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.

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.

Peace!

Jess

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

Monday:

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!

Friday:

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,

Jess

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.

Peace!

Image

Image

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

Wear skirts

Bathe in a bucket

Make my own tortillas from scratch

Hitch-hike

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!

Hugs,

Jess/Wame

 

The Latest…

I was sitting here, pondering all the things I should do when I get to the internet tomorrow, and decided to write a quick update for you all. School is out, which is a nice break form my usual routine, but I have still been keeping quite busy.

The camp we have been planning for the end of the month is just around the corner, so there is a lot to do for that. Last week we learned that we might not be able to request supplies, because that office is switching over to 20th century technology (computers) and may not be taking new requests for a while. That means that we had to go through all of our plans and change them around to require practically no resources. Luckily, we are Peace Corps Volunteers, and can make do with surprisingly little! At least we have food and a place to stay (although in the same meeting we also found out that the camp will not be catered, and that we need to make a menu, find people to cook, and collect firewood to cook with, no big deal).

I had my first Fourth of July without fireworks, but I was with friends, so it was a fun day! And this coming weekend is a holiday, so it will be a 4 day weekend! Hurray! Otherwise things are still running smoothly! I am happy and healthy and feeling pretty good in general.

Things I am still learning:

• Charge needed electronics (laptop, ipod, cellphone) during the day because you never know when the power is going to go out, except that usually it happens right when you need it.
• Take a bath in the middle of the afternoon before my house turns into an icebox.
• The library doesn’t turn off the wifi when it is closed, so I can sit outside early in the morning to use it.
• A trip that takes 6 or 7 hours via Botswana public transportation can be made in 1.5 hours in a private car.

On the bookshelf:

After finishing all of Game of Thrones I was a bit depressed at the thought of never finding a book that will compare; but I have recovered, and taken up reading once again!

• I recently read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson. It happens to be in my school library, and although it is the young reader’s edition, complete with highlighted vocab words, it was an amazing story, and made my job seem so simple and clear-cut!
• The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh. This was recommended by a friend before I left, and I really enjoyed it. It really makes me remember that the present moment is the most important.
• I am currently reading The Sea Wolf, by Jack London. Also recommended by a friend, and which I am really enjoying! I had not expected a philosophical novel taking place on a fishing boat!
• Also in the school library, I have started the first chapter or so of Whiteman, by Tony D’Souza. From the beginning it was easy to see some parallels between my life here and the character working as an American relief worker in a small Ivory Coals village. I plan on diving fully into this one once I finish Sea Wolf.

Hope everything is good State-side! Thank you for your love and support, as always!
Peace!

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)

Jess

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 few pictures

I haven’t gotten around to writing a new post, so here are some pictures to keep you occupied in the mean time!

Some of my neighbors playing with the cat in my house

Some of my neighbors playing with the cat in my house

With some of the kids. It's surprisingly difficult to get a centered picture from a 9 year old, oh well.

With some of the kids. It’s surprisingly difficult to get a centered picture from a 9 year old, oh well.

DSC02374

Working in the school garden! Planting what they call spinach, but what I would consider more like kale.

Working in the school garden! Planting what they call spinach, but what I would consider more like kale.

Dutch pancake with apples and cinnamon! Yum! The best on cold Sunday Mornings!

Dutch pancake with apples and cinnamon! Yum! The best on cold Sunday Mornings!

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.

Express Lane

I had a pretty awesome first birthday in Botswana! I baked a cake for the teachers, which was a success, and then we went out to the local butchery/bar for a braai and dancing! That weekend my school hosted the zonal track competition, so schools from all over this area came to compete. It was a lot of fun and I was amazed at how fast these kids can run! A few other volunteers came for a little b-day celebration. We ate great food and they built me a more functional “closet” for my b-day present!

On Monday evening there was a knock on my door and a kid standing on my step. He handed me a bag of corn (still in the husk). I asked him who it was from and couldn’t quite understand his response, but I think it was from my landlady. The family has huge lands on the outskirts of the village, and harvest season is in full swing! I was told there will be a party at the lands next week, which I am hoping to go to.

I have been eating lots of mangoes and watermelon lately. They are amazing! They can be bought from local vendors for about 10 pula, or $1.40 U.S.

I have been surprisingly busy at the school and at home and in the village. Some of my school projects are a question box, where the students can ask me any question (preferably about health or life issues) and I will post the question and answer for them the next week. I am also helping with the PACT club (Peer Approach to Counseling Teens) and working on lesson plans and activities to keep 30 or so select students engaged for an hour each week. I have also been showing some thought-provoking HIV related films to the students and teachers with my counterpart every other week, and hope to branch out to the community in the next month or so. Another volunteer and I had an idea to have a poster competition for World AIDS Day in December. We are hoping to include as many of the surrounding villages as possible in this art faire, and to join in the festivities that will be happening on World AIDS day.

At home I finally had my gas canister delivered, so I can actually use my stove and oven, instead of the single hot plate I have been using since November. It’s really exciting, and as it came on my birthday last week, it was the ultimate gift! I also had a new bed delivered yesterday. I had a twin bed, but when they delivered my gas last week and saw the small bed, they told me I need a bigger one, and showed up with the magical truck of housewares!

I am in book 3 of Game of Thrones, but competing with that extra time is a puzzle I got for my b-day. Otherwise I have been cooking a bit, trying to take more pictures, and trying to start exercising again since it is starting to cool off a bit. But life is good and I love being here, despite missing you all back home. As always, thank you so much for all your love and support, it makes being here so much better!

Love and hugs,

Jess

p.s. This was meant to be a quick update, but I guess it is more of a full report. Oops!

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With a few of the teachers

With a few of the teachers

Track competition

Track competition

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