from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

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...