from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Friday, June 28, 2013

Just a pretty face

I have to admit, this is not going to be a wonderfully up-lifting blog post...just a more cathartic one. Peace Corps, I wouldn't take back the past almost 10 months....But the Peace Corps is hard. Damn hard at times! I feel that the hardships are often over looked during recruitment, staging and trainings. There have been times where I questioned my sanity. I have wondered if I have a some sort of mood disorder. During my brief professional stint as a working women, I worked with clients who had MH disorders. Truthfully, I never fully could related.... I can honestly say, that I can emphasize with anyone who has a diagnosis of 296.90, name a few. Moods can fluctuate with a drop of a hat, the harassment of a drunk man or the unbearable heat.

I have to admit that I am heading into a downswing. I can usually zen like patience wears thin, I can't get out of bed in the morning and I have no desire to do my yoga or runs.

Recently I had a conversation with a few teachers at school, trying to explain why I don't have children, or why I do not see myself falling in love and staying in Botswana.

For as long as I can remember, I have said "of I am too young for kids" in America, no one questions that statement. Here, as a almost 27 year old women, I am still a girl because I have not reproduced. Having children gives a right of passage into the world of adulthood. After a rather frustrating conversation explaining some key cultural differences/belief differences, I started my trek home. On my walk, I started to mull over my age...almost 27...childless...virtually nothing to tie me down...Not idea things to think about when mildly depressed.

I ended up on my bed at home blubbering. For about 30 minutes. During the blubber, my mind wandered to every depressing thought about my future. Included visions of me a lone with cats and empty bottles of wine.

I have to say that my self-esteem has been beaten down to nothing here. At times I feel valued only for the fact that I have light skin and I could get someone a green card. Men here throw themselves at you, its almost a they never give up kind of way--no matter many times you shoot them down. I used to be a women who valued my intelligence, but now, I look in the mirror and I am just a pretty face. I am a pretty face who could make light skinned babies or bring someone to America.

Sugar daddies, small houses and transactional sex is common place in Botswana. It was even suggested to me that I need to "have a relationship" to supplement my small Peace Corps stipend. Its no wonder my self esteem has been beaten to a pulp...It is almost engrained that as a women, I am a sexual object and nothing more.

The school term has ended, we have a month off before the third and final term of the 2013 school year. I am looking forward to spending time recharging, being with friends and building up my self-worth.

She rumela motjhupeng

She rumela motjhupeng [I don’t believe in the stick]

I feel like I am a pretty adaptable person. I also believe that in most cases, I can step back and examine both sides of an argument/belief while putting my personal feelings aside. 

Sometimes here, I can’t--and that bothers me. I have always embraced the differences in our world. My personal mantra has always been “different people make the world go round” and as cheesy as that sounds. I believe it. We all have our own beliefs, philosophies, cultures and ideas. That is a beautiful thing. 

In Botswana, I find myself struggling the most with being able to “see their side” of things. 

Corporal punishment is pervasive in the culture and education system. Growing up in Louisiana, the ever present threat of “when your daddy gets home” often kept kids in line and corporal punishment was shockingly still legally allowed in the school system. However, the corporal punishment I witnessed was justified. My parents always reserved physical punishment, usually spankings, for serious offenses. Like that time I tried to poke Colin’s eye out (with a sharp object)--I would say that yes, I deserved my punishment (and never did it again). 

In Botswana, I find a different story. Truth be told, it is hard to deal with. 

The Government regulates whom is to punish whom, and yes, in the Children’s Act of Botswana (2009)  there is a law that stipulates corporal punishment is allowed, as long as it is just and fair. Not only does the law state that it is legal to switch a child, it is also legal to switch a criminal. Judges often dispense “lashes” along side a fine or a prison sentence. In the traditional court, the Kgosi can punish someone with lashes if they misbehave. I myself, was actually threatened with lashes if I showed up to the kgotla wearing pants. 

At the school, students are punished for a variety of reasons--really depending solely on the teacher. Students are often smacked on their hands with the back of a chalkboard eraser for not doing assignments or get switched on the bum. Students are switched if they fail a test, or don’t preform as well as the teacher believes they should have. Students are switched for misbehaving, skipping class or talking back to the teacher. After exam time, the students who fail are lined up to receive their lashes... I have seen more punishment than I would like to admit in the school...and it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. 

It is a philosophy I find hard to grasp. Corporal punishment is so widely used (and abused) it almost takes the meaning out of it. 

If a student misbehaves during class and is switched for the behavior then sent off to tea time to play with their friends. What is the punishment? Where as if a child misbehaves and then is kept from playing with friends at tea time. Which is more effective? 

Kings Foundation

The Kings Foundation is an amazing UK based organization that is expanding in South Africa and Botswana, they believe in developing children and young people through sport. They recently came to Lehututu and donated a base pack! They trained the PACT club, teachers, social worker and preschool teachers in how to use the base pack.
Feel free to check out their website at