Friday, February 17, 2012


There have been a few project ideas that I've had since the beginning of my service that are finally happening. It's funny how things work like that here in the Peace Corps. Part of me wishes these things would have started 6  months or even a year ago, but development work doesn't always work that way and can be a really slow process. Regardless I have the support for them now and I am excited to see my ideas transpire.

This past Tuesday, Valentine's Day,  I had my first Wellness Support Group Meeting for the Clinic Staff. Machaneng has a high rate of HIV/AIDS  like the rest of the country. This can cause a major strain on workers, especially on the clinic staff. With the high rate comes a high rate of patients coming in for treatment. This can cause a lot of stress especially since the clinic is understaffed. This becomes even worse when a worker gets sick. All of this stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and unproductivity. A wellness group can help to support workers in this area. With my degree in Exercise Science I have some knowledge on how to cope and deal with stress in healthy ways and I have some resources on various aspects of healthy life style living. I thought starting up a Wellness Support Group, where the staff can learn about healthy life style living, healthy outlets to deal with stress and anger, eating well balanced and nutritious meals, and just having a supportive group to blow off some steam in a healthy way would be beneficial to the clinic staff. I also know that not only is there a huge problem with HIV/AIDS in Machaneng but there is also a problem with obesity, high blood pressure, hypertension, and diabetes. These diseases become worse when coupled with HIV/AIDS.  If some leaders in the community learned more about these other diseases and how to counteract or reduce their risk of getting them the village of Machaneng could become a healthier community. I came up with idea back when I first came here and even tried to have a couple meetings but just didn't really have the support to keep it going. Fast-forward to now, I have a new counterpart who has an interest in exercise and wellness which allows this idea to become a reality. The first meeting went pretty smoothly. Only a couple people showed up from the clinic staff, but that is better than none. We did an icebreaker and then talked about what wellness is and the purpose of a wellness support group. I had them fill out a survey on the various aspects of wellness and their lifestyle habits. I hope after we've had some meetings I can have them refill out the surveys to see if their scores have improved or changed. We also discussed what would happen in future meetings and how this is their group so in order for it to be meaningful and effective they have to take ownership in the group. This is very important because I will be leaving in a few months, and if no one takes ownership then the group will die off when I leave. The plan now is to meet every day around 5pm to do some sort of aerobics or exercise like running or yoga and then once a week we would have a 30 minute lesson before the workout on some aspect of wellness (like nutrition, stress relievers, meditation practices, mental health, anger management etc). Eventually  once the group is solid and meeting regularly I hope we can put on some sort of event in the community like a wellness day or a 5k walk/run or something  in that vein of thinking.

Another project I have going on is reinstating health talks in the morning at the clinic. Most clinics in Botswana take advantage of the patients waiting to see the doctor, nurse or whatever they are there for and try to give a health talk of some sort. It's actually a pretty good idea, because you have a captive audience who isn't really going anywhere since they are just sitting and waiting. Machaneng Clinic hasn't done health talks with the patients in years because they say the patients don't want to be lectured to or don't listen to what they tell them. To be more engaging I decided to use some STEPS Videos (STEPS for Life is an organization out of South Africa who produces videos all over Africa and the films are translated into many of the African languages, each video deals with some sort of HIV/AIDS issue and are used to promote discussions in a community) and see if the patients would be more willing to listen. Who doesn't like watching a movie?? I had talked about this with my previous counterpart, but once again she just didn't seem interested or willing to help me. I brought the idea up to my new counterpart, Interview, and he loved it!! So after a few meetings of planning and going over with him how to do a screening we were ready to screen a film. On Wednesday I got to the clinic nice and early to make sure the DVD player and TV were working. Patients were trickling in, and I think a little confused as to why there was a TV set up in the middle of the clinic. We showed the short 7 minute film and then tried to have a discussion. The audience said they didn't really understand what the video was about and wanted to watch it again. The particular film I decided to show was actually filmed in Botswana, so I think that caught their attention. After watching it the second time the patients were more talkative. The whole discussion took place in Setswana, and my Setswana skills aren't great so I was glad to have Interview and the Senior Health Education Counselor there helping with the screening. They took over facilitating the discussion portion. Originally I had planned on the discussion portion to only last 10 minutes but it ended up lasting about 30, which is awesome! Later in the afternoon I met with Interview and Blackie (the Senior Health Education Counselor) and they filled me in on what was discussed. Interview thought it went really well and can't wait to show some other films. I also hope we can come up with some other creative ways to disseminate information to the patients in the waiting area, but this is definitely a great start!

It's a nice change to be busy again and feel like I am doing something and making a difference. It makes such a different to have someone who is excited to have me around and wants to make use of my knowledge and skills. I just didn't have that support with the last counterpart. The new counterpart is a refreshing change.

I am leaving tomorrow to use up my last days of vacation time before I have to go back on "lock down" in March. I am going with another volunteer and her friend from home to Durban and St. Lucia, South Africa, Lesotho, and Mozambique. I am really excited for this trip. Lesotho is supposed to have some of the most beautiful mountain ranges and I get to experience it on a horse!! The rest of the trip will be spent working on my tan, enjoying the beaches and ocean(I get to mark off a new ocean --I've never seen the Indian Ocean before), and eating some good seafood!!  Will post about the trip when I get back in March. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


This past weekend was the time when the Peace Corps Volunteers in the region get together for some refresher training. This year my regional meeting was held in Francistown (also known as "the ghetto" even though it's a really nice town, I personally like it better than the capital, Gaborone) at the Adansonia Hotel. It was super nice and a great weekend away from the village life. The hotel had messed up our booking so all of us got rooms to ourselves! This never happens, we usually have to pair up, which isn't a big deal, but it was super nice to have my own room and be able to crank the acon (air conditioner) full blast so I could cuddle up under the blankets for once :) And have the freedom to skype friends from home into the wee hours of the night and not disturb anyone. The weekend was spent lounging by the pool soaking in the rays, eating good food, taking advantage of showers, basking in air conditioning, sitting through a few training sessions, and hanging out with fellow volunteers.

cool waterfall that was on the hotel grounds
The training sessions were much like last year. Going over our reporting tool, PC Project Framework, the Emergency Action Plan, and Strengths and Challenges at site. At times I had a hard time paying attention, even though the actual sessions were only one day. I guess I am kind of checked out and my mind is elsewhere. But from what we were told in some of the sessions, it seems like PC is improving and is continuing to improve in their training plans. They have this new thing that they are calling "Focus In, and Train Up". It seems like the future volunteers will have better trainings when they first come in, with more of a focus on what they should be doing than what we had when I first came here. I think this will be a good improvement for PC as a whole. I feel like our training was very vague and spread really thin making it difficult to grasp what exactly it was we were supposed to be doing at site. Hopefully with the new training packets PC has made and the new Project Framework PC Botswana has come up with, future volunteers will be more focused, more useful at sites, and be better able to report back their projects to headquarters.

going over HIV/AIDS Capacity Building Project Framework...clearly I was more interested in doodling..
It was great to be around fellow volunteers, especially the still excited spirits of the newer ones. Their energy was great and actually made me a little bit excited about the few projects I have going on. The whole weekend I wondered if I still had that fresh glazed excited look across my face at last years regional meeting. I remember last year being jealous of the Bots 8ers who would be leaving soon, but this year that was me. It was weird to be the "senior" in the group. The one who had been there and done that, experienced it and knew what worked and what didn't. The one who was counting down the few days left in country and eager to be home soon. There were many discussions about plans after Peace Corps among us Bots 9ers. It will be great to have so many connections all over the US when I get back. I am excited for the RPCV community I will be apart of upon my return to the States. 

me and lucie by the waterfall :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!!

In the spirit of Valentines Day I wanted to re-blog this post from National Peace Corps Association. I thought it was great! Although I'm not an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) yet I will be in less than 4 months and I am pretty sure I meet all of these requirements and more:

By Erica Burman on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012


It’s Valentine’s Day!  A day when we celebrate friendship, love, and romance.  Through the years here at the National Peace Corps Association, we’ve heard countless stories of Peace Corps romance.  The couples that met at the airport on the way to training.  The couples that met while serving. The Peace Corps Volunteers that fell in love with a host country national.  And the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers that connected back here in the States, discovering that the shared bond of Peace Corps service was the spark that led to a relationship.

Peace Corps is a life-changing experience that develops a unique set of skills and attributes.  So it goes without saying:  Returned Peace Corps Volunteers make GREAT dates.  And just to prove it, we’ve started a list.

12 reasons to date a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer:

  1. We can woo you in multiple languages. Who else is going to whisper sweet nothings to you in everything from Albanian to Hausa to Quechua to Xhosa? That’s right. Only a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
  2. We’re pretty good dancers. Yeah, we don’t like to brag, but after 27 months in Latin America or Africa we know how to move it.
  3. We’ll eat anything. Seriously. No matter how bad your cooking, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have had worse and will eat it with nary a blink. Sheep’s eyeball? Water buffalo gall bladder? Grasshoppers? Bush rat? Bring it.
  4. We know all about safe sex, thanks to our very thorough Peace Corps health training. In fact, there’s a chance that we’ve stood unblushingly in front of hundreds of villagers and demonstrated good condom technique with a large wooden phallus.
  5. We’ll kill spiders for you. Well, actually, we’ll nonchalantly scoop them up and put them out of sight.  Same goes for mice, geckos, frogs, snakes. Critters don’t faze Returned Volunteers.
  6. We have great date ideas: wandering a street market, checking out a foreign film, taking in a world music concert, volunteering…. Romantic getaway? Our passport is updated and our suitcase is packed. With us, life is always an adventure.
  7. We like you for “you”… not your paycheck. Especially if we are freshly back from service, a local joint with “character” will win out over a pretentious eatery.  Living in a group house? No problem. Does it have running hot water? What luxury!
  8. You won’t get lost when you’re with a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Navigating local markets on four continents, we’ve honed an uncanny sense of direction. Or else we’ll ask for directions. We’re not afraid to talk to “strangers.”
  9. Waiting for a late train or bus? Don’t worry, we’ve been there, done that. We can share lots of funny stories about “the bus ride from hell” that will make the time go quickly and put it all into perspective.
  10. Our low-maintenance fashion style. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer guys are secure in their manhood and don’t mind rocking a sarong. Women often prefer flip flops to high heels. We don’t spend hours in front of a mirror getting ready to go out.
  11. Marry us, and you won’t just get one family — you’ll get two! When we refer to our “brother” or “mom,” you’ll want to be certain we’re talking about our American one or our Peace Corps one. You might even get two wedding ceremonies, one in the U.S. and one back in our Peace Corps country.
  12. And last but not least, we aren’t afraid to get dirty.

Do you have a story of a Peace Corps romance?  Other reasons to add? Share in the comments section below!

So as you can see Peace Corps Volunteers are pretty good catches! Hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine's Day! And if you are looking for a date, why not try an RPCV! ;-)