Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Actually it's not really…mostly because there isn't snow on the ground and it's about 78 degrees outside with no chance of it getting any colder.  So no White Christmas again for me. It also doesn't really feel like Christmas because Batswana just don't celebrate it like we Americans do. Their traditions for Christmas mostly revolve around going to Church or getting together with the family to eat a lot of food and drink. They don't give gifts to each other and they don't decorate. It was actually really funny when I tried to explain to some of the nurses who Santa Claus was. They had never heard of him before and were looking at me like I was crazy when I told them that in America most kids believe Santa Claus brings them gifts for Christmas if they have been good throughout the year. I stopped there because I figured telling them about Rudolph, the elves who make the toys, and the North Pole was too much craziness for them to handle. Although when I told them that the belief in Santa Claus stems from St. Nicolas they were a little more understanding.

Just like last year, it's hard to be away from the family during the holidays. I miss all of my family traditions and I get a little homesick. I am planning on getting together with some other volunteers for Christmas so hopefully that will keep me from getting too sad that I am not with my family.

I have done a few things to try to get myself into the Christmas spirit though. A few weeks ago I put up some decorations around my house and have been watching different Christmas movies.

Stocking that was sent to me last year by my friend Lindsay. 

Left over by the previous Volunteer


During the Christmas Season my Mom bakes a huge assortment of delicious cookies. I was missing that a little bit so earlier this week I made some brownies and put Christmas M&Ms in them that my Aunt Jana had sent me. Although it's not the same as making cookies with my Mom, they definitely turned out tasting pretty good!

mmmmm nom nom nom

To spread some Christmas Cheer I gave some candy canes to the family on my compound and to all the clinic staff members. They all really enjoyed this. 

Every year us "kids" and the pets take a picture in front of the tree. Last year my family improvised so that they could include me.



This year I decided I would take my own picture in front of my little tree with Dijo.

He wouldn't look and the camera :(

Kisses for Dijo :)
A few weeks ago I was talking to my counterpart, Interview (that's his name hehe), and he was talking about this candy he had tried from America that was really good. He couldn't remember the name and from his description I really couldn't understand what he was talking about. Later that day he remembered that it was a "Butterfinger"! In the Christmas package I had received from my family my Mom had put some fun size candy bars in it. When I saw there were some butterfingers, I immediately decided I had to wrap one up and give it to Interview for Christmas! Since Batswana don't really give gifts Interview was very thankful and excited to get something, even if it was something small. That is one thing that is nice about how Batswana celebrate Christmas. Because there isn't as much of a focus on the gift giving and trees and decorations, it reminds me to focus more on what Christmas is really about. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays for those who don't celebrate Christmas) and maybe we can all learn a little bit from the citizens of Botswana and step back from all the craziness of the presents and decorations and remember what Christmas is truly all about!

"An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them. "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord…."
Luke 2:9-11 NIV

Friday, December 09, 2011

Homestretch

Today marks the start of the final 6 months of my service. The last stretch before I pack up and start heading back to the states. It's weird. I remember when I was excited to have been here for only 6 months. It felt like a huge accomplishment to have been gone from all my friends and family for that long, and now I have been gone for 20 months. It seems like that wasn't that long ago, but that also seems like ages away from now. I had a site visit a few weeks ago, where a Peace Corps Staff member came to talk with me and my counterpart at the clinic. This is a routine thing Peace Corps does. It was to see how I am doing here at site and how they can be of assistance if I need anything. The staff member started talking about how I am leaving soon and the next few months I should be wrapping up projects and saying goodbyes and writing my Close of Service Site Report. He was also talking about if there was interest in replacement, should another volunteer be placed here when I leave. That was the first time it hit me. I am going home soon…Of course I knew this, I've been counting months and days and have known my Close of Service Date since day 1, but I guess it was sort of a surreal feeling. It was the first time someone had said you are leaving very soon. I am super excited to go home but I am also a little sad to be leaving. This journey has been just that a journey. There has been ups and downs and I am sure there will be more of that over the next six months. I look back on the past 20 months and see so much growth in myself. I have had many many failures and I have had some little successes. I have learned to cope in healthy ways when things get hard. I have also learned what not to do when things go wrong. There have been days where I have wondered what I was doing here and there have been days where everything felt good and right with what I was doing here. I have experienced things I would have never imagined I would have ever experienced and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have three months left of being able to travel and then 3 months where I have to go on "lock down" where I have to stay in my village just to give the community a proper goodbye. I know that time is going to go by quicker than I think. I have worries I won't finish what I came here to do. There are times I think that I haven't really done anything, when in actuality I have it just might be things I will never see. That's what makes this experience hard, but it's also what makes it such a unique and rewarding experience. 

I've started to think more and more about what it's going to be like when I get back to the states. I have a plan which is good, because without a plan I do get a little stressed. I am excited for my next stage in life and for new adventures. I worry a little bit about being able to adjust back to the quick-paced life of the US. I will probably break down when I walk into the grocery store and there is sooo many options of wonderful food. I might just stand there cause I won't know what to do. I also am concerned about how I will react when people ask about my experience here and I won't be able to truly convey what it was like over here. They probably won't understand or even really care all that much about what I experienced over here. But I guess that's life right? I wonder if friends I hung around with have changed much or if things will be the same. I will probably miss the village life and the day-to-day aspects of being in Africa, even the ones I find annoying sometimes right now. I will have to get used to the sounds of traffic and sirens outside my house instead of donkeys and goats. No one will call my name when I walk around my town. Kids won't come chasing after me when I walk down the road. I won't be a "celebrity" anymore. I will have to get used to driving on the right side of the road again and looking to the left and then the right before crossing the road instead of the opposite. I wonder if I will be overwhelmed by all the noise around me, when I am able to clearly understand the conversations happening around me everyday. It will be an adjustment.

In these last 6 months I hope I just relish in the rest of my time here. I hope I cherish and soak in every experience I have left, because in 6 months it will be over. It is quite a bitter-sweet feeling.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!


This past weekend I got to get together with a few other volunteers to celebrate Thanksgiving. A guy who works for Voice Of America here in Botswana, was very kind and opened up his swank house to us. It was a nice time to relax, eat some good food, and remember what we are thankful for. Of course I was sad to not be celebrating Thanksgiving with my own family, but this was a pretty nice replacement, and next year I will get to be with them on the holidays again, which makes me super excited!! Here are some of the highlights from the day that I am thankful for:


-Deep frying 9 turkeys and eating massive amounts of good American food
-Having soo much food left over that I got to take some back to Machaneng
-Waking up to the smell of pancakes Sunday morning
-Swimming in the Pool
-Drinking Mimosas and Bloody Marys
-Good Coffee :)
-Watching American Football games, and getting to see one of the Dallas Cowboy Football Players Tackle one of the Cheerleaders!
-Having amazing internet access which allowed me to Skype and say Hi to my Mom's side of the family who were having their Thanksgiving Lunch, some of whom I haven't seen since before I left
-Watching funny youtube videos
-Air conditioning
-Amazing showers
-And spending time with my Peace Corps Family

marinating the turkeys 

Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins Game

the pool

my plate of yummy food :)

pancakes and eggs for breakfast
Before we ate all of us went around and said what we are thankful for. This past year has brought me so many experiences and I have much to be thankful for. Just to name a few:

-All of the new people I have meet and become friends with
-All of the experiences and times of growth I have had here
-Getting to see one of the natural wonders of the world (Victoria Falls)
-My cat "Dijo" who is very entertaining on those boring days
-All of the people who have reached out to me in my village, to make me feel a little more at home
-The kids who come by my house to hangout
-All of the successes be it big or small
-All of the failures, which have taught me to pick myself up and keep trying or try something new
-My family coming to visit for a few weeks, showing them a little bit of what it's like over here
-Having the opportunity to live and serve with the Peace Corps in Botswana
-All the support my friends and family have shown me through this experience. I could not have made it this long with out YOU!

And I could go on forever. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I hope we don't ever stop thinking about what we are thankful for and all the blessings we have in our lives! Thank you to all who are following my journey by reading this blog. I am sorry I haven't been as good about updating, but thanks for reading anyways!

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."  ~Thornton Wilder 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Some Good and Some Bad

So let's start off with the bad. I was cleaning up my computer and accidentally deleted my "My Documents" folder. Since I am lazy or a complete idiot I haven't backed any of my files up since January when I first got my new computer. This means all of my documents that I have had since January for various projects and such are gone. :( I am not exactly sure how this happened but it did and it's very upsetting. I have heard that Windows never actually deletes anything so there might be a way to get my stuff back with some special program, but I am in a remote village in Africa so I doubt I will get that anytime soon. From now on I plan up backing up my stuff weekly or even daily.

Onto some better news. October went by really fast and I can't even believe we are into the second week of Novemeber. I had a lot going on during the month of October which is probably why it went by so fast . The first week I was in Namibia. Then I had a new trainee come and shadow me. Next the Peace Corps Botswana staff hosted a party for all the volunteers in country and some other special people. The party was to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps and the 40th Anniversary for Peace Corps Botswana. It was a really great day. The new director, Tim, spoke along with the US Ambassador, and some Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Their speeches were great and I am sure very much needed. I think all the volunteers left that day with lifted spirits and a sense of encouragement. There were also plenty of crafts from around the country being sold and some raffles going on. Unfortunately I wasn't able to buy any of the crafts I wanted to or try my hand at some of my prizes because the day before my ATM card had gotten stuck in a machine. Clearly I have been having a string of bad luck lately. It was really frustrating because I had asked some guy that was standing by the machine if he was in line to use it and he said no, then later after my card was stuck and I realized the machine was broken and got the help I needed, he said his was stuck to. You think he would have told me that before I went and stuck my card in the machine! So in the end I was a little low on cash that weekend until I was able to get to my bank branch. But on a happier note I did win a Peace Corps Patch for participating in one of the activities they had during the day. I was super excited for the patch which will go on my backpack with all my other patches I have collected since being here in Botswana. I am getting quite the collection.  It was also great to meet some of the new volunteers. There's one from Ohio! She's soo enthusiastic about the state of Ohio she even has it tattooed on her! It was actually really refreshing to be able to talk to her about home. I was also able to spend some time chatting up with a fellow rower! It was great to relish in all my past memories of rowing, which I miss very much. The day was great and I am really thankful the Peace Corps Botswana Staff was able to put this on for us. They did a great job! Just to go along with the 50th, there is a really great project "Live Like A PCV" that some other PCVs came up with for people back home to be able to participate in the 50th Anniversary Celebrations and raise awareness about Peace Corps. I talk about it here and here. If you are interested in trying it out checkout the links, there's only this month and next left in the 50th Anniversary year but you are more than welcome to try your hand at the challenge any time!

Next I headed up to Bobonong to help another volunteer with a project. This project was dealing with repairing a house for the chairperson of their HIV+ Support Group. The lady was in much need of help and the Home Based Care group along with the PCV in the village raised funds to repair her house. I was there solely as an extra helping hand. We didn't get as much work done as we wanted to because the temperatures rose up to 107 F and higher on most of the days, but we were able to get the roof finished and shift some sand that will be used for the outside of the house. It was great to be apart of such a great project and it reminded me of all the mission trips I went on with my church youth group.






After I spent some time in Bobonong I headed to a Halloween Party another volunteer was hosting. It was fun and nice to spend some time with some of my group that I don't see as often. They had some great costumes. Mine was a flop because no one at the party knew who I was supposed to be. Next year I plan on redeeming myself and having the most aweseomest costume ever!
the best costumes at the party...jealous I wasn't apart of this awesomeness!


Since then I have just been working on some projects in my community.  Today I was asked by the doctor and new head nurse at my clinic to load my Mavis Beacon Typing Program and Rosetta Stone Program onto their computers. They want to be able to work on their typing skills when I am not around and work on learning some other languages like French and English. I think it is really cool that they are so enthusiastic about the programs. I might even load the Rosetta Stone onto the clinic's computer so that the staff can use it to work on their English skills.I also have this really great idea for the preschool and will be meeting with the Owner on Friday. I hope after I present the idea she will be on-board and we can get things started on that. My idea is going to take a lot of work, but if we can get the support needed from the community it will be great! I just hope it happens. Have been having lots of bad luck lately so maybe this will be my turning point :)

The next big thing I am looking forward to is Thanksgiving. Once again I am sad I won't be spending Thanksgiving with my family, but I do get to spend it with my Peace Corps Family and it's going to be even bigger than it was last year and we will have access to a pool, so as a substitute I think it's a pretty good deal :)

"The difficulties in life are intended to make us better, not bitter"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Legends and Superstitions

Over the past month American's have been gearing up for All Hollow's Eve. They have been watching scary movies, going to haunted houses, carving pumpkins, and creating the best costumes all in the spirit of Halloween.

Here in Botswana, the Batswana don't celebrate Halloween, but they do have some of their own beliefs in other worldly things. I thought I would take some time to share some of them*

There are sects of the Batswana tribes that believe in ancestor spirits. They believe their ancestors have a big influence on their lives and that when an ancestor calls on them they must listen. For example, last year there was a big youth forum in the Bobirwa District (the northern "nose" part of Botswana where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana meet). Some of the volunteers who went to it said that many kids would get up in the middle of the night and start wondering off into the bush and no one seemed concerned. When they asked the teachers why this was happening, they said the students were being called back by their ancestors. There was also another incident where two girls were sharing a dorm room together. One girl had a glow in the dark necklace. The other girl started crying and saying that her ancestors didn't want her to stay in the same room with the other girl because of her necklace. In my village I haven't really heard too much talk about ancestors, but I do know there are a few religious sects in the village that worship their ancestors.

Witches are also something many people in my village and surrounding area believe in. They think witches can take many forms such as cats. For instance people in my village are afraid of my cat Dijo because he is black so they automatically think he is a witch (molowgi--Setswana word for witch). I have also heard that witches travel in bread, so when you are in the store make sure you check your loaf before buying it or you might end up bringing a witch to your house.

The most interesting thing I have heard of since coming here is the belief in the Tokoloshe (pronounced tho-ko-lo-see). 

Tokoloshe actually comes from the Xhosa word uthikoloshe. It is believed to be a short, hairy, dwarf-like creature from the Bantu folklore, and it can become invisible by swallowing a small pebble. I have heard that in order to get your own Tokoloshe you must go to a na'anga (witch doctor) and have it cast. If you get a Tokoloshe it will clean your house, wash your clothes, clean your yard and soon you will be rich. Sounds great right? Well there is one more thing to having a Tokoloshe. They come with a steep price. The payment for having them do all these nice things for you is sex. Apparently the Tokoloshe will come and rape you whenever they want. I was also told that when you go to the witch doctor to conjure up a Tokoloshe you can specify who will make the payment. This is where is gets scary. The Tokoloshe then could be doing all these nice things for one person but then you are the one who has to make the payment without your consent. But don't worry there are ways of getting rid of a Tokoloshe if you are afraid your enemy might cast one on you. You can go to the local witch doctor and have him/her banish the Tokoloshe  from the area. If you don't know where your local witch doctor is, you can always use the Tokoloshe Repelling Salts. You spread these around the house to keep the Tokoloshe away. You can also dissolve them in water and spray the salts around the house. For times you are leaving your house and you are worried the Tokoloshe might follow you, you can dissolve the salts in water and take a bath in it. These wonderful salts are available at your local General Dealer or Sefelana Superstore and come in many different colors.



Here's a poem I found about the Tokoloshe:

Look out here comes the Tokoloshe
be sure you don’t annoy him
he’s evil and he’s hard to see
and you never will destroy him
He’s eaten a pebble but you know that he’s there
because strange things are occurring
there’s a rattling in the rafters
and the cat has ceased his purring
The fire’s gone out and a cold wind swirls
and a window is flapping about
then suddenly everything’s quiet
a silence as loud as a shout
You’d best call the n’anga now
he’s the only one who can save you
he’ll exorcise the tokoloshe
before he can enslave you

To find out more about some of the other myths and legends from Southern Africa and more about the Tokoloshe which you can go here or here.

Happy Halloween!

*The beliefs I have written about are things I have heard about in the village and I by no means am saying they are real things are not or completely accurate in description. I have not encountered any of these things myself but have only heard about them. Believe what you will and have a safe Halloween!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hosting A Trainee

Last week I got to host one of the new Peace Corps Trainees (these are volunteers in training, they came in September and will be sworn in as volunteers in November). The new volunteers got to take a brake from the long tedious days of Setswana, lectures on project design management, the science behind HIV etc. and stay with a current volunteer for a week to see the ins and outs of what they do.

Monday I went to Mahalapye to pick up my trainee. I actually had a little bit of trouble getting a hitch out of my village so ended up taking the bus which got me to Mahalapye a little later than I had wanted. Luckily some of the other volunteers in the area had met up with her at the bus rank. My shadowee was Tracy who is from Kentucky and serving here in Botswana with her husband John, who was shadowing another volunteer up in Francistown. I had a few errands to run, mostly dealing with my rent, and then I showed her the Regional Administrative Center (RAC) where the District AIDS Coordinator (DAC) works. Tracy is actually in the  DCL (Disctric Community Liason) program and not a CCB (Community Capacity Builder) like me, so I thought it would be important for her to see what the DCLs do in the DAC offices. Once we were done there we headed over to SPAR to pick up some groceries then headed out to the hitching post to catch a ride back to Machaneng. Luckily it wasn't too long of a wait.

tracy and me

One thing I wanted to do for my shadowee was make sure they got feed really well. I remember back in training I was very excited during my shadowing visit to eat some pizza and have a break from sesewa, palache, and the other monotonous foods they eat here so I wanted to give my shadowee the same break. Over the course of the week we made pizza (from scratch), hummus and flat bread, taco salads including salsa and guacamole from scratch, omelets, brownies (from scratch), and my Aunt Jana's Peaches and Cream French Toast. Everything we made turned out great and I am 100% Tracy enjoyed it, considering we had no leftovers at the end of the week! She told me I was a great cook so if I haven't learned anything these past 18 months I can say I have learned to cook. Though we ate well all week, we also ran/exercised everyday, so I think we earned it :)
flat bread and hummus with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese. Soo classy! (Photo taken by Tracy)

peaches and cream french toast (picture take by tracy)

taco salad (photo taken by tracy)
The rest of the week was spent taking her around the village and showing her what I do. Right now my main project is teaching the staff at the clinic how to type and use the computers, so majority of our time was spent doing that. One morning we headed over to the Police Department so Tracy could get some crime statistics as part of her shadowing assignment for her training portfolio. When we received the results I was actually very surprised by them. Over the past year (September 2010-August 2011) in Machaneng there has been:

9 Drug related crimes
18 Burglaries
28 Sexual and Domestic Abuses
44 Break ins
236 Thefts
And a whopping 442 Violent Crimes!

Crazy!! I was really surprised by this and it kind of made me a little concerned. What exactly is defined by a "violent crime"? And maybe I should look into getting some burgular bars over my door…? If all else I do have my can of pepper spray my Papaw gave me before I left.

Another part of the shadowing assignment was to host a focus group discussion. The US Embassy in conjunction with the US Peace Corps are currently researching what the youth (in-school and out-of-school) believe to be the main problems in their communities, attitudes towards the economy, and views of the US and the US-Botswana relationship. I actually had already done a focus group discussion with the PACT Club at the Jr. Secondary School back in September. This time I was wanting to get a group of the older out-of-school youth, to participate in the discussion. I had told the Out-of-School Youth Officer about this before I left for Namibia, and then Tracy and I checked in again early in the week to make sure it would happen. As far as we knew it was a go and 4pm on Thursday we would be hosting this discussion. Thursday came around, we headed over the Officer's house to find no one there. We waited around for a good hour and still no one. Finally a lady came by and I asked her were Ookeditse (the Out-of -School- Youth Officer) was and the lady told me she had gone to the hospital in Sefhare (a near-by village) because her son was sick. Since Tray had to go back the next day to training we weren't going to be able to complete her assignment. Opps :( On the bright side while we were waiting some neighborhood kids ventured out from wherever they were and did their shy stare at the makgoa (white people) thing that they usually do. Being bored we decided to entertain them by playing a few rounds of "Refilwe/Wame Bua" (Simon Says). I don't think they really understood but they sure did have a good time following whatever motions we were doing. On our walk home we were called over by a group of Primary School girls who were playing a game with string. Basically two girls stand a good distance apart with a string wrapped around their ankles or knees. Then the other girls try to jump in and out of the strings without breaking it. It is kind of like Double Dutch but less scary because you don't have a jump rope swinging at you. After we watched them a couple times they then asked us to join in. It was much harder than it  looked but good fun.



Friday morning I took Tracy to the preschool to play with the kids. Fridays are their Physical Education day at the preschool so it's fun to go over and play games with them, that get them up and moving around. We played versions of sharks and minnows, duck duck goose (they do zebra, zebra, lion), and many other fun little games. If I am having a bad week going to the preschool usually makes it better. The kids are soo adorable! After we spent a few hours there I took Tracy back to Mahalapye to catch a bus back to Gaborone and then to Kanye.

I had a great time hosting and I hope I will get another shadowee when the next group comes in April. I hope Tracy had a good experience and was able to learn some things from me and have some fun too.

sooo cute! (photo by tracy)

"Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced." John Keats

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Namibia

Over the Botswana Independence weekend (September 30th-October 2nd) I went with a group of fellow volunteers to Namibia. It was a great vacation and a much needed break from the village life. We ventured over to spend our time in Winhoek and Swakopmund. Upon arrival in Windhoek we were amazed to see tall buildings and the hustle and bustle of the city life. It was refreshing. Over the next few days we spent much time soaking in the city life, eating great food, shopping, and going out to real bars. 



Our first night in Windhoek we got all dressed up and went to the Hilton Sky Bar. It was fun to get all dolled up, since being in the bush I don't really get that opportunity all that much. Sky Bar had a great view of the city, but some of our expensive drinks came out not soo good, luckily mine was alright. Guess the Hilton's need to come and teach their employees in Windhoek how to make a correct drink. 


View from atop Hilton Sky Bar
Another night we headed over to Joe's Beer House with two girls from Canada who had just finished up volunteering in Madagascar and two Zimbabwean guys who guide safaris all over southern Africa. We had met them at the backpackers we were staying at.  Joe's Beer House was a really interesting restaurant and had a lot of stuff to look at. If I am ever in Winhoek again I would definitely go back. It is known for their good beer and game meat. So of course a few of us had to get that! 5 of us tackled the meter beer and I also got to eat springbok, crocodile, ostrich, and ZERBA meat all in one sitting! 


The meter beer

mmm game meat kabob 
One night another volunteer and I went out to Karaoke bar. It was fun to brush up on my Karaoke skills. We preformed "Barbie Girl" by Aqua and I think we were a good crowd pleaser. We also met the entire Scotland National Cricket Team. They had been in Windhoek for 3 weeks playing Namibian teams. I tried to get one of them to explain Cricket to me, but after they explained I still didn't understand.

After spending a few days in Windhoek we hopped on a mini bus and rode 4 hours to Swakopmund. Swakopund is a really cute German town that is nestled between the ocean and  sand dunes. 


Our backpackers was half a block away from the beach which was awesome. Unfortunately it was too cold to swim, but the view was great. The first night we went and watched the sunset and as always it was breath taking.






In Swakop we were able to eat some good sea food and relax. One of the other volunteers and I found some Paulaner Hefe-WefBbier beer. I was very excited to have some good beer again. 


One day we all went out to do the quad-biking out on the dunes. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. I got to ride the dunes for 2 hours and would have loved to have been out there even longer. At one point our guide stopped to show us the dune where they do the sandbaording. I was able to talk him into letting us go down on the lie-down boards a couple times. That was pretty fun but also very tiring walking back up the dune, so I am glad I only paid to do the quad biking. The views of the dunes from the bike were amazing and I got some great pictures:





just like sledding but on sand :)
We also meet some more interesting people from around the world and made some friends with some people from South African, Angola, Israel, and Holland. Which is what I love about backpackers. One person we met was the Ice Man (aka Wim Hof), who has around 20 Guinness World Records, one being having the fastest time running a marathon in snow and ice bare foot. We were able to talk with him a little bit at breakfast one morning. He was a very kind person with a really interesting back story. Apparently he and his crew had just got done filming him running a marathon in the desert without any drink of water! The most amazing thing though, was that he was fascinated and appreciative by what we were doing as PCVs in Botswana. It was good to hear that encouragement from a complete stranger, who is pretty amazing himself.

Namibia was great and it was hard to leave. Hopefully I will get to go back at some point in my life. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

PC Botswana Amenities Survey

Recently Peace Corps Staff here in Botswana sent us out a survey to find out what different amenities us PCVs in Botswana in the four different project areas have. I thought I would post my answers on here so you all can see how I live. I don't have it too bad, but there are other volunteers who have better living arrangements and amenities than I do. Regardless I am happy with what I got. On days when there is no running water I just pretend I am down at the cabin on my family farm and that seems to make things a little better :) (Italicized text and links have been added in for your clarification)

Program HIV/AIDS Capacity Building Project Component: CCB (Community Capacity Builder)

  1. Do you have electricity in your house? In your village? Is it reliable?
I have electricity in my house and village and it is pretty reliable. There are power outages every once and awhile though.

  1. Where do you get your water? Is it reliable?
I have a tap in my house, which supplies cold water. I do not have a geyser (geyser is a small water heater that is mounted on the outside of the house. It is run off of electricity, so volunteers who have them usually only turn them on a little bit before they want hot water and then turn it off when they are finished bathing). During winter time it is reliable but during the summer the water in the village goes off multiple days in a week or will be on for only a few hours a day.

  1. Do you have a refrigerator? Gas powered?
I have a refrigerator and it is electric powered

  1. Do you have a stove and oven? Gas or electric?
I have a stove and oven. Both are powered by gas.

  1. Do you have cell phone coverage?  What networks are available at your site?
There is cell phone coverage. Orange, Mascom, and Bemoblie are all covered here.

  1. Do you have internet access at your site?  How do you access it?
There are two internet cafes in my village. I also have an Orange Dongle that I use for my internet.

  1. Do you pay for a dongle (for internet) or any other type of internet connection?  If yes, which provider do you use?
Yes I pay for the Orange dongle (the orange dongle is a USB stick that plugs into my computer and runs off the cell network. It has 3G+ coverage, but being that I am out in a rural village, my internet is pretty slow, some days it works well and other days not so much. It's really hit or miss. I have noticed that it seems to work better at non-peak cell usage times. I got this so I would be able to Skype and keep in touch with friends and family back at home. Going to internet cafes seemed like it would be more costly than paying for a monthly plan to have internet at my leisure. I pay for 5G a month of loaded information, which seems to be fine. I rarely go over that.)


  1. Does your workplace have internet? If yes, is it a school, NGO, clinic, dist. Office, etc,?
My workplace (clinic) does not have internet

  1. Do you have a computer?
I have a personal laptop from home. (Mines a Sony VAIO Laptop with 64-bit OS, 4G RAM, and Intel Pentium CPU P6100  @ 2.00 GHz. This is also the second laptop I have been through since being here, my first one got over heated, which fired the motherboard)



There are also 3 computers and two printers at my workplace (the clinic).


  1. Do you have a smart phone?
No (the phone I use is a very basic Nokia 1280. It's simple and durable and has a flashlight! When I go back to the states and get a phone I won't know what to do with myself when I have all the options available for phones these days haha)


  1. Are there stores in your village? Are they chain stores and do you do the majority of your shopping there?  How far do you travel to get to major grocery stores and how often do you make the trip? 
There are no stores in my village, only general dealers. I have to go to Mahalapye to shop for groceries (typically SPAR) which is 70km away.


Outside of the big General Dealer/Butcher in my village

Inside of the big General Dealer/Butcher

  1. Is your village accessible by public transportation? If not, how far are you from the nearest public transport? 
My village has a bus that goes to it pretty regularly. (There are times I do hitch, due to the fact that my bus only comes a few times a day, typically 8, 9, and 3 from Machaneng and 11, 2, 3, and 5 to Machaneng)


My bus stop..spend a lot of time here trying to hitch a ride :)
  1. How far are you from the nearest PCV?  How often do you see other PCVs?
I am 40km from the nearest PCV, but she is harder to get to than the ones that are 70km away. I see other volunteers a few times a month.

  1. Have you or do you plan to make a trip home to the US?
No

  1. How many visitors have you had or will you have (best estimate) from the US, family, friends, or otherwise?
My family came to visit for a few weeks (4 people).

  1. Is there anything that I’ve left off that you want to add or any additional comments about your site? 
Nope Machaneng is a nice small village that I enjoy living in for the time that I am here :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

10 years ago on this day I was sitting in Mr. Wheeler's Freshman Earth Science class. Someone came into the room and whispered something into his ear and he went over to the TV and turned on the news. The next thing I knew the classroom became very silent as we all watched then second plane fly into the second tower of the World Trade Center. As the day went on, I remember most classrooms had kept the TVs on so us students would know what was happening on that fateful day. The seriousness of the events became more evident as the news of death tolls of the innocent American citizens and more details of what was happening came through. I remember the fear of what might happen next. I remember the sadness from classmates who had family members in NYC.  I remember the brave firefighters and policemen who risked their lives to pull people out of the rubble. Most importantly I remember the way the country came together after that fateful day.



On the 10th anniversary of a such a terrible tragedy I wanted to remember and say thank you.  Thank you to the men and women who risked their lives on that day. Thank you to the men and women who volunteer to serve our country even while we are at war.  When asked, they leave their family and friends behind to ensure an attack like this never occurs again. During this day and after I will continue to think of these young men and women. I will also think about their families who also make tremendous sacrifices for our nation. I am thankful that they are out there keeping me and everyone in our beautiful nation safe. Please take some time to remember that fateful day. Have a moment of silence for those whose lives have been lost that day and since. And be proud to be an American, God bless America!

Ground Zero the summer after 9/11
"Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children. “   
- President George W. Bush, November 11, 2001