...And there are Kind People Everywhere too

   In my last post, I wrote about how there are jerks everywhere in the world and about a difficult day that I had here. Now I would like to take the time to write about some very kind people I have met here and positive experiences I have had. First there is my next door neighbor and his little boy. The other day I had left my clothes pins on the line after hanging my clothes up to dry and heard a knock on my door. The little boy brought my clothes pins to me and said "Please don't ever leave those out there again. I don't want someone to steal from you." It was very sweet. The other kids who live near my house are also very sweet. They are always playing out in the sand and stop playing when I walk by to say things like "good evening" ( sometimes it is not evening when they say it, which to me only makes it more adorable), and we say hello back and forth over and over again until we are too far apart to hear each other. I add in a funny face now and then, and they giggle. Then there are a few nurses who check in with me every time they see me to ask me how I am adjusting to my village and if I need anything ,show me pictures of their families, ask me about my family, and seem to care a lot about their patients in general, which is also heart warming. I've also had a bus ride from my shopping village recently that was much more positive than my last bus experience. I sat next to a woman who asked me about the Peace Corps, talked to me about Botswana,  and saved my seat for me when I got off the bus to use the bathroom and made sure the bus driver didn't leave me behind. Her baby also kept reaching out to hold my hand off and on for the entire bus ride and was absolutely adorable. Then yesterday I went to the post office in my village to pick up a package and found out that I actually had two packages. I had only expected one and two would be a bit difficult to carry.I was going to just deal with it and carry them for the 15 minute walk anyway., but an older woman saw me, and she and her husband gave me a ride to my house without asking for anything in return ( usually people expect some money for giving someone a ride).
   These are the experiences that remind me that there are kind people everywhere in the world as well and make me happy to be here.


Jerks are Jerks Everywhere

    Jerks are jerks everywhere, and no place in the world is completely free of them. During training more than one PCV here gave us good advice about not feeling like we have to accept someone treating us badly just because we are in a different cultural setting. Up until yesterday, I had only experienced a couple of cases of someone being slightly rude to me here, and most people I've interacted with have been very kind and pleasant to talk with. Yesterday, I must have been wearing a sign on my back that said "be a jerk to me" because I encountered several obnoxious people worthy of being called jerks. I had to travel on the bus to go to the village that my bank is located in because there is no atm or bank in my village. It wasn't  a long bus ride, but I had to wait around for a long time to take the bus back to my village. Here is a list of absurd interactions I had with people yesterday during that process.

1) the guy sitting behind me on the bus putting his feet under my chair and trying to play footsy with me (seriously!)
2) a guy seeing me reading and telling me some clearly BS story about how he is trying to write a book and get it published and asking me if I had any connections in America to help him with this. (I told him I was going to be here for two years so he should find someone else).He then just kept walking by and staring at me creepily. gross.
3) A woman at the bus rank trying to marry me off to various members of her family and using the reasoning of "well, my cousin is married to a Canadian". (I lied to her and told her sorry and that I had a boyfriend in the U.S. At least she was polite about this though, and I probably wouldn't have been as annoyed if I hadn't been bothered by so many other people in the same day.)
4) A guy shouting to me through the window on the bus "Dumela, baby. I love you baby. Marry me!" when the bus was parked at a stop, and then getting onto the bus, sitting next to me, and trying to grab my arm. I uttered every rejection phrase in Setswana that I know, pushed his arm away, and he got embarrassed and left.
5) Guy number 4 had a friend who was still on the bus and was trying to hit on me and pestering me about why I wasn't into his friend. He also basically called me a prude because I wasn't into his friend to which I wanted to respond with a few choice words but refrained from doing so and just told him to leave me alone and ignored him.

   Non of these things made me feel unsafe. I was in crowds of people each time. It was just completely  irritating. I felt like I couldn't catch a break. Also, I think it was the combination of all of these incidents together in one day that made me so irritated and angry.

   I was in a bad mood when I got home yesterday. I dealt with it by writing an email to one of my friends making fun of the desperation of the people I encountered because I knew that she would also see the humor in it and that laughing about it myself would make me feel better. I then went home, did some pilates, cooked some dinner, and watched as many episodes of  "Modern Family" as possible before falling asleep. It helped.

Today is a new day.


Cooking, Pilates, and Surveys

   I have a lot of down time here so I have set some goals for myself during my service. One of my goals is to become a better cook. In the U.S. I just never really took the time to learn to cook anything other than just plain pasta or rice with vegetables. A lot of my meals involved adding veggies to ramen noodles. I also worked during most meal times for a long time, which meant I was eating at work and didn't really need to cook for myself. Here I have a lot of time on my hands in the evenings so this is the perfect opportunity to learn how to cook new things. I've also been trying to exercise more. I used to be really good about that and enjoyed pilates work outs very much. However, due to a busy schedule and always feeling the need to be out with friends or family  when not at work, I let that slide. Now that I'm at site I've been trying to start an exercise routine back up. I've been doing pilates work outs this week, and I already am feeling better! ( sore, but I guess that means it is working, right?)
   Something that is keeping me busy ( well, as busy as I'm going to get during my first couple of months at site) at at the clinic right now is a survey that I created this weekend. I'm supposed to be assessing the needs of my community right now so I created a survey of questions that I thought may help with this. I showed it to my counterpart this morning, and he said he thought it was a good idea. He also helped me translate it into Setswana. Now I have copies in both English and Setswana so people can choose which they prefer. I started by handing them out to a couple of the nurses who have been welcoming and supportive of me first to see what they thought, and they were helpful in encouraging other people to fill them out for me. Then I started handing  the surveys out to everyone coming into the clinic. I'm realistic in that I realize not everyone will fill them out or hand them back to me. Many people took off with them, and I may never see those surveys again. However, a handful of people have turned them into me already. I went to the junior secondary school this afternoon to talk to the school head, who I met last week, to see if I could set up a table sometime soon at the school to hand out surveys so that students could fill them out right then, and I would be sure I would get them back. I ended up getting to meet with the assistant school head and one of the guidance counselors who want me to come in this Thursday! I'm looking forward to it.

So yes, things are going ok here. I'm adjusting.



   I'm all moved into my home for the next two years! After some intense cleaning, unpacking, and clothing and sheet/blanket washing for the past two days, I am settled in. I spent my entire first day in my house cleaning while listening to my own music loudly. It felt good to be able to do that. I then made myself some ramen for dinner, which I know is the easiest thing ever to make, but I chose to eat it myself and that felt nice. I then took a cleaning break to hang up my world map and favorite pictures from home. I went to sleep after curling up on my own couch to watch a movie on my computer. When I woke up today I got to take a hot shower, ( I know. I feel very fortunate to have hot water) ate some breakfast, and went on part two of my cleaning spree. I washed all of my sheets and blankets in my own house ( by hand)  and put them up on my own clothes line. After meeting with my landlord, going by the clinic to talk to my counterpart about how things are going/ the fact that I needed to finish unpacking today, and running some other errands, I was able to finish making my house clean and homey! I celebrated by cooking myself dinner and taking myself for a walk to use some free internet.
   It is strange being on my own here, and there are moments during which it has felt a bit too quiet and a little lonely, but I think this will be good for me.


Some Tears...

   Today I saw the skinniest dog I have ever seen in my life. I have seen some dogs in the past couple of months that are malnourished looking, but the dog I saw today was the sickliest I have seen by far. She was all skin and bones. I had decided to go to a little take-away store in my village to get something for lunch today because the stash of non-perishable foods I've been keeping in the room I'm staying in has diminished. I was sitting outside on a rock eating when I saw this dog from a distance. I started to tear up immediately because it looked so unhealthy and miserable. I tried to call the dog over to me to give it some of my food, but it was skittish and started to cower and  walk away. I tossed some food toward her, and she nervously approached the food and ate it. I continued to toss food toward the dog until about half of my lunch was gone.Not once did the dog approach me and try grab the food. She stayed several feet away from me the entire time. I know some people would call me ridiculous for giving half of my lunch to a stray dog and for getting so emotional over this. I know that this is not the only sickly animal or sad thing I will see here. I don't think that means that I have to stop caring or that I will ever get used to that though. I don't think I want to get used to that.


Baby Steps...

   The first couple of months at site, I am supposed to be focused on getting to know my community and assessing needs. I know it hasn't been very much time, but I've had a tough time adjusting to being here and have been feeling like I'm doing absolutely nothing for nearly a week. Today felt meaningful.. I went to the junior secondary school to bring paper work for an essay contest that a volunteer who has been in my district for a year now had worked on and needed distributed. When I handed the paper work to the school secretary I asked if there was a way I could schedule an appointment to talk with some school staff in order to learn more about the school system here and because I have an interest in working with youth in the community. The school secretary ended up getting the assistant school head to meet with me right then and from there I was able to talk with the school head and the head of the guidance department. I didn't expect to be able to talk with any of those people so quickly. I explained to them that I am based at the S&CD office and clinic, but as a part of my first couple of months here I am going around and meeting different people in the community. I also talked to them about my experience working with youth in the US and how I hoped to be able to work with youth here through the clinic. All three said that they would like it if the clinic and school staff worked together more again because this is something that used to happen and hasn't been happening recently. I had heard the same from staff at the clinic. They also talked to me about the lack of activities for youth in Werda and that youth spending time at bars and the neglect of children are challenges here. Often times parents have to work outside of the village because of their farms being far away, and then children are left to care for themselves or for younger siblings.
   I know it is only a small step, and I have just arrived here and have a lot to learn. It just felt good to be able to have a conversation with people who seem to care. It felt productive and motivating.


Bird, Bat, or Bug?

   As I wrote in my last post, I'm staying in a room on the nurses' compound until I can move into my house. I do not have electricity so I use a flashlight at night. Last night I got back from my shopping village just as it was starting to get dark. When I started to open my door I saw something fly across the room. I jumped backward and stood out of my room with the flashlight, keeping the door open to try to figure out what it was and to get it to leave. I decided that it was either a bird, bat, or some kind of freakishly large moth/ other type of Botswana bug I hadn't seen yet. I then decided to use free Internet at the clinic and avoid being in my room for  little longer. When I went back to my room it was late, and I was tired. I couldn't find whatever creature had been in my room anywhere. I decided that since it wasn't in my sleeping bag ,which I had checked very thoroughly, that was where I was going to stay for the rest of the night so I climbed in an zipped it up completely. A little while after falling to sleep I woke up to some odd squeaking noises, and peeked out of my sleeping bag with my flashlight to try to see if the flying creature was anywhere near me. I could only hear it and realized it probably was in the vent near my ceiling. Even though I knew it clearly could come out of that vent somehow because it had earlier, I decided to go with denial and pretend it wasn't there so I could try to sleep. This didn't work so well.

Dear creature living in my room,
Please go away so I can sleep tonight.


A "Real" Volunteer and at Site!

   My training class was sworn in two days ago, and yesterday I moved to my site! I'm excited to be a PCV, but I do not feel like a "real" volunteer yet. Right now I'm staying at the nurses compound in my village until I can move into my house next week, and I still feel like I'm going back to Kanye to rejoin my training class in a few days. Today I woke up ready to do something, and got to the social work office I'm based at to hear that there was absolutely nothing to do there and was laughed at for wanting to do something. I knew this was a likely scenario, but I was already feeling kind of unsettled and homesick (this time for Kanye and the company of my training classmates) so it hit me a little harder than it normally would. I accepted defeat at the social work office and ended up going over to the clinic  where I met the lay counselor who had been out on maternity leave when I was here for site visit. She was very welcoming, more so than the other staff I had interacted with today, and gave me some helpful info about the clinic. She is responsible for HIV testing/ counseling, and I was interested in hearing what that is like here in Botswana. I also tried to help her figure out something on her phone that she was having trouble with and we just chatted about life. She showed me pictures of her newborn baby, and I talked a little about my life here so far. It was nice to have someone to talk to..After she left I read some statistics about orphans and ARVs from the computer, and then it was lunch time so I went back to my room and cried a little and ate some chocolate.I looked at some pictures from home, worked a little on an art project to hang up in my house once I move in, and then I picked myself up and went for a walk around my village. I ended up running into a couple of teachers I had met up with while walking around during site visit, and they were enthusiastic that I was back and told me they hoped the junior secondary school would open up again soon so I could meet more teachers from there, which was sweet of them. It was another good reminder that there are nice people here.
   I don't want anyone to think that it is all bad because it isn't. I'm happy to be here, but it is just a big adjustment right now. I also think I will feel more settled once I can move into my house and unpack completely. A definite bonus of being here is that I was able to get some non-perishable foods and even fruit since it is cold enough inside right now that fruit will not spoil! It is very nice to have more control over what I am eating! I also get to use free Internet after hours at the clinic!


Last Day of PST!

    After being in Botswana for a little over 2 months, today is our last day of Pre-Service Training! In some ways it feels like days passed slowly, and in other ways it feels like time has flown by. I'm feeling a bit emotional today, which is not something I expected. The past couple of weeks I've felt eager to finish up training, tired of sitting for hours a day in the same training room, and have just wanted to get to my site. Today I'm feeling a bit sad that I won't be seeing the friends I've made in my training class every day anymore. I'm going to be about 4 hours away from most of the other people in my group and even further away from others. As much as I've felt a bit sick of Kanye and am excited to live in Werda, I'm realizing that I'm going to miss some things about being here. I'm even going to miss the little things like stopping at the take-away on the walk home and talking to the nice Batswana who work there, seeing the monkeys at the training site, movie nights in the ward I've been staying in, my little host sister trying to teach me dance moves, the monkeys and dogs that hang out at our training site, and trips to Choppies to get chocolate bars at the end of long days. Even though I'm sitting here waiting because our training is starting late again, I'm kind of enjoying sitting here with the other members of my training class one last time. Yes, I know I'm being a huge cheese ball right now.

Anyway, tomorrow is swearing in so here we go Bots10! Our real adventure is about to begin!



   In one week I will be moving to my site. It is been difficult to focus the past few days. Today we had our final PST LPI (language test), and I was slightly nervous about it. However, today I also got the best care package ever from my family. Personally, the past few days had been a bit difficult for me, and I couldn't have asked for better timing to get this package.  I had only asked my parents to send me wasabi peas and dried fruit. They not only sent me those things, but they also sent me nail polish, sun glasses, tissues, large amounts of hand sanitizer and wet wipes, clothing, pretzels, nuts, and even a DvD of "Glee" music videos ( judge me all you want for that one, but "Glee" is amazing). Not only does my family send me things that remind me of home and make me happy, they also call me each week. My friends send me emails and letters, and are always reminding me that they are still thinking of me. All of them give me constant support no matter what is going on in my life, and I can't thank them enough. I'm a very lucky woman. That is all I have to say right now.