from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Community mobilization a la theatre

Theatre, song, dance and oral traditions have always been a powerful way to convey a message. In a country where at least 1 in 4 adults are HIV positive, HIV education is very common place. Everyone knows the ABCs--Abstain, Be-faithful, Correct and Consistent Condom use. As the HIV rates continue to stay consistent, new ways of educating and reaching out to the community is needed. Theatre, song and dance are being utilized as educational tools. Theatre groups throughout the country travel around gathering the village for a performance. 

Theatre groups are funded by government grants and international NGOs and work closely with the Ministry of Health in carrying out their messages. 

 Ditlhabahatshe Threatre Group at a performance

Condom demonstration after the performance

 The village gathering for an afternoon of entertainment

Its never too young! Children watching performance.

Theatre groups also present at schools, YOHO came to my JSS for a SMC performance

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ode to Culinary Adventures

Every day is an adventure....especially in the kitchen. Having no electricity has its joys and challenges, during the summer it is more challenges than joys. Dining on a limited menu week after week you learn to savor the amazing culinary experiences. 

For Christmas Katy, Amanda and I chose to slaughter our own dinner. It was an experience in its self, I have to admit there was a point where I didn't actually think that I could eat and enjoy dinner. It was very tasty! 

Not having an oven...sigh. Thats how I feel most of the time, Maggie and I made stove top cookies! These were a lemon sugar cookie that you cook a-la-pancake style! 

Mags puts her culinary skills to work--you have to flatten the cookies down-we used the bottom of the peanut jar. Truthfully, the cookies were okay-they were good, they fulfilled the cookie craving. But, nothing compares to a fresh from the oven cookie. 

Mug and Bean is a coffee shop...its a little slice of heaven. For Maggie's birthday we met up before a training to treat ourself to coffee, assorted slices of cake and good conversations! New York Style Cheesecake? Yum yum yum. 

Katy, KR (not pictured) and I enjoying a "picnic" dinner outside of KR's home--a selection of meat, cheeses and guacamole. 

"Ain't Your Mommas Étouffée" on a cozy winters night

Sarah and I made our own ginger spiced pancakes complete with homemade whipped cream! Sarah got her daily workout shaking the cream! 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Donkey Carts Rule

A few weeks ago, Maggie and I took a little jaunt on a Donkey Cart! Donkey Carts rule! As were were trekking through the bush on the back of the cart, Maggie and I decided. We. Have. To. Drive.This Bad. Boy.

We spent a long time convincing the owners of the donkey cart, we need to drive it! 

So we did. 

Maggie, holding the reins!  

 Donkeys need some....encouragement to keep on trekking...

Hey! We are off! 

Yup, thats me! Holding the reins! 

Just hanging! 

Part of our trusty team! 

As you can tell! We are pumped to be driving!!! 

The owner of the donkey cart! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Just For Boys

A few weeks ago, Sarah and I did a mini-workshop for a few boys at my school. We called it "Just for Boys" we had a smashing time! We talked about Gender Based Violence, showed a STEPS Film and had a wonder powerpoint (with pictures) of STDs.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) is unfortunately pretty common in Botswana and very under reported. Most women truthfully, don't realize that they are experiencing GBV. We had a pretty interesting discussion surrounding the "roles" of men and women. The boys came to the conclusion, that in Botswana, it is a women's job to do the laundry. Then sighed heavily when Sarah and I broke the bad news that, no, we would not be marrying them b/c we expect our future husbands to do their own (shock! shock!). Apparently it is bad ju-ju for a man to do his ladies laundry on a regular basis (where do they get these things?) but, then the boys quickly said, that if their wife was sick they would help them out....

STEPS Films, STEPS films are amazing. Please go to for more information. We showed "Three and a Half Lives of Philip Wutu" an interactive film where you can pick Philip's fate as he navigates the tricky world of MCP and HIV....It was such a hit, I am showing it again in a few weeks!

Then we concluded the day with a Powerpoint on was a big hit. I like to call it "shock and awe" because we included pictures on STIs gone bad....It brought up a great discussion, because the boy didn't know that some STIs are transmitted through skin to skin contact (HPV, Herpes). As we turned the lights on, Sarah and I noticed that many of the boys had cold sores on their lips. We specifically talked about cold sores and how one is at an increased risk for transmission of STIs and HIV...It was one of those humbling moments, because, most likely those boys with cold sores are HIV positive. We had to have a frank discussion with the boys about risks, but you don't want to point something out. These boys already face enough stigma.

Several times throughout the day, we emptied our Question Box and did a brief Q and A. One of the questions was "when am I ready for sex?" If this question was brought up to a teacher, the kid would have been shouted at "you are too young" but the reality of the situation is, these are 16 and 17 year old boys. So lets have a real discussion. Can you deal with the consequences-in Botswana HIV is a biggie (one of the many consequences) The boys were silent after our discussion, I think that this was the first time in their lives they heard a real answer to their questions.

A few days later,  a few of the boys came up to me and asked when our next talk was going to be! Something must have been hitting home...


Ode to Chocolate...

This one is for you KG.

I like Chocolate. I will now admit it.

Some time in Missoula, my dear friend KG offered me some chocolate-Dove squares, her favorite. I decline, stating that I really didn't like chocolate. She looked at I was a ghost. I have to say...I was shocked that we still remained friends (love you KG).

Ever since I have been in Botswana, I have had sweet cravings. CRAVINGS I tell you. So, chocolate has been in my care package ever since (Dove Dark Chocolate Squares thank you!)

But, recently...I have been having a chocolate consumption issue. I can't stop eating it. Recently my dinners have a spoonful of peanut butter, handful of dried fruit and chocolate squares. In bed, all of this is consumed in bed. I was sweeping my floor the other day and found a distributing amount of chocolate wrappers. I thought to, Ashley-How old are you? And I might have also woke up with a chocolate wrapper stuck to my face one morning.... (again, how old am I?)

The other night, I was "making my dinner" busy scooping peanut butter and opening a can of green beans for variety, I said "Ashley-only two squares tonight" then this cold chill came over me...TWO SQUARES! My God, it was only 6pm, I had hours before I slept....

So its official.
I like Chocolate.
Thank you very much.