Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Dear Blog,

‘Tis the season for love and giving and friendships and new starts. The workshop has come and gone, so have friends, my birthday, and soon, Christmas (As I write this, it is Christmas day). It’s hard to believe that it’s Christmas. It’s been grueling hot here in New Xade the past week. All I do all day is lay around trying to lose consciousness so I don’t have to deal with it. The workshop was a hit with the kids, we had an average of around 55 students each day (minus the 2nd day which was rained out). Though there was a huge language barrier, the kids had fun, and at the end of the day, I think that’s what matters. I’m not going to lie to myself and say that that’s all that matters, and maybe by saying that I’m showing that I have far too high expectations for myself here, but I’d like for them to receive the message I meant to portray, that is: work together to combat the threat of alcoholism. The temperature of the youth here can sometimes be toxic, they all know each other so well, but still there is a lot of fighting and teasing, and peer pressure, I’m sure. The past few weeks have been a good time to meet new kids and get to know the ones I’ve already met. It was busy, tiring, and sometimes awkward or crazy, but now it is Christmas week and I’ve had the village, for the most part, to myself and it’s been a nice peaceful respite. In a couple days I’m going to take my chances and try to get out of here so I can enjoy a short vacation in Namibia with some friends. When I get back, I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t have too much planned. I guess we’ll see, friends, we’ll see. I miss you all a lot,


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

happy thanksgiving to all family and friends everywhere. I'm going to take a break from my normal stressful lament to say happy thanksgiving and express my gratefulness to everyone who has been a part of my life, who continually support me through good times and bad, and who has helped me to become who I am today and who I will be tomorrow. I am so incredibly blessed to have you in my life, to have had the experiences and the friends I've had. It's been a great life and am looking forward to more great adventures and meeting new people along the way. After all, people are the best part of living. Ke batho. It is people.

happy thanksgiving to all!

11-20-2010 A Botswana Baby Shower

Today was my friend and neighbor’s baby shower. I bought her a gift and the requested “gate fee” (a Johnson’s baby product) and showed up at the indicated time (4:30 PM). It was the friendly neighborly thing to do. As usual, there wasn’t much for me to do there since half of the guests hadn’t arrived yet and preparations were only a third of the way in. I lounged around before I got sent home to fetch someone’s phone I was charging. Then I got sent home for ice. Then I got sent home for my camera. Then I got scolded for not having battery life in my camera. Then I got sent home to charge someone else’s phone. Then I got sent home to retrieve meat I was storing in my fridge for them. After a while I got sick of getting sent home and just stayed home. I mulled over the day’s events includingthe Annual General Meeting for our Orphan Support Group for which I lent the group P410 of my own cash since our coordinator didn’t have any money to buy petrol and snacks for the AGM.

He had called me in Ghanzi, saying he had a big mathata (problem) and that without food, no one would come to this vital meeting. I had given him letters requesting donations last week as per his request, with the understanding that he would travel to Ghanzi and ask stores for donations. But he hadn’t done so. He said he was planning on using his own money to donate some snacks, but his wife’s payment check hadn’t been deposited in the account yet. A big mathata, he said.

I was stuck between a rock and hard place. I had just taken out the rest of my pula to cover the costs of my upcoming trip to Maun/Francistown and the big wad of cash was burning a hole in my conscience. In the end, I took out what excess I might need for things like food and saved a small amount for the bus fare. I lent it to the coordinator under the impression that it was essential for our little CBO to move forward and he, his wife, and I went shopping for snacks. I was relieved to find that snacks actually cost less than what I had anticipated, but instead of returning my money, the coordinator insisted on adding more food, candy, and drinks to the shopping cart. Later, he would tell me, he was planning on using P200 of the Support Group’s money, money that he had taken to deposit in the bank but never did. He promised he would return to me P200 since it was technically the CBO’s money.

In the end, he spent all that I had given him, bought petrol, and I waited in the car while he ran errands, thinking about what had just happened. I fueled his car with my money... Apparently he did have his own money on hand and I felt like a first class fool for feeling that I had to put my personal finances on the line for the sake of our organization.

I was mulling these things while I raked my yard, getting pricked with makgunda and getting rained on when a troupe of women who don’t speak a word of anything-to-do-with-lekoa came and basically stole water from my rain water tank without asking. I was slightly livid. Then one of the teenagers who I knew told me, “when are you going to give me your shoes?” I’m sure she was referring back to a past conversation in which I may have been misunderstood as saying “I will give you my shoes.” But this put me in a sorely bad mood. I resumed raking in the rain and simultaneously put in a call for help from another PCV about what to do regarding the financial situation I was in.As I was beginning to explain to her the situation (i.e. vent), the phone cut out, the network died. I somehow wasn’t surprised. A few minutes later, I was summoned to the baby shower to help braai.

I showed up and one of the women said, “Do we put the foil on now?” I said, “You don’t know how to braai?” She said, “No.” Then I said, “Oh… and you think I know how to braai…” She said, “Yes.” Then I said, quite loudly and with a slight guffaw, ”Oh… God help you…“ and was called into the house where the rest of the women had gathered.

Inside was muggy and hot and filled to the brim with women forced to wear skirts and shed their shoes by tradition. We waited for another 30 minutes inhaling the scent of each other’s’ feet until the guest of honor came out wearing nothing but an embarrassed look, a black bra, a pair of red boxer shorts, and condoms tied to both her earrings. “Here comes the charlot!” they yelled. After opening prayers, welcoming remarks, and introduction of guests—essential to all Botswana ceremonies, workshops, presentations, and apparently, baby showers-- we thus proceeded to play a game of introduction, in which everyone was given a piece of yarn and for every time we were able to wrap the yarn around our finger, we had to say something about ourselves, until the yarn ran out. Then we played a game where everyone had to cut a piece of yarn and then compare the length of their yarn with the size of Seboku’s pregnant belly. Those whose yarn failed to wrap around her circumference were punished by getting attacked with baby powder. (I, of course, didn’t understand any of this game until after the punch line was given, and I wasn’t handed the yarn so I didn’t participate).

Then came a game in which we had to go around and guess the baby’s name. More people in the process were baby-powder-punished for speaking out of line or making crude jokes. In the end, the losers (I don’t know how they were determined) were further punished by being forced to dance in the center of the room. After that was over, we were all forced to stand up and dance in our spots, or risk further “punishment.” A conga linewas formed in the small space to the sounds of “I will not say Ching Chang, I want to say Ching Chong,” leaving a spot in the middle where everyone, except me, took turns jumping into the circle and “getting down!” (they yelled) or else risk getting baby-powdered. I refused and, instead, thought seriously about the implications of a group of women dancing and yelling “get down!!” at each other from a feminist point of view. I realized at this point I was taking myself way too seriously, but lacked the energy to force myself to “get down” with them despite everything. Boy, those women know how to dance!

Then came a drinking game! Seboku got to choose 3 victims who raced to chug a glass of grape juice. The winner was punished. More dancing ensued.

Then, more people were chosen by Seboku. The chosen ones had to bring a coin to the center of the room while holding the coins between their knees. Then they had to drop the coin onto a paper plate. Those who failed were punished by being forced to dance while getting baby-powedered. The dancer was SO good that she got to choose more people who were punished and had to dance. Baby powder flew, more dancing ensued. Then everyone had to get up and dance, and people who didn’t get up fast enough or who were eyeballed by the M.C. got baby-powdered (i.e. Me.)

Afterwards, we played my favorite game. Guess the gender of the baby and guess the date that the baby will be born. I thought there would be no winners or losers in this game. But alas, I was incorrect, the pregnant woman lost and got punished. Afterwards, I was hoping we would guess the size and weight of the placenta as well, but instead, we danced.

Then everyone except me played a game in which Seboku was asked how on earth she wound up dressed in nothing but red boxers, a black bra, and condom earrings with a big belly. First she said she ate a lot of beans. Then she ran out of ideas, so other people took turns making up stories. As the game went on, someone would call out a “dipotso,” or question, and challenge the story line. An addendum to the story would be made. Then another question was called, another addendum. This continued for what felt like hours and I began to despair and realize just how cranky I was and how much I was beginning to hate Setswana. The game would’ve been hella fun had I understood anything or sat next to some friends, but as it was, I just stood by the door and tried to get some relief from the hot muggy air without drawing attention to myself. After what seemed like forever, it was 10PM and Seboku was finally asked to string all the story pieces together. There were loud claps, a closing prayer, and heaping plates of paleche, coleslaw, pork, Boer worst, and chakalaka were served. A few women instantly got up from their seats, put on their shoes, and drank in the cool thick air outside. I ate Botswana style with my bare hands and felt very cultured while we all sat (or stood) and chewed in silence. Then the music came back on and people began dancing. I went home.

Oh and by the way, during the orphan support group meeting, we had way too much food because only 20 people showed up, he told me to expect 150. In the end, the agenda wasn’t complete because there weren’t enough people there. We postponed the meeting to January. Then there was a scramble as everyone grabbed the leftover food and drink. I watched my hard earned money walk away in the form of biscuits and cheese curls clutched in the fists of toddler, teenagers, dogs, and elderly alike.


I woke up at a 7:20 AM to the sounds of rushing water a few feet away from my head. As I gained consciousness, I realized that, despite my locked gate, someone had come into my compound and was getting water from the rain water tank that stood right outside my bedroom window. I weighed my options: be a creeper and scare him from my window, spy on him as he leaves to see who it is, go outside guns blaring to shame him into asking permission, or let it go and lock the tap after he’s gone. It’s not that I don’t want to give people water, it’s just that it’s not drought season and if they use the water for things like laundry now, they won’t have any water later for things like drinking or bathing. The fact is, the reason we don’t have water is because the pump at the borehole malfunctioned. This usually doesn’t last more than a day, but if a hoard of people come and take the water from the rain-water-tank (I will refer to this thing as a “jo jo” tank or a “metsi ya pula”- metsi is water, pula means rain) every time the tap goes out to do their laundry or whatever, we’ll all be fucked when we actually need water. This is a concept that is truly a non-african ideal; saving for a rainy day. No one here does it, it’s simply not in the culture.What really gets me is that I haven’t even used my own metsi ya pula yet. I haven’t needed to, I store some extra water in a 1 liter bottle for these occasions and wait till the borehole pump begins working again.

That said, I spent the next 30 minutes sleepily rummaging through the odds and ends in my house to find a small padlock, which I found, and quietly fetched some water for myself and locked the tap. (I decided to do my own laundry since everyone else in the village is benefiting from my tank now except me). As I was scrubbing away at a skirt in my bathroom sink with the tiniest bit of water I could use, I heard a commotion outside followed by a knock on my door. I held my breath. Another knock. I stopped scrubbing and started to knead silently. “Wame!” I heard a small girl’s voice. “Wame!” I thought about a drunk looking man who stopped by my house last night asking for water. Thato, my neighbor was just then carrying a liter of water out of my house to give to the water-maintenance people who were preparing to go to the borehole and fix the problem. I was whining to her about all of the people coming to get water from the tank when it’s not even drought season, so at the time, I looked at the man and his empty bottle and said no. Then Thato gave the man some of the water in the liter bottle I gave her and said she’d refill it from whatever was left in her pipes. I felt like a miser.

“Wame!” A sharp rasp on my window. “Wame! I am asking for water!” the voices subsided for a few seconds and then I heard another sharp rasp on the window in my bedroom. “Wame!” This time there were two voices, one sounded like an adolescent boy. “Wame!!” I could feel their eyes burning a hole through my walls, searching for signs of “Wame.” “Wame!!!” I could hear footsteps around the side of the house, the back of my house, then to the front again. “Wame! I am asking for water!” the voices suddenly got shriller, more desperate. I stopped kneading my skirt and stared straight ahead at the bathroom wall. I knew I was safe in this room, that no one could see me. I could essentially hide here forever and people would think I wasn’t home. But… the bible verse about Jesus asking for food and drink came into my head. I argued with myself, this wasn’t the same situation. These people aren’t thirsty—or are they? How cruel am I for denying people water! Please come back another time, I thought to myself. Come back later, when I’m in a better mood. Besides, it’s too late now to come to the front door. What would I say? I was sleeping? I was bathing? I was listening to music? I was paralyzed. “Wame!! I AM ASKING FOR WATER! WAME!!” I stood there staring straight ahead, my hands still soaked in soapy water. For what seemed like forever, I was in an imaginary standoff with the invisible voices outside. Then the noises started to fade and I realized that the girl was still yelling my name as she left the compound. “Wame! I am asking for water! Wameeee…” Then silence. I waited. I sat on the bathtub and waited some more. I padded softly to my spare bedroom in the back of my house and lay down. I waited some more. Finally, I emerged and peeked through my window.

There was no one in my yard, they had been polite enough to close the gate after them. Then I saw them, a group of girls ranging from very small to my age having a conference of sorts on the street outside my house. They stood around with empty water bottles. They were probably trying to figure out what to do.I felt horrible. There had to be another option. Other people with jojo tanks, the public jojo tanks, the ones at the clinic, the rac, the school, the hostel, I could name them all. I still felt horrible. What did they do before I came? When the house was empty for a few months and the jojo was locked? There had to be another option. I’m not turning them out on the street dying of thirst. I had already given P410 people to a cause I thought was desperate, P410 is 20% of my monthly allowance! I followed the ridiculous social guidelines and gave P100 to my counterpart’s farewell party. I bought a gift and a “gate pass” for the babyshower yesterday that cost me nearly P80. That’s nearly P600 of gifts in just one month! On top of that I had already given out all of my own water bottles. I had lost kitchenware, Tupperware, hardware to random strangers. I charge a minimum of 10 phones a week. Hell, I’ve devoted 2 years of my life to this place. Now they’re asking mefor water?

I remember back when I first arrived and kids started showing up at my place with big empty jugs asking for water from my tap. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were doing this because they were too lazy to walk to the public taps and I was a closer, more ignorant option. Later that month, I went away for a couple of days and Thato said that the tap outside my house was left open and was spewing water onto my lawn.

Thato. Thato, the saint. What would Thato do?

An hour later, the water came back.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

There’s a popular song here that includes the lyrics, “I don’t want to say ching chang, I want to say ching chong.” “Ching chang” is the kindly phrase that the tswana men use to describe the chinese language, much like the feeble attempts at the click that we use when we are pretending to speak the san language.

Well, if I had a ten bucks for every time I heard someone say “ching chong” or “ching chang” due to my presence, whether or not it was directed at me, I’d retire a happy person now and go back to the states. Today was no different. Except this time, after lunch, to add insult to injury, someone I consider my friend from the clinic in New Xade approached me and asked in the most wiley, self-arrogant manner, “How tall is a China Man?”

Let me premise the rest of the story by telling you first and foremost: I’m having a bad bad day. Possibly the worst day since that weekend I spent locked in my house crying right before Halloween. I woke up angry. Received text messages and phone calls that made me angry. Forced myself to participate in the many fun fun fun icebreakers reminiscent of childhood summer camps (I’m actually quite proud of myself for just doing it). And skipped half of the morning to go “home” (i.e. the couch I’m crashing on, I'm at a workshop) to cry, sleep it off and figure out myself before I totally snap. Given my incredibly poor mood, the reasons for which I will not go on about here, I thought I was surprisingly calm when I answered his question, “How tall is a chinaman?”

“Have you ever seen a chinaman?” I asked
“Yes” he said
“Then you tell me… Why are you asking?”
“Just answer the question, how tall is a china man?”
My eyes narrowed, “How tall is a Botswana man?”
He laughed as if this was funny. “Yes, He is.” He said.
“Yes he is what?” I asked. Goddamn it, I knew his meaning but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of being understood.
“He is” he said laughing. What really gets me upset is that this man is probably the shortest grown-man in Botswana

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scenes from a PCV Life

(11-16-2010: Pictures from my counterpart's party last weekend where we slaughtered a goat. I got the honor of sleeping with the goat head stuffed in a bucket in my living room)

Scenes from a PCV Life

“Do you do martial arts?” a question I hear far too often was posed to me by a faceless voice over tea and sandwiches at a workshop today.
“Nope.” I responded, dreading the rest of the conversation
“Why not? I thought it was your culture!” The man continued.
I looked up at him over my instant coffee and chicory. “Do you dance?” I asked.
“No.” I noticed the man had an earpiece for his phone permanently glued into his ear.
“Why not?” I retorted, “I thought it was YOUR culture.” I tried to make my voice sound lighthearted, like this was the first time I’ve ever said this. What I really felt was sullen and annoyed.
He laughed. “Ahh,” he said in what was probably his best “you got me there” flirty voice.
“Ahh…” I returned, smiling and turning away. Suddenly I was very aware that I had an Asian fro and look like a Vietnamese monk.
“No really though,” he picked up his glass of fruit juice and followed after me “You don’t know Tae Kwan Doe? Karate? ...Do you even meditate?”

I waited a whopping 5.25 hours today for my ride home. My record is 5.50. The ride was physically painful, sitting in the back of the covered ambulance on the wheel, the bumpiest part of the truck. There were 8 of us total, and 2 kids, and 1 patient in real pain lying prostrate on the floor in the middle of us. I didn’t have a cause to complain after looking at his pained face during the bumpy ride. It surprises me, after how many times of doing this, that the rides just get harder and harder for me to handle. I nearly threw up as I finally unfolded myself from the vehicle this time. But as usual, the Batswana and the Basarwa handle it all with the most amazing patience. This is life, they say. Ga ke na mathata, I have no problems.

It is raining in Xade today. The thunderstorms are visible from miles away. With tonight’s half-moon, the sky looks like it is lit up by angels’ lanterns shining brightly from behind thick layers of dark grey clouds. I love the colors of a dark grey sky, each molecule of dust and water a unique combination of reds, blues, greens, every color imaginable. At one point, the moon shone just right and the trees lit up as if they were white against that rich grey sky. If you have enough patience, you can catch actual lightning rods rip through the clouds. Even if you have no patience, you’re bound to see one or two cross the horizon. I wish you all could see this.

I had to pee really badly while I was waiting for my ride and went to an outdoor toilet where I proceeded to get bitten by mosquitos on my exposed body parts. When I came back to the hitching spot, a local clothing store, the lady who works there was wearing a Santa hat. At hour five, I went to the grocery store across the street and saw a Christmas tree and a giant blow-up Santa. On my walk back, I heard a yell, “CHINA! CHINA! CHINEEEEESE!!!” in an obnoxious voice. My gut reaction was to turn around and give him the finger. I turned. It was a teenage boy showing off animatedly to a couple of girls. They were all wearing school uniforms like something out of a Japanese cartoon. My arm shot up as I reluctantly willed my body to turn away. I don’t think I’ve ever given anyone the finger. I’m not going to start today. Instead, I bit my bottom lip and just kept walking, but I did send an angry venting text to a friend which had the words “hate” “china” and “fucker” in it in all caps.

I took a bath when I got home and spent a few minutes watching the water from the faucet drip into the bath like clockwork. Drip, plop, splash, and as the water drop hit the surface of the bathwater, up would come an “equal and opposite” reaction. If only life and society were so simple, if our communities were only governed by the unbendable laws of nature. If only every reaction did indeed have an equal and opposite reaction—if only it were that easy to determine what an action’s equal and opposite were. Would the rules of Karma would follow this kind of law? Can an equal and opposite reaction be defined as “good rewarded by more good” or would it be more accurate to say that an equal and opposite reaction would mean good is balanced by evil? Is it physically possible to have a world where only good prevails?
The thunder is getting really heavy now and I’m afraid that the cell phone tower will malfunction again. This weekend, I finally qualified for “be-free,” a promotion that gives you free talking minutes on weekends every time you spend P20 during the week. I am really looking forward to that.

Scenes from a PCV Life Part II
To us Botswana PCV’s, mosquito netting is like a shield against all bad things. Our beds become our own fortresses of solitude. The plastic sheet of yellow wonder not only blocks out mosquitos, malaria, flies, spiders, dragonflies, moths and centipedes, but it also has the amazing ability to render bats, rats, dirt balls, and flying bacteria harmless. Just ask any of the 110 of us here who lie in our beds for hours on end on a bad day and think that this is just a little piece of heaven.

I woke up in the morning in a pool of my own sweat to find at least 20 tiny little mosquitos lying dead on the floor where my fan hits the mosquito net. The poor buggers got trapped in the moving air and died a horrible suffocating death pressed against yellow plastic netting only inches away from my ignorant sleeping face.

I had been looking forward to some time alone at home for days and this morning, when a little R&R was finally here, I didn’t feel as excited and happy as I thought I would. I lay in bed for a few minutes, letting misery and loneliness creep over me when I decided to get up and start doing something. The air is crisp and cool outside. There is a soft refreshing breeze. It is amazingly uplifting. As I stood outside replacing my broken gas regulator, two of my friends walked by hand in hand talking. One asked if I needed help, I said I’m ok, I’m learning. He laughed and they walked off and suddenly I felt a pang of jealousy hit me, why wasn’t I walking with them? How come no one has asked me to take a morning walk in the crisp air after a night of rain? How pleasant would that have been! Something within me, maybe pride, held me back from calling out after them and joining them on the spot in my clean pajamas. At that moment though, I fully realized a piece of advice that someone had given me last week, “have fun.” Have fun! How simple a statement, how crucial it is to service here. Have fun! I’m going to paint that on my wall somewhere. I wonder, will anyone ever come ask me to join them on a walk on a Saturday morning?

Yesterday was a day of running around, writing letters, printing and copying. I was planning on filing and distributing some things this morning when I discovered that my folder with all my important papers is gone. Sometime in the mess that was yesterday, I left it somewhere in Ghanzi. Mother fucker…

There are two dozen fruit flies living in my refrigerator. I can see the appeal. Suddenly, I wish I were a fruit fly…

I was doing some office work today at home. Because of the high rate of viral infection in Botswana government computers, I have adopted the habit of copying my files in Linux and then reformatting my USB sticks every time I am finished with them. Today, I happily watched a long anticipated, recently procured episode of Chuck on my external hard drive with a leisurely cup of instant chicory, plugged my usb stick into my computer to do some work, finished my work, and then accidentally reformatted my hard drive instead of my thumb drive. My deep internal angst could be detected by wild furry creatures for miles; the cows in New Xade raised their heads in empathetic curiosity, like deer do when they hear a gunshot in another part of the forest. “Poor little prince…” the sparrows stopped their pecking and said to one another. I realized my mistake and cancelled the process in time to halt the elimination of 200 out of 300gb of precious media, but the damage was done. I can’t access my movies or TV shows, even after hours of attempted recovery, and I’m not entirely sure that given the right tools and expertise, it can be recovered at all. I’m still in shock.

I don’t know how they get to be this way, but I keep finding little dried up and flattened praying mantises in my house. I wonder if there’s a praying mantis fairy that hovers into my house at night and stomps the living daylight out of the poor suckers.

I have had 3 visitors today. 2 of them were children carrying phones in need of electric refreshment. 1 was an adult. At least I can say that in some capacity, I am a valued member of society. “PCV” it should say in neon signs above my front door, “AVAILABLE FOR ALL YOUR CHARGING NEEDS. NO PERSONAL VISIT NECESSARY, JUST SEND A KID” In everyone’s defense, I’m not exactly the most entertaining host. Normally when people come over, we just sit there, exchange how are you’s, and as soon as my Setswana is exhausted and their English is complete, we just stare at each other until one of us ends it.

There’s a can of peaches in my fridge which has been taunting me for days. “Open me,” it says. “Eat me” it whines. “I am cold, refreshing, and have been soaking in sugary sweet syrup for months just for you.” This is how exciting my culinary and love life has become: seductive canned peaches. Millions of peaches, peaches for me…

Being here, I’ve developed a bad habit of trying to identify and subsequently pine after every food item I see in movies and sitcoms, such as: is that a real can of coke or a fake “co-la” designed to look like a real can of coke because coke refused to pay for the free advertising? Is that a sierra mist can circa 2006? Are they eating thai food or indian food? What toppings are on that pizza? Do you think that’s a real beef burger or a fake plastic one so that the meat doesn’t melt under the hot camera lights?

A lovely day in New Xade, a nice day to just stay inside as weekend-usual and do absolutely nothing. Doing nothing completely bores me and drives me crazy usual, but I’m trying very hard to enjoy nothing and take advantage of nothing by storing up good spirits and energy for my long weekdays. Today I cleaned and organized, cooked what’s left in my fridge, excel-ed a yearly budgeting plan, painted, and made phone calls till I ran out of airtime. No, I did not exercise.
Someone stopped by today to pick up some items that she asked me to bring back to Xade for her. As per her request, I stored her juice cans in my fridge and I offered to store them there for her while I am away in my workshop next week. I told her I’d leave my key with her sister. She looked at me, double took, and said… “Wame… You’re so… nice.”

The compliment caught me way off guard, as up to now I have only been seeing myself as this isolated reclusive American who doesn’t come out of her home on weekends. It was a small drop of encouragement in a pool of self-criticism, but I thought I’d include her story in my blog in an effort to be more positive about myself and my service. So there we go, fellas, Positivity!
As she got up to leave she gave the obligatory, “well, I’ve seen you!” and we parted ways. Which makes me wonder, when people come here to say hi and use my fridge and/or electricity, do they feel somehow obliged to talk to me? Probably. At least they’re honest about it. I like that.
And thank you to whoever gave me Kepano Green from LCHC. It just came on my itunes and I’m enjoying it. I miss the cool rhythmic touch of finger to piano keys and fingers to guitar strings.

Currently Reading: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. 126 pages in, two thumbs up on a scale of 1-3. (Really, I don’t understand the purpose of a 2 thumbs up scale. If you only have 2 options, how can you really discern the value of something if you only have one choices to describe it “good” or “bad”? Unless… 0 is an option, in which case, I ignorantly misspoke)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holiday Wishlist, I know I'm shameless

Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday/New Year Wishlist
A few of you very kind souls have been asking what you can send me in a care package. Here are some things I thought of on the nauseous bus ride home with the puking puppy, in order of cheap to unnecessarily expensive:
  1. Hand Sanitizer
  2. Cinnamon Graham Crackers
  3. Mallomars or Oreos
  4. Teddy Grahams (Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon… s’all good)
  5. Cheese-Its
  6. Poweraid or Gatorade mixes
  7. Hair Gel (my hair is horrendous right now)
  8. Small breathable travel bag for toiletries (can’t find a single one here!)
  9. Old Navy Flip Flops
  10. Cheap old computer games: Starcraft, Simcity, Simfarm, Simtower, Monkey Island, anything like that
  11. Aveeno Facial Products (Face washes, lotions)
  12. Shorts, regular lounging shorts or cargo shorts; or elastic waist skirts
  13. Loose T-shirts or Sleeveless Tank Tops/Wife Beaters
  14. Cooking Rice Wine
  15. And for those of you looking to spend money:
    Another pair of sandals (I only have 1 shoe, and it is really stinky now)- I’m a size 7ish
  16. And for those of you looking to win the most expensive gift award, who could afford to give these to me I don’t know but I have to include it:
    A portable external hard-drive
    A 2G ipod-touch compatible dock and speaker set
And as usual, pictures, notes, doodles, random clippings, diary entries, all just as enthusiastically received!

The Longest Post EVER

November 2, 2010

A bunch of us met for a Halloween party this weekend. It was the most fun I’ve had in a while. I had such an enjoyable time meeting and getting to know the other volunteers in the country, especially the ones who had been here a full year longer than I have. They are all in a totally different phase of service. You could see written on each one of their faces a mix of resignation, humble satisfaction about their accomplishments, excitement to go home, and jadedness about the difficulties of service in Botswana. I spent a long while with these members of “Bots 8” as we call them (we are considered “Bots 9”) and listened to them talk about all the things they miss about home and what they’re going to eat first. Before I excused myself from the conversation, owing to the fact that I still have a full year and a half left, I thought about the first place I’d go to…

I imagined getting picked up from the Jersey airport in the dark of night by my parents, tired. The only place I could think of to go is Fuddruckers in Bridgewater right off route 22. The bright sign lighting up the whole strip of the highway, nothing else within miles open this late at night, except maybe Perkins (but I never really liked breakfast food, unless it comes from Walker Bros, I know, sacrilegious). I’d get a big ole’ Ostrich burger with all the toppings and a good old American Beer. Maybe the idea popped into my head because I saw quite a few ostriches on the long car ride down to the party. Ostriches, the bird version of cows. They even taste the same and have the same color. Large, feathery, black and white spotted just like a cow… each one twisted in some conformation that is unrecognizable from a distance. Every time I see one, I think it’s some sort of cow doing a pirouette.

Since my decision to go to the party came so late, I asked Bots 8 to help me think of a costume. Our wonderful host told me to be a Botswana donkey, those stupid domestic creatures I hate with a passion. So I agreed and fashioned myself a crude pair of paper ears and a tail, and borrowed a chain from another volunteer to “hobble” myself with. It wasn’t at all a feat of artistic passion, it looked mostly unrecognizable and pathetic. I wore an ill-fitting dress that my friend who runs the china shop in Ghanzi gave me (I literally jumped in a truck heading south when I decided to go to this party and had nothing but the clothes on my back), at one point I had a ton of weird makeup on (which I later realized was totally wrong and thankfully washed it off before the majority of party people showed up). But everyone there was immensely gracious and didn’t say anything except how great the idea was and how cute my haircut looked (BS! I KNOW IT!). Mostly I looked like an insane dirty person in a crumpled oversized dress, overgrown hair, and paper tied to my head.

Our host, Mish, prepared a SPREAD of wonderful breads, deli meats, cheeses, salads, rice-crispy treats, and homemade frozen custard made from local liquor… It was heaven after weeks of eating nothing but canned goods. That night, we went to bed with full tummies—that is until around 12:30 when a friend of mine began projectile vomiting ½ a bucket at a time on the hour for the next 6 hours. We emerged the next morning at 7:30AM with about an hour and a half of sleep under our belts, bleary eyed and hardly ready for our long journeys home. My Ghanzi colleagues and I spent the next 8 hours in a crowded bus with no sitting room in the dead Kalahari heat. The trip was bearable only because I was so dead-tired and fell asleep instantly. When I arrived, I was so drenched in sweat that I thought I had pissed my pants, again.

That night, the night of the 31st while the rest of you were all invariably getting drunk and eating pretzels ;), Hannah and I went to the local lodge for dinner, ordered salads, and hung out for nearly 3 hours until it got dark. Then the storm came. A blasting desert sand storm complete with thunder and lightning, whipping winds, electricity outage, and sand coating every surface both inside the lodge and out. We looked at each other and communally decided to get a room and treat ourselves to a night of less complication, our own beds, and hopefully, electricity, hot baths, and TV. Sand blasted our little “chalet,” entered under the door and brought in a variety of sand, wood chips, and dirt before I plugged up the cracks with blankets. No sooner had we both bathed to the light of our cell phones, when the electricity came on and we had tea to the sounds of a satellite TV and a whirring air conditioner. Heaven!

I slept almost through the whole night and woke up smelling the scent of clean white sheets, too happy. Then it hit me, all the work I had to do that day and the rest of the week and I began to anguish. Heaven was air conditioning and a TV, a clean bed, and a deli sandwich. All the things I took for granted back in the states. And mortal life now was this baseless existence of running around like a chicken without a head, spending the night on people’s floors or spare bedrooms, being at people’s mercy, eating nothing but grocery store fried chicken and “meat pies” (chicken, beef, or mincemeat wrapped in pastry crust and deep fried ). Life now is unpredictable, unreliable, and unfamiliar. Nothing is guaranteed, not even sleep, not even a ride home. Hannah’s life is mostly the same as mine, except she lives in an even smaller village and doesn’t have electricity or cell phone service yet, and her hot water heater is broken. I don’t know how she can do it. But at least I knew she understoodmy anguish that morning.

Workwise, I have a lot to do, and nothing I expected to get done by others have gotten done. But after this weekend’s awesome fun-ness, I realized that there’s no point in stressing out like I’ve been. I took the morning off and slept till 10:30AM. Everything in my house is coated with a layer of black sand from that night’s storm. It’s hot as hell hot outside. And I am sneezing as though I had the flu. But it’s ok. I know who I am and what I’m doing. Even if I haven’t looked like myself, dressed like myself, or acted like myself the past few weeks, at least I’m learning now to just do what I want, what I need, to get through each day. And guess what, everyone… we’re entering holiday season!!

November 3, 2010

Planning for the VMSAC workshop, Alcohol Abuse Youth workshop, and my counterpart’s farewell party next week are well underway. It should be more stressful than it is, but I think I’ve reached by quota for the year, and like I said, there’s no point in worrying anymore. It’s the 11th hour and what happens happens.

The storm last night kept me up late and knocked out the cell phone service again. This time it’s not just a simple matter of fixing the electricity, something else went wrong. After a restless sleep involving snacking in bed, listening to music, staring at my phone, and watching 4 episodes of Big Bang Theory, I woke up at 4:30AM to the ringing of an sms from Thato asking to pick up her boyfriend’s phone that was charging at my place. Then she asked me for a bucket of hot water. Despite her untimely appearance, I still very much like her and treated her as such. I’m surprised at my own patience…

Yesterday, I spent a few hours talking with someone at my home. As we left the gate, we met up with one of the little girls who constantly stalks me. “That one,” she said as we walked past, “that one is naughty. She used to bother Lorato a lot.” (Lorato is the PCV who was here 2+ years ago.) I turned around to glance back at the girl, just in time to see her dash like a rabbit into my neighbor’s yard and down into his garbage pit to grab a cardboard box, then as quickly as she came in, she dashed out.

I recently found out that the other girl that stalks my home, bane of my existence, lives in a family with a very drunken mother. I hear her at night yelling, singing, being drunk…

Thinking about the kids reminds me of a story from last week. I was visited by a group of the Basarwa children, the dirtier ones with difficult families that don’t speak much English. I hate to admit, but these kids tend to have less manners than the other kids, the ones from the Tswana or Kalgadi tribes. Maybe they are just taught more western values, or the families from these tribes tend to be more educated—since they would only be here if their parents were working in the village. In any case, I was talking with these kids the way I do, non-comittal, slightly disinterested, but trying hard not to be condescending or mean, when some tswana kids came by carrying my keys, they were sent by a friend who I let borrow my fridge for the weekend I was away. In come the tswana kids, wearing nice button up collared clothes, clean, tucked in. I can only imagine the conversation that happened between the tswana-nana’s and the sarwa-nana’s (nana is the prefix for baby), but I believe it happened something like this…

Tswana boy (in Setswana): “Go away, can’t you see? She can’t understand you. You don’t speak English.”
Ditsego (Mosarwa girl, formerly known as bane of my existence, in Setswana): “Yes I can, see?” (then in English to me) “I can speak English. My favorite subjects is English and Maths.”
Tswana boy: Laughs
Ditsego says something to the effect of: “Wame and I are friends”
I stand there stupidly trying not to show favor to one or the other, but secretly hoping that both will go away
The tswana kids drop off my keys and turn to leave: “Leave the white girl alone” They tell Ditsego as they walk off.
I turn to go into the house
Ditsego stays on my porch in stubborn defiance and tries talking to me more
I go into my house “Goodnight Ditsego” I say to her
Ditsego lingers, peeks into my house, then looks over her shoulder to watch the boys as they leave and call out to her
I go inside, close the door, and watch through the window as Ditsego stands just a little longer, make sure the boys are a good distance down the road, and then goes skipping out of my driveway.

Ditsego came to visit me today during my lunch break. I was enjoying a little sitcom action while cleaning my desk for the party on Saturday. I see Ditsego’s silhouette against my curtains. “Wame!” she says. “Wame!” she knocks. I ask her what she wants. She says, “Open the door.” I tell her I’m busy. I’m working. Do you understand? She says “Open the door.” This continues until I give up speaking and just ignore her knocking. I’ve turned off the computer by this point and am just rustling around with papers, throwing things away to make my point. “Wame, Wame!” she says a few times. I merely peer in her direction trying to decide what to do. Then she shows up in a side window, her face peering through the glass. She waves at me, smiles. “Wame!” she says. I walk toward the window and she runs away, perhaps towards the door because she thinks I’m coming. I choke down the urge to scold her, “you are not allowed to look in my windows” I want to say. She can’t understand what I mean. She soon comes back, and I see her silhouette again. “I can see you” I say. She doesn’t say anything. Soon, she grows bored and she says “I am going. Go siame!” “Go Siame,” I call out, feeling slightly guilty and mostly amused at the revelation that she doesn’t really understand what her actions mean to me or how she makes me feel.

She’s just a child who doesn’t live inour customs and norms. She looks through my windows and thinks it’s ok, because she herself doesn’t have windows. And unfortunately, in the words of one of my friends here, “her mother drinks too much.” I remember her coming to my door once in the middle of the night asking for a bar of soap so she could bathe, she beamed with pride at that statement, “I am going to bathe.”I remember the look on her face when I told her no. Confused, then hurt. I didn’t know why this was such a big deal, bigger than the other times I refused her. I remember her asking me countless times as I end our sessions together, “Wame, give me water. Give me food. Give me clothes.” It makes more sense now.By memory, I can feel the touch of her grimey hand on my arm or in my hair.It lingers on me like a burning badge of guilt. No doubt, if she didn’t learn to take care of herself, bathe herself, dress herself, she would be scolded, maybe even beat by the teachers at school who don’t know, who also can’t do anything about her situation at home. No doubt. No doubt they think they are helping her by teaching her the proper way to live. Afterall, what other way of teaching good and bad behavior is there other than scolding and spanking? I remember back when I was a child, getting made fun of school for my funny clothes and my smelly lunches of wontons and dumplings. I used to yearnfor a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on soft white bread with little notes saying “I love you” in clean folded paper bags. Maybe she also just wants to be “normal,” but maybe there’s just no way how.

November 4, 2010

It’s another hot hot day in Land-tswana. I am sweating bullets and drinking more water in one day than I did back in the states for a week! I had to go back to Ghanzi again today and finally admitted something very very important about myself: I stress too much. The Batswana are practically the opposite, they don’t stress about anything. I spent practically the past 3 weeks trying to get food for the project planning workshop on Monday. The steps, as I have discovered, are as follows:

1. Identify Donor (in this case, the District Aids Coordinator)
Approximated Time 1 day to 2 months

2. Identify powerful person in donor organization who…
a) gives a shit
b) has the power to do something
(Approximated Time: 2 weeks)

3. Write a simple yet detailed letter including agenda and estimated budget and submit to said powerful person to submit to more powerful people
(Approximated Time: 1 week)

4. Follow Up and Revise Agenda/Budget as suggested
(Approximated Time: 2 weeks)

5. Procure 4 Quotations to make budget cheap and more accurate
(Approximated Time: 1 very long day to 1 week depending on your luck and the cooperation of the stores, one of which lost my quotation twice and gave me shit about bothering them)

6. Resubmit Final Agenda/Budget to receive tentative unofficial approval in the form of a head nod or a go head to get the final quotations
(Approximated Time: 1 day to 1 week depending if you can locate and gain 5 minutes with said powerful person)

7. The week before the event: collect new quotations, tax certificates, and trade licenses (because by now the old quotations have expired
Approximated Time: 1 very long day

8. Recalculate budget and Submit for official Approval
(Approximated Time: 1 day to 1 week depending, again, if you can locate and gain 5 minutes with said powerful person)

9. Approved budget goes to Supplies Department
a.) Supplies Department looks at you funny for bothering her one more time looking sheepish and stupid
b.) Supplies Department process paperwork, checks with Accounting to make sure all the money is available, prepares GPO
c.) Supplies Department faxes GPO’s to chosen stores
(Approximated Time: 1 wonderful day)

10. Pick Up 3 days before the event
Which involves finding your own transport—no one told me this.
(Approximated Time: ????)

11. Storage of food items in my own home over the course of a large party—potential food mix-up disaster (Lucky I have a fridge!!)

12. Collecting Firewood 1-2 days before the event
which involves finding a truck and laborers who will work for no money because I didn’t budget for this

13. Finding Cooks
Getting Cooks paid???

14. Organizing transport of food items to cooking site

OH AND YEAH, did I mention, I’m running the content of said workshop and have none of it prepared yet? Plus, we just invited the participants this morning (5 days before the event).
boy I wish someone had told me all of this before I asked out VMSAC chair person, “Hey, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a project planning workshop??”

Boy. I also wish someone had told me that we needed to submit an annual activity plan by November 11 or else we would be left out of the district budget for the whole year.

Ok what was the point of this entry: oh yeah, every step along the way, some magically happy thing happens at the very last moment making the next step possible. I mean… wth? What’s the use of the constant stress, sleepless nights, and meticulous worrying if things are going to work out anyway? Oh Botswana!

November 8, 2010

Addendum to steps 10-14

10. You don’t have to find your own transport to the stores, but you do have to find your own transport home. I was left at a store with the impression that I had to pick up my own food, only to find that they were going to do it for me except they didn’t have a truck (???). Then I was left at the center with a whole lot of food only to find that my ride didn’t have enough space for it… so the first truck, after a lot of deliberation and discussion of who’s authorized to allow the truck to go, ended up taking me home. Sweet, an actual plush seat in an air conditioned vehicle. No butt and mind numbing voyage home in the back of a covered pick-up with 12 other sweaty people today.

Step 10b? Double check that you have everything before you leave the center…. ‘nuff said.

11. Store items in gas fridge during raging party for counterpart during which the fridge becomes so overloaded that it gets warm and the chicken rots leaving a pool of blood on the floor of the fridge. Oh, ok just read on the package, “keep frozen”… damn that’s 30 pula worth of chicken gone to waste

12. Um firewood? What Firewood? Collected at 8:30 AM Monday morning, workshop originally scheduled for 8:00 AM. Venue also changed Sunday night. Workshop postponed to 11 AM. Dance competition occurring at the same time, workshop doesn’t start till 1PM. Workshop ends at 3PM due to hunger and fatigue. To recommence tomorrow morning bright and early at 7:30 AM.

13. Get Cooks Paid?

14. Local transport is a go after the youth officer argued with the driver since the driver wanted to go to Ghanzi today. Poor driver.

So very long story short, party went from 7 PM all night till 8AM in the morning. A goat was slaughtered in my yard as I watched. Goat parts, including a dismembered head in a bucket of blood, were stored in my living room for 24 hours. People began arriving 24 hours before the party started, cleanup is still occurring 48 hours after. People stayed till 8pm that night, lounging, drinking, and listening to the same 5 songs over and over again on my frontlawn. Due to the opening and closing of doors and windows all night,every kind of bug that exists in Africa is in my house. Let me not get into details lest I squirm myself into a freaked out state and abandon all thoughts of completing this entry.

On Monday, the workshop commenced casually at 1PM as a group of 3 walked in. Later, more people showed up under the promise of food. Sunday night, I ditched my loaded agenda for a simpler “you run it” meeting after the chairperson told me that they already knew this stuff. Thus without my kick-ass agenda and material, there was a slow bumpy start, but overall, I’m happy with progress and definitely happy I didn’t push my own agenda. Would’ve been a bad peace corps blunder. Goal for the rest of my service with this group: facilitate from behind, don’t get too involved lest they begin to depend on me to run the group. Not sustainable. Doing things less than par is better than not doing anything at all after I’m gone. They can only improve from there!

Just a short profile of a local friend , the matron of the hostel: he shows up on time to the workshop carrying a naked plastic doll missing one eye one leg, and surprisingly is complete with little baby boobies and nipples. He cradles and plays with the doll the whole afternoon. Apparently a girl visiting the village accidentally left the doll behind and he saved it so that he could return it when she comes back. “I have love for this doll!” he tells me, repositioning its arms and legs so that it struck a “happily-surprised” pose. It was cute, but a little creepy at the same time… but then again, how can I judge what people do for entertainment here when I myself have experienced the dumbing banality of life in an electricity and cell phone free settlement?

News: not getting internet anytime soon. And an unrelated note: heat turned from hot to worse to absolutely unbearable. I take about 2 showers and 1 cold bath a day. Sweat pouring from my head, heat trapped in the tiny but dense little hairs on my head. When I touch the back of my head at night after I’ve been lying on a pillow for a few minutes, I have to pull my hand away cause it burns. Starting to wonder how difficult it would be to return home…

Overall, this has been a very educational week/weekend, and I still have 4 more days to go. The most important lesson I’ve learned? TRUST people and they will respect you. In Julia Child’s memoir which I read last week, she says (paraphrased) “If you go into a store expecting the owner to rip you off, he will willingly oblige you. But if you enter his store with respect, he will likewise respect you and offer you all kinds of congeniality and advice.” The same goes for Africa. The past 3 days I’ve let more people into my house and into my stuff than I have ever in my life. And everything (save 1 glass that shattered and 1 glass that walked off) has been returned so far. I went to bed at 10:30 before the peak of the party thinking, “let it go sunny, let it go. TRUST. One day, this will pay off.”


Short story: while we were waiting for the meeting to start, Shaka, a teacher and a very cool person and I got to talking about this mound of mud on the floor with little green caterpillars coming out of it. Here’s the story. The mother wasps here collect around 10 small green caterpillars and pile them into a mud pod of sorts. Then they lay one egg into the pod and seal the caterpillars and the wasp egg inside alive. There are many pods within one nest, around 10-11, looking like a sort of mud pile with little sections. When the egg hatches, the mini hornet larva feasts on the (now barely alive) caterpillars until it is big enough to develop into adult flying hornets. Then the hornet nibbles a hole out of its pod and flies away. Since one of the little pods were broken open, Shaka poked at the little green squirmy worms, most of them now dead, and dug around until he found the hornet larva to show me (dead). It was so cool, and so gross, and so morbid (getting “buried” alive with 10 other squirming caterpillars with a live hornet egg, which will at any moment hatch and begin eating you in the dark and you can’t do anything about it??)… anyway. Thought that story was cool and wanted to share it.

Suanne, got your postcard, it is BEAUTIFUL, but won’t be getting internet anytime soon. Augh. And thanks for offering to send stuff to me and friends. There’s nothing I can think of now… maybe some traditional thanksgiving or Christmas stuff if you really want to send stuff. Stuffing? Cranberry Sauce? Candy Canes? Eggnog? Lol. Jk.

James, got your package! Thanks for the Norris stuff, the bag is immensely useful, and though I’ve grown too big for the shirts now (eek), it’s motivation to quit binge eating.

Oh and 1 final note. I’m pretty sure the above entry was hella confusing as far as time line goes. So here’s a “quick” synopsis:

Friday, collecting food and drinks for party, and food for workshop
Friday night, party preparation begins, goat is slaughtered, skinned, gutted, and beheaded. Guts are cooked over a fire by 3 guys in my yard late into the night drinking sprite, beer, and gin; giant gas freezer shipped to my family room and hooked to my 42 kg tank which has been dragged indoors for the occasion. Guest of Honor appears at the door at 11PM, tired and handling 2 kids. Family is put to sleep, Sunny stays up till 1AM worried because she’s realized that some food for the workshop is missing, i.e. cooking oil, spices, and other usually necessary items
Saturday 7AM, firewood for party gathered, preparations begin (yard clean up), fire started, pots gathered, Sunny gets scolded for not buying enough of a particular kind of drink (everyone who contributes get P70 worth of drinks. Most beers and sodas cost enough to purchase 12 per person. One particular drink was so expensive such that people who wanted it only got 9, this seemed suspicious to one of the party planners and upon checking the receipt, found that they are supposed to get 10 each. He says we’d be crucified if we don’t rectify this mistake. Commence worrying and sending of people to find 8 more bottles of said drink lest we be crucified.)
Saturday 1PM, preparations stalled, Sunny falls asleep
Saturday 3PM, Sunny wakes up to find a meeting of 7 party planners in the living room talking about the agenda, Sunny gets coerced into giving a “Note of Thanks” i.e. “Hi, my name is Wame, this is my place. You are welcome here, have fun, don’t fight.” DJ shows up, hooks up the equipment to my solar panels and pre-party music begins. A car returns with drinks to rectify Sunny’s crucifixion worthy mistake, the night is saved
Saturday 7:30 PM, night begins with speeches, presentation of gifts, official farewell address by village elders and my very own “Note of Thanks,”
Saturday 09:00 PM, goat seswaa and paleche distributed, generator begins humming
Saturday 09:30 PM, drink distribution system begins. 3 kind ladies lock themselves into my living room, open a window, and accept coupons in return for pre-paid drinks. Giant bugs, mosquitos, and grasshoppers hit the windows like hail. People begin dancing
Saturday 10:30 PM, Sunny sleeps again
Sunday 7:30 AM, Sunny awakes surprisingly well rested to the sound of the same music she fell asleep to last night. 2 people are still dancing, drunkenly. Guest of Honor is washing dishes, people begin sweeping while cooking extra goat parts, including the head (the head is placed in the far and charred to an indistinguishable crisp. Then meat parts are sawed off and the bones nibbled clean.)
Sunday 10:30 AM, Sunny is informed that a part of the gas system feeding to the stove is missing, rendering the tank at risk of big leaky explosion if used. Damn.
Sunday 11:00 PM, People are starting to dissipate, Guest of honor family is hungry and sunny is sad cause all she can offer is cereal, given that the stove is not working.
Sunday 12:00 PM, Music is shut off, Sunny meets with the VMSAC workshop planners to discuss last minute changes to tomorrow’s event. Sunny shows her painstakingly crafted agenda and lecture materials to the chair person, who says, “we already know this” and we communally decide to throw it out the window. The venue is changed, the time is changed, we decide to use leftover firewood from the party for the workshop
Sunday 1:00 PM, Sunny looks out the window and notices kids in her garbage pit stealing empty glass bottles, men outside drinking, lounging, eating leftover goat, and the firewood is walking off on its own. Sunny consults party planners to find that the firewood was promised to other people, no one had asked if we could use it for the workshop. He suggests I start calling people to arrange for firewood collection this evening. A chain of phone calls ensues. A decision is made to call a driver at 5PM, because after a night of partying, he is asleep now and it is hot as hell.
Sunday 5:00PM, Sunny follows up with officers in charge of collecting firewood. Learns that the driver has not been sleeping but actually spent the day at the bar. No firewood collection for the night. More phone calls made. A decision is made to “figure it out in the morning”
Monday 7:30AM, Sunny meets with workshop planners to decide what to do, chairperson is missing.
Monday 8:30 AM, Cooks gathered, pots received.
Monday 9:00 AM, Pots dropped off at new venue, food collected, leftover oil and spices from the party used for the workshop, filthy meeting area is cleaned up, Sunny walks into a giant spiderweb and screams clutching her overgrown aphro
Monday 10:00 AM, Firewood dropped off
Monday 10:30 AM, Sunny goes home to take a shower, workshop is postponed to 11 AM
Monday 11:00 AM, Sunny returns to workshop to find a handful of lounging people escaping from the sun, plays pool, examines bug nests, watches the matron play with a doll
Monday 1:00 PM, meeting begins
Monday 3:00 PM, meeting ends
Monday 3:30 PM, people begin eating, Sunny goes home, takes a cold bath, drinks a lukewarm cider, sweeps mosquitos off the floor.


Boy was that a long winded entry or what? Today went well, though I couldn’t understand much of it since the whole meeting was in Setswana. Other than 2kg of chicken, no other casualties were observed (14kg of rotting meat in my fridge, all but 2kg of chicken were salvageable. Boy, what a stink!). My brain was a little bent with stress though, and I just had a long talk with another PCV to help unbend it. She reminded me that first and foremost we are here for cultural exchange. Boy that took a load off. Then she gave me a few pointers and passed on a very poignant quote: We go out looking for destinations, but what we get are journeys. She reminded me that just as important as our big projects here are our friendships, and even after 2 years, she herself doesn’t understand a lot of what is going on in this culture. Finally she told me to have fun. Have fun! I had been so busy missing home and being miserable that I forgot to have fun! Tonight, we COOK delicious heartwarming food, despite the nasty gas leak. Think of it this way, friends-who-are-concerned, if the tank blows up, I can go home with my head held high.

I am a morbid morbid creature. I need to start being a more positive person.

In any case, today, I went to Ghanzi to submit the ever anticipated annual activity plan created by our Village Multi-Sectorial Aids Committee at the aforementioned workshop. 3 things I learned in this whole process:

1. Capacity building means first figuring out the ability level of the people you are working with and then taking it from there, which can be a very slow and tricky process, especially if you’re trying to make sure that they feel as though they are doing it themselves (not an easy thing to do in Botswana)

2. Capacity building means encouraging people to start from where they are at and improving from there without criticizing or dictating, which means that the end result may not exactly be what you had in mind; the hardest part of that is keeping your mouth shut about things that could be improved, especially when you are responsible for what is produced

3. I am not an appropriate person at all to be a liason between 2 setswana speaking people.

The next few weeks will be interesting as the workshop results will be evaluated by the district committee and the village members will have to present to the district conference. I on the other hand, will sit back and shrug my shoulders in confusion if anyone asks me a question.

On another note, I rode back home today in the ambulance with 7 other people, a relatively loosey goosey comfortable ride. I was grateful for the space, even when 2 elderly folks came in reeking of sweat and smoke, making me gag, and when someone else slipped off their shoes. Gag some more.

Then we stopped on the way home at a random house, the driver got out, talked with the owners for a long while, babies waddled around naked with their private parts hanging out, teenagers peered into the windows, flirted with the girls, then 2 adorable little Doberman/beagle type puppies came out roughhousing near the truck. The driver came over, grabbed one by the foot, flipped it on its back, the dog started to piss and squeal in fear, the driver then lifted the whole dog up and landed it in the truck with us! He proceeded to jump into the car and drive on home. After a few minutes, the adorable little puppy wasn’t so adorable anymore as it puked pounds of rice and bile onto the floor of the truck bed. Smoke, BO, Feet Stench, Doggy Puke, Gag, Gag, Gag. Everyone in the truck started to laugh as they turned their heads away from the dog and the elderly woman, a short beautiful woman with a very outgoing personality, began to yelp and wave and motion to the driver to stop the freakin’ car! We stopped and the driver’s solution was to throw sand and dirt (and half an ant nest) onto the puke, pack an extra bag of sand (and the other half of the ant nest) in case of more puking, and carry on. More puking thus carried on. The poor dog threw up 7-8 more times until there was nothing left coming out but 2 pieces of rice and some bile. With each subsequent upchuck, the elderly lady would make a loud fuss and throw handfuls of sand at the dog, coating the puke and the dog with dirt and ants. Everyone, including me, would look away and out the window, half grimacing and half laughing. After 45 minutes of this, I tried to figure out why we were laughing… nervous laughter? Laughter at the whole situation? Laughter at the woman’s reaction? Puke, look away, laugh. Puke, look away, laugh. We finally dropped the dog at its future home where it was chased by kids, older bone-skinny dogs, and older bone-skinny men. Good luck my little puppy friend, I thought. You’re going to need it…

Quote of the day, from Thato looking at the back of my toilet paper packet, “110mm by 100mm is 1 shit size” (She meant “sheet” size) I really don’t understand Setswana.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

10/19/2010 8:36AM My First Xade Thunderstorm

It seems the world does not want me to sleep. I spent the majority of
last week and this weekend running from office to office trying to
feel my way around the system here, only to find that what I was
getting was not what I was expecting at all, and the eager beaver in
me got really dissapointed. The Bots 8-ers who have been here a year
already were not surprised and urged me patiently not to feel
discouraged and to keep trying. By day 5, I was at my wits end trying
to find funding for the youth camp coming up in December and the VMSAC
meeting in a few weeks (ironically, the poultry project and the
community garden were thrown at me complete with funding for supplies
and consultants). I stumbled into my S&CD office and told my
counterparts, "I need help..." and next thing you know, I'm sitting in
the office of one of the ladies I already know well talking budgets
and proposals. Turns out, the program I'm planning already has money
allocated for it, I just didn't know because no one was using it. So,
all I have to do is call my "youth camp" a "youth workshop" (which it
was originally called), and emphasize HIV and MCP, and provided I do
my budget right (only allowing for food and stationary, no equipment
or travel allowances), it looks like the project is happening. Hip

Every morning the past 5 days I'd wake up with this project on the
brain-- how how how to find funding. I'd call a department or an
organization and get turned to someone else over and over again. Of
course this isn't a sure thing yet, and I sort of feel like I'm
counting my chickens before they hatch, but oh well. This morning was
the first morning I didn't wake up thinking about youth camps, vmsacs
and fundings; instead I awoke to waking dreams of getting broken into,
robbed, raped, and somewhere in there, my wedding day. It's 8:41 AM
now, hence the name of this entry, and let's just say work starts at
7:30... The work environment in Xade is extremely lax though, and if I
say I'm working at home on 2 funding proposals, they'll let me do it
without question (well, at least not questioning me to my face). 1
meeting today, 1 meeting tomorrow, lots of writing inbetween, a
meeting on Thursday, a meeting on Friday, running around getting
official quotations for budgets and BAM, baby! I'll have funding.

Last night around 9PM I was dozing in my bed, just finished talking
with my brother on the phone in the privacy of my own house, when I
saw a flash of light, like someone with a very powerful flash was
trying to take pictures at night. It was followed by a rumble, like a
large truck turning on gravel. It happened again, and again, and
before I knew it, raindrops were hitting my tin roof like a flock of
tinny bird feet. Tick tick tick tickticktickticktickticktick! I opened
my blinds and watched the lightening light up the clouds like
something out of fantasia. My first New Xade thunderstorm. Can it be
rainy season already? Ironically, when I woke up this morning, our
long anticipated phone reception was gone. Maybe the storm took out
the tower, or more likely, guys stole the solar panels again.

So I found out what happened, the little storm last night destroyed
our electricity which took out the tower. I asked if they were going
to see to get it fixed (not sure if they would given that the tower is
the only thing that uses the electricity in our village), my friend
said something along the lines of-- since the power's out, the tower's
out, and how will we tell them that the electricity's out?

I just got home after 3 hours of a meeting held in setswana where they
argued for an hour about whether or not they were going to take the
leftover food home, cause legally you have to give the leftovers to a
public institution. It astounds me how great the people here are at
meeting twice a week for hours on end to talk about logistics, and yet
no one can tell me what the content of the workshop is on.

I was talking to someone about what I'll need to add to the budget for
a Village Aids Committee workshop (VMSAC) I want to run in November,
and after our meeting today, a lady ran up to me. "The DMSAC meeting!"
she said, "when is it?" I was thrilled-- did she want to join the
DMSAC?? "There's one on Thursday, do you want to come? It's in Ghanzi
at 8am" "Yes!" she said. "Great!" I said. Then she said, "I want to
cook. Will you hire me?"

Why did it astound me that she aspired to cook for the DMSAC rather
than be on the DMSAC?

Why am I kicking my own butt? Why am I doing what I'm doing? Am I
really capacity building or am I just fulfilling a role that 6 years
of peace corps volunteers have established? Has the PCV role in New
Xade simply turned into a regular job, 'cause it seems that after my
needs assessment, etc,etc, I am still just doing the exact same thing
that 6 other Americans have done before me. No one is continuing the
projects that we leave behind, but they are all the more willing to
cater, build, and clean up after them for a small fee.

At 7AM this morning, Thato's daughter ate laundry detergent and
committed diarrhea on my lawn.

Yesterday, I ran into my new counterpart ("Nancy" has officially
transferred and her replacement, Go itse, a very chill girl, has
officially moved in). I helped her to buy casual clothes for our
hostel kids. They were each given P500 and lunch, and in waves of 40
at a time, they were brought to a store in Ghanzi to pick out what
they wanted. My job was to tally the items in their basket to see if
the total was less than P500 and, as I learned later, to help them
pick the right size. Unexpectantly, all the boys picked lots of very
nice expensive clothes while the girls struggled to find things in the
right gender category, let alone size. Almost every girl bought a pair
of boxer shorts and a striped collared shirt. Many I didn't recognize
as girls until I saw a bra in their basket (both boys and girls bought
girls underwear), and color didn't seem to matter. Boys and Girls
alike bought pink underwear and gray polo shirts. At one point, a girl
showed up and my counterpart mistook her as a boy. When she realized
her mistake, she exclaimed, "You're a Girl!? Where are the breasts??"
Another girl showed up with a child-size t-shirt at least 3 or 4 sizes
too small, "Ao, is this too small?" I asked. "No! I'm Sliiiiiiiiiiim!"
she said, moving her hands down her skinny torso. I wonder if this is
a side-effect of low self-esteem and no female role models to tell
these girls that what's happening to them: (puberty) is normal and
that they are beautiful just the way they are.

I'm trying to motivate myself to write those funding proposals, but I
have to admit, I'm finding it difficult. After my miserable mood this
morning and the phone network going down, I just don't want to do
anything. Plus.... while I'm whining... I'm so sore after 6 nights of
mediocre sleep and no exercise.

Woke up to a bright 6AM this morning and did an hour of P90X yoga
before commencing my day. Unfortunately, what results from exercise is
increased energy which, for me means, increased boredom and thus
increased boredom-eating, thus countering the effects of increased

I have to admit, I've been hiding a bit today. I went home at noon to
prepare to go to Ghanzi yet again tonight-- honestly truly completely
not my choice, out of necessity, I have to submit the funding
proposals after getting a gazillion quotes from a gazillion shops. Not
looking forward to the process. No wonder people don't do this more
often. In any case, I came home early to relax in anticipation of
another hectic 48 hours (dmsac meeting in there too) full of learning,
smiling, bowing a little, and thinking, "why why why why?"

it struck me that what I'm trying to do is mobilize people when for 6
years people have been trying to mobilize them just as I have and...
well... in the end... I'm still running around Ghanzi getting quotes
on my own. I realized that I should've asked someone to come with me
or to split up the work. Stupid silly arrogant me!
It's so hot now that a square centimeter of sun hitting my skin
through a gap in my blinds is making my whole body sweat bullets and
all I want is, strangely, a bowl of ice cold milk and cereal.


Just spent an hour lying on my floor in the middle of some kind of
exercise routine crying for God knows what. I've been busy the past
week and was looking forward to finally being home this weekend only
to find that I didn't know what to do with myself. Yesterday, suddenly
the people, friends, kids, goats, cows, and heat just seemed too much
and I shut myself in to clean, eat too much, watch movies, read, and
moan. I even hung my laundry inside because I didn't want to deal with
the sun, heat, kids, thorns, and hornets in my backyard. To be fair to
myself, I did spend some time with the neighborhood kids yesterday,
and I went to visit a friend briefly.
But by the time nightfall came, I got so restless I nearly screamed.

Couldn't sleep much last night because of the heat. I got up in the
wee hours of the morning to take a cold shower before crawling back
into bed, and then woke up hours later because it was too cold.
Finally around 6 or so a roaring cow and a family of goats came into
my yard, thanks to the children who don't close my gate properly, and
I was fully awake, over-whelmed stomach bloated and painful from
yesterday's antics. I looked in the mirror for a moment too long and
felt my self esteem swirl downwards too quickly. Short, fat, bloated,
bald, lazy…I managed to get through 15 minutes of some kind of
exercise routine before I broke down.
Peace Corps is a glamorous job, and nowadays most of the time I feel
pretty fortunate, but this morning I felt service pains rear its ugly
head. The self-esteem roller coasters, the health risks, the
loneliness, the ever-present wondering, "What if I never came…?"


It seems that all of these entries this time around are rather
depressing. I'm sorry guys for the somber tone of my blogging these
days. I can't explain why. I'm not miserable, but of course I still
have my moments. So here are some positive things! It amazes me how
much flexibility and power I have to do things here. Things I never
thought I could or would or would even want to do. Like guide full
grown adults in the way of project design and budgeting. Call
government officials out of the blue to request funding for projects I
haven't thought through yet. Run a youth camp for orphans and
vulnerable children. Teach people how to make pizza. Make popcorn on
the stove using nothing but a broken old pot. Make my own bread so
often that I know recipes by heart. Ride in the back of pick-up trucks
with 8 other people on a dirt road in the rain for 2 hours. Wake up to
the sound of horny donkeys and mooing cows every morning, be around
goats so much that I've memorized the way their asses look when they
take a shit on my lawn. Plan and host a going away party for my
counterpart/coworker in my own driveway. Watch an entire cow go from
alive to dead to meat to carcass in the course of 6 hours…

Maybe this means that I'm starting to take all these cool things for
granted. Yesterday, I took a walk around a familiar part of the
village and was greeted by the same kids I usually am greeted by. They
took my hands and told me, "mpha cap mpha shoes mpha madi mpha dijo
mpha drinki" give me cap give me shoes give me money give me food give
me drink. They said "take me to your house and feed me" they pulled me
this way and that way. They smelled my arms. They played with my keys.
They said "Give me your keys." They tried to make me stop when I
wanted to go, to make me go when I wanted to stop. To make me take
them home with me. As usual, I overshot my house and went to visit
someone else so they would leave me alone. Said Hi to a few friends I
missed during church, came home and took a deep breath. Every
interaction with kids here ends the same way, "mpha mpha mpha." I get
annoyed, sure, but now I'm starting to realize something important—I
don't know any other words that they are saying, so it could very be
possible that the reason I think they are brats is just because "mpha"
is the only word I can understand. I wish I knew Setswana.


Don't know why, but my self-esteem has severely plummeted this past
week. I also feel the coming-ons of a very bad cold. I've been trying
to sleep both ailments off, but can't seem to lose consciousness,
leading to making both ailments worse. I woke up last night (often)
but once especially at 3:30 AM to the sounds of two young girls
singing Beyonce's "Halo" at the top of their lungs. So far in the past
4 months, I've lost 2 tupperware, a bucket, a fork, and an umbrella by
lending them to people and forgetting to ask for them back. I've
received, however, a rubber rake and a traditional broom. Don't know
why I chose to fixate on that just now.

It's 9:45 AM and I just returned from another OVC support group board
meeting in which only 3 people showed up, again. I am currently
missing a planning meeting for the Youth Alcohol Awareness workshop,
and I just got freaked out cause I'm told that the timing of the OVC
youth workshop is such that no one will be here due to the
holiday—even though I was assured previously by the same person that
people will be here. So who knows! I decided just now that I'm the
only one putting myself under this enormous pressure, so, self, back
off! take a hike! and go do something to take your mind off of things
(what I wouldn't give for a go-cart track in New Xade right now, or
some decent cheap communication tools). Lying in bed feeling like
every part of my body is about to succumb to some feverish infection
is probably not the best way to relax. Unfortunately, eating is also
not a good way to relax. Thus I'm left with more movies or more books
or more music. God, I'm getting so tired of movies, books, and music.
Just like I'm getting tired of eating the same things every day. I
think I'll eat anyway. Because I can. This is why I'm fat. This is why
I'm fat. This is why I, this is why I, this is why I'm fat!

P.S. if anyone is trying to send text messages to my new phone, they
aren't going through :(

It's a cold hard world, I realized, as I walked past a recently deaded
donkey carcass whos insides were set upon by the village folk leaving
only exposed ribs, a lolling head, and a horrid smell.

It's a bad bad day. Terrific to complement my bad bad week. I have no
apologies this time for feeling and acting like a crummy person.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Hour to Kill & Not Sure What to Do

This is certainly a new experience. I'm in Ghanzi for the week/weekend and have an hour at the library. The past 72 hours I've met with DMSACS, DACS, PCVS, M&Es, S&CD, RADP's, and dealt with LPO's and other such fiddle faddle.

My checklist is losing empty boxes and I suddenly find myself online with an hour to kill before going to watch a fellow PCV do an aerobics presentation at an afterschool program here.

3 things I'm doing here:
1. Getting Support for a December OVC/Youth Likeskills Camp-- and yeah, fundraising is still not my specialty

2. Trying to find funding to run a Village Multi-sectoral Aids Committee program design workshop (VMSAC)

3. Getting a spare gas cylinder so that next time I run out of gas and get really depressed, I'll have a spare and be able to rule out "gas shortage" as my cause of depression.

Internet internet internet... friends, where are you? Miss you. Need some TLC and/or someone to slap me and say, "HEY YOU, RELAX AND GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE CLOUDS!"

Pictures from the Nata Salt Pans
East Side, Pre-buzz cut, Post-workshop presentation

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Network and Pictures, oh My!


And technically it's not summer yet. I set my laundry out this morning, and 15 minutes later, everything was dry. As I write this, a bead of sweat very cliche-ly slips down my face and my feet swell. Chloe, the PCV from Ghanzi, has come for the weekend and we made a sight-seeing journey through and around my village. It's been a few weeks since I last made that walk and everything already looks different. The grass quite literally is greener. It's the last month of spring and the purple flowers have turned into bright green leaves, making the once bare trees look thicker and fuller and about 5 feet taller. We stood at the edge of the village next to the cattle watering hole and I felt like I was in the middle of a Dr Seuss novel. Small rolling "hills," weirdly bent purple trees, bony angular cows, I could almost see the speech bubbles suspended like balloons from their large wet noses in bubbly orange lettering "mooOooOOoooooooooOoo!"

Yesterday, I dumped all responsibility and ventured to town to get a gas refill for my fridge. 4-5 hours later I was still looking for signatures; the system here is treacherous to navigate if you want to procure anything with government funds. I was going to wait until a "better" time if there ever is one, but I was at my wits end when it came to feeling good about myself and decided, if the fridge would give me a fighting chance of enjoying time outside my bed, it was worth the trip (and the shirked responsibilities-- sorry guys-who-I-was-supposed-to-meet!!). Chloe and I rolled the 48kg gas cylinder (48kg of gas, the cylinder itself is heavy as hell and about 5' tall) across my yard and maneuvered it in place, successfully relighted my fridge, and have enjoyed ice cold water and fresh fruits/vegetables all day (Ok that last one was a bit of a lie, we had banana pancakes this morning). Regardless of the extra-carb intake that inevitably accompanies friendly company, it's good to have someone here. Her presence alone motivated me to finally clean my house and organize my kitchen. No lying in bed moaning all day for me today!

Oh and by the way, Chloe is also a shaven PCV. (sounds like some kind of specialty breed of dog doesn't it? "Oh, Chloe? Yeah she's a purebread Shaven PCV, very rare. We got her from this breeder in Queens.")

Oh and sorry I didn't get a chance to post pictures. Working internet is a rare occurence for me and I just had enough time to get the post up. Hopefully this time I'll have the bandwidth to put some pictures of my balded head up. I'm planning a trip next week to Ghanzi/D'kar to get support for some of my projects/ get my work finances in place/ meet PCV's and invested NGO's/ liase with a group who wants to come here for TB outreach, you know, same old same old. Wow, my life sounds so glamorous when I list everything I have to do with slashes inbetween and throw in some acronyms and big words. PCP, PCPP, APCD, CDC, CCB, DAC, NGO, CBO, OVC, TB, HIV, PACA, RADP, S&CD, RAC, LPO, DMSAC, TAC, VMSAC, VDC, WOH, etc etc etc. Surprisingly... all things I'm going to be attending to next week...

OMG! And I almost forgot the some important news. I came home last night as the sun was setting and from a distance you know what I saw? A light at the top of our finished cell phone tower glowing red. All day today 3 dark figures were seen climbing up and down the tower adjusting the satellite dish-- they told us we would get network yesterday, then this weekend, so maybe tomorrow, or the day after, or the week after, or the month after, I'll have cell phone service! Unfortunately, the network isn't the one I'm currently using, so I'll have a new phone number. And I won't be able to text back and forth to the states, but at least I'll be able to receive and send phone calls! 73667973

To be completely honest, or in the world of acronym, TBcH, the glowing red tower looks really ugly against the night sky when it isn't providing the sweet nectar of communication.

Can you imagine what things will be like on 12-12-2012? It will be the last time any of us alive today will ever be able to celebrate a #-#-# day! Who knows, maybe the Mayans are right and it'll be the end of the world. I just got chills-- the end of the world... what a scary thought.

Ok I just creeped myself out. It's 8:30 PM and I just walked home in the dark. It is Batswana culture to walk people "half way" home after they visit you. I should have been walking my own friends home at night-- next time I'll do that. Darn it all, the teacher I just visited taught me the Setswana word for "walking someone halfway home" and I forgot it already. I was so tired that I just went straight to the shower and then wandered around in the dark before falling into bed. Aaand now I just creeped myself out... and chloe's not here to diffuse my wild imagination... I guess that means its 30 Rock time.

Project Status: 1/2 day week-long "live well" alcohol-abuse and healthy living camp coming together slowly? details to be figured out. Won't be perfect at all, but one has to start somewhere... n'est pas? Hoping that the next 20 months will go by fast and I'll be able to see you all again soon. Missing home.


Nothing has to be Perfect. What does Perfect mean anyway?

Today was pretty good. Went to work, talked to people, got a lot of things written at home, came out after lunch, talked to people, looked at the art exhibit at school, got stood up by the girl I was supposed to tutor, spent the rest of the afternoon writing more things at home, watched 30 Rock, and now in bed at 7:30 again deciding what to watch before I fall asleep. Life in the Peace Corps. Not Perfect, but what does Perfect mean anyway?

The neighbors have been dancing for hours on end every day this past week. By Dancing I mean the traditional singing and dancing. A girl in the village got her first period so they will be dancing every day until it is over.

Still Dancing

I woke up this morning at 6am after a hot restless sleep to the voice of Thato in her nightgown. "Sunny," she's the only one who calls me Sunny, "Sunny!" She called at me. I threw on a skirt while yelling "Thato!" and showed up at the door squinting because I absolutely refuse to be seen as a short, fat, bald, glasses-person. I found her at my front door with 2 cell phones and a charger. "Good morning," I muttered, doing my best to smile and look like I've been up for hours. I knew this ritual well and reached for her phone, before I could grab it, she told me, "There is network."

I paused. "Network? Really?" I asked. I wasn't sure how to respond to that. "Are you joking?"

"Yes" she said. I yelled and did a little I'm-going-to-kill-you-how-could-you-do-that-to-me-dance.

Thato did her familiar you're-so-weird-Sunny laugh and then said "Really!" She came in and handed me her phone. I looked at it... a full fabulous five bars.

There was a moment of silence as the impact hit me. Then i looked back at the phone and with eyes wide and full of wonder, I exclaimed in soft tones, "It even says New Xade under it..."

October 12, 2010, a day to go down in Peace Corps Botswana History. New Xade receives Cell Phone Network.

All morning, my buddies and co workers and I were walking around with our phones in our hands. Ringtones kept going off during meetings. Ding ding ding went off in bags. Peoples heads dissapeared as they reached for their pockets, stared down at their hands, clicked clicked clicked away on their number pads. Laughs and smiles could be heard from every department as people tried to change their sim cards and swap new phone numbers. Mosodi and Thato came at me at the same time, simultaneously asking, "Wame, what's my phone number?" People interrupted each other, phone calls interrupted conversations, sons called mothers, mothers called friends, kids called each other, and anticipation was written all over teachers faces during classes. By 9AM there was not one bit of airtime left unused in the village, and yet we still clung to our phones like life lines.

The irony of it all, is that life actually kept going on as usual. There was no big hurrah, no huge celebration, no mention of it officially, life just got a little more... normal for me... and at lunch, walking between new working fridge and my new working phone, I felt like myself again, reached towards my head and thought, "my God, what did I do to my hair?"

At 7AM this morning, after Thato left, I sent 2 texts, called home, and then put the phone away and enjoyed my last few moments of absolute silence. Life will never be the same again.

And of course the moment you've all been waiting for, PICTURES!

This is my friend caitlin and i doing jumps on the nata pans

This is me half-shaven

and full shaven