from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

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)