January 11, 2012
We had a very busy holiday. We went down a bit earlier to Kumakwane to celebrate Hanukkah. Ya, we had Hanukkah in Botswana. It was a lot of peoples first Hanukkah. Tija did an amazing job preparing the Jewish meal with included latkes, matzo ball soup, Spanish rice, and a few other things that I don’t remember what they were called. But all in all, it was delicious. We did the whole candle lighting and the prayer. There were about 12 people that came to this celebration. A majority of the people who were going to Cape Town stayed here prior to leaving for our trip. There were a few tiffs and taffs, where we could see how our group was going to be divided up. As we all know in life, not everyone is always going to get along. Let alone when you stick a whole bunch of type A personalities together. So to keep it real with all you readers, we people here in peace corps are not always peaceful amongst ourselves. In fact we are quite an awful group to be around when we are together. but this is for another entry.
We all clambered into a combi at 5 AM in the morning so the gang could catch the 630 AM bus from gabs to joburg. I on the other hand was not leaving until 130 PM on a flight from gabs to joburg. Yes, I know I’m posh, but I just got my tickets a bit later than the others. But at this point, I was incredibly thankful to be traveling on my own, being that I hadn’t had a moment to myself in about a week. So I welcomed the solidarity. I guess when you are now used to being on your own for so long, it’s hard to adjust to being around 10 people 24/7 for a few days. I now welcome some peace and quiet, fancy that! Lol. Anyways, we end up on Long Street in Cape Town. This place looks like a combination of San Diego, New York City, and New Orleans put together on one street. It’s pretty awesome. we are staying in a hostel that holds about 20 people in our room, but it’s the “penthouse”, where there is a bar on the rooftop. Skyscrapers. Lights. Paved roads. Mix of races. We have landed back in what we would consider the world we knew. Amazing. We go scouring for some sushi and eventually end up at a karaoke bar. A couple of us sing, though not me, just wasn’t in the mood, and we just drink to our hearts content. We met a few Namibian volunteers. By the end of the night we are running up and down Long Street looking for a slice of pizza, but instead find a shot of chocolate tequila and a bbq chicken pizza with avocado to share. Ok, so not quite nyc, but it kinda looks like it!
We wake up in the morning a bit confused…or hungover. Lol. but hey, I think we deserved our night out. and what is the best cure to a hangover? MCDONALDS. OMFG YES…MCDONALDS. Egg Mcmuffin, hash brown and orange juice!!! OMG, is this really happening?! Am I in heaven?! Do you understand that I now think that McDonalds is heaven?! AMAZING. I was the happiest camper just eating an egg mcmuffin. I savored EVERY bite. All the grease from the hash brown…DELICIOUS. Wow, what has my life come to? You know what, I could give a shit less. I now appreciate my life. Lol. Today is a shopping day. We are in shopping heaven. We find cute boutiques with absolutely adorable clothes and dresses. We are looking for a new year’s dress. Of course boys will be boys, and they part from us girls. In the process I found an almond croissant…BEAUTY in a pastry. You know when the last time I had a croissant was? I HAVE NO IDEA. I don’t even think I breathed while I ate it. I seriously stopped in my tracks while eating this thing. Nothing else in life existed. Ok, I’m sorry, I love food too much. Lol. I end up finding a dress, even though I don’t actually need one. The thing is, I’ve lost a lot of weight since I’ve gotten here, and I can actually fit into tight skimpy things now without my muffin tops bulging out. so this would be the first treat for me to actually be able to wear something like this in a LONG time. And it’s nice to feel like I’m dressed nice for a change. I ran it through my head over and over again, debated, and after much thought I left it to fate. If it was still there when I came back, I would buy it. When I went back a few days later, fate told me to buy it. Hehe. It was cute! Anyways, we spend most of the day shopping at various places, including the huge mall on the waterfront. It was a nice break to finally be able to just shop at a real mall. Oh!!! And then we got mani pedis. Ya, we were being girls, but we couldn’t help it…it had been sooooooo long! After our relaxing mani pedis, we ate….MEXICAN FOOD. Ya, I’m mostly going to talk about food. We all shared some margheritas (which weren’t amazing but it’s better than nothing, which is exactly what we’ve been having…no margheritas for the past 8 months) and I got enchiladas. I enhaled them, and was sooooooooooooooo happy. Seriously, if you want to make me happy, just feed me something yummy. J
We woke up early to get on a train to Stellenbosh. And what is Stellenbosh, might you ask? WINE TASTING!!! We were bougie for the day. Sipping on wine and tasting cheese, basking ourselves in the beautiful scenery of the wineries and the backdrops of breathtaking hills. We were also drunk by 12. Classy. Hehe. But we couldn’t help it! It’s good wine! We’ve been drinking out of boxes here, so when we get good wine, we go at it. AND CHEESE…ya, there’s not stopping us. We were those cheap fucks that were eating all the free cheese and got at third and fourth rounds. I’ll make you a promise now, when I am no longer broke and have made a decent amount of cash, I will taste my wine and spit it out, and only go around the cheese tasting once. But until then, and I’m broke as fuck, cuz I’m a volunteer for the government, let me be, and don’t judge me! The tour took us to five wineries, where I eventually bought a bottle of wine and a bottle of sparkling wine for new years. Overall, and very happy, fruitful, drunken day.
If you’re gay, and you’ve been shoved back into the closet for the past year, this was the place to be to run screaming back out of the closet. Me and a couple of us went out to the gay bars. Very distinct placement, and couldn’t miss the scenery. Men wearing tight shirts. All dressed nicely. Nicely groomed. Well built. To many, they look to be the perfect specimen of man. Lol. We danced the night away. And at one point during the night, we ended up at a lesbian bar, where my friends conveniently disappeared on me when a girl began to hit on me. Lovely. Luckily, she was distracted quite easily by the two men ribbon dancing in the corner. We went out to the gay bars again later in the week, this time with a bigger group. There we just danced up a storm, and all the girls who went were definitely all hit on, some in nice ways, and some not so nice. but amusing nonetheless. Fabulous nights!!! J
For New Years, we celebrated at a partial dress up rave. We got all dressed up, pre-gamed, or just got drunk before getting there. I was wearing heels, though I never would at a normal rave, but this was an exception. There were five stages, and we just danced the night away to blastingly loud electronic, while teetering to the music. It was such an eventful night, I barely remember it. Lol. Though I do remember stumbling to mickey d’s at 5 AM to get an egg mcmuffin and being VERY happy with it. As for the new years kisses, I gave EVERYONE in our group a new years kiss. You can’t have new years without a kiss!!!
After our new years bash, we decided to head to the beach. The ride down was so beautiful. You basically go up over the mountain, and you get the whole view of the bay as you’re going down. It was soooooooo amazing. We watched people hang glide off the top of Table Mountain. Though once we reached the beach, it reminded me of what Labor Day looks like at Santa Monica beach. It was packed like sardines on the beach. And people were swimming all over each other in the ocean, or more like screaming in each other’s ears cuz the water was sooooooooooooo cold, that’s all you could do, but scream. We went into the water, and it was the COLDEST water I had ever had to swim in. I now know what it must have felt like for those that had to swim when the titanic went down. It was FREEZING. I attempted to stay in for 3 waves, and got my hair wet. And after that I was done, it was soooooooooo cold, I was wailing. Anyways, after our freezing dip, some sun bathed, while some of us went to the rocks to check out the tide pools. Jerms and I had fun pulling off barnacles and small crabs and poking them. Then we gave them new homes in other tide pools. We also buried two others in the sand, while kids gather trash and rocks from all over the beach and placed them on their mound of sand that they were buried under. Apparently burying people in the sand is odd, cuz everyone was staring at us like we were nuts. Hehe. I think we might be just a teebit. Hehe.
Last big thing that I can remember from the trip, was that we went down to Simon’s Town, which is south of Cape Town. Here, we wanted to see the penguins! We took a train down about an hour to an hour and a half. Along the way up, we got the most gorgeous views of the western coast line of South Africa. It reminded me a lot of Route 1 in California, except much flatter, but it was beautiful. I saw ocean pools, manmade ocean pools, but ocean pools nonetheless. I really wanted to go swimming in them, but we had a destination to reach. I also saw people surfing, so that means, I’m just going to have to go back to go surfing. It was an amazing peaceful ride up, just what the doctor ordered. God, have I missed the ocean. It’s been the only place in my life that gave me peace of mind, and was my life saver over my small span of life. So I thanked it again for everything it has done for me. We stopped at a cute little seaside town. Had a definite European feel to it, it was adorable. We found a place that would let us kayak to the beach where the penguins hang, Boulder’s Beach. This was my first time kayaking, and luckily we had buddies. I was with my bestie, so we worked well together, and I applaud him for his patience, as much hands cramped up a lot. We kayaked for about 25 minutes before we reached the beach where the penguins were hanging out. When we got there, we saw the penguins swimming around and them just sun bathing on the beach. We were allowed to swim around and we could see the penguins in the water in the distance, so it felt like we were swimming with the penguins. I freaked out a little, since I don’t like swimming so far away from shore cuz of the damn fish and animals, but it was REALLY awesome. and for some reason, the water wasn’t freezing like it was at Camps Bay. It must have to do with the currents, but it was sooooooooo awesome. We found penis seaweeds, where the seaweed just looked like large floating penises. That was amusing as well. We also saw a seal. We kayaked back, which was more challenging, as we were paddling against the wind, but we made it back, and I was so proud of…me. Haha, I was soooo tired afterwards! But so worth it. And the awesomest place to start kayaking, so I’ve got no complaints. J
We ran back to try to catch the train back to Cape Town. We were late, and as we were running, my dress was coming down. I think I may have flashed a few people, but we made it onto the train, on the second to last carrier (ding ding ding, kinda something to take note of). Half way through our ride, some supposively drunk teenage boys got onto the train, where they proceeded to hold a very loud and scenic argument in Afrikaans, with some other women that were on the train. I was trying to sleep, while others were trying to listen to music, and we had no idea what was going on. We just figured they were just arguing with each other, no big deal. At the next stop, the boys get off the train, and move to the back carrier. Apparently, these “drunk” boys were planning on robbing us. But luckily, the women knew what they were up to, and that was what the arugment was about. These women had chased these boys off the train so they wouldn’t rob us. OMG, we are some lucky clueless tourists. The women then told us that they had gone into the back carrier and robbed every person on that train. Then they tried to come back to our train, where the women threated them with a drinking glass. We watched all this in confusion until the women told us. Wow, we are dumb and lucky. So note to self now, don’t take the last few carriers on a train in South Africa. Though, this was our only close encounter to the known violence and crime of South Africa.
Now for the most part, I guess I’ve kind of lost track of everything else that we had done, so let me just kind of outline it all for you. I’ll start with food, I ate dim sum (duck char sui buns and a ton of dumplings), and honestly the best meal I had the whole trip, uh, brunch, where I had yummy eggs benedict, cuz that’s what I always get for brunch. We had seafood, where I got some yummy fish. I also had delicious sushi, where I ordered too much, but enjoyed every bite I put in my mouth. I have to highlight my meals, because food is way too important to me, especially when I’m on vacation. Oh! And we also go thai massages (and not the ones with happy endings, for those of you that would have asked!), and they were heavenly. We didn’t get to hike Table Mountain, because the day we had planned to hike it was the ONE day it decided to rain, so we couldn’t walk it, for fear we would slip and die off the side of the mountain. But all in all, a very happy happy, and necessary vacation that we all needed super badly to keep our sanity. Happy 2012!!!
January 18, 2012
I know we bitch a lot about how we hate it when people keep asking us for money because we’re different. I say different because most of the volunteers are white, but there are a few Asians and a few African Americans. Anyways, for the most part, we all get asked daily for 1 pula or 10 pula, so on so forth. I mean, people ask for that on the street in the states, but they don’t discriminate as much to who they are asking. Where people here, they tend to ask because they think everyone that comes from the states must be rich. But the thing about it is, they don’t actually need the money. They aren’t asking because they are starving. They are asking just because they think we have money, and that we like to give it away. Which really is a pain in the ass and kinda gets under my skin, but I just ask them to give me double the amount they were asking me. Or tell them I just don’t want to give it to them. Most people that ask for money even have their own jobs and make more money than I do. But what I’m trying to get down to, I guess I would rather be asked to give money by people that don’t need it, than be asked by people who really do need it. At least here I can say no without having a tinge of guilt or regret. But say if people daily asked me for money, and they haven’t eaten in days, especially children, I wouldn’t know what to do. It would be a lose-lose situation. If I didn’t give it, then they would be starving. But if I did give it, I would be setting precedence that I am one to be asked and would actually give. So I must say, I am happier to be in the position that I am in, than if it was otherwise. It just becomes more annoying when people ask me for money than it is sad here.
February 12, 2012
Things that now excite me
- When I turn on the faucet and water comes out
- And when it does rain, that it doesn’t rain in my house or on my bed
- A grass lawn…
- A CUT grass lawn
- Washing machines
- Cloudy days
- Rain boots
- When people ignore me or don’t notice me
- A house with all the doors on the inside
- A chair that reclines on transportation vehicles (buses, airplanes…)
- A chair that I can actually fit in and sit comfortably in on a bus
- Window screens
- Cold weather
- Not being itchy EVERY DAY
- Sales clerks having change for a purchase or service
- Customer service
- Water that doesn’t taste salty
- Finding mixed salad bags instead of just lettuce at the market
- Finding tortillas at the market
- Finding sour cream at the market
- Boneless meat
- Getting alone time
- Curling up under blankets to sleep
- Sleeping past 8 AM
- Running hot water, when it’s cold
- Running cold water, when it’s hot
- When people immediately recognize that I am not from China
- Toilet paper in the bathrooms
- Soap in the bathrooms
- When I can ORDER food off a menu and NOT have to cook it myself
- When ordering a rum and coke, that they are actually mixed together before reaching me
Things that no longer excite me:
- Off-roading in a car…because it’s technically always off-roading here, lol
- Walking just to walk…because I HAVE to walk everywhere and now it’s a necessity
- Homemade mac n cheese
- Going out/night life
May 22, 2012
My bad. I guess it’s been a while. Lol. And for those of you who may be wondering, no I didn’t stop writing cuz I early terminated. Haha. Anyways, HOLY SHIT…I’ve been here for over year, and I’m half way done with service. It’s crazy to think how time flies. I remember just waiting for service to start, like two years ago, and here I am, half way done with my time in Botswana. And now when I put it that way, I guess I kinda wish it wasn’t moving so fast. I think maybe since today has been the first cold day since August, I’m just happy to be here. Haha. Wasn’t so happy when it was blazing hot. It’s funny though, when I look back, it feels like time went fast, but when I live it day to day, it feels slow. So I guess the best way to describe it is that days go slow, but months go by fast. And to those of you who are wondering if I’m going to come back early…I highly doubt it. I honestly really like it here. I’m happy. I smile a lot. I feel sort of peace in me at times, which is better than never. I like the quiet. I like seeing stars every night. I like breathing fresh air. There are more donkeys in my village than there are cars. I’m relaxed. I have good people that surround me. So as much as you may hear me bitch about things, underneath it all, I am happy and am enjoying my time here. So for those of you who care if I’m happy or not, not to worry, I am a smiling, happy, little panda. J
As to that, let me tell you what I’ve been up to for the past five months. On Mondays and Wednesdays mornings, I go to the library to teach computer lessons to anyone in the community that wants to learn. Then in the afternoons, I either go to Home Based Care to hang out and help out, or the DAC to check in to see if anyone needs help. Then on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays mornings, I go to the clinic to help weigh babies. Then in the afternoons, it’s once again I either go to Home Based Care to hang out and help out, or the DAC to check in to see if anyone needs help. Lately I’ve also been going to the District Health Team to see if they need help with creating and teaching the people there how to use and create report templates. On the second to last Tuesday of each month, I help my clinic staff with ARV day, where we dispense our ARVs for HIV+ patients. I help enter vital signs for the doctor into their ARV monitoring system. With the DAC office, I’ve been attempting to show STEPS videos, to children, to support groups, to patients, which are videos about HIV. Not so much about what HIV is, but more so about stigma, discrimination, and getting people to openly talk about the disease, and trying to get people to relate to the videos on their own levels, so getting emotionally involved. I still go to some of the mobile stops in the afternoon with my clinic. And in the evenings, I have my kids come over and they color. I got them a coloring book and some crayons, so they come over to color. They can color in the lines, but have problems or just don’t care to color things with the correct color? Like, they colored a pirate’s beard purple and his face pink. I’m not quite sure if it’s just that they don’t know what color it should be, or if they just don’t care. Haha. Then after they color, I go see and play with the baby (my sister that lives on the compound just had a baby, back in March. The baby’s name is Pretty. She’s really cute and doesn’t cry much. So I really like her!), I cook dinner, eat, and watch a show on my computer. Then I study for the GMAT, then bath, then off to bed! On the weekends, I’ve been going around and about, relaxing, watching TV shows and movies, studying, cleaning, and I’ve been helping my friend with her garden. Yes, I am gardening now. but not really. Haha. I think I’ve never been into planting, but more so destroying. Haha. So I’ve helping her clear out the grass and weeds so she can plant tomatoes, green peppers, cabbage, morogo (basically like spinach), and onions. So it’s just been a pretty chill five months, got a little routine down.
On the down side, I’ve been dealing with fungi trying to gnaw my feet off for the past five months. I’ve been trying to fight off fungi that have been creating itchy feet. So I’ve been up and down to the doctors in Gaborone. We have no idea where it’s coming from, but I’m hoping now that it’s getting cold, it’ll subside, and just pray it doesn’t come back in the summer. Cuz I seriously thought about cutting out chucks of my feet cuz they itched so badly.
In April, I went to Durban with my boyfriend. We went and played in the Indian Ocean, surfed, swam, skydived, went to the botanical gardens, ate Mexican food, ate seafood, ate won ton noodles, drank real mixed drinks, went to a reggae club, and had absolutely no desire to go to a club! Lol. What’s even better about the whole idea that I didn’t want to go to the club, was that the club that we could have gone to, was exactly the same club that I would go to back in LA, Boulevard! Same name, same look, same atmosphere. And I had absolutely no desire to go. The only reason why I felt like I should have gone, is because that’s what I used to do. And to be perfectly honest, I could care less now. I taught Mpumi how to surf…or at least I got him to actually stand up on a moving wave. He loved it! I guess I found myself a new surfing buddy! J And of course, I caught a couple of waves. Took me a bit to get back up, but I did it! It was nice to just battle the ocean again. We also went skydiving. Mpumi was nervous as we were going up, cuz when we went up, it went around in circles, so it took some time to get to 12,000 feet, so it gives you some time to think about what you were actually doing. Haha, I forgot to mention, when we first got there, we went to the wrong place and almost joined the accelerated jumpers group, which is the group that does solo jumping for the first time. Haha, Mpumi would have had a heart attack. Anyways, we went up, and he jumped, and we were both so happy afterwards. This time I could scream. And it was awesome, though I almost got choked by the harness when the parachute was pulled. Lol. But I got to control the reins of the parachute which was super awesome. We landed differently than when I did it San Diego. In San Diego, we did a running landing, where here we did a sliding landing. Dunno what the difference is, but thought that was interesting. Now I can say I skydived and surfed in Africa! We went to a mall, and they had a section that would have been heaven for me about 4 years ago…all the skater shops in one little area. In fact, I still loved it, and made me miss home a bit, but it was amazing to see. I hadn’t even seen such a compilation of stores in one area in the states! So it was pretty awesome. I wanted to buy everything! The cool thing about Durban is that there is a much larger Asian community than I had seen in Cape Town. And when I mean Asian, I mean Indian. When we went to the Mexican restaurant, about a third of the people there were Indian, though not unlike the states, they still kept to themselves, where they were in large groups of other Indians. And I did meet someone that spoke Cantonese at a Chinese restaurant, which is the first real life person I’ve talked to in Cantonese in over a year. We passed by the stadium where the World Cup was held two years prior. Wish I was there for it! Oh well, guess I’ll just have to wait for Brazil…if I have the money! All in all, we had a great time, and I really enjoyed the ocean. The ocean always makes life better. J
So, I’m also going to talk about how I felt races ran in South Africa in Durban. I am specifying Durban, because I didn’t feel the same in Cape Town. But when we went to Cape Town, it was holiday season with a ton of tourists…and I was with a bunch of white people. And unfortunately, that is a huge difference, though some may disagree. I am American, but you can’t tell that by looking at me, I just look Chinese. And with races, that’s really what it comes down to, how you look. There is no specific category for me to really belong to in South Africa. So let me tell you, that I may have a bit of a different perspective than others. I am neither black nor white. Given, I believe that South Africa has done an amazing job of coming together after the apartheid 18 years ago, but there is definitely still a bit of a divide. But I can’t blame them, it’s been 50 years for the states, and definitely still do have our own divides. Being with Mpumi, we really didn’t fit in anywhere. There were bars where everyone in my line of sight were black, and then there were other bars where everyone in my line of sight were white. So which one do I go to? Either way, it was uncomfortable, cuz either way, people would stare. So that was first for me and an interesting eye opener. At home, I was able to avoid situations as such, so I had never understood them. But, TIA, it doesn’t work that way. But I’m glad I saw and participated in it. It really opened my eyes to the fact that race still does play a role in many things, and as much as I believe the world is improving, you can’t deny that it is still around. I am not trying to diss anyone, I’m just telling you how I felt. I know race is a very touchy subject, but I found it to be an important insight that I had gathered from the trip. I was very much reminded that as much as I would want to believe that race shouldn’t matter, and it should be about who you are, it’s just not so quite yet. And it’s also very much opened my eyes to how it’s also still the case in the states in many ways.
In May, I learned how to drive a donkey cart. It’s the same as driving, except with donkeys and reins. You pull the right rein to turn right, pull left to turn left, whistle for the donkeys to start moving, and pull both reins to make them slow down or stop. It’s a much bumpier ride than I had imagined, but a ton of fun anyways. I don’t think the Mirwa had ever seen an Asian driving a donkey cart. People were either shocked or laughing to see me driving the donkey cart. But I had so much fun. My family on my compound is pretty awesome to let me give their donkeys and donkey cart a test drive and of course teaching me how to drive it. Haha, I completed one of my main goals for Botswana!
May 23, 2012
I am exhausted today. Partially in a good way. J Today, I went around with the National Health Laboratory gathering results/doing surveys on all the clinics in the Bobirwa Sub District on discordant HIV tests, meaning how many HIV tests gave mixed results of positive or negative. They are doing this to help monitor the test results and test kits, and to see if there may be a pattern as to why some results or areas may have discordant results. Here, not every clinic has a fax or even a phone, so they have to send someone out to each clinic to collect the data. Oh, and I got pulled into this cause I just so happened to be in the room with the guy collecting the results at my clinic, and he wanted me to start up the skeleton of the database that all the data will be gathered into. Ya, haha, looks like I’m back at my old job! Haha. So I found out that there are 676 health facilities in Botswana, that encompasses hospitals, clinics, and health posts. Just an FYI. Anyways, today, we went north east of Bobonong to the health clinics and posts and gathered data. That also means, that we needed to go into the Tuli block, which is where game drives occur, to collect data. I think I saw at least 40 elephants, 20 giraffes, a ton of impala, baboons, and guinea fowl. It was soooooooooooo awesome to see so many elephants and giraffes. I saw baby elephants and baby giraffes. And what’s even better about this whole situation…was that my “game drive” was free! It was just a part of work. That is why living out here is so awesome. Just on a work drive, you will see the awesomest wild animals that you would only be able to see at a zoo in the states. And they are just wandering around in their natural habitat. It made me happy to see the animals in the wild. That’s where they belong, not in a little cage, gawked at in a zoo. So all of you, stop going to the zoos and come visit me instead!!!