Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Besides struggling with the ever inconsistency of running water in my village I have been very busy these past few months. Every quarter us PCVs have to report back to Peace Corps Headquarters on all that we have been doing. Reports are due Thursday so as I am compiling mine I have realized how much I have been doing. Here's a list of some of the projects I am working on, plus some things I did over this quarter:

-I started an aerobics class for the teachers at the Jr. Secondary School. They want to meet three times a week, but that has yet to occur. Right now the schools are on break so we haven't had it in a few weeks, but I hope to start it up again next week. 

-I was asked by the Athletic Director in early January to help coach the sprinters at the Jr. Secondary School. He said he wasn't familiar with how to train sprinters/runners and would very much like my help. I was very excited and began racking my brain for various workouts I did when I was a Sprinter on the Track Team in High School. I was able to coach a few practices and then all of a sudden I find out the Running season is over, and now the sports teams are practicing ball sports. This meant the sprinters/runners wouldn't be practicing again until next January! Bummer! After talking to the Athletic  Director we decided to form a small running/sprinter club with a few of the athletes. This was I would be able to continue to help the students learn drills and exercises so that when next season came they would reap the benefit of all their training. I had about 10 girls and 10 boys show up for the remainder of the practices. It was a lot of fun coaching them and I am looking forward to when practices begin again next week.

-My mother sent me a few children's books in some of my recent care packages. I have been using them to read with a few of the primary school girls in my village. The 9 year old girl who lives on my compound is the one I read with the most. She loves it! Some weekends when I am hanging up my washing she will come up to me and ask if we can read later! I am very excited to instill a sense of enjoyment in reading in these girls. Plus through reading these books they are gaining better English skills which is vital to them doing well in school. I hope in the next quarter to meet more regularly with the girls and maybe even set up some incentives.

Traditional Hut
Making Leather
-The first weekend of March one of the volunteers wanted to have a get together in her village to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps. Her village is in Kaudwane, which is near the Khutse Game Reserve right under the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which is basically in the middle of the country. Kaudwane is literally in the middle of nowhere. It is really hard to get to and the last few hours of the trek there you have to hitch, because not many vehicles go in and out of her village. During the weekend the volunteer had activities planned to learn more about the culture of the people living in Kaudwane. The first night we got to go to the campsite of the Leopard Ecology and Conservation Research team. There they told us all about how they track the Leopards in the area and other wildlife. It was interesting and looked and sounded like they had really awesome jobs. The next morning one of the friends of the volunteer from the village gave a talk about the people of the village. Kaudwane is another settlement for the San/Bushmen/Khwe (koo) people. These are the people who were living in the ancestral lands of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. From the 1990s the government of Botswana wanted this group of people to relocate to Settlements so that they could receiver better education and medical care. Kind of like when our government forced the Native Americans into the Settlements, but Botswana handled this in a much more peaceful way. It was really interesting to hear about this part of Botswana's history, and to hear about it from someone who first hand experienced it. Later a few more of the villagers took us out on a bush walk. They showed us a traditional cattle post, different berries you could eat (and we got to try them), roots you could dig up and drink water from, and some of the crafts the locals make. It was really interesting and a great experience. Later in the evening we watched the Traditional Dance Group practice and then showed them some of our American Dances. It was a great time and a fun learning experience!
Making jewelry from ostrich shells

Teaching the villagers the Macerana
Showing us how to make leather

Getting water from a root
Riding in the back of the ambulance
 -The Privately owned farms/reserves near my village have many people living and working on them. It is very hard for these people to come into the villages whenever they are sick or need to see a doctor. The Government of Botswana is looking to set up a Mobile Clinic in a central location out of the reserves. One week I got to go with my counterpart and a few others of the clinic staff to find out how many people were actually living out there. I felt like we were census staff! It was fun getting to meet all the people and the land owners. Plus it was like we were on our own private safari will all the wildlife we saw those days!

-At the Matlhako Library the Librarian hired a few new staff members. This gave me another opportunity to teach them how to type and use the computers. It is a slow process but I go there twice a week to work with them for a few hours. Every time I go they are very eager to learn. As the weeks have gone by they are getting better and better at typing! Last week the couple that funded the building of the library came by to visit and check up on how things were going. It was really cool to meet them. They are from America and have built 7 libraries all over Botswana. During this visit they were also meeting with women in the village to talk to them about a new project they want to help fund. This project is a micro-loan committee for individual women in the village wanting to start up small businesses. It would be a great way to build up the village and for the women to start generating income. They asked me to help the committee and women through the process. At the meeting there were around 15 women who all had ideas for small businesses they wanted to start. Some of them even brought samples of things they wanted to sell. I hope in the future as this moves forward I will be able to put together some sort of business workshop for the committee and the women seeking a loan. This workshop would talk about budgeting, finances, loans, business plans etc. I think it would be beneficial for the women so that they will be able to prosper in their business.
The group meeting
She made this
She made this preschool uniform
-March is designated as Youth Against AIDS Month. Here in Botswana many villages have been having rallies and events for this. Two weekends ago our Catchment Area village of Makwate had an event and I was asked to come help out. The day started out with some speeches, drama and traditional dance group performances. After the opening ceremonies were through then stations were set up for people to go around to. There was a place to get HIV tested, a condom demonstration and info table,  a station to get your blood pressure checked, another station to get your insulin checked to see if you have diabetes, and a BMI station. I thought it was cool that this event not only focused on knowing your status but had other healthy aspects to it. I helped out at the BMI station by calculating people's BMI's and then my partner would explain to them in Setswana what it meant and how they could get into or stay in a healthy BMI range. It was nice to finally be able to use some of my knowledge from my schooling.

At the BMI station
Demonstration how to use a Female Condom
All the people lined up to get their BMI
-I am still continuing to work with the preschool in my village. This past term I was helping them to teach Phys. Ed to the kids. I tried to teach them the game Red Light, Green Light. They didn't get it the first day but they seemed to enjoy it. Recently I have been helping the owner to get some funding to expand her school. The building that the preschool is held in is not up to standards and she is risking being shut down if things are not improved. I hope to help her get some grant money so she can build a newer, bigger building that will allow her to give these kids the best early child education one can offer. With a new building the preschool will be able to take in more kids, which would be awesome for the community.
Some of the preschoolers

The building

-The other day the Out-of-School Youth Officer asked to meet with me. She was the person who wanted to open up a preschool/day care center for OVCs in the village and surrounding areas that would be free of cost. This project has kind of fell through so now she has a new project she wants me to help her with. In Machaneng, there is not much to do. This leads to youth partaking in unhealthy activities, like drinking, fighting, and having unprotected and sometimes transactional sex. What the Officer wants to do is to build a place for the youth to go to hang out that is safe a fun. After brainstorming with her for a little bit we came up with a plan of what would be ideal. A large space with a playground/activity park, sports fields, and building that has a recreational room full of games, books and other fun things, a classroom where youth can get help with their homework, do distance learning, and have a space for people to come a teach the youth various topics, and a store room. Obviously this is something that is going to take a lot of time and work to become a reality. I told her I would be happy to help her. First we need to acquire some land and then find funding to start building parts of the Youth Center. I think it would be very beneficial to the youth in the community.

Ok so as you can see I have been very busy. As time goes on I am realizing that people are starting to see that I am here in the village to help. I see now why Peace Corps has us here for 2 years. It really does take the first year for people to figure you out and understand where you can help. Now that I am coming up on the year mark I feel like all these different projects are popping up on me, whereas just a few months ago I was feeling like I wasn't doing anything and not being used. I guess I just needed to wait a little bit. I hope I will be able to finish all the projects I start and impact a few people in the village before I leave next year. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Metsi come Back

Dear Lords of the Running Water,

I know I am in a developing country and I should have water stored up. I get it. I have diligently stored up my water when I can. It's been 4 days since there hasn't been water and really it's Africa so it's hot! I sweat all day and sweat some more after working out. It would be nice to be able to turn on the faucet and take a bath, but I can't so I use some of my precious stored water so I won't be a smelly kid. My stores are running low, my dirty dishes are pilling higher and higher. It even rained today, so couldn't you just turn the water on for a little bit, so I can refill my containers?


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Uncomfortable/Funny Cultural Differences

I have been living in Botswana now for almost 11 months. For the most part I would say I am pretty well adjusted, but I guess there are just some things I don't think I will ever get used to.  Here's some of the uncomfortable cultural difference I deal with practically everyday:

The lack of modesty when it comes to breasts here. In America, on a typical day you wouldn't see other women bare breasted for anyone and everyone to see and typically you don't see that here either. But when those babies come out in Botswana, it's no big deal here. No one seems to care or become uncomfortable, but I can't help but feel squeamish and uncomfortable.
In the past week I have had:
- a woman practically breast-feed her baby on top of me while riding the combi
-my counterpart strip off her wrap not (wearing a bra) to put a shirt on, while I was talking to her about project ideas
-many of the females in my running club (once again not wearing bras), strip out of their uniforms to change into their regular clothes in broad daylight while their male classmates are standing right by
-one of the teacher's breasts fell out of her tank-top while doing the aerobics class I teach, and did she stop to put it back in? nope she just let it bounce around for all to see
And those are just a few of the examples, I probably could list more. In all these incidences it was no big deal for the Motswana (mots-wa-na) but if this were to happen in America there could be lawsuits and indecent exposure charges. It also amazes me how most women here don't wear bras. Maybe they can't afford it or again it's just not in their culture to. I would think that would be very uncomfortable to go through the day without a bra especially if physical activity were involved, but hey weren't American women burning their bras in the 60s as a liberation/women's rights thing? I am not saying this cultural difference is a bad one, just unusual and uncomfortable for me. Before I came to Botswana I was under the impression that people were conservative and dressed modestly, I guess my definition of what is conservative and modest is very different than Botswana's, especially in the smaller villages.

It is perfectly acceptable to pick your nose and dig in your ears with your fingers or pen. You could be in a conversation with someone or at a meeting and the speaker's finger is half-way up their nose or in their ear "digging for some gold".  Then after they are done digging, they may shake your hand. I'm just glad I brought lots of hand sanitizer. It still disgusts me. What's even worse is when I have let someone borrow my pen and then they use it to pick ear wax out of their ear. Usually after that happens I don't ask for the pen back.

It is perfectly acceptable to answer your cell phone whenever you want. This includes during meetings even when you are presenting, conferences even if you’re the keynote speaker, chapel, cars, conversations with other people and pretty much anytime. You may be thinking the calls must be really important, but that is generally not the case. Most of the time I have seen people answer when they don’t even know who is calling. To be fair most people don’t have voicemail and you don’t have to pay if someone calls you. The way a cell phone works here is you pay to put airtime on your phone and you only lose airtime when you call or text someone, so if you can talk on someone else’s dime, then you gotta do it.

Women touching women. When women greet other women they know no body parts are off limit to touching. It’s common for me to have a woman say hello by touching my upper chest and then dragging her hand down my breast. One day I was walking to my house from school when a group of young girls stopped me and gabbed my breast and then said "ooh soo small" guess they were just saying hi. I've have also had women chest bump me to say hello. Women often tap each other on the butt when they walk away after a conversation. Very rarely I have also received a frontal tap in the lower pelvic region.

People drive on the opposite side of the road. I am still adjusting to this one. Maybe by the end of the two years I will be adjusted, but then will have problems when I go back to America. Haha! I find myself often being afraid we are going to get hit by a car when we pass them on the road, because I forget they drive on the opposite side, or I have almost got hit by cars multiple times because I forgot to look the "correct" way for the car to come.

Men hold hands. This isn’t the hey what’s going on let me shake your hand, then pull it into the thumb wrestling move, then shake again and let go phenomenon. This is straight out two men holding hands for a long period of time and swinging their arms while they are interlocked as if they were two lovers holding hands. It can be very awkward at times, especially since homosexuality is illegal here. I am glad I am not a guy, but then again the way women great other women here sometimes is pretty uncomfortable.

Alright so there are a few of the cultural differences that I still, after being here for basically 11 months, find to be weird and uncomfortable. Maybe it'll take me another 11 months to become comfortable with them, maybe not. Thought I would share.

"No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Happy 50th Anniversary Peace Corps!

“Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary, and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed-doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.

But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps-who works in a foreign land-will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.” -President John F. Kennedy

On March 1st, 1961 President JFK signed Executive Order 10924 which established Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis. This was the start of 50 years of over 200,000 Americans volunteering to serve in 139 countries. Volunteers work to fulfill the three goals of helping the people of interested countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower, helping promote a better understanding of the American people on the part of the people served, and promoting a better understanding of other people on the part of the American people.

I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate Peace Corps on it's 50th anniversary. Although it has not be easy and I am sure there will be more hard times to come in the next 15 or so months I will be in Botswana, I am grateful to be apart of this amazing organization. I am lucky to have this opportunity, growth and learning experience and am excited for what the rest of my service will have in store. I hope Peace Corps will have many more anniversaries to come as it seeks to promote a culture of peace and understanding amongst the nations.