Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mostly Exciting, but Some, Not So Much

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
  1. When I turn on the faucet and water comes out
  2.  Rain…
  3. And when it does rain, that it doesn’t rain in my house or on my bed
  4. Ceilings
  5. A grass lawn…
  6. A CUT grass lawn
  7. Showers
  8. Washing machines
  9. Dryers
  10. Cloudy days
  11.  Rain boots
  12. When people ignore me or don’t notice me
  13. A house with all the doors on the inside
  14. A chair that reclines on transportation vehicles (buses, airplanes…)
  15. A chair that I can actually fit in and sit comfortably in on a bus
  16. Window screens
  17. Cold weather
  18. Not being itchy EVERY DAY
  19. Sales clerks having change for a purchase or service
  20. Customer service
  21. Water that doesn’t taste salty
  22. Finding mixed salad bags instead of just lettuce at the market
  23. Finding tortillas at the market
  24. Finding sour cream at the market
  25.  Boneless meat
  26. Getting alone time
  27. Curling up under blankets to sleep
  28. Sleeping past 8 AM
  29. Running hot water, when it’s cold
  30. Running cold water, when it’s hot
  31. When people immediately recognize that I am not from China
  32. Toilet paper in the bathrooms
  33. Soap in the bathrooms
  34. When I can ORDER food off a menu and NOT have to cook it myself
  35. When ordering a rum and coke, that they are actually mixed together before reaching me

Things that no longer excite me:
  1. Cow
  2. Chickens
  3. Goats
  4. Sheep
  5. Donkeys
  6. Drinking
  7. Off-roading in a car…because it’s technically always off-roading here, lol
  8. Walking just to walk…because I HAVE to walk everywhere and now it’s a necessity
  9. Internet
  10. Homemade mac n cheese
  11. 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!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The rest of 2011, PART 2

December 3, 2011
In Botswana they love beauty contests. For fundraisers they normally hold beauty contests since they are so successful for women. So for Home Based Care, since there aren’t any youngsters that hang around or are a part of the volunteer group, we decided to hold a Mosadi Mogolo Beauty Contest, this meaning an “Old Woman Beauty Contest.” Man, were the women super excited about this. They had been practicing their moves all week. The wave. The walk. The poses. They all had big smiles on their faces. They spent most of the evening ironing out their outfits, putting on makeup, and doing their hair. There were about 10 contestants. We held it outside. We recruited 4 judges, some from the DHT, some from the DAC. There was a point system. So we had 10 little old ladies walking primply around, flaunting their stuff. The contestants walked in a square, first as a group, then individually. They all did their poses at each corner of the square for all to see, then in the middle for the judges. The judges narrowed it down to 5 for the finals, where 3 were eventually ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd. We weren’t able to raise as much funds as we had hoped for, but at least everyone had fun with this fundraiser. The funds were raised for a Volunteer Appreciation Party to commemorate the volunteers’ efforts for the year. Next year we’re just going to have to plan further ahead of time to make this a bigger event. Nonetheless, it was an exciting endeavor for all that participated.

December 9, 2011
As we all SHOULD know, December is HIV Awareness Month, so of course there are World AIDS Days that help focus on the disease. The Bobirwa Sub-District had ours today. But, it was not just a one day endeavor, the DAC office had been working on preparing for this day for months. As for me, well, I was only pulled in for the last week. But it was a busy week, nonetheless. I spent the 2 days before the event in the office til 9 PM. These are the day where I remembered I used to get paid overtime. Though I guess in my case at this point, it’s just a “pay-it-back” for this job. Lol. I apparently was in charge of making all the name tags and tending to the exhibitors. So Wednesday and Thursday were spent making name tags. Remind me to never do that again, or at least start it earlier. So much for capacity building…a 4th grader could have done my job. But at that point it was just a matter of needing hands to help, and mine were idle, so I may as well have contributed mine.

It also gave me time to get to know our DAC. She is pretty awesome. She has determined, motivated, and concise. She knows what she wants, and knows what needs to get done, and she does very little lollygagging, which I duly appreciate.

Anyways, I get home Thursday night at 9 PM, and it is pouring down HELL. It is pouring down so loudly on my tin roof I can barely hear myself think. I keep looking up at the ceiling scared shitless that it might cave in or something. then all the sudden it starts dripping heavily onto my bed. FUCK, i move my bed towards the other wall. GOD DAMMIT, there’s a leak on that side too! I move my bed across to the other wall. Ok, seems safe here. NOPE, 5 minutes later it’s dripping on the corner of my bed. All in the mean time, the rain is still pounding on my ceiling, and water is now flooding into my bedroom from under the door. AWESOME. I move again against the last wall possible. Fuck, it’s still leaking on the corner of my bed, I’m out of options. I opened up my umbrella and stuck it on the corner of my bed. Ya…you get creative in desperate times. As I am about to finally go to sleep, I look up. SHIT, there is a giant cockroach crawling on my curtain over my head. WTF. R U EFFING KIDDING ME?!  I somehow manage to get it into a plastic bag, and I take out all my frustrations on this guy. Ok, fine, now I can try to get some sleep. 10 minutes later….*drip drip* ON MY STOMACH. Aksldfj ioqaeuq09iow4u tjhksrhf a;lkjs. I have NO WHERE else to move. I just find a water bottle, cut in half and carefully position it where it is slowly dripping. Looks like I’m not allowed to move for the rest of the night, or I might knock over my OPEN water bottle. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I get to sleep at around 1 AM. 4 AM…WTF just fell on my face?! A FUCKING COCKROACH. I subconsciously grab it and throw it across the room. Ya, I’m up. No more sleeping. Last night sucked. God knows where else it rained in my house, the rain was so bad, I couldn’t even get out of my room. It rained IN my house, and a cockroach fell on my face. FML.

Some of you may have gotten texts from me that night. So if you were curious, this is exactly what was happening. Lol.

I was picked up at 645 AM to catch the 7 AM bus out to Molalatau, where the World AIDS Day event was being held for the Bobirwa Sub District. The outfit was either red or white top, and black bottoms. I opted for a white top, black skirt, rainbow socks, and my rainboots. Lol, unprofessional? Well, we’re in Africa, and it was pouring rain, I needed my rainboots just to walk to my clinic, so I have no regrets with my choice. I helped set up the exhibits, which consisted of the nurse at DHT who handles all my payments with Peace Corps, the nurse from my clinic, and Home Based Care. Clearly I was the right person for the job. Lol. Throughout the day it was just talks, entertainment, and some theater shows. There was a guest speaker and a motivational speaker. Most of the talks were done in Setswana, so I just kinda zoned out. The other Peace Corps volunteers that came were placed in the VIP section, where I was an…usher. Haha, so much for helping out! There was a tent for the VIP, the community was placed under the kgotla, and the entertainers were in a separate tent. The speakers focused their attention on the VIP tent, where they faced them whenever they were presenting. Simultaneously, there were 2 places where people could go and get tested. The day started at 9 AM and ended with lunch at 2 PM. All in all, regardless of how terrible the weather had been, it was a pretty good turnout. Hopefully, people got more out of it than I did (unfortunately for me, there was the language barrier). Though the one thing that I did get out of it was that the goal for next year is to bring AIDS-related deaths down to zero. I hope that it comes true!

December 10, 2011
Finally, went to my first wedding here in Botswana! So, in Botswana, you don’t necessary have to be invited to a wedding to attend. Anyone can come and attend, though I do believe it to still be a bit strange if you show up to a wedding without knowing a single person there, but nonetheless, invitations are not necessary. Though, I did go on invitation. I was invited by the aunt of the bride. I know the aunt really well, and have never been met the bride in my entire life. Even though it seemed a bit awkward if I went, I decided to go. 
1) I had never been to a wedding here in Botswana and everyone had told me over and over again that I must go to a wedding here in Botswana 
2) I had been invited by a close friend (the bride’s aunt) 
3) my friend (the bride’s cousin?) called and demanded that I showed up…so I showed up.

 It is in no way like any weddings in the states, that is for sure. When I arrived at the wedding, everyone was gathered in the front yard, wearing every day casual wear, and running around cooking the meal for the wedding. Yes, they were cooking the meal in the front yard…for a wedding. VERY DIFFERENT from the states. It wasn’t no braii or bbq, but big pots, black cauldrons were busy being poked and prodded. Mabele, palceche, samp, all your typical Setswana food. The men were busy pounding at the seswa (and damn it, they were pounding in the bones too…). My friends were busy running around cooking, yelling at people to do this and that. A giant event tent was pitched in the front yard as well. It was themed with red and grey curtains, and the plastic chairs and tables were elegantly covered with white sheets. The tent could hold about 100 people. There was a large, elevated table in the center where the bride and groom were to sit, along with those closest to them. The aunt of the bride took me in to see the bride. That was a bit awkward, I just said hi, that she looked beautiful, and congrats, cuz I didn’t know what else to say, since I felt like I was crashing her wedding. She was nice and thanked me.

Then the wedding began. It starts where the groom’s party arrives, and waits outside of the gate of the bride’s house. The bride is to walk to gate to greet her new husband, and they kiss. This was a bit of a process being that is was raining, and there was mud everywhere. They continuous played the same song over and over again, as the bride walked on sugar beans bags, and people would move the two sugar bean bags in front of each other as the bride slowly proceeded to the gate. I am very grateful for this act, because she had a very beautiful white wedding dress on, and it would have been a shame if it was sullied by mud. Finally, she reached the gate and gave her new husband a large smooch. All the older women were ululating, which is a sound that one produces with the tongue moving very quickly from side to side, while making a high pitched cheering sound. Then the same process is done for the bride as they head back to the tent where they are to be seated along with all the guests.

I am ushered into the tent, awkwardly, and asked to sit a table where I know no one. Luckily it’s in the corner where I can sneak out. Each side of the family introduces all the guests that are present at the wedding. I am introduced to the wedding party as a “family friend.” I stand up and wave. AWKWARD, but I guess part of the procedure. I eventually leave because the rest of the procedures are done in Setswana, and I have no idea what people were saying. And an older couple had come late, so I offered them my seat. I went to go help with the food, or more like the dishing. After all the introductions were done, the bride and groom along with many of the guests, went to the groom’s house to do a photo shoot. Not quite sure what they entailed because I didn’t go, but I’m guessing they just went there and took wedding photos. By the time the party had returned, the food was ready, and placed in the allocated catering dishes. They had asked me to serve, but I got lost and confused, so I didn’t. I was also VERY thirsty. So I went looking for a drink. They told me to go to the kitchen and ask for a ginger drink. I go in, and at first they wouldn’t open the kitchen door. It was until someone yelled “it’s a lekgoa” in Setswana, were they confused and curious, and opened the door for me. I just waved, and asked “ke kopa drinki?” they asked me to come into the kitchen, and to my shock, there was a cow’s head just lying on the floor in a pool of its own blood. I guess for the wedding, the family slaughters a cow, and they eat it at the wedding. I guess this poor cow I was looking at is what people were going to be eating for the wedding meal. I got the drink and got out of there as quick as possible. Still a bit dazed when being around the actual slaughtered animal. But all in all, that’s what food is, right?

Anyways, the food was served, they continued to talk in the tent, and then we cleaned up. I helped gather dishes and clean up the catering dishes. After that, I’m not quite sure what happened, cuz I went home because it was raining and difficult for me to find a ride otherwise. Overall, it was a very interesting wedding, and I would like to go to more in the future.

Oh a few other notes to bring up on. 1) on Thursdays, that is when marriage licenses and given, so technically on Thursday there were already officially married. 2) Negotiations are held between the bride and groom family for how many cows are to be delivered, called the lobola, kind of like a dowry. These negotiations are held prior to the wedding. That is also a separate event all in itself

December 15, 2011
I helped a couple of the ladies from Home Based Care get donations from neighboring farms and lodges for the Volunteer Appreciation Party. Ok, maybe not so much helped, but went along for the ride. Because…the ride involved going through Tuli Block where animals wander about at their own free will. I figured I could help them as well as try to see a few animals. I mean, after all, I am in Botswana, and we have a lot of cool looking animals here (which is why you should visit me!). It’s even cooler to see them if you get to see them for free! ;) hehe. Oh, and it was also SUPER nice to just be able to cruise around Botswana. Even though I slept a lot, cuz that’s apparently what I do now in any form of transportation, I got to see a lot of the scenery, and it was beautiful.

Anyways, I was picked up at 6 AM, it was pouring. Our first stop was Talana Farms where we were able to pick up a couple bags of onions, cabbage, carrots, and beets each. Talana Farms is in Tuli Block, so I was able to see a wildebeest, some springbok, and ostriches! They are some big birds. After that, we headed out to the South African border post of Zanzibar to Oasis Lodge and picked up some butternut squash. We took pictures at the lodge, it’s really pretty, and I tried to throw rocks into an itty bitty lake that said that there were hippos and crocs. The sign lied. L no hippos and crocs came out. oh well, maybe another time. We hung out and took pics with a ton of baobab trees, they are fricking HUGE. Not tall like redwoods, but FAT and kinda tall. They remind me of the tree that Owl from Winnie the Pooh was staying in. Pretty neat stuff, Botswana is a really beautiful country. J

December 16, 2011
I had been working with Home Based Care trying to get all the stuff together for the Volunteer Appreciation Party. I had been helping them create the invitations, letters, certificates, and program. The party was a combination of an Appreciation Party for the volunteers and the house opening for Ditshego (the person I had been helping on building her house). It was complete and ready to be shown to the world! J I arrive, and once again, I am on name tag duty. These fricking name tags are haunting me.

Anyways, all the volunteers were super excited. We had guests, and they had brought guests themselves. We had speakers lined up. We had awards to be given. We had presents to offload. We had a home to show. And there was a free meal to show our appreciation. Before we started the party, the volunteers were out in the parking lot singing and dancing. Everyone had dressed up in their traditional dress. Everyone seemed very excited and happy for the party. Once everyone had arrived, the volunteers gathered in the back room. They came into the conference room with their “Home Based Care” song and dance. Everyone applauded. The guest speakers spoke, gave motivational talks, thanked the volunteers for their effort (I was told that was said, being that it was all done in Setswana). Then the awards were given. They were all given certificates and a shopping bag that had a Home Based Care logo on it. Everyone asked me to take picture with them and their certificates. They were so proud, and I was proud of them for all their hard work for the community. Once again, throughout the whole ceremony all the women were ululating. It was a very happy event.

After the awards, we all piled into cars, and headed over to Ditshego’s house where we did her opening ceremony. Her house was painted, her pit latrine was painted, she had a standpipe, the yard was clean (minus a large amount of mud, but that can’t be helped cuz I live in a dusty, sandy village), and there was a ribbon hung up over her doors. Kgmosto, our MC, did the introductions, and then Ditshego gave a speech and her thanks. She did a good job of really thanking the other volunteer (who was unfortunately unable to attend the opening) who had worked hard at getting the renovations together. As she gave her speech, I was lucky enough to hold her 6 month old baby boy, who, with a bit of a squeeze managed to throw up on me. SWEET, new thing of bodily fluid projected on me by a child. The other volunteer in my village couldn’t seem to stop laughing for five minutes. Very sweet of him. Lol. It’s ok, the other mothers who witnessed the event also could hold back their laughter either. Anyways, then the guest speaker from the Appreciation Party cut the ribbon, and gave Ditshego the keys to her house so she could open it. Ditshego had the biggest smile on her face. We took pictures of the family entering into their newly renovated house. Her sixteen year old son had worked especially hard on the house, so I’m glad he was there. Very happy day for the Molapisi family! Their house now looks like a house! I’m soo happy for them!

When we finished the ceremony, we got stuck in the mud trying to get back to Home Based Care, where we enjoyed the meal that was provided by Bobonong Home Based Care. All in all, all the volunteers had a very happy appreciative day. J

December 18, 2011
Usually at night, when I walk into my bathroom, I have an average of 6 large cockroaches scattered and scurrying about. Even after I have cleaned, swept, and mopped. Today I used the cockroach chalk that Trish gave me before I left. It didn’t do anything. A cockroach just walked right over it. Damn these African cockroaches! How do you get rid of cockroaches? I can’t kill them because otherwise they will just squish all over my bathroom. It takes more effort to clean up after killing them then to just avoid them. If my broom is available at hand, I will normally sweep/chuck them out, kinda like chucking a puck. Sweeping cockroaches is a good way to train for hockey. I think when I get back, I’ll be good hockey player. I can already ice skate, anyways.

December 19, 2011
Never mind, I guess it did work. I woke up and walked into my bathroom, and somehow this chalk managed to flip over 7 cockroaches. I woke up to 7 dead, fat cockroaches lying on their backs. Awesome. At least they were dead.

Onthe up side, I finally got kitchen cabinets! Yay! My house is complete. And now I can finally spray down my kitchen and kill all the bugs that have been attacking me while I’ve been cooking for the past 5 months. God, I fucking hate bugs…especially mosquitoes. For those of you that watch True Blood (I just ravaged through 4 seasons of it in like a month), I feel like I am like a fairy. If mosquitoes were any indication of how vampires behave, my blood must be CRACK. Cuz I can get 15 mosquito bites in one night…fuckers. Sorry, I’m a bit peeved by mosquitoes right now, as you can duly tell.

December 24, 2011
Happy Christmas Eve, and Happy Anniversary to my parents!

December 25, 2011
Happy Christmas! I spent my Christmas eating Chinese food, going to a buffet, and watching a movie. A true American way to celebrate Christmas. J Sounds depressing, but was exactly how I wanted to celebrate my Christmas, and I was very happy to celebrate so.

January 1, 2012
Happy New Years! I like even number years, so hopefully this year will like me back. So, it’s been a whole 9 months that we’ve been in Africa, we have less than a year and a half left to go! Congrats on making it to the new year . and…NEXT YEAR we are going home! No, we’re not in prison (though we may make it seem like that sometime), but it’s just a cool way to say it. J

Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 has passed...and there was so much to talk about! PART 1

Hi guys,
so sorry i haven't posted. i just got angry with peace corps cuz they yelled at me about a certain way i phrased a sentence, so i stopped writing for a while. but now i'm over it, and you guys are way more important than what peace corps thinks. so fuck it. :) i'm going to do this in 2 parts, cuz there is so much that has happened. here's the first tid bit:

September 17, 2011
Spent my 25th birthday in Botswana. It’s a pretty awesome place to be spending my 25th birthday, with good friends, who I now consider to be my family here. I love them. there was no place else I’d rather be on my 25th birthday. And there are a couple of people in particular that I owe a lot of thanks to for helping me plan and get it together and allowing me to use their places. Just hung out, and braiied. Thank you to everyone that came. And I wish that everyone at home could have been here to celebrate also. Perfect day…as much to my recollection. J Now I’m a quarter century old. L

September 22, 2011
People who know me, know that I can be a bit of a runner. There were a lot of things about LA that I just couldn’t do anymore. But since coming here, I’ve been able to gather a better picture of everything that I had and that I had left behind. Since coming here, I’ve grown to appreciate more of what I have. This was a huge goal of mine that I had for myself when I came here. I had everything in LA, but for some odd reason, I couldn’t pin point why I was so unhappy there. And now I really realize what I have. I have good friends. I have good family. I love my friends and family at home. They care. They are good people. I am a really lucky person to have all these people in my life. Tonight was one of those nights where I just reminisced and really missed everyone. I’ve had a lot of time think out here, and for once, it’s been constructive thinking instead of destructive thinking. I have really good people in my life, here and at home. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t know what I already had. But since coming here, I’ve really began to understand that. So please forgive me for taking so long to get to this point. You guys have always been there for me when I needed you. And you all still are. Thank you for standing by me and being patient. Thank you for being in my life. I’m so lucky to have you guys in my life. I wish I could give you all hugs and kisses right now. *HUGS AND KISSES* I LOVE YOU GUYS! (Sorry for being so corny) J

October 11, 2011
I am curled up in Lisa’s blanket, wearing Jordan’s shirt, and cuddling with Colin’s panda bear. I’m glad I took pieces of you guys.

October 30, 2011
So my 6th month here has been a blast. Can you believe that I’ve been gone for 7 months already?! Crazy…19 more months to go. What do you think? does that sound like a long time to you? I can’t quite decide on how 19 months sounds. Sometimes I think…shit that is a hell of a lot of time. But sometimes I think, that can go by pretty fast. BUT when I say June 2013, that’s when I’m like HOLY HELL that is a LONG ASS TIME from now.

November 21, 2011
Where the hell have I been? Well, kinda just around and out and about southern Africa. J Not gonna lie, there are days here where we wonder why the hell we are here, and what are we doing to make the world a better place. Most the time, it feels like I’m not doing shit. Sometimes I forget the reason why I even joined Peace Corps. But, hey, I’m still here. And it’s times when you get to see the world where it is a good reminder that I still have a pretty fucking awesome life.

First week of October we spent wandering around Namibia. We spent a few days in Windhoek and a few days in Swakopmund. Staying at hostels (but NOT in the states) are pretty awesome places to stay. There were so many others just traveling through Namibia from all over the world. When arriving to Windhoek, you feel like you’ve been dropped in a whole other world from Botswana. The city infrastructure is very similar to Western infrastructure. But also the variety of people that you encounter makes you forget that you are even still in Africa. It’s a lot harder to break the habit of saying mma and rra to everyone. They have large shopping malls everywhere. Cafes! We were so lost the first day we were in Windhoek. Stunned. We just wandered around the mall looking at shoes, eating sandwiches, and oggiling the supermarkets. Found a Hilton and went to the sky bar. Reminded me of the Standard in downtown LA. Realized we had lost all game with men. Paid $60 Namibian dollars for a drink (conversion of 1:8, US:Nam), where Tija’s martini apparently tasted like pencil shavings. We met a man named Brandon that managed to turn everything he or anyone said into a joke. I don’t think I’ve spent such an extended period of time just continuously laughing. We had numerous men fall for one of us, always the same person, multiple men, and she had no idea how it had happened. Apparently African men love her. We ate everything in sight. Luckily, I was on steroids at the time, so I was a bottomless pit (though very unfortunate on my bank account). While is Swakopmund we went quad biking…on fucking sand dunes. It was one of the most awesome things I’ve done. I mean, how many people have gone quad biking on African sand dunes. It was amazing. We looked like we were in Mario kart, and we were the players. I rode up dunes as high as I could, sometimes lost control a bit, but came back straight. Maybe I am a bit of an adrenaline junky. We just biked around the sand dunes for 2 hours. We even went “sandboarding” but really just sand sledding. You find a polished thick cardboard, and slide down huge sand dunes. Unfortunately for me I have never gone sledding before on snow, so i had no idea how to control my sledding. Lol. I ended up flipping around…FACING the dune. Lol. Honestly, just being there made me wish it was my life. To just take people on quad biking tours, and teaching people how to surf. It’s the ultimately bummers dream. Sigh, but no, had to go back to Botswana and attempt to make some sort of contribution to the world. Anyways, on a list of the most awesome things I’ve done, this was second on my list, quad biking on African sand dunes (first, is flying a plane, third, is skydiving…which I’m planning on doing in Cape town for new years. J ya, pretty awesome life).

For Halloween, instead of celebrating, we camped and saw rhinos…IN THE WILD. Can you imagine? Rhinos just romping around free to go as they please. They waddle. They are adorable. Apparently, the mothers kick out their elder children to live on their own, once a new one is born. So sometimes the stragglers pair up together and running around together. we were only able to see the white rhinos, but on the premises they have black rhinos too, they are smaller than the white rhinos and way more endangered. Sad I didn’t get to see them, but still pretty cool tidbit. i also saw a giraffe…they walk funny. We saw a lot of types of boks, we saw a ton of wildebeest, a ton of pumbas or warthogs, an animal called the red-hearted beast. Some pretty cool things to look at. The animals that I still want to see are zebras, cats, and hippos. Someday soon, hopefully.

I have spent the last month at site, helping a woman at the NGO that I help at with building her house. More like supervising, but some of my efforts have been put into that wall. I learned how to make a pit latrine and I learned how to plaster. It’s all very interesting. The house is done, and we are going to have an official opening. I guess I should go into the story about this woman. Her name is Ditshego and she is a part of the NGO that I help with. She is HIV positive, a widow, raising 9 children, one which is only 5 months old (I was there when the baby was born, his name is Aeobakwe…I am going to steal him he is so adorable). Her husband had passed or as they say here, her husband is late. She is the chairperson of the HIV positive support group that is held at Home Based Care (the NGO). She is open about her status. Her walls were crumbling, her door was barely attached to the hinges, the windows were all cracked, no furniture, she had no pit latrine, and no running water. It is a 2 room house and in need of much repair. Donations were given by some of the business throughout Bobonong, while Home Based Care has contributed to most of the funds for the house. By the end of project, we have all the walls new plastered, inside and out. She has new tin roofing. She has a pit latrine, that is also painted inside and out. She has a new standpipe for her yard, which means she now has running water for her family. She has new doors and no broken windows. One of the peace corps volunteers that is based here in Bobonong with me put all the funds and the project together. She helped track down materials, workers, funds, furniture, donations. She even helped set up Ditshego’s garden.  Ditshego is a very happy volunteer, and very proud of her new house. I do love house building. J

December 1, 2011
8 months here. 18 months left to go! This is what my nights now look like: 

1) I come home to take a bath. I fill the tub with warm/hot water…warm/hot because the pipes have made the water hot, and cold water cannot be found. I dump a tray of ice cubes in the bath. And if it’s really bad, I get two large 2 liter frozen water bottles, unscrew the cap, and pour frozen water out of the bottles as it melts. I sit in the bath tub for about an hour or two. And no, even with all that cold water, it is still fucking hot.

2)  I’ve stopped eating at night, it is just toooooooo fucking hot to cook anything. So I end up eating crackers or something. 

3)  I curl up under my mosquito net because anywhere else the bugs are attacking me. Point my fan directly at my head. Gather 3 frozen water bottles, 2 big ones, and one little one. The little one goes in my pillow under my neck. A big one goes around my legs. And I cuddle with the other one. Yes, my life has come to me cuddling with…a frozen water bottle. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Daily life in Bobs...and camping on the Salt Pans

August 28,2011
Ya, so I’ve been a crackhead. In other words, I feel like I have been dying from pithiyis rosea, which is an autoimmune skin disease, where basically I break out in a rash all over my body, and just scratch until I feel like I am on fire. It started on my chest. Then onto the back. Then EVERYWHERE…and that include my head and face. By Monday, I was back in Gabs, after leaving the previous Thursday, and the doctors give me their worried look, give me an antihistamine shot, and sent directly to the dermatologist, who is unsure if I should be sent to the hospital. Luckily, they just dosed me with steroids, and placed in a hotel room to my own scratching devices. The thing about this rosea, I could have gotten it here, or I could have gotten it at home. So either way, this was gonna suck. After triple doses of steroids a day for a week, I am only getting weak stares from people. I seriously look like I have lepersy. LOVE IT. At least people have stopped hitting on me. Lol. instead I just get “uh….what’s wrong? What happened to you?” and might I add, these are strangers on combis that are asking me this directly with no dumelas or o tsogiles for a buffer. Though, people don’t seem to hesitate about touching me. They just grab my arm “WHAT’S WRONG?!” lol. And they are all convinced that it is something that I ate and am allergic to. I just let them believe whatever they want to believe, it’s too much of a hassle for me to explain what it really is. Either that, or people think that I’m HIV positive, which wouldn’t be so farfetched with where I am at. Oh well, people can believe whatever they want to believe, don’t think I’ll be seeing any of them again.

On the up side, I am going out and eating everything in sight. And it am SOOOOOOOO happy. I never realized how difficult going without a choice of food would have been. I have seriously not paid any respect to saving when it comes to food. I have cravings and I must satisfy them. so little piggy, Amanda, has reappeared in these past 2 weeks. I am going to list all the foods that I ate and thoroughly enjoyed. As I write these down, I want to you think about how EASY it is for you to get it. And then, I need you to be grateful for all the options that you have. Here we go: nachos, pizza, eggs benedict, chicken burgers, pizza, chow mein, pizza, dumplings, shrimp, real coffee, tortilla, lasagna, butter chicken, ice cream, pizza, pad thai, breakfast burritos, Indian food, egg drop soup, sandwiches, muffins, hummus, cake, mojito, and tortilla chips. And we only get this…once every 5 months here, that is IF AND ONLY IF you go to gabs.  And IF AND ONLY IF you are in the heart of gabs where it is easy to travel around. IF AND ONLY IF you are there for a week with absolutely nothing to do except think about food (like me J ). And as we all know, food is very important to me. Haha, so I made sure I ate everything I possibly could. But I can say, even though I was sick and ripping my skin off, I was very happy that I had the chance to eat everything in sight. It was ALMOST worth it. Haha.

August 30, 2011
My first day in my house…FINALLY. Yes, I know it’s been a while, but the day finally came. After not much tending to previously, I get back about a month later from IST/medical difficulties. My house is a MESS. There is a later of dust EVERYWHERE. I guess it has been windy, and it’s just been blowing dust right under the doors. My bath tub is matted in grim and dirt, and there is an uninvited tenant chilling in my bathroom sink, a cockroach. There are spiders and mosquitoes frolicking around in my bedroom. There is still no kitchen sink or cabinet in the kitchen. And a thick layer of dirt covering my empty sitting room, which my country director mistakened for a storage room, since there was nothing in there but bags.

Anyways, I get to my house and finally just drop my stuff after I had been gone in gabs for 3.5 weeks, a week longer than expected due to this annoying rosea (which makes me want to scratch my leg off right now…fuck). I am hungry. But I can’t cook anything because the stove isn’t set up yet. I hook up my gas to the stove. Test it out. Sweet it works. Shit…there is dust everywhere. So I can’t start cooking until I clean the oven. I wipe off the stove with some cleaner which I had bought before leaving (thank god). I do a thorough wipe down…and then heat up some ham and cheese potato balls that I had gotten from gabs the day before (luckily they were still edible after a day of traveling). I go and spray my bathroom with doom to try to kill all the bugs crawling around in the bathroom, mostly spiders, but some flying bugs. I close the bathroom to let the bugs suffocate a bit. Then I go and wipe off the fridge. Sweep the kitchen. Eat. Go back to the bathroom. Start on the tub. Shit, there is still brown dirt stains on it. I can’t seem to get them out, no matter how hard I scrub. no one else’s bare ass has used this tub, and it is still dirty as fuck. I hate when new things are not like new. It just bothers me. Looks like I’m gonna have to find myself some bleach. i take my soap box and shoo the cockroach out of my sink. I finally get it on the ground, and kick it outside. I’m not about ready to squish it, cuz it’s just gonna make more of a mess. I’ll let it fend for itself outside. Wash out my sink. Wash out my toilet. Do my dishes in the bath tub, because I have no kitchen sink. Spray my room down with doom, in hopes of killing all the bugs that are crawling and flying around my bedroom. Then off to Phikwe to grab the groceries that I need, like spices and cleaning supplies (btw, Phikwe is an hour hitch away from Bobs).

I get back from Phikwe 4 hours later. I apparently bought way too much stuff. My backpack is stuffed, and I’m still carrying another bag. And they are fricking heavy. I still have a 30 minute walk from the bus rank, carrying heavy bags, and it’s getting dark. SWEET. I am basically staggering sideways home lugging all this crap. 45 minutes later, I finally make it home with bag imprints dug into my scarred blistery hands. And there is no electricity. AWESOME. Why? Because, apparently my landlord didn’t buy anymore electricity. Luckily, after about 15 minutes of fumbling around, they find the receipt of the electricity, and it’s back on...except for my kitchen light. Luckily my landlady and her kid are awesome. and they fix my light…AND give me chairs! CHAIRS!!! THANK YOU! Haha. She gets her daughter to pull up a barrel to check on the kitchen light. The bulb has fallen out of the filament, they replace it. My landlady is pretty awesome. she doesn’t speak any English, but when I need it, she’s there and understands. I’m gonna learn a lot from her, I can tell. Anyways, they go and find me a new lightbulb. LET THERE BE LIGHT! YAY! I do a little dance. J Now I have light in all my rooms. Baby steps…eventually this house will get itself together. Next, I fill my tub with a bleach and water mixture and just start scrubbing. Nope…nothing. Ok, fine, I’ll just let it soak. I’ll cook instead. But first, I need to wash all the dishes that I plan on using in the bath tub since they have been sitting in my “storage” room for the past 2 months and I have no kitchen sink still. I attempt to make a walnut alfredo ravioli dish. Epic fail. I find myself attempting to grate parmesan cheese on the floor or the plastic chair that my landlady has let me borrow. It is a no go. The grater sucks and does not mesh well with the height options of grating. I don’t care anymore. I just pour my food into a bowl, and just sit on the kitchen floor. I am eating on my kitchen floor and staring at the doorway because I have nowhere else to eat. I don’t care how dirty it is. I am exhausted. Shit, I still need to clean my tub again. Hopefully the bleach has helped get rid of the stains. NOPE. Still stains. I scrub and scrub. no go. UGH…I am so tired…all I want to do is bath and go to sleep! Forget it, I’ll try again tomorrow. I’ll just fill up the kettle to get some hot water going. GOD DAMMIT. The kitchen cleaner has spilled all over my groceries and on the kitchen floor. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. It really is one of those days. It has spilled on the floor, luckily it spilled mostly in the bag with the canned tuna. I wipe off the canned goods…and just pour the kitchen cleaner in the tub. I guess it’ll just be another way to attempt to clean my tub. Of course, it doesn’t get any of the stains out, but at least I tried. OMG…I am sooooooo fricking tired. I find myself sitting in my hallway/porch…yes, my hallway is my porch, because ALL MY ROOMS GO TO THE OUTSIDE. So I’m sitting in the dirt of my hallway/porch, staring into the night. After I muster up energy, I finally set up my kettle. Best part of my day…my bucket bath. Haha, back to the god ole bucket baths. I honestly don’t even care at this point. I AM FINALLY CLEAN.

I can finally go to bed. NOPE. I AM SOOOOOOOOOO FRICKING ITCHY. Kafhtioa wq;reyutioawe urkjrehnfad ku;repowa. FML…I finally fall asleep at 2 AM. My first day in my house. SWEET.

August 31, 2011
I desperately needed to do my laundry, after being in Gabs for a month. Unfortunately, my hands are still too torn up for me to be doing any laundry by hand. LUCKILY, another volunteer in the area has a washing machine. HALLAJUAH! haha. Unfortunately, he is all the way across the village. So here I am, I shove all my dirty clothes in my gigantic red hiking backpack (which was completely full), and start trekking it through Bobonong. I know where he lives, but I don’t want to take the main roads. So I just head in the general direction, hoping I’ll find it eventually. I just end up getting lost. So here is this little Chinese girl, wandering around the back paths of Bobonong, with her gigantic red hiking backpack, lost. I don’t think I’ve ever looked more out of place. People would just stare. “wa o kae?!”, “where are you going?!”, “ke a tsamaya go ntlo tsala ya me!”, “ I’m going to my friend’s house!,” “KGKALA!!!”, “ FAR!!!”, “ee, le ga ke itse ya kae!”, “yes, and I don’t know where I am!”. This was basically how all my conversations went with people as I wandered around lost for an hour and half. They just laughed, and would point me in a general direction. People are very helpful and kind, so no one gave me problems (except for the few that kept hassling me for my number). EVENTUALLY, I made it! WEEE!!! and ALL to use a washing machine. Sigh. APPRECIATE YOUR WASHING MACHINES!!! And don’t complain to me about how you guys have to do laundry out there in the states, unless you are doing it by hand. Then you can complain to me about doing laundry.

September 1, 2011
Today I went into work to help them calculate and consolidate their month end child weighing report. My goal is to help my clinic output better data that they are gathering, and to teach people how to use the computer as well at the same time. MULTITASKING. Lol. Anyways, after that, I needed to go get the check from the RAC. Luckily, I was able to get a ride to the RAC (which is about 3 miles away from my house). I get the check, walk to the mall to cash it. Buy a small table for my kitchen. I LUG the table a whole 2 miles home in the midday heat. I think it took me an hour to get home with that table. I think people think I’m stupid or crazy, cuz I’m always carrying oversized items around and just wandering all over the village dragging these enormous objects. I gather a lot of perplexed stares as I walk around. People don’t even ask me for money anymore. Cuz CLEARLY I don’t have any, if I am dragging around objects that are just way too big for me to be lugging around, when I could just be getting a taxi. But, hey! At least people are gonna remember who I am! But finally I have something to put my food on, and a place to grate and cut things at a reasonable height. Then hike another 2 miles back to hitch a ride to Mahalaype to start the camping journey. In half a day, I was still able to walk 6 miles in the heat. WTF, man. Ugh…and I can’t believe I lugged a table almost the size of me, across Bobonong. And ugh…I REALLY wish I had a donkey cart.

September 4, 2011
So we spent our “Labor Day” weekend at the Sowa Salt Pans (we didn’t actually have labor day off, but we gave it to ourselves).  We left for Francistown on Friday, and wandered our way over (after some yummy Indian food) to the Sowa. There were 9 of us, so we hired our own combi to take us to Sowa. Best combi ride, EVER. haha, I can’t get into the details, but it was pretty awesome, and we had fun. And most importantly, we had control to ALL the windows. Lol. We make it to Sowa about an hour and half later and meet up the rest of the gang, totaling up to 14 of us. We pile into another combi, and head out to the pans. We get there at night, so we can’t see anything. But we set up camp, make a fire, and cook us some dinner (BRAII = BBQ...we braii up some sausages, corn, and potatoes…using BEER CANS, ya we’re in Peace Corps!). And once again, since we’re Peace Corps and not used to doing a whole lot of anything all day, we were all passed out by 11. Lol. yay, we can be pretty lame too. But hey…we were pretty tired.

Wake up…at the crack of dawn. Well, first, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking that scorpions were crawling under my tent and that they were trying to sting me through the tent. And NO, I was not on anything. I was just in the middle of the salt pans! Who knows what’s out there?! I finally go to sleep. Then at around 2 AM, Clayton freaks out with an “AH!” and wakes ALL of us up. I literally shot up…I had NO idea what was going on. Haha…apparently…he had sneezed (or so he says at that moment). Lol. It’s just funny, cuz he literally woke ALL of us up. Haha. Any ways…we wake up at the butt crack of dawn, cuz people are making noise. We make a fire, people want coffee. Someone told me they were disappointed in me, cuz I didn’t wake up and 15 minutes later have a beer in my hand…have I really be coined that much of an alcoholic?! (I actually only ended up having ONE beer the whole day…that’s another strange one too though…) Lol.

Since it was earlier and still kinda cool out, a few of us decided to explore the vast unknown of nothingness. Literally, they are salt pans. It is flat. It goes on forever. We don’t see the end. It is just a horizon of just WHITE. Not snow…but just salt. Flat emptiness. It is crazy beautiful. we walk into the salt pans, and you honestly feel like you are walking to nowhere. It reminded of the desert that Jack Sparrow was stuck in and the end of the world in the third movie. There was no one around, except us. We were completely isolated. You can see for miles, but there is nothing to see. It was amazing. As you walk, the ground crunches. There are no tracks anywhere. The only tracks we find are of a truck, which we follow so we don’t get lost going around in circles. The ground is cracked from the salt ground. It feels like we’re walking towards a beach…that is WAY WAY WAY out there in the distance...somewhere. Lol. Anyways…it was SUPER cool. It is the biggest salt pan in the world. Pretty awesome. Apparently, we had walked until we were itty bitty specks on the horizon, according to the rest of the group that we had left behind. It’s an awesome concept to be on the edge of a horizon to someone.

So after we got back, and cooked eggs, all we did for the rest of the day was hang out under a shelter that a mine nearby had built. It was dusty, but WAY cooler than out on the pan. It was probably in the upper 90s out there. We just hung out, talked, drank, played board games and card games. The wind was blowing dust everywhere. There were even sand tunnels blowing out on the pans that we could watch. Some were small, somewhere huge. We tried to find wildebeest. We saw two things approaching us…though had no idea what it was. We decided that they were aliens that were trying to abduct us (which I really don’t think is unlikely out there…we found some strange children footprints that appeared and ended out of nowhere). But turns out, we think they were just 2 4x4s. damn, wish we coulda been doing that. Oh well.

Eventually, the boys decide to start up the grill and create these little ovens/firepits by digging up the dirt and surrounding them with bricks. We watched the sunset on the pans…AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL. Then watched 2 volunteers cut a prickly tree branch with a leatherman knife. Needless to say, they did not come out unharmed. That tree is a feisty fucker. Unfortunately for them, it is never easy to burn a living tree, so their efforts were a bit unheeded. Felt bad for them, but eh, live and learn right? Apparently, we were all passed out by 11 (ya, we’re pathetic…we are just so used to going to bed early!).

We wake up early because the combi is supposed to come pick us up at 7 AM. We watched the sunrise on the pans…gorgeous. We pack up our things, clean up all of our trash. And the combi arrives at 730, not bad for Africa time. We head back to Francistown, have lunch (amazing iced coffee), then back off to Bobonong.
So I get home after 12 hours of traveling from Sowa and being stranded at Phikwe for 2 hours, and there is NO WATER. TIA. FML. The only thing I’ve been looking forward to was the bath that I was gonna take. And there is NO FUCKING WATER. UGH. Apparently all of Bobonong is out of water. Ukherf jkawd kjfhbaji ruoaiwgjkfba kjd.

The interesting thing that I’ve realized though, no matter what is happening or what has happened, or what situation I have been in (minus the staff not being supportive), there is no place else I’d rather be at the end of the day. If I’m stuck in a bus with the windows closed and sweating (yes, I’d rather be in an air conditioned car), I’d still rather be here in Botswana. Even when I have to shoo bugs away, and deal with having no water, this is part of the life here. And as frustrating as it may be, I would still rather be here. I know some of the other volunteers may wonder wtf is wrong with me. But I think when you are stripped of all luxuries that you have known, you begin to notice and enjoy the little things. And at the end of the day, my simple little life out here is exactly what I needed, and I can’t really think of anything that I would want to change (except maybe the layout of my house…lol).

September 6, 2011
Today I went to a mobile stop at Maiswe. It is a small little village on the outskirts of Bobonong. It takes about 30 minutes of driving into the bush to get to this little settlement. I found it incredibly interesting. Mobile stops are medical stops that our clinic takes to go to other villages on the outskirts of Bobonong, or as we like to call it…going into the bush. Many of these people are unable to make it into Bobonong to the clinic or the hospital, so we go to them to make sure they get their checkups and rations. We had been waiting for transport all morning to take us to the mobile stop. We finally reach there at around 1:30 PM and there are about 75 people perched under trees on their blankets just waiting for us. They had all brought their children to be weighed. So there were about 30 kids between the ages of 6 months and 5 years just running around, waiting for us. We get there, and the health educator gave a little speech/health talk in Setswana (unfortunately, I have no idea what she told them). I introduced myself (because clearly, they were curious as to why a little Chinese girl just came out of the back of the ambulance). And the nurse gave an introduction about why I was here and where I was from. They were all incredibly sweet, they thanked me for being there. That made me happy. J

Then we weighed the babies under the trees. Of course, they gave me the part of the job that did the most, so I got piled up with children’s health books, while trying to record all their information on our log book. I spent the next hour asking “ngwana, o kile alwala?” (child, has he/she been sick?) or “nana, o ja eng?” (baby, what does he/she eat?). As I went through each book, I would ask the mother these questions. They would wait in line, and watch as their book was getting pulled from the stack, and would answer my questions. It was pretty cool. We stayed out here for about 2 hours, as the nurse gave vaccines and gave out meds to the people of this little village. The other interesting thing about today was that I found a box of condoms, and realized they weren’t being distributed. So I took the box of condoms out, and in 30 seconds, all 100 condoms were GONE. People were grabbing them by the handful. A lady told me to give more to another lady because she had 5 boys and that she needed the condoms. I think that’s just how things roll out here. No condoms, more babies. Hopefully I helped save one of these women another unwanted pregnancy with these condoms. That would be pretty cool.

I did laundry today at 4:15 PM when I got home. And it is so hot, they were dry by 6 PM. I’m scared shitless for this summer and what the heat has to bring. I am going to cry. I guarantee it already.

I wanted to touch up on how things work in terms of patients records out here. You know how in the states, we don’t bring anything but our insurance cards when we see a doctor? And they have all the records and your history? Well, here everyone is in charge of their own records. They are basically called patient health cards. All the children and provided with a Child Health Book, where we record each month how much a child weighs, what their ailments are when they get sick, their HJV status (as well as the mother’s HIV status), and height. We measure the children’s height once every 6 months (February and August). We weigh the babies every month. But even if you’re an adult, you have your own records as well, that you bring in whenever you get a check up, get meds, or need to see a nurse for a problem. Everyone here is in charge of their own records. Which actually seems to be a decent system. I like it at least. I feel like in the states we waste too much paper and space with that. It also makes sure people here are more in charge of their own health needs and helps them understand more of what their ailments are.

Something I’ve noticed is that people are incredibly patient here. They can be left waiting, and not a peep or complaining. They will be asked to do things, because someone is clearly too lazy to move, and someone will go and do it if asked. I don’t know if it’s just that they don’t have anything better to do. Or if they are just used to be kept waiting. I guess the whole “Africa time” concept is incredibly ingrained into their culture. “Africa time” meaning that there is no real set time, and people can be as late as they want. Nothing really starts on time, and nothing really gets done so much on a schedule, they happen when they happen. Haha, for Americans, this can be incredibly frustrating since we value ours and others time so much. But here, this is just what they are used to. I guess…when in Rome, do as the Romans do. A thing that we Americans need to remember…is that we are NOT in America anymore, and we are not going to turn Botswana into America. So we just go with what we’re given and just roll with it. Otherwise, you will find yourself pulling your hair out, and that just won’t do for the next 2 years.

September 7, 2011
Today, I had to ask someone how to mop a floor. Well, more so along the lines of “am I supposed to squeeze the water out of the mop before I start mopping?” ya, ok…I grew up spoiled. I’m not going to deny it. But…HEY, give me credit! At least I’m trying and not complaining about doing it! Ya ya ya, pathetic, I know. I’m getting there. Lol. And my bedroom finally feels clean. J

September 8, 2011
Today I played with a baby. He was adorable. Then I went to a preschool in Molalatu, which is about 20 km away from Bobs. One of the ladies, or I would like to consider as one of my “moms” from the Home Based Care, has started a preschool out there. She wanted to show it to me, and of course, I love going to places like that. So I just watched kids play around for about an hour. We’re thinking about having me come out once a month and teach them English. Doesn’t sound too bad of a job.

Then I went and picked cabbage in a cabbage patch for an hour. Seriously. Haha, life is funny sometimes.

September 14, 2011
Today I did my first “capacity building.” We have been doing reports by hand, where we do all our calculations in a notebook and by cellphone. I got tired of writing that could simply be created on excel. So the past couple months, I have been working on creating an easy report on the computers. But, I was the only one that knew how to do it. So today…I taught one of the health educators how to use to computer…and input the data into the report!!! YAY!!! I will continue to monitor her inputs, but the basics were there. She was super happy to learn and was surprised how easy it was to do. Step one. Baby steps, Amanda, baby steps. J

Friday, August 19, 2011

time flies i guess...

July 24, 2011
Today I went to the agricultural fair for Bobonong. There were chickens, roosters, pigeons, geese, ducks, and rabbits! Haha. they were cute. I went with the Home Based Care group to help them set up and to see what the fair was about. They had prizes for beans, maize, cabbages, jams…all sorts of things. It was pretty cool. There were informational booths, like consumer affairs. I just wandered around and craved maguinya and soup. Finally, I caved in, and it was DELICIOUS. Lol. It was something I had been craving all week. And I had finally had my share. We watch Slizer, which I guess is a Botswana celebrity. She’s like the Botswana’s version of Shakira. The cool thing about her is that she is from Bobobong. So she came back to her home village. It was a fun performance. Then my friend Kers came by, so I hung out with her for a bit, and went to watch her soccer team. Oh did I forget to mention, my head outfit for the day consisted of pigtails, baseball cap, my green sunglasses, and…a band-aid on my face. I looked AMAZING and incredibly sexy. I had a mosquito bite on my face and it was starting to ooze out liquid. It was AWESOME. Haha, I had a few people tell me I looked ugly. Lol. honestly, fine by me, the uglier the better. Lol. To add to the deterrent of men besides my ugly face, I decided to carry around a box of condoms. I figured any guy that tried to approach me, I’d just give them a condom. It worked well, people were a bit taken aback, and left me alone. But the other good thing was that they actually took the condom. Yay! J haha, oh my volunteer with the gay and lesbian center did me well. I am not afraid of handing random people condoms. Others actually would yell at me and be like “do you know what you are holding?!” haha. I would say yes, then offer them condoms. That worked too. Cuz they would just laugh, and take the condoms. I just hope they use them properly!

So in the past week, Kers and I have noticed that there is a small group of children that have been running around, begging people for food, money, and clothes. This is actually incredibly odd to see. Kers calls them “street kids”. They refuse to go to school, and when they are forced to go, they just run away. Apparently, the situation is that their mother has died (most likely from AIDS), and they are being watched by their uncle…who I guess is a bit of a lush and doesn’t really watch the kids. There are about 7 kids, and the ages range from about 5 to 13. Anyways, these kids have been a bit of a worry to Kers and some of the members of the community.

Kers and I decide to pay a visit to where they are staying to check out exactly what the situation is. I want to go, because I want to see what is going on. She wants to go to talk to the people living with these kids…and of course I don’t understand a word, I’m just sitting there observing and really taking in the scenery, which honestly made me very sad and confused. There were about 8 women (if you can even call them that…I think some were as young as 15 years old) and about 25 children just running around. Some of these kids didn’t even have clothes. The women are sitting outside on blankets and cardboard, just breastfeeding babies. A puppy is chewing on a skinned rat. And the houses that they are staying in are basically mud shacks with holes in them. Some of them were even missing parts of their roofs. It was an abysmal sight to see. Their clothes were ragged and dirty. Some didn’t have shoes. Two of the older women had crutches. The government does help them out, being that the children are considered to be destitute, since they have a parent that has died from AIDS. They are rationed food, toiletries, soap, the basics. But clearly they aren’t getting enough, or they don’t know how to manage their rations. We talk to them for a bit and Kers thinks the best way to start with helping them is by helping them with a half built house. We’ll see when that can be done. A bit of a problem with these kids is that they’re not so much into the whole appreciation aspect, making it difficult for people to want to assist them. Which I can understand. But at the end of the day, if they need help, maybe in the long run, something good can come from it. As we were leaving, 2 of the kids run off at top speed, trying to make a run back into town. 2 of the girls or “women” (since they already have children…at the age of 15), chase after them to bring them back. It was baffling to see…children running away as fast as their little legs can take them to go begging. Running away from people that don’t necessary treat them badly, or yell at them…but running because they just want to beg. Sigh…I guess I should start at the social service office to see what can be done…but this was a new sight to me. And perhaps the reason why I wanted to come here to Botswana in the first place.

July 25, 2011
So you want to know what’s been happening in my life here in Botswana? o batla go itse ke dira eng mo Botswana? Not much really. Ke dira sepe. Lol. I go to work at the clinic in the mornings. Ke tsamaya go tiro phakela. Where most of the time I just spend weighing babies. I’ve been peed on about 3 times now. I’m a bit scared of holding babies without diapers now. lol. I just hang out with the people at the clinic. I just talk to people. Most people just talk to me in Setswana. And I normally respond with a confused look, until they repeat it over and over again and then give up. Or they just say it in English. I can actually pick up what people are asking me more times than not. Which is pretty cool. I don’t think I’ll come back fluent, but I’m not doing too bad with the Setswana. So ya, I weigh babies, and talk to people in Setswana, and learn Setswana. Then I normally head to town to hang out with Kers for a bit, and then go to Home Based Care to hang out with the lovely ladies that run the NGO. I watch them make beads. Or help them watch the desk. Help them cook. Whatever they need. Or we just talk. They also try to talk to me in Setswana a lot. So I’m picking up Setswana everywhere. Then I normally go home. Sit, watch a show, eat, read, just do whatever. Ke nna, leba TV, ja, bala, ke dira sepe. Then I hang out with my neighbor, Sego, we just chat or watch TV. Then I cook dinner. Watch another show or read. Take a bath. Tlapa. Then time for bed. Robala. That is my life here in Bobonong. I haven’t been writing much because not much has been happening, besides just what I described. Ga ke kwale ka go reng ga ke dire sepe le ga ke na le sepe go bua fa.

Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself that I am in Botswana. It’s still strange to me. Whenever I say, it still feels incredibly odd. But at the same time, this place has become home. Botswana has become home. I’ve very much fallen into pace with life here. And for the first time in a really long time, I can honestly say that I am happy. I am saying it, and for once I am not trying to convince myself that I am happy. Not to say that I don’t miss home and my friends. But I have really come to embrace life here. Today I walked to the tuck shop to go get airtime. Walking on a dirt road…and I am getting airtime at a tuck shop. Simple. And it made me smile. This is my life in Botswana. This is what we do here in Botswana. It makes me happy to know that something so simple can make me happy. It’s funny because it’s such a simple task here. But in America, 3 of those things aren’t even in our vocabulary or found in everyday life. When was the last time you walked on a dirt road that didn’t involve hiking? In America, most people don’t buy “airtime” which is the equivalent of buying minutes in a way, we buy by a package. When we buy aritime, it’s by pula, and not by minutes. So each text or SMS within Botswana costs 25 thebe (which is equivalent to cents). Each SMS to the states is 1 pula (which is equivalent to dollars). I don’t know how much it costs to make a phone call within Botswana, but I wanna say somewhere around 50 to 75 thebe. And each phone call to the states is 6 pula per minute. So I went to go by 20 pula of airtime for me to use however I like. Now as for tuck shops, well, I already explained that before. I guess I’m just saying that I’m totally enthralled by my simple life out here.

For those of you who know me, when I was at home, I was constantly going out. I had schedules packed for 2 weeks straight. I always had to do be doing something. And it always had to be sometime engaging. Clubs. Bars. Shooting ranges. Beaches. Dinners. And here? What do I do? I sit on my doorstep and stare at the tree. Or stare at the stars. Or stare at the clouds. Watch ants.  It’s funny because, Botswana has given me lots of time to just…think. I find myself often staring off into space for long spans of time just thinking. Before, in the states, it was never a good thing when I started to think. It would lead me to dark places or make me over analyze everything. I would just stress the more I thought about things that were going on or things that were happening. But here, when I think about these things, I’m no longer stressed or upset about thinking. I just think. it has really given me the time to sort things out in my head. Not quite sure what I’m sorting out, but I know I’m finally feeling more at peace with myself. At home, I felt like I was always fighting against something, may it be expectations, society, or people. But here, I’m finally away from all that. And now is the time that I can really concentrate on myself. I have a lot of alone time here. Before that was bad thing. Now, it’s something I look forward to. I like doing nothing, I’ve decided. Which is completely contradictory of who I tried to make myself believe that I was in the states. I hated doing nothing. I think in the states, I was just running myself ragged and didn’t know how to stop and take a break. There was just always too much going on, that I never took the time to sort things out for me. Too many distractions. I just never took the time for myself, because I always felt like I had to be doing something because everyone else was always doing something. But here, I have nothing better or else to do, so I am finally forcing myself to take the break that I need. And at the end of the day, it’s making me more comfortable with who I am and who I want to be. And I love how here, I don’t have to be doing anything, because the way of life is to not really do very much here. It’s so laid back, and people actually just enjoy their time sitting. And it has really calmed my nerves down. I’ve even cut down a shit ton on my drinking. So I thank you, Botswana, for making me a happier/healthier person. And this time, it has nothing to do with a person making me happier, this is just ME making myself happier.

Today I got a package from my parents and Joanne. I was surprised as to how happy I was to get them. I knew it was coming, but I was still super excited to get them. I got an overwhelming feeling of love and appreciation. And I’m not saying this to be corny or anything. It made me really appreciate them for taking the effort to put the package together and send it to me. They sent me everything that I had asked for, and it made me really happy that they would do that for me. I was especially happy to find the picture of my teddy bear from my parents. They took the time to take the picture then go to the store to print out. I love them. I wish I could give them a hug. I can’t though, so I send viral hugs. *hug hug hug* J THANKS PARENTS AND JOANNE. I <3 u!!! J

July 27, 2011
Today I was walking to work, and 4 donkeys were blocking my path. When I walk to work, I normally take short cuts, which involves little pathways in between houses. So, there were 4 donkeys in my path. I literally stood there for 5 minutes…staring at them. and of course, they stared back. I would slowly approach them, and they would shift uneasily. The whole time I am thinking…please don’t kick me…please don’t kick me…please don’t kick me. I had heard of those donkey kicks, and I had no intention of experiencing them first hand. Finally these 2 ladies walked by, laughed, and asked me if I was scared of donkeys. I just told them I didn’t want to get kicked by them. They just laughed and said that they wouldn’t kick me. And just passed right through them. I did the same. Silly me. Haha. anyways, this is what happens in Botswana. At least now I know I can pass donkeys without the fear of being kicked by one.

August 1, 2011
WOW….it’s been 4 months since I left the states. That’s crazy. It has felt ridiculously slow…but when looking back…it seems like it’s gone by fast. I’ve been gone for 4 months. Has the past 4 months felt like a long time to you too? Or did it go by super fast? 22 more months to go!

Thank you to all my friends and family that have taken the time and effort to call and send packages. I know I’m not easy to get in touch with, but it’s ALWAYS nice to hear from you and a good reminder of what I have at home. I love you guys and miss you! J *HUGS*

August 19, 2011
Not much has happened. Went to training for IST. It was nice to see everyone, though the training aspect bored us all to tears. I’m heading back to Bobonong on Sunday, where I will officially be in my house. Which is going to be different…and interesting. I apparently have managed to get rosea, which is a weird skin thing that is going to leave me itchy for the next 2 months. In other words, I feel like crap, and can’t stop scratching, so I look like a crackhead. It’s a good thing we don’t have crackheads here, otherwise, people would think I am a crackhead. Do you think it’s possible for me to get new skin? Cuz that would be awesome.