Wednesday, February 23, 2011
1. Kids play a game teaching teamwork and the affect alcohol abuse can have on life performance, thanks to Shannon Commers who led this activity. (December Lifeskills Workshop)
2. Sunrise over the field next to my house around 7 after I chased the goats out of my yard.
3. My butternut squash flowers. I've got a teenie tiny squash now but it's shrivelign up. :(
4. Chloe and I have cucumber spa mid-morning session
5. Sushi Night at Chloe's House.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The Botswana Scouts Association came to New Xade this weekend. The BSA is just like our BSA (Boy Scouts of America) except they include girls in their membership. 3 trucks pulled in Friday night carrying 10 or so Scout leaders from the National HQ in Gabs and a Scout troop from the Ghanzi Senior Secondary School. All week our local scouts practiced pounding on the drums in preparation for their arrival. The weekend event is to commemorate the Scouts’ 104th Anniversary in Botswana.
Saturday Morning, I woke up bright and early to prepare drinks for our OVC support group. The weather was cool for once and I found myself singing U2’s “It’s a beautiful day” as I carried two coolers full of juice drinks, ice bottles, cookies, and footballs to the little wards waiting for me at the local church. A total of 19 tiny kids arrived at the church at 9:05 AM and peppered me with one question: “give me my ball, give me my ball.” (First off, that’s not a question. Second, it’s not your ball. And Third, no.)
My friend Ketelelo, 19 years old, is the one responsible for this operation. Ketelelo is the only volunteer for the group who I have ever seen working with kids. Unfortunately, most of the year, Ketelelo is at school in Ghanzi. This is only the 2nd time the group has met since my service started in June. The first time was during another school holiday, when Ketelelo was home. It seems, without Ketelelo, no one, not the volunteers nor the kids, wants to meet. With Ketelelo around, all I have to do is ask and suddenly I’ll have 20-30 little orphans at my disposal. Whenever Ketelelo comes to visit me, he always has 2-3 little ones in tow. This is so and so, he introduces them to me as though he were introducing a peer. They are normally too shy to respond, but I take their hand anyway and shake them in Botswana style and invite them to come into my house; when they do, they sit quietly and gaze at the pictures on my wall as though they were First-Years at Hogwarts expecting the photos to come to life. Whenever Ketelelo’s around, I’m not afraid of these kids, they become as shy and meek as baby sheep and I love ‘em.
Last week, Ketelelo came to visit me while I was soaking in the bathtub. This isn’t a rare occurrence in daily Batswana life, I’ve personally walked in on people bathing twice. Unfortunately, I ain’t a Motswana and instead of yelling out “YO!” like they do when they hear someone at the door, I sunk deeper in the water and pretended not to be home… which didn’t work since my front door was open and the screen door was locked from the inside. Quite stupidly, I also left the bathroom door open. I couldn’t get up or out without being seen or heard. I lay in the tub for what felt like 10 minutes while Ketelelo and his little friends knocked, called my English and Setswana names, went to my windows, and knocked some more. I realized I couldn’t get away with hiding, so I finally came out of the tub, maneuvered my way into a towel without being seen, and emerged rubbing my eyes and pretending that I’d fallen asleep and oh, I’m so sorry I didn’t come out earlier. At the sight of the strange lekhoa in a towel, the 2 tiny kids Ketelelo was with giggled uncontrollably. Later, as Ketelelo left my house, I yelled after him, “You are always surrounded by kids!” He turned and smiled and said, “They’re my friends,” and then walked home into the sunset, really.
Well, Ketelelo, his brother Kebabonye, and I are about to embark on another strange journey, the Youth Club. Last week, while Ketelelo was over, we got to talking about the Youth Center again and he made a strange comment. “The youth center’s not far,” he said, “the problem is, the Youth don’t know how to use the equipment. And they only want to watch TV, they say the other activities make them tired.”
In case you don’t know, the “youth center” here is a small room converted from the Community Hall. Since I arrived in June 2010, I’ve wanted to relocate the youth center to an all-accessible dedicated building in the center of town. The youth officer at the time, now long transferred, told me that it would be an excellent idea. The current center, she said, was too far, inaccessible to electricity, and difficult to supervise. I thought that was the reason it wasn’t used. The Youth Center, aka this tiny little room, is full of toys and things that any youth in America would dream of having: an electric keyboard, electric bass, electric and acoustic guitars, a drum set, a snooker (or pool) table, a ping pong table, a dart set, a punching bag with boxing gloves, badminton rackets, birdies, nets, monopoly, scrabble, chess, tv, stereo set, everything short of an x-box (without electricity, about ½ of this equipment is useless, which I find funny…). The youth don’t know how to use the equipment, how simple an explanation; so this proposed youth club would provide coaches for different activities every other week (or so). I’m trying to make this as simple as it possibly can be. The ultimate goal being: decrease in alcohol abuse.
Though I’m still not holding my breath… because of my personality, I’m presenting a list I’ve formatted of all realistic things that can go wrong:
- Ketelelo goes back to school in March & youth stop coming, club fails (like the OVC support group)
- No funding granted for food & youth stop coming, club fails
- No funding granted for generator for electricity & youth stop coming, club fails
- No support from community coaches, youth stop coming, club fails
- Youth don’t come in the first place, club fails
- I become the only volunteer/leader of the club & decide that the responsibility isn’t worth the reward, club fails
- Confusion regarding scheduling/time, club fails (yes, likely)
- Youth come for food, games, and fun, but continue to drink or become alcoholics anyway… club fails (hehehe, but I won’t be around to realize that…)
On the other hand, if things go well, here are the potential benefits:
- Decreased alcohol and drug abuse among youth in NX
- Decrease in teenage pregnancy rates due to the awesome mentoring relationships I’ll build with the girls
- Because I’m in PC Botswana I have to say this as well: decrease in HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among youth in NX (cause you know... decrease in alcohol means decrease in irresponsible sexual behavior, though increase in social activities may result in increase in sexual partnerships… leading to an increase in multiple concurrent partnerships (MCP) resulting in higher HIV prevalence. Reminder to self: if this takes off, dedicate a session every now and then to life skills lessons, i.e. how to use a condom, decrease MCP, promote safe male circumcision)
- Increased school performance
- Increased self-esteem and local leadership among youth
- Increase in community participation in community service/youth events- That’s a biggie.
- Increased funding due to increased activity leading to improved equipment/ renovation of youth center/ possible funding to build the dream-center closer to town (I have to comment on the wonderfulness of Nikki, an architect in Ghanzi who is helping me to get excited for and plan this center. She is a creative worldly type who wants to recruit the kids here to help build walls and other components of the project using local materials and resources. She is also helping to keep me sane.)
- Increase in personal friendships with local volunteers and youth
On a third hand, or you may use a foot if you so choose, if nothing happens at all, at least I can say I tried.
All this to say, the Scouts came to New Xade, had a presentation which I missed cause I was with the OVC’s, then planted a whole bunch of little tree-lings in the village. I retired for the day because I can’t be caught outside in the heat or I’ll melt, and then returned in the evening for a bonfire which happened past my bedtime, so I went home before the fire started. But I managed to meet a lot of cool people and see the kids dressed up in little uniforms and learning to march, led by our scout leader, a reaaally little kid around 3 feet tall wearing a baby blue baret and leading teenagers twice his age and height. I got a lot of encouragement and tips for the youth club, and most unexpectantly, I got contact information for the officer at the department of public health who’s in charge of alcohol abuse initiatives. Apparently, there is a lot (too much someone said) money set aside for these initiatives, and if things go well, I may get the funding I need not only to run the club, but set up a permanent, flexible alcohol-free structure for the youth to access every day. (Oh, and I got a scout shirt myself!!)
I found out a few days ago that a PCV Couple who are friends of mine will be returning to the states this upcoming week due to a medical condition. I am seriously bummed about it. :(
I just wanted to make a public announcement, Ketelelo found out his exam results this week, he got first class! (the best you can do) Congratulations Ketelelo! This kid is going places.
Another update, yesterday I went to my English club but the students weren’t there. No problem. I sat down in the middle of the school yard on an old tire under a tree and read out loud children’s books including “the giving tree.” A real rocking moment. The kids liked it so much we read all 3 books I had 2-3 times each.
Also this morning we had our first youth club meeting to discuss logistics and the plan for the new year. 3 Girls and 10 Boys showed up, along with the Youth Officer, Police Officer, and Agricultural Officer-- the best turnout for any meeting I've had so far. Though they all wanted me to run the meeting, I ended up, as usual, sitting on the sidelines listening to the setswana conversations that ensue. Well, we never got to the programming part of the agenda, and I was barely able to communicate what I wanted to communicate- but none of that really mattered to me. What we did end up doing (during this unexpectantly long 2 hour meeting) was convince the youth officer to keep the recreation room open from 8am to 4pm Monday-Friday and 8am to 7pm on Saturday. Congratulations Youth! I can honestly say that aside from assembling this meeting, I had nothing to do with this victory as it was all done in Setswana.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I think it's about time for another update. True, the past few months
have been filled with a lot of angst, a lot of quiet moments filled
with not-so-quiet thoughts of desperation and anxiety, loneliness, and
not very well thought-through phone calls or emails home… true, my
site is a challenging one, located 100km on a dirt road away from
everything civilized: electricity, internet, post office, clean water,
grocery stores, a bank, and when I first began, phone service… true,
I've often felt isolation and self-pity for my situation, no one
understands what it's like here, nobody knows my sorrow…
Thanks to a pile of girly magazines and months of waiting though, I am
feeling better. I've realized that my situation now is the lot that I
was given—and according to an issue of "Shape" Magazine, I should
start to learn to "want what I have." So this week's mantra, composed
in pixels and framed in the black plastic of my cheap black and white
phone is, "I want what I have."
My hair is reaching a funny stage where every day it wakes me up with
a surprise. Sometimes the hair is sticking 3.5" straight up. Sometimes
it's flat on just one side. Sometimes it looks perfectly styled and
wild. I can run water or gel through it and make it to do funny stuff
and, surprisingly, it's making me feel more feminine than ever. When I
go to the grocery store in Ghanzi, the women there tell me that I'm
"beautiful"--- "beautiful" is a really common word here. When I flip
through magazines, I secretly connect with the models who have short
hair and I feel like I've been invited into their little club. Though
on the flip side, if I haven't had time to gel it or run water (or
more likely, sweat) through it, it falls flat on the sides of my face
resulting in a rather unflattering "Susie" haircut from Calvin and
I try to keep myself positive when I go outside and talk with people.
I try to smile and be patient whenever meetings get cancelled or
postponed and no one tells me. I've learned to have low expectations
for event turnouts and bring a book with me whenever I'm supposed to
meet with someone somewhere. I try not to take it personally when no
one is around and I find out that everyone was at a football match or
dance competition that I wasn't invited to. I try not to cry every
time Peace Corps issues a new policy I'm not made aware of, sends out
an invitation via email that I found out about after the deadline, or
asks me to do things that that have no idea how difficult it is for me
I got hit on yesterday by a 20-year old 7th grader. "Hey lady!" I hear
from across the school yard. The kid has a surprisingly low voice for
a primary school student…
I'm writing this from the side yard of my friends' place in Ghanzi. I
got stuck here today after my ride had to stay here due to an extended
workshop. I ran to Pep, a local convenience/clothing store like
clothing-obsessed CVS and bought underwear and a towel. My friends are
away teaching an aerobics class, leaving me sitting in their yard to
swat away some incredibly scary looking mosquitos. The mosquitos are
especially present at this house. I don't know why. What's more, they
are the deadly looking kind, large with black and white stripes, long
skinny legs that girate up and down like a humping dog as they suck
the life-blood from your legs. They especially love my ankles. Such is
I've started teaching an English Club at school. On the first day, I
asked my students to write down a goal they have in life, "I want to
be the captin of my football time," one student wrote. "My time is
I saw a warthog last week. Then I saw it's baby trotting behind it.
"Oops," the driver said as we drove by, "I killed one of the babies."
The heat is so hot here that my blood boils when I step outside. The
sun is so strong that any bugs living in my hair are instantly baked.
I misstep on any sandy road in Xade and the top of my foot gets
burned. On Monday, I traveled one block away, sweating like a fat
person on a treadmill, and realized that I forgot some papers. I bent
down in my bag to look for them and fell over, half conscious.
The Mosquitos have notified the swarm of my existence. They taste
fresh blood. They have come in numbers to execute me. As I write this
I am sitting in the sun like a crazy person, stomping my feet and
looking very much like a cheerleader who has been dropped on the head
one too many times.
If you know me at all you know there are 2 things in the world that I
hate more than donkeys: heat and mosquitos. God damn…