PACT Workshop

   This weekend I held my very first PACT workshop for JSS students in my village. The goal was to train the current members as well as some new Form I students who were interested in joining PACT in basic counseling skills, decision making, communication, leadership, and being positive role models, and to work on team building. Two other PCVs came to my village to help me with my workshop and co-facilitate. Twenty seven students attended and two were Form 1s, which was great. The two guidance counselors even attended and were there for support if we needed them. They sort of sat back and watched, but they seemed interested in what we were doing and thanked us afterward. The workshop went very well. My PACT students are great. They seemed genuinely interested, actively participated, and really came together as a team.  It was so great seeing how enthusiastic they got when they successfully completed their team building activities and how they cheered each other on. Even some of the shyer students really stepped up. I'm very proud of all of them. It was also great getting to spend time with the PCVs who helped me. I learned how to make homemade mac and cheese with the help of my friends, and I successfully made homemade pizza on my own this weekend. I told them not to help me so I could learn on my own lol). We also watched a lot of "Glee", which is always a good time.
   In other news, the ten students from Werda who will be attending GLOW camp (Girls Leading Our World) in my district have been selected. I collected their applications this past week and met with the head of guidance to select the 10 students on Friday. It was a very difficult decision because I would have been glad to take all 14 of them who applied if I could, but 10 was the limit. We announced the GLOW students after the PACT training yesterday, and I was impressed by how maturely the students who can not go reacted and with how careful the selected students were not to rub in how happy they were. I'm looking forward to the camp even more than I was before  because of how much fun I had with the PACT workshop. 
   It has been quite hot here.  For all of this week it has looked like it may rain, but then the sky clears up! I really hope that it rains soon because it is hot, and sometimes just a little rain makes a huge difference here. My friends left to go back to their villages today so I'm just relaxing now with Dobby curled up next to me on my couch. I'm in a bit of a funk today, and it is hard to pinpoint why exactly that is, but I know it will pass soon because that's how it goes. 

A Year Older...and Wiser?

   I turned 28 last weekend, and I was fortunate to be able to celebrate with some good friends. I went to the capital and out for an Italian dinner with some friends the night before my birthday. Then on my birthday we had birthday brunch with chocolate cake at a PCV friend's home and spent time in a pool! I feel truly blessed to have truly great friends here. It could have been a tough first birthday far from home, but it wasn't because of the people I was surrounded by. 
   Everyone keeps asking me my "wishes" for my 28th year. I will share some of my goals for this year : to make the most out of my Peace Corps experience, become a better cook and cook more foods that are good for me and that I enjoy, learn guitar, stand up for myself more, and to accept that there are some things that I just do not have control over and to let those things go. I feel pretty lucky to be turning 28 in Botswana and am ready for the up and down roller coaster ride that the next year is bound to be. I feel myself changing and hopefully for the better. 


Ga Ke Bidiwa Baby!

   I will first start out by saying that most people in my village have been very kind, respectful, and welcoming to me. I have friends here and am grateful for them. I can honestly say that I enjoy my work at the schools in my village, and for the most part I enjoy the company of the people I work with. Typically, when I walk down the streets of my village people call me by name now or politely wave and say "Dumela". Most of the time I enjoy walking around my village and seeing familiar faces. Overall, it feels like home.
   However, there are a select few people in my village who continue to disrespect me, and that is something that I'm finding frustrating this week. These people are men in my village who know my name but still continue to call me "Baby" whenever they see me These are people who continue to try to ask me out or ask for my phone number when I am busy trying to work with the youth in my village, even though I've told them again and again that I am here to work and not to date anyone. These are people who I see or hear about disrespecting other women or girls at the schools in my village. These are people, who in my opinion, are an embarrassment to their country and culture because they behave in a way that goes against what the majority of their country promotes. I am angry and frustrated by these men who are rude to me ( I do not feel unsafe here so no worries there), but mostly I am saddened by the fact that this is what the young girls here are growing up to deal with all of the time, and the  young boys in my village are watching these men behaving this way and maybe learning that it is acceptable behavior.
   My name is Neo or Kristen and not "Baby", and these women and girls have names, brains, and personalities too. I won't let the small group of jerks ruin my day, week, or service. I'll stick with the people who matter and hope that the kids here are learning from the positive role models around them instead of from these guys.


Ga ke na Electricity???

   It is common for the electricity to be off and on in Botswana anyway, but there are likely to be more outages now because of some changes happening. Here is the link to an article explaining this.


   So far my electricity has been going out every other day for just part of the day, which isn't that bad. I just figured I'd post something explaining that it could become more frequent just in case. I've got plenty of candles, two flashlights, and have been charging my phone and laptop whenever the power is on in preparation for potential power outages so don't worry about me! Just know that if you email me and I take longer to reply than normal that it is probably because of this.


Seeing Change...even a small change...is a gift

   Much of the time I do not feel like I'm doing anything of importance or making much of an impact here. I love my village and my life here now, but at the same time it can be difficult not seeing anything change. It is easy to get wrapped up in the sadness and pain of what I hear and see and forget that even though my role here is small, I am making some sort of impact. Today I experienced one of those rare moments during which I could literally see change happening.
   I was walking to one of the primary schools in my village this afternoon to prepare for the first Standard 7 PACT club meeting of the new school year and check in with a couple of teachers first. Classes were still going on when I saw one of my PACT students talking with another student who I only knew from coming to play soccer after school once.I overheard this other student trying to convince my PACT student to dodge afternoon classes. I simply said "Hello, how are you?" and waved as I walked by. A few seconds later the PACT student said to me "PACT club today?" , and I told her yes. Then I heard her tell the other student who was continuing to try to get her to dodge classes with her something along the lines of "Nyaa PACT club kgantele!" (No, PACT club is later!).  I intentionally walked slowly to give the PACT student a chance to catch up and walk with me if she wanted without embarrassing her in front of her friend. I then heard footsteps behind me and when I turned around the PACT student was there and so was her friend, and both of them walked to the school with me. Not only did they both attend the PACT meeting  after school, but they also both payed attention and were involved in the discussion and answering questions. I know it seems so small, but to me seeing a student speak up to another student and convince her to make a positive decision is a huge deal. I was so proud of her. It also is kind of cool that PACT club helped to motivate them to go back to school because truancy and students completely dropping out of school are both huge problems in my  village.
   This is one of those moments I'm going to try to remember whenever I feel discouraged here, and I'm grateful for it.


Back from vacation, 9 months in Bots, and Summer

   As I write this it is nearly 3am, and I'm sitting in my room with a fan directly on me and still feel like I'm roasting. I woke up because I needed water and then noticed a cockroach way too close to my bed for comfort and killed it. Now I'm having trouble getting back to sleep. It is very hot here now, and I'm still adjusting to that. I also am adjusting from being back from vacation in Cape Town where it was much cooler. My body isn't used to this. I said goodbye to my friends I traveled with and stood on a crowded bus for about 4.5 hours, and I was stared at and called "lekoga". I'm realizing it is going to take time to readjust to being back in Botswana and standing out so much again after blending in so much in Cape Town, which is a city that has a population greater than the entire country of Botswana. I know I will readjust. I'm not sure if I will ever fully adjust to the heat, but I hopefully will get more used to it. 
   I have now been in Botswana for 9 months, which feels shocking and wonderful all at the same time. In some ways it feels hard to believe that it has been so long, and in other ways it definitely feels like 9 months. Adjusting to life here and developing the connections I've made with members of my community has taken a lot of hard work and patience and has definitely involved some frustration and disappointment.  However, I can honestly say that Werda feels like home to me now. It is so very different from my U.S. home and there are things that I love about that and things that I dislike about that all at the same time, but nonetheless it is home. I actually feel like I have a life here now. I have friends and a pet. My house feels comfortable to me, and I really love it. School starts back up again soon, and I already have projects planned from the end of last school year that I'm really looking forward to working on. I'm excited to be present in the schools from the start of the school year now and to see some of the students and teachers I had developed connections with at the end of the school year . Some PCV friends and I are already talking about planning some kind of trip for April or May to celebrate one year in country. It feels so crazy that one year in country is only 3 months away. 
   I had a great vacation and could write a lot about Cape Town, but I will try to focus in on a few of my favorite experiences from the trip. First of all, this was my first time out of Botswana in 9 months so I was really enthusiastic to be traveling at all. We all ate so much wonderful food throughout the week. I'd have to say that my favorite dining experiences of the week each included Mexican food. I also enjoyed some McDonalds, sushi, and amazing coffee beverages of all varieties. There were three main day time activities that were my favorite. We spent one day at the beach, and it was so great to see the ocean again. I'm a New Englander and have never lived anywhere away from the ocean so I definitely missed that. It was wonderful. We also went on a wine tour and tasted many types of wines and so much cheese, which was a lot of fun. I also enjoyed seeing the scenery at the various wineries they brought us to on our tour. Cape Town and its surrounding areas are very beautiful. I also went to Robben-Island on my own one day because I had booked my ticket very early on and nobody else had been able to book tickets for that same day and time. It was kind of nice to break off and explore on my own for a bit though, and I ended up meeting some PCVs from Lesotho who were in Cape Town for vacation as well, which was pretty cool. My favorite evening activities were going to an Irish pub with live music because it felt like I was back in Boston and going to a gay bar/ drag show for a bit because it was nice being somewhere where people are freer to be open about their sexuality again. Sometimes it is hard living in Botswana where that isn't talked about or accepted as openly or easily when you come from a place where it is. For most of the trip I felt like I was in America because Cape Town is a very developed city and that was strange, overwhelming, and wonderful all at once. I will say that the fast pace was exhausting and that I'm definitely not used to that anymore. It has made me see how going home at the end of my service will definitely come with some challenges and require a lot of readjustment to American life as well. Good thing I've got 17 more months left  ; ). 

Peace out for now!