from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Friday, December 21, 2012

Walking thru Oz...

A long last blog post...

It's been a quiet few weeks in Lehututu, it is the rainy season in the Kalahari, the bush is turning sage green and my village is filled with these little yellow flowers. It's like walking through Oz....

 Puppy love! These are my neighbors dogs who like to pay me daily visits! 

 This is my yard (I am the first yellow house) 

Oz...This is right outside my house, the entire village looks like this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bats, freckles and everything else

I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Gavin, the US Ambassador to Botswana. Let me just say this. I love this woman. She was amazing, honest, frank and funny! Someone asked about President Obama coming to visit...I offered my first born child to make that happen, I am not sure why no one took me up on the offer. As someone interesting in making a career out of development, truly appreciated her “3 Ambassador goals” We were told that in Ambassador school you are instructed to pick 3, not 2 and not 4 goals for your time in office. The one that stuck out to me the most was her focus on long range economic development. To be honest, the diamond mines will dry up, they employ so many and it would be a huge economic failure when that time comes. 

On Thursday (the 15th), I became a Peace Corps Volunteer. I took the oath. Something that I did without reservation, although, swearing to defend the constitution agains enemies both foreign and domestic was a little strange...

The past few weeks in PST have been strange, we all finally let our guards down--realized how freaken cool everyone else was, and that yes, they are our new family for the next two years. We all clicked. We were all stressed. We all cracked under the stress. We all laughed, and cried and then had to say goodbye. 

On Friday, Sarah, Emma and I were to head to “kwa bush” aka Lehututu and our respective villages. Communication with our counterparts was scarce and we were hoping that our ride to the bush was set up. Low and behold. It was. Kind of. The three of us are in villages that are about 10K-20K away from each other, it only made sense that we were to all ride together. Only one of the two vehicles showed up, we had a truck, with one seat in the front. Three girls, two years of stuff plus house hold furnishings to set up home. We got this. Fortunately, Sarah and I are master car packers (think Penelope moving to and from Missoula), Emma was on puppy duty (Tau is amazing!). We got ourselves, and a dog crammed into the back of a truck, and then road in the back. Yes, thats right, we sat amongst our belongings for the trek to the desert. it was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that our driver sped like a bat out of hell. Legit. It was a good thing we couldn’t really see out the windows. Tau (the puppy) did amazing. Nothing broke and we all have homes. Sans furniture. 

My house in Lehututu is nice and tiny! Perfect for one! It has one bedroom, small kitchen and a living-room. The bathroom is outside, still attached to the house, just outside. The school has loaned me a piece of foam, a little plastic kids table and a stove until the Ministry of Education brings me my real furniture. 

Its just me and the bats. Yes, bats. I have a bat infestation. I can’t decide how creeped out I really am. I should NOT have watched Contagion this summer! Currently, there are 5 of them hanging out in my bedroom, one just dropped to the floor.....Every once in a while I spray doom at the (doom is bug killer for African size bugs, not effective on bats...).

I live on a compound, there are 3 other houses, a flock of chickens, a few puppies and a gaggle of grey hounds. The grey hounds both like and dislike me at the same time...let me just say that going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, frightening. However, today, as their owner came home the ran to greet him! Just like American dogs do! If you know anything about African dogs, they are not treated like pets, these are pets (American style)! The sight absolutely made my day!  My neighbors are all very nice, one lady brought me ice water after my jog today! Since I have no electricity, this was like winning the lottery. 

The past two days I have been at the Junior Secondary School, home base for me. The whole things has been a thought provoking experience. I have to say, that the teachers are not entirely sure A-why I am here, B-why they should listen to me, C-why I am not teaching...the list could go on. Oh, the joys of being the first PCV in my village. No one knows what to do with me! Except to speak English of course! 

The students leave for Christmas break on Friday, they had exams the previous week. This week the teachers are busy “marking” or grading exams. Today, I was fed to the wolves. Literally. I asked to get to know the kids better, it ended up like pirañas going after dinner. First, they were all too scared to talk to me....then one lone boy asked a question. Attack. They are wonderful kids, I ended up sitting on a chair and they surrounded me (360 degrees, kids climbing on chairs). They are enthralled with my tattoos on my foot, my industrial (ear piercing that spans the top of my ear) and my freckles. A few girls tried to rub my freckles off of my shoulder. How do you explain freckles? Any words of wisdom in describing the culture of America? 

HOLY CRAP. As I am writing this, my bat friend just landed next to me. Almost died. 
Good thing I am living by candle light...and every thing is romantic looking. Including Mr. Bat. 

The kids are aged 13-18 or so, they asked some wonderful questions. Including if I know Justin Beiber and Obama. I wish. Also, more heart breaking questions if I have both my parents...It broke my heart to see the look in their eyes when I said yes. Of course, I have my favorites. Who doesn’t? I keep telling myself, it is like your clients....

So far, a I have met a few people in my village, let me say. People I pass on the street know my name...I don’t know them. A few people have stopped by my house to introduce themselves. Its nice, expect when men come over a dusk time....Lehututu doesn’t have much, they have a few tuck shops and general dealers where you can get the basics aka maize meal, rice, sorghum and tins of beans.

Signing off to deal with my bat crisis.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Next Crazy Venture

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” (Kerouac)

I pulled this quote from my quote bag in a hotel room in Wyoming. This was after a week long camping extravaganza with my Daddy and packing up Penelope and leaving Missoula. I was sipping my smuggled Coldsmoke, trying to blink back tears when the sudden weight of my year and my upcoming journey hit me. I spent the most wonderful and challenging year in Missoula; Botswana never felt real to me, until that moment.

One afternoon in Lincoln, I was visiting my Granny and I had her pull a quote from the quote bag, she too pulled same quote. A week later while my Mum was helping me pack, I had her pull a quote from the bag. She too pulled the same quote.

Bots-13 PST is coming to a close, we only have a few more weeks left. Site announcements have been made, I am looking forward to November 16th with a mix of excitement, trepidation, anxiety, joy, relief, and a certain amount of disbelief. I keep thinking back to the Kerouac quote over and over again. Leaving PST will be bitter-sweet, I have come to rely on 32 other people in ways that I would have never imagined before.

My site is Lehututu, Botswana a small-ish village in the Kalahari Desert. It is perhaps 7 or 8 hours away from Gabs by bus. My designated shopping village is Jwaneng, a good 5 or 6 hours away by bus. It is my shopping village since it has the closest reliable ATM in it. My primary placement is at the Lehututu Junior Secondary School and I can do secondary projects in the village. As of right now, I am not sure about what my housing situation is like, I do know that I am in the village as opposed to the school compound. We have IST (In-Service Training) in January and from the time we are dropped off at our villages until IST we are “on lockdown” which means we are not to leave our village unless we are going to our shopping village. During this time our primary focus is to be integrating into the community and doing a community assessment. This will help us focus our projects and goals for our service.

My house is a little one bedroom house called a "2 1/2 room house" is a bedroom, sitting room and a half room that is a kitchen. I have a tin roof and no electricity!

I am both excited and worried shitless about lockdown. I have never been good with free time. I am the girl who takes 18 graduate level classes in one semester, working a few jobs and doing internships on top of it. All my life I have been go go go. Fortunately, PST has been a nice transition from go go go to free time. We have class Monday thru Friday from 830-late-ish afternoon, after class I come home and hang with my family, read and practice my Setswana. On Saturdays we have class until noon and then I spend the afternoon with fellow trainees until our curfew which is “sunset” But Sundays are the hard days. Sundays are the days that are unscheduled.

Here is to the next crazy venture in the sky!

Friday, November 9, 2012

A few pics

Site announcement, Mpho MCing the event (yes, those are balloons)

Katy, with her cookie, monster pop and site announcement card

I am thrilled! 

Me announcing my site: Lehututu placed at the Lehututu Junior Secondary School. Lehututu is in the Kalahari Desert (also known as "kwa bush" ) 

The beautiful jacaranda trees!

A view from my house after the rain...

More beauty....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Diamonds and Fred

My past week...well, has been full of interesting experiences. We had the opportunity to go to Diamond Technology Park where Steinmetz Diamonds cuts raw diamonds. Not everyone is allowed in, we had to get finger printed, show our passports and get photographed to even enter the compound. We were given a tour and followed the process from raw diamond to finished polished stone. They passed us 10 ct diamonds like they were nothing...
 Me, with about 3 million worth of diamonds...

It was one of those trips, like the the zoo where you can't think too much about it. Blood diamonds, the mining conditions etc. This is coming from a girl who made a "blood diamond" sculpture in ceramics class.

My mom asked me to help her get something from the car...Little did I know it was a dead sheep...

So I named him Fred, and then cooked him for dinner. 
(I couldn't make this up if I tried) 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Its the small things in life...

We find out our site placements tomorrow, our new homes for the next two years. There will be tears of sadness and joy as we find our pin on the map. 

I have always found that the small things in life can bring you the most joy. This week, my joy is that one of the cleaning ladies at the education knows my name. She greets me "Mma Maleke" and asks me how I am doing. Last night I programed "Bruce" in my computer to talk to me. Thank you Steve Jobs for giving me 6 different voice options to choose from! The sky here brings me joy every time I look up--it is the pretties shade of blue. The sky after the thunderstorm, the way the lightening lights up the night sky. The way my host family ooggles over pictures of my American family, finding ways to complement everyone. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Half way done...

We are in week six of PST, we are now in new language groups based on our skill level. We find out our placement sites on Friday (eck!). We are half way done with PST, and we have been in Botswana for just over a month now. 

PST is hard. Really, hard. In IYFD, we never talked about PST, nor what to expect. Our year was full of learning tools to be a great volunteer...This two months of training will just be a blip in my Peace Corps service.   

Botswana is a place full of contradictions: poverty and riches, modern and outdated combined. 

For the past week, I had the opportunity to shadow a current PCV in Middlepits, it is a small village on the border of South Africa and Botswana. 

This is where we hitchhiked rides (the Peace Corps doesn't support hitching, but recognizes at times it is the only form of transportation) I hitched with total strangers, in ambulances and police trucks. On on of my rides, a lady used me as a pillow....which was an interesting experience. 

We went to the sand dunes in Gakhibane

And I rode a camel! In Tsabong, the police used to ride the camels just humor the tourists. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dumelang. Mo Botswana ke bidiwa Bonolo Maleke, kwa Amerika ke bidiwa Ashley. Ke moithaopi wa Peace Corps. Ke ithuta Setswana le ngwao. 

I am one of the 34. The 34 who are on the journey to become part of something bigger, something bigger than ourselves. We make up Bots-13, a group of Life Skills Volunteers, who are to help roll out a Life Skills Curriculum initiated by the Government of Botswana and the Ministry of Education. We will be placed in schools, working along side Guidance Counselors and Teachers implementing the Life Skills Curriculum. 

Peace Corps was initially invited to serve in Botswana after their independence in 1966, Peace Corps served until 1997. In 2003, the Peace Corps re-entered Botswana due the HIV/AIDS pandemic that is currently plaguing the world. Botswana and the southern part of Africa has been particularly hard hit by HIV/AIDS. Currently, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Batswana aged 15 and older is 25%. In certain regions of Botswana, the prevalence is as high as 49% in females aged 30-34 (Botswana AIDS Impact Survey III, 2008). 

We are in week four of PST (pre-service training), we are in classes six days a week, totaling 40-45 hours a week. Our days consist of learning Setswana, Setswana culture, development approaches, anything health related--from malaria to keeping ourselves healthy during service, safety and security, HIV/AIDS and life skills training. We currently in the village of Kanye, located southwest of Gaborone. I live with a host family, the Maleke’s, my parents are Jackson and Cherry and I have three sisters: Lone, Bettinah, Tshiama who are 27, 25 and 17 respectively. My mom takes great pride in teaching me traditional Setswana dishes! So far I can make soup (not American soup), maize meal, chicken and liver. Yes....liver. 

In the past few weeks I have....

Cooked liver

Safety first!
 Gotten Shots! (and a just box!)
 Voted for president!
 Licked lots of stamps! (ick...)
 Walked in a lot of sand...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Its September 11th. 11:40 EST. We board a bus to go to JFK in three hours.

I rocked my first "business causal" work outfit today. I also met some cool people, that I will be my family for the next 27 months. 

Bon voyage and bonne chance!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

February 28th...

February 28th:
I had my placement interview...I spent the entire interview pacing up and down the kitchen. Long story short I was told to pick: Southeast Asia leaving early June working with at risk youth/human trafficking or Africa working with HIV leaving September. 

I picked Africa. 

March 5th:
On a coldish Missoula Monday morning in early March (six months ago today to be exact) I woke up and thought to myself, yup, I don’t want to go to work today...So I found someone to take my shift. As I am curled up on my bed doing homework, I heard the FedEx truck drive by and stop. My heart stops. Could this be the package that I was waiting for?!!?!? The door bell rings. WHAT. Deep breaths deep breaths. There lying on the doormat was a package with my name on it. AHHHHH. I scurry back to my room, praising God that I had ditched work for the day and trying to call my mom (who doesn’t answer, I she was actually working). There it is! The blue folder! I open it. Botswana. Then I start to google. I tried to call my mom again, no answer. So I text her a 911 Peace Corps news text. No reply. I call my dad, no answer. Gish.  I call my brothers, no answer--both of them. Again, gish. What is up with my family, I just want to tell someone! So I call my grandparents, thankfully they answer. My mom texts me that she is in a meeting but wants to know where I am going. Botswana. I break the news over a text message. 

Then I notify all of IYFD Cohort VIII (and of course post it on Facebook)

My dear friend Scarah was supposed to come over, since we are after all in graduate school we had classes to teach and things to learn. But instead we drank Champagne and did more googling of Botswana. 

March 5th-September 5th:
Over the past six months, three of my cohort loves have left for their PC assignments, one has her placement interview in a few weeks and five are leaving with in the next month. I said goodbye (more like see you later) to Missoula, a town that has stole my heart. September 11th always seemed so far away, but March turned into April then May then June then July then August...and its my turn. 

This past year has been full of growth--personally, professionally and self-realization. Before I left Lincoln, I was unhappy...I knew that Lincoln wasn’t the town for me. But I stayed year after year. I was working, there was family and it wasn’t the right time. I found that right time. I am so glad I have left, Lincoln will always have a spot in my heart, but Missoula has my heart. My cohort consisted of 9 other wonderful women, we were taught by phenomenal professors and our TA was out of this world. We each challenged, pushed and supported one another. I took extra classes in Public Health and nonprofit management. All in all, I completed 39 graduate credits and walked away with a 3.85 GPA, a certificate in Public Health and in nonprofit management. 

The next two years will be hard, at times, all my schooling will seem futile. Right now the thought of doing anything...well is...The thought of potentially hitchhiking as a means of transportation gives me instant anxiety. The thought of packing seems overwhelming and I have been doing a wonderful job of not packing. I know the pre-departure emotional roller-coaster will pass as I step on that airplane. Soooo....

Here is to the next two years! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dumela rra, Dumela mma

On September 11th, I start my journey with the Peace Corps to Botswana. The 11th will be a day, like any other day marking my journey from this girl...

To this girl...

As the other Life Skills Volunteers convene on a staging city (still TBA) we will start our journey together...But this is my journey. 

I am catching up with the times and blogging about it (PS: I loath blogging/bloggers). Rumor has it that all good PCV (Peace Corps Volunteers) blog for friends and family back home. So here we have it. A Blog.


Re tlaa bonana
(We will see each other in Setswana)