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


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.