Monday, August 29, 2011

Santa Klaus of the Kalahari

Today, I came to our classroom to deliver color copies of letters that have been written by our Pen Pal School in Spain. In addition to letters though, they sent some books, t-shirts, and a special package for one of our students as well. I felt strange, walking to school with a big box, and even stranger walking into the classroom with this big box and not opening the box for the students to see. We decided to let the students look at the books tomorrow when I have my camera, but of course, the teachers had to look at everything first. I was trying not to feel appalled when 2 teachers on 2 separate occasions took the special package (some clothing and books for one of the students from her penpal) and dumped the contents on their desks, looking at every item of clothing and making comments in Setswana, it's like they'd never seen a turtleneck before, the entire rest of the class gathered in a large circle around the desk. I know it's not polite of me to comment on these things, and I'm trying to find some rationale for understanding why these things happen here and why in particular I feel like they shouldn't happen here. The student was present, nothing was stolen, and the student didn't seem in any way upset by the public pronouncement of her gifts. In fact, when I gave the bag to her, it seemed like her smile could have lifted her into the air, it was so big. We are holding a random drawing for the t-shirts tomorrow. The names of all of the students who participated in the letter exchanges "seriously" are going to be put in a hat and drawn at random. "Serious" participation was determined by the teachers and based on whether or not the student wrote back to their penpals consistently. I know I have my favorite students… maybe that's why I felt like the system was a bit subjective. If it were up to me, I would've rigged it so that the students I like, the ones that I feel are doing an honest job of writing letters, would benefit the most. I guess that's why I'm not a teacher. I couldn't handle the pressure! Also, I STILL can't remember most of my kids' names...

In other news, I signed onto facebook today and was greeted with this message:

...and I still do.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


If anyone wants to give me problems about not being able to learn the language here beyond a simple greeting, I want to give you the names of the people I am working with in the craft shop here... it might shut you up.

Mmutla Maipelo, Gabomphie Lobelo, Dipolelo Talelo, Kebonetswe Gakeitsewe, Mosadiwadikgaba Xerabe, Sekaka Sebetsaphuduhudu, Qubae Xhurukhwe, Kadishuba Tuela, Nxautwe Modisa, Lesheto Senkelathipane

Friday, August 26, 2011

Among Odd Days...

Today was an odd day among odd days. I woke up earlier than usual and went to school as soon as it opened to collect letters from our Pen Pal exchange Program. Then I reluctantly climbed in the back of a pick up truck and went to Ghanzi to do 5 things:

1. look up how to get an exemption certificate for tax and duty fees
2. collect boxes of donations for the kids
3. get a signature for water reimbursement
4. find out when the assistant district aids coordinator is coming to visit
5. collect a letter of support from the district aids coordinator.

1. we can't get a certificate until the day the items are delivered
2. the lady who has the key to the storage room is out at a funeral
3. the chief who signs my papers is out at a workshop
4. the ADAC is out at a site visit
5. the DAC is out sick.

So I sat in a lodge and ate pizza with some PCV's all day.

TADA! The end.

Thanks to everyone who has donated and who plans on donating and who might just donate on a whim. I very much appreciate it!!!!!!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Computer Project, Live Donations!

I am happy to report that:
Donations for the New Xade computer project have gone live!

Please visit this link to donate:

That said, I saw a baby goat today. My friend said it was probably born just this morning. Its umbilical cord was still attached and the mom looked like "she's still waiting for the afterbirth to drop." I could've done without that last detail (and the new dead bird on my porch that i have yet to clean up...)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cheering Squad

It's good during weeks like these to know that I have a cheering squad back at home for me.

A long time ago, a good friend once told me, "The world does not revolve around you." It was one of the most defining moments of my life.

Right now, I am sitting in my house, working on my blue linoleum dining table off of my solar electricity, listening to my ipod spew out last year's music, the same albums over and over again because that's what I'm comfortable with. I'm fighting feelings of guilt, frustration, loneliness, anger, and resentment. Guilt because I am here and not outside doing what I think I "should" be doing-- whatever that is. Frustration because I'm not capable of doing more, better, faster; that the food here is so not to my liking that I'd rather not eat, that my projects are at a standstill or the teachers are too busy to work with me. Loneliness because I can't relate right now to the people outside my windows, to the children who climb over my gate despite my threats to call the police. Anger because things don't go as I think they should here, they are always too slow, too inefficient, too many papers have been lost and it's too damn impossible to get anything printed. Resentment, because sometimes I DO think to myself, "it's because of these people that I am here." These people. This term is not something I ever thought I'd utter, yet it pops into my head more often than it should. Every time I look out the window and see my gate left open and a cow munching on my garden plants, I think: these people, every time someone wakes me up in the middle of the night to charge their phone, these people, every time I hear a horror story about a child raped or woman beat up, these people. Every time an obnoxious man hits on me or a drunken woman walks down my street singing out loud to herself, these people.

The reality is, it's easier to be frustrated and point fingers at people than it is to go out there and experience and re-experience the reality that people here live in every day. It's not as simple as the picture that the commercials paint on TV of crying naked children covered in layers of mud and dung, but it certainly isn't the linoleum blue dining table and ipod reality that I live in on a daily basis. On a day like this when the wind is howling so hard that I have to strain to get the door open and chase the windows shut, people have to huddle under a bunch of sticks to keep the sand out of their breath. These people.

The world does not revolve around me. I am just as unrelated-able to these people as they are to me. I sit here in my concrete bubble so sure that the world out there is out to get me, that people are talking about me, why doesn't she come to the office? Why doesn't she like sitting here with us and shooting the shit? When is that grant coming? Why isn't she doing more, better, faster? And maybe some people are, but I'm willing to bet that the majority of people aren't. They're more worried about getting firewood for nighttime, passing the day pleasantly, wondering how their family is. The reality is, I'm sitting here doing the exact same thing, wondering about my next meal, my next vacation, my family at home. It's a horrible experience to realize this about yourself, that you're a self-centered, self-righteous wimp... It's hard lesson to learn, to accept that I'm not superhuman and that I can't and don't have to be completely perfect and happy and adventurous here all the time. Maybe if I finally accept that, I'll be able to be happy and perfect and adventure again sooner rather than later... maybe then I won't be so scared of these people... but for today, I'm going to give myself some slack. Besides, the wind is so strong, I'd probably pull a Mary Poppins the instant I stepped outside.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Ramones

I haven't posted music lyrics on my blog since I was a kid, but today this one seems wildly appropriate. I woke up with this song on my brain. All I wanna do today is listen to this song and finishing the movie "The Tourist" which I saw the first few minutes of in a bus. Of course, I don't have these two items in my collection, even though I have all sorts of media that I'm never going to watch, like various car shows and horror movies and music that drives me insane (Backstreet Boys, Elevator Jazz, the Soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet, the Ballet) that come on at the most inopportune times, like now, coming in after an infuriating wrestling session in my garden with a bunch of crooked sticks, string, and shade netting to Billy Gilman singing a joyous rendition of "One Horse Open Sleigh" ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do and no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just get me to the airport put me on a plane
Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane
I can't control my fingers I can't control my brain
Oh no no no no no

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do and no where to go-o-o I wanna be sedated
Just put me in a wheelchair get me to the show
Hurry hurry hurry before I go loco
I can't control my fingers I can't control my toes

Oh no no no no no

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go...
Just put me in a wheelchair...
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba I wanna be sedated
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba I wanna be sedated
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba I wanna be sedated
Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba I wanna be sedated

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I found 2 dead birds in my yard. I tried to scoop them up 3 times but was too freaked out. Dead birds freak me out more than anything else dead. Finally I used my rake and a broken bucket and poked them inside, screaming. Then dumped them on the other side of my fence. I was in my yard gardening later that day when I saw kids walking by and pick up the birds, talk about it, show it to me, and then leave with it... I wonder what they're going to do with them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Waiting Game

I'm still waiting to hear back from Peace Corps about the next steps for this grant, but so far, I'm feeling really good about it. Thanks you guys!

I'm finally (finally?) starting to exhibit some wear and tear from all of these crazy truck rides. My back is hurting, and not my lower back which usually hurts, but my upper back/shoulder area. It's painful and I've been spending some time each day to stretch it out, though I'm probably the last person to know what kind of stretches are good and what kind are bad. I'm pretty sure my tail bone has been bruised too.

This all became acutely clear today after I traveled an hour in one direction just to get a bar of chocolate. And then of course an hour back with melted chocolate. Not to mention the day of waiting in-between. I got crammed behind a very oblivious and large young man who made me want to poke him when he fell asleep with his legs spread out among the 18 of us stuck in that truck. He rolled over and kicked and crushed our bags, our food, our appendages. He was so obnoxious, even in his sleep, that we all stared at him for most of the ride. I particularly enjoyed pondering the grease trail that his head left on the window where his head rolled. It was like tracking the sludge marks of a sea snail...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Great Cow Escape

The sun is rising over New Xade this morning. I woke up at 6AM and couldn't get back to sleep. The chickens are crowing, I bet they're thirsty. The water is still out, though the water department did send relief trucks this week to fill the water tower for us. That means that at 2pm yesterday, we all rushed to the pipes with buckets and bottles to fill whatever vessels we could with water.

I went to the office yesterday morning and met my friend Gakeleswe who was dancing around the slippery steps. You're dancing! Your're happy! I said. Yes! she answered. If someone is so happy, he or she could die! She laughed and then danced around more. I met one of my counterparts for the first time in weeks. He pulled me to him while we talked, Everything is just ok, he said, I'm just thirsty.

I came home to news that one of our peace corps family fell off a horse and broke her leg. This comes on the heels of hearing that another of our volunteers had to go home on emergency leave because there was a death in her immediate family. My head has been in a daze ever since. Then I got an email about the OVC grant I wrote months ago, I have to send in 3 quotations for every item in our budget and a support letter from the district aids coordination (DAC) office. This would be all fine and dandy, except that we have no stores in New Xade and no transportation. I anticipated this months ago, but I guess I forgot, and things have changed within the support group. I no longer have the enthusiasm I used to.

I spent the afternoon blowing steam off in what's left of my garden, replanting a once- successful tomato plant that the cows and goats ate to a pathetic little stump. I planted big branches into the ground as a makeshift fence and ran string along side it. It's no defense against goats and other livestock, but at least it makes me feel good. It's temporary until I can get my hands on some shade-netting. As a final measure, I cut down acacia thorn branches (thorns as long as 2") and spread them out along the fence perimeter.

Last night I heard noises outside my house that sounded like construction. I thought perhaps someone was lifting lumber... in the middle of the night. I tried to ignore it until 8PM, when I grabbed a flashlight and, shaking, went out into the moon-absent darkness to check it out. I stood at the corner of my front porch shining the light into the recesses of my yard trying to see what was going on, looking at neighbors, looking down the street. Nothing out of the ordinary. Some kids playing, a donkey eating a tree by my fence. I couldn't figure out where the noise came from, so i took a step forward into the side yard, then around the corner, there, surrounded by bush, I came face to face with a large black cow who was drinking from the leaky pond in my backyard. I freaked out. He freaked out. He started running and I bent down to pick up a rock. I chased the cow around my yard until he tried to escape via the back gate which was closed. Stupid cow. I opened the front gate and tried to chase him out there, but he went back to the water pool, which coincidentally is right next to my newly renovated garden and precious tomato stumps.

When I went back to get him, I found 2 more cows. They freaked, I freaked out more and threw rock after rock at them, chasing them from my garden. Don't worry, I wasn't shooting to kill. I was afraid I would get trampled. Sometimes I lost sight of the black cow, until it's glinting eye caught the light. I chased the cows around in circles in my pajamas and flip flops until they finally left and I retired to my house, hoping no one saw the crazy white person. When I came in, I saw that my new warm sweat pants (gifted to me by steph) was covered in makgunda thorns and my flip flops were poked through with acacia thorns.Bird feathers and animal shit clung to the thorns like bits of sticky caramel popcorn. Defeated, I shed my shoes and did what I could with my pants. I went to sleep feeling dirty, the sharp ends of makgunda making it's way from pants to skin to bloodstream. I have no clean clothes. There is no water.

I spent the night inbetween sleep, trying not to clench my teeth, dreaming about quotations, the DAC office, and friends from the clinic back at home. I had bitter sweet dreams, sweet dreams, and just plain annoying ones where my dreams mimicked the hectic days of my life, chasing down store owners for donations and officers for signatures. I plotted and planned how to proceed with this grant. How to itemize the budget in such a way as to facilitate the collection of quotations. How to get transportation to collect quotations. How to get transport to bring the supplies back to New Xade. How to get out of this without a hit on my own finances. One trip to get quotations alone can cost me upwards of 50 bucks. How to get people to help me. Who can I count on? What am I doing? Who am I doing it for? There are currently 3 mac computers at the school for the teachers. The teachers say that they are broken. Sketto thinks they are lying. An old New Xade PCV says they simply don't know how to use Macs. What is a mac doing in the middle of nowhere anyway?