Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Typing Extraordinaire!

 The past few weeks I have started teaching various clinic staff members how to type using the program Mavis Beacon. It's long and tedious teaching typing, but at least Mavis makes it a little more fun. Because I am teaching them one at time I get to have some one-on-one time with them, which is a great way to learn more about them as individuals. Sometimes I ask myself why I didn't try to do this earlier in my service, guess that's the procrastinator in me. Better now then never, right? As I sit and watch over my "students" making sure they are hitting the keys with the right fingers, I am reminded of elementary school when I used Mavis Beacon's program to learn how to type. Something as little as that reminds me of how fortunate I was to grow up in a country and at a time where computers were easily accessible and all around me. The clinic staff envy how fast I can type and I constantly have to remind them that I have been typing for years and that in time and with practice they too will be fast like me (although I am not really all that fast, maybe 60-70wpm, and that might be generous). 

Another staff member came into the caravan while I was working with someone yesterday and became super interested in what we were doing. After setting up a time to work with me later this week she then said "Refilwe, this is a really great initiative you are starting here".  Teaching people to learn how to type and use a computer isn't something I thought I would be doing here. Actually my knowledge of computers is not very high. The extent being a typing class in high school and a Microsoft Office class in college. To say I was an expert by any means would be lying. Actually when I told my brothers (one has a degree in computer networking and the other is just starting his college degree in a computer related field) one of the things I do here is show people how to use the computer they laughed!  When I first told the idea to my counterpart, it was mostly just so I would have something to do. I came here as an HIV/AIDs Health Volunteer, so I guess I thought that I would be doing more stuff that directly had to do with HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Don't get me wrong I have done some of that, but it seems I have found other needs in my community.

Botswana is a rapidly developing country. If you go to the bigger villages you can buy I-phones and other fancy electronics. Cell coverage is just about everywhere and with that internet comes. Even in my smaller village of less than 3,000 people we have two internet cafes. Pretty much all the government offices have computers, but the problem is no one really knows how to use them correctly. They were never taught how, let alone even taught how to type correctly like I was growing up. Through my typing lessons some of the staff realized that the way they learned how to type, if they had learned anything at all, was wrong (most of them do what I like to call "chicken-pecking" with their index fingers). They are surprised to find out that when you type the correct way you use ALL your fingers! Who would have thought? Even though technology is on the rise in Botswana, there is a lack of education in the technology field. Hence why even our Data Entry Clerk at the clinic (she is trained on the computer) doesn't even know how to type correctly or use Microsoft Word or Excel.

After the nurse said what a great initiative this typing/computer lessons project was, I realized that I was actually doing something meaningful in the clinic and it isn't something to just pass the time I have left here. If it weren't for me the individuals that make up Machaneng Clinic Staff might never learn how to type or use the different computer programs correctly. The computers in the clinic would then go to waste, even though they are a great resource. Once the staff is more knowledgeable in the technology at their hands it would benefit them in so many ways. Organizational skills would increase, they could go computer based with forms and records, no longer having to tediously write out charts and tables by hand. This would save time allowing them to tend to the long lines of patients. It might even allow them to make more time in their busy day to start up different support groups or classes within the clinic for community members to attend. The benefits and opportunities are endless. I just hope they will continue to use the skills I teach them when I am gone next year. 

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." Percicles

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

She Was

It's been awhile and once again I am very sorry. I guess I am just not good at keeping this thing updated. I had internet issues, once again, got them fixed and planned on updating last week but my landlady died so I was pretty busy last week. Funerals in Botswana are a huge deal. If you haven't read my post Saturday's are for Funerals you can check it out to get the details on all that goes down when a person dies.

 Since it was my landlady who died, the compound I lived on was extremely busy last week and all weekend with people coming to pay their respects for the family and to help the family prepare for the burial on Saturday. I had been to a couple funerals before but this time I got the first hand experience of what goes on, because it was right outside my door. Let's just say this past weekend I didn't get much sleep. They make a lot of bread all week so the people from the community who help out with the cooking, setting up tents, bringing chairs, slaughtering goats and cows, and digging the grave can have some tea and bread while they help out. I helped make a lot of the bread, which was fun to learn. They make the rolls over hot coals. On Friday night they had a bunch of bread to make so they formed a type of oven using hot coals, sheet metal and cement bricks to cook the bread. It was really interesting. I also learned how to make megwinya (pronouced me-gween-ya), also known as fat cakes, which is this fried dough ate often here. That was fun but you have to be careful not to splash oil when putting the dough in the pot of boiling hot oil (I found out the hard way, being splashed with hot oil is not fun). 

Borotho (bread) ready to be baked

The whole week and weekend I was asked by various people about how Americans do funerals. They were surprised when I told them we don't normally slaughter goats and cows and the family members aren't making bread and cooking massive amounts of food for the people of the community who come to pay their respects. I also had to explain to them that because the US has people in it of many different cultures, traditions and backgrounds, funerals often very from person to person. Even within my own family my Grandma Warner and my Grandpa Skillings had very different funerals.
I ended up not staying up all night Friday night due to the fact that I am still fighting off some sort of cough so I went to bed around midnight to get back up at 5am to bath and head to the main house for the morning service before the burial. As I was falling asleep people were outside signing hymns into the night. It was actually kind of soothing.

Saturday morning the compound was packed with people. Botho's late husband was a kgosi (chief) of the village, so I think this had something to do with how many people were in attendance. After the burial we all headed back to the compound for lunch. I ended up having to use my own plate from house because there weren't any of the provided plates left there were soo many people. In the afternoon the family members met to discuss what will happen to the house and other matters that needed to be discussed. Sunday was the day of washing. All of Botho's things needed to be washed, including all of the already clean stuff, and soaked in this special herb. The Batswana believe that after someone dies all their things need to be cleaned to remove any essence of the person that is in the items. They soak these things in this special herb that helps to remove this person's essence.

I am sad to see Botho go but death is a part of life and I know she is in a better place now. She was old and suffering from pneumonia and bronchial spasms. I know she was in pain and now she is not. Botho was a very sweet lady and very welcoming of me. She would often sit out on the compound and bask in the sun (this is a common occurrence in Botswana, especially during the winter months when the insides of the houses are freezing). I would make a point to say Dumela to her as I came and went from my house. Most times I would sit and chat with her. Her English wasn't great but we somehow figured out a way to communicate with each other. I will miss these times. Please keep the Tshelane family in your thoughts and prays as they go through this process of mourning their loss.

R.I.P. Botho Tshelane. You will surely be missed.

"Say not in grief '(s)he is no more' but live in thankfulness that (s)he was'"
Hebrew proverb