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


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.