Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Technology is not my friend

So my computer crashed and I had to send it back to the states a few weeks ago. This means I will not be able to update my blog until I get it back :( I am very sorry but since I don't have a computer that means I have to use the internet at the Post Office in my village which gets a little expensive and is really slow. Just found out last night that the motherboard is fried from overheating. Guess it just couldn't take the Africian heat :( The good news is I will be getting a new computer for Christmas! Thanks Mom and Dad! Hopefully I will get that back in a few weeks. Just for a brief update: I have been fairly busy through the months of October and November. I will just list some of the things I have been doing. I went on a Safari at the Rhino Sanctuary, was a Judge for the Matlhako Library Preschool Beauty Pagent, Screened a STEPS video and had a great disscussion with the community about disclosing one's status, talking to children about HIV/AIDS, and stigmatization. I also helped plan our Sub-Districts Drama Competition and my village's Drama team won! They took home P500 and were extremely exited. Now I am getting ready for a get together with some of the other volunteers for Thanksgiving this weekend. I'm pretty sad I won't get to be with my family this year, but at least my mom sent me some of the family recipies to make here :) Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and I will try to upday when I can!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

6 Months in Botswana

Today marked 6 months of being in Botswana. On April 12th, 2010 I landed in Gaborone. In many ways it doesn't seem possible that I have been here that long and then in other ways it seems like I have been here longer. They say the first 6 months are the hardest part of your service and that it only gets better in time. I can see now why that is true. Since I have been here it has been a whirlwind and roller coaster of emotions. I love roller coasters but this one has been one I haven't always enjoyed being on. If the hardest part is behind me hopefully that means my train has climbed up the biggest part and I am now on the downward slope with full speed and momentum. Yes there will more bumps along the ride but hopefully they won't be as big as this first hill.

As I look back on my time here so far I can already see change in myself and isn't that partly why I decided to go on this journey? Even though there are still days where I hit a low there are many more where this feels right. Last Friday I went to the Prize Giving Day Ceremony at the Primary School. It was a lot like the one I went to a few weeks ago at the Jr. Secondary School. After I was fed lunch and started on my way home I heard someone call out "Refilwe." I turned to find my landlord's granddaughter peaking out from the fallen down tree behind me. I decided to go over and talk with her and her friends. I gave her my VIP card that was given to me during the ceremony, since I was one of the guests for the day. Her face just lit up so bright from a little piece of paper with some flowers on it. It reminded me of how much we take for granted the little things in life. She didn't receive any prizes during the ceremony because she didn't have the highest grades in her classes, but that little piece of paper I gave her probably meant more to her than any of the prizes that were given out at the ceremony. After a little bit the group of us walked home. Once I got home I changed and heard some noises coming from my front ledge. I went outside to find a whole group of kids sitting outside my house waiting for me to come outside. For the next hour or so I showed them how to throw a Frisbee. Afterwards Kenilwe asked me to teach her some English and she would teach me Setswana. I told her we could do that on Monday afternoon. Monday afternoon came around and once again she and I were sitting on the ledge under my window trying to teach each other languages we don't really understand. She is in form 2 (so the same as a 2nd grader) so her English is not all that great, which makes it difficult for her to teach me Setswana. It was fun spending time with her though. During those moments I felt like I was supposed to be here. I decided that I will need to find someone different to teach me Setswana, but I could probably still teach her English and will try to meet with her at least once a week. These are the types of things I pictured I would be doing as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I don't think anything could have prepared me for what I have experienced so far during my service. That is not to say it is a bad thing. Botswana and being a Peace Corps Volunteer is just very different than what I had thought before coming here. As time moves on I am noticing that I am being able to adapt to the changes or differences better than when I first arrived. I have made some friends in the community, I am starting projects (slowly but surely), I have a new family of support from the volunteers here in country that I can lean on when things get hard, and I have even gotten to travel a little bit around the country and see and experience things I never imagined I would had you asked me year or so ago. As I become more integrated into my community I am starting to scrape away the layers and see that there really is a need for me to be here.

I want to once again thank everyone back at home for all the support and words of encouragement you have given me. During the hardest times it's good to know people at home are thinking about me. The letters and packages are always lights in my darker days and I know I will continue to need and want that support throughout the rest of my service. As hard as these past 6 months have been, it makes me excited to see what the next 6 month will hold.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Botswana's Independance Day

September 30th marked Botswana's 44th year of independence. In 1966 Botswana gained Independence from being a British protectorate, so Botswana has truly come pretty far since it became a country. So what did I do to celebrate? I met up with 24 other Bots 9 volunteers to go camping on the Makgadikdadi Pans! This is one of the biggest salt pans in the world, it is about the size of Portugal. Usually there is a little bit of water on the salt pans which makes pictures look awesome but since we are in the dry season there was no water, but I still got some really good pictures. I'll have to go back sometime when there is more water.
There was a little bit of water in one of the river beds and some not so pink flamingos!

It's mini me!

The whole time I looked out onto the sandy abyss I couldn't help but feel like I was Captain Jack Sparrow when he was stuck at the world's end (maybe that's because I had just had a Pirate's of the Caribbean Movie Marathon the weekend before??).

Setting up tents

Beautiful Sunset :)
As we wondered the pans a little bit, we came across these huge tracks. At first we thought they were lion tracks but were later informed that they were hippo tracks! It's too bad we didn't get to see any, or maybe that’s a good thing…I wouldn't have wanted to be trampled by one while I slept out under the stars. I decided I didn't want to spend my money on a child's pup tent, like some of the other volunteers did. Luckily I wasn't the only one who didn't have a tent so I felt completely safe and it was really nice to sleep under the stars.
We were up before sunrise
Here comes the Sun!
We only stayed one night out on the pans, which was fine by me because there was no water and it was really hot out there with no shade. So on Friday some of us went to Francistown to stay at Daniel's apartment. He has a really nice place, which makes me slightly jealous. He has hot running water, although now that it's gotten really hot here I don't really need that, a shower, and AIR CONDITIONING! So it was a luxury to take some showers and relax in the air conditioning. The bus ride back to Ftown was a true African bus-ride experience. Because it was a holiday weekend the buses were crazy packed! The nine of us caught a packed full bus heading to Ftown from Maun. Somehow they squeezed us on, but we had to stand the whole 2 1/2 hour ride back. I think every part of me was brushed up against throughout the trip as people were getting on and off, luckily I was standing next to Lindsey so at least I knew one of the people brushing up against me. At one point there was a group of goats crossing the road (very typical in Botswana) and the bus driver was honking his horn to let them know they need to move. Unfortunately a baby goat got confused and just kept darting back and forth, not knowing where to go and then BAM! Baby goat is no more :( Very sad! Oh and at one stop a guy got on the bus with a live chicken in a grocery sack and sat next to Joel. The rest of the trip Joel was having to avoid getting bit by the chicken! Glad I wasn't him.
Once in Francistown we decided to go out for Mike and Jen's (two of the volunteers) birthdays. There was an Irish Pub just down the street from Daniel's apartment so we decided to go there to get a drink. We were all pretty excited to have some good draft beers, especially after looking over their vast selection on the menu. But surprise, surprise the only import beer they had was Guinness, which was insanely expensive, so most settled for a domestic and a couple of us ordered some margaritas. The beers came right away but our cocktails were taking a really long time, I think it was because they didn't know how to make it. After our drinks we went to an Indian Restaurant and ate a ton of really yummy food. Indian is now my new favorite kind of food.
In the morning a few of us went to an NGO that a Bots 8 volunteer works at. This organization does afterschool programs for the orphans and vulnerable children in the worst part of Francistown. On Saturdays they have some programs and feed the children lunch. Daniel typically goes and helps out on Saturdays and invited us to come along. We had a lot of fun playing with the kids. We tried to teach them duck, duck, goose but it didn't work too well. I had one little girl who was following me around for a little bit and when I had to sit in the pot she got up from her seat and sat in the pot with me! Soo cute! We played a lot of "touch" with the kids, which is what they call "tag" but not exactly the same. Later that night the 6 of us that stayed decided to make tacos from scratch. I was incharge of the tortillas. I had made them before but I was little nervous to make them for a bunch of other people, but they turned out great! Those tacos ended up being one of the best meals I've had here in country! Soo good!

The little girl in front is the one who was following me around
They were playing with Daniel's hair lol

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kgotla Meeting

Yesterday I got to go to my first ever Kgotla meeting in my village. Pretty exciting huh? What's a Kgotla meeting you ask? Well the Kgotla is the place in the village where the Kgosi (chief of the village) works, so the village holds meetings at the Kgotla to discuss issues or concerns in the village. The organization of power in most villages in Botswana is the Kgosi, Assistant Kgosi, Kgosana or Headmen (the heads of the different wards within the village, Machaneng has 7 wards and 6 Kgosana, the one ward doesn't have a Kgosana because it is a newer ward where the Jr. Secondary School was built), and the Village Development Committee (VDC). Here's a picture of what the Main Kgotla looks like (each ward has a smaller Kgotla where issues within the ward are discussed and talked about, but the Main Kgotla is used for bigger issues).


Some of the really important people in the District came to Machaneng today to talk about issues within the village and talk about the funding of youth activities. I went to see what a meeting was like and because the Out-of-School Youth Officer and I needed to talk to the District Commissioner about using this building that he is in-charge of for the preschool we want to start. The meeting was supposed to start at 2:30pm so I left my house around 2:45ish because things never start on time in Botswana. When I got to the Kgotla I was surprised to see that the meeting had started on time and there were lots of people already there. I decided to sit under one of the trees because I didn't want to be disruptive and the meeting was all in Setswana I didn't think I needed to be up where all the important people were sitting. After a few minutes I noticed a group of children gathering around me. I tried to ignore them since the meeting was going on and once again I didn't want to be disruptive. Soon I had children sitting all around me giggling and staring at the "lekgoa". A little while later a woman came over to me and told me to go sit in the Kgotla (the main building), so I went cause I didn't want to be disrespectful. Once I got to the Kgotla I notice there weren't really any chairs for me to sit in except for one empty one up front where all the important people were sitting. I decided to go sit in the back on the floor. After a few minutes another women came over to me and told me to go sit in the chair. In the Botswana culture men are supposed to have seats first and if there are none left then women sit on the floor, so I thought I was just being respectful by not taking the empty chair. I told her I was fine where I was, mainly because I didn't think I was important enough to be sitting up with the Kgosi and District Heads. Guess I was wrong because a few minutes later I was told again to go sit in the empty chair next to Kgosi Sarona. This time a obeyed because I figured refusing would have been disrespectful. So the next couple hours I spent listening to speeches made by the District Head and various individuals for the community. It was all in what I like to call Setswanglish (Setswana with some English mixed in) so I was able to pick up a little bit of what they were talking about. They talked about the libraries and how there needs to be more emphasis on reading in the community, funding for various things like youth sponsored things, and more funding for music and the arts in the youth, and more funding for youth development in sports. All pretty good things from what I picked up. As I was sitting there trying to understand what was being said I noticed my posse of children had followed me and were now sitting on the other side of the wall from me. A couple of times they got a little loud and were kindly told to quite down. I guess I was just more interesting to the children then whatever they were talking about during the meeting. Towards the end of the meeting the Out-Of-School Youth Group preformed a skit about Multiple Concurrent Partnerships and how that can easily spread HIV. It was really good and I even got a video that I will try to post sometime. It amazes me how talented these youth are. They had a DVD they were selling for P50 and the District Head of Youth and Sports said he would buy one for P500! The group was really excited! They want me to buy one from them but I told them I would if they make one with English subtitles.

After the meeting the Out-of-School Youth Officer and I were able to talk to the District Commissioner about the building we wanted to use. Unfortunately he said the Wildlife Department had already asked to use the abandoned building so we wouldn't be able to use it. On the brighter side Kgosi Sarona and a VDC member said they would look into letting us use the old preschool building. The Out-of-School Youth Group had sent the VDC a letter a few weeks ago about being able to use the old preschool but the VDC didn't really understand why they wanted the building. After talking to the VDC member, she said we could come to the next VDC meeting and explain what our project plans are. Things are looking good, especially since Kgosi Sarona thinks the project is a good idea. I just hope we will be able to convince the other VDC members as well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creepie Crawlies and Projects

So last night I was getting ready to go to bed when I look over at my wall and see this looking at me!
It was pretty scary especially since I didn't have any doom in my house (doom is kind of like raid here in Botswana). I'm not normally afraid of spiders but this one looked like a cross between a spider and a scorpion as you can see, so I didn't really want it hanging out on my wall. After gaining some confidence I decided to grab my running shoe and my bug repellent. I sprayed it with the spray hoping to stun it or something . Then I slammed my shoe on top of it. The creature fell off the wall and landed on the towel I use to cover the gap in between my front door and the floor so no creepy crawlies get inside my house (guess the gap wasn't covered very well). After repeatedly slamming my shoe on the spider (that thing would not die) I carefully moved the towel outside and shut the door. I showed the picture of the spider to some of the nurses at the clinic and the one said that I shouldn't have been scared of it cause they don't bite! Haha! Guess I freaked out for nothing, but I wouldn't want that thing crawling in my bed regardless if it will bite me or not!

I am starting to get some projects started in my village. Yesterday I met with the Out of School Youth group to hear about their ideas for some projects they want to do. The one I decided to help them with for now is opening up a pre-school for the orphans and needy children in the village. There already is a preschool/day care center in Machaneng, but you have to pay to enroll your child in it, which can be pretty expensive so many parents don't have their children go there. The Youth Group wants to open up a new preschool/daycare that is free of charge so the orphans and needy children have a place to get the love, support, and education they need to be ready for primary school when they turn 6. I think it is going to be a really great thing, but it is going to take a lot of work. Right now we are in the process of trying to find a building. There are a few options as to which building we could use but first we have to get permission and now I am finding out just how much red tape you have to go through to get something done. The Out of School Youth Officer and I will be meeting with the District Commissioner tomorrow to see if we can use this old building that is not being used. If he says yes then we can move forward with our plans. If not then we have to go back to the drawing board and come up with ways we can get funding to build a building and convice the VDC (village development commitee) to use one of thier buildings. I hope we will be able to make this idea a reality.

Another thing I am trying to get started with one of the nurses is a support group for any government worker in Machaneng. Any job can cause stress and then if you add the HIV/AIDS pandemic and how that affects job performance you can end up with a huge heaping amount of stress in the workplace. There are many healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with stress and I thought it would be good to form a support group so people in the community can deal with their stress in healthy ways. I hope to teach them stress reducing techniques and also talk about other health issues. I am excited about this project because I can incorporate my background in Exercise Science into the group. We had our first meeting last week but only one girl from the police office came. I was a little disappointed but after talking to my Dad, he reminded me that you have to start somewhere, and that one is better than none. Hopefully the next meeting more people will come.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

In Service Training (IST)

After being at site for a few months, Peace Corps has all the volunteers come together for more training. The NGO (non-governmental organizations) and LS (life skills) volunteers came a week earlier than the CCB (community capacity builders) and DCL (district community liaisons) so by the time I got to the lodge in GABS where I would be spending the next 2 and half weeks most of my BOTS 9 group were there. It was really exciting to see everyone again! I made sure to spend the first few days with my friends from the NGO and LS groups because they were going to be heading back to their sites on Saturday or Sunday depending how far away they had to travel. The past weeks have been filled with lots of sessions on various topics. Some presentations have been great and others have been not so great. I was feeling kind of low (part of the PC rollercoaster, you go through a lot of ups and downs throughout service) before IST, but now after being here for a few weeks and listening to the presentations I have a lot of ideas for things to do in my village. I have also had a lot of Setswana. We have another LPI (language proficiency indicator) on Monday so hopefully I will move up to a higher level. It's been really nice to have a hot shower and good food everyday. The lodge we are staying at feeds us a ton! I feel like I have had more food these past few weeks than I have had during my 2 months at site. One night they fed us pizza and another night the cook made hamburgers for us! We were all pretty excited because chicken and rice is getting pretty old. The lodge also has a pool so we have gotten some time to work on our tans. The second night at IST some of us decided to change our hairstyles. One girl said she wanted to shave her head and ended up with a Mohawk. The Mohawk looked good so she's decided to keep it for awhile. I finally dreaded my hair!!! It took a couple days but the finished product looks good (or so I am told).
One night we had an 80s themed party. Another night a few of us went to Riverwalk (it's a mall close by the lodge) to see "Inception" . The movie was really good and I recommend seeing it if you haven't yet. That is the weird thing about being here in GABS. GABS is very developed and it feels a lot like I am back at in the US, especially when I go to Riverwalk. It's funny how developed this city is and then only a few miles away there are villages that don't have running water or electricity. It makes me happy I didn't get placed in a site that is as developed as GABS or Francistown. It’s nice to have the luxuries for a little bit, but after being here for a few weeks I have realized that I have grown accustomed to my simple life in Machaneng and rather enjoy it.

One evening I went to Riverwalk with a couple other volunteers to get some coffee at the café there. As we were sipping our mochas and people watching I noticed this group of guys coming towards us. From their body language I could tell they were not from Botswana. They came up to us all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed with this glow of excitement on their faces. Immediately they asked if we were Americans and what state all of us were from. One of the guys was from Pennsylvania so he was pretty excited when he found out I was from Ohio. They had only been in country for a week and we were the first Americans they had come across. After talking to them for a minute we found out they were missionaries working at the University of Botswana and were going to be here for a year. I also found out that they were working through Campus Crusade for Christ. It was cool to find that out because I was involved with CCC and Athletes in Action at Miami University. After a few minutes they left us and we went back to enjoying our mochas, but I just chuckled to myself. They had soo much excitement for being here and it made me think back to when I first got here. It's hard to believe I have been here for almost 5 months, but at the same time it seems like I have been here forever. The new excitement has worn off but there are still things I come across here in BOTS that makes me remember I am halfway around the world in a completely different country and culture.
Today a few volunteers and I went to the Mokolodi Game Reserve to go on a Game Drive and to pet Cheetahs!!! I didn't go on the Game Drive but I did do the Cheetah petting! Cheetahs are my favorite animal (Phologolo yame ke e rata thata ke lengau) so I was soo excited! As we were waiting to go out to pet the cheetahs some warthogs came up by the playground near the reservation desk. Another volunteer and I tried to see how close we could get to them but some kids came up and scared them away. I was able to get a couple good shots. There was a restaurant with a patio seating area and apparently wildlife, like rhinos, impala, and warthogs, will come close.
The Game Reserve has two Cheetahs who they had found as cubs. They were abandoned so the Staff took them in and since they were never trained how to survive in the wild they couldn't set them free. They are 14 years old now which is pretty old for a Cheetah. Cheetahs usually live to be 16 years old in the wild and when they are in captivity they can live up to 20 years.
On our way out to see them we say a male ostrich (male ostriches have black feathers and females have gray). Once inside the cage we got to get up close to the cheetahs and pet them :) Both of them were purring as soon as we got close to them. Cheetahs love to be petted (as long as they are used to humans) but I wouldn't just go up to any cheetah and start petting them. We all got to take some turns petting the cheetah's head and at one point the cheetah rolled over. The guide told us that means he likes being petted.
We also got to see a few of their hyenas that the Game Reserve had also rescued. Hyenas look a lot different than what I have always pictured from the Lion King. They more so look like a hybrid of a dog and a bear. We didn't get to pet them which is fine by me because I guess they are really aggressive. After spending some time with the Cheetah's we went back to wait for the other group get done. The Game Reserve also had some monkey's in a caged area for people to watch. They were really cute and I was thinking that it would be cool to have one as a pet. As we were watching the monkey's play one got out of the cage. I was standing kind of near it watching it and I guess I was too close because all of a sudden the monkey came running at me making all sorts of noise! It was kind of scary haha! I was ok though cause it didn't get too close and just kind of ran away. I think I might have to rethink the whole monkey as a pet thing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Trade Show, Mosadi Mogolo, Typing, and IST, Oh My!

First of all I want to personally thank everyone who has sent me a letter, card or package for my birthday or just to give me some encouragement. I enjoyed all the little presents and everytime I go to the Post Office and find out I have a letter or a package I am estatic! The words of encouragement are great especially when things get rough and they make the good days even better. I cannot thank you all enough. I constantly re-read all the letters and cards I have gotten as a reminder of all the love and suppport I have back at home. Thanks again and I love and miss you all!

Sorry I haven't updated in awhile. I guess I have been a little busy and just have not gotten around to writing. So here's what I have been up to the past couple weeks.

Machaneng had their annual Trade Show a few weekends ago. This is kind of like a county fair but on a lot smaller scale. A volunteer from another village came to Machaneng with one of her friends who works at the Jr. Secondary School in her village and went to the show with me. Friday night there was supposed to be a beauty pageant, which I was pretty excited to see, but it didn't end up happening. But my good friend Sliza (she is a famous Rumba artist from Botswana) was performing at Machaneng's Community Hall, so I got to watch her. It was pretty cool but ended up being a late night. She didn't end up performing until well after midnight so I wasn't home until pretty late. The next day we walked around the show grounds to see what was at the Trade Show.
They had animals (cattle, sheep, goats, rams, chickens, etc) and lots of booths showing off people's produce and art work. In one of the booths they had different plants you could buy and one of the was a Paw-paw tree! I was pretty excited! The Show reminded me a lot of walking around the 4H buildings at the Fairfield County Fair, only not as much stuff to see. We also ate some traditional food (mabele and goat meat) and watched a little bit of a football match that was going on. Later that night there was another performer but I didn't end up going because I was very tried from the night before. I heard the best Trade Show to go to is the one the happens in Gaborone (the capital), but I guess it is not going to happen this year because there has been a huge outbreak of foot and mouth disease so they don't want to contaminate the animals. Hopefully I will get to go next year, apparently there is always a great selection of jewelry, pottery, and baskets you can buy.

The next weekend was the final for the Mosadi Mogolo Cup. Machaneng won their Catchment Area games a few weeks ago so they got to go to the finals. There were 8 teams from the Mahalaype Sub-district area who got to go and compete for the medal. The Mosadi Mogolo Cup tournament is put on by the clinics in the Mahalaype sub-district area. The purpose of the tournament is to get women (aged 25 and up) involved in physical activity and to teach them about HIV/AIDS and the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) program. Scoring is based off of the points in the game and how well the team does on a quiz about HIV/AIDS and PMTCT info. This was the third year the Mahalaype Sub-district put the tournament on. This year they invited many important people from the Health Sector to try to show them what our district is doing to help educate women, in hopes of using our tournament as a model to be replicated in other districts within the country. Maybe after a few years it will become a national tournament and not just a district level thing. The day ran fairly smoothly. It started off with the first game at 8am (which surprisingly started only 30 minutes late), then around 10am they had an opening ceremony with some speeches and entertainment. After the ceremony they proceeded with the rest of the games. As one of the organizers I got a free Polo, which was a nice surprise. Unfortunately, Machaneng lost their first game that day so they didn't get to go on to the next round. I felt bad for the girls because they had been practicing really hard these past few months and they really wanted to win. Hopefully they will do better next year. Because my team lost their first game we didn't stay for the whole thing to see who won the whole tournament. I thought that was a little weird, but considering I had been up since 5:15am I wasn't too upset we were leaving early.
This past week I have been helping the Staff at Matlhako Library learn how to type. This is the first step in the Library's plans of how to get more people to use the library. So over the next few weeks I hope to teach the staff how to use the computers (typing, word, power point, excel, etc.) and how to look up things in the library. Once the staff is educated in these things they will be able to set up sessions to teach the members of their community what I taught them. I am hoping this will then get more people to come to and use the library. The girls were soo excited to learn how to correctly type, but they thought the way you have to hold your hands was awkward. It was pretty entertaining watching them, but they caught on very quickly. I am very excited to go back again this week to teach them more.

Another thing I am looking forward to is IST (In-Service Training). IST is a 2 week training session to regroup and share our experiences about the first 2 months at site. We also will have more Setswana lessons, which I desperately need, and learn some stuff about grant writing, proposals, and other useful things for the next year. I am pretty excited because I will get to stay in a lodge with a nice hot shower and a pool and I get to see my friends and be around other Americans! It will be a nice break. One thing we have to bring with us to IST is our Community Assessment Report. This is basically what we have found out about our village and what our village's needs are. This means over the next week I am going to be super busy trying to get that together for IST! I wish I had started typing that up earlier! At least I will have something to keep me busy for the next week and a half :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

So today's my birthday. I am 23 years old. Typically I would be spending time with friends and family and eating some delicious cheesecake and opening presents. This year that is not the case. I actually had to go to see the Peace Corps Medical Officer yesterday so most of my birthday is being spent traveling back to my village. I can't say it has been a bad birthday though. People here in Botswana have shown me a decent birthday.

On Saturday I got to meet up with a couple of the volunteers in Mahalaype and hang out a little bit. We went to the Mahalaype Trade Fair which is kind of like a County Fair, only on a lot smaller of a scale. We walked around the grounds and looked at some of the tents. We also watched some of the youth do some traditional dancing in the traditional clothes. For the most part there wasn't much to do so we only stayed for an hour or so. My village is having on this weekend and apparently there is a beauty pageant on Friday, and my good friend Sliza is going to be there. I hope my villages Trade Fair will be more interesting. After we left the fair we went back to one of the volunteers houses and we made pizza and this brownie-cake-pudding thing which was pretty tasty.

On Sunday the owners of the one general dealer shop near my house took me to their property out on the Tuli Block. I got to meet their son and daughter-in-law (who are similar age to me). They are very nice people. They made me a brunch and took me out on a drive all around their property. They have around 8,000 acres of land so there was a lot to see. We saw all sorts of birds, warthogs, impala, and waterbucks. They also showed me the camp site where the hunters usually stay. That got me to thinking about maybe later one I could get a group together to go camping out there. After we got back from the drive they had some deserts for me for my bday (they said they were going to make me a cake but didn't have time, the deserts were just find though). While I was hanging out with them, they were asking me all about my house and how I live. They are a little well off so they have a washing machine, dryer, microwave, and a shower with hot water, so when they found out I don't have any of those things they offered me to come stay over if I ever wanted a hot shower. They also said if I ever wanted to drop off my laundry at the shop they would do it for me for free! They also said they had an extra microwave at the shop they barely ever use so if I wanted to borrow it I could! I might take them up on their offers but I think I will still hand wash my clothes for the most part, because I mean I am the Peace Corps so I shouldn't have all the modern convinces right?
Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to find out one of my good friends from training was in GABS for medical stuff too :) We went and saw Toy Story 3 (which is very good so I highly recommend it) last night and then we met up for lunch before I headed back to Machaneng. It was great to catch up with her, since I haven't seen her since PST and she lives in a very remote village with no internet access or cell phone service.

When I got home the girls on my compound decided to make me some traditional Botswana food for my bday. They made Morogo and Mebele. The Mebele they made with this watermelon type stuff so it was sweet tasting and was pretty good, but morogo is this green stuff that I have tried before. It's not really my favorite. It has kind of a weird taste to it, but I ate it anyways to be nice and polite. While they were cooking the food I got a call from my counterpart. My counterpart and some of the other nurses had bought a cake for me so they dropped it off. It was really nice of them to do that for me.

I also apparently have at least one package waiting for me at the Post Office in Machaneng so I am excited to see what it is and hopefully there will be more by the time I check it tomorrow. Thank you everyone for all of the birthday wishes and birthday packages (hopefully I will get them soon). This years birthday hasn't been a normal one but I can't say it has been a bad one at all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cultural Day

Today Matlhako Library and Cultural Center took me to Ramokgonami's Cultural Day at their Library and Cultural Center (Ramokgonami is a village that is about 40km from Machaneng in the Mahalapye Sub district). Another volunteer from my training group is serving in Ramokgonami so I got to spend the day experiencing traditional Setswana, food, dance and fun! When the library staff picked me up I thought we were going to Matlhako's library so it was a nice surprise when I realized we were going to Ramokgonami. When I first got to the center I was introduced to the librarian there and some other important people. We sang Botswana's national anthem. Then they introduced me to everyone (they said I was the Peace Corps volunteer staying in Matlhako, but that's ok). There were many speakers and some of the Jr. Secondary Students preformed dances in traditional attire. There were some drama's preformed and even some traditional games played. The dancing and singing was my favorite part. It is really cool to watch. I find it fascinating how talented the children are, especially considering there is not much emphasis or resources for the arts in schools.
Everything was in Setswana so I don't really know what all was being said throughout the day, but it was fun to watch. Then they served us some Traditional Setswana food, dinawa (beans), seswaa (pounded meat), and bogobe (brown mush stuff made from maze or some sort of corn). All the food was cooked over the fire in these huge black pots. They gave us a heaping plate full and in Botswana style with no silverware, so we had to eat with our hands! Not my favorite of the Setswana dishes but it was ok. I also got to try this seed they cook and eat. I forget what it was called but it tasted a lot like sunflower seeds, so I enjoyed it. After we ate the other volunteer and I saw that people were tossing sticks, kind of like javelin, so we watched that for a little bit. I think the object was to see who could throw the stick the farthest. Throughout the day we were offered Shake-Shake (the traditional brewed beer), but we kindly turned it down. I tried it when I was in Moleps and it doesn't taste very good so I wasn't about to drink some more. The rest of the day was spent talking to some of the teachers from the Jr. Secondary School in Ramokgonami. After talking to them for a little bit we found out that one of the teachers is the son of the kgosi from my village. He was pretty excited that I was staying in Machaneng. The other volunteer showed me around the library which looks a lot like the Matlhako library and then it was time to go back to Machaneng. All in all it was a pretty good day.