Monday, August 23, 2010

What's a Typical Day for Sunny Like? Botswana: 3rd in the Happy Cup.

How can a day be typical if I feel like I'm still just figuring things out? Everyday is different so far. The only thing that has finally become routine is my eating habits (a huge victory for me). I'm trying to work out more. I clean and do my laundry once in a while. I get visited by people every now and then. I visit other people every now and then. I shut myself up in my house every now and... again.

Yesterday, I came back from Ghanzi after waiting 4 hours outside at the hitching post for a ride. At the hitching post, adjacent to about 4 different shabeens (tin structures that sell alcohol), I got
harassed by a drunk guy who just didn't understand that I could possibly not want to marry him. He insisted, he loved me and that he didn't want to just fuck me, he wanted to marry me (or any other white woman) and take care of me so he can move out of Africa. After I humored a long conversation with him, all the while he was drawing circles on my thigh with his finger (the American in me wanted to kick his ass), he said, "don't talk to me like I'm stupid" and I responded with, "hey, I'm not. I'm talking to you." I guess normally I would act a little cold and stupid in front of strange drunk men who talk to me, but I was feeling a little carefree and bold. I had just asked for a ride and accepted a coke from another guy who was sort of a new stranger/friend; I was introduced to him by his cousin. Unfortunately, the cousin later called me and said he "loves me so much" and wants to know "what I think about that?" I told him flat out "Ha, no, not ever going to happen." I understand that even in America I'm exceptionally... prude, but I've never been asked so doggedly to explain myself before...

In any case, a pick-up truck pulls up after 4 hours of waiting at the hitching post and the driver says, "Yes we're going to New Xade, but we don't know the way." I couldn't believe we'd finally gotten a ride. The kids I'm with and I jump in, Nancy jumps in the front to give directions, and we're finally on our way. Half way through, we pull over and the driver and his male friend come out, open the window of the bed of the truck and start rummaging through a cooler and flirting
with me, drawing circles on my back where my "Life is Good" logo is

"You live in New Xade? You live with your husband? Alone, huh? You drink? Wanna drink? You don't want a drink? Come on, relax and have a drink, enjoy yourself..." I'm pretty sure their wives were in the cab with them. We finally get a move on again and as we take off, the kids
and I, who are in the back of the pick up truck, realize that this is quite a sticky situation. The 4' x 4' pick up truck contains nothing but a huge cooler full of alcoholic beverages, the drivers don't know the way to New Xade, and we're slipping and sliding sideways on this dirt road at a speed that is far too fast for the full 108 km. The kids and I brace ourselves and try to fall asleep for the remainder of the trip. As we pull into familiar surroundings, I breathe a sigh of relief, and then am horrified at the idea that perhaps these guys were so drunk that they decided to give us a ride no matter where we were going and may in fact ask us for accomodation or other favors in
return, especially given the fact that all they had with them was a cooler of beer, no food, no clothes, no tent.

In the end, nothing at all happened, I got dropped off and even helped out, and my friend Andre, who had my key, met me at my front gate. I'm a little humored and a little guilty that I had been so quick to judge and imagine the worst possible scenario with these men. Maybe I'll get better soon at being able to have conversations with African men and still be friendly and open without having them believe that I would ever marry them. "Why don't you like Botswana men?" the drunk man had asked me. "It's not that I don't like Botswana men," I said, "I just don't want to get married." I bristled at the insinuation that he would accuse me of being somewhat racist, and then I had to rethink that-- am I being racist?

I'm reading C.S. Lewis's "4 Loves" right now, and in the chapter on friendship, he explains that men can not be friends with women if they are not of the same or similar "educational level." Without a sharing of common interest or a quest for a common truth, there can not be
anything other than erotic love or affection between the two. Initially, after reading this chapter, I felt a little bristled that he would be so sexist, even though he wrote this in another time when
perhaps this was somewhat true. Then on second thought, I thought he might be on to something. When I was in Turkey, there was no talking with the uneducated men on the street, unless they were very very old, but the educated men became my friends. Here, I'm starting to realize it's the same. Maybe he's right.

Then yesterday Andre said something interesting to me. I had given him an extra flashlight to give to Thato and he said it would make her immensely happy. I said, I couldn't believe how she wakes up at 4 am to make fat cakes by candlelight for her tuck shop and works her more-than full time job each day and takes care of her child and oversees the construction at her house. I gestured to my house which seemed massive in the face of her 1 room concrete building and said I feel weird living here when she works so damn hard. The speed at which Andre replied made me believe he wasn't just being poetic or cliché, he said, "And yet, most of the day, she's happier than you are." I brushed off the selfish inclination to believe (incorrectly) that he was being snarky about my melancholy and took it as a lesson, if not a time-old one, about happiness and satisfaction. People look to us, America, as a success story, and yet there is still unhappiness there as there is everywhere. I hear all the time here, Education and Income are the key to successful living, and yet... Botswana is ranked the 3rd most happy nation in the world.

I wonder... if consumerism could breed such dissatisfaction in people, could my being here be creating more discontent than happiness? And if so, should I even be here, or is happiness well enough left alone? Thinking on the past 2 weeks and my slow assimilation into this quiet
life, could it be that I am happier here than I was in the states?

Signing Off,

P.S. So friends, i have to admit, I've been pretty guilty about this one thing. After being visited every night by new aquaintances and old friends in New Xade the past week or so, I've been hiding the past 2 nights. I turn off the lights and cook and eat dinner in front of my computer screen in the dark watching movies with the volume down and pretending I'm not home. I'm not sure if it works, and in fact, I've been foiled by one or two visits, but I feel guilty for my suddenly
evasive behavior. It's not that I don't like the people who visit, and in fact, if they didn't visit my day would be a lot less enjoyable. It's just that I've grown accustomed to having time alone, and without time alone, I get tired very easily. I understand that there's not much for people to do at night in new xade, and if you're not an alcoholic (or maybe if you are one), you are always in search of someone with a tv who'll let you in at night-- I just dont want to be that someone, especially since I... don't... have a TV... I realized tonight, I like New Xade, but I don't love it yet.

I still have to grow used to the sounds and the people here, I still have to learn not to be scared of drunk people and dark nights. The truth is, I still wake up every night because it's either cold or I have a dream that something is happening in my house but my body is too tired to respond to my brain's signal to "move move move!" This morning, it happened again, so I slept in, late.

It's been 3 months, our In-Service Training is in 10 days, when we'll be able to meet up with all our training buddies again, compare notes, see who's left and wish them well, and get a chance to live in a city-motel with cell service, clean sheets, internet access, electricity, and privacy for 2 whole weeks. It's not that I don't like it here... but I can't wait. Afterall, they say "absence makes the heart grow fonder"


Oscar the Grouch Rears His Ugly Green Head

Somewhere out there in Peace Corps land, there is a graph that is supposed to show one's morale over the course of our 2 years abroad. It begins pretty low, then it moves up as we get used to our surroundings, then it starts to dip again... I'm not sure exactly where I am on said scale, but today I am starting to feel myself dip a little. I crawled out of bed this morning not feeling like superman anymore. I found myself circling the empty village (the schools are on summer vacation) with little purpose. I met our local Japanese Anthropologist who is trying to learn about the changes in Kua culture as a result of the relocation. It was a fascinating subject to me, one that seemed vital to my work here, but she seemed tiresome, perhaps, or maybe I was projecting my own exhaustion onto her. (too much Freud?)

In any case, as she was Japanese, everyone who didn't mistake me for her or vice versa assumed that when we met, we would automatically be great friends. They had told me there was asian lady visitng that I needed to check. They were telling her that there was a "mo-China" in
the village. When we finally met, we shook hands, and that... was just about it. I could have sworn the whole village was watching us, though. She was fluent in the San languages spoken here, she spoke it like it was her native tongue. I got jealous because all I have is a stumbling setswana. This would explain why all week random elderly San men and women have been approaching me and trying to speak to me. I thought about this and my jealousy as we parted, and soon we were both on our respective ways. She to her San host family, me to my Tswana
government colleagues.

By the time the afternoon rolled around, all i wanted was to go home. But I couldn't. Instead, I was asked to stay and wait so I could walk with my colleages, which all around is a really sweet idea, but I wasn't feeling so sweet. I felt like the guy in the trash can on Sesame Street. So I stayed, but pouted. A drunken man came by to talk to my counterpart regarding the size of his pants. He said his pants were too big (I think this is what he said) and showed us his waist to
prove his point. As he exposed his belly, I realized that this man was a hunchback. His stomach was up by where his chest would be, his shoulders, relaxed, lay next to his ears. The friends I sat with with burst into explosive laughter. I looked from person to person and wondered why they were laughing so hard. Then one of my colleagues slapped me (playfully).

"Laugh!" he commanded me.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because of his body structure," he said.
Then, another laughing colleague slapped me, too. "Ouch..." I said, still not laughing. "Wame, Laugh!" They told me. I couldn't laugh. It just wasn't funny to me. Then the men who had hit me started laughing at me. "She said Ouch!" they exclaimed.

Later on, as I walked home, not understanding the Setswana conversation of those walking with me, I pouted and fussed with a broken nail and wondered what on earth I was doing here. A PCV who was here a few years ago told me that the people will view me with suspicion when I first arrive. My job is to get them to accept me and trust me. I didn't know how I was ever going to get there and I secretly resented the anthropologist who could speak so fluently the San languages without needing to know a word of Setswana. I resented the Peace Corps for putting me in a Tswana host family while this lady got to live with the San. I resented myself for not trying hard enough, for not hiring a D/gui or D//gana tutor, for choosing to focus on Setswana and still feeling like I've gotten nowhere in the past 3 months, for being so hard on myself and others in this village. I resented my friends for laughing at me and laughing at the man. I
resented my colleagues for trying to speak chinese by saying "ching chong" and trying to speak sesarwa by emitting random clicks. I resented the San for not accepting me right away, for not
understanding that my inability to speak their language was just a sign of stupidity and ignorance, nothing more nothing less. I wanted to tell them, see, see, people make assumptions about me and my language too, accept me!

When I finally got home, I resented my friends Andre and Thato for being so cool that I offered, stupidly, to make them pizza tonight and forcing me to break out of my bad mood. Then resented the hot men and women in P90X who made me feel like John Goodman during the Ab work out; they sweated (swat?) and panted and moved and bent when I couldn't even do a single sit up without cheating. But then, after Thato and Andre came over, and the pizza came out of the oven and I put the first burning piece in my mouth, my resentment melted and I
even watched without a care as, later in the night, the rest of the pizza dissapeared into the mouths of random people who stopped by.

Just now, I've realized that my "generosity" (nothing compared to the generosity of my neighbors and friends) combined with the social norms of this culture has put me in a very odd position. As most people I work with on a daily basis has tried a slice of my pizza at one point
or another, either directly with me or through someone else, news has spread that I "Can cook." And now people are just stopping by to see what I'm eating, or telling me that they're coming over for lunch, or trying to get me to invite them over. I'm flattered that people think I'm "sweet" as Thato put it kindly... but having people ask me to cook for them is doing nothing for my weight-loss/stay-fit diet, or my budget.


Weight Loss?

This morning, I woke up feeling strong, powerful, and awake. That's a lie. I actually couldn't sleep at all last night and woke up this morning feeling like I had stayed up late (like those nights studying at Core) but was also sore from head to toe from working out. I stayed in all morning reading, working, writing letters, trying not to snack. a few hours before lunch, I headed off to my favorite tuckshop for conversation and friendship. I was met by the same friend who insisted
earlier that I was so fat that I couldn't fit through the door. Someone told her I was on a diet and she began to insist that it wasn't working. This time, though, not only did I say something to
refute her, but my other friends did too: one even counter-insisted that I AM losing weight. In fact, he said, I've lost at least 500 grams.

Thanks, M.

I came home and had cookies and later, ice cream.


The Elderly San: the last people on earth to see electricity.

The past 2 days, Kago, the volunteer who was here in 2006-2008 came to visit. He showed me around the village, introduced me to his friends. It was a welcome break in the middle of a rut-ful time. We walked everywhere, anywhere, and I suddenly felt this little place open up
into something much larger. If I hadn't been feeling homesick this past week, it would have been an exciting and invigorating time, but as I haven't been feeling my best, mostly I just stored all the new information in a data trunk in my head and tried not to feel overwhelmed. I'm excited to go away for training, and I'll be even more excited to pursue all those new discoveries that Kago showed me when I return. It was as if we were playing a game of Peace Corps Connect the Dots, and as we walked around he he pointed and talked, lines were drawn from one person to another, one project to a person, one person to a committee or group or event I had read about in the files I've been studying. I realized, that you really really can't judge yours or any one else's peace corps service-- (for those of you reading because you may be curious about what it's like to be a PCV) everyone's experience is different. Those who I've identified as potential partners and friends Kago didn't even know. Some of those who he worked extensively with, just shrugged their shoulders at me. Which reminds me...****If anyone out there in Blog-Reading Land knows anything about alcohol abuse among indigenous populations, please hooka brother up.****

Today, I bid farewell to Kago and resumed my daily living, except I'm so zapped that I just sat at home all morning wondering if I really had the energy to get back out there. I did, for a few hours, finding out the details of the Kuru Dance Festival which I'll be attending tomorrow to Sunday morning, and catching up with some people here and there. I was chatting with some women at the clinic, when I saw an elderly, wrinkled, and tiny san woman ambling slowly up the driveway with a cane. She walked painfully painfully slow and the driveway was painfully painfully long. In Batswana culture, the visitor (or the person walking) is the one
responsible for saying Hi, if you don't say Hi, it is considered rude. In a place like New Xade where one can see another person coming from a mile away, this can lead to some painfully awkward situations for an American who is accustomed to saying Hi to everyone she meets.
Usually, I just sit (or stand) and watch quietly and wait until the person arrives. Which is what I did for this elderly woman. When she finally got close enough and I couldn't take it anymore, I
bust out of my social bubble and began helping her to walk to the door. I don't think she could even see me well, and she kept trying to jump the curb and walk on the sand in front of the clinic; the women who were outside kept shouting out instructions to me and her in //Gana-- no no, turn! Turn! Don't go there, go AROUND! That door, not this one! Help her, take her arm, no not that one, the one with the cane. Get the cane. GET THE CANE!... etc. etc. I finally got her to
the door. I thought about what I've learned this week with Kago, that the elderly here have no experience whatsover with things like paved roads, electricity, motors. The woman must have felt more comfortable walking in the sand, that's why she kept trying to jump the curb. But
she was frail, her arms and legs were the circumference of... maybe 3 of my fingers. Standing up, she reached somewhere between my elbow and my shoulder-- if you know me, you know that's SHORT. She stood wrapped in layers of colorful strips of cloth. As we got to the tile
surrounding the clinic, her cane would slip every time she set it down, she grabbed my hand tighter. I grabbed her torso. We finally got to the door and she heaved herself over the doorframe which stood maybe... 1cm off the ground. She must have though there was a step
there. Then she gestured to sit on a bench and other people began helping her with her medical papers.

"Where did you get this old woman, Wame?" One of my nurse-friends asked me, emerging from an exam room. "She should be dead. How old is she? 150 years?" he asked. I didn't know where this conversation was going.

"I really hope you're kidding," I said with a smile hoping not to sound judgemental or offensive. At some point, I had told someone that we treat our elderly pretty badly, we locked them up in a retirement home/mental institution and rotate vists on the weekends and treat them like children. I thought about that as I watched the old woman, making sure she didn't require any more help that I could offer.

"She should be dead" my friend repeated. I smiled, taking it as a dramatic joke, backed away and left, still feeling the woman's wrinkled and slightly dirty skin in my hand. I felt like I always felt
whenever I volunteered at a nursing home, I felt dirty. I supressed the urge to rush to the bathroom to wash my hands or wipe my hand on my skirt. In a way, I thought that this would somehow honor her... as if keeping her on my body would somehow give her back her dignity. She wouldn't even notice, or care for that matter. No one did.

I pushed my way through the door, said goodbye to the crew outside and headed for home, feeling homesick. Unexpected tears came to my eyes. As I reached the gate at the end of the driveway, a woman stopped to greet me. "Dumela" she said, then she hestitated, smiled, and
complimented me. "Wena, o mokima," she said--"You, you are fat." She smiled. I smiled.

"Thank you," I said.

8/19/2010 Integration

I walked home today in the sand under the hot hot sun next to a crew of goats to the sound of goatbells... and I thought, wow what could be more Peace Corps? The answer: if someone was walking with me. Integration is impossible here. I've decided.


I can't believe it's only been a few days. I have some stories to tell of the Kuru dance festival but I havent the time to write them up. I will soon and post. I'm spending 2 weeks in the capit-ol city for training!! You know what that means? Latte's, restaurants, cell service, clean sheets, and internet.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

PACE is hard to Change

Can you believe it's august already? I've been out of country for nearly 5 months, longer than I ever have before in my life.

Living in New Xade, one's life develops into something different. It's slower. It's a little more hardworking. It's honest. When you work here, you work. When you don't, you don't. Fridays, you'll be hard pressed to find people in the office. But on busy days you'll also be hardpressed to find people in the office, for other reasons. I hope I'm understanding things here better. I don't feel guilty anymore if I have nothing to do because I know that I'm trying, for the most part. The people I work with, they know it too. They are observant people, the people of New Xade. And they like to talk and share. If I make one new friend, I actually make five new friends. If I send home food with one colleague, I end up feeding three. Living in this place has its ups and downs, though. Nothing is a secret and everything is scrutinized, but if you're very very careful and you earnestly try your hardest, people will start to respect you, even if it is one at a time. I am developing a new rule though: don't go outside if you're in a bad mood. But if you have to be outside, just smile and look non-threatening.

After spending so much time here, where the only sounds at night are the sounds of diesel generators and donkeys in heat, and the only light comes from the full moon, I feel a little strange returning to New Xade from my bustling soirees into Ghanzi. I come home around nightfall, the sky is darkening, but the children are still outside playing games. Their version of jumprope is like limbo and they play dodgeball, except with a plastic bag instead of yellow foam; they sing and they dance, and they do it in the sand right in front of my house, loudly. Sometimes I think they are singing my name, taunting me to come out and play, but when I look up, I don't see anything but the bush on the sandbanks.

Oddly, I don't want to be around people after I come back from Ghanzi. Instead, I sit in my house and unpack my food, contemplating my purchases and recording my budget, regretting that extra chocolate bar or that box of cookies. I think about the rushed conversations I've had in Ghanzi, in person, over the phone, through sms. I make faces when I remember things I wanted to do or funny or thoughtful things I could have said, but it's too late now. I'm alone and the next time I get the chance to say them, the thoughts would be long forgotten. It's a shame 'cause at the time, I think some of them are pretty good.

I sit and read my mail, being careful to set some aside to rediscover on days when time seems to lag. As sunset shadows make the inside of my house darker than the outside, I draw the blinds only half way so the children won't come bother me and I read by the last dying rays of heat. Soon it's dark and calm, if not a bit melancholic. It feels real though, the lighting echoes my mood. I think better in this light, I always have. Dusk is the same everywhere. I think it's magical, the moment between day and night. I used to sit on my front stoop in Chicago and watch the neighbors at this time. At school, I did my best writing and cooking at dusk. In Xade, I read and write letters by lamplight until the night takes over, the children are gone, and the darkness becomes so scary that every noise outside is a stranger and I have to draw the blinds and turn on the overhead lights to keep myself from getting goosebumps.

The time for thinking over, I watch TV, pour myself a small cocktail, and eat whatever comes into my mind. Tonight, it's leftover potato salad and lots of peanut butter and jelly and tomato juice, a weird combination, I know, but it hits the spot and it prevents me from breaking into my snack stores, which I hide in the corners of my pantry and my fridgerator. When I ran out of food yesterday, those secret snacks were the only things left on my shelves, staring at me and daring me to break down. They call out to me at night.

I wish my friend the German Doctor the best as she takes her leave today. I realized while she was here how far I've come from the wide eyed visitor I was when I first arrived. She says Dumella, but knows no other words. She thinks the children are delightful and feeds them peanuts. She calls my friends, "the africans," and invites them over for foreign food which some of them love and some of them just eat politely. I explain to her the origins of some words, the projects in Xade, the food here, the jewelry, and the social customs. Together, we tread new ground, having conversations with people I never would have had otherwise, seeing how my colleagues respond to other mohkoa, watching and learning and trying my best to be a good African host, and a good Asian-American host. I explain the origins of how I came to be, American born American raised. But then I turn around and confirm the doctor's praise of "my ancestors" and their ancient philosophies and medicines. I tread the water between seven different cultures, German, American, Asian, South African, Botswana, San, Herero. And now that the visitors and their guests are gone, I'm glad there were no Kalagadi people present. I'm tired and yet still awake. Full, yet longing for something else, something I can't quite put my finger on.

& just when I was getting too comfortable...

It's 7PM and dark, and I'm afraid I spent too much time in the sun today. My head is thumping, my face is glowing, and my lips are so burned that they're raw. I walked the streets of Xade for 4 hours at noon and then came home and made dinner, a reasonably proportioned feast of food that my German friend left behind for me, Olive Oil, Olives, Pasta, Rosemary. Then I sat down to enjoy a movie with a cup of hot chocolate, a shot of whiskey, and 3 cookies; half way through, "Definitely, Maybe," I hear a noise right over the corner of my shoulder, except I'm sitting on a couch in my empty house with my back to the wall of windows. I open the door and there are 5 kids, watching me watching my movie, drinking hot chocolate and whisky and eating cookies. Wame, you have a computer they say. They ask me twice, three times to bring the computer out so they can play with it. No. Wame, I am hungry the one girl, bane of my existence, says. I tell her to go home and get food. Wame, I am thirsty, she says. Go home and get water, there is water today. I know I'm engaging in her power struggle, but the last thing I want to do tonight is service her. I simply don't have the morale to wash someone else's water cup. She starts dancing, provocatively. bona bona, she says, look look. I am looking and then I look away. I hate the sight of young girls in scanty clothing trying to impress me by grinding the air behind them and making gutteral noises.

One of the younger girls says, good bye and I say good bye, relieved, but then no one moves to go. Instead, the oldest one looks me in the face and says, you are sick. Yes, I am, I have a headache I say with a smile, too much sun. I try to explain more, grateful for the chance to have a verbal exchange, but then they start talking over me. Bane of my existence tries to sidle past me into the house. No I say, with a smile. She comes up really close to my face and for a second there I'm afraid she's trying to smell the whisky on my breath, then an even worse possibility, maybe she can smell the cookies. "Uh-uh," I say, the botswana utterance for "no" and I move her a little further away from the door. How was your day? I ask. They don't understand me and my mood starts to sour. I try talking to them again, this time in setswana, and they ignore me completely, talking amongst themselves, the one boy poising himself in front of my window on his toes to get a better view of my computer. There is a shuffle as the two younger girls, banes of my existence plural, fight for better purchase on the window. No, i say a little too loudly. I startle everyone including myself. You don't do that here, I say. I don't know what you're fighting about, but when you come here, you don't fight. "Who is that man?" the older girl asks. I realize she's looking at the picture on the screen. An actor, I say. I can't remember his name. Actor? Drama, I say. Oh Drama, you are watching drama. Yes, you like drama? Oh yes. Maybe I can set up something for you so you can watch drama at school. Would you like that? After a few minutes, I tell them, thanks for stopping by! and I start to close the door. Goodnight! they say and I watch as they turn toward the gate and I turn off the outside light and head inside.

I decide to write rather than continue my movie so they won't hear the noise and come back, but as I open a document on my computer, I hear noises again behind me. They are talking, whispering. I tell them, I can hear you! Are you are still here? More whispering. Then I hear someone spitting, not once or twice, but three or four times. Followed by giggles. I'm not sure if spitting is a universal sign of disrespect, but I decide to give them a benefit of a doubt, like that one boy weeks ago who peed in my yard. You are cleaning for me? I ask. No response. Then more spitting. Finally I decide to pretend that no one is there, watching me from less than 2 feet away and I swallow my fear with logic-- what do I have to be afraid of? Even if they were malicious, which they're not, what can those kids do to me? As much as I am scared of them, they are still scared of me, though clearly they are getting more and more bold. This is borderlining ridiculous.

In their defense, it's really just one or two girls that drive me crazy. I don't know how to handle this game. In the psych ward at Children's Memorial, our strategy was simply not to engage. If they started a power war, we surrendered right away and changed the subject. We bought their trust and their respect. Here, I don't have superiors to lean on, and at the end of the day, I can't just jump on the train and go home to my sanctuary of space. Here, I am on 24/7, I am watched whether I am at home or at the office. Last week, my friend the police officer, told me he was surprised that I sleep so late. I said, what do you mean? He says, he sees my lights on at night from down the street. He watches when they turn off, sometimes ten or eleven at night. I'm so shocked that I don't have time to think of a response. In a way, it's comforting to know that the police can see my house. In another way, I'm frightened that my activities are so exposed. It's just too bad that at night, no one can see anything but a lightbulb blur from far away. No one can see the wiry, climbing, and dancing figures of those kids on my front porch or hanging in my windows. Tonight, in every black uncovered corner of a window frame is a potential pair of eyes. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I just can't relax here, not in my own home, not even after a really great day, not without locking the gate and acting like a paranoid freak, and unfortuantely that's just the kind of attitude that kids love to provoke. Don't give in, Sunny. Don't give in, don't snap. Just be the most boring PCV ever in New Xade, the most boring PCV. The PCV who was here in 2006-2008 told me that if I have trouble, I should just befriend the older kids. Well, where are they? Where is kid-sheriff? Where is my kid-knight in shining mini armor? Where is the relief?? I got a care package yesterday containing a big container of planters almonds, dried cranberries, granola, and pistacchios. It tastes amazing. And I almost ate all of it. All but a handful. What an idiot I am. I should have learned by now that they don't provide relief from fear and lonliness, just carbs, fat, fiber, and sugar. And it will always be that way, no matter how much I eat.

Going to Ghanzi is easy, Returning is Hard

It's not what one would expect, but it seems the shorter time I spend in Ghanzi, the harder time I have adjusting when I return. It's like I need to spend more time in Ghanzi to become SICK of Ghanzi so that when I come back, I adjust faster. I don't know... Last Friday I spent only a few hours in Ghanzi and now I'm still homesick and it's been a full 2 days.

I went to church this morning, returned home and painted to the sounds of This American Life, had a talk with some people, and then went to my friend Thato's for some chit chat under the stars in front of a fire. Can you believe that people here do that every night? Sit under the big wide open stars in front of a fire and just chit chat? It's like a camping dream. Everything in Xade just slows down, even the most idle of conversations reveals something I didn't know about the person. I felt like I was part of a little family, Thato and her daughter and our South African friend Andre who has been here for a while now as the foreman of our cell phone tower project ( I may have mentioned him in an earlier post). We sat there and chatted and I watched as they taught me Setswana words adapted from the Afrikaans language and talked about the cell phone tower, the water tower (thato is the water maintenance gal), construction costs of a house she's building, the problem with youth in xade climbing the water tower. I learned that all of the water for Xade is pumped from the CKGR every day into this massive tower outside the clinic. From the tower, it is distributed to the taps. Some kids climb the tower for fun and let the water out. Sometimes they climb the tower and close the valve so no water can get out. I have a feeling someone could cause a lot of trouble for us with this water tower.

At church, I saw a lot of familiar faces. Leaders of the village, volunteers, people with big visions and big hearts. I wondered what on earth I was doing here, these men and women are great and I don't know why I'm here. Am I so great myself that I have come to teach them to be greater? I guess that isn't quite the right sentiment. I can learn a lot from them, and hopefully teach them things, maybe just technical things like computer work and then run errands for them in Ghanzi. My role here is going to be different than I had first imagined, and I think I like it this way. I'm not going to call too many shots. I'm not going to call too many meetings. I'm going to take a backseat and let other people do the driving. Maybe. I still have to think about that. In any case, I'm realizing quite belatedly that my world is very very small and I still have a lot to learn about Xade. Our new agricultural demonstrator has been here for 3 weeks now and he knows more about the issues and the people here than I've managed to learn in 2 months. i console myself by telling myself that he's a tswana, so he already knows a lot and can communicate with people. I'm adjusting not just to the san culture, but the tswana culture as well.

In another news, I go back and forth on this me being fat thing. And I've gotten a lot of confirmation here ("Yes, you're fat, but that's ok" has been my most reassuring comment, from Thato) and a lot of consolation from home ("Noooo, you're not fat!") and then the mixed feeling remark from foreigners here ("Well, in Botswana, that's a compliment"). When to be honest, I feel that most people who say I'm fat don't mean it in a complimenting way. In fact, I know that they say it to tease me and get a rise out of me. I told a freind here that we PCV's are eating a lot because we're homesick and that's how we cope. She responded with "No, Wame, you're not sad anymore. I can see it in your eyes when you walk around. You're happy here! In fact, you're so fat that you don't know how to handle yourself and you walk funny and next year you won't be able to fit through the door." I stared flabergasted, especially since she said this to a room full of people, including my german house guest and my supervisor/counterpart/friend. As tears welled up in my eyes, I figured that the best thing to do in this situation was to shrug it off, go into the kitchen and eat. That night I ate a whole chocolate bar and tried not to imagine this person beheaded. It was ironic because while she was saying this, she was eating all of my food.

In any case, I've been thinking a little bit about what someone told me, that to be fat here is just a state of being, and to take consolation in how the fat people here revel in it. And I began to notice, she's right and it was comforting. Today, at church, one of my local heroes, the councilwoman who is not a tiny woman herself, was singing and dancing like a gumby doll and I thought to myself, this woman is beautiful and intelligent and confident and happy. To be fat here really is just a state of being, in fact, being fat is also synonymous with happiness (of course that's a bit of a childish statement as well, but I won't get into that now). Unfortunately, though, the reason I'm irked about being called fat is not because of my weight or the way I look, it's because on the inside, I am immensely homesick and I haven't been able to exercise, or eat healthy, or do the activities I used to be able to do because I'm far from home and I'm asthmatic and terribly allergic to something in the air here, and being called fat is a very unsympathetic reminder of just how difficult yet luxurious and therefore confusing my life is.

The issues I discuss with people here plague me at night when I get home. Alcoholism, defilement, sexual and physical abuse, drunken people running each other over in cars, people drinking from 6am to 8pm, people having babies on top of babies with the excuse that the government will take care of them, kids running around as young as 6 or 7 chewing tobacco and climbing water towers and spying on lonely fat pcv's in the dark... Some days are overwhelming with the amount of information I get, but yet when I get home I realize nothing I've heard is new. It's the same issues over and over and over again. The same stories, most of the same causes, mostly alcohol. At a kgotla meeting, someone said that the reason they drink is because they're sad that they were taken out of their homes in the CKGR. I am sympathetic to that, but on the other hand, it's been 8 years and they are allowed to go back now. They've been given every kind of government support that could be thought of. What else can we do to help those that stay to move on?

I'm realizing slowly that if I want to be an effective pcv here, I really have to milk every encounter for what it's worth and spend a lot of time here, even if it means downtime doing nothing but sit in the sun in someone else's yard for a lot of my precious weekends. It's difficult, it's boring, it's emotionally tasking, and worst of all, it's going to involve missing out on a lot of good times with other PCV's and being a tourist and seeing the world. It seems I'm going to have to make a big decision some time soon: what kind of PCV do I want to be?

Eight, Nine, Ten... Ready or Not, Here I Come?

It seems that once I came back from Gabs last week, my life has exploded in a flurry of information and a bombardment of faces. Maybe people missed me while I was gone, or something I did spread like wildfire across the village and suddenly people think I'm interesting to talk to, or maybe something changed in me and I'm taking more risks and putting myself out there more, or maybe I'm just trying to be coy and poetic and in actuality I know it's a combination of all 3. What's my point... all of that is not what I meant to write at all. Let's sober up a little, shall we?

Today, someone committed suicide in New Xade. I don't know her and I'm the least qualified person in the whole village to be talking about this, but from what I hear, she had problems with alcohol abuse. Yesterday, someone had told me that "there is only one problem in Xade, alcohol abuse." Yesterday, I was mildly sympathetic. Alcohol abuse is a sad way to avoid one's problems in life. But today, after learning that every year 1 or 2 people try to commit suicide here and in this family alone, there were 4 attempts, 2 successful, I really began to give it some thought. Alcohol Abuse. For all of my 4 years at one of the top 10 universities in the country, I've learned one important thing. Human Behavior is dictated by reason, be it known or unknownst to us, be it good reason or bad reason, there is always a cause. No one drinks or attempts suicide for no reason. I began to wonder why. Could it really be that adjustment from the CKGR is the reason for the alcohol abuse, like the old man in the kgotla said?

Today, a local man slaughtered a cow and sold it at the butcher"tree" in town. The cow is slung across this tree and our butcher, a man with a knife and 2 axes sits at this tree, chops off a part, looks at it, and declares its value "5 pula, 5 pula, 5 pula" he yells like a man selling fish in NYC's chinatown. My friend tsks and tells me, they are losing money by selling meat like this. They should go to (some place in Ghanzi whose acronym alludes me) where they sell the whole cow and get a lot more money. Even here, they are not using a scale, they are just looking at it and selling. There is a scale in the agricultural department, but you have to spend 10-20 pula to borrow it and they don't want to pay. This made sense to neither of us since we could both figure out that the money they make from selling a cow piece by piece by eyeballing its value off a tree in Xade is peanuts compared to how much they could make if they sold to the industry. Why are they doing it this way? I asked her. Because they are still learning how to raise cows. She answered. When these people were in the CKGR, they ate animals in the bush. Here, they are given these animals and they don't know what to do with them. The politically incorrect image of a man dressed in a loin cloth staring cock-headed at a cow while scratching his head as the cow stares back filled my mind. At the time, I thought, ao! these people, so unwilling to pay for anything because the government has provided it all for them. But now, I'm not so sure.

Could it really be that even after 8 years or so, people are really still truly melancholy about the relocation? could it be that they are hesitant to participate in activities we take for granted because they really do mistrust outsiders? I really gave it some thought. Being uprooted from your land to which your philosophies, your childhood, your ancestors, and your lifestyle has been rooted for generations and generations of people could, I guess, wreck your life. It's not such a foreign concept, is it? I'm no stranger to melancholy or adjustment disorders. It's because I've struggled with a small slice of it myself that I've felt ok to come here. And yet, I've moved here, so far from my relatively shallow roots, far from my comfort zone, but still in a large home with a big bed, electricity, running water, and food... and I'm homesick to heck and it's been a full 5 months already. I tell myself that it's ok. I'm allowed to be sad, but at the same time I can't accept the sadness of a person who has lost everything they ever believed in 8 years ago? One of my well respected counterparts and friend was teased a few days ago for traveling to the CKGR so often because he "missed" his land. If this man, who is respected, educated, well communicated, and graduated, could still miss his land so much... I remember when I first arrived here, I would ask the children where they came from, if they lived in New Xade; they would say no, we live in the CKGR. That is our home. Maybe this alcohol thing isn't just a crock of bull. Afterall, in a village with no electricity, what else is there for a really sad person to do?

It's ironic, this woman, mother, sister, daughter, hung herself. And tonight, the owner of that slaughtered cow will probably spend his entire earnings on alcohol. And me? Le Nna? I'll be up thinking about it, writing about it, powerless to verify my theories but through conjecture alone, because Ga ke bue dipuo, I can't speak the languages. I keep thinking, I'm not qualified for this. This is beyond my pay grade. This is way over my head. But then I have to remember, Peace Corps is not for doing things on your own. I don't have to have any answers, in fact, it's probably better that I don't have any. The answers should come from the land here, it should be organically grown and not imported by some 3rd culture kid from across the world. So, that idyllic philosophy said... now what? I feel like those fish from Finding Nemo who's brilliant plan to escape the dentist worked, except now they're trapped in plastic bags, bobbing off the coast of the atlantic ocean.

Buzz Lightyear

I know that I've changed since I've been here quite a bit. Over the course of the past 2 weeks, I've become more confident, less self-conscious, and in a way, a little more foolish. I've said a lot of things that pop into my head without worrying about the consequences, knowing that if I make a mistake, I can quickly take it back by pretending it was a cultural or linguistic misunderstanding. but in a way, I've also become quite pompous and self important walking around this village. It's a paradox of sorts, I know I understand little to nothing of the kind of pain that so many people here go through, in fact I'm reminded every moment of every day when I hear people speak in this foreign language that I don't understand, and when I hear children's voices outside and my initial reaction is to duck. But at the same time, I feel like the king of my own little world. I am my own boss here and a lot of times, I'm under a deluded self important power trip: I am THE New Xade PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER, I can do ANYTHING here. I will do EVERYTHING here. I will cure alcoholism and melancholy. I will empower youth to pursue education. I will even construct a building here with my own bare hands and it will be a wonderful place for children to come, work, learn life skills and ownership, watch tv, read books, and relax. Yet, who am I kidding! I can't even speak with the kids let alone figure out if this is something they would want or even need. In fact, at this very moment, I am sitting in a dark corner of my house with the shades drawn and the lights off because I'm scared that if I turn on the lights or open the shades, people (shiver) will come. I'm quite a turd when I get into these self-important moods. I annoy myself.

Today I came out of the clinic and was confronted my 2 elderly san women who spoke to me in //gana. We had a long conversation which went something like this: elderly person number one says something I don't understand. I respond by repeating the last 2 syllables that she spoke, which sounds to me like a word. She responds by saying another thing I don't understand. I respond with a question consisting of the last 2 syllables that she spoke. She realizes that I don't understand a single thing she says and blows a very wet rasberry at me and turns to walk away (yes, a very wet rasberry). Elderly person number 2 then tries to talk with me. The same conversation commences, this one ending with her grabbing my hand and shaking it and laughing. Ha ha ha, I say, sounding like Buzz Lightyear. Goodbye (in Setswana)! And we part. The turd that is my asshole self-important self views the interaction as a victory when in reality, it defeated all purposes of any real conversation.

8-12, Thursday
1-Day to Ghanzi

If you know me, you know that I'm a kind of person who is secretly really lazy but likes to keep busy to make up for it-- so I constantly busy myself with work or cleaning to allow myself to get busy with eating and watching TV. Here, I'm surprisingly busy. My kitchen oscillates between very dirty from being overused to very clean from being overcleaned. The files in my “office” have been read and reread twice over, making more sense each time I read them. The floors in my house have been swept every day. And I still have plentiful things to do-- rake my yard, clean my bathroom, plant my garden, type documents up, check in on people or progress, read, read, and reread. I'm so used to working all the time that I've created a huge task list for myself that I hang on the wall and write on in big markers. Everytime someone comes over they read it out loud and sometimes laugh.

But I fear that I'm lapsing into a bit of laziness now. There's so much to do that I have “things to do” written on scrap papers all over my house, in my bags, and sandwiched in my folders from the past few weeks. Things I've never done, but promised people I would do. Things I need to do but can't figure out how. Things I need to do but don't want to figure out how. Things I should do, but are almost impossible to do given how difficult it is to get things done here in a timely manner. Well, today, I went into work for an hour (and by work, I mean I went to my friend Lulu's tuck shop and watched her make chips (aka fries) for an hour). I grabbed some reading and bolted because it is blustering wind and freezing cold outside. I've been home ever since and even now, after I've written letters, compiled reports, and revised my next “Things to do” list, I don't want to do anything else. I'm tired. No one else is doing work... Me Fears Me Laziness is going to take over soon. Ke batla go phita gompieno...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rotten Tomatoes (Awesme website btw), Spiritual Healing,Werewolves, and Happy in Xade, Oh My!

Hello Friends! I recognize that these entries are starting to get long, but thank you to those who do read them. I appreciate knowing that people are thinking of me, no really, I do appreciate it. When you're alone in the bush, sometimes all you need is the knowledge that somewhere out there, someone you can relate to is reading about your life and is sympathizing with you. I'm trying to do something to make this blog a little more readable, I'm putting titles on each separate day. Some days are not worth reading, some days are. Maybe the titles will help you gauge which ones are worth your time and which aren't. Oh and a final note, I need all y'alls help. There's a lizard who's been living with me since I moved in (boy or girl, I can't tell, so for now she's ambi-sex-trous). In any case, he needs a name. Suggestions?

Thursday, 7-29-2010
Werewolf Sighting

Living without cell phone service has more than just its nostalgic challenges. Every time I leave Xade for Ghanzi (the town here), I never know what might await me. I always anticipate getting a landslide of texts, or news that so and so went home, or my aunt died or something horrid like that. I'm never really sure if I'll have a place to stay, shower, or eat, what I'll be doing, how should I pack. I have to arrange everything at least a week in advance and hope that
things go "as planned" if there is such a thing here. I'm never sure if I even have a ride, there are no regular bus routes and the ambulance, which runs Monday Wednesday and Friday, sometimes is unable to take passengers (plus no one knows what time it will leave or get
back). I almost always ride in the back, where the floors are made of corrugated metal which does wonder to my ass which is already pretty tender from being stretched so fat over the past month and is a workout for my hips which are normally bent in such a way as to make
my legs nearly space-less in order to make room for the sometimes 10 other people in the car.

In any case, I had to go to Ghanzi Sunday night to catch the bus Monday morning (6 AM) to Gabs-- which wound up with me having to choose between leaving Friday or taking a pretty big chance and trying to leave Sunday. I chose Sunday and spent the morning bouncing like a pinball machine from office to office, house to house, tree to tree, being told that "so and so might be going", "if I wait under that tree, I'll be sure to get a ride", "this truck over there is going in
a few hours", etc. I finally got a ride on a freight truck transporting our children back to secondary school, an industrial open-back truck 4 feet off the ground which we normally see
transporting pre-made houses in the states. Luckily I was given a ride in the front, and the rest of the kids spent the 2 hour 108 km ride on a dirt road in the back, standing, laughing, screaming, and holding onto the safety bars as if it was an everyday occurrence.

Things went smooth as butter in Gabs, I was even lucky enough to get a ride and we got to see baboons, ostriches, baby springbok antelope, and your regular assorted cows, goats, donkeys, and guinea fowl. There were even baboons in the dumpster at the Peace Corps office. I kept my
distance cause they looked freakishly ugly and easy to piss off. On the way home this morning on our 108 km dirt road, we passed by a recently dead-ed animal and we all hopped out. I thought it was a wolf or something, it was beautiful dark black with grey stripes on its massive powerful paws, huge teeth, pointed ears, long thick hair, a foot long in some parts. It looked like it might have been sleeping except for the string of intestines coming out of its behind which a
vulture had pulled out. One of the guys I'm driving with pulls out a pocket knife and starts sawing at the skin around its snout, eventually pulling the muzzle off altogether, the soft flesh of the nose and whiskers waving in the desert wind as I stared at the gleaming white of the exposed skull that was left behind. One of the passengers laughs at me and asks me if I've ever seen this animal before. "No." "It's a hyena" "NOOO WAY!" Then another guy cuts off the animal's balls, tails, and finally pulls its grey tongue out of the sensitive spot under its jaw. I later find out, the cutting man is a traditional doctor and is going to use these parts for medicines. I wonder what the hyena balls are supposed to cure. After each part is cut out, one of the men takes it to the truck and tosses it through the missing window of the back where I'm sitting, I'm not sure where they land, but I sure hope it's not near my plastic bags full of breakfast cereal.

As we turned to leave, I kicked the hyena's paw with my foot and tried to imagine myself splayed out next to it so I could estimate its approximate length, 4 feet? I'd always imagine hyenas to be small, splotchy brown, with bald batches, huge ears, a mohawk and a voice
like Whoopie Goldberg. This one looked more like the werewolf from Harry Potter or Twilight... so cool...

Friday, 7-30-2010
I'm a Dick.

Well, I can finally cross off one thing on my list of "things to do before I die." A drunk woman called me a dick yesterday for not having money on me when she asked for 1 pula to buy mumble-mumble. In response, I smiled so wide I tricked myself into laughing and said, "Thank you!!"


Even though I've been exercising, I still end up eating a whole lot of crap during the day. I've developed a bad habit of mentally listing everything I've eaten in my head, and then saying things like, "well, on days that I exercise, I can eat anything I want." This morning, after eating too muh, I told myself, "well, in the mornings I can eat anything I want, but at night I'll eat a small portion of boiled vgetables." I don't know... I'm beginning to wish I'd paid more attention to my health-freak friends when I was back at home so I know just how bad my eating habits really are now.

I miss... I don't know what I miss. I miss something close to: listening to good music, collecting gadgets and improving my music and movie collection, going out to get food if I'm feeling indulgent, going out by myself shopping or movie-watching. Maybe I just miss the
states and just being present in my life there, being somewhat self-sufficient, living in my own world, living in the here and now, and being left to my own devices. Here, everything feels like an adventure that I'm having in a fishbowl, everyone is watching me to see what I'll discover next. It reminds me of having a new pet, watching it through its glass walls and hoping it'll find all the new toys and treats you gave it, seeing what funny thing it'll do or discover next. "What new Setswana word is Wame going to say next? What strange new foods will she try to eat? What does she do during the day when she hides in her little house? How will she react when we show
her the dead cow we slaughtered today?" Every little thing I learn I have to write down-- whether it is a new word or new name, a new event, an observation someone made about the community. Everything is so damn important.

I can't even come home and put on some tunes and lie on my bed or talk on the phone like I used to. The tinny sound of my once-good music wafting from my computer speakers at a low volume because I'm afraid that someone will listen from outside just doesnt seem right. I don't
even have all my old playlists, so the music I listen to is all random and mostly new. No nostalgia or comfort there. Is this really my life?

I can't figure out a good internet access system, my previous plan of writing emails at home and sending them in town isn't quite working well. The internet has been down lately, so when I do use the net it's rushed. Plus, I'm not used to staring at a computer screen for so long anymore and I literally find myself falling out of my chair when I do-- It's pretty funny. But in any case, I wanted to say that I was so happy to get some letters yesterday and I will try to return them as
best I can as soon as possible. Miles Davis, Blue in Green just came on. Couldn't have picked
something better if I'd chosen it myself.

Saturday 7-31-2010
Or should I say Way-Too-Early-in-the-AM-Sunday, 8-1-2010? happy birthday Dan, Dad, and John Rusiecki!!

Tonight is the night of our Youth Officer's going away party. It's 2am and it is still raging on. At noon today, I stumbled upon the cooking party and peeled and diced a carrots for 4 hours while watching the men slaughter, skin, and butcher a P2500 cow that our officer bought for the occasion. The cow is enough to feed our entire village of 2000 nama (meat) -loving people twice over. All day, I was consumed by cow. In the morning, I watched as a whole cow gradually widdled into nohingness, the ladies and I snacked on cow liver while the men squeezed excrement from the cow intestines and hung them to dry on the fence in the sun, I got to play with an empty cow stomach and learned the word for cow kidneys (pilo); and after a lengthy show of dancing and singing under the setting African sun, I served seswa ya khomo from a 3 legged cast iron pot over a bon fire to hundreds of villagers before consuming a small portion myself, then at 10 am I helped to marinate a 3'-in-diameter-bowl of steak, and at 1am I consumed said steak using my bare hands while standing in a crowded kitchen, serving alcohol to thirsty partyers and watching large meaty cow bones pass from hand to hand. It took me 2 tries with floss to get the beef out of my teeth, and I stink of beef fat from the tips of my hair to my
steak-juiced toes (advice: don't wear open toed sandles or just-cleaned jeans to a brie (bbq))

This morning before the cow-madness (or should I say mad-cowness?), I was washing out my bathroom rug and decided to hang it on the shower-curtain rail far above my head. This involved stepping on the side of the bathtub in my already wet slippers which consequently led to me thinking "golly, you know better" as I slipped and dumped my entire foot, plush slippers and all, into a bucket of water. Oh well, those slippers were long overdue for some kind of wash.

Note to self or anyone who would find this interesting, have the following sent:
- floss
- ipod charger
- individual sized packets of healthy powdered drinks since I'm way
dehydrated cause my water here tastes like salt and I subconsciously
refuse to drink it. I found out that my water comes from a diesel
powered double pump at a borehole about 30 km from Old Xade in the
CKGR. How COOL is that? My water source is a hotly controversial hole
in the middle of the protected part of the Kalahari Desert! No wonder
it goes out soooo damn often.

Sunday 8-1-2010
Night Moments

There's a moment I have almost every night when I'm lying awake in my bed and something inside me screams. It's the part of me that, like every other 23 year-old girl in America, dreams at night of who she'll be and who she'll be with when she grows up. Except at night in my pre-sleep daze, I'm shocked into consciousness by the realization that I don't have the kind of imagination it takes to take me out of this place so far from home. My project goals, my job, my relationships here are still a huge empty question mark. In Chicago, I used to comfort myself at night by thinking of my plans for tomorrow, who I'll be, what goals I'll meet, but here in these moments, I can think of nothing but the uncertainty that the next day will bring. Inside, I am
screaming, "What am I doing here? Why have you brought me here?" and guilt for the placid state of my daily living wrestles me like cowboy on a bull, keeping me up for hours after my first restless thought. Life has become so unfamiliar that I've simply stopped setting an alarm in the morning. I'm trying to learn to ride the rise, fall and often plateau of unpredictability here, struggling each day with my slow-growing ability to control my circumstances.

I've learned this weekend that my village and its children are not just the sad frustrations I'd originally thought it to be. I've realized that I was wrong about a lot of the people here. I've
realized that, even though I hide from people, when I am able to identify and take advantage of important opportunities in the right way, I learn an immense amount. The people here are wonderful, friendly, talented, smart, generous, rich, kind, caring and well organized. I've also learned the extent of my own weakness and am struggling with gaining control of my frustration with my powerlessness, guilt, and ever-changing perceptions. It's like there's another part of me that wakes me up every morning at exactly 7:30 am barking like a drill Sargent, "Get up Soldier! Get your lazy, sorry ass out of bed and go outside." Early today, that side of me forfeited
losing battle and for the first day since I've been here, I haven't once left the comfort, familiarity, and predictability of my own porch, not even to get my laundry from the back yard. I'm afraid I'm starting to get too comfortable and I'll start to get so lazy that I'll let my already small world become even smaller. Stepping outside is such hard work and when you can convince yourself that no one is watching and no one cares, it can become nearly impossible to leave the door frame.

Monday 8-2-2010
Surprise, Adventure, and Fate, plus Legendary Backflips off of old Tires

This blog has become a little less honest than I'd like it to be. Mostly because I've been so tired lately that I've had little time to process things and spend most of my writing time regurgitating and repeating myself over and over again. This post probably won't be much different, tbh (to be honest). I'm again reminded today how wrong my first impression of New Xade was. The kids did not steal my garbage, the dogs did. And the kids are not scary and intrusive at all, they're
just curious. I put a chain on my gate but didn't even lock it, and they didn't come in. I walked through the schools and the hostels and they hung out of the windows to say hi to me by name. I asked a little girl how she got a black eye, and she told me politely "Ga ke itse" i don't know. I walked by some boys playing in front of the hostels and found out that they actually do back flips off a tire-- how awesome is that!! They were so proud to show me, and so happy, and I was probably as happy to see it myself.

After I left the hostel today, I followed a luxury truck with a white lady hanging out of it to the clinic because I was curious about who this lekhoa was in the middle of my nowhere village; she is a doctor from Germany who has come here on a free spirit to discover whatever she can about San traditional medicines and herbs. She has traveled here alone aside from her driver, she has been all around the world, she knows a great many things and knows how to do great many things, and she is staying with me for her time in Xade and I'm super pumped just to be around her and learn from her. Tomorrow, she is having a kgotla meeting (community hall meeting) to discuss what she is doing here, and, if things go really well, we might be able to take a trip into Old Xade in the CKGR to go on a medicinal walk in the bush with some San. But that is if things go really well. I'm not holding my breath, it's awesome enough that she's here. She's so impressive that Ntamo and others actually seemed shy and stupid in her presence (which they aren't at all), but they were visibly nervous and not their usual confident selves-- which makes me wonder two things:
1. Do these lovely people have a self-esteem problem (like me, so HA, they can't tease me for being shy anymore), and

2. I just blanked. Say waaaah?? Yeah I have no idea what I thought
just now, brain fart.

On another note, all of my tomatoes and onions have spoilt and started molding, which I'm totally upset about. How am I going to get through the week without tomatoes and onions? Boo.