Sunday, June 09, 2013


This will probably be my last post to this blog. I realized that I never updated it saying that I indeed made it home successfully from Botswana. It's crazy to think one year ago, yesterday I was stepping foot on American soil for the first time in 2 years and 2 months. Plenty has happened over that year and I figured I could update a little bit about that.

The flight home wasn't too bad, even with the changes. I was able to get home safely and catch up on a few movies. The feeling of going home was pretty awesome. I just kept thinking how I did it! Against all odds I completed my Peace Corps Service and was finally getting to go home. I was officially an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). It was a wonderful feeling! When I got off the plane I had around 20 of my friends and family members at the airport waiting at the gate to welcome me home! There were many tears of joy shed and it was awesome to be surrounded by the ones I loved again. We went to Skyline Chili on our way home and it was glorious!

Re-adjustment back to the American ways wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. Although, I still refuse to get a smartphone so maybe I am still not completely readjusted back to the USA. I had a few freak-out grocery isle moments the first week back. The first one happened when my mother took me to the grocery store to re-stock my toiletries and I remember staring at the isle of facial cleansers not knowing which one to choose, cause there were so many of them. I began to become angry and upset with the surplus amount of choices us Americans have. It was pretty overwhelming. I also remember being very excited by the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that were now readily available. I couldn't wait to dig into that.

The next few weeks were full of lunch and dinner dates. It was great eating all of the foods I hadn't been able to for the past couple years. Mostly these dates were full of catching up with old friends and being questioned about my time over in Botswana. I remember getting tired of answering the same questions over and over again, and soon I realized how to judge between those who really cared to hear about my time over there and who only wanted the Reader's Digest summed up version. That was rather difficult to deal with at times. How do you sum up 2 year's and 2 months of experiences in to a few short sentences??? I also remember getting pretty annoyed whenever people would ask "How was Africa?" as if Africa is one big place. I lived in Botswana, which is very different than other parts of Africa so how am I supposed to know how Africa is?? That would be like saying "How is North America??"

I also struggled with how much things cost. It was pretty rough for a while. I had decided to go back to school to get my Associates Degree in Ecotourism and Adventure Travel. Since I already have a Bachelors Degree, I didn't really get any Financial Aid Assistance and the readjustment allowance Peace Corps gives us upon return to the states didn't go very far. The first 6 months back was a struggle money-wise, but somehow I made do. I was able to get a job back with my old work at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours and working part time at the school I would be attending. It was a fun summer working in the office and hanging out with camp kids.

Before school started, I had to go on a backpacking trip for my Into to Ecotourism class. I know rough life right? That was the first time I realized, not everyone wants to hear about my time in Botswana. I think I annoyed everyone on that trip with my stories. Anytime anyone would say anything I found myself relating it to Botswana. By the end of the week I realized how annoying I was probably being and told myself I needed to stop telling people about my Peace Corps experience, unless they asked. That took some time, but I feel I have gotten to that place where I can talk about my experiences without annoying people.

Over the past year I have pretty much been going to school and working various jobs. School has been a lot of fun and I really feel like I have found a field I can truly be passionate about. I will finish up school in December and hopefully be off to some new adventures working in the outdoors as a guide or instructor maybe for Outward Bound or a Wilderness Therapy type of place. I have come to realize how much I enjoy being outside and if I can get a job where I am paid to be outside I will be happy.

As for my time in Botswana, I find myself missing the slower paced life sometimes and I definitely miss my friends over there. Luckily technology has come a long way and I still stay in touch with some of them. Hopefully one day in the future I will be able to go back and visit. I am very grateful for my Peace Corps experience. Although it wasn't always easy and there were many times I wanted to quit and go home, I am glad I finished it out and served the whole time. I wouldn't trade my time over there for the world. Would I do it again? Probably not, but Peace Corps Response (shorter stints of 3 months - 1 year) is always an option I would for sure be willing to do. Or if I ever got married and my husband (whoever he may be) wanted to serve, I would totally do it with him. So who knows maybe I'll find myself in another rural village somewhere, learning their culture and trying to make a positive difference in their community. Till then I am taking life as it comes and enjoying every minute of it :)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

I'm Coming Home!!

This week I spent my time in the capital of Botswana at the Peace Corps Offices, doing all the things I needed to do to successfully close out my service. It was full of interviews and paper work and medical and dental checks. As of June 6th, 2012 I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer and have moved into RPCV (Returned Peace Corps) status. I was supposed to be on a flight home leaving Johannesburg, South on June 6th, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the protesting going on in Egypt. Luckily I have some friends who have family in Pretoria (a city close by) who are letting me stay the night and make use of their internet. After multiple calls to Orbitz and hours of being put on hold, I was finally able to get my new flight itinerary!! That was a huge relief because I was starting to worry that I was going to be stuck in Africa! As much as I will miss and do miss living and working in Botswana, after being here for two years I just want to come home and see all my friends and family. I will be arriving at Port Columbus on June 8th at 9:15pm as long as all the flights run on schedule. See you all stateside!

Friday, June 01, 2012


After 2+ years of being in Botswana my loathing of packing has not diminished. When I came to Botswana I came with this:

I am leaving with one less suitcase and a girl can accumulate A LOT of stuff in 2 years! This time around I don't have my wonderful mom to help me get everything to fit :( which has made the past few days some of my least favorite. After packing, re-packing, rearranging, and finally deciding I can part with a few more clothes I was able to get everything packed into this:

Now I can relax and enjoy my last day in my village before I head to the capital on Sunday to do closeout medical and administration things. :) RPCV status is within reach. Can't believe this day has come!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2 Weeks...

...the amount of time I have left here in Botswana. After years of having the goal to serve in the Peace Corps, the amount of time it took to go through the application process (1.5 years), and having my dream finally come true, it will all be over 2 weeks from now. 2 weeks from now I will be getting ready to board a plane to come home. I haven't set foot in US soil in over 2 years. As excited as I am to come home and as much as I am looking forward to that feeling of satisfaction of finishing and achieving a goal I had set out for myself, I am also sad to close out this chapter of my life. The past week I have been working on my site report to be handed over to the volunteer who replaces me in Machaneng (which is weird to think about in its self), working on my Description of Service Report, sorting through my stuff, and saying my goodbyes.  Various friends I have made over the past two years have been stopping by to see me before I leave and each time they leave with some of my stuff. My house is becoming less and less mine as the days pass by. My village is throwing me a Goodbye Braii Party this Friday, and I'm really looking forward to spending that time with all my friends in Machaneng. I've never really been great at goodbyes so these past few weeks have been hard. Luckily in this day and age there are things like facebook and email that makes the world a much smaller pace and makes it easier to stay in touch with people from another country. But in the end there are many people who I will more than likely never see again and that makes me sad. Not only will I miss my friends that I have made over here, I am going to miss so much of Botswana and Africa that I have grown to love. In life they say when one door closes another one opens. Hopefully the door that is opening will be just as great as the door that is closing. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Shadows and Casts

A couple weeks ago I got to host another Peace Corps Trainee for a week. When the new volunteers come into country they go through 2 months of training before they get sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. One week out of their training they get to leave the training site to stay with a current volunteer. During their shadow time they get to see what life as a PCV is like. I got to host a trainee from the Bots 11 group back in October so I was excited to be chosen to host someone from the Bots 12 group that just came to Botswana in April.

After I was told I was going to be hosting a trainee I started to freak out a little bit, because I realized I didn't really have much going on at site anymore as my projects are starting to wind down. The week before I was supposed to meet her in Mahalapye I scrambled around to make sure we had some stuff to do. In the end there was no reason for the minor freak out. 

On Monday I went and met Leah (the girl that would be shadowing me) and the two other trainees who would be shadowing the volunteer who lives in a nearby village in Mahalapye (my shopping village). I had to mail a package home so I took the 3 trainees to the post office so they could experience the wonderfulness of the Botswana Post. Luckily trying to send my package home didn't take too long and I only ran into a couple minor complications. After that we picked up some food for the week and headed for the bus back to the village.

On Tuesday I showed Leah around the clinic and village. Then in the afternoon she led a focus group discussion with the PACT Club at the Jr. Secondary School. We had a small group of students show up which worked out really well and they were able to have a pretty good discussion on their views about Botswana and the economy and problems in the village. It's always interesting to hear what the youth have to say about some of these issues. Leah did a great job facilitating too. That night we made flatbread and hummus for dinner and it was pretty yummy.

On Wednesday, I took Leah over to Sefhare (a nearby bigger village) so that we could meet the women who make beads for the Sefhare branch of Mothers for All. Mothers for all is an organization that makes jewlery from breads made from recycled paper, magazines and posters. All the proceeds from the beadwork goes to support mothers or caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children in the community. It's a really great organization so I wanted the new volunteers to meet some of the women and learn more about what they do. Plus there was the added perk of being able to buy some of their products first hand! I also invited Cassie (the volunteer staying in a nearby village) and her shadows to come since we were collaborating to do a STEPS Screening (STEPS Videos are films made in and around Africa and they touch on various HIV/AIDS issues and are great to use to help facilitate a discussion with different community members) at Matlhako Library in the afternoon. While we were in Sefhare my friend Sister Francis (a nun whose been ministering in Sefhare for the past 16 years and has been in Botswana since the '70s) showed us some of the other things she's accomplished since she's been here. We got to see a really nice preschool and day care center, a Red Cross Center that runs a preschool for disabled children in the village and surrounding area and has a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program on the weekends, and we also got to see some of the backyard gardens some of the Mothers For All women have started up. It was really neat to see so many great things happening! I hope it was inspiring for the new volunteers to see what can be accomplished with hard work and motivated people. Some of the trainees were specializing in food security so I think they really appreciated getting to learn more about how to garden here.

In the afternoon we headed over to Matlhako Library to set up for our STEPS Screening. The week before Cassie and I had met with the Library Staff and planned to do a screening with the Standard 6 and 7s from the Matlhako Primary School. I thought it would be cool for the shadows to see. We got to the library and waited around. After a few hours we were told that the teachers were not going to allow the students to leave school to come and watch the movie, so no screening was going to happen. That was pretty disappointing, but it's what happens sometimes in Peace Corps. Once home Leah and I made some Taco Salad from scratch which was pretty yummy!

The rest of the week was spent at the clinic working on a volunteer job description with the clinic staff. This is so the organization and the new volunteer will be clear on the volunteers roles and responsibilities in the clinic and community. I think it’s a really good thing to have and I hope it will help the next volunteer who comes to Machaneng. I was also supposed to meet with preschool owner to work on a grant proposal, but she unfortunately ended up cancelling.

At the end of the week all the area volunteers and their shadows came over to my house and we had pizza! Then on Saturday we all went out to Len and Marina's farm on the Tuli Block so the shadowees could see what it's like out there.

 Lennie took us out on an afternoon game drive and showed us around the farm. We saw a few animals and some giraffes!! This was pretty exciting for the trainees, because these were the first wild animals (besides monkeys) that they have seen in Botswana.

We got to stay the night out at their hunters campsite, which was pretty cool. We had a braii with huge tasty steaks. After dinner Lennie took us out to chase after springhares, which is probably one of my favorite things to do here! This time I actually got to chase after them, unlike when my family was here (because I was sick). At one point I was super close to catching one, but it hoped away…should have dove on top of it. One of the runs I didn't see a warthog burrow and took a bad spill. I rolled over laughing but when I got up I could tell my ankle was hurting pretty bad. Once we got back to the campsite I investigated the damage. My ankle was swollen pretty bad…I decided I would text Peace Corps Medical about it once I got home. The rest of the night was spent hanging around the campfire and enjoying the outdoors. It was really nice of them to let us all come out there. The Vermulien's have been soo hospitable towards me throughout my service and I cannot thank them enough for all that they have done for me. I'm really glad I met them and became friends with them. I will always remember the kindness they showed me throughout my service and hope to one day return the favor.

Once home on Sunday I called the Peace Corps Medical Office and they told me to go to my clinic to have my ankle checked out. The doctor at the clinic wanted me to get an x-ray done to make sure nothing was broken or dislocated. On Monday I was sent to Sefhare Primary Hospital to get my ankle x-rayed and checked out by the doctor there. Gotta love rural public health care. The doctor said nothing was broken, but there was definitely soft tissue damage so he wanted to administer a POP (plaster of paris). So they put a cast on me and gave me some pain pills and crutches and sent me away. Sucks this had to happen right at the end of my service, but luckily I only have to keep my cast on for a few weeks. And now I will have a cool African cast full of signatures to take back to America with me when I leave in June :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Last Trip (South Africa and Mozambique)

This post is long overdue, guess I have just been busy and had a hard time being motivated to write about this trip. But here it is:

Back at the end of Feburary/beginning of March and before my Close Of Service (COS) Conference I took one last vacation to South Africa, Mozambique and Lesotho (well we didn't make it Lesotho :( I'll talk about that more later). I needed to use up the last of my vacation days before I went on "lock down" (after COS Conference, volunteers are supposed to stay in their sites as much as possible, so that they can properly close out projects and say their goodbyes which means no taking vacations) the last few months of service. I went with another volunteer and her friend from home. It was a great last trip here in Africa. Over the two weeks we drove a lot and saw many picturesque landscapes. Here are some highlights:


Rustenburg:  Here we went to the Ukutula Lodge to play with BABY LIONS!!! 

It took us a little longer than we had expected to get there so at first the lady at the reception desk said that the only thing available was to go on a lion walk. Since I had already done one up in Zambia I really didn't want to pay the money to go on one again. But then she called someone and said they had time for us to go on a tour around the Lodge and to play with the baby lions! I was soo excited!! While we waited for our guide to come we got to play/pet/cuddle with a 4 week old new born. He was super cute!

Once the guide came she took us to see the lions. The first couple we got to spend time with were a few months old. They were pretty sleepy because it was later in the day, but we still were able to pet them and play with them a little bit. 

Then the guide took us to see some of the animals they have in cages. I guess they had rescued some of them. There we saw baby hyenas, a several cat, a bob cat, and bengal tigers! 

spotted hyena cub

sereval kitten

Then we got to go in and pet the 3 year old cheetah, Emma. I was super excited about this because cheetahs are my favorite animal. 

After we spent some time with Emma, the guide took us to see the bigger cats. The Lodge/Reserve is doing research on the white lion. The white lion is become extinct so Ukutula Lodge is trying different combinations of breeding to isolate the specific gene that makes a lion cub come out white. Once they isolate that, they hope to be able to breed more white lions. To make money  the lodge lets tourists come and play with the lions and go on walks with the older lion cubs. Once the lions get to a certain age they reintegrate them back into the wild. 

they tried to put them in separate cages and they missed each other soo much that they wouldn't eat , so they put them back together, soo cute!

the white lion cub
Once we saw all the bigger lions we got to go back to where the older cubs were to hang out with them a little bit. These cubs were about 5-6 months old and are nicknames the "little devils". This is because they are EXTREMELY playful! We had to be careful and aware of where the cubs were, because they would try to pounce on you and they were at the age were their claws were getting sharp. It was a lot of fun playing with them. I even have some scars on my legs from where a few of the cubs got me. It was definitely a really cool experience.

getting ready to pounce

he was trying to play with me haha
Bloefontein: So after Rustenburg we were supposed to be heading to Lesotho to go on a over-night pony trek through the beautiful mountains. We had a long day of driving with a few directional mishaps. We got to the road that we were supposed to be taking to get into Lesotho and it was ridden with potholes. Now normally this wouldn't be too much of a problem but with our tiny little rental car we had to drive super slow to get through or around the pot holes (kind of reminded me of the time when I was with my family in AZ and we were heading to Tombstone, we decided to take a "shortcut" to shave off time but the road ended up being washed out and it took us much much longer to get to our destination…not fun). It was starting to get late in the day and a storm was brewing, so we decided to turn around and figure out a better option. We called the lodge we were going to be staying at and told them we didn't think we were going to make it, due to the roads and weather. The lodge was very nice and told us they would give us a full refund. Then we headed to a backpackers nearby in Bloefontien and refigured out our trip.

Clarens: On our way to Durban from Bloefontien we decided to stop here for lunch. Clarens is a quite little town set in the middle of mountains. Brad Pitt has a house here and I don't blame him, I wouldn't mind living there myself. We spent a few hours wondering around all the little shops and got some lunch. 

On our way out we drove through the Golden Gate National Park. This park was full of breath taking views of sandstone mountains. It was gorgeous! I wish we had spent more time there.

Durban: The times we were in Durban were just stop over nights at a really neat backpackers that sits on a hill a few feet from the beach. One morning Melissa and I got up super early so we could watch the sun rise and stick our feet into the Indian Ocean. The sunrise was beautiful. Durban has a really big Indian population so it's known for it's outstanding Indian food. One night Melissa and I decided to get some and it was delicious!

our little cabin at Antsey's Backpackers

St. Lucia: This is a little town that sits on an estuary. The town was pretty dead due to it being low tourist season. This was nice because things weren't crowded, but bad for seeing wildlife.  No tours were going out because they need a certain number of people to take out on boat cruises and game drives and 3 people was not going to cut it. This was pretty frustrating, but what are you going to do. For lunch I got to eat some of the local fish, which was pretty tasty. In the evening the backpackers we were staying at cooked a traditional meal for everyone. Our backpackers was a few feet from one of the docks to the estuary, so while we waited for dinner to be ready we went and watched the sunset. 

After dinner some of the guys took everyone at the backpackers on an informal night game drive, which was fun. We didn't see too much just a bunch of night chameleons and hippos! It was crazy because the hippos were all over the place, just chilling in people's yard. People back home complain about deer eating their gardens, imagine if you went to take out the trash and full grown hippo was in your yard chomping on your flowers??? Crazy!!! 

In the morning we drove around the Cape Vidal Park. It was pretty but the weather was pretty gloomy. We saw only a few animals, but did see a black rhino which was pretty sweet. We wanted to have a nice beach lunch and go swimming once we got to the beach but the wind and current was too strong. Our sandwiches ended up being really sandwiches and were pretty crunchy..yum yum. Needless to say we were a little disappointed that the weather wasn't allowing us to enjoy the beach so we only spent a few minutes there.

black rhino



Drakkensburg: Since we weren't able to make it to Lesotho we decided this would be a good alternative because Drakkensburg has some beautiful mountain ranges. We stayed at the Inkosana Lodge, which is set amongst indigenous gardens and against a backdrop of the Drakkensburg Mountains. It had some amazing views of the mountains. 

 One day we decided go on a 9km hike through Monk's Cowl and see the Sterkspruit and Nandi Falls. The hike wasn't too bad and the views were incredible. The whole time I felt like I was on some kind of adventure and the views looked like something out of a movie. Along the way there were some pools you could go swimming in, so we made sure to take advantage of those to cool off from the heat. Nandi falls was probably my favorite. It reminded me a lot of the Hocking Hills Area near my hometown.

Sterkspruit Falls

one of the swimming pools

Nandi Falls
Johannesburg: Before dropping  the rental car and Melissa's friend off at the airport, we decided to stop at the Sterkfontein Caves. This is were the Cradle of Man or supposedly the origins of the human species started. This is also were they found Mrs. Ples, the first complete Australopithecus skull, and "Little Foot", a 4.17 million-year-old almost complete ape-man skeleton. I am glad we were able to fit this in because it was a very educational tour with some cool sights.

this one is called the elephant (can you see it?)

this one is called the monster...creepy!


Maputo:  I was super excited to visit Mozambique. Volunteers who had visited there before have shared stories and pictures of time spent relaxing on the beautiful beaches and eating lots of wonderful seafood. Mozambique is a little difficult to get to. In order to get to Mozambique, Melissa and I had to take a 12 hour over night bus from Johannesburg and obtain a visa beforehand. To get the visa I had to physically go to the Mozambique Embassy in Gaborone and wait a few days while it was processed. This can be difficult when it takes 3.5-4 hours to get there from my village and I don't have a car. The first time I went I showed up the embassy to find that it was a holiday and the embassy was closed! So I had to wait over the weekend to get the Visa on Monday. Eventually I was able to obtain the Visa.  So after dropping off Melissa's friend we decided to hangout in the airport before heading to the bus (the bus depot isn't the safest place to hangout). We had some subway and bought some bagels for the long bus trip. The bus ride was long, but luckily I had some sleeping pills which helped make the trip more bearable. Crossing the border was a little crazy because we were there just as the sun was rising and there were cars and cars lining waiting for the gate to open. But once the process was started it seemed not take as much time as I had thought. 

sunrise at the border crossing into Mozambique

Once we found the backpackers we were staying at we decided to set up camp and then explore the cite. Maputo is a very large city that seems to be crumbling before your eyes.  Everywhere you look there are reminders of the time it was a Portuguese colony and of the brutal 16th century civil war. We found a little resturant that severed a seafood pasta complete with shrimp and crab! Yum! We also realized how little English the locals knew. Luckily Melissa is pretty fluent in French and knows some Spanish, which has some similarities to Portuguese, so we were able to get by. We also found the craft market and looked around there. Unfortunately I was pretty low on cash so I wasn't able to buy any of the wonderful crafts :(

seafood pasta :)

our campsite

Tofo: The backpackers we were staying at had a shuttle to their other backpackers located in Tofo.  Tofo is one of the bigger tourist destinations, with great beaches and rated top in the world for getting scuba certified. I was extremely excited to relax on the beach, eat some good cheap seafood, and enjoy some cheap rum. The bus ride was about 8 hours and very long but worth it. The backpackers was located right on the beach so we quickly set up camp and decided to stay an extra night so we would have time to enjoy everything. Once again because it was low tourist season the beach town wasn't very crowded. This made it nice because we ended up making friends with a few people and just hung out with them the rest of the time we were there. Spent a lot of time soaking up the sun, reading, and enjoying the wonderful views. We got to eat lobster and crab for pretty cheap and it was delicious! 


crab curry

One night there was a jazz band that preformed, so we went and listened. It was soo nice to hear live music again. The next afternoon I was hanging out at the backpackers reading  while Melissa had gone into town to get some more money, when one of them members I had made friends with asked if I wanted to come watch their practice jam session. I decided to go and on our way I let it slip that I knew how to play flute. So of course when we got there they wanted me to play the flute they had handy. I haven't really played my flute since highschool, this flute had some keys sticking, it was an open-holed flute which is more difficult to play, and I've never really been good at improvising music, so let's just say my addition to their jam session was interesting… It was a lot of fun to watch and listen to them play and even try to participate at times. Made me wish I had brought my flute or some sort of instrument to Botswana and worked on those skills during my down time. Maybe when I get back to the states I will try to learn another instrument..After a few hours I realized I needed to find Melissa since I had the key to our room. We had one last meal that night at a neat bar that turned into a dance party later on. It was a good way to go out and we ended up not sleeping at all since our shuttle back to Maputo left at 4am the next morning. 

The last leg of our trip was a long one because we did it straight without staying over anywhere. We did the 8 hour bus from Tofo to Maputo. Then that night left at 7pm from Maputo to Johannesburg. Got in Johannesburg at 4am and the bus to Gaborone didn't leave until 2pm so we just hung around the bus station. Then got to Gaborone around 9pm where we stayed. I was pretty exhausted by the time I got there. But it was worth it to have an extra night in Tofo.  I would definitely go back if I ever get a chance.

Alright so sorry for the long post, thanks for making it to here if you got all the way through! Hope you enjoyed the pictures :)