Freezing My Bottom Off

   Africa gets cold. Despite all of the warnings I received before coming to Botswana, I did not come completely prepared for how cold it is starting to get here now that winter is coming. I thought "pshhh, I'm from Maine. I'm used to cold. Africa couldn't possibly be that cold. No big deal". I was a dummy. It has been getting down into the 40s (F) at night. Yes, Maine gets much colder than that in the winter, but in Maine there are wood stoves, fire places, heaters, and well-insulated houses and work spaces. These things do not exist in Botswana (atlas not in most cases). When the sun is out, it can feel pretty warm, but when that sun goes down, it really does get chilly. At night I sleep under my sleeping bag lined with flannel and a flannel sheet. Thankfully I brought my favorite hoodie from home because I've also been sleeping in that. Being a fool, I only brought Capri sweatpants, shorts, and leggings for sleeping! I will be purchasing some long sweat pants very soon. When I wake up in the morning these days, I don't want to get out of my bed to bath because it is cold, and this requires going outside to put water in my bath bucket and then bathing in my room in cold air. For the sake of good hygiene, I've been forcing myself to bath anyway. This involves me staying clothed for as long as possible and then getting back into my clothes and under my blanket as quickly as possible afterward. So if you are planning on moving to Africa, this Mainer is telling you that it gets pretty damn cold here so don't be a fool. 


Site Visit

  I went on site visit this past week, and I think my site is a good fit for me. I'm a little nervous about it because very soon I will be about 4 hours away from most of the friends I have made during PST. (Pre-Service Training). However, the fact that I like my village so far helps. A large portion of Werda's population consists of youth and many are orphans, and the social work office I'll be based at works on meeting the needs of these children. There are also two schools in Werda, and it sounds like the clinic/ social work office are trying to get more involved with the youth in the community again, which is something I'm very passionate about so I'm glad that opportunity exists. I also really like my house. It is tiny, but it is cute and has electricity and running water. I can't wait to decorate it! I've never lived completely on my own. I've always had latest one roommate and have spent a lot of time living in apartments with multiple people so living completely on my own is going to be a big change. I think it will be good for me though. I will even be able to have internet set up at home, which I think will be helpful because I'll be able to stay in touch with family and friends from home as well as other volunteers who are further away. It is also not far from where I will be working and the bus, which is convenient. Also, there are ambulances that go into a larger village fairly often so shopping for food shouldn't be that difficult despite the 1.5 hour trip. The store I will be grocery shopping at even has vegetarian foods and boneless chicken! I'm looking forward to being able to cook for myself very much! I think my first meal will be an attempt at buffalo chicken.  I never thought that I would look forward to cooking so much. There are also some safe places to run in Werda, which was a relief to hear because I've been trying to get back into running and have been feeling better since I have. Something else that will help me adjust to change here is all of the media that I now have on my external hard drive. You can judge me all you want and make jokes about the ridiculousness of caring so much about having American media in a small, African village, but until you've lived in a foreign country, far from family and friends you can not understand the importance of having access to familiar things. I didn't expect electricity or running water, but since I am lucky enough to have these things, I am going to take advantage of them. Reminding myself of all of the positives of the situation helps to put my mind at ease and adds to my enthusiasm. 


Life is Good

   This weekend was probably one of my favorite weekends here so far. At the end of a disappointing week, it was nice to just relax and have fun with my training class friends. Almost everyone stayed after training to hang out on Saturday. We got food and then played the game "Mafia", which was a lot of fun. It was nice just to laugh. Then yesterday one of my friends here had a birthday party for her host brother who had never had a birthday party before and was turning 21.  I spent the morning doing laundry and then the rest of it walking around to different stores to help prepare for the party, which was fun. Then a bunch of us got together at her house and cooked. It was so relaxing and nice. I'm finding that I like learning how to cook because at home I rarely ever cooked anything and have never been very good at it. Some of my friends here have much better cooking skills than I do so I have been able to learn a little from them. We made fruit salad, pizza, magwinya with sugar and cinnamon, guacamole, mini sandwiches, quesadillas , chips, and had cake! The best part was how appreciative and happy my friend's host family was and how much fun everyone seemed to have just being together to celebrate. It was great.
   It seems like things with the strike may be calming down a little. It is looking like we are going to be able to go visit our sites tomorrow, which is a huge relief. I'm feeling really lucky to be here today. I'm looking forward to more fun times the last couple of weeks of PST, seeing my site for the first time and the house I will be living in, and of all the great memories I will be able to make here in the future. Life is good.



 I wrote previously about how much I've missed running and how I've felt somewhat on edge this week. I finally went running, and it felt great. I walked back from training, and dropped my backpack off at home. I grabbed my ipod, a small purse that I could swing over my shoulder to hold my phone and room key, explained to my host family that I was going for a run, and headed out. I'm pretty sure my host family thought I was completely insane, and I got some weird looks from some of the Batswana I passed. Mostly though, I just got "Dumela"s (hellos) and smiles. I stayed on the main road and ran toward our training site, since I'm very familiar with that route at this point. I'm out of running practice, but I was able to push through and run further and at swifter pace than I thought I would be able to. As I ran, I just listened to my music and ran and that was all. I didn't think about the strike that is going on here or how the uncertainty surrounding it worries me. I let go off all of the irritation and anxiety I had been feeling the past few days. I was huffing and puffing like crazy by the time I reached my destination, but it felt great. 
   Something else that I've realized during this difficult week is how much I do want to be here. I mean, I've wanted to be here all along, but this whole strike situation has emphasized for me how much I really am starting to become attached to this country and how lucky I am to be here. Not knowing what is going to happen with the strike or when it will be resolved scares me so much because I don't want to have to leave Botswana. I'm not saying that I think that will happen because I honestly have no idea, but what is going to happen to all of us in training now if this situation isn't resolved in the next few weeks? Swearing in day is coming up very soon, and what will happen if we still can't go to our sites come June 8th? I haven't witnessed any violence thankfully, but the overall situation does scare me, and the uncertainty of it all is anxiety provoking. I can't imagine what Batswana must be feeling or the volunteers who are living in the villages more directly impacted. 

I know I have written this before, but please send positive thoughts to Botswana and hope for a quick and peaceful resolution 


Ready, Ready, Ready to Run!

   I've been missing running. I miss listening to my ipod and not thinking about anything else and  just running until I'm too tired to run anymore. Running used to be a huge stress release for me. When I started running track in high school it was because I wanted to hang out with my friends more, and they all were on the track team. I became a sprinter because they were. I soon realized sprinting was not for me, and that I did not enjoy it. I learned that a long run at a steady pace was a great stress release  for me when I was going through some difficult things at that time. I ended up running cross country in the fall and became an 800m, mile, and 2 mile runner for the track team. I wasn't one of the fastest people, but I tried very hard and I enjoyed it. It gave me a goal to work toward and something positive to focus on. I did it for myself.
   Since high school I haven't run competitively at all, but during college and living near Boston I would go for runs on my own as a stress release. I would go through times when I didn't run as much now and then.Then I would get to the point where I was so stressed out  that I would NEED to run.  I always felt so much better afterward. This is how I'm feeling right now. I've been afraid to go running here because running is something I like to do alone, and running alone is something I've been hesitant to do in Botswana. I'm at the point where I feel safe enough running around my home stay neighborhood if I stick to the main road and run when it is light out. I plan on running when I get to my site anyway,  and I don't think I can wait until then. I'm busting out the running shoes again. It is going to hurt because it has been a while, but it will be great!


One of Those Days...

Things I miss today:
My Family
My NLSers
My DZs
Mac and Cheese
buffalo chicken
sea food
seeing my little brother dance
My dogs
Driving my piece of crap car while listening to my piece of crap radio

Things I could use when I get to my site if anyone wants to send me mail:
-mac and cheese ( in a box...or else I think it would be quite stinky by the time I received it)
-buffalo chicken dip ingredients
-my hair dryer ( because I'm going to have electricity!)

That is all for now

Just Some of My Own Thoughts...

   The PC is telling us that we are safe here in Kanye and that they believe the strike will be resolved in the next week before we are to go on site visit next week. Although I do trust that they will keep us safe if things escalate here, I am still worried about the situation as a whole. There were in fact some students who did show up at school in Kanye yesterday and were upset when they were told they had to go home and became escalated because of this. This was confirmed for us today by reliable sources. The situation was diffused at the school here yesterday, but the truth is that we really don't know what will happen next in the rest of Botswana and how things will be resolved. Not knowing and sitting tight waiting to see what happens is a bit nerve wracking ( I'm sure it is more nerve wracking for those in villages who have been more impacted by the civil unrest so my thoughts are with them).

Please send positive thoughts to Botswana and hopes that the situation is resolved quickly and without any more violence.


Strikes and Civil Unrest

   For the past 5 weeks there has been a strike going on in Botswana. For the most part it has been non-violent, but in the past couple of days there has been some rioting in larger towns and villages. Started today all of the schools are closed until further notice. I'm safe where I am staying, but unfortunately this means that my site visit, which was supposed to begin tomorrow, is postponed.  We are all pretty disappointed because we have been getting pumped for the past few days, and now instead we will be sitting in trainings all day long. I feel lucky that I feel safe in Kanye and that there hasn't been anything violent happening here though, and I hope that things improve in the larger villages and towns soon.

Here is an article about the strike/ school situation



Site Placement!

   Yesterday was site placement day! I found out that I'm going to Werda, which is on the South African border in the Kgalagadi District! It has a population of a little over 2,000. I had asked to be placed in the southern region of the country so I'm grateful that was able to happen. I wasn't expecting to be quite so far south, but I think I will be alright there. I will be within a couple of hours from a couple of volunteers in my training group and a couple of hours away from a current volunteer in that district. It also seems like it isn't that difficult to be able to hitch or access a bus to get to Gaborone, which I've been told is about a 4 hour long trip, and several people I've become friends with in my training group are going to be in that area. Also, a bunch of us are talking about going to South Africa in January sometime, and I'm close enough to border that it will be a little easier for me. It is going to be a very happy New Year's/ birthday time for me!
    I'm going to be working at a clinic, which is something that I'm excited about, and I hope to get involved in working at a school as well as just working with youth in my community in general. I'm replacing a volunteer who is completing his service soon and lives in government housing with electricity and running water, and it sounds as though I will be getting that house, which is also a major plus! I've been living in a home stay without those things so a toilet and way to charge my phone/ computer at home is kind of a big deal to me right now. I had told the PC I was flexible about this so I was half expecting to end up without electricity or running water so it is a pleasant surprise to find out that I most likely will have both ( as long as they don't suddenly change the housing).  I will be visiting my site this week for a few days so I will get the chance to find out more then.
 I'm both nervous and excited about  all of this!

Hoarding Food and Weird Moods


   Something that is difficult about homestay and PST is the feeling of lack of control.    I'm staying in someone else's home, and although they are kind to me, this means I have very little time to myself and very little control over what I eat or over my own schedule. I'm waiting for other people to tell me where I will be placed for the next two years of my service, which is also out of my control at this point. I sit in training all day, and then I get home, and my host family quizzes me on Setswana, I work on my homework, and then I'm exhausted and ready for sleep by 8pm. 
   All of this has lead me to develop some odd habits. For example, I now hoard food in my room. This is not something I'm proud of, but it is the truth. My actual family sent me a care package that included some snacks, which I have hidden away in a locked cabinet. I also occasionally buy peanut butter and hide the jars in my room.The PC gives our  host family's food baskets every two weeks, which is great. However, my family is very poor and there are a lot of people. This means that the food goes quickly. It also means that nearly every meal consists of maize meal and cabbage and or/ some kind of  meat. It would hurt their feelings if they knew I was hiding food in my room because they would feel like they weren't providing me with enough. They are sweet, and I would never want to hurt them so I'm secretive about my small stash of food.
   I've also realized in the past week or so that I value alone time much more than I ever thought I would. I usually like to be around people constantly, and even though I'm not typically the most outgoing person in a group, I am social and normally genuinely want to talk with people. Lately, I've been keeping to myself  a little more. I left a birthday party early a few nights ago because I did not feel like socializing or like I wanted to be there. I came home, did my homework, ate dinner with my  family, and then explained to them that I was tired and needed to rest. I went into my room for the rest of the night and listened to music, wrote, and uploaded pictures. It was what I needed. I felt guilty about not wanting to socialize at first because I know soon I will be going to my site and will not get to hang out with everyone. I needed a break though. 
So yeah, I'm already learning things about myself that I hadn't payed very much attention to before, and I've only been here a little over a month!
   I've been feeling a little burnt out  from PST and anxious to find out which site I'm going to. I'm making the conscious effort from this moment forth to stop freaking out. I do not have control over which site I am placed at, but I do have control over how I react to it. It is ok to be anxious about it, but I can also make the choice to look at the positives of whatever situation I end up in. No matter which site I end up at, my world will not end. Even if it is a difficult experience, I will survive. I'm the one who chose to come here, and nobody is forcing me to be here. I've wanted this for a long time, and I feel confident that I still want to be here. I also think I need to have some faith that no matter where I end up,I am being placed there because there was some thought put into  placing me. I have no time or energy for negativity right no w whether it is coming from others or from myself. I'm shutting it out. I even ripped up my list of potential sites that the PC gave us and threw it in the trash because looking at it and trying to guess where I will be placed was slowly driving me insane. Bring on Saturday, site placement, and the celebrating to follow!



Magwinya and Magwinya

   For PST we were assigned to make a Setswana food in groups. My group decided to make Magwinya or "fat cake", which is basically fried bread. One of the members of my group had the brilliant idea of adding apple and banana into the centers of them and sprinkling them with cinnamon and brown sugar. It was delicious! Our group ended up winning 1st place when we had a little contest after everyone presented their foods. We are getting dried fruit as a prize!
   There is also another Magwinya in our lives here. There is a stray kitten that lives at our training site, which we have named "Magwinya". Different trainees have been taking turns taking care of him, and some have taken him home at night. Right now I am at the training site to use Internet and relax, and Magwinya is curled up on my lap purring. I am seriously considering taking this little guy to site with me if someone else doesn't want to first. He has something wrong with his back legs though, and even though he doesn't seem to be in pain right now, I am worried that if he is sick or something I won't be able to take care of him well enough. I also have no idea where my site will be and traveling far with a kitten would be difficult. For now, I will just enjoy taking care of my little buddy.


On My Own

   Usually when I walk home  from training I'm with a group of about 5people. I enjoy spending time with the other trainees so this is something I typically appreciate. However, the other day we had our site interviews and I was finished earlier than the rest of the group staying in the same neighborhood as me. Initially I was going to just wait for them to finish and walk with them, not because I felt unsafe walking alone, but because I thought the walk alone would be boring. I ended up deciding to walk back on my own because I really needed to wash some of my clothes when it was still light out and because before I know it I will be at my own site without the other trainees and need to get used to being on my own anyway. 
   Walking home alone felt liberating and wonderful. Normally when I have been walking with friends here I have been quieter and will say "Dumela" (hello) and kind of just let my more outspoken friends do most of the talking. This time I was more talkative and felt proud of the strides I am making in learning Setswana. I also realized that for the past month I really haven't been on my own at all. I'm always around other trainees or my homestay family, and as much as I enjoy all of their company, it felt good to be on my own (minus all of the Batswana that kept chatting with me off on my entire walk of course haha). It is a very different experience being the only white person walking through a village rather than one of a group of white people walking together. Even though I came here realizing that at some point I will likely be in a village where I am the only PCV, it wasn't until this walk that I really started to think about what that will be like. I now feel more confident that I will be alright on my own and that it will actually be good for me in many ways. Yes, I would still like to be able to travel within a couple of hours to visit  other volunteers if possible, but I'm also looking forward to being at my site. 
And a couple of side notes:
~Some teenage girls whom I met during my walk asked me if I personally knew who killed Osama Bin Laden, and it took some explaining to convince them that I do not! They said they learned that the US found him at school, but they didn't learn who specifically did and they really wanted to know and thought that I may have that answer for them. Sorry kids, I am not that much in the know. 

They also told me I was very pale and that I probably will :get brown" living here. I pointed to my sunburn and told them I will probably "get pink" and wished I would turn brown instead; they laughed.

~ My parents and little brother are amazing! They sent me the best care package ever full of letters, pictures, snacks, clothes from home, and even my favorite pillow case! It made me a little teary when I opened it, but I appreciate it more than they will ever know!

rata care package thata !(  "I love my care package very much"…not perfect Setswana but close enough for me!)




   I spent four days shadowing a current volunteer up in Sebina  this past week. It was great to get out of Kanye for four days and see some more of Botswana. I took public transport in Botswana for the first time. I also learned how to hitch a ride, which is done very commonly here. There are places you have to hitch to in order to get there because there is no transport otherwise. Also, you pay the person you are riding with usually. We were lucky a couple of times that the volunteer I shadowed new the people we hitched with, and we didn't have to pay anything.
   The volunteer I shadowed was based at a clinic. He also has volunteered in a 6th grade classroom and at a pre-school though. The other trainee and I who shadowed together got to go with him to the clinic for a while. There wasn't very much to do there because of government workers being on strike right now in Botswana. We then spent time visiting the social studies class that he volunteers in. When we got to the school the kids were in the classroom alone because their teacher was still on strike. It was now the afternoon time, and they had stayed in the classroom all day just sitting and reading even though there was no teacher present. I could never imagine kids just staying in a classroom in the US all day without a teacher! The kids were so excited to talk with us about Botswana and to hear about America from us and where we were from. We then played "heads up 7 up" with them. We then visited a pre-school, and the kids there were also adorable. They were all babbling in Setswana and Kalanga, another language that is spoken in much of northern Botswana.
   I had a great time shadowing. It is refreshing to see that there are so many different projects I could get involved in wherever I end up for the next two years. It was also really nice to just relax outside of training for a few days and to eat some familiar foods! We went out for Indian food, made a vegetable stir-fry, omelets with toast, and had vegetarian chili!
   I'm excited to learn which site I will be going to in a couple of weeks, and I'm also a little nervous!

On a side note, today is my brother's 24th birthday! Happy Birthday Ryan!