23 Degrees South

Living and learning in Botswana during my two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. NOTE: This is a personal journal and does not necessarily represent the views of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Two Years in the Blink of an Eye

September 15, 2014

Last weekend I celebrated (if you can call baking cookies and reading a book all afternoon celebrating) two years in Botswana! I remember that last year, for my one year mark, it seemed like a festive time and quite an accomplishment. This year, while I am still proud of my accomplishments, it does seem less like a big deal, such as celebrating two years of working somewhere, or two years since finishing school, it just is. In addition, as I am finishing my service, I am on what PCV’s call ‘lockdown’ (PC admin calls it ‘community integration’, but since both at the beginning and end of our service it keeps us in our villages rather than traveling, our own term often seems more fitting) and so I am much more in the mindset of spending time in my community than traveling to celebrate with my intake group.

Peace Corps has also taught me to look at the passing of time differently. I now think of six months as a short amount of time. I suppose that if I am used to spending several hours waiting for transport, or spending four hours at a meeting where I can only understand one word in 100, that 6 months would seem like nothing at all. I would say that since about April, time has flow by faster than I ever would have believed.

I have started to make an effort to wind-down my projects and start thinking about saying goodbye and packing up my things. I keep thinking of this situation as being like raising a guide dog. I have put in so much work, and invested myself to the cause. It’s been a huge part of my life for this designated amount of time. And although I have known all along that I was going to have to move on, to graduate the dog on to its next people, it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. (If people in my village knew I was comparing them to a dog, I would never hear the end of it, but I use the metaphor simply to illustrate the connection I have formed here, as well as the friendships and sense of belonging).
I am happy that Peace Corps is planning on placing another volunteer at my site after I leave; it makes me feel less bad about those projects that I just never managed to find the time or energy to start. It also means that the kids I have formed amazing relationships will hopefully still have someone to chat with over lunch break, or borrow a ball from in the evenings. I just hope that the person to follow me will have a great an experience as I have had.
However, I am also looking forward to what lies ahead for me. In the very near future, just about a month from now, when I transition from PCV to RPCV, is my trip to Mozambique with a few PCV friends. I can’t wait to spend a week just relaxing on a white sandy beach with my toes in the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It is rather remarkable that after these two years, I can still look forward to any kind of sand! And then, before I know it, I will be back in the States, with all its wonders! Being home, with family and friends, my dog, and all the coffee I can consume, has been a happy thought drifting through my mind for the past two years. I don’t think the people back home can possibly imagine how great an impact their love and support has made on me while I have been here. I could not have been so successful and had such a positive experience without all of those amazing people. So THANK YOU!!!
Some of the things I have been up to mo motse wa me (in my village) include:

• Trying to re-acclimate to the sudden return of summer
• Completely absorbed in the third book of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
• Learning how to build a traditional hut
• Working on my thesis (slowly but surely!)
• Re-writing all of my Setswana notes into a more compact notebook to bring home with me
• Separating my belongings by what I will leave and what I will take
• Helping the adult education class with paper bead-making sessions for income generation
• Hosting one of the new PC trainees for a few days in shadowing, where she lived my life with me to see what a volunteer’s life might entail
• Planting moringa seeds for my home compound and the school
• Making smoothies
• Running through the forest
• Enjoying each day as it comes
A while ago I was going through reference materials for a girl’s leadership camp and came across this passage. I thought it was great for the girls, but also something that we all might benefit from.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
“Actually, who are you not to be?…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Excerpt from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

Ithlopele go thsela botshelo jo bo bontle
Choose for yourself to live a beautiful life

Peace and love to you all!

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6 thoughts on “Two Years in the Blink of an Eye

  1. Loving you and can’t wait to see what you do next!

  2. Terry McDonald on said:

    Hi there sweets, Clay and I would love to come to you thesis presentation if it is okay with you. Do you know when it will be?

    Sent from my iPad so please excuse all typos and weirdly auto-corrected words.

    >

  3. such a beautiful message Jessica. So much love to you.

  4. Harry Cadelago on said:

    Wow. “Choose for yourself to live a beautiful life” thank you Jessica for an inspiring blog and final statement….I will add this to “seize the Day”
    I am in awe of your devoted life and your expressing it so beautifully
    I considerate it an honor to have had you as a student
    You are truly accomplished
    Hope to see you

  5. Jess, thank you for including us all in your journey these past two years. I have really enjoyed reading your blog and following along on this adventure. Enjoy your final moments and safe travels home.

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