Friday, November 12, 2010

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.”

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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.

11/9/2010

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.

11-10-2010
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.

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