from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Saturday, December 28, 2013

It's supposed to feel like Christmas right?

If everything was easy this wouldn't be the Peace Corps....

All Ashley and I wanted to do was maid Christmad cookies...at times I feel like that was too much to ask. Hours before my arrival for Christmas cooking extravaganza was to start, Ashley's gas can runs dry....

After using two different ovens in a 15-kilometer radius and jimming an oven so it didn't smoke black smoke we finally got to baking! About 6 dozen cookies and a bunch of popcorn balls later...we were finished! 

Also, when you don't have a table you have to ice cookies on the floor...or mix them outside because the kitchen is a 3 foot X 12 foot no space to move in room...





Return to Sender...

Growing up my Granny wrote letters on a weekly basis, it was her weekly ritual-and extra long morning tea and letter writing. Who doesn't love getting a real letter? In this day an age email is the way to go, emails are nice...but snail mail can make anyone's week.

When I came to the Peace Corps, I thought to myself this would be a prime time get my letter writing grove on. I pledged to myself that I would write ever Saturday....I was doing really good for a while! Now, my letter writing is a little bit more sporadic.

The sporadic letter writing is not entirely my fault. A little jaunt to your local postal service isn't like back in the mother land....Going to the postal service takes good mental health readiness and a strong constitution.

The post office is a one stop shop for a lot of things: electricity, air time, all your postal needs, accessing your safe deposit box, wiring money and the Grannies of the village picking up their pension checks. Long story short, a lot is going on with one postal worker behind the counter.

I use the post office for buying stamps and picking up packages. Stamp buying is a feat to its self. The price of sending an average size letter to "The rest of the world" aka America is P8.00, if you want to send a letter to "Southern Africa" it is a different price,if you want to send to "other African countries" it is a different price...I am sure you get the picture. Needless to say, they have many different stamping options: You can get P4.90, P0.40, P1.00, P7.90....etc etc etc..

More often than not, I go to the post office and ask for "P8.00 worth of stamps" the postal worker shakes his head and says we don't have P8.00 stamps and then sighs a little and pulls our the stamp book to try and piece together P8,00 worth of stamps....

Piecing together P8.00 worth of stamps is harder than you think....I mean there are so many options when there are about 20 different postage stamp options. I say that with all honesty and frustrations--yes, you do have many options of stamps, but also sometimes the postal worker is in a hurry and wants to just give you two P4.90 stamps (and that means you are paying way way way over your stamping budget).  In Harry Potter (book 4 I believe), Ms Weasley sends muggle mail to Harry's Aunt and Uncle....its kind of like that. You never know if it is going to make it. Have you ever sent a letter with literally the entire front covered in stamps?

And if you want an envelope full of stamps...do make sure to write to me! I promise that I will write you in return!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is December 1st of each year. It seems like every cancer, disease or profession has a “day” assigned to it. Usually, those days are passed with little notice expect those who are affected or infected by the disease or profession.  I used to get flowers when I was an administrative assistance on administrative assistant day, celebrate the nurses I worked with on nurses day, do a walk for breast cancer and so forth.

World AIDS Day had a special meaning this year.

In America, HIV/AIDS is still primarily found in certain population groups. Injection drug users, men who have sex with other men and minorities are the affected groups. In most cases, clinicians don’t discuss HIV/AIDS with the “average” patient. The average patient being a straight man or women who  may or may not have behave in risky sexual behaviors. Since about 2008, I have volunteered with nonprofits who provide testing, counseling and case management services to HIV+ individuals. I have given HIV test and had to break the news (on more occasions than I would like to think about) that an individual is HIV+. Saying those words “you are HIV+” is one of the hardest things that I have ever had to say.

HIV in Africa is a different beast. HIV in Botswana is a different beast in comparison to the rest of Africa.  In Botswana, 25% of the adult population (18 and older) is known to have HIV or AIDS. Just over 2 million people live in Botswana and of that 2 million residents---33% are under the age of 14 and an additional 22% are between 15 and 24 years of age. If you do the math, having 25% of  the adult population infected with a disease is substantial.

Last week, just before school let out, we commemorated World AIDS Day. The student body led speeches, dramas and choirs unifying the student body. I was really quiet impressed. Shocked actually by the student bodies effort and commitment to carrying out the event.

The theme for this years AIDS Day in Botswana was around “zero new infections, zero discriminations by 2016” Truthfully, I wasn’t that impressed with the theme. So I modified it. I wanted my kids to think about what they can do, how they can be accountable. So I stressed the idea that “We are the Future” If I don’t get anything into my kids during the time that I am here-I want them to take away the idea that they and they along are responsible and accountable for their actions. So having changing the them to “we are the future” seemed appropriate. Our dramas and speeches were all centered around that ice of our personal accountability.

The equivalent to the student body president quoted JFK “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” Of course, he knows little of JFKs involvement in the Peace Corps and why I am in their lives….and as Americans do in touching moments I tear up (and the kids stare at me).

Botswana is fortunate. During the height of the AIDS pandemic the president made a call for action and implemented life saving programs such as free ARVs, currently if  your CD4 count is under 250, you qualify for free ARVs. Health care is universal, there is a plethora of aid being pushed into Botswana--PEPFAR, UNSAID, UNAIDS, ACHIP,  partnership programs from Harvard, UPenn to name a few. Botswana is also a country that isn’t plagued by corruption. Botswana is blessed with huge mineral wealth. Botswana has really made an attempt to half HIV in its tracks.

But for the amount of money and effort going into HIV/AIDS in Botswana, it isn’t enough. The reality is: people are still dying, condoms aren’t being distributed because the clinics are out, HIV tests aren’t being given because the clinics are out, Doctors can’t visit rural health posts due to transport. Patients don’t come to follow ups because there is no transport to the clinics. Stigmas still exist. People whisper if you are too thin, if you sweat too much or if you have cold sores. Transactional sex happens all the time, people have concurrent partners, myths surround condom use, women aren’t empowered enough to demand condom use. At times, it seems that people are almost apathetic about it. HIV/AIDS education is infused into every curriculum in school and is constantly being discussed on the news. Dare I say, that the familiarity of HIV/AIDS has taken the fear out of it.

I am not meaning to come across negatively. It breaks my heart to see my students being raised by their grannies because their parents are “late” (dead), it pains me to see students who I suspect have HIV. I breaks my heart that an entire generation is missing their parents due to a disease. A disease that is preventable, a disease that will forever be stigmatized because it is transmitted by sex (and sex is taboo).

I encourage you all to take a moment, the next time you are at the doctor to discuss HIV. Just because you are in America, doesn’t mean that you are not at risk.

Know your status, get tested. I do, I am HIV negative.


Snaps of life

 Thank you Union Bank and Trust for my pens! 

What do you do when waiting for a hitch?  Dream job.


Salad. From my garden!!!!

 The normal temp in my house these days….

 Goshena.

 The typical sunset in the ‘Tu…

Sarah and I clean up well!! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Doubt

Doubt (noun): a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.

Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley is a phenomenal play, most of y'all might be familiar with the movie that came out a few years ago. The play (and movie) is about doubt and how destructive doubt can be.

As a general rule, I try not to live my life with doubt. I feel like doubt is a very destructive place of mind.  Here, I have so much doubt. Doubt about everything. I feel that doubt is clouding my vision about myself and others around me.

I have always prided myself on seeing the good in all people and myself--more of a glass half full type of gal. Here more often than not, I look at situations and people with such doubt. I look at myself with such doubt.

Having multiple concurrent partners for men is common place--small houses as they are called here. It is also common for women, although less talked about. Is there any value for being monogamous? Having sexual relationships with students is very common place in the schools--both Junior and Senior schools. Male teachers proposition female students who in turn feel pressured to consent, knowing that if they don't....
Just as Sister Aloysius saw something she deemed suspicious between a student and Father Flynn,  I look at interactions between girls and older men, students and teachers in the same light.

As a young women with no children, have I gone wrong somewhere in my life not to have procreated?

I  always thought that going into the Peace Corps I would be able to narrow down my future. Now, I have no clue what is next. That feeling of doubt is compounded by being in a situation where I can't job search. But I shouldn't be job searching, I should be living in the moment.

Am I doing enough in my projects? Am I being the Peace Corps Volunteer awesome, can I do more? Should I do more?

It is as if my life has become a hazy fog of uncertainty. I need to move past the doubt, find a way to walk with certainty again. I need to tap into my internal compass, get my north star alined and....go. 


Saturday, November 23, 2013

You Know You Are A PCV Part 2


A continuation of the previous blog...

You live in a constant state of existential anxiety about whether or not you are driving on the wrong side of the road no matter which side you happen to be on...Well, I have never driven in Botswana...but I do worry that I am standing on the wrong side of the road when I am hitching or waiting for the bus.

Your aware of being the worse dressed person in your village but you don’t care...I used to be fashionable, but now...I don’t even know what matches.

You double up on words past “now now” so that “shop shop” and “soon soon” are part of your every day vocabulary...”I am coming now” and “I am coming now now” are two very different things, I also say things like “is it?” “shame” “this side” 

If you had to chose between losing your passport or your adapter you would chose your adapter...Adapters are like gold. You passport can be replaced.

30 kilometers is considered a pretty short distance...Actually in Botswana I would argue, 30K is a distance!

You don’t think twice about going to the bathroom in a plastic bucket in your hut as not to leave your house at night...There is no way I am leaving my house at night. Yes, I pee in a bucket. No shame. 

You have so many random bags that when you travel you look like a gypsy...A village lady told me that you can always tell who is a PCV by the number of bags they carry.

You will drink and enjoy anything that is cold...Anything that is cold.

If you take public transport and your lap is empty there is always room for more people....But, be careful about letting small children in you lap, they might pee on you.

You lose your ability to estimate distances and waving your hand to indicate direction is an appropriate way to give directions...Hand signs are an appropriate way of indicating direction, I tried it in America, it didn’t work very well. 

If a problem arises your first reaction is to give a big long sigh...Sigh.

You enjoy African pop music...No, actually I hate it.

You enjoy eating maize meal and even order it at restaurants...You even cook with it in your own home! Pap and cheese=tasty.

Your cycle coincides with the moon cycle...If you even have a period, yes. 

Basically you have no shame, you can never act more crazy than your African counterparts think you are...I have no shame. None at all.

Spiders are no longer your enemy but allies in the constant battle of bugs...The flat wall spiders eat the mosquitos. Its a win win.

You let strangers crash at your place just because they speak English...Thats happened. 

You have lost track of how many marriage proposals you recieve...I feel like I am getting a complex from it...

You know how to make alcohol with local ingredients...done it. It explodes in your kitchen too! 

A long work day is 6-hours...Or shorter?

You distingush between your Peace Corps family and your American family...I spent a wonderful day today with my Peace Corps Family! Happy early Thanksgiving! 

Those eggs have been sitting out in the sun all day, sure I will take two...and I didn't get sick!

You realize that your village must have their token crazy perosn...the one and only

You stare at foriegn tourists as much as the locals....white people are a rarity in the 'Tu.

You realize you actually miss having a salad....yes, thats why I am growing a garden. 

When someone at your site says “yes” it means “probably not,” “maybe” means most likely not” and “no” means “no”....it was one of the first things I learned. 

You have a story for every possible topic on life that begins witth “when I lived in Africa...”Wanna hear them?




And thats been a year folks! 

You know you are a PCV when...part 1


In honor of my one year in Lehututu...

There is a funny YouTube video about “you know your a PCV when...” Here is how it relates to my service:

You know you are a Peace Corps Volunteer when....

Walking holding a role of toilet paper seems like a completely normal thing to do...There is no shame in having TP in every possible place, your hands, your purse...you might even take extra when you are at a swanky hotel

When sitting around under a tree watching goats graze seems like a productive thing to do...It is a productive thing to do! A great way to pass the time and escape the heat of your house.

You stare when you see a white person you don’t know...YES.Why are you in Lehututu? Then the village sends you as the official ambassador to inquire about why they are here. 

The amount of time it takes you to walk anywhere depends on how many people are in their yards...Truth. Enough said.

Knee length hem lines are shocking but toplessness is not...I have seen more breasts in the past year than ever before in my life.

Two weeks, three countries, one backpack and three changes of clothes seems about right...Done it. 

Seeing a movie in a theatre is a good bargain but buying a book is an unthinkable expense...Lets point out that there is also AC in the movie theatre as well. 

You come to realize that monkeys playing in the parks play the same role as squirrels in America but you insist on taking pictures of them anyways....Baby monkeys are also freakishly like small children too, its a little creepy. 

There is rooster you would like to kill, if only he wasn’t dangerously close to your size...Yes.

You are considered to be knowledgeable about the world of wrestling despite being able to count the number of times you have watched wrestling on one hand....No one has asked about wrestling, but I am still forced to account for everything the US Government does. Even if I have no idea about the state of current affairs.

You are outraged when the cost of a 30 minute taxi ride goes up .30 USD...YES.

You are not outraged when the 30 minute taxi ride takes two hours....YES.

You are stuck in a 10 hour bus ride in 120 degree heat and no one opens the windows for fear of catching the flu...I never want to get on a bus in the summer. Ever.

You can identify an otherwise unmarked stretch of road by the pot holes...Also by the bushes.

You walk down the street and small children point at you and shout “white person” but when you walk towards them they run away in terror...Yes, then a few of them get enough courage to follow you and giggle.

You find government employees sleeping on the floor of there offices in the middle of the work day...Its always an awkward moment, because do you wake them? 

When buying clothes you think “how hard would this be to wash in a bucket”...Also, how much sand and dirt will this show?

The fact that Pepto turns your vomit black is standard knowledge....It also turns your poop black too!

Showering everyday seems like extravagance...Seriously? What is a shower?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The meaning of a name

Peace Corps Volunteers in Botswana are given Setswana names by our host families we stay with during home stay.

The memory of them giving me my new name is a crystal clear memory. I don't think I will ever forget it.

Standing in the kitchen of my home stay minutes after arriving from our matching ceremony, my host mom set about the important task of giving me a fitting name. I was wearing my favorite jeweled sandals, my feet were getting accustom to the constant feeling on sand and grime on them. My host sister started peppering me with questions about what I like to do in America, who is my favorite band, do I like Chris Brown etc etc.

My host mom suddenly asks if I am a patient person. I reply yes, because truthfully, I am very patient--especially when I am being "professional Ashley." My host sister suddenly suggests a name that means something like shiny or beaded-based on my shoes. Then my host mom suggested "Bonolo" meaning one who is patient. The way she said "Bonolo" just resinated inside of me.

So I became Bonolo.

I am Bonolo.

Its a pretty unique name.

After arriving at site, everyone wants to know your Setswana name. Everyone asks "do you know what it means?" And we have a conversation back and forth about how I was named and the meaning of my name. In Lehututu, Bonolo means one who has humility.

After traveling around Botswana, meeting other Motswana from different regions and tribes, I have come to learn that the meaning of Bonolo is highly debatable. So far I have heard: humility, patiences, one who is calm, one who is soft-spoken, or one who is noble. Only one man has said that Bonolo encompasses many things including patiences and humility.

Having a Setswana name is a blessing and a curse. At times I feel like I have lost my identity as Ashley. My village knows me either as Bonolo or Ashley Bonolo Rice, I am not Ashley anymore. The identity of Ashley--the educated, independent women is gone.  Here at times I am Bonolo the lekgoa.  I can tell that Batswana take a sense of pride and ownership in my Setswana name, it is truly quiet a gift they can give us PCVs. At times I feel great ownership of my name.

This is who I am. Ke Bonolo.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Living sans Electric

I am writing a monthly cooking in Botswana article for the PCV newspaper, so here is my first article!


Food is always an adventure in Botswana, especially when you have no electricity or have to transport food several hours from shopping village to site! Have no fear! You will survive! But you might give yourself food poisoning along the way...

Living sans electricity is a shock and it takes time to adjust to-but after a while you will find that you don’t miss electricity (most of the time!) and you might even find yourself sitting in a quickly darkening room mo America without realizing you do have the capability to turn on a light switch...

Sans electric or sans fridge food storage is 100% weather dependent. As we are entering the summer months, you will find that your house heats up to 90 plus degrees (well mine does anyways) during the day. This does make keeping perishable food for a longer periods of time a little problematic. After time you will learn what you can and cannot keep and for how long you can keep it. It really is trial and error for a while, but you will get the hang of it. Your body will take time adjusting as well--think bacteria and your gut...I joke now that I have a gut of steel, but at first I was running to the bathroom frequently. However, during winter your house will be an icebox and food storage is a different, joyous beast since you can keep almost anything. 

Helpful hints: 

  • When at the general dealer or in your shopping village, try not to buy anything that is sold refrigerated ie-produce that is refrigerated and eggs. Once you lug them home and store them sans refrigeration your items will turn very fast. Eggs don’t need to be kept refrigerated, just consume within a reasonable amount of time. Eggs submerged in water should NOT float or do a floaty/bobbing thing, nor should the inside look anything aside from a “normal egg” (feathers, funny colors) nor should they smell (it smells like death).  Hold an egg up to the window/bright light to see if there is a chick inside (this has been known to happen). 
  • Milk, cheese and other dairy goodies....Unless you plan on having a “milk day” there is no safe way to keep milk for longer than a day. Sorry! Cheese can be kept, buy in small portions and keep in your faux fridge (see faux fridge instructions below). Cheese will get soft, a little oily, but that is fine. It might start to mold a titch but just cut it off. Yogurt-It can be kept in the sealed container, but consume very promptly and all at once. 
  • Meat. Just don’t do it. Don’t even think about storing meat safely (I do mean safely) during the summer, buy meat from your local butchery or out of the truck right before you plan on eating it. You may be able to eat your dinner leftovers for breakfast the following day just make sure to re-heat it thoroughly. Plan on eating canned chicken, tuna or beans for protein instead. 
  • Find the coolest, darkest place in your house. This is a great place to keep things like Flora, condiments and produce. 
  • Flora-I have found that Flora is a safe butter alternative during the summer, yes it does melt a little but its completely safe to consume at any stage of liquefaction/firmness. 
  • Condiments-I haven’t had a problem keeping condiments, but during the summer I do buy smaller bottles. 
  • Produce-If the MoE blesses you with a fridge you can’t use, don’t keep your produce in there...don’t even think about it. Your produce will turn faster than you can blink your eyes, then your fridge will stink. So put your food storage bins to use elsewhere. Purchase/care package veggie storage bags that prolong the life of your produce. A note on produce: its going to get wrinkly and soft. It is still okay to eat, it just isn’t as pretty. When you buy produce make sure it is completely dry before storing. If it starts to mold, assess the situation--you likely can cut it off. During the summer limit the amount of produce you buy from your shopping village frankly you can’t eat it all before it turns, instead hit up your local tuck shop or general dealers. You most likely have a produce truck that visits your village and sells to the dealers. Make friends with the vendors in your village and find out the day it comes to get the best selection of produce. Making friends with vendors in your village is also advantageous since then they might get in produce just for you (mine does). This ain’t America folks-make sure to wash wash and wash your produce before consuming. Also, be very aware of the bugs in your house-your produce might attract more of ‘em so keep a tidy home as well. 
  • Making a faux fridge. There are a couple different options when it comes to faux fridges. These fridges will cool your food, not keep it cold. The cooler your food the longer you can keep it. The simplest is to buy a bucket at Pep and fill it with water. You can then float leftovers in the water. The water stays “cool” and subsequently keeps your food “cool” Make sure your Tupperware is water tight!  You can “lid” your bucket with a plate or a flattened box. Make sure to clean our your bucket on a regular basis. Another option is to purchase two different size earthenware vessels-think bucket size. Line the bottom of the larger bucket with sand, place smaller bucket in then line between the two buckets with sand then slowly moisten the sand with water. You can then keep produce and left-overs in the small earthenware vessel. The evaporation of the water cools the inner vessel. Make sure to keep sand moist. Cover all vessels with a lid. Or buy a cooler and freezer packs/water bottles, get freezer packs frozen at your school/clinics freezer and use to cool contents of cooler. 
  • If you have leftovers make sure they cool down completely before sealing the Tupperware. The last thing you want to do during the summer is eat hot food, but thoroughly reheating food will kill germs. Smell it before consuming-you nose knows! If it is growing mold-proceed with caution. Just be smart: think about what it is, how long its been out, will you reheat it, mold to food ratio etc. 
  • Water-I found that one of the hardest things for me was drinking water. The last thing I wanted to do was drink warm water on a hot day. Care package yourself flavored water, many come with vitamins or electrolytes that you need. Its a win win. 

Warm and fuzzy

November 15th=1 year as a PCV
November 16th=1 year at site

In honor of that...


Community integration is perhaps one of the most important factors in a PCVs “success” during their service. Even if you don’t have any projects at the time, just feeling loved by your community is the Prozac that gets you through your day. 

There are times I feel all warm and fuzzy when thinking about the villagers and there are times I most certainly have steam coming from my ears. In reality, my village does love me (or at least has strong affection for me...)

Let me count the ways. 

The teachers at my school really do seem happy to see me, especially after I have been gone for a while. I am greeted with a “Oooohhhhh Ashley Rice” by one teacher on a daily basis. 

The Grannies in the village are looking out for my welfare by periodically feeling my breasts and patting my stomach (checking for fertility I assume) and reminding me they do have a son for me to marry. If I decline, they then remind me that my eggs are rotting in my ovaries so I better not wait! I even went as far as to negotiate my own bride price (20 cows thank you, typical going rate is 8-10). 

My neighbor, after his chickens ATE my garden down to nubbins told me he will build me a better chicken proof gate. 

The Kgosi after instructing people to tear down my original garden instructed people to build me a better garden (with the afore mention non-chicken proof gate). 

I have a novel that I keep at school, just to keep me entertained when I am not working. It magically disappeared-I say one thing to my Counterpart and there is a mass school search. Sadly no book has turned up to date...

Its only taken a year, but children and coming over to play! We have a lot of fun between 430 and 6pm on almost a nightly basis! Last night I had a record of 21 kiddos! There is also nothing better than hearing kids running around your yard playing. 

Long and the short of it. People don’t show affection in way that I am used to. Its there. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Snippets of life

A snippet of my life... 

 Want some beef? From one of the local general dealers. 


Yea yea, I know this is sideways...During a Guidance and Counseling class we set goals. 
Apparently this boy wants to be a thief, at least he has goals!  

I think that all I do is sweep. Please note this amount of sand was only from a 2 foot radius... 

I got a hitch...in the back of the bread truck.  

These get me through my days.  

My weekend mornings consist of NPR podcasts and coffee.  

102. The temp inside my house. Yes, inside. Its not even summer yet.  

Oh hey solar cooking. Yes, I made bread. Domestic/Peace Corps goddess.  

Sarah and I made pies: apple, peach and nectarine. 
Yet we are still unmarried...why? Clearly the way to a mans heart is not through his stomach. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stranded in the Bush


Stranded in the Bush

 

As you may know from a previous blog post, Sarah and I are heading into the settlements to workshop the primary schools on Living the Life Skills Curriculum the GoB is rolling out to help combat HIV/AIDS. Since Sarah is on vacation, I had the job of heading to Ukhwi and Hunukhwe for the workshops. Since Ukhwi is 200 kilometers from Hukuntsi and Hunukhwe isn’t much closer they decided I needed to spend the night at the settlements. I was okay with that-it was just going to be for a night....

 

We were supposed to head out on Monday, of course the vehicle needed to be serviced so we didn’t go. We set out on Tuesday, I had in my possession 1.5L of water, one set clean underwear, beef jerky (thanks Katie Taylor), two apples and a bag of popcorn, my “professional clothes” and PJs.

Life was great, we set off. We had a good driver who didn’t try to kill us with his driving and hit all the pot holes.

 

We were about 50 kilometers away from Ukhwi and I was in the back taking a wee nap. Then suddenly I awoke as we careened off the dirt road into the bush. Sand is blowing everywhere and I was terribly confused. We manage to get out of the bush and onto the road. We all pile out of the car to assess the situation. It was where the axel connects to the tires-it was now bent in. Not an easy fix. There is no cell phone service and we were on a road that is not used regularly. Please note the irony of the situation, the tire was brand new-which is unheard of in Botswana. I have never seen tire treads that good on a vehicle...usually the tires are balder than bald.

 


So we sit.

 

I eat some popcorn while mentally assessing what I have/how long I can survive.  

 
 
 
 

My outlook on life is still very positive-I mean what can we do? Someone will come by eventually...After I awhile I decide its nap time. I awake hot and sweaty and realize, yup that wasn’t a dream. I try to force myself to think of the time that I was with friends when we broke down in the middle of nowhere Wyoming for hours...but at least we had beer.  Suddenly my good mood evaporated. It had been hours. As I get out to stretch my legs I notice there are a lot of animal foot prints...including giant cat size ones.

 

Eventually....hours and hours later a car drives by. By the luck of God he had space to squeeze some of us in. The two men we were with were actually kind enough to give the women the space. As we drive on I notice more and more foot prints in the sand, come to find out this is a main passage for lions when they hunt.

 

We made it to Ukhwi! Finally. Yet we have no way back to Hukuntsi. The other vehicle for the Education Department was out of commission as well and of course the different Ministries don’t share vehicles no matter what the situation. So we wait. Ukhwi is a very remote settlement, population of 459 (per 2011 census) in walking around the village I note there are only about 6 cars...I actually really enjoyed the vibe in Ukhwi.

 

Finally, on Thursday the clinic didn’t have many patients to transport to Hukuntsi, so I was able to squeeze in! Unfortunately, there was only space for me and the other people I was with were left behind. Truthfully, I couldn’t bring myself to feel bad about leaving those women behind. I was tired, dirty and in a rotten mood. My patience had been tried in to many ways.


 
 

International Feast

 
The International Feast is one of my favorite traditions in life, it was started many years ago (2008 maybe) when when my friends and I were trying to plan a dinner party. We couldn’t pick the menu-then it was suggested we should have a dish from every continent. Yes that is right-every continent. It sounded like a breeze! How hard will it be? I don’t even remember what we served for the first feast, I do remember that Antarctica was represented by a chocolate cake with white frosting and glaciers. Abby and I went to Target and found plastic polar bears to put on the cake as well. Yes, we do know that polar bears are not found in the Antarctic...The feast was epic. We ate and drank way too much. Then we had to plan another one.
 
Epic as well, so we planned another one....





Fast forward to 2013 and we are on feast number 5. We hold these feasts about once a year, we used to have them when Maddie was back from South Africa or friends came up from St. Louis. It was only natural to have a feast when I was back in town.
 
In the beginning we each mastered a continent, I usually get North America. I usually make something really American like Macaroni and Cheese topped with pigs in a blanket baked in the oven or a favorite-Mini-corn dogs. It gets even better in the batter you put bacon and cheese then deep fat fry the whole thing! Its heart healthy I swear!
 
This years feast was epic. We all ate way to much, but defiantly toned down the drinking--we were too full. The menu was as follows:
 
 
Starters: North America-mini corn dogs with bacon and cheese in the batter, Antarctica-smoked salmon moussese (its a stretch there are fatty fish in Antarctic and salmon is a fatty fish), Australia-Crocodile with a citrus glaze, just for fun Kibbeh (Middle Eastern tasty goodness)
Main: Africa-Cape Malay Curry and Asia-Bulgogi
Grande finale: South America-Caramel Apple Empenadas--which you must say really fast (its funny to say and to write I promise)
Beverages: Europe-Sangria
 

 
The Amazing Maddie (and me of course!)!
 

Gardening



Several months ago I got “serious” about gardening, I got manure from a friend and made a little plot and planted seeds. Which I watered diligently for about a week until goats and chickens discovered it and feasted. I was crushed, but I should have known better--gardens here need protection. A little bit later a guy from the village built me a structure. When I say structure, I use the term loosely, it was a ramshackle, cobbled together with scraps from my compound. He even dug beds and put in manure for me! I spent a few weeks watering my prized ramshackle garden--people would walk by and laugh at the structure--its that comical. As the winds came the structure slowly got blown away bit by bit and goat discovered it....At that time I was done. Completely frustrated and a little defeated.

 

Then summer came. The thought of not having produce for 8 months depressed me. The only thing you can get in my village is onions, potatoes, bell pepper and apples or oranges. Since I can’t store anything that is what I eat. Its depressing, boring and not to mention not very nutritionally diverse.

 

Sarah is a master gardener and successfully grew lettuce and many other goodies last summer and gave me seedlings. I rushed home Thursday morning with my precious seedlings feeling inspire to re-vamp my dilapidated structure and grow! Only to find a dozen Ipelegeng workers in my yard and no garden in site. I kept asking “garden o gkea?” they would point to a burn pit with remains of my garden. WHAT! I just couldn’t understand it, why would they tear down a garden-yes, it wasn’t in the best shape...but none the less, it wasn’t theirs to tear down. I marched over to the Kgotla to talk to the Kgosi. Of course by this time, everyone in my yard and everyone at the Kgotla was laughing at me (I am a constant source of entertainment). The Kgosi explained to me that he had instructed them to tear it down as part of the yard cleaning and he didn’t know it was my garden. He promised that it would be rebuilt.

 

Low and behold. Not five minutes later a man came with a shovel and began to construct me a garden. Now this structure is bigger, better and more structurally sound. The best part of it-aside from the fact that the door is a car hood...the shade netting was made from an old mosquito net I had so I didn’t have to buy any!
 

 

Here is to gardening adventures! Wish me luck!

 

Reflections on America


Recently I went back to Nebraska to visit my family and friends, having a 40 plus hour travel from Lehututu to Nebraska via 4 different types of transport gave me a lot of time to reflect on my service and my aspirations for my life. 

During my way home, I was sick-rocking a nice little sinus infection all I wanted to do was sleep, but of course no sleep came. I was struck by the random acts of kindness that some people had. On the 14 hour flight from Doha to Chicago, my seat mate kept me stocked with kleenex and water. Immediately on arrival in Chicago, I was struck by how busy and fast paced Americans are. I was struck by the rudeness of people-yes you lady in Chicago who felt the need to push me out of the way. 

During my travel home I realized that I had encountered more people than I most likely for the past year. There were so many people. One doesn’t realize how accustomed you get to a simple pace of life until you are bombarded with the “American life.”

My first week I spent mainly at home, I was still nursing my sinus infection, jet lagged like no ones business. Truthfully, the thought of actually having to make a commitment and stick to it scared the living daylights out of me. I found myself for some reason having an inability to commit or even make a plan outside of 30 minutes later. This I feel drove my family nuts. I was relying on my parents for transport and bless their hearts they had to put up with my vague scheduling notions. 

Being at home helped me realize what is important in my life and what I want in life. Truthfully, coming into the Peace Corps I had envisioned I could be perfectly happy living my life working abroad while I was young. Now I am not sure I want to. I am in no means ready to completely tie myself down and give up traveling. This I do know, living how I have been living is not how I want to live. There are many convinces in America and just as many excesses. 

Convinces I enjoyed-having a bank within two blocks of my house, drive through ATMs, fast food-love me some OSO, riding in a car and eating a bagel with cream cheese ever morning for breakfast. 

Excesses I noticed-as much as I love Target, does a person really need to have 15 different types and brands of flavored water to pick from? Actually, everywhere I went, I noticed that there were so many options to pick from. In Gabs there are options-but not like America. Coming from a place where I have one type of pasta to pick from or one fruit to pick from...having to make up my mind about the simplest of things was exceptionally hard. My mother was a saint, she dutifully and patiently waited for me while I was trying to pick out simple things like shampoo or hair product. She could sense my growing frustration mainly stemming through my anxiety of being WAY overwhelmed. I imagine this is what it is like to have a mild form of Autism--I either shut down or acted out my feelings by getting upset. 

By the end of my visit, I was finally feeling more like a person and the thought of actually making an appointment/leaving my house seemed a doable task, but unfortunately I had a plane to get on. In all honesty I didn’t get to do some of what was on my “to do” list I spent hours planning on looking forward to. I did complete and enjoy: bagels, cream cheese and good coffee, good beer, an International Feast with friends, family, breakfast and cocoa with my PaPa. Things I did not complete: getting a pedicure (the state of my feet...), massage (I just want to be touched), good pizza, sleeping in-in a real bed, enjoying fall weather. 

Getting on the plane was bittersweet. I still have no idea what I want to do next or where I want to live when I am done. I do have the motivation to power through this next year and I have some amazing projects coming up and amazing friends to get me through my low points. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dear Shower, I love you

*I would like to preface this blog. I am a clean person, I swear I don't smell. I don't however bath as regularly as Batswana do or as most Americans do*

I will never take showers for granted again. I will never take showers for granted again. I will never take showers for granted again. 

Showers are one of those things, those things that you don't really think about. You don't think about heating up the water for the shower or how much water you actually use....In reality, you don't think about living a life without a shower.

 This is my bath mo Botswana. Yes, I do have a tub and a facet, the water just dribbles out of it, so its easier for me to fill up the bucket and bucket bath. If I want hot water, I heat up water on the stove. I use an empty Coke can as my "shower" and I pour water on me. Its a strange thing bucket bathing, I never really feel clean after I am done. But my bath water is always....so dirty. Embarrassingly dirty. Winter bathing was just a nightmare, its freezing cold in your bathroom and wet...I tried to limit my bathing as much as possible and filled up my trash with baby wipes. Summer bathing is much more enjoyable and I do take the time and waste the water to fill up a bath.








This is how I have been showering mo America...How could you pass this up? I truthfully think that I have showered more times in the past 10 days than I have for an entire year...
In fact the times I have showered in Botswana are as follows: IST (five times), while showering was nice...I had more important things to do. Maun-Backpackers (once), Zambia (once), Metcourt (twice), Maun-Hotel Ferguson's (thrice).
Showering in America-its been a daily occurrence. Actually, there have been twice daily showers. Just because I can.
YOU GET SO CLEAN when you shower. I just can't get over it. SO CLEAN. Showers just improve your mood, its really more of a mental thing I think. Washing away your sorrows...and gallons of water. But that is neither here nor there.





While we are on the hygiene topic...Can we talk about toilets for a hot second?! Going to the bathroom has been a joy. A complete joy. At my house, I have to venture outside for the bathroom...Lets get real, I pee in a bucket when I don't want to go outside (mainly at night...) Botswana bathroom trips are always an experience...After a while, carrying a role of TP around in your purse is the norm. Having soap and towels to wash your hands never happens--aside from your own house of course. Toilets smell, you have to squat, doors don't shut or lock or they don't unlock when you are on the inside, pit latrines with an army of cockroaches....its just a pain. In America, oh my! They have soap, toilet paper and a hand drying device. Its just amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed every experience. Even last night at O'Rourkes my favorite dive bar...it was cleaner than the average bathroom in Botswana. And toilet paper. Who knew that it could be such a dream--having TP that is more than one-ply. I had forgotten about that simple joy in life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Its always an adventure....

Sarah and I have the joy of heading to the settlements in the Kgalagadi North district to workshop all of the primary school teachers on the Living Curriculum (aka why Life Skills PCVs are in Botswana)
So we took up that challenge! 1 school down...many more to go.
Transportation is always an interesting experience in Botswana, the settlements are 40 plus kilometers off in the bush from our villages...which is great....until you realize they are not paved roads. Its deep sand baby. 
Not so bad? 
The MoE had us ride in the back of a pickup truck. Its okay, PC--it was covered...kind of. So we were within travel protocol. Right? 


Doesn't Sarah look happy? We were given a foam pad to cushion our bums...thank god for that. As we were going about 100km/hour our asses made lift off on several bumps....then crashed back down (painful!)


 Oh hey! Look at what fun we are having! 


Oh right....the glass was busted in one of the windows....does it still count as covered? And of course, we were covered in a fine layer of dust by the end of our journey...so much for being business professional.  

Lets get real. There were times we could have perished.  Thankfully, we didn't. But, off in the bush....how long would it take until we were missed? 



Oh hey, we clean up well! Please note: we are actually wearing our heels we brought to Botswana! And this is also how you travel around for official government travel! Its almost like a chaise lounge....


I think if the zombies apocalypse happens...we would be safe. But just in case...this is our apocalypse face


Well dang it...we were trying to take a picture, but we hit a bump and this is what happened....