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!