50 Peace Corps Books

I posted the first 25 books I read in another post a while back, but people have been asking me what I've read here so I decided to just post all 50 books that I've read so far now so that they do not have to look back. Here they are!

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Stieg Larsson

2. The Princess Diaries Book 1-Cabot

3. The Book Thief

4. Light a Penny Candle-Maeve Binchy

5. Water for Elephants-Sara Gruen

6. The Wish Maker-Ali Sethi

7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone-J.K. Rowling

8. Happy Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

9.  Ape House-Sara Gruen

10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

11. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County- Tifany Baker

12. The Help

13. Cutting for Stone-Abraham Verghese

14. The Cross Gardner-Jason Wright

15. Millie's Fling-Jill Mansell

16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

17. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

18. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

19. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

20. Dork Whore

21. The Road

22. The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency-Alexandar McCall Smith

23. Middlesex-Jeffrey Eugenides

24. Fugitive Pieces-Anne Michaels

25. Jurassic Park -Michael Crichton

26.The Giver

27.Charlotte's Web-E.B. White

28.Things Fall Apart-Chinua Achebe

29.Sisterhood Everlasting-Ann Brashares

30.Bossy Pants-Tina Fey

31.Lord of the Flies-William Golding

32.Slaughterhouse-Five-Kurt Vonnegut
33. The Catcher in the Rye-J.D. Salinger
34. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
35. The Color of Water

36. Tuck Everlasting
37. Vernon God Little
38. The Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins
39. She's Come Undone
40. Catching Fire-2nd Hunger Games
41. Mockingjay -3rd Hunger Games
42. The PACT- Jodi Picoult
43. The Tenth Circle-Jodi Picoult
44. Roots-Alex Haley
45.The Poisonwood Bible -Barbara Kingsolver
46. Northern Lights-Norah Roberts
47. The Great Penguin Rescue- Dyan DeNapoli
48. Sh*t My Dad Says-Justin Halpern
49. Life of Pi-Yann Martel
50. Little Women-Louisa May Alcott


20 Months at Site Pays Off!

   For Peace Corps volunteers  it can often feel like our impact is very minimal, and it can be rare to actually see one's impact. I was lucky enough recently to be able to see 20 months of work at site (22 months in Botswana) pay off .Two days ago I went to the Junior school to introduce myself to new students at an assembly because the new school year just began here. At the end of assembly I ended up being left with over 130 Form I  students ( about the equivalent of 8th graders in the U.S.) because the teachers who were supposed to be running a new student orientation for them ended up having to go to a workshop instead. I was legitimately told "Just talk to them about HIV or something for 4 hours" on the spot.
    No way was I going to just lecture to these students for four hours straight. First of all, I was not prepared, and second of all, I would have gotten sick of listening to myself talk for that long ,and I knew they would have too! Instead, I talked to the guidance teacher and asked him to gather the PACT students to help me. I then watched in awe as my PACT students essentially put on a workshop about HIV, Gender Issues, Dating Relationships, and Substance Abuse for over 130 of their peers without time to prepare and with very little help from me. I literally only had to help them a bit with time reminders and speaking with a few students who were being disrespectful to them. Overall, they kept their peers engaged and happy for four hours and even though I know they were tired and it was not easy for them, they pushed through and were amazing. I was so proud of them that I was almost to the point of tears. Not only were the Junior school PACT students amazing, but I also got to see many of my former primary school PACT students who are now in Form I in action. They were answering questions and among the most engaged students there. I really got to see them put what they had learned through primary PACT club in action as well. 
   Lately I had been feeling anxious about leaving so soon and wondering what my impact has been here and if it has been enough. I've been afraid of leaving and feeling like my service was incomplete. However, because of these PACT students I now see that I have done something here and will be able to leave feeling like I've left something behind. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful of a feeling this is.


Open Minds in a Small Place

   Overall, Botswana is a politically conservative country when it comes to many subjects, including sexuality and sexual orientation. It isn't illegal to be gay here per say,but it is illegal to engage in any sexual activity that can not lead to procreation. There is a LGBT organization based in the capital city and there certainly are members of the LGBT community living in Botswana, but most who are out  about their sexual orientation live in the capital or in larger villages, not in the small, rural areas. I can't comment on whether or not it is physically unsafe for someone to be out in a village here or not because that would totally depend on the individual's situation. I've heard of teenagers who have come out here being beaten by parents or other family members as a form of discipline/punishment for being gay or using substances or harming themselves because they are afraid to be out or are being rejected for being out. Overall, Botswana is a peaceful country, but family dynamics and religious views have an influence, just as they have an influence in other parts of the world, including the U.S. Even if there isn't a physical threat, I can see how it could be intimidating for someone to be out in a small village here because it could feel very isolating and have some potential social implications for them. There isn't very much support or education regarding sexuality/sexual orientation in the smaller villages so many people just do not understand and lack of understanding often leads to discrimination and prejudice.
   Now keeping all of this in mind, I want to tell you about how I've had the privilege of getting to know a pretty incredible person in my small village who is openly gay and even dresses in drag frequently. This person is a respected member of the community, and from what I have been told and witnessed feels safe in the village and doesn't experience harassment within the village. I do not know what this person's experience has been growing up here entirely, but I know I am certainly admire the bravery it can take be fully oneself in a place where so many would not feel comfortable or safe enough to do so. I also am impressed by and was taken a little bit by surprise by the general open-mindedness of my small village community. It makes me feel lucky to live here in this village and to get the chance to meet such wonderful people who are able to say things like "We may not agree with it, but someone's life is his or her own life". I wish more people in this world were able to adopt that attitude, even in the United States.