I have yet to learn how to eat a mango without requiring a full bath afterwards! Summer is in full swing here in Botswana, evidenced through the piles of mangoes and watermelons for sale at the street vendors (which only really exist in my shopping village, which actually has “streets”). Along with the great selection of fruit comes the inevitable heat, but that was to be expected, as this is Africa, after all!
I am writing this long overdue post on Monday, Feb. 4 and have recently returned from a two week Peace Corps training in the capital. I have been much busier than I would have expected for the past month, but I suppose that is a good thing! The weeks approaching my training, I was finishing up a community assessment that I have been working on since November, as well as spending full days at the school. As I was working on my assessment, I kept realizing just how much there is to learn, and that I will never have a full understanding of this community (at least not in the 2 years that I will be here). It was also a great excuse to ask questions that I otherwise might be uncomfortable asking to new acquaintances. I received some great feedback on issues like gender roles, HIV and stigma, traditional medicine practices, orphans and vulnerable children, the local economy, and history of the village. I also had the opportunity to interview the Kgosi (chief). I was excited to get help translating my questions into Setswana for him so I could speak to him directly, but he was still unable to understand me, but it all worked out.
I continue to feel more and more at home here, and feel like I am getting to know a significant portion of the people in my village. When I got back from being gone for 2 weeks it felt like I had been gone for a year, but it was so nice to be back! A few people I ran into told me they thought I had gone back to America, and it felt nice to tell them that I would be staying here for quite some time still.
I’ll try to fill in on my two weeks of training:
The first week we stayed about 45 minutes south of the capital at the International Law Enforcement Academy in the dorms and conference room. It was a beautiful place, with green lawns (that we were not allowed to walk on) and at the base of the largest “mountain” in Botswana (which I was thinking was more of a large hill, but it was still a beautiful sight). We received a lot of technical training, which will help me as I start to actually do what I came here to do. It was great to see the rest of my group, most of whom I had not seen since we all left training in Nov.
On Saturday we all packed up and headed back up to the capital to spend the next week at Oasis Motel for the remainder of our training. The hotel was pretty awesome, with a swimming pool, amazing shower, air conditioning, fluffy beds, and great food! I think we all agreed that Peace Corps was trying to fatten us up before sending us off again. One of the great things about this country is the importance of tea break. Really, this is just a mid-morning extra meal, usually with sandwiches or rolls to accompany tea or coffee. We found out that the hotel might be able to cook us Indian food for one night, which we were all very excited about. They made it a fantastic evening, setting up a buffet for us outside on the lawn and even had music set us for us! After eating we made it a dance party, but then the power went out. However, that didn’t stop us from having a great night, dancing in the dark under the stars without music! After that some of us went for a night swim, as we did most nights.
It was a busy two weeks of training all day, with just 1 free day, but it was really nice to have the evenings to relax and catch up with the other volunteers! And to keep us all from going into withdraws from each other, we are having regional meetings in two weeks. This will just be for a weekend, but all of the volunteers in my area (not only my group, but also the groups that have been here for longer than me) will meet up to talk about our projects and sites and get to hang out some more.
As I was trekking back to my village from the capital I couldn’t help but think about the adventure it will be when I have people come to visit! In case you are considering it let me share (and honestly this is not meant to discourage you, it is an awesome adventure and I really do love that this is my life). Firstly, it’s only about 75 miles from the capital to my village. I left the hotel on a shuttle heading to the bus rank at noon. We got on the bus heading to my shopping village and I ended up with my hiking backpack on my lap (there isn’t really storage room on the transport here) and my other smaller bags at my feet and above my seat. I was with 2 other volunteers waiting for the bus to fill up before leaving.
The usual people selling drinks and snacks were walking down the aisle, but then a random guy leaned over with this strange device in his hand (at first I thought it was a clamp) but then asked if we wanted to have our ears pierced! We were all shocked and looked at each other wondering if this was really happening! Have you ever considered having your ears pierced in the middle of a dirty, sweaty bus by a totally strange man? Well, we all declined, saying that we already have our ears pierced (yes, we got it done in America, and no, we don’t need to have them pierced again in Botswana). The bus finally got moving, with lots of stops along the way. I think it took a good 30 mins just to get out of Gabs. Then we got to the bus rank in my shopping village, which was surprisingly not crowded. The van that goes directly to my village was not there, so I took a different one that gets me 11K from my village, where it is usually pretty easy to get a ride the rest of the way.
Again, I squeezed myself and all of my stuff into this cramped bus for another 45 minutes or so. When I got to the village that is just 11K from home I was crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t have to wait long for a ride (I think the longest I’ve had to wait is an hour and a half, but the later in the day the longer the wait usually, and it was after 4). Luckily the van to my village pulled up after only about 30 mins. I literally had to squeeze into this one, as it was already full, and I had more stuff than I would have liked. I finally walked into my hose at exactly 5 pm, a whole 5 hours after I left the hotel, just 75 miles away. Also, the walk from where the van drops off and my house is about 15 minutes through the sand (roller suitcases are pointless, and I love my backpack I bought before I came here).
My house was only a little dusty, and surprisingly free of bugs which I usually have to sweep up the remains of every morning. I was disturbingly smelly and tired from the day of travel and 2 weeks of spending time with friends instead of getting enough sleep. I took a fantastic cold bath, ate some cereal, got half way through the Hunger Games movie, and went to bed. The next day, Sunday, I had to go back to my shopping village, since I had almost no food, but that trip was routine, and relatively painless. Except I only bought 1 bar of chocolate to last me 2 weeks. I have no idea why that seemed like a good idea when I was at the store, but I suppose I will survive.
Well this laptop is starting to burn off my legs, so I guess I will end this update for now.
But first here are a few fun phrases I have recently learned in Setswana:
O seka wa betsa yo mongwe / Don’t hit anyone
Nnyaa, o seka wa ntlhola kgantele / No, you cannot check me later (cannot visit me later- men often ask to “check” a woman later)
Ke tshwanetse go tsamaya jaanong / I have to leave now
Ke kopa o mpusetse pene ya me / can I please have my pen back?
Sending love and hugs!
Being official during training
In complete awe of the washing machine
The kids warming up for track practice