from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

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!)!


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 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 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.