I'm back at my site now, and I'm feeling pretty good about things. During IST I had been feeling a little overwhelmed and ill-equipped to help with the many issues that people in my village are facing and like I wouldn't be able to meet their expectations. Today was my first day back at work after my two weeks away at training, and I was a little nervous. I was surprised to hear people yelling out "Hey Neo!" as I walked through my village and that they had missed me. I had told everyone at the clinic and S&CD office that I would be gone for two weeks and others that I had made connections with over the past couple of months, but I guess I hadn't realized that I would be missed until today. It was a heart warming way to start to my day. 
   This afternoon I went to the JSS (Junior Secondary School) to catch up with the guidance counselor and a teacher I had been starting to work with. I ended up meeting with the guidance counselor for over an hour. We set up a STEPS presentation for the students in the PACT (Peer Approach to Counseling Teens) club for September. For the STEPS presentation, another PCV and I will show the students in PACT a film about teens talking about sex, and then we will facilitate a discussion about the film. The guidance counselor said the PACT students want to get more involved in educating their peers but have just been nervous about it and unsure of how to start so she is hoping that STEPS will help to encourage them to start making presentations. We also scheduled a focus group discussion with the PACT club. I'm really excited to start working with the PACT students. We also talked about the OVCs ( orphans and vulnerable children) and how there is supposed to be a meeting soon to plan a special day for the OVCs during which they would get food and presents. There have been problems planning it because people keep pushing back the meetings. I offered to help in whatever way I can and to come back to the school and help her encourage people with planning. She also brought up how there are 5 girls at the JSS who each just found out that they are pregnant recently and how school staff keep talking about how there needs to be more at the school to help empower and support the girls and how she has been feeling stuck with how to do so. I suggested a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) club so we are going to try to work together to form one and maybe use some of the PACT students to help with that. I'm really stoked about all of this. I know that I'm not going to save the world here, but it is nice to feel like there are some things that I can do, even if they are small, and working with kids is right up my ally. 
   When I was walking home from the S&CD office at the end of the day I saw a couple of students from the JSS who were there when I introduced myself to the entire student body a couple of weeks ago and asked "Neo, when are you coming back to talk to us?", and it made me smile when I could tell them that I would be back soon. 


"Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn't know you left open"

   Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is how I often find myself feeling guilty about being happy here. I can't explain it very well, and I know it sounds cliche, but for whatever reason, things just feel "right" here. I should be glad that I feel this way, right? That is what one would reasonably think. The thing is at times I feel insane for being happy here. I'm far away from my family and friends at home, who I do miss and at times I have hard days, but I still am glad to be here. More and more I see the trauma and sadness that people in this country are experiencing. I watch kids in my village search for food in the dumpster outside of the store near my house when I walk by, and I want to feed them all, but I know I can't. I hear about how there isn't much that can be done to help children who are being abused by the people who are supposed to be taking care of them because there just isn't  a system for dealing with that sort of trauma. I can listen and try to report things to the right people, but it is likely that nothing more will happen. This is the reality that I've heard this week of training and from more experienced volunteers. I heard today from my counterpart about three people, including a child, in my village dying because of HIV and starvation this past week when I've been here at training outside of my village, and it is heart breaking.Despite all of these horrible things, I feel glad to be here. Then I feel guilty because how can I be so happy when people are suffering around me? How can I feel happy to be here when the truth is I have no idea what I'm really doing? I'm new to this culture and have not experienced the kind of trauma that people here have. I've never worked in the social work system  here, which is very different from the U.S. All I feel I have to offer is that I care, will listen to anyone who needs to talk, and am not judgmental. For some odd reason this is enough to make me want to be here. I'm happy and feel guilty as hell for it.



   Today is the 4th day into my In-Service Training (IST), which I wrote a little about preparing for during my last post. It is a strange feeling being back to where I first came to this country, being in trainings that are not all that different from the trainings I participated in during Pre-Service Training (PST), and back into Setswana classes. I'm around the same group of Bots10 volunteers and the same Peace Corps staff as before, and  overall, things are very much the same. Yet, despite all of the similarities, it feels different. I guess that is the strange part. I think I'm starting to realize that the reason why things feel different is that I'm different. I know it is crazy to think that someone could possibly change over a time period of only four months, but I do feel different. I feel somewhat  overwhelmed being in the large group for long periods of time because I've gotten used to more quiet time, I feel more inclined to speak up about things, and overall just more relaxed about learning more Setswana. I also have seen first hand some of the loss and devastation that HIV has caused here in my village, and it makes everything feel so much more real. I know I still have a lot to learn because four months is nothing compared to a year or two, but I can feel myself slowly changing.


The Next Baby Step

   Today is my last day in my village for a couple of weeks because tomorrow I go to In-service Training (IST) with the rest of Bots10, my training class, in another village. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of Bots10 and getting to have so much American time. At the same time, I've realized that I'm a little sad to be leaving my own village for so much time. I've gotten used to my own little house and into a routine here, and it feels like I'm actually starting to do something. I never thought of myself as a homebody before coming here, but I've come to realize that sometimes I really do like to be on my own. I've been catching up on laundry and cleaning today, and just enjoying some relaxation and solitude before going away tomorrow. It has been nice.
   After IST I will no longer be on "lock-down", which means I can start leaving my village for things other than grocery shopping and can schedule vacations! I'm planning on going to South Africa  in January with a bunch of other volunteers so I'm looking forward to start preparing for that. It will be my first "out of country" trip here. I also want to travel around Botswana some more before then since I will be free to do so now. It feels so strange that I have already been in Botswana for four months. It will be nice to get to IST, spend time with the rest of Bots10, and make it to this next little baby step of my service.


Arts and Crafts!

   Today I'm meeting with the school head at one of the primary schools here because she saw me in the community the other day and brought up how she would like to bring more arts and crafts into the school. Arts and craft supplies are a bit expensive here so if anyone wants to send me a care package, please send arts and crafts supplies for the kids here instead of something for me. I have a few coloring books, some stickers, and construction paper that family and friends have sent me. Some good things to send would be boxes of crayons, more coloring books and paper, glue, and maybe some paints of some sort. Finger paints would be fun!
Like I said, my family has been sending me care packages each month so I'm well taken care of so I would prefer if anything else anyone sends is for the kids so I can work on fun projects with them.

P.O. Box 125
Werda Clinic
Werda, Botswana



The Funny Lakgoa!

   Today I was having an awful morning and felt extremely discouraged and upset by something that a staff member where I am placed did. This afternoon I was really looking forward to going to the Junior Secondary School here (JSS) as a way to get out of the office/ clinic and because I get along really well with the head of the guidance department there. The plan was for me to meet some students, introduce myself and explain what I'm doing here in the village, and hand out some surveys. From the discussion I had with the guidance counselors earlier in the week, I was expecting to be talking with about 30 students. About two minutes before I was supposed to be meeting with them, I  found out that I was  going to be speaking to the entire student body, which is a few hundred students! I was a bit shocked of course, but I took a deep breath and just introduced myself to them and explained why I was here and invited about 30 of them to come outside after the meeting to help me by filling out surveys. They were very quite for the most part , except for a few times when they giggled at the way I pronounced certain words. I made jokes like "haha yes I know I sound funny huh?". Then the guidance counselor I've been working on this with says "Yes, she is a lakgoa but you better get used to it if you want her to come back!". It that  made me laugh even more. The students were arguing over who got to fill out surveys after, and I felt badly that I hadn't known that I'd be meeting all of them or I would have brought more. I told them I'd be back, and that they could still stick around after the meeting to talk to me if they wanted to, and a few of them did. They were great, and even though the experience was different from what I expected, it still made my day. I'm looking forward to going back sometime soon.



   If there is one thing I have learned here so far, it is that the littlest things can make the biggest difference. I realized a couple of days ago that it has now been four months since I started this whole adventure, and four months since I have seen my family and friends back home. Time is weird here. Some days can feel so long and frustrating, disappointing, or just plain lonely. Overall though, the past four months seem to have flown by. I keep having these moments lately that I like to call "Holy shit, I'm in Africa." moments. When I walk home and 5 kids follow me shouting out "Hi Neo", I find a donkey hanging out in my yard, and when I am greeted at the clinic in the morning with "dumela"s, it makes me smile and feel really glad to be here. I also feel really proud of myself for getting through some of the tougher days.The fact that I actually have projects I'm starting to work on feels like such a big deal right now. I know it may not seem like a huge deal because I still have 22 more months to go, but to me, making it 4 months here feels really great.