Friday, July 29, 2011


I’m hiding out in my house today. Under my warm covers. I’m working, grants, papers, blogs, emails. But mostly I’m hiding out. I miss normality.

Every time I think of something that used to be normal, I’m reminded how abnormal it is here.

Water: water outage for the past 3 days, children, cows, goats, birds, roaming the streets, making noises, searching for something as essential and simple as water to drink, bathe in, wash their clothes. My jo jo tank is drained and has been for weeks, so now instead of shaking my head and saying “Ga go na metse,” when I see children coming, I run into another room and hide.

Food: I overate all week. I feel sick. Instant noodles, Mexican food, ramen, cake, muffins, sandwiches. And last weekend, my friend told me about how her organization’s cleaner’s children died of malnutrition. She told me this over wine, cheese, and crackers.

Wine: I bought a P62 bottle of Baronne last week. I drank half the bottle in one sitting not thinking about how P62 could’ve bought someone food for a week—or a substantial amount of chibuku, the nation’s traditional alcoholic brew. One bottle of wine, 10USD, something that I would’ve joked about in the states as cheap, is such a treat here that I cried when I pulled out the cork.

Sex: Sex in the states, this intimate, private moment. Now when I think of sex, I think of parents having sex in their huts as their children watch, primary school students having sex in front of their peers in the hostels, children having sex with men, children having babies, babies dying in childbirth because their mothers are only 12. Do women here enjoy sex or has it turned into yet another dirty requirement of life, like alcoholism, clogged outhouses, starvation and drought?

When, if ever, will I be able to enjoy the things I used to enjoy without feeling guilt, anger, frustration, annoyance, privilege? …there are children pounding on my door again now, peering into my bedroom windows. Children, when will they return to their normal states in my head and cease to be these fearful creatures that haunt me in my dreams?

Last night I had a dream that someone was watching me in my sleep. Watching me from the crack in my window shades. I knew it because I could hear their chewing. They were eating popcorn and watching me like a movie reel.


6:40 PM-- Challenges are easier to deal with when you have the courage to face them.

I went outside today after a long day in bed to fetch some water and collect a bill from a friend. Stepping out into the sun really wasn't as intimidating as I thought it would be, as sometimes it is. The sound of children's laughter made me smile. My yard, though people had been through it, around it, and up to my doors and windows the past few days, was relatively untouched. The laundry I left hanging, unstolen. I came home and some kids followed suit a few minutes later. But instead of knocking on my door like good little children, they went to my bedroom windows and knocked. I came out, in a huff, and they ran up and around, I met them back on my front porch and yelled a fury no sunny has ever yelled-- basically, I said "you have no manners, you can't do that. Go!" I was proud of myself. I fear no retaliation-- I hope. Then again, these kids really could make my life a living hell if they knew how to push my buttons right.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seeking Library Help

This is a shot in the dark, but if anyone reading this knows an organization who would be interested in donating $400 towards the purchase of bookshelves for our Adult Education Reading Room, please let me know. We are looking to construct bookshelves in order to better organize and thus utilize our books. I can vouch for the Reading Room's use and effectiveness in this community and I believe it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cows on parade

If you liked Chicago's "Cows on Parade" exhibition, then you're in for a REAL treat. Today, New Xade very own Cows on Parade exhibition began as for the umpteenth time since my arrival, cows of every color, age, and species, wandered the streets, mooing desperately in search for water. I joined them for a brief moment, mooing myself, as I rung out my half-cleaned detergent-filled laundry from a distillery in my bathtub of dirt, clothing, and various bits of organic matter in order to make space for a quick bath. The water was so dark that I couldn't see 1/2" past the surface-- however, I will maintain till my dying day that the cheap dyes in my Pep-purchased towels are the cause of this visible anomaly and not actual filth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hi Everyone, Blog friends, family, countrymen, fellow-world-(wo)-men (for those of you who appreciate politically correctness),

I'm writing to ask for assistance from those of you who have been following my blog.

I am working with the primary school to get computer equipment (16 computers) for a teaching lab (also open to the community). I am hoping to raise about $3,200 for all the computers and shipping (possibly more depending on customs fees). We are getting the machines from an organization in the UK called Computer Aid International. So far I have around $1,200 in pledges from family and friends, and I still need much more, so if it is in your heart, please send me an email at with the following text:

"I, ______, pledge to support the New Xade Computer Project with a tax-deductable donation of $________ through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. My Email address is: ___________"

A big thank you to those who have already pledged. Your support is not just going towards the effort of alleviating poverty in New Xade and educating youth and children, it is also helping me to stay sane.

If you would like to help in another way (notice the change in font to signal a change in subject), the school is trying to start an art program and has asked me to help find donations of art supplies (paints, brushes, papers, anything). I won't be heading the program, but I said I would try to help out anyway I can. The kids here may not be the best at sports or writing, math or science, but they are damn good at the arts! So any donation would not go unappreciated. If interested, please email me for details

In other news, the first annual general meeting of the New Xade Youth Organization went swimmingly. 200+ youth gathered at the kgotla and listened to music, words of encouragement, watched dances from local performance groups. I had a blast even though I had no idea what was going on until I had a chance to type up the meeting minutes afterwards. I am very proud of the youth here for their enthusiasm and hard work. The next meeting is next week, and we will be raising money for our NGO registration fees.

Photo on the upper right is a picture of me at the AGM looking very official, introducing the board members in my very poor setswana. but don't be impressed, because no understood the mumbling idiot peace corps volunteer and the ended up introducing the board again after I did it!

The picture on the bottom right is my friend Ketelelo with the banner he painted for the organization. (I sure hope the Omang (ID registration) office lets us keep the name "new xade youth organization" or he's gonna have to make a new banner!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Missionaries and Meetings

Missionaries and Meetings

Yesterday morning, I was enjoying my ritualistic morning cup of Starbucks Via when I got a phone call from our recently absent youth officer asking me if I knew about the Peace Corps volunteers that are now at the church in New Xade. “No…” I said, scanning my head for possibilities. He told me to come right away.

I arrived a few minutes later (luckily I was already dressed) and met 50 white people and a giant commercial bus. 12 of them were from the states, the rest from South Africa. They were missionaries here for a few days to do whatever the church wanted of them. Bicky arranged for a prayer walk later that day, and then they engaged in some kid play—balls, skits, face paint, tickle fights, general walking around with kids attached to each limb.

As I watched the young missionaries make their way around the village with a gaggle of our children, I grew nostalgic the days where I was one of those young missionaries. A child on each arm, and one sitting in my head, plaiting my hair. Giving away pipe-cleaner eye glasses and blowing bubbles in the middle of a rural dirt street, sweat and dust clinging to my skin. The days of relentless activity, the nights of deep sleep…

Our youth organization met for the first time today. 6 young men and I sat down to make preparations and bang out the agenda for Saturday’s kickoff event. Dance groups, snacks, music, speeches, and all-around an exciting time. “Halala! Halala!” as they say here.

Though the past few months have painted me to be a cynic of community organization, I find myself having faith in this merry band of young people. I realized that these guys have one very important feature to their advantage that I didn’t plan for—Fun. Halala! Halala! They laughed as we disbanded at the end of our 2 hour meeting. At the last minute, I snapped this photo in hopes of one day having it framed as the beginning of a beautiful thing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Monster from the Sea-beyond

***Keep holding for news of how you can help—New Xade Computer Project***

July 10, 2011

11 months from yesterday, I will be officially released from Peace Corps Service as aRPCV (i.e. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). How exciting!

I have a feeling that the vast majority of New Xade residents were drunk last night. I watched from my window as two ladies stumbled down the road in the winter wind in the middle of the afternoon. I was approached by two men who had been partying since 2 AM the night before. Two lady friends visited me with beers in hand and asked me to listen to the party going on down the street at one of the houses.

I paint a dire picture when I talk about these things, but the truth is, as my friend said so clearly (and yet slightly slurred) last night, “What else is there to do in a settlement on Saturday night?” I had just finished my first (albeit only) beer. What else IS there to do? I encouraged my friends to relax tonight and have fun. One of them had just had a baby a few months ago and her sisters are visiting. Goodness knows, she is going to miss her family when they leave next week. So they should have fun on a Saturday night. (As a precaution, she told me she's going to sleep on the floor next to the baby so she doesn't accidentally roll over him in her sleep)

But as I wake up this cold blustery morning and look out my windows at the desolate and empty landscape beyond, I remember those who suffer for alcoholism in this village. It’s not my friend or the government workers who live in nice concrete houses that block out most of the wind and cold on a day like this, it’s the people who call this village their life, the adults and kids who live in houses like this one. The families who, right now, have to buckle down under blankets in the freezing wind—I’d rather be drunk through the winter too. I remember in my early days, I would walk around the village and encounter whole compounds full of drunk adults, red, white, and blue cartons of Chibuku, the traditional brew, strewn around in the sand, young children, not yet potty trained walking around bottom-naked licking the insides and asking me for money or sweets as I pass by.

That’s the real reason I choose not to walk around anymore. I hate seeing the shabeens. I hate seeing the children. I hate being asked for money to buy a guy a drink, for sweets, for the very shirt off my back. I know if I give these things away, I won't hear the end of it. My friend Ketelelo came over the other day and said he was very hungry and wanted pizza. I told him I didn’t have anything and stood with him outside for nearly an hour, listening to his stomach grumble. I was tired and mostly annoyed to have to entertain company with a happy smile pasted on my face.The day after that, Ketelelo led games for kids in the OVC support group for 3 hours.

I wonder if I’m mixing up the stories here. I've been telling myself for a whole year: "feeding children is not your job." But if a hungry child comes to my doorstep again and again, and this hungry child is someone I now consider my friend, someone who I respect and admire, am I supposed to turn him away? The lines between right and wrong are muddled—what am I doing here but encouraging and enabling people to be the best they can be? Maybe sometimes, all someone needs is a hot meal. What kind of monster have I turned into?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

**Interested in giving me a hand?? Hold for news on possible fundraising drive for Computer donation project!!!**

July 4

The water is out in New Xade today, and thanks to the kids who perpetually haunt my house, so is the water in my reserve “jojo tank” (rain water tank). I’ve resorted to the bottles that I keep on the top of my fridge. Bottles of months-old water that I save for occasions like this one. Except today, I have 2 guests. Which means, no water and a toilet full of sewage. Being actually thirsty and/or not having a constant, reliable supply of water really makes one dig down deep into one’s primal roots. Survival of the Fittest, “No, CHILD, you can NOT have my water… it is MINE. and No, DEAR CHILD, I am NOT from China. Yes, I know I have funny shaped eyes. No, you don’t have to show me again how funny shaped my eyes are.”

Yes you heard it, I have been brought down to my childhood days where mocking of my racial features was just another part of everyday life. Today it was 7. 7 pairs of mocking eyes, 7 shrill voices pretending to speak Chinese. I asked one little fella how HE liked it when people made fun of his language. I emphasized my point by clicking crudely a few times. He turned to his companion, asked, “what did she say?” the companion said something back, the child looked at me, and then squeezed the edges of his eyes and continued mocking the language of my ancestors. I should’ve whipped out a Bruce Lee move and whacked his sorry butt, but alas, I am not a stereotype. The closest I get to a kick on a daily basis is bumping my fridge door shut with my knee when my hands are full.

I got asked today for money by an adult who I consider an enlightened friend. When I tried to explain that he was a teacher and makes more money than I do, he waved me off with a gesture of his hand and looked down at the papers he was marking. Ouch. Hours later, I was approached by the craft shop keeper who I offered to help procure funds for start-up funding. She, another lady, and I worked on the “budget” for the upcoming year and thus I was presented with a request: buy us a truck. Um, let’s put that on hold, shall we? What else do you need. The final budget was for P35,400, or roughly $6,000. Whatever happened to those infomercials: “For only $50, YOU can help someone start a small business!” I have been fooled. I wonder how successful people would be if they had access to the following workshop: Budgeting 101 for Businesses. We’ll have it a 5-star hotel in Maun, fully catered with Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and 2 Teas, and we’ll make sure that everyone has their own room—or else it’ll be our heads at Evaluation time. And I’m not kidding. I’ve seen heads roll because someone didn’t get their own room, or do the tea right, or the food wasn’t enough…

That’s enough of my jaded personality for one day. On the upside, we delivered the books to the school today. I had a good time reading “Goodnight Moon”

Happy July 4th Everyone!

I found out why the water went out. The guys who man the pump refused to check it yesterday because there were lion prints in the area and a donkey was found mauled close by. I’ve been told that there are wildfires in the CKGR nowadays, causing the animals to escape to the edges of the reserve (i.e. New Xade.)

My friend and I were discussing the (sometimes) long days where we spend the whole day in bed. She said sometimes she’ll be lying in bed watching the sun set and she’ll suddenly realizes, “I forgots to move!!!”

I helped someone fix their tv today. Well I didn’t exactly help them. Pax called me over on my way home from the learning center and asked me to fix his TV. What I did was watch and make Setswana noises of disbelief every time the dvd player open and closed its mouth on its own accord, like a petulant child refusing to take its medicine. Then he suggested satellite. We flicked on his satellite decoder only to be confronted with the message “No Signal.” I suggested we call someone else with a TV to see if maybe the signal was out in all of Xade. Then Mr. Pax went outside, fiddled with the satellite dish, and Elmo’s voice came blaring on in (almost) high def, drowning out the sound of the diesel generator. “Poor Humpty Dumpty!” Elmo sighed after Gordon told him that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put the poor egg back together again. The signal was clearer and stronger than any of my TV sets back at home. Lucky Pax, I couldn’t help thinking, at least he has Elmo to keep him company. I have no clue where his wife and kids are today. Actually I do have some clues, them folks not from around here, probably back in their home village, or Namibia, where I think they have some family. (Photo of Pax's Kids, note the awesome haircut on his adorable son.)

A quick thanks to my brother who sent me this genius little drink mix called “mia” or “mio?” ee-ay-oh…

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dizzy Mornings

I woke up this morning before the sun came up dizzy out of my mind. The world stopped spinning at 11AM, I got out of bed at 1PM. And was in and out of bed all day, and barely saw the sun. I'm a little depressed.

Yesterday was fun though. I went to the OVC support group, and met little Regina, a Standard 2 girl who played with me for hours, playing catch with a tennis ball. She was too young to be greedy for food, clothing, jewelry, etc. All she wanted from me was to play catch. She put me in such a good mood that when her older sister, Standard 6 Naledi, asked me for my gloves, I merely shrugged and said no.

I can't remember the last time I played catch.
(Photo of Regina later in the week at my house playing cats cradle with the net for oranges on her head)

Friday, July 1, 2011

President's Day

Today is a holiday. I thought I would look forward to it, but I find myself dragging my feet getting out of bed, wishing I could stay asleep just a little longer, maybe all day so that the weekend would go by faster. But 10 hours of sleep, apparently, is enough for my body and I find my restlessness pulling me out of bed and toward the instant VIA coffee my brother sent me. Starbucks has revolutionized Peace Corps Service.

Today I'm not sure what I'll do. Like any other day, I'll probably go out a bit, and then hang inside most of the day, except today, unlike regular work days, I won't have the fear of being asked, "are you not on duty?" hanging over my head. (People ask me this when they see me out of the office. The mentality here is, you get paid to be in the office not necessarily to do work, so doing work at home is a bit of a confusing concept for my friends and coworkers). Peace Corps Volunteers are always on duty...

I've picked up knitting again, thanks to a friend who sent me yarn. It's nice, but it's really just a substitute for a warm body or someone to just sit with. I've only been back in my village for a few days, and I'm already feeling pangs of lonliness-- but then again, I remember my first few months here when every day was a struggle and the moment I returned home, sometimes, I'd already be making plans to get out again.

American Rock is blaring from a pickup truck outside my house. John Mellencamp's "I need somebody." I need somebody... You need somebody... It's strange that I'm hearing most of these songs for the first time here in Africa.



Btw. Is it wedding season?

Someone just came by asking to borrow P1000. hahah, if I had P1000... I probably would've hired a car to get out of here for the long weekend. Then he said, how is Xade? You are always alone. Must be boring.
Little does he know I have a secret technological portal to the outside world in the form of a little USB modem. muahaha-muahahahaha!!