from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

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” 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 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 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.