PACT Club Update

   I realized that even though I've been blogging a lot,  it has been a while since I've written about the PACT clubs that I work with, and people from home have been asking me what is happening with them. Both of the PACT clubs that I work with, one at the JSS and one at one of the primary schools, are doing very well. The JSS PACT students now consistently present every Tuesday to a total of 15 classrooms during a free period time during which the students would otherwise just be sitting in classrooms on their own doing nothing. I go for support, but they are presenting the information and each week I see their confidence and presentation skills improving. Every Wednesday and sometimes on Mondays if they need some extra support I meet with them right after school. At these weekly meetings we talk about different issues that impact youth here. Initially, I came up with the topic each week because they were so shy that they would just sit there and stare at me if I didn't have something planned. Now they suggest a topic each week, I bring team builder activities and activities that help them to have open discussions and debate the topics, and they talk very openly. Then they take that topic and present the information to the classrooms the following Tuesday during the presentation times. I'm SO proud of them and how far they have come. This week the topic we discussed at their Wednesday meeting was love and dating relationships. They talked about what they thought about love, dating, sex, and the issues that come up in relationships very openly with each other and with me. Then I asked them to play a game where if they agreed with the statement they went to one side of the room and if they disagreed they went to the other. The statements were all about dating relationships. A few months ago, if I had played that game with them they would have just followed each other and wouldn't have stated their opinions. I was so impressed with how they chose for themselves and were able to argue their own points if they disagreed with each other. I literally was teary eyed after the meeting. The younger, primary PACT students are doing well too. They started out even shyer than the JSS students, and it has taken a very long time to draw them out of their shells, but I'm really seeing them start to open up more, trust me, ask more questions that they would have been embarrassed to ask a while ago, and come together as a team. Two of the primary PACT students recently presented at an assembly for the very first time! I was so proud of them. They were two of the more outspoken students, but I'm hoping they will help to motivate the shyer ones to start to speak up more too. Today I introduced the conversation of dating and love to the primary PACT students as well, but I geared it more toward younger students. I was surprised by some of the comments made and questions asked though, and I will be presenting to them about puberty next week because many of the questions were related to that. They have been so shy  that I'm actually really glad that they are asking those questions and feel comfortable enough with each other and with me to talk. The primary PACT students also finally figured out one of the solutions to a team builder called "Flip It" today. Everyone starts out holding hands facing inside of a circle and has to flip around so that they are all still holding hands but facing the outside of a circle. It took them two PACT meetings to find this solution, and they were beginning to get frustrated, but their tenacity is impressive. A few of them begged me to just tell them the answer a few times, but I told them that they would feel so much better if they figured it out on their own. When they did they jumped up and down and cheered and told me I was right and that they felt better solving it on their own. They want to work on the second solution next week. 
   I have some other projects going on at the schools as well. I'm working on a workshop for the primary PACT club that I've been working with and to help kick-off a PACT club at the other primary school in my village. Other PCVs and guidance teachers will be helping me with this. I'm also going to be doing some more STEPS film presentations at the schools, and I"m starting back up Life Skill Talks and Soccer for the primary school students now that it isn't 110 degrees out anymore. The other day I met the new JSS art teacher who also is connected with the guidance and counseling department, and he invited me to come to art club meetings and to help motivate some more students to get involved so I'll be starting that next week. I'm excited about that because even though it has been a very long time since I've taken any art classes, art is something that I enjoy. It'll also give me the chance to interact more with some of the JSS students who aren't' in PACT, and maybe I'll be able to recruit some more PACT students. 

Werda students will also be participating in two more GLOW camps! One of them will be in Moshupa, and one will be in this district again. More on those at a later date!

Peace out for now! 


Diversity Day and PSDN

   I'm now a member of the Peer Support and Diversity Network (PSDN) of PCVs here. Another member of PSDN and I organized and co-facilitated Diversity Day for the new group  of volunteers, Bots12, last weekend. We organized a panel including 6 volunteers in addition to ourselves, and we discussed different diversity related situations that we've dealt with here. The day didn't go as planned because of some problems that came up last minute that were out of our control and that was disappointing  because we had put a lot of work into planning the day (that is an entirely other story itself), but the new group of volunteers are really great. It was nice getting to know them, and we did get to stay and spend time talking about diversity with them after the training for  a bit. The other panel participants were also great, and I'm very grateful to have been able to work with my co-facilitator and them.  It felt sort of surreal at first being at PST because the past year since I was in training has gone by so fast! I feel sort of like a high school or college senior. I know that sounds weird, but what I mean by that  is that it is a good feeling be able to be there for support for the new group because I know what it is like.  I'm glad to have made it the year and to be a member of PSDN. 


Body Image

  Something that has been on my mind for a while that I haven't written about at all is the issue of body image here (or at least my experiences with body image here). First of all, like many young women, I have had my own struggles off and on regarding body image throughout my life, growing up and as a young adult. I also spent time in the U.S working at a residential treatment center with teenage girls, some of whom were struggling with eating disorders and many of whom certainly struggled with issues around body image. Eating disorders and body image struggles were so common to hear about at home. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer anywhere is something that can certainly impact one's body image in one way or another. It is not uncommon for PCVs to gain or lose weight throughout our service due to changes in diet, stress, increase/ decrease of exercise or a number of other factors. Personally, my weight has fluctuated up and down over the past year. I lost weight when I first got here because of being sick and then gained weight probably due to stress and eating a lot of meat pies at the end of training (Breaded, greasy goodness haha). Then I sort of evened out when I got to site and lost a bit of weight over time just from walking a lot , the summer, and eating healthier for the most part so that I now weigh a little less than when I first arrived in Botswana. In the past, all of this fluctuation is something that would have bothered me, but I've actually become more comfortable in my own skin being here in Botswana. I think one reason for that is that I've learned to care more about my health and taking care of myself and appreciate my own health more. Even though not everyone I see is starving here or looks like what you see on commercials , I do know children  in my village who don't have enough to eat and see them going through trash, and I have seen people who are dying not only because of HIV but because of not having enough to eat on top of being sick. I can't see that and then obsess over numbers on the scale; it makes me feel selfish for ever doing that. Yes, I still have my moments of eating meat pies or ice cream or pizza when I'm in larger villages that have those things or times when I may be down to only rice at the end of  the month before we get our allowances, but for the most part I try to cook healthy foods for myself and have variety in my diet now because I want to stay healthy, and it is fun to learn to cook new meals. I care more about that. Also, from what I've been told ,eating disorders are basically nonexistent in Botswana. ( I'm not saying that everyone here has a perfect body image or self-esteem because that is certainly not true anywhere). However, people do tend to appreciate curves and will say "You are getting fat" as a compliment when you return from a weekend away or a vacation. What they mean by this is "you are well-fed and happy". At first it used to bother me a little when people said this to me, but now I sort of have come to appreciate it. I hope this is an attitude I can maintain after this experience. 


Books 26 -35

I wrote a previous blog entry listing the first 25 books I read in Botswana. People have been asking me what else I've been reading lately so here are the next 10 books that I read.

26.The Giver
27.Charlotte's Web
28.Things Fall Apart
29.Sisterhood Everlasting
30.Bossy Pants
31.Lord of the Flies
33. The Catcher in the Rye
34. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
35. The Color of Water

I think I will  read the Hunger Games series next, but I'm still deciding. 


One Whole Year!!!

   Saturday March 31st marked a year since I began this whole PC adventure. That was the day that I said goodbye to my family and friends in Maine and left for staging in Philadelphia and the first day that I met the other members of Bots10. Today marks one year since our arrival in Botswana.  A year feels like such a long time and such a short amount of time all at once. Some days, especially in the beginning, felt so long and difficult, but at the same time, time has flown by. Time has been flying particularly quickly over the past three months or so, partly I think because I've been significantly busier and partly because I feel so comfortable. I was able to celebrate this one year milestone with some  other PCVs this past weekend. A few of us spent hours looking at pictures from the past year. It is so strange to think about how much we have all changed  individually and how close of a group we have become over the past year. It has been quite the adventure that is for sure! We also went out for dinner and dancing to celebrate, which was so much fun.  A year is a big deal, and I'm glad we celebrated it in style. 
   I've been thinking a lot more about what will come next for me lately. Part of me feels like I really want to go home after this in June of 2013, spend a month or so in Maine with my family, and then go to graduate school in the fall of 2013. The other part of me thinks this experience is going by far more quickly than I want it to and is thinking of extending my service. I go back and forth on this every time someone asks me at this point. Some days I think "hell no" , there is no way I can be here that much longer and that my family and friends would be upset with me if I did extend. Other days I think "Yes, I could stay here longer". When PCVs extend they are allowed to go home for  a month first, and if I could go home to spend a month with my family and friends I think I may be able to do it. On the other hand, maybe a month wouldn't be long enough, and maybe when I go home I'll want to be home for good, and I do really want to go to graduate school after this so maybe I shouldn't delay that any longer?  Who knows?. I'm aware that I still have quite some time before I need to make that decision, but it is something that has been on my mind a lot recently.
   Family and friends at home who are reading this, I love and miss you tons! I can't believe it has been a year since I've seen any of you!  ( My thinking of extending does not mean I do not miss you! And like I said, it is just a thought at this point)I have never gone this much time without seeing my family. I miss Maine and the ocean.I miss lobster and pizza.  I miss seeing my little brother, Jordan, dance. I miss my dogs. I miss my NLSers and all of the craziness they bring into my life. I miss my DZs and going to Alumnae gatherings. I even miss watching really cheesy movies with my mom, and I miss my dad's dorky jokes. I miss trips to visit my grandparents. I miss Irish pubs and live bands. I miss 90s nights and dancing to Backstreet Boy and Hanson songs.I miss walking all over Boston with friends at various hours and going to Red Sox games. I miss hearing my friends and family laugh and their voices, and I miss being able to hug them. 
   Despite all of this missing, I am happy here at this one year mark. Bring on the next `14 months, Botswana!