from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A letter to my students

I would like to take this opportunity to say goodbye. I will always remember the two years I have spent in Lehututu. All of you have a special place in my heart. 

Before I go, I would like to say a few words. 

First off you are all special. All of yuh are special and unique creatures of God. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. I pray that one day you can recognize the abilities and strengths that lie in you all. 

Secondly, I ask that you keep on dreaming. No matter what your dreams may be--be it a taxi driver, artist or lawyer. Do not let anyone tell you that your dreams are trivial or stupid. Never stop working towards your dreams, they won't come to fruition over night but never stop trying. 

Lastly, I would like to remind you that you have control over your life. YOU. Not your mother, uncle or friends. It may not seem like it now, but you have the power to make your life what you want it I be. If someone calls you stupid or demeans your dreams, don't let it deter you. Just know that those words were spoken from their own insecurities. Only you can determine your destiny. 

Go with God. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Its been two years. Well almost two years, roughly 670 days. Two years is a Masters program, or two pregnancies and then some...

Two years is a long time.

But in hindsight it was nothing.

Time is wrapping up in Lehututu, I am leaving on October 14th. October 14th, the day, it seems like it will be here in a blink of an eye.

I am trying to process the wealth of emotions I am feeling on a daily basis right. The thought of leaving is hard, my best friends in the village are all under the age of 5, it breaks my heart to realize that they won’t remember me. It breaks my heart to know that a new PCV is coming in and I will be no more.

But at the same time. Being replaced and saying goodbye is part of the cycle. Kind of like breathing and dying. I am being replaced by a man. Which I am thrilled about, my students and other men in the village need a positive male role model. My heart is lightened that since being a man, the constant comparisons won’t happen--or I should say. The comparisons will be less than if it was a female. As a male, more doors are opened too! He can do things that I never could as a female.

I get a little type-A at times, saying goodbye is an exercise in letting go. I have been working on letting go. Which is easier said than done! Will the new volunteer keep up my garden, but most importantly, will he let my babies water it every day with him? Will he give out all the hugs a kid could need every Monday at the pre-school? Will he spend evenings on sitting side by side my neighbor letting her feed him and making animal sounds together? Will he just be present in the students lives?

Coming into Peace Corps I always said that I never was going to be the volunteer who built 100 pit latrines, I was going to build relationships instead. I have spent the past 670-odd days building relationships. I won’t be leaving structural impacts behind, I am leaving memories and feelings. I have given students an opportunity to be respected, valued, heard. Students will remember how I made them feel not the lessons I have taught them.

Can you handle this cuteness??? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Reflections on two years

My time in Lehututu is coming to a close, I recently contributed an article to our PC-Botswana newsletter. I thought I would share it on my blog. 

When I signed up for the Peace Corps, I was prepared mentally for pooping in a hole and living in a hut. Well, I almost have that. I certainly don’t have “posh corps.” And if this is considered posh corps—I want to know what the authentic Peace Corps experience is! 

During our site placement meetings in PST, we were asked about what we wanted. I was honest and vocal in saying what I wanted out of my service. I wanted rural. I didn’t need to be around other PCVs. I didn’t mind not having electricity. I was ready for the challenge. I wanted to prove to myself and to my family that I could do it. In America I had hundreds of shoes in my closet, months full of outfits, kitchen gadgets coming out my ears and update my candles and table decorations on a seasonal (okay monthly) basis (feel free to judge me, I don’t mind). I vowed to myself that I could live simply for my time here. 

Let me paint a picture of my life. I live in Lehututu, as the guide books call it “its little more than a sandy spot on the road”  in a little cinderblock house with a flat tin roof-no ceiling, just rafters and tin protecting me from the outside world. My house was built in the early 90s and is slowly crumbing around me. I can see the night sky if I sit at different spots in my house. I have bats that keep me company at night—who needs noise machines when you have the sounds of bats flapping and squeaking around you at night? My water supply is off and on, albeit not as near as bad as other PCVs out there. The entrance to my bathroom is outside, so I usually pee in a bucket instead of making the trip outside. At least I have a bathroom and not a pit latrine. 

My shopping village-where the nearest ATM/Bank and grocery store is about 400 kilometers away from me—thats a 4-5 hour bus ride. I plan my week around when the produce truck comes. It comes on Wednesdays, which means Wednesday afternoons or Thursday is the only time to get produce. Let me use the word produce lightly. Weeks its only potatoes, questionable apples, onions. Good weeks will include wrinkled bell peppers, iffy tomatoes, maybe some bananas, butternut, you can hope for carrots and beets. If you don’t buy produce within 24 to 36 hours of the trucks arrival, you wont be able to buy anything aside from the left over veg which no one wants to buy. Get while the getting is good. 

On the up side we have two bulk food stores in Hukuntsi that cater to the surround settlements. Having the bulk food stores allows us to purchase bulk supplies of canned veggies, rice and pasta—items which are often absent from the shelves of our general dealer. I have to admit, the lady who runs our general dealer will order feta and cheddar cheese for us! Which has been my saving grace these past 20something months. Up until a month ago we were the only subdistrict in Botswana not to have a grocery store and a bank! About a month ago a small Shoppers opened about 100km away! We are still waiting on the bank….  

I also don’t have electricity-not even solar panels. Not having electricity has forced me to be alone with my thoughts in the silence of my house. Back home, I would usually be listening to NPR, podcasts or have music playing in the background. Unless I was busy focusing on school work, there was always noise. I also always had roommate for companionship as well. Never in my life have I been so alone. 

Transportation is always a sticky situation. In the past five months we have had consistent petrol shortages at the nearest petrol station. Leaving the next closest station 100ks away. I am fortunately have a kombi that runs semi regularly to Hukuntsi, the next largest village 15km away, where the general deal is.  We have three buses that go to Gabs daily at 6am, 7am and 11am. I am the second bus stop, more times than I can count I have been at the bus stop and the bus has sailed on by because not one more person could physically fit on it. More times than I can count, I have had to stand for the entire 7+ hour bus ride or site with the driver its been so full. At month end, its impossible to leave my village unless you arrange a ride with a private vehicle. 

Neighboring PCVs….well, I can count them on one hand. Very few of them actually complete their two years for varying reasons…Its like the Kgalagadi spits you out after a while. I don’t know what life is like in the rest of Botswana, but I feel like the Kgalagadi is the forgotten district. That mentality is reflected in every aspect of life. Villagers try and cling to traditional values and practices which clash with government values and programs. Education for example, there is no value in obtaining an education, instead children and parents would prefer to be at the cattle post leading semi-nomadic lifestyles with their cattle. You in fact can still barter livestock for material goods! Why should children sit in English or Setswana class? 

Looking back on my service, I am unspeakably thankful that I have faced these challenges. The ability to be alone with your thoughts is something that I feel most Americans lack. It is certainly not a skill I feel that is honed in my generation. There are weeks that I have had nothing to eat but butternut, onions and beans. This isn’t my own choice, just because there is nothing to be found in the general dealer. I have never had to face a situation like that before. I have always budgeted my money, but I have never before budgeted the cash I had in my wallet to last me until the next time I can make the trek to an ATM. 

I have had my share of bad days, today for instance, tears were in my eyes as I took walked the 3 kilometers from my house to school. The thought of leaving my house to charge my phone and computer were unbearable. I have the ability to say that when I finally leave this place-I will come out stronger. I have done it. I have met my battles head on with little complaining and succeeded. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Meerkats. I am obsessed with them.

What really can be cuter? 

We were becoming friends, alas he couldn’t leave his family and start a new colony at my house

I wouldn’t mind being a meerkat in my next life, meerkats are altruistic animals! 

A group of meerkats is called a “mob” or “gang” or “clan” (the original gangsters)  

The end is near....sort of

In July Bots13 came together for our COSC (close of service conference).
Most of Bots13 is leaving in October after completing our service as Life Skills Volunteers.
We were all placed at Primary, Junior or Senior Secondary Schools in Botswana.

Liz, me, Jess and Lisa 

You know, sometimes I just can’t look at Katy without making a face...

coming full circle...

Here is to the next 13 months! 

Lisa, Maggie and I 

When you don’t cut your hair for 2 yeas you get mermaid hair! 
I however, have decided that I haven’t gotten enough. 
I am extending for a third year! 
Lets see how long my hair will be then... 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Silence is deafening

  I was watching a TED talk the other day by novelist Abha Aawesar, a New Yorker recounting the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. She talked about her daily journey hauling water up 7 flights of stairs while holding a flashlight between her teeth because of the power outages, the stores being out of bread, water and other necessities, the struggles of getting a shower and charging electronics. To paraphrase, she says the self as we knew it—was no more. She referring to the ever connected age of technology we live in. I instantly started reflecting my little journey I have be on during the past 20 something months. 

When I was in the process of packing up my piles of clothes and shoes, consolidating the things that “I can’t live without” into two 50 pound suitcases for my 27 month Peace Corps service several realizations dawned on me. I was having anxiety induced meltdowns over which pair of my beloved shoes I should bring or which shirts I wanted to bring with me—even though it was a shirt from the back of my closet I hadn't worn in months. These silly material things were making me cry, snap at my mother who was trying to help me pack and make me question can I do this? This being the Peace Corps. The thought of giving away (or packing away) these silly things that had brought me so much fleeting joy was bring me to tears. 

After taking time to stop packing and reflect on what is important, I decided that I needed to make some changes. I needed to simplify my life. Hitting up the shoe closet at Van Maur brought me great joy or buying a fancy cheese and new kitchen gadget at the grocery store and making a fabulous dish for my friends brought me great joy. Thats not to say that I didn’t find immense joy and satisfaction from my job….but that wasn't enough. You can’t physically carry with you a clients success. You physically carry with you your new Italian leather boots. 

I in the effort to simplify my life, I decided that I wanted to be internet free for the duration of my service—good bye email, Facebook and google. This also meant parting with my smartphone…My loved ones were not as thrilled with this idea. I decided to keep internet and my smartphone, but consciously work on limiting my access to it (via self control).  

Dawesar says our life story needs two dimensions of time—direct experience/ immersive experience (the moment) and our life span—the narration. She claims that our self and our lives stories are being changed in our ever technological world. We are living longer, that dimension of time is lengthening, but our immersive experiences are shrinking. 

As I arrived at my site and was unpacking my belongings. A sudden realization dawned on me. It was quiet. My house was quiet and I was alone with my thoughts. It was scary. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. A restless feeling started to spread over me—what am I supposed to do when I am done unpacking? The house that I live in doesn’t have electricity. My phone and computer only has so much battery life…I can’t have the constant noise in the background that I unknowingly had become accustom to. No amount of preparing could help me deal with the flow of emotions that was washing over me. 
Technology perpetuates the idea that those who have it—so must  everyone else. Imagine, going to a friends house and if their is a lull in conversation not being able to check your phone or surf the web to fill the silence. Or being on a bus, not wanting to strike up a conversation with strangers so you turn to your Huffington Post app. Technology perpetrated every aspect of my life, so many of which I was blissfully unaware of until I was sitting in a house that was growing quickly darker and my phones battery was dead. 

I was suddenly faced with my own revelation. Myself, as I knew it was no more. I was suddenly being forced to live in the moment, live with my thoughts, live with deafening silence, live away from a screen. As my time in Lehututu draws to a close, I am faced with many decisions about my future. How do I live in both worlds? Being truly present in the moment whether in Botswana or in America. 

Dawesars’ Grandmother taught her that things happen in the time we take, it can’t be fought. Reflecting on that unspeakably true statement, I have grown more in the ebb and flow of life and time in the Kgalagadi more than I have in my time in America. Or Is should say, I have grown in a different way than in America. Technology threatens the present. But we have the choice. We can regain our “self” the moments that make our life story. Moments that combine the past, present and future. Every cold winters night that I make myself cocoa I am instantly transported back to my Grandparents kitchen with my PaPa as he looks at me with a twinkle in his eye saying “making cocoa is very scientific.” I can’t help but make it the exact same way as he taught me and wishing he was there to eat marshmallows with me while waiting for it to heat up. I am not sure if I would have the same experience making cocoa in my American kitchen because I wouldn’t have embraced the silence and my thoughts. I wouldn’t be able to experience those memories completely. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I have touched on corporal punishment in Botswana before, but never has it hit me so close to home…

I would like to preface this post, Botswana is a safe country. Yes, there is crime and I do believe that crime is escalating in Botswana as a whole. However, I find that I live in a very safe area of Botswana. Yes, I have had to deal with my share of bothersome men, but there have been very few times (I can count them on one hand) that I have felt unsafe. Seriously unsafe, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and your heart races unsafe, fight or flights unsafe. 

There is a gentleman in Hukuntsi who has harassed myself and Sarah for months and months. First it was just annoying. Then he became more erratic in his behaviors. He has grabbed my breasts before, touched us, pushed me and forcible block us from leaving or entering a store.  

A few weeks ago we reported him to the police when he forcibly blocked me from entering a room as we were trying to flee from him. Sarah the lucky lady had made it in the room before he could stop her. We took him to the police and they sat him down and talked to him. He denied everything. He wasn’t bothering us, he just wanted money….etc etc etc. That day in particular he followed us around the shopping “mall” in Hukuntsi, grabbing our arms, yelling at us and  followed into a store. Repeatedly we told him to go away (in English and Setswana) he flat out told us “ke a gona” I am refusing. But yet, he just claims he wanted money. 

For the most part, people in Hukuntsi look out of us, they tell him to go away and make sure we are “safe” 

Not the other day…

Its uncanny, its like the man (he is 20 or 21) has radar for us, the minute is step out of the kombi he was on me. Walking far to close for comfort, yelling that he loves me and something about killing someone. I escaped into my first store, the clerk told him to leave. The minute I left he followed me. Then I escaped to PEP. The manager at PEP is a lady with a pair of lungs, she always does a fine job of yelling at him. Unfortunately she wasn’t there. At this point I was already on the edge of crying out of frustration as I am asking for help. The staff at PEP do nothing but laugh at me and tell me I should hit him. That was the breaking point. I cry. 

Nothing is worse than crying out of frustration. 

Not to mention that crying is a big cultural no-no in Botswana. No one cries (at least in public) and no one knows what to do when they see you crying. Especially a grown woman. People get deer in the headlights looks and don’t make eye contact with you they are so uncomfortable. 

After calling the amazing Thuso our safety and security officer (ironically his name means “help”) he stayed with me on the phone while I walked to the police. Af first the police officers just stare at me. Like its a joke that I am asking for help from this guy. “Ahhh he is mentally ill” they tell me actually its more like “he is not right in the head” but I don’t find that an appropriate way to describe an individual with a mental health diagnosis. Finally the police officer says he will go and find this man.  

A short while later they return and after a rapid discussion all in Setswana the police officer tells me to sit in a particular chair. I didn’t question that so I move. The next thing I know the police officer has a switch in his hand and the man is bent over a chair. The police officer proceeds to switch the man, in front of me. Within 3 feet of my face, in front of me. All the time telling him he needs to leave me alone. Now, this wasn’t the type of switching I see in school, these lashes were meant to leave a mark and inflict pain. The lashing must have been some work for the officer because during it—he removes his jacket. Or maybe the jacket was constricting his range of motion…? After he lashes the guy and yells at him someone the man walks out of the room. It was more of a painful limp of a person who just got their ass beat….The police officer looks at me and says “he won’t bother your anymore” 

Not only have I been subjected to this mans constant harassment, I was just subjected to a beating. I was so unnerved that I was shaking. I ask the officer to walk with me to my kombi stop because I was worried this man wouldn’t leave me alone. The officer looks at me like I was crazy—this man was just beat why wouldn’t he leave you alone? Finally the officer agrees and walks me to the kombi stop. And guess who was at the kombi stop….? 

I wanna be like Harry!

I recently started to “read” Harry Potter, actually I was listening to the audio books. I was never really a HP fan back home. I have never, until this year read the books or watched all of the movies. 

But man o man. I am hooked. First off: The man who reads the audiobooks, has the best voice in the world. Secondly: HP is actually pretty freaken’ amazing. Mad props JKR! 

I was only a book in before I was hooked, so hooked that I have had more than one long conversations with people (mainly Katy) about how awesome it would be if we were witches and in the Peace Corps. Or really, just how useful magical skills would be in life in general.

So I have compiled a list (not limited to…)

Owls: Owls would be handy for many reasons, we wouldn’t have to spent hours of our lives waiting in the queue to mail a letter home. We would owl it! Out of air time? No matata! Send an owl! Feel like you just need some entertainment in your life? Get a pig-wiggen size owl. Done and done. 

Apparition/Disapparate: Its month end and you need money and groceries but don’t want to be crammed like sardines in the bus. Disapparate. Really wish you could see your friend for the weekend but don’t want to spend hours on the bus. Disapparate. Man o man, I am tired of getting Botswana lap dances on the kombi. Disapparate. 

Invisibility cloak: Now, I realize that this is a very special cloak and not every magical being has one….But I need one. Not in the mood to talk to people or have people scream legoka at you? Invisibility cloak. You want to go for a jog but don’t want men stopping and picking you up? Invisibility cloak. 

Spells: Oh my goodness, what spell wouldn’t work. I think really, just having the ability to preform a spell would make our lives completely different. Lets say you don’t have electricity (like me) that can be easily fix! Tired of sweeping? Just bewitch your broom to sweep for you! There can be lots of down time in the Peace Corps, what a great time to prefect and create  a wide variety of spells! 

Brooms: I think this would be ace. I don’t know what I would want more sometimes a broom or a wand….Want to go on a game drive? No problem! Just hop on your broom and have a scenic view of the Delta or Transfrontier. Its month end? No problem, just fly on down to your shopping village.  

I feel like I need to stop…I could go on for days about why I need to be a witch, really, this obsession is getting out of control. I cannot count the number of times I have looked seriously at a person and said “man I need an owl” or some Harry Potter related line. 

But if anyone wants to get me an owl as a gift….

Friday, June 13, 2014

Botswana lap dance

My parents said that so many things happen in Botswana that would make a great movie script....Or a line in a stand up comedy. This is just one of those situations.  

I just wanted eggs. Is that too much to ask? 

We haven’t had petrol (gas) recently, so its been hard to get a lift out of the village to Hukuntsi (12-15ks away) to buy food. After waiting for a lift for an hour, just as I was debating the pros and cons of walking 5ks to the main road for a lift the kombi shows up. There were about 24 of us waiting to get into a 18 passenger van. The orderly sense of queuing was lost in an instant. Frankly I just wasn’t in the mood to push my way on the kombi so I stepped aside. Which worked in my favor….for a short moment. Someone saved me a seat! Although, it was perhaps the worst seat ever—right by the door in the front. Just as I am getting cozy with the granny next to me, a man decides that he MUST get on the kombi. There was about a foot of space in front of me—which is more than enough room for a body. 

So he straddles me. 

Yes, thats right. He straddles me. If I were to move my leg, he wouldn’t have had children. 

Thank god I bathed this morning! And was wearing perfume! 

So we rode like that, him straddling precariously on me. One tap of the breaks or sharp turn and he would be on me like white on rice. 

I should have slipped pulas into his belt….

And guess what. There wasn’t an egg to be found in Hukuntsi. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

10 years on

May 2014, my parents visit to Botswana 
High School Graduation, May 2004 
Its been 10 years since my high school graduations….10 years! Am I really that old? It seems like just yesterday I was a fresh high school graduate, ready to take on the world (or just leave west Texas…)

I was one of the few who went out of state for college, even one of the fewer who went farther than Oklahoma or New Mexico. 10 years on, I am not sure where we all have ended up…but I suspect I am still one of the few that are living outside the hallowed grounds of Texas. 

Looking back over the past 10 years, I have to say. I am pretty dang proud of how I have turned out. 

I have graduated college, I am a final report away from my Masters. I don’t own a home or have a dog—but thats okay right now. 

I have gotten myself in to debt and out of debt. 

I am serving my country. 

I am an intelligent, vocal, independent woman. 

I don’t have any children and I am not married. I am okay with that. Fundamentally, I don’t think that I would be happy if I was saddled down. One day, marriage will be nice. 

I am honest to a fault—Its my fatal flaw. 

I don’t have regrets. Life is to short to have regrets.

I live life how I want to live it and I answer to myself. Maybe I am just selfish? 

I have a lot of fun. Life is too short not to have fun and see new things. 

I have hitch-hiked around southern Africa. I have seen the world, met new people and opened my mind. 

When I go to bed at night, I know I am living my life how I need to be living it. I have a wealth of experiences I wouldn’t have been able to acquire anywhere else. At the same time, if I ran into you at a bar, I couldn't carry on a conversation about children or owning a home. 

Everyone has their bad days, I wont lie and say there haven’t been nights where I wished I had a house and a fence and a man, maybe a few chickens too. But all in all, I am the satisfied with my life. And that my friends, is all one should want at the end of the day. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Healthy Mind Healthy Body

Healthy Mind Healthy Body

I think the Peace Corps funk can sneak up on you, follow you around like a shadow then become a grey cloud that weights you down. My Peace Corps funk has been a shadow—for a while now. Then it became a cloud. A cloud that I am going to consciously fight. 

Winter is coming, the days are growing shorter and the nights longer. Its hard not to want to climb in bed come 630 when your house is now dark and cold. Its hard  to get out of your warm bed and face the day until the sun is streaming through your window a good 12 plus hours later. It took me a while to realize what was going on, I would climb into bed with unbrushed teeth and an unwashed face just to “read” come 7pm I was snoozing and would wake up at 2am ready to face the day only to look at the clock and realize what time it actually was. So I would toss and turn for hours only to fall back asleep at 600 when my alarm was going off. Dragging my tired self from bed all out of sorts I would grumble about my life. This goes on for week after week. 

Some time last month, I attended an Emotional Intelligence workshop with the teachers, we had to take self-reflective quizzes. As I looked at the questions I had a dawning realization. I am a different person in Botswana than in America. I already knew that before, but I am different in a way that I don’t like. Here, recently, I often find myself to be loosing identity, self-conscious, lacking confidence, emotional, moody, depressed, overly critical of others…..the list does on and on. I feel like I have lost a little bit of me, the good part of me. People often tell me “you are getting fat” I used to just be able to rub it off—-now… I just hide in my house, isolating and reading bad romance novels. The fact of the matter, I gaining weight, this is something that I am well aware of every time I put on my pants or try to run. 

I need to reclaim that part back. Starting Monday, June 2nd I am undergoing what I call “Health Mind Healthy Body” with the following goals. 

Wash your face twice a day
Brush your teeth twice a day
Work out 4 times a week and bathe on those days
Grow it, eat it, love it
Mindfulness exercise 3 times a week
Positive energy bounces back
Eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner
Drink wine only once a week!
Clean your house—you know it makes you feel better  
Write down your goals and keep them
When you put yourself in uncomfortable situations you grow and change 
Make the most out of the time left

Last year I joked about the coldness and the number of times I didn’t take a bath, all joking aside that was a dirty thing to do to myself mentally. If you live in filth, it over times corrupts your mental health. 

Its already been a few days....I went for the worlds most horrible run this morning. But I did it. I am feeling better about myself. I am feeling better about my future. 

I am going to tackle winter head on this year! And reclaim my missing self! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Parents in Botswana

 My parents came to visit me in Botswana! We had to make the most of it! Hand washing clothes, water outages, power outages, driving in a country where traffic laws are suggestions! 
First arriving in Gabs! 
We spent a night at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan 

My Botswana parents and my real parents! 

My dad--hand washing his clothes! 

Just sitting in Chapmans Baobab, this tree was once used as navigation as well as a postal box! Its only 3000-5000 years old! 

My parents on the Lehututu salt pan! 

Greens Baobab 

My mom and I have an obsession with baobab trees! 


Bot Fly

Every day in the world of a PCV brings a different host of challenges. Coming into the Peace Corps, I assumed that I would have all sorts of wonderful stories about my intestinal conditions (aka me shitting myself) alas.....the only intestinal conditions I have gotten have been food poisoning or drinking unsafe water. I don’t have any pooping my pants stories. Sigh. And I haven’t lost a bunch of weight due to parasites in my gut....sigh.

What a let down.

But I did for a hot minute have larvae growing in me neck. That makes me a bad ass right?

I was bit by a bot fly. Yes. A bot fly. Please,  if you are not familiar just do a quick google search (

I was bit on a Monday.....I didn’t think too much of it, until my bite started growing....and growing. You see, a Botfly uses a human or animal as a host. DO YOU GET WHERE I AM GOING?!?!

Long story short. It was pretty traumatic, the only way to safely rid yourself of your new friend  is to let it grow then you hope to pop it out (like a zit).

Well, lets put it this way. I couldn’t bring myself to let it keep growing. You could feel it wriggling around in you (especially after putting anti-itch cream on it).

After a few mini melt downs (it was mentally stressful) I knew I couldn’t handle it any more. So I aborted it. I squeezed it enough times I killed the larvae. And what do you know?!? Then I ran a fever for two days and my body was trying to digest what was going on.

Now I feel that I have a little fly PTSD going on...In all seriousness. Bugs don’t bother me, well, they didn’ every time a fly flies around me....I get all anxious and girly.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Matters of the Earth

Since time is wrapping up at LJSS I wanted to a bigger more tangible project to leave behind--so we are painting a mural of the world! Its the World Map Project that most PCVs are familiar with. Its dawned on me over and over again that the students that I work with--and even many of the teachers don’t have a grasp on world geography. This is nothing different than America, I have a feeling that many Americans don’t have a solid grasp on world geography.  For some reason, the apparent lack of understanding of the world around them is more striking in my everyday life now. It is as if Batswana ran before they could walk. People are exposed to big news items (mainly celebrities and Obama) in the American media, but with little awareness of the happenings in South Africa or Zimbabwe.

I have always been rather fond of maps and geography, so doing this mural seems rather fitting. I started working with the art teacher and several art students in creating our mural. As of right now (school is on break) we have the grid and aaaallllll the countries drawn. I just purchased paint and we are ready to paint come June!
One of the students that I am closer to came to visit me after we started the map, she looked at me very thoughtfully and asked “what time is it in America?” I explained that the part of America where I come from it is about 8 hours behind Botswana. She was a little puzzled, so I explained time zones. Still, she was a little confused so I found tennis ball and a flashlight and drew an X on Botswana and an X on America. I then rotated the tennis ball trying to explain time zones and the sun. The light of understanding flashed in her eyes. As every good learner she of course had more questions! Then asked “do you sleep when its dark in America or in Botswana” I think thats a pretty dang good question (showing some budding critical thinking skills)! Since I am American, why would I not be on an American schedule!

More pictures of our mural will come!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Snaps of Lehututu Life

 Valentines Day Dinner

School kids 

School kids  

School kids (they really like my sun glasses) 

GBV talk with the girls  

Check out that pinkie nail! In America it would be for coke...but in Botswana its either a mosquito scratcher or a status symbol... 

Well, Texans you should be ashamed that the good people of Botswana are using your name for meat (it looks like spam)

Painting a mural of the world at school!  

Reading is FUN!

Recently at school I started our own version of “accelerated reader” at my Junior School. For y’all who don’t know, accelerated reader is a reading comprehension program throughout school districts in America. You read books and answer questions--easy peasy right? Not always....the questions are deigned for the reader build their English comprehension.

The schools in Botswana are taught in English, as English is one of the official language of Botswana. I have very mixed feelings about this...mainly they surround the fact that the students at my school have a very poor comprehension of English. English is taught in school from Primary 2 (aka 2nd grade) by the time students are in Junior School (8th, 9th and 10th grade) the students are to be fluent...Well, thats the goal anyways. In all honesty, most of the kiddos at my school are not fluent in English--the grades are horrible as a result. Where has it gone wrong? I blame it on the teachers and the teaching style, of course not all of  it is their fault....but....

As a result, I started a reading program at my school. I was inspired by other PCVs who have similar programs in their schools. I was also inspired by my own students, I teach English remedial in the library and the kids who attend just LOVE to read the books.

The students read a book and complete a simple book report form describing the book to me. After they read 1, 3, 6 and 10 books they receive a prize! Let me tell you, last week at school the kids almost fought over the books!

On a personal note, I have read about 150 books since I have been in Botswana which averages 7.5 books a month! Now, I must admit, some of the books are mindless romance novels (Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel....) but others were more thought provoking. I have to admit, Nora Roberts, while she is my go to mindless read--she is a little predictive. Somewhere along 5% boy meets girl, then about 50% girl will go out with boy (or vise versa) then they will have MIND BLOWING sex then about 85% they will get into a fight then at about 95% the boy will realize how amazing the girl is then propose a very sudden marriage. Then at 99% they are married and its about 5 months into the marriage and they are expecting a child. Don’t judge me--sometimes you need a little romance in your life....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Let’s Talk About It!

For those of y’all who don’t know, I wrote a PCPP Grant to fund a women’s empowerment workshop called Let’s Talk About It: Leadership and Empowerment for the Next Generation. 
Here is the news paper article Sarah and I wrote about our project. Disclaimer: for those of you lucky ducks who donated (and clicked the notify PCV box) y’all are getting thank you cards! This information is in the thank you card. But, who doesn’t like getting mail, especially from Botswana! 

One year
50 village women
4 counterparts
5 PCVs
2 venues
a healthy dose of stress
a splash of last minute meltdown

Stir to mix well. Bake for four days in sweltering 100 degree Kalahari sun and what you have is 50 vocal and empowered women! GLOW camps are trés popular in the Peace Corps world; they are wonderful events to put on and be a part of. Hundreds of girls throughout Botswana have been energized and empowered but what about their mothers and grannies? In a grown up style GLOW camp, five PCV’s empowered adult women from Kgalagdi North District in two villages over four days. Let’s Talk About It: Leadership and Empowerment for the Next Generation as it was called was a mammoth achievement by Ashley Rice, Sarah Stewart, Tate VanWinkle, Lee Smith and Adriana DeMarco. 

It all started one year ago when Ashley and Sarah were sitting at the Kgalagadi North Month of Youth Against AIDS event at the Tshane Kgotla....
We had the ladies do affirmation statements!  

Modeling “good” communication and listening skills 

Lets practice our communication skills!  

Condom time!  

Our empowered ladies doing condom demos!  

My lovely Lehututu ladies!  

Gosh darnit! The women were so happy they burst into song and dance!  

Whew! Tate, Sarah, myself and Lee 

 The Kang group! 

A community discussion and panel were being held when a mosadi mogolo stood up and said, “We don’t know how to talk to our kids about HIV/AIDS.” The old woman talked a little bit more about the cultural practices when she was growing up and how they don’t address current problems. Simultaneously, Sarah and Ashley looked at each other with excitement in their eyes. This could be a project! The brain storming began that evening over pizza and wine. After developing a rough idea for a workshop, volunteers from the surrounding villages were invited to take part. Tate and Pam, Bots-12, jumped on board. During one of the planning sessions, Sarah suggested using Power Parents written by Botswana RPCVs, the Dorans. 

Because Kgalagadi North is a large sparsely populated district, we decided to two separate workshops, one in Kang to cater to Kang and the surrounding area and one in Hukuntsi for women from Lehututu, Tshane, Lokgwabe and Hukuntsi. Each workshop would be two days long- a full day on Friday then a half day on Saturday so the women could spend time with their families. 

What about funding? Initially we wanted fund our workshop 100% locally. After several unsuccessful meetings with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture we decided that a PCPP would be our best choice. For the 25% community contribution required by the PCPP we used donations in the form of labor and materials. It took months to get the PCPP on the PC website but within two months we had P19,000 pula in our bank account! We were ready to go!

The basis of the workshop was to give women knowledge (and power) to share the information they learned with their families and communities. For sustainability, we chose to make a notebook full of information for each woman to take home and share. Several boxes of wine, a pan of enchiladas, 10 glues sticks, and countless paper cuts later we had 55 notebooks full of handouts and space for note taking! Making the notebooks was a labor of love, and it was cheaper than buying binders. 

To advertise for the workshop, we put up fliers throughout Kang, Hukuntsi, Tshane, Lokwabe and Lehututu. Potential participants filled out applications to weed out those who just wanted to come for a free lunch and a t-shirt. The application included questions about challenges women face as parents in Botswana and how the participant would use the information learned in the workshop. The fliers generated so much enthusiasm that we rearranged our budget to accommodate 50 women instead of the original 40 that we had planned. 

The workshop was organized so each session built on the information discussed in the previous one. We opened the workshop with a session about communication, where we covered basic communication styles, listening skills and conflict management. We then gave the women homework: to have a conversation with their child or spouse that evening at home. After communication, we focused on the meat and potatoes of the workshop, how to talk to children about sex. A large portion of our PCPP was money to buy every woman a copy of Power Parents.

During lunch we screened the STEPS film One Love One Life and had an awesome discussion. We wrapped up the first day with a session about financial management and gave the women their own budget books, donated by an NGO in Gaborone. 

On day 2, we opened with a communication follow up, discussing the women’s experiences talking to their kids the night before. One woman explained that when she tried to tell her young grandchildren about childbirth, they insisted that babies are born when a woman vomits her child out of her belly. After hearing that, we were reinforced in our conviction to teach women how to talk to kids about sex. 

We spent the next few hours talking about Gender Based Violence. We discussed GBV, symptoms of child abuse, what to do if a child/friend reports abuse, and Botswana sexual abuse laws. In a performance worthy of the silver screen, Sarah and Ashley demonstrated GBV warning signs, including jealousy and explosive temper. Lee and Adriana got everyone feeling with In Her Shoes, followed by an emotional discussion. To lighten things up after the heavy GBV session, Sarah led a short guided meditation. Tate wowed us with her stress management skills and goal setting techniques, which the ladies loved. 

Day 2 ended on a high note, STIs and condom demonstrations. Who doesn’t like talking about sex and playing with condoms? Running low on condoms in the Kang workshop, the ladies fought over them! There was a short ceremony, where each woman was given a certificate, a hug by each PVC, and an envelope full of affirmations. The months of stress, the many meltdowns, and the hours on the phone were all worth it when the women, one by one, sang and danced their way up. 

Reading our own affirmations and the feedback that we received from the women who attended the workshop, we are confident that the workshops made a lasting impression here. Many days PCVs feel like we haven’t made an impact, but when you stand in a room with 25 women singing to God in appreciation of your hard work, you can go back to America knowing that you did something amazing and lasting. We also have two posters reading “jaaka mosadi, ke nale bokgoni jwa go...” (as a woman, I have the power to...), covered in the womens’ handprints, with statements completing the sentence. These posters are testaments of our unique ability as PCVs to empower women and will be circulated around the area’s kgotlas. 

We would like to give a shout out to Jim Robertson (Bots-14) for all of the gluing, taping and toting he did for our workshop! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Some of our favorite “handprints”:

As a woman, I have the power to be treated with respect and to be loved!
As a woman, I have to the power to be single and happy!