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.

Archive for the category “Updates”

Highlights from the last couple weeks

Time is flying by as I near the end of me service! I have not had a chance to update this blog with all of the details, but wanted to take a few minutes to at least share some of my favorite recent endeavors.

  • Taking advantage of the long President’s day weekend to visit a friend in eastern Botswana
  • Spending the night in a tree fort in a national park and seeing elephants and hyenas! (Nothing quite like having a serious conversation about the likelihood of being eaten by a leopard…)
  • Attending my Close of Service Conference with my fellow 28 Bots 13 intake group
  • Playing Pula to Pula, a game invented by a few of my friends based loosely on the game Apples to Apples, but about being a PCV in Botswana
  • My ‘deep-sand-forest-runs’: Not everyone has the opportunity to live on the edge of the Kalahari Desert with its infinite sand, but this is definitely one of my favorite workouts!
  • Spending the lunch break in my office with students reading, coloring, and just chatting
  • Preparing for an expressive arts camp at the end of this week by making a crazy amount of paper beads for the session I am co-facilitating
  • Last night I started reading The Invisible Cure by Helen Epstein. I have only read the preface and first chapter but am already hooked. So far it seems to match my own impressions about why HIV has affected southern and eastern Africa so dramatically. I definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the cultural and social determinants of this epidemic, and why my job here is not an easy one.
  • Receiving a care package from my mom with a bag of espresso, just in time, as I have not been able to find real coffee in the grocery store here!
  • Buying my plane ticket, first to Mozambique, and then back home!
  • Rediscovering French toast! How did I manage without this treat for the past 2 years!?! Even better, last weekend I found strawberries at the store for CHEAP! Mmmm strawberry French toast!
I love the feeling of being completely surrounded by nature out here. Everything looks dead, but it's still strangely beautiful

I love the feeling of being completely surrounded by nature out here. Everything looks dead, but it’s still strangely beautiful

All in a days work. Paper beads for the upcoming arts camp.

All in a days work. Paper beads for the upcoming arts camp.

Our tree fort in Tuli!

Our tree fort in Tuli!


Library books, puppies, camp, and Setswana!

It’s Sunday, and, after a bowl of oatmeal and a strong, steamy cup of coffee, I decided to sit down and read, shuffling my chair every now and then to follow the sun. The last few days have gotten really cold. I know that many people have a hard time believing that the entire continent of Africa can be anything but stifling, but that is just not the case. Last night I slept in wool socks, leggings, sweat pants, a t-shirt and long sleeved shirt, inside of my sleeping bag with three blankets over me, and I was just warm enough. I can see my breath in my house when I get up, and my toes have been constantly numb. I am not complaining, just trying to dissolve the Africa=constant heat myth.

It has been a while since I have posted an update, and I have been rather busy, so I will work my way back for as long as I can remember (and manage not to get distracted while writing).

Back to School:

This last week was the first week back to school after a three week break, and the beginning of the second school term. Over the break my school received four boxes of books donated by an amazing American organization called Books for Botswana (BotswanaBookProject.org). I spent most of this week organizing and color coding these new books, as well as the books we already had. When I finish this project, the school library will be color-coded for a child-friendly version of the Dewey Decimal system. I find it very interesting how many volunteers here in Botswana have become expert librarians! It’s a nice activity with tangible results and nearly instant gratification, so I definitely understand the appeal.


Last weekend a complete miracle happened, and I was able to rescue four puppies from the pit of a pit latrine. The family I stay with has been in the process of building a new pit latrine for over a year now, and it is practically finished, just needs a door and perhaps a few other finishing touches, but is not yet usable. A random neighborhood dog decided to have her puppies under a wood pile near the unused pit latrine about 6 weeks ago, and the puppies have just recently started to wander around that corner of the yard, outside of their wood-pile den. Last Sunday I went over there to see the puppies, and heard a terrible crying and realized that a puppy must have fallen into the pit. Behind the structure there is an open space only about 8 inches by 2 feet that is normally covered, but the cover had blown off. So I stuck my head into the hole and realized that it was actually four puppies that had fallen about ten feet into the hole. At this point I freaked out a little. No one was around the compound, and if I didn’t figure something out, these puppies were going to die. The hole was too small for me to climb down on a ladder (plus, I don’t think I would be able to find a ladder) and so my next idea was to lower a bucket into the hole and hopefully scoop the puppies up and pull them to safety one by one. So I went into my house, grabbed my pee bucket and found some nylon string I got in a care package (thank you Halls, that string you sent me was literally a life saver!). I was unsure if puppies would voluntarily climb into a bucket, so I found a piece of processed cheese to use as bait inside of the bucket.

I got back to the hole, tied one end of the string to the bucket and the other to my wrist (didn’t want to take any chances) and dropped the bucket down and maneuvered it onto its side, with the cheese at the bottom. Amazingly, the first puppy went for the cheese pretty quickly, with its nose and front paws well into the bucket, but back legs still hanging out. I decided to pull it up anyways, and it actually worked! The next 2 came pretty easily as well, and somewhere during those first couple of puppies two women who had been passing by and saw me with my head down the pit latrine stopped to see just what I was up to. The last puppy, my favorite- the only black one of the litter, proved to be more difficult, and didn’t seem to understand that it needed to go inside of the bucket, not climb over the side of it, to get the cheese and be pulled up to safety. But after a few more minutes, it figured it out, and at last, all four of the puppies were safe. I hurried to find some scrap sheet metal and bricks to block the hole and prevent future mishaps, and we all lived happily ever after! There are a total of seven puppies, and this week I started feeding them some brown rice that was really old and had taken on a strange flavor. But the dogs eat it up! Now when they see me, they come running to me like they do for their mom.


For the last week of May, I put on a camp with my neighboring volunteers. We hosted 50 girls ages 11-17 for four days. The purpose of the camp is to empower young women through life skills lessons and interactive games and activities. Along with lessons in self-esteem, decision-making, goal setting, puberty, and HIV, we played games, watched a movie, had a carnival night, and a talent show at the end of the week. A local performance group volunteered to perform a drama about a teenage girl who starts dating an older man and the problems she encounters because of those decisions. The camp was held at a boarding school, so we all slept in the dorms; I got to room with the girls from my school and it was a lot of fun. In general I think very highly of the kids from my village, and so getting to spend a week with some of the most well-behaved and responsible girls from my school was a treat. I kept catching myself telling other volunteers of the adorable and surprising things my girls were doing. I was like the proud parent of an honor student, with the bumper sticker on my mini-van. Here is one of my favorite examples of how sweet these girls are:

Before we left on Monday morning, we were at the school waiting for the bus to pick us up. After reading in the library and playing some jump rope games, the girls walked over to the nearby market for some snacks. They came back with a bag of chips and sleeve of cookies each (I cringed a little at the absence of nutritional value, even though I should be used to it by now). We were sitting in the waiting area of the office, chatting and having fun and I noticed that they were each putting one of their cookies into a pile and discussing something in hushed Setswana. I was wondering what they were doing with the contributed cookies when one of the girls grabbed the stack and held them out for me, telling me to take them. I was dumbfounded. What 12 year old uses her precious pocket money to give her cookies to an adult voluntarily? Well, six of my girls do, apparently. I couldn’t bring myself to take cookies from children, even if they had been offered, so the girls redistributed them amongst themselves and I thought about how that would never, ever happen in America… So yes, my kids are the best.

Language week:

The week before the camp I traveled to another volunteers place, a couple hours away, for a week of language training with a PC Setswana teacher. We did this last year as well and it was so helpful and fun that we took the opportunity to do it again this year. We had six volunteers and our lovely teacher in my friends charming little village and cozy 3 bedroom house. I have to say, to any and all PCV’s who are able to participate in a language week, do it! To be able to have a teacher stay with you for a week and design your own lessons and areas of focus is incredibly helpful. Often during PC trainings, the time for language study is rushed and lacks the personalization that can truly make the difference while learning a new language. Plus you get to spend a week with friends and cook amazing food that most of us are too lazy to cook when we are just cooking for ourselves. I am not saying that I am anywhere near being fluent, but I definitely have a much better understanding now, and am more comfortable with trying things out than I was before.

Well, the distractions are setting in for me (and perhaps for you as well), so I will close with a quick list of some of the random things I’ve been up to.

  • I recently finished one of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I read the first one before I came here, and I found I could relate much better with this one.
  • This morning (while chasing the sunshine around my house) I started reading Naked, by David Sedaris. It is highly amusing and makes my life feel so normal.
  • I am still, slowly but surely, making paper beads, and experimenting with bead thickness using two pieces of paper and thicker paper
  • When I came across a Christmas book in the school library it hit me that I will actually be home for Christmas (and Thanksgiving!) this year!
  • My tomato plant is still going strong but I think my lettuces might have died before they ever emerged from the soil.
  • Yesterday, with the help of a friend sending instructions, I successfully removed a virus from my USB stick! I felt like an all-powerful computer magician!
  • Currently listening to the Amelie soundtrack.
  • This afternoon I am going to attempt to weatherize my windows with plastic bags and duck tape.

Peace and love to you all!


The infamous puppies

The infamous puppies


GLOW Camp!

GLOW Camp!

My girls. I am woman, hear me roar!

My girls. I am woman, hear me roar!

Things Not as They Appear

The other day at lunch I was reminiscing about the random cultural differences I have learned since arriving here. As most people living in a foreign country, or even just visiting abroad, can likely attest, there are some fun differences, however small, in the way we communicate and how we describe things. I am referring to the things that one would never learn until actually spending some time here, and having to flat out ask what the person is talking about. I made up a list of some of my favorite such encounters. I imagine most other volunteers could tell a story about how they first learned what was being referred to in most of these examples. I just find it fascinating, and endlessly entertaining to use and think of these descriptors.

  • T-pax: not tea or a tampon, but what Americans call white-out
  • A rubber: not at all what we refer to in America, but something every primary school student should bring to school with them- an eraser
  • “Do you have a plastic?”: They want a plastic shopping bag
  • Transportation: a car is a car, a combi is what we call a van (also used as the main form of public transportation, looks like a VW van that they cram at least 20 people into), a van is what we call a pick-up truck, and a truck is what we call a semi.
  • When someone says “I am coming”, it means that they are coming back, such as when they are leaving the room, but will return at some undefined point.
  • A jersey is either a jacket or a sweater, I can’t remember, but definitely not your favorite team’s attire
  • Rape is something you cook: I know it as kale (the dark green leafy vegetable)
  • Tomato sauce: Yes they put tomato sauce on spaghetti here, but it is Ketchup, not marinara.
  • Pine-Nut soda: the first time I saw this I had to get it just to see what pine nut soda might taste like. It was surprisingly sweet, because it is short for pineapple-coconut.
  • Robots: stop lights. Make a left at the robot.
  • Drink: soda. Also sometimes referred to as fizzy-drink
  • Scones are what I call cookies, and cookies are called biscuits

I have also encountered countless signs and advertisements that are just lost in translation. My favorite was at the grocery store, in the bakery section were several lovely looking cakes. The bakery tag, with the price, listed them as “Mini Ass Cakes”. After some deliberation, I realized that they were mini assorted cakes, not some magical things that will make your derrière smaller after consuming. Just today I passed a restaurant called B.M. Restaurant (hope they have a functioning bathroom). And supposedly, although I have not seen it myself,  there is a truck driving around the capital boasting the “best erections” (it’s a company that puts up fences).

So I am finding that it really is the little things in life. I am sure I am forgetting a lot of the funny things I have seen and heard here, but wanted to share, with hopes that it will make you chuckle, as it does for me on a daily basis.



13 Down, 13 to Go! (But who’s counting?)


Well, I have reached the half-way point in my service! Let’s hope the second half continues as well as the first half has been!

Summer is back, in nearly full swing! Over the weekend my house transformed into a giant oven, reaching 97 degrees. On such days I just lay around with a squirt bottle, misting myself, and with a frozen water bottle. Along with the heat also comes the bugs, so I spent Sunday morning putting up home-made screens in my windows, made from a cut up mosquito net, duct tape, and sticky tack. It is so much better to have the windows open in the evenings and not be bombarded with bugs. On the upside, my small garden is sprouting! So far I see a few tomato plants, several spinach plants and a couple lettuce bunches. I am still waiting for the squash, but not sure if it is ever going to come up. The kids have started watering for me, which is adorable, and great if I am away for a day or two over the weekend.

To keep things interesting, this week I am starting an exercise group for the whole village. Part of this idea came from my own lack of motivation to leave my house in the afternoons when I just want to sit and read, but also from people in the village asking me if they can exercise with me. I hope it works out, I think it could be fun to bring so many people together in the village who do not normally spend time together socially.

My mom’s office recently donated two large boxes of art supplies to my school! Everyone is so excited about having so much fun stuff (crayons are about the extent of art supplies at the school, we don’t even really have paper due to government transport and distribution issues). While we decide how to properly distribute these supplies I have started letting a few kids come into my office after school and color. I think they really enjoy it, and they make me ego-boosting pictures and letters for me to decorate my office with!

I am just finishing an entertaining adventure-mystery book called “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” by G.W. Dahlquist. It isn’t what I was expecting, but has been keeping me quite engrossed in the evenings. It is fun just to dive into a book when you have very little idea what it is about, knowing that if you really don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it. However, I almost always find myself enjoying the books I grab off the shelf. I have also recently read “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman, in which he extrapolates from past and current international trends to hypothesize what might happen globally in the 21st century. It was a bit unnerving, but still thought-provoking, especially if interested in international relations/economics/politics/etc. I also read “The Quiet Girl” by Peter Hoeg, which was another mystery-type book about a clown with an impeccable sense of hearing. I felt like I missed some of the transitions in the book, and probably would have benefitted by reading it a second time, but still enjoyed it.

While my first half of this adventure has been taken up with training, acclimating, meeting new people, starting projects, and learning the language, my hope is that the second half with allow me to further build relationships, continue the successful projects and let the unsuccessful ones come to an end, and do more traveling throughout this rather remarkable country and surrounding region. It is amazing to me that I have been here for 13 months and really haven’t traveled. I have yet to take a vacation day, and generally only see the volunteers who live near me. I am thrilled that to kick off this second half, my mom will be here, and we will get in a fair amount of traveling during her visit. And I will finally be taking some vacation time!


So far my exercise group is a success! Each day more people have come. I always get a group of enthusiastic kids, and on Thursday 3 women came as well! We mix up the routine along the way, alternating between speed walking, skipping, jogging, side-stepping, lunges, and whatever anyone wants to do. I am finding the crazier we are (skipping, throwing our arms in the air) the better, and the kids as well as the adults can’t help but laugh. I am so proud of the people who have come so far, and hope that word will continue to spread through the village and it will continue to expand.

I hope you all back home (and abroad as well) are getting in your share of adventures too! Even if only taking a picnic to the beach or finding a different route on your daily walk, live it up!

Wishing you all an epic autumn! I do rather miss the transition seasons!

Love and hugs,


Kgotla (like the village center, where meetings and court hearings take place)

Kgotla (like the village center, where meetings and court hearings take place)

Happy kids with their new art supplies!

Happy kids with their new art supplies!

Anniversary Edition!

Sept. 12

I have been meaning to sit down and write another post, and now that I am about to reach my one year mark, it seems especially relevant to share what I’ve been up to lately.

To start, my life is continuing to be above and beyond what I ever could have imagined. While I have not been putting as much focus on starting new projects, I am content as a member of the community, with my regular activities and friendly acquaintances. As time goes by, I feel more and more a member of the community. A few weeks ago I attended a “baby welcoming” party in my village. I went alone, but had a great time visiting with people I knew, and ended up spending most of the day there, which I surprised even myself about.

This week I had the privilege of hosting a new volunteer who is still in training for a few days, so she could get an idea of my daily life as a volunteer in a rural village. It was wonderful to have the company, and to get to show her around my community, and for her to get a peek into this often surreal life of mine. I managed to introduce her to the Kgosi (Chief) of the village, my school, the clinic, the papata cooks (that delicious bread I often write and dream about…), police, my family, PACT club, and various other community members (look out Mom, the same fate awaits you as well!). As we walked around my village and met new people I was filled with a great sense of pride in my village. It is a wonderful feeling to be proud of a place that, less than a year ago, was completely foreign to me. I now refer to the children as “my kids” and can rely on the village to give a warm welcome to a new visitor.

Having a new volunteer with me also made me realize how much I have learned over the past year. It seems so recently that I was in her place, traveling across the country to visit a current volunteer, with a backpack full clothes and a head full of questions. I really enjoyed telling stories about my first few days in the village, how I got activities started, and how I cheer myself up on those occasional tough days. Often, the one-year mark can be a difficult time for volunteers, but having a visitor, then planning a small get-together with some friends the following weekend has kept any uneasiness at bay. Additionally, the schools have a one week mid-term break for Independence at the end of the month, and then my mom will be here at the end of October! I am so excited for all everything that is coming up, and know that it will be here before I know it.

I think winter is officially over now. I am remembering what it is like to step outside and immediately feel light-headed and sweaty, and to drink copious amounts of water. On the other hand, it is nice to say good-bye to my pea-coat and boots for the next 9 months.

I have started a plot in the school garden which I am quite excited about. Due to the chickens on my compound I never attempted a garden at my house, but the school garden should work out just fine. I planted tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and spinach and am just starting to see them popping up above the soil. If they actually grow and the kids don’t pick them, the harvest will be a great addition to my already-pretty-good diet. The thought of maybe getting a real salad gives me goose-bumps.

Sept. 17

Back to my usual routine at school and in the village after a fun weekend with a couple friends and an adorable pup to celebrate our 1 year anniversary in Botswana! We had a pretty low-key weekend, but it was a lovely break from kwa bush.

Yesterday I was organizing the files on my computer and I came across a folder containing 20 GB of music I thought I had lost when my iTunes crashed over a year ago. It was like Christmas! I am having a great time listening to some new music, since I have listened to my old stuff a lot in the last year.

This morning as I was looking for something to keep me occupied at school I was given the idea to make a memory game with English and Setswana words with pictures. It was definitely a good project for taking up time, plus I got to draw pictures and solidify my personal limitations in drawing things like cows. But hopefully the kids will use them and learn some English in the process (not to mention snicker at my artistic shortcomings).

It’s funny, I have a lot that I could talk about, but the events in print could not be done justice without being here, experiencing it. For example: all of the teachers at my school just had a mid-day meeting to discuss going back to the summer time-schedule. This should be an easy decision; during summer, everything shifts up 30 minutes to accommodate (ineffectually) the stifling heat. In my American perspective, the school head should just say, “Okay, summer is upon us! Let us start at 7:30 instead of 8, like we do every summer.” But apparently this very important decision must be debated at length. It is okay though. If there is one thing I have learned in my 12 months-and-counting here is that everything just takes longer. I have daily encounters where I think about how funny/ridiculous something is, and how I could never explain it fully to someone who is not here.

As I was working on my heat stroke while waiting for the combi with a friend the other day we were getting loopy and making up variations for the PC slogan “The toughest job you’ll ever love”. While this is a poignantly fitting slogan, it also sets itself up for snarky alterations. Due to my compromised state of mind (the heat) I will pass on sharing some of the gems we came up with. But let me just say it was quite entertaining. It is easy to make fun of what I am doing here, and roll my eyes at some of the situations I find myself in, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now (Besides, of course, sitting at a café drinking a cappuccino, getting a massage and taking an hour long shower…).

As always, thank you all for your love and support in this crazy adventure that is my life.




Things I do here regularly that I do not do back home:

Wear skirts

Bathe in a bucket

Make my own tortillas from scratch


Sleep under a mosquito net

Store large quantities of water

Say hi to every single person I pass

Hoard empty containers (jars, plastic bags, egg cartons etc.)

Hand-wash all my clothes

Fantasize about going out for coffee or ordering a pizza

Pee in a bucket

Laugh when people tell me I am getting fat

Eat things I am pretty sure have probably come into contact with meat

Get my flu shot

Entertain and manage 50 kids with sports equipment for 2 hours

Smile, nod, and say yes, even though I have no idea what the person just said to me

Drink black tea with milk and sugar

Eat oatmeal

Needing to check my email as a legitimate reason to leave work for half a day

Play card games on my computer

Eat apples, bell peppers

Wake up before the sun comes up

Feel uncomfortable when I see white people I do not know

Braid my hair

Wash dishes in a basin

Attempt to speak in a second language/speak very broken English with a British accent

Throw food scraps out my front door for the chickens

Pass herds of cows/donkeys/goats to get to school

Find myself awe-struck by nearly every sunset

Random thoughts, chocolate, camp, and a crippled dog

Yesterday at morning assembly I was fantasizing about what it will be like when I get back to the States and can actually understand the conversations going on around me. This is not to say that I don’t understand any Setswana, but I have to really focus on what is being said, and ask for them to speak slowly. Eavesdropping loses its appeal.

Other random thoughts/fantasies have been about cheese, cafes, washing machines, and if I can go a whole day without being asked for my clothing, money, or food. I haven’t gone on a proper grocery shopping trip in almost a month, but I also haven’t been home much. Regardless, I miss my cheese and yogurt. Will buy food this weekend.

In my free time I also developed a rurality measurement tool. It is simple. To decide how rural one’s village is, just figure out how far away you are from being able to buy chocolate. For example, it takes me about 2 hours to get to a store that sells chocolate, therefore I am fairly rural, but it could be worse. Ha!

This is the first week back to school from a 5 week vacation. By vacation I mean for the students, not myself. I did manage to see some friends over the break which was really great! I also went to a week-long language class with some other volunteers and a Setswana teacher. We had a great time. It was awesome to be surrounded by other Americans, as well as friends, for a whole week. We learned a lot of important Setswana (verbs in this language are crazy!) and ate a ridiculous amount of delicious food!

When I returned from language week I had about a day to unpack, wash my clothes, and repack for the GLOW Camp I have been planning for the last few months. I was worried that since I had not been in my village for the past week that my kids would have forgotten, but they all showed up and we were picked up and taken to the camp, at another volunteer’s village, about 30 miles from my village. At first I was nervous about the camp, feeling like we could have used another month of planning. But everything went amazingly well!

All of the campers showed up (32 kids, age 12-14), we had food, art supplies, t-shirts, water bottles, translators, and even had a visit from the Peace Corps Country Director and American Ambassador! Our camp had a write up on the front page of one of the main new papers, and my school head said she heard about it on the radio as well! I had a great time getting to know kids from other nearby villages, as well as getting to spend time with some of my favorite kids from my village.

When we got to the camp we learned that we would not be able to heat bath water with the gas stoves in the kitchen, so we had to go collect firewood in order to make a fire twice a day to heat water in a huge pot for the kids (yes, people like to bathe twice a day here). We made it work, and left the camp smelling of smoke, but the kids were clean!

I got back to my village Friday afternoon and made myself do laundry before relaxing. Then I slept for 11 hours. It was amazing. Saturday afternoon a friend brought her dog over for me to watch for the week while she was out of town. He is a sweet dog, and recovering both from getting fixed and a broken leg. I figured that having a crippled dog would be easier, especially in my little house. Let me say this: in the first 12 hours I could not have been more wrong. He has a bucket with the bottom cut out around his neck to serve as a cone of shame, and a cast on his front leg, which creates a lot of clunking around. Plus in a new house, I thin k he just needed to get settled still. I was still recovering from my 2 weeks of running around, so I really wanted a good night of sleep. However, the pup was determined to sleep in my bed with me that first night, and was continually running into and knocking over things in my non-dog-proofed house. At about 3am he started screaming hysterically and when I turned the light on found that he had somehow escaped his cast. I don’t know how he managed this. I was tempted to call his mommy in the middle of the night, I was so overwhelmed. But I decided that putting an ace bandage around the leg would work well enough. By about 6am he finally decided to sleep, so I got about 3 or 4 hours of sleep that night.

We took a nice walk on Sunday, in hopes of wearing him out. It was a success! He slept for most of that day as well as all through the night. I have kept him out of my room since the first night, and he has been letting me sleep through the night. He also likes to nuzzle his head under my arm so I will pet him. I had forgotten how nice it is to come home to a dog who is so happy to see you. My village thinks it is hilarious that I have a dog, and even more so that he stays in my house. The reaction when I tell people he stays ‘mo lwapeng’ (in the house), is as if I was saying I keep a donkey in my house.

That is most of my life’s excitement in a nutshell. Next week marks my 11month anniversary in Botswana! It’s a little unreal to think of that. I am still loving it, and feeling nicely settled in my life here. The sunsets, smiles and waves from kids, and friendships with new people make it all worth it.

Go siame for now!




Well time has been flying by, and I can’t even remember the last time I posted something. The electricity is out today, so I am going to try and speed through an update for you all before my computer dies.

For the most part I have been continuing with the same projects at school and in the community. Things are running smoothly and I continue to learn something new every day! Winter is in full swing! It is so much colder than I ever would have imagined! I am so glad that I invested in a space heater, otherwise I might never want to get out of bed! The temperature isn’t all that crazy, it’s mostly just that buildings have no insulation, or heating. So if its 40 degrees outside, it’s probably only 45 degrees inside. But I am managing, thanks to the greatest winter care package from my mom a few weeks ago!

Last weekend I went out with my landlady’s daughter into the “forest” to collect firewood. It was quite an adventure, and nice to see a new area that is so close to my house. We walked for about 20 or 30 minutes into the bush, where the trees were tall, and remarkably, it did resemble a forest! I found it really peaceful, even with the 5 kids who came along with us. I was glad that there was a path made by passing cars to keep us from getting lost.

When we found a suitable spot (I have no idea how Dalphinah decided that it was a good spot) we started pulling off dead branches from the trees and the kids picked up sticks from the ground. My goal was simply to not be eaten up by the thorn trees. Just about every tree here has thorns, and so climbing around trying to grab branches means the inevitable getting stuck. But I survived. After we had all collected a bundle, they pulled out scarves and strips of cloth to tie the branches together, and then up they went, bundles onto heads! I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to walk back into the village with a bunch of wood on my head, so up went my bundle as well! When I got back to the compound my favorite landlady was adorably excited to see me looking so Motswana, and then we sat down for porridge with melon together. It was a pretty great morning.

The kids at school are as cute as ever. I think all of their shyness around me has finally disappeared. I always get a wave and a smile when I am walking around the school, or when a student walks past my office. The kids always brighten my day. I have also made a couple of friends in the village who are around my age. One of them is planning on coming to school today to help me out with my after school club. It is nice to feel like I am finally making friends, and not just acquaintances. Unfortunately for me (but great for them) they will both be moving to the capital in the next couple of months to start university.

Next week is the last week of school, with a break until August! I would like to say that it will be nice to have a bit of down time, but I think I will still be pretty busy. We are planning a camp for 30 kids at the end of July, and still have quite a bit to do for that. Also, I will be spending a week with a few other volunteers and a language tutor in July, to brush up on my Setswana that has been falling behind. It will be a lot of fun spending time with some awesome volunteers, and hopefully return to my village better able to communicate!

Well it is about time for me to round up my kids for our club. We are going to role play different forms of communication. Hopefully it works out.

Love and hugs to you,

Sala sentle (stay well)


Bundling the firewood to take home

Bundling the firewood to take home

I tried to upload more pictures, but this slow internet would not have it. Better luck next time.

A goat walked into my office.

No, not the start of a joke, although my life can be quite humorous. I was sitting at my desk doing some work when I heard food steps (or rather hoof steps), looked up and just started laughing. Before I could do anything else someone saw it and shooed it back outside. Just another day in the life of this girl called Wame, or sometimes Wamza, and even occasionally Wamzoza!

Yesterday I was walking home bare-footed (my pair of flats are oh so cute, but the sand gets in them and rubs on my feet and gives me blisters) watching very carefully where I stepped (between the thorns and the animal poop, it’s quite a mine field) when I heard a lady I know yell, “Wame! Where are your shoes?” I found it really funny, as most of the kids prefer to run around without shoes. Although I suppose most of the adults usually do wear shoes. I was also surprised that she noticed I wasn’t wearing shoes at a distance and through a wood fence!

Last week I was traveling home when I saw a grown man riding a horse along the road. Not so out of the ordinary. What made my day was the fact that he was also wearing a Santa hat! Yes, it is mid-April. Maybe Santa is enjoying an African adventure ‘Kwa Bush’, and went on Atkins…

Sometimes I wonder just how weird I am getting. There are things I definitely notice that I do differently (I say hi to pretty much every person I see, wave hello at every car that drives past in my village, I celebrate when there is cheese at the store, I’m in sweats and under a blanket when it’s 70 degrees in my house, and consider the day a success when someone comes to me asking for help with something) but I am sure that for every change I notice in myself, there a probably 3 things I don’t notice. I suppose I will just have to ask for continual understanding when I get back to the states and don’t remember how to function as a human in a developed country.

I finished the 4th Game of Thrones book, and need to download the 5th on my kindle next time I get to internet. Not being sucked into that means I have had lots of time to start other activities like clearing away my furniture for a multi-room solo dance party, and today I tried out a new workout video. As it is getting colder I am also enjoying baking and cooking as much as possible!

I have been obsessed with lentil soup for the past couple weeks. I make it with some sautéed onions, red pepper if I have it, some mixed frozen veggies, curry powder and other spices, and any other odds and ends I happen to have. I usually make a big pot, which makes for a fabulous leftover meal throughout the week. I eat it cold and top it with some cheese and avocado, and sometimes sunflower seeds. Yum!

The other day I was filling up my water bucket in the yard under a big tree at sunset. As I stood there it hit me that I am really here, living in Africa, working towards something I’ve wanted for a really long time. It is easy to get caught up in the everyday occurrences (Dumela Mma, no I can’t give you my skirt, sorry; how many squares of chocolate can I have each day to make this bar last me a whole week? You put how many scoops of sugar in your cup of tea!?!) but every once in a while the clarity of it all will strike me ever so poignantly. Even with the challenges and frustrations I really can’t help but feel so positive and lucky to be here.

Summer Greetings!

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

Being official during training

In complete awe of the washing machine

In complete awe of the washing machine

The kids warming up for track practice

The kids warming up for track practice

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