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.