Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pre-Service Training Highlights

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I just got my internet access at my site a couple days ago. Since I have two months worth of stuff to update you with I decided I would do some of the main things that happened over PST (pre-service training). Sorry if this is really long.

Big 5 Lodge
The first week we were in Botswana we stayed at a very nice lodge (as you saw from my pictures I uploaded in the last post). Oh how I miss the days of hot showers, good food, and a pool. This week consisted of the beginnings of Setswana lessons, logistics for the next two months, some sessions on Safety and Security, roles as volunteers, and lots of shots and malaria medications. With all the shots, medications, sessions and adjusting to jet lag the week was a little hazy. One night we had a nice welcome dinner with Steve Nolan (the US Ambassador for Botswana), Peggy McClure (US Peace Corps Botswana Director) and some other important people. I got to sit at the table they were all sitting at, so it was pretty cool. They gave some talks and welcomed us into the country. Although during our dinner a local recording artist (Sliza) was shooting a music video by the pool area. It brought a lot of excitement and it was pretty neat to watch after our dinner. I even got a picture with her!

Host Family Matching Ceremony and Homestay
This is where we got to be matched with out host families. They had a huge ceremony with lots of speeches, singing and dancing. Then we were matched up with the people from Molepolole (Moleps) whom we'd be staying with for the rest of PST. No more life of luxury. Sadly my host Mom couldn't come so she sent her sister to pick me up.
After being matched we had a small meal and then went off on our separate ways to our home stays.
When I got to my house I was greeted by my host Mom. She's a very busy woman. She has a catering business so she was busy washing lots of dishes. Two volunteers were staying with my neighbors on both sides of me, so they came over and we all helped wash some dishes. We even got to see them kill a chicken!
My family consisted of my mom, an 11 year old sister (Onyanna), a 20 year old brother (Tumisuh), my father who only was there for a few weeks because he works in South Africa, and an older sister (Kenosi) who lives and works in Gaborone (she came and visited a few times over the two months I was there). They also named me Refilwe which means we are given.
 The house was pretty decent. I had running water and electricity and a geyser (heats up the water for bathing but you have to remember to turn it on), so I was on the luckier side because some volunteers didn't have any of that. Although the first couple weeks we didn't have running water because the pipes were broken so I had to go fetch water from the tap at the front of our yard. There was also many times when the electricity went off or the water ran out so I had to boil my water and bath in a puddle.
My family owns a pit latrine but I never had to use it since we had a toilet. The first night I was there I saw the pit latrine and didn't know we had a real toilet so I went to use it, no big deal right? It's just like an outhouse and I've used those lots of times. Well I went to open up the toilet seat and there were huge cockroaches crawling all over and around the seat!!! AHHH! It freaked me out. There was no way I was going to use that! Luckily I soon found out that my family had a real toilet and they never use the pit latrine. Thank God!
I also got the full experience the first weekend at home stay when my family decided we were going to kill the 4 chickens in the spare room that Saturday. I got to help pluck them and then watch my mother gut all of them in the living room while we watched TV. It was interesting and I can't say it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. Let's just say after watching that I wasn't a fan of eating chicken for a few days..

Typical Day During Training

So here is what my Monday-Saturday schedule looked like:

5:30am Wake up brush my teeth, wash my face, eat a bowl of bran flakes, and pack my lunch.

6:30am Meet Sunny and Daniel to walk to the junction to meet up with the other people in my ward to walk to the church training was held at.

6:45am Meet up with other volunteers and make the hour and 15 minute walk to training

8am to 12:30pm Setswana lessons

12:30pm Lunch

1:30pm Various lessons on Community Capacity, Safety and Security, HIV/AIDs, Setswana, etc. Try to convince Ron (our training director) to let us go to the stadium to workout.

4:30pm Head to the stadium to get some exercise in and avoid going back to our host families.

6:00pm Have to be home by this time because it gets dark and host families don't like us being out past dark. Help cook and dish dinner, take a bath, go to room to journal, write letters, read, study Setswana.

8:30pm Go to bed to get up and do it all over again.

Sundays consisted of washing my laundry. Hand washing clothes is not fun. It takes forever and I never seem to get all the soap out of the clothes when I rinse them. They don't use washboards so you have to scrub the stains with your hands and end up getting small little cuts all over your fingers. Boy do I miss the washing machine. I saw on the discovery channel last summer a washing machine that was built out of a bike and a garbage can, maybe I could construct one when I get to site?

Shadowing Visit
So the next cool thing that happened was we got to spend a couple days with a currently serving volunteer, to see what sort of things they do. I got to shadow Derek who was a Bots 7 CCB volunteer working in Gakhibane through the Social and Child Development Office there. It was a really cool experience and it came right at a good time in training. Right before shadowing everyone was starting to hit a wall, so it was nice to get out of our host family's homes and be with another American for a few days.
Gakhibane is a village down in the Kalahardi District and only has 500 people in it. It was pretty much in the middle of no where. It only has one general dealer and I got to experience the art of hitching rides to get to and from there from Tsabong (which was an hour and half drive away), the next biggest village where Derek would do his grocery shopping. The village is up on a plateau and there is literally nothing around it except sand dunes. I didn't have cell service and Derek didn't have running water or cell service for the first year he was there. He said they didn't even have a tarred road to his village until about 6 months ago. He lives in government housing, so his house was pretty nice. He has a solar panel so his electricity goes out and he has no fridge. Derek had a little bit different experience with his village because for most of his service he didn't have a counterpart at the S and CD Office so he was pretty much the social worker in the area. In Gakhibane they speak Africanize more than Setswana, since we were so close to South Africa. Derek was fluent in Setswana, so most of the week I had no clue what anyone was saying. My Setswana skills are not very good. One day we got to go to another village (Khawa) to ration out food baskets to the orphans and the destitutes. This village was even more remote than Gakhibane. Most people live in the traditional huts and they only have water when the government brings it to them. The rest of the time I just followed Derek around and saw a little bit of the type of stuff I could be doing once at site.
 Towards the end of the week the volunteer who was living in Middlepits (about 20 minutes away) and the Volunteer shadowing her came to visit us and we made pizza for dinner. It was sooo good! Shadowing was a great time. It was nice to see what it will be like at site.

Setswana and LPIs
Ok so you probably noticed that our schedule is mostly Setswana lessons. We would have anywhere from 4-6 hours of Setswana a day. It was really rough. We had teachers called Language and Culture Facilitators(LCF) who would teach us our lessons. Then every two weeks we would take the Language Proficiency Index (LPI) to see where we were. This consisted of going into a room with an LCF and answering questions in Setswana while we were being recorded. Not fun! After they rated you then we would be put in a small group of 4-5 volunteers with a new LCF for the next two weeks. We had three LPIs over PST and the final LPI results were sent to Washington DC for statistical purposes. I guess we will have a few more throughout our 2 years to see if our language has improved or not. My first LCF was really nice but not all that great of a teacher, so I didn't do very well on my first LPI. I don't think Peace Corps will kick you out for not doing well in your language so I don't think I need to worry. My Setswana skills are horrible, so hopefully at site I will be able to get a tutor.

Cultural Visit
About a week after shadowing we got to take a Saturday off and experience some traditional Botswana culture. We went to this one place nearby that had ancient cave paintings and a really old tree called the Livingston Tree. It was pretty cool. Then we went to the Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge and saw a reenactment of a welcoming ceremony and a wedding ceremony with traditional singing and dancing. Then we got to eat some traditional food for lunch. I also got to try some Shake-Shake, which is their beer that is made from corn meal. It's pretty disgusting. It kind of tastes like rancid milk. Don't think I'll be trying that again anytime soon.

Site Announcement

The next big thing that happened during training was Site Announcement Day! This was two weeks after Shadowing. Everyone was very anxious and excited to see where they would be placed. CCB's are placed all over Botswana so it was luck of the draw for where I would be placed and what my site would be like. We did have some interviews with PC staff on preferences. Mine were to be kind of close to other volunteers and in a smaller village. When we got to the center we all sat in chairs and under our chairs were numbers, that was the order we would be going to find out our site. When it was your turn you had to find the envelope with your name on it and in it was number and a saying. The number was a number you had to find on the map to find your site.
My saying was "Enjoy what you have, and hope for what you lack in…" and my site was Machaneng!! Machaneng is a village of about 3,000 people in the Southeast of Botswana near Mahalapye, right on the Tuli Block, and close to the South African border. It has a pre-school, primary and junior secondary school, a post office, a police station and a prison. I will be replacing a Bots 7 volunteer and will be working out of the Machaneng clinic. My house is on a family compound and has electricity and running water.
After everyone found out their sites we all went to one of the staff's houses, "the mansion" as we like to call it, to have a Brii, which is what they call a barbecue. Everyone made and brought stuff to eat. I made puppy chow and no-bake cookies, which everyone loved! There was dancing and drinking and everyone had a great time. It was fun to just kick back and let loose a little bit. Some people had more fun than others! Haha. I danced a little but didn't get too crazy (Lindsay, Ashley, Bri, and Siesan, I didn't bust out my crazy dance moves from Miami, wasn't sure the other volunteers were quite ready for those yet haha!).

Site Visit

The next week we got to meet our Supervisors/Counterparts. We had a two day workshop at Lemepe Lodge in Moleps with them about expectations and communication. My counterpart, Montebatsi, is the head nurse at the Machaneng clinic. She seems very nice and I am very excited to work with her. On Wednesday we headed in a kombi with 4 other volunteers in my district and their counterparts to our sites. Botswana are not very time conscious. They told us we would be leaving around 10am so we all met at the Lodge to be picked up. Well our ride didn't come until 2:30pm. So I didn't get to Machaneng until 8pm. I got to stay in my house the rest of the week. The previous volunteer left me some stuff so I didn't have to get too much for my house when we went shopping the next week.
The rest of the week was just meeting anyone and everyone in the village. I was introduced to all the important people. I met everyone in my clinic, my neighbors, the kgosi, the police officers, the post office workers, the headmasters at the jr and primary schools, and some more people. There is no way I will remember everyone! Friday night Maggie (a woman who lives on my compound who works for the agriculture department) and Theetso (my landlords granddaughter) took me to a going away party for someone at the agriculture department. It was pretty fun. I learned some valuable lessons about giving out my number. When you are introduced to people here they immediately ask you for your number and if a guy says they want to check you later it is not necessarily meaning to make sure you are doing ok. This would have been good to know before site visit so I would have known how to handle these situations, but now I know how to tell them no in a nice way. There is one thing I don't want in my village and that is for boys to be coming over to my house all the time. It just makes you have a bad reputation and that is one thing I don't want. One of the general dealers in my village is owned by couple who own property on the Tuli Block. Machaneng is located right next to the privately owned game reserves on the Tuli Block. I met Lynn and Marina and they told me that I could come out to their property to see the wildlife sometime. I'm pretty excited for that, so hopefully in the next few weeks I will get to go stay with them.

Host Family Thank You Party

The next Saturday we had a thank you party for our host families. There was singing, dancing, and a talent show. I actually got to be in the talent show because one of the weeks we went to local clinics and did presentations to teach the patients about an issue related to HIV/AIDS. My group did a skit all in Setswana about Multiple Concurrent Relationships and how that lifestyle can easily spread HIV. Everyone loved it so my group preformed it for the talent show. Another volunteer made a thank you video (which is on my video page). BTV was there filming, so I was on TV later that night. After the ceremony we had some American food cooked by fellow volunteers (sloppy joes, vegan mac and cheese, cole slaw, and rice crispy treats. Everyone loved the food. After lunch we had a soccer match PC Staff and Volunteers vs. Host Families. Peace Corps won :). It was a fun day.

Swearing In Ceremony

The couple weeks after site visit were pretty rough. We all were getting pretty tired of Setswana and were anticipating becoming real volunteers!! My family made me a traditional dress and headwrap for me to wear at the Swearing In Ceremony, which was pretty awesome. My  host sister braided my hair too.
At the ceremony many of the volunteers had traditional attire. Mine was a different fabric than everyone else's and many people said I looked like a true Botswana! Haha. The ceremony was very nice. There was lots of singing and a couple of PCVs gave speeches all in Setswana. It was a great day! The next day we got to go to our sites. PST is finally over and we are now real Peace Corps Volunteers and no longer Trainees! The past two months has had its ups and downs, but I'm glad to be moving on to the next phase of my service. We will have two months at our site where we aren't supposed to leave and then in August we all get to meet up for two weeks for In Service Training.

Ok so there is a summation of what I have been doing over the past two months. Thank you for reading all of it, if you made it this far. I know there's a lot of stuff I talked about. Sorry for the length. Now that I have internet at my site I hope to blog more often so the posts will be shorter I promise!

Also I want to take a moment to thank Mom, Aunt Jana and the boys, Lindsay Arrington, Michelle Jones, and Mary Widener for the letters and packages. They mean so much to me more than you can imagine!