especially when you feel like you don't know what you are doing and have to ask for help for everything. For example, my house has a latrine for a toliete, which I had never used before. There is no running water in the house so I had to ask where to get water from. There are no trash cans so I had to ask where to dispose of trash. I had to ask how to take a bucket bath, and I had to ask how to wash my clothes. My family also attends a very conservative church that holds very long services, as in like 4 hours or more all in Setswana. That was rough. I'm glad I went so I could see what it is like, but I don't want to go every Sunday that I am here. I'm not sure that they will understand that. 
   I would like to be clear that I'm grateful to be staying with nice people and that people care about my safety here; I'm just saying that this is also tough. I'm missing my own family, and getting used to a lot at once. It is both exciting and stressful.

The  Wonderful / Funny Things

   Botswana is a beautiful country. When you walk down any street you see various animals just roaming free; donkeys, cows, goats, chickens, dogs, cats. The people here are also amazing. The children are absolutely beautiful. One of the fun things about being a PC trainee and standing out like a sore thumb is that the children follow you everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. Some of us trainees were going on a  walk and ended up being followed by several adorable children. Everywhere I walk here people stop to say hello or "Dumela" in Setswana. It is like that with everyone. People take the time to talk and get to know each other. 
Setswana. My homestay sister translated ,and then I tried not to laugh out loud and she said "Go Siame" , which means "That's ok" for me to laugh about it.  I also got told my skin "glows in the sun" which anyone of my family and friends will appreciate reading since I'm known as the pastey one to pretty much everyone I know. 
   I got to talk on the phone to my mom, dad, and youngest brother today, which was lovely. It helped me feel re-energized and like I can do this. Thanks and love you all!



Malaria Pills=hotmess AND Cinnamon Roll Hugs

   Today has been a rough day. My malaria medication is causing some weird side effects for me. I have felt totally out of it, light headed, sick to my stomach, and like a overall hotmess. During tea today I was sitting with a couple of other Bots10ers and a couple of Bots8 and 9ers who were helping out. I felt so sick just sitting there. Someone asked me how I was, and I broke down and started crying. I told them that I did not feel ok on the medicine and how it was upsetting me to feel happy to be here but then at the same time feeling so sick from the medicine. I ended up talking with PC medical staff, who are very nice and helpful, and they gave me some medicine for the nausea and are going to monitor the type of malaria medication I am taking and will change it next week if it keeps happening.  I ended up crying a later again as well. I was pretty embarrassed because it is not normal for me to have trouble focusing or to get so upset over something so ridiculous. However, everyone here has been really kind and supportive about it. I just don't like making other people worry. I've been able to laugh it off now though, and some of my fellow Bots10ers gave me a big group "cinnamon roll" hug to make me feel better. 
   Right now everyone is just relaxing. Tomorrow we all go to our host families for home stay, and it seems like we are all excited and nervous about it. I gave one bag to Peace Corps to take during my home stay. I feel better, and do not want to take my malaria medication tonight, but I will. I just will have to be patient with the side effects and aware that they make me a little loopy. Ok, maybe a lot loopy! 
   I don't want any of my family or friends reading this to be worried about me. I'm happy to be here and have no intention of giving up. I know that this silly malaria medication stuff will pass and the PC is really great at taking care of us so no worries there either. 


I just ate a worm...

  I just ate a worm. There are these worms called mopane that are cooked with meals or as snacks here in Botswana. I tried one that was dried out and salted. A couple other Bots10 trainees and I decided to try them tonight. We went out back behind the lodge because we didn't want to make a scene if we freaked out. I ended up saying "oh god" as I took the first bite and it made a crunch sound. This resulted in some intense laughter and some gagging. We successfully tried the worms though! I was laughing so hard that I was crying.


Hello! I just wanted to update people on how things have been going the past few days of my life in Botswana...


   Right now I am starting pre-service training  in Botswana with my Bots10 group. We are staying at a lodge until Thursday and starting language lessons and so forth. Then we will move to our training village and in with our host families. It is so good to finally be in Botswana!
   I'm actually kind of tired and a little overwhelmed feeling right now though. We spent about 30 hours total traveling. I've been kind of sick so I was actually vomiting while waiting at the airport (gross, I know)  Then many of us found out our luggage had not arrived here from NYC, myself included. Everyone says this is normal and that we should have our luggage soon, most likely tomorrow, but I'm still a bit worried about it. I'm kind of worried about not having clean clothes because although I had some in my carry on bag, most of my clothes were in my hiking pack, which I do not have yet. I want to make sure I have clean clothes by Thursday so I'm not bringing a pile of dirtily laundry to homes stay. I also realized I don't have an alarm clock, watch, or an adapter for my computer. Ugh, how did I not think of these things before now? 
   I know everything will be ok, and I'll figure things out though. I just will have to wash some things in the sink here if my bag doesn't get here tomorrow. I already figured out using my alarm clock on my ipod for now. I will figure out the adapter thing at some point as well. I'm in a busier area so someone will know where around here I can get one. 

I just need to take a deep breath and take it one day at a time 

   Today has been a much better day than yesterday! I woke up very happy to be here and joined my group for training. I also got pula ( money in Botswana) for the first time today!  I had my first Setswana lesson today as well. It was fun and it is cool be learning a new language. I'm a little nervous right now because this is the first time I'm learning a spoken language, and I'm having a tough time with pronunciation. Everyone says that is normal though. I'm going to study like crazy. One of my biggest fears is not being able to communicate well enough with people in the community I end up in so I really want to work hard on it now so that I will be able to build relationships with people here. I also got my malaria medication today and will be getting more vaccinations tomorrow.
   I know some people are wondering about bugs. So far there aren't too many here at the lodge we are staying at. However, my roommate and I did have our first encounter with a somewhat large spider. I would describe it as not much larger than wood spiders I've seen in Maine. The only difference I would say was that it would not die! It took about 6 wacks with a phone book. I felt kind of badly, but it was really creeping my roommate out since it was climbing right above her bed, and we didn't have bug nets yet.  There were a bunch of tiny ants hanging out in the shower as well, but they were very little and not scary.

   So last night was kind of rough because I was stupid and took my malaria medication too early before dinner so my stomach was too empty, and I got sick.  oops.I ended up just laying still  on my bed and falling asleep through dinner and missed out on a walk down the street here in Gaborone because of it so I was a little sad about that. I ended up waking up after dinner and joining some Bots10ers to study Setswana and hang out for a while, which was nice though. I felt a lot better and even though I got less sleep because of being up later I was in a good mood when I woke up today after taking time to relax for a while. 
   Today we had more Setswana lessons and the focus of training was on home stay, since we will be going to our families on Thursday. I'm both very excited about this and nervous. I have no idea what they will be like, if they will speak very much English, how nice they will be, or what they will expect from me. One of my biggest worries is that I am an awful cook . I will do my best to help out with cooking for sure, but I do not know how to cook well in America let alone in a country I have just arrived in. I hope they don't mind that too much and that I am able to learn from them. I'm excited about learning more Setswana from them and about life here in Botswana though. The fact that I know I will still see other Bots10ers for training makes me feel a  little less nervous as well. 
   Right now I'm hanging out in my room with my roommate during a break. All we have left today is a slide show presentation and dinner, The food here so far is pretty good. I've tried some sausage that was different form what I've used to and some soda that tastes different. Other than that, the food I have tried so far isn't very different from food in America. Later I'll most likely be studying some Setswana and hanging out outside with other trainees. Today is much cooler out than the past two days have been. It is kind of windy and a little rainy here. I love this weather though.  Today's weather reminds me of a cooler summer day in Maine when it starts to rain a little after it has been really hot out. 
   Oh, and I washed some of my clothes in the bathroom here, and it wasn't bad at all! They are taking a while to dry because they are in a closed in room, but I'm now glad I didn't bring very much clothing because with hand washing clothes once a week I will have everything I need. 

   Peace out for now. I will try to write about how things are going at home stay. I may or may not be able to a access internet at an internet cafe now and then.


New people, yellow fever, food, and ice breakers

   I'm at staging in Philly right now. I got in yesterday afternoon and met up with a couple of other Bots10ers at the airport and took a shuttle to the hotel with them. Then when we got here there was no running water at first. Practice for Botswana? Yes, I think so. It was funny. Then there was a lot of time to wait around before registering so I kind of roamed around in search of something to eat since a bunch of us planned on going to dinner after registration which wouldn't be until at least 7:30. I found some cheezits and took a nap. Registration was cool because I got to meet most of the other Bots10ers. Several of us went to this really great Mexican restaurant and had the greatest guacamole ever! We even a "first night of staging" pic in. Everyone is very nice, and it is cool that we all have this whole going to Botswana thing in common. It is great being around people who get it!
   Today we woke up bright and early to go get our Yellow Fever vaccinations. We all walked together in the rain and waited a while for our turn to go, but it wasn't bad at all. We all just kind of talked about how excited we are.
   I'm meeting up  with some other Bots10ers to get Philly cheese steaks for lunch shortly before our afternoon of ice breakers and trainings. By the way, they give us money for staging! Excellent! Also, I'm actually kind of excited for ice breakers, as dorky as that makes me, because I think they are kind of fun. There are also still some people I haven't gotten to talk to yet so I'm hoping to get to know them as well.
   At 2:30am I'm getting on a bus with everyone to NYC. Then we will be at the airport for like 5 hours before we get on a plane to Africa!
This is awesome!
ps. Love to all of my friends and family. I miss you, but I am happy so don't worry about me too much.