Thursday, July 12, 2012

Greetings from Ottowa

Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan, Pittstop in Toronto, rest in Ottowa... I slept in today till 10 and only really got up to answer the phone from an unknown number that I ignored all day yesterday. It turned out to be a "wrong number" and likely cost me five bucks due to international roaming charges.

I'm visiting a friend that I met in Botswana, a "Quebe-coi" who came to New Xade to do research. She lives here now with her boyfriend and their cat and are by far the most hospitable, nicest young couple I've ever met-- and I've me quite a few. While they are out doing their normal adult-day things, I am wandering around Ottowa and I am ashamed to say, I've seen the Canadian Supreme Court and Parliament even before I'd ever laid eyes on my own country's capital buildings. Ottowa is impressive... and old. Not that America isn't old, or Africa isn't old. But the buildings in Africa are so new and ugly, laid in concrete and brick. Ottowa has stone, and wood, and cobblestone walkways with francophones, asian tourists, and Canadian business men saying "eh?" over the phones as I walk by. Photos of Queen Elizabeth are everywhere (Why? Canadian history is completely lost on me) and oh, they put maple syrup on everything! I'm just kidding about the last one, I wish they did though.

This morning, I went for a run along the Ottowa river, where I was stopped by a local news anchor who asked me to run up a ridge holding a fake Olympic torch made of construction paper and a black pepper grinder (Look for me in a montage of fake olympic runners on the local Ottowa news in August!), then I helped a father carry his daughter's bike away as first aid technicians carried his daughter off on a stretcher ("Murphy's Law" he explained to me, surprisingly calm), later on, I saw a very old man taking a walk without his pants on. Incidentally, it's not his pants that I noticed first, it was the very happy smile on his very wrinkled face.

Everyone in Canada is nice, but I can't help but think that they think I'm an idiot. I walk funny, my car is full of shit, and I can't drive worth beans. Every time I enter a neighborhood I don't know, and this happens every time I enter a neighborhood, I can swear that everyone behind me is glancing at my PA license plate, smacking their foreheads and looking for ways to pass me as they mutter french expletives under their breath. I try not to speak to cashiers because I expect that they'll start laughing at my American accent as soon as I say "Hi." But then I dont want to remain too mute or else they'll think I don't speak english. (Already in Ann Arbor a clueless bartender tried to explain to me what a Margarita is, "It's made of this thing called tequilla and it tastes like tequilla") Same goes with taking pictures. I passed by a chinese girl taking "artistic" photos of Seagulls, and, as she tossed bread onto the pavement, she asked her family why they aren't afraid of people. First, seagulls? Second, feeding seagulls? Then I passed by another chinese family explaining to their tour group how they found McDonalds. They talked excitedly in-between big bites of yellow-wrapped hamburger and pointed animatedly toward one of many roads that house one of many McDonalds. 

Not to diss Ottowa, but why are these asian tourists coming here? And taking so many pictures! What's so amazing about the North American seagulls? The Ottowa senate? The McDonalds?? (Before you jump to the conclusion that McDonalds is a North American tourist destination, let me just say that I've been to China and there are a lot of McDonalds there, the only difference between their McDonalds and our's is that their Happy Meals have Hello Kitty toys). Everywhere the asians go, it's click click click click click flash! "OOOOOH ha soo!" Peace Sign. GONG!!! Whenever I see tour busses full of asians pulling up to the side of the road, I power-walk away as fast as I can lest a tour guide come out and kidnap me.

I'm enjoying Ottowa. What I'm not enjoying is being so far from family and friends so soon after coming home. Even though I'm only a few miles away, it literally feels like a different country (because it IS, dum dum). I already have a credit card charge to dispute, I dont understand the currency, signs are in a different language, people talk funny here, and oh, no data plan! no texting! international roaming fees! When I walked into a coffee shop today, I thought I'd be clever and pretend to be a French-Canadian. But instead of saying "Ou est le toilete?" (High School French) I nearly said, "A go na di toilets?" (Setwana). Panicked, I forgot my english, gunned it towards the bathroom sign, and when I accidentally made eye contact with the barista, I screamed deliriously, "Toi-ath-room?!?" (Asian Tourist)

Speaking of... one just walked in wearing a red bucket hat and a burberry cash wallet wrapped around the front of her neck... she ordered an ice water and sat down with her laptop. (Free Wifi)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Spa Life


Today I went to the city, visited my old workplace, saw some old friends, noticed the things that were new, the things that were old, and things I never noticed before. I was reminded of my life back in the states, the things I did, the things I aspired to, the issues I left behind. I was on the westside of Chicago, where previously, I had been too scared to walk through, very privileged to work in, and completely enamored by. My first day at work, I was stopped on the way to the train and warned by a local passerby, "You be careful walking around these streets," he said. I was simultaneously terrified and secretly thrilled. Today I walked down the same street but it had been transformed. Gardens in the empty plots, children walking down the street, men in neon green patrolling the parking lots, and no one pulling me aside to warn me to be careful.

I know now I didn't need to move abroad to be challenged, to be awed. I think that's what the people I worked for were trying to tell me. Today someone suggested to me that I deny myself the high paying salary and security of a big shot job. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was preaching a mute point. I think no matter what I will end up doing something community based and public oriented, it's what I'm inspired by. Ironically, I no longer see poverty the way I used to. Poverty alleviation is no longer just "the right and honorable thing to do." When I worked in Lawndale, I saw poverty as an injustice, the clinic as a savior. I saw people in poverty as special and the world as unfair. Now I see people as people and poverty as merely a characteristic. I find myself saying over and over again, "it is what it is." No need to judge every situation as good or bad, it just is. Everyone's situation is different. There are perks and cons of being rich, there are perks and cons of being poor. The human condition is universal. Poverty will always exist, greed and malice, jealousy, pain, anger, and sorrow. All I can do is take care of my little piece of it and enjoy what happiness, mercy, grace, gentleness, and joy I can find. Poverty and illness suck, but they give me a job and a reason to be inspired. For that I am, in a way, thankful for the poor of the world. Maybe that's what Jesus said when he said, "God bless the poor."

When I left Lawndale, I went downtown. I left my car with a valet, I took an elevator to the 4th floor of a glass and chrome tower, I was led into relaxation room, offered a chaise lounge and strawberry/cucumber water, got rubbed down, massaged, moisturized, exfoliated, and led to a 15th floor hotel room where I took a hot shower in a stall with glass walls. Then I strolled 3 blocks down and had a beer, a chicago hotdog, and an order of cheese fries.

Tonight, instead of lying on the ground under the stars, I will sip a cocktail under the bright lights of the city.

Life is a strange thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Home Sweet Home

It was a long trip, but a week later i'm sitting at my brother's place snuggling with his dog drinking a good beer eating chipotle after a small shopping spree, a pedicure, and a haircut. Didn't used to enjoy these things so much but now, It feels pretty gosh darn good. I'm not a fan of materialism, but today, i drink to America! CHEERS!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Home

It feels surreal to be home, like everything has changed yet is still pretty much the same. I'm afraid that I'll slide back into my usual lazy bad habits if I dont get out of NJ soon.

I've been keeping a mental list of everything that is weird and different to me. I'm not going to post them now cause the first thing on my list is how pervasive technology is here and I want to keep my computer time to a minimum, less I get sucked in. 

I went for a run this morning at 6 and watched the New Jersey deer come out for their breakfast. The first time I saw one I panicked and that it was a Botswana dog. A large Botswana dog...

The travel home was chaotic, but peppered with lots of friendly people. On the flight to Dubai, a man had a seizure so we had to stop in  Dar Es Salaam for a while. Dar Es Salaam is cursed in my opinion. As they were refueling, they found something wrong with the fuel nozzle and we got stuck there for over 3 hours. Just enough to make us 30 minutes late for our connecting flight to JFK. 3 PCV's eager to return home from 2 years abroad landed in Dubai at 3:30 in the morning and were told that they wouldn't be able to go home together. Lucie, Paco, and I had to split up at a moment's notice. I was to leave in 3 hours, Lucie in over 20 or so hours, and Paco had to find the quickest way back to New Mexico so he could catch his sister before she left. I entered the Dubai airport alone, tired, and confused, only to be confronted with an airport crowd of people from all different cultures and nations all with smart phones and ipads taking photos of each other and the airport, speaking language that i could not understand or speak. I was so frightened, I couldn't buy anything or consume anything. I had a panic attack and wandered around looking for a phonecard so I could call home and panic out loud to someone. 3 hours passed in such a fashion.

My layover in Madrid was eventful. I got sent to the ticketing desk for Emirates Airline to check on my luggage, which meant i had to leave the airport and come back in. The lady said that the luggage attached to my ticket had different numbers, but that they would organize some way of making sure it gets on the plane. She confirmed with the folks downstairs and told me, it's all good. So I went back into the airport only to be stopped by security for the 2 bottles of amarula I bought for my brother. They took it. I cried some more. I went to the airport, got to my gate, and was selected for a "special security check." they made it sound like i had won the lottery. For a second there i thought, "Oh god! finally something good has happened!" then i realized what it ACTUALLY was, and i started laughing, then crying onto the shoulder of the lady next to me. 

At JFK, "my" baggage arrived. That is to say, 2 bags arrived with my name on them, but they were not my bags. They are coming today, I'm told. I'm really hoping everything is safe and sound and happy. 

I miss Botswana. I do. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

That's Why it's Called a "Cross" Stitch

One of our volunteers, Patti Koenig, went home early for medical
reasons. Right after she went home, she sent me box full of art
supplies and cross stitching kits for the school. I have to admit,
when I got the box, I thought, "What the heck am I going to do with
this?" Nearly a dozen cross stitching kits from cross-stitch christmas
cards to cross-stitch miniature rugs to cross stitch pillows.
Nonetheless, I brought the box of goodies to the school and showed
them to our practicals teacher who got excited. "You can come and
teach the kids!" she said after I mistakenly told her I used to do
these kits myself when I was little.

Months went by and the bag of goodies lay untouched locked in the
office file cabinet. I just as much assumed that the bag was
re-appropriated for other purposes. Last week, as I informed my
friends and coworkers that I would be leaving soon, Mma Wabobi said,
"When are you going to come in and do the cross stitching? Let's do it
next week... Thursday."

So after a bit of hesitation and months of procrastinating, I showed
up at the school unprepared and 20 years rusty in my cross stitching
ability.

I'm not the world's best teacher. In fact, I'm not a teacher. (I use
that excuse a lot here when teachers ask me to cover their classes for
them). Into the library came 22 students and moseyed 8 teachers.
Little kids talking, chatting, crowding around me until I was bent
backwards over a table, big teachers talking, chatting, chewing gum,
and playing with their cell phones. We had around a dozen little cross
stitching kits of various ability. I decided to split the kids into
groups of 2 and start with the simple patterns.

I scavenged needles from every packet until I had 12 little needles,
then started the "demonstration" consulting the paper and looking
pleadingly at the teachers for help along the way. Finally, we sat the
kids down and gave them 1 piece of cloth, 2 pieces of thread, and....
needles? My needles were gone, and as I looked over the teachers,
gathered in the corner, for help I realized what had happened. As soon
as I removed the needles from the packet, the teachers scooped them up
and were practicing stitching on their own. HEY!!!

Once settled with their cross stitching patterns, one of the teachers
wisely told them to practice stitching in a line, forget the patterns.
I wandered around the class patting kids on the back, encouraging
those who had succeeded to try something new, and demonstrating the
"cross stitch" to kids who covered their faces out of embarassment at
the attention. One girl finally "got it" and I reached to pat her on
the back and she ducked out of the way, smacked her head on the table,
and then laughed at herself. She though I was going to hit her.
Corporal punishment is not uncommon here.

All in all, a lesson I had looked to with dread turned out to be quite
fun. The kids enjoyed themselves, some even started to stitch little
patterns into the cloth, look up at me expectantly, than squeal when I
told them they did a good job. As annoyed as I am with those kids who
like to visit me at home and never leave, overall, I'm probably going
to miss the little buggers. I have had opportunities here that I would
never have had at home, and I owe my thanks to the amazing teachers at
K'Joe for that.

Friday, May 25, 2012

PCV Guilt

I've been running. Can you believe it? I have asthma and I live in a
desert with sand as deep as I am tall, but I've been running. Slowly
at first. And now... still slowly, but for longer periods of time. I
can run! I'm super excited... which means that as soon as I got home
from my run today, I went online and browsed all the fun cool
accessories that a "runner" can buy. I'm looking at shoes now. Shoes,
beautiful shoes. Barefoot shoes. Trail running shoes. Road shoes.
Lightweight shoes, Ankle support shoes. One shoe, two shoes... Red
shoes. Blue shoes. Lo and behold, I have found my perfect shoe.
I want to buy it. I want to buy it badly. But I feel stupid. I just
gave away nearly 5 pairs of shoes (granted 3 of those pairs were $5
flipflops from Old Navy) and watched kids fight over an old sweatshirt
whose sleeves no longer have elastic and whose elbows have holes
burned into them... and i want to buy $100 shoes online? The angel on
my shoulder is pouting, if you have to buy them, can't you wait till I
at least get home? But the devil has a point. You want them. And you
want them now.

PCV Guilt.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Before I came here, I didn't watch the Gods Must Be Crazy (1980). I've only just seen it now. It's good. It's like an Adam Sandler movie. Funny, but with heart. I can't believe it's 32 years old. Everything in it is almost exactly like it is now. Of course there are some differences. Mainly, Botswana is a lot more flat and a lot less fertile, and the Batswana don't wear the kind of clothes they wear in that movie... and now the Bushmen drink a lot and no longer have the life they used to live... but other than that it is very accurate. Especially the trucks that don't have brakes and will stall if you let them and drive through puddles and get stuck in ditches, and the endless amount of rickety wooden gates that you have to stop and open on hot dusty roads, and the smiles. oh the smiles. The smiles of the people here will melt your heart and make you want to laugh and dance. I'll miss the smiles of the old men that see me at the clinic.I wish I could go "door to door" (except many of them don't have
doors...) and say bye one by one. But I don't know if they know who I am. Or if I have the energy for that, cause to be honest, when it's time to go, I'll be more than ready. in fact, I think my brain has
already left.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. I like the ideas in it. Ownership begets jealousy begets fighting begets evil. I understand it, I feel it. But unfortunately, we live in a world where ownership is necessary for survival. I see now why people here can't seem to get on their feet. Why they fight a lot. Why they drink a lot... ownership is something they don't do. We've already corrupted the world with our materialistic ways, it seems inevitable that the San should join us... or perish. Lest we stick them back into the reserve and let them fend on their own like a rare sort of animal, but that hardly seems fair. Nothing seems fair nowadays. I bet that's what these little girls are thinking who just left my house. They followed me home, babbled something to me in Setswana, grabbed my rake, cleaned up some poo, and five minutes later, came storming in here asking for money. I may not speak much Setswana but I do understand something that girl said as the other urged her to leave, "I'm going to get money from this lekhoa."

Now I smell like children and my arms are covered in something sticky. Not that I don't like children. I will love my own children, but they will smell like roses and will always be clean.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Let's go fly a kite

Today was a milestone day in my life here in New Xade. Mma Wabobi, Mma Moselakatsi, and I gathered the OVC's and I gave them almost all of my clothes. As we passed them out according to size, they put them on, layer after layer. One lucky girl (because she was one of the biggest) ended up getting so many items she had nearly 3 layers on.

Then I showed them how to fly kites. Well I tried to show them, but it's been so long that I made a bit of a mess of it. Since there was little to no wind, the kite didn't really fly, but it's ok. It was more a demonstration than anything else. I only spent about 1.5 hours with them, and we didn't do a thing that was educational, but I have to say, it was probably one of my satisfying days.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Enjoying a hot cup of coffee, listening to the sounds of Beyonce-mixed techno and the thunk thunk thunk of grain being ground in a wooden mortar and pestle, Sunday morning.

I just said goodbye for now to Thato. I gave her some things I had lying around my house for her and her kid. Charlotte used to run around my house and pick through my magazines, flipping the pages like a bored woman in a waiting room. She points to the pictures and tells stories about them. Thato looks at her with mild entertainment. I'm fascinated. I didn't actually say goodbye to Thato. I said see you later. It's always see you later. There is always a later.

What is the customary way of saying goodbye in Botswana? You know what I realized this morning-- there probably isn't a customary way. Botswana is so small, I bet 99.99% of goodbyes between 2 people are really just "see you later"s. I bet it's rare that someone actually leaves for good. I wonder what they think of us, so many of us, coming in and saying goodbye. Saying goodbye for good. How has knowing I'd leave in 2 years affected my friendships here, from the start... from day 1? I am just 7 in a stream of many. I brought mild entertainment, I built a garden, I gave away my shoes. My shoes wouldn't even fit Thato cause they're too small. I wonder what they think of me?

When I first got here 2 years ago, unpacked my things, cleaned out the cupboards, and sat on my front porch cellphone-less, electricity-less, and friend-less. Thato came and connected my water pipes, "This one's pretty" she told my counterpart. I thought to myself, "This one...?"

In order to survive here the past 2 years, I've had to pretend that I was the main character in this story. I've had to make my service about what I can do, what I can offer, what I can learn. But now that my role here is diminishing, I am happy to give back my script and realize the truth: I'm not the protagonist of this story. It was never about me, my adventure, my life journey. I came, I played my part, and now it's time to move on. This story is much longer than me, it began centuries ago in the Okavango Delta, spread out across Southern Africa, escaped to survive in one of the most hostile environments in the world, and finally settled in a 5 x 5 km area that a foreign tribe named "New Xade."

2 weeks 2 days until I go home. I like to think that this adventure in my life is over, that my Peace Corps service is finally ending now and I can return home to continue my normal life, but I have a suspicion... I'll be watching the story of New Xade for the rest of my life.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Digging a big hole

I dug a big hole today. Literally. 


Day 3 and Day 4 of the workshop was more practical for the kids than day 1 and day 2. We planted manure, sowed seeds, and transplanted manure. While the teaching part was boring-- or maybe I just thought so because 1.) I wasn't teaching and 2.) the teaching was all in setswana (snore!) the practical part was fun. We got down in the sand and got real dirty. Anton, one of the boys got so carried away "cultivating" (airing at the ground) that he went around the whole garden plot and cultivated all the little tree-lings that were around.




On the morning of Day 4, I dug a big hole and buried a water drum (for a back up supply when the water goes out). We buried it cause we figured that it would go missing after a couple days. Even sitting in my house, I got a couple offers to buy it. I was glad to have it removed from my house finally after sitting in the corner of my living room for months. 

In the afternoon, we taught the kids basic economics, supply and demand. It was a complicated lesson and from what I understood of it, they basically learned one thing: 10 thebe biscuits are cheaper than 5 thebe biscuits. We tried to show them "competition." Later, we taught them how to use an excel spreadsheet to track the progress of their garden plants. I hope that the teacher continues to use this tool. Watching the kids use the computer for the first time was so exciting. The would literally look at me each time I told them to "click" to make sure they were clicking correctly. They ended up forming a team. 3 people took one half of the keyboard, 3 people took the other half, and 1 boy took the mouse. In this fashion we filled out a sample spreadsheet of fake growth lengths and harvest quantities.


Unfortunately, the electricity still isn't ready for the computer lab, so I had to set up a mini lab in the kitchen. It was a lot more work than I thought it would be, lugging 3 units there, testing the electricity, and cleaning all of the leftover food scraps from the table to make a safe space for the electronic equipment. Even the teachers were fascinated by the computers-- basic computer training is needed though. One of the teachers tried to turn off the computer by pressing the button on top multiple times cause she couldn't see anything on the monitor (the monitor wasn't even on). Then, after I showed her how to power down Windows, she pushed the button again to "switch it off" which, of course, turned it right back on...


Corn Cricket. Mmm!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

OVC Garden Project

Day 0
After a long Friday in Ghanzi, I managed to submit a letter allowing our driver, Pax, and lorry attendant, Isaiah to get overtime on Sunday to help me transport items for our OVC garden at the school. On Sunday, Day 0, I went to Pax at 7:30 to leave. But he wasn't ready. So I went home and played with his kids, drawing, until 9. At 9:30 I tore the kids away from my house, went to Pax's and waited there for him to arrive. We left New Xade around 10 and arrived in Ghanzi around 11:30, ran some errands and then off to D'kar to meet my friend Dieter and pick up the supplies.


Pax's Kids drawing on my front porch

At Dieter's we were met by his huge dog, Kwena, an Anatolian Shepard. Kwena, meaning Crocodile, is a huge bear-like dog with a gentle personality. He met me with a big hug and kiss and growled at poor Pax and Isaiah, strangers, as we loaded the truck.

At 2PM, Isaiah, Pax, and I lounged in the cabin of our giant truck and ate beef with our fingers and watched the people scurrying by. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Day 1
Dieter arrived the night before, and early in the morning he and I went to the school and started the garden set up. PVC piping, glue, connectors, lots of dirt and digging. The frame went up, despite 1 or 2 hiccups (missing or misused items) and connected the shade netting-- me on the top of a hand made ladder being supported by a team of teenagers. The rungs of the ladder were tied on by old rags and I was terrified.


PVC piping for the 2nd house gets laid down
Me pretending to be a super hero. Hoisted up to attach shade netting to the frame

Halfway through the morning, a loud noise could be heard from the kgotla. I dropped what I was doing and stared off, wondering what was happening. I finally decided to text my friend, "what's going on at the kgotla?" I asked. "Kgotla meeting" he said. "Why is it so loud?" I returned. "Food" he said (in quotes) "you know what it does to our people..."

Moments later, our facilitator called and said he would be arriving late. Too late. I told him to forget about it and come tomorrow and plan to stay an extra day. That decided, the teachers also chose to bail on today's activities and attend a workshop in another classroom. Luckily, my friend Mhaka, the agricultural demonstrator, came, so I wasn't left with the kids all by myself.

Day 2 Lectures

At 2pm, the children arrived. 30 or so kids in their uniforms. A list had been posted the day before with the names of the children selected for our OVC garden program. They had not been told what the activity was, however, so they dressed for the best. The teacher told me that they dress in their uniforms in order to hide how poor their regular clothes are. As the afternoon continued, our numbers grew until I decided to talk to the teacher and figure out exactly how many students we were supposed to have and what their names were. She gave me a list and I returned to kick people out. Later that afternoon, as we were having refreshments after a long hot session of stitching together shade nets (Thanks so much to Mhaka!), my teacher, Mma Wabobi arrived with an exclaimed look on her face. "Ao!" she said in setswana, "You are not supposed to be here! or you! or you! or you!" She said with her characteristic big smile on her face, chasing around the kids. The kids giggled and ran off.

Kids stitch together the shade nets


Wabobi joins us

Mma Wabobi stayed to help us finish up and take pictures. Then she sent some kids to bring us fresh boiled Meade (or Mealie in Afrikaans, or Maize in English). It was delicious.


Fresh Mealie!

Day 2
The morning began the same, a short work out, and then Dieter and I ran off to the school to complete the garden structures. First the standpipe was modified with an extra output for the irrigation system. This involved calling my friend Thato and initiating a 2-wrench, 3-person system of pushing, pulling, and twisting, until the tap came out with a gush of water. Then a quick wrap with plumbing tape and the renovated tap was screwed on.

Thato helps us with the tap

Then we realized that we couldn't complete the project because a whole bag of our materials was stolen. With this news fresh in my heart, the facilitators from Ghanzi arrived (late) and I crankily argued with them the topics of the day and schedule. I got scolded for not following proper protocol, inviting the kgosi, VDC, PTA, etc. And we threw together a last minute "Ceremony" for the opening of the project over lunch. I cooked lunch by the way, setswana style, lots of starch and a meat stew (that was slightly undercooked). I cooked for 7 people. I'm quite proud of myself...

Despite the bumpy start to the morning, we managed to finish what we could, install a kick ass irrigation system, and train the students on the basics of theoretical gardening. We took the students out in the late afternoon to talk about shade nets and irrigation and to encourage them to police the garden for robbers, animals, and pests. Dieter scared away a child who had wandered into the garden and was digging at the shade netting, and Mma Wabobi and I discussed security issues. Tomorrow, the fence is coming down and going back up, properly. Hopefully the kids won't also steal garden supplies out of the actual garden. Though... we had to chase one kid out already...

Freaky ass half squished Corn Cricket

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bots 12

This week, I met the new Peace Corps Volunteers, Bots 12. This is the 4th group to arrive in country, increasing our grand total to about 150 people concurrently serving in country. If you ask me, it's something of feat that our staff is able to keep tabs on all of us at once.

The new group is lovely, and very new. I remember the last 2 groups being similarly lovely and new, lots of questions, wide-eyed except when they're exhausted and sleepy, excited, eager, and complete blank slates. I'd forgotten what it's like to be a trainee and to be so bombarded with information. I was reminded on Tuesday when I did a presentation, asked for questions, and was met by a quiet room with lots of big eyes staring back at me.

I'm heading back to New Xade in a day or two, and I'm very glad to have made the trip down here and met these guys. Their enthusiasm will hopefully rub off on me as I get ready to leave. Haha, "off on," what a funny oxymoron.

Tomorrow I'm going to attend a wedding of a PCV friend, Mary Duggan, as of yesterday officially Mary "Konege." She's getting married to a man from her village who seems very nice. In Botswana, there's a song that is played on every combi, phone, and radio station that goes, "it's a wedding! a wedding! oooh ooooh, my love."

The rest of the verses make no sense, and go, "If I marry you, will you marry me..." but this weekend, I will choose not to dwell on such idiocies, and enjoy the merging of 2 rich cultures.

P.S. I was so homesick last month, that I spent nearly 600 mb of data browsing various pieces of furniture, jewelry, and handbags to purchase when I get home, it cost me nearly 100 US dollars to pay my internet account balance. For that price, I could've BOUGHT one of those things I was admiring from so far. OUCH.

Friday, April 27, 2012

5 Weeks 6 Days left and I'm still not Mother Teresa

They say the first 3 months of service and the last 3 months of service are a roller coaster. I'd have to disagree with this statement and say that the first 2 4 months of service are a roller coaster, the last 3 months so far have been the most consistent... in fact this last 3 months feels like a straight, constant acceleration to hell.

The past couple weeks or so have been a slooooow painful blur of anguish, frustration, and mostly anger.  Nothing in Botswana has changed, except me. When confronted by a project I once long ago was involved in, I respond with a sigh, or a grunt, or a disinterested mumble if I have to do something. Even my facebook status updates and comments are filled with petty, unjustified digs at the people around me.


I had a wake up call yesterday. I have those periodically when a friend, stranger, family member slaps me upside the head and says, "hey! you! wake up!! you're being petty and we can't stand it any longer!"

I realized what was really bothering me: I'm leaving... and I can't wait to leave.

What bothers me isn't that I'm leaving, is that I am so head over heels ready to go. I joined the Peace Corps as an idealistic middle class suburban Jersey girl under the disillusioned idea that I was beginning my journey towards being the next great martyr for society, a new Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, that lady scientist who lived with the apes. I thought I would discover a new home, I would adopt a new family, I would learn the language, customs, cultures, I would come home with my suitcases delicately balanced on my head, wearing leathers, and dancing to the beat of African drums, one child on each arm. Instead, I came, I saw, I cowered. I peeked out from my fortress of solitude, with heavy double curtains to block out the hot african sun and peering african eyes, I saw poverty and my heart was overwhelmed. I did what I could, but there is so much need, it could never be enough. I can never do enough.

Here's a metaphor...
Last week, my parents' generous friends sent a box of children's toys to the school, including 7 plastic kites. Worried that the kites would walk off on their own, I decided to introduce the kites to the kids myself. But there are nearly 300 kids in that school, and I have 7 kites. Being great and generous and wanting to serve the poor is wonderful, but when approached by a crowd of hungry people when you only have 1 basket containing 5 bread loaves and 2 fish and no Jesus-miracle in sight... you have 3 choices:

1. give everyone a crumb and then get torn to pieces
2. leave the basket and run for your life before the crowd tears you to pieces
3. stay and turn those 5 loaves and 2 fish into feast yourself

The past 2 years, I have been defaulting to option #2. Leave the basket and run. Literally. I've been bringing in small programs, activities, and supplies and dropping them like a sniper would target a victim out of a large crowd, drop him, and move on. Why, just the other day, I brought in 2 footballs to the hostel students, all 100 of them, left them with the matron, and before the kids could see me, ran. Within days the balls were deflated.

I wish I had had more courage to stand and face the onslaught this past 2 years. Maybe, if I had opened myself and become more vulnerable, I would be prouder of myself, prouder of the village, closer to its people, more satisfied, more ready to go home. Instead, I'm ashamed. I'm not Mother Teresa. And I'm unlikely to reach her level of sainthood, at least not anytime soon.

Peace Corps has been a humbling experience. Even though people tell you your whole lives just how insignificant you are, somehow, you want to believe that you're special, that you can make a difference, that you can be the change. But effort after effort, you realize, the world is just too big. Yours is just a drop in the bucket of change. Not even Mother Teresa could cure suffering in Calcutta, she could only relieve it for some, but she inspired a generation.

Today, I am grateful for the efforts of the over 200,000 currently serving and return Peace Corps Volunteers, for all the missionaries, sponsors, volunteers, teachers, tutors, and after school program assistants I know who are doing what they can to contribute to that bucket, to help our society become the equal, wonderful, peaceful place I hope it can be one day in the future. It's salvation to know that my puny efforts are not all there is.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yesterday, 4 children ran away from the hostels, among them, a 7 year old girl who is still missing. The search party looked until nightfall, but could only find her footprints, circling theirs. They gave up at 8:30 PM. It rained last night, and I lay under layers of sheets wondering about that girl in the rain.

Today, the young boy I've been helping, the one he says that he's 19, the one that cleaned my yard, the one that I'm trying to get back into school, the one who hangs out with 8 year-olds and comes up to my chest in height, who looks like he could be 8 himself. He came over and asked me for condoms. Then he told me he was 24, and that I was 25. And that he was hungry. I gave him condoms and told him to find food elsewhere. I asked him if he was having sex. He nodded. He said, after the sun goes down, he has sex in the huts. I said who with. He shrugged, I don't know, he said. I told him to look for a girl who is not young, a girl his age, a girl who he cares about. He said yes. yes yes. I told him to always use a condom. To always ask. Not to rape. Yes, yes yes. I asked him if he knew how to use a condom. Yes. I asked him if he knew what i was saying. He said yes. Then he told me again. He was 24. There are no girls in Xade that are my age. He said. You are 25. I said yes. He said, I'm hungry in sects. What? I asked. I'm hungry, he  said. In sex.

I stood there, leaning on the screen door, classical music wafting out of my house. The screen door squeaked as I tried to hold it still against the wind. Who takes care of you? I asked after a short pause. He looked confused. Who do you live with? No one. He said. Your mother? Yes. Your sister? Yes. You should find someone to talk to about these things, an older man. Yes, he said. Serala? (his uncle). Serala is in Ghanzi. He said. I turned my head to look away from him. How old are you? 24 he said. You told me you were 19, then you told me you were 16. What year were you born? What's that? He asked. Your birthday, when is your birthday. Ninteen... Nineteen Ninety One he said. And this year is what? I asked. Two Oh One... Two. He nodded. So you are... nineteen. I told him. Yes. He said. How old are you? Nineteen, he said. Ok...

We stood  there, the screen door squeaking, and then I turned my head away from him and stared at nothing, thinking about what my neighbors have told me about his drunken mom and his younger siblings. Wondering if it would be the right thing for me to cry, or if it would be the wrong thing not to cry, for him, for the girl, for the future. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him, bending his back over my porch railing. For a moment, he no longer resembled the young boy who I've been giving jobs to and talking to, trying to mentor. He was an old wrinkled man, just like the many old wrinkled men in the village. No shoes, tattered clothing, the smell of tobacco, alcohol, and smoke clinging to him like body odor. Bent over. With no name, with no age. Soliciting me for sex. 6 in 10 are HIV positive. I realized that despite all of my half-ass attempts to change his life, this young boy who knew barely any English was going to turn into that old man, was already that old man.

Despite my feeble attempts, young children are still going to run away from here and men are still going to resign to stay here for the rest of their lives. I hadn't tried very hard, I hadn't tried hard enough, or there was nothing I could do anyway. Me, this naive girl traveling around the world and throwing money at problems because I'm too afraid to really care.

Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy'd,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.


LIV, In Memoriam A.H.H., Tennyson

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sean T's Rock Hard Abs

If I knew as many curse words as Artie Goldstein on Entourage, I would insert them here.

I've been cranky lately. And on top of it, working hard. After tireless photo sessions, countless walks back and forth to the school, and many many phone calls, I managed to procure the oh, 20 documents I needed to make a claim on the damaged computers. Except I made one fatal error--

"After having relayed the matter to Insurers & assessing the merits of the claim, it is noted that the incident is covered by Insurance Certificate 120000000038. However, the claim amount falls below the agreed deductible (Excess); therefore we are unfortunately unable to assist you in this particular instance."

I'm afraid that I'm losing myself. Recently my attitude has suddenly changed from the all-obliging volunteer to the cranky indignant American. People come over and I'm immediately pissed because people here don't inform you beforehand that they're coming, and even if you did there's a 1 in 2 chance they won't come at all and a 1 in 4 chance they'll come late or the next day or send someone else in their stead to charge their phone or pick up meat or ask you to do them a favor. If you don't answer the door immediately, they knock incessantly and ask "were you sleeping??" and regardless of whether or not you were indeed sleeping, they walk right in (even if you're physically blocking the doorway, or you're eating dinner, or you're standing there in a towel about to take a shower, or a dump for that matter); they sit down, and look through every bag, book, box, and binder that's within arm's reach as if your house is a child's museum. Welcome to the exploratorium! Go ahead, touch everything I own and ask me if you can have it. I resist the urge to snatch whatever item is of interest and say "That's not for you," every time. 

On top of it all, I'm also suddenly super sensitive to the attitude certain people take with me, expectant, lording, indignant, supervising. It's as if suddenly my eyes have been opened to the different way people treat me here, especially when you compare the way they treat white men. When a white man walks into the room, everyone almost literally cowers. People are afraid to speak, everything the man says is right! But when I'm alone with them, the attitude suddenly becomes superior and at times bullying and I have no choice but to get defensive or submissive. 

I.e. it takes me 2 years to get the attention of my supervisors to fix my pipe, a man from PC calls and suddenly, they're on it! And I look completely inept, because it's assumed that I just wasn't aggressive enough with them. Another example? A motswana visits MY village and then scolds me for not accepting a chair (apparently a cultural faux pas) by literally pushing her finger into my chest. "You have to adapt to OUR culture" she tells me. But as soon as a white man walks in to discuss work matters, she grows as silent as a mouse, then gets up to fetch the men tea. I wanted to bite her. 

AND this proves to be particularly difficult if you're trying to work with both a white man and a local woman, because they won't directly and clearly communicate with each other! The white man walks away and you're left with the local womansuddenly asking you all these questions that should be directed to the white man. When you ask the white man for clarification he looks at you and says, I'm confused didn't we clear that up? And when the white man is supposed to get a lift from a local truck, and the local truck somehow can't manage to give that person a lift because he's too afraid to communicate what the problem is, you get a phone call 30 minutes before you're supposed to meet saying "hey so and so never called me and I'm stuck here... 108km away, where is he?" and you have to be the person to find out what happened and say "hey, sorry, so and so left already."

I am a bearer of grants here to provide people with freebies and make pizza and boil tea. Please, oh dear country, walk alllll over me, because I am a woman and it is my honor in life to serve YOU, dear man. And, Oh you're griping to me that you have to clean your own house because you don't have a WIFE? I'm soooo sorry for you!!! POOOR BABY!!

*It wouldn't be fair though, dear readers, if I just left you with this impression of Botswana though. There are plenty of people who are great, intelligent, kind, generous people who understand that I'm not just here to give them stuff. And to them, I am eternally grateful for making my life here as enjoyable as possible.

I used to work out to blow off steam, but lately, I have been pushing the limits of my body and still can't do what I want to do. So in addition to being mad at the whole world, I want to punch Sean Friggin T in his rock hard abs for making me do push up abs

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Insurance Claims and Ellipses...

Some days I'm amazed at how productive one can be in one day and still have so much free time to be bored...

I collected documents and sent pictures to the computer insurance company today. I'm trying to claim insurance on one CPU unit and 2 monitors that broke pretty badly on the way from the UK to Africa. They should be worth about 200 US Bucks; every little bit counts when we're living in the bush. We could use that money to buy power supplies and other things if we can't physically replace those computers. I've been in touch with the freight company, the computer donation company, and the school trying to coordinate papers and other things. We're also missing a couple of wires...

In between emails, I read, watched Gossip Girl, ate, caught up on news, and lay out in the sun purposefully for the first time in a long time to try to get rid of my horrendous tan lines. I'm not normally one to care about these things, but there's a strapless dress my mom bought me right before I left that I'd like to fit into and look good in when I get home... and when your mind is at home 50% of the time you're here and you haven't looked nice in anything for 2 years, you tend to think and act on things like this...

Around lunchtime, the phone network went out and I am embarrassed to say that I panicked. You never know when things go out
here when they'll come back on. Last time the phones went out, I was without communication for over 2 weeks. Which is all fine and dandy if you're prepared for it, but if you're in the middle of making a well-delayed insurance claim and you don't know if someone's trying to reach you, or you have deadlines, or if your email actually went through with all of its 20 or so attachments, you start to panic...

Makes me realize how I took so many things for granted in the states... and to think that almost everyone now has a smart phone? My friend laughs when I tell her that I don't think I'm going to get one when I get home. YOU? she asks, incredulously. She has a point. I like being connected, but connected, all the time? What's the point? And how am I going to afford it anyway...

This is an ellipses day...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm sorry for the relative wordiness of my last blog entry. I read somewhere that one way to cope with my impending departure is to blog every day. Yesterday was a long day.

I'm realizing now what it means to live in the moment. To appreciate every second of your day. And for me, that doesn't necessarily mean being outside in the sun all day, walking around and meeting people. I used to think that was what I was supposed to do. One of the last volunteers here knew almost everyone, spoke the language, was always out getting sun, meeting people. I used to feel guilty when I stayed at home. I realize now, I'm not that special. I'm not "the world's best PCV," I'm me.

My heart and my mind straddle the gap between being here and being at home. Today I was "in and out" of New Xade, Botswana. When I spend time "in" New Xade, first it's a little scary, I'm constantly wondering who I'll meet, what I'll have to say, what kind of cultural faux pas I will commit today... then it's comfortable, I remember that I've been a part of this community for years, I recognize friendly faces, people forgive me for my American obnoxiousness... then I'm reminded of why I am disenchanted by this place in the first place, as people start to ask me for my clothes, for my supplies, for my number, for me to cook them dinner; finally, I retreat back to the comfort of my home. I recollect, I connect with friends who keep me grounded, I find my smile again.

--a cycle that I have come to understand and accept more and more. I guess part of growing up is realizing your limitations. In a way, I wish I had joined the Peace Corps when I was older and more mature. I would've been able to integrate more, accept people's shortcomings, get deeper into my service... but life is what it is, and being a young PCV, I am able to handle some things better than I probably would have if I were older, i.e. the rough transport, the lack of food options, the initial absence of phone service and electricity.

I think tomorrow will be a stay at home and recollect day.


It's amazing what kind of connections your mind makes out of bullshit when you're tired at night. Last night I had all sorts of interesting wonderful things floating in my head, at least I thought they were interesting and wonderful... This morning I woke up tired and lethargic and curious, what one earth was I so excited about last night?

Yesterday, I went to Ghanzi to meet with the Permaculture folks, an organization I am working with to help start a garden at the school. I woke up, went to the street outside my office at 7:30 am and waited there for a lift. 20 minutes later, I walked to the space in front of my office and waited there for a lift. 20 minutes later, I walked to yet another corner and waited there. 20 minutes later I moved even further away. The idea is, if you know someone from the government who is leaving, you can hang out near them (clinic, offices, kgotla, etc.) and see if they go. If they don't go, you can move further away towards the edge of town and try to catch private vehicles. But the catch is, if a government vehicle passes you and see you with a lot of people waiting for a private vehicle, even if they want to take you, they won't stop because there are too many people there. I couldn't decide what to do, so I basically paced the length of New Xade for 2 hours.

Finally at hour 2, I found Parks, our S&CD driver and all the students he's supposed to take back to Ghanzi today. I waited with them, and asked him for a lift. The truck was super crowded, but my counterpart gave his seat up for me. He would go to Ghanzi in the afternoon. Score!

At hour 3, we still hadn't left and I was starting to wonder if I should go at all. Finally, at 11AM, I watched as over 100 students piled into the back of this vehicle with Parks supervising the whole way. Parks was stressed. Too many students, not enough space. Ideally, he would take half and then drop the other half off, but he was also asked to go to another village that day, so he refused to split the trip in 2. In the kids crammed. First all of their stuff went on the floor of the truck. Then, methodically (thanks to Parks improvised tree-whip and the fact that he sat at the back of the truck and threw shit at the people who disobeyed him), the kids got in and sat in each other's laps in neat rows. The extra kids squeezed in on the sides and on top of the trucks and gas barrels. I was scared for them, especially since a couple of my friends were the ones who sat thus precariously perched. I looked at Isaiah, the lorry attendant and asked him if they'd be ok. "No," he answered. "If we tipped then these guys are gone." He pointed to the kids with their legs hanging out like breadsticks out of a bread basket. "How about them?" I pointed at my friends 30 feet above us rocking back and forth on top of the gas barrel. "They're fine."

We headed off, stopping every few minutes at first to let Parks grab his tree branch and whip the legs and feet hanging out the edge of the truck. Finally, we arrived in Ghanzi at 12:30PM. I called the woman I was going to meet but she was already in another meeting. I was starving, so, naturally, I went grocery shopping and bought way too much food, including a random find: lamb legs for P17, around 2 bucks. Then I grabbed a packed lunch from the grocery stores, a mix of bean and maize called "Dichobe," chicken grease called "Sauce," and coleslaw and beet root, called "Salade." I made my way to a friend's place, even though she was on vacation. Luckily she let me her key so I could use her house in her absence. I sat outside and ate lunch with her dog and fed her bits of beef gristle.

When I went inside, I was confronted with a nasty nasty smell and a puddle of blood under her fridge. I went back outside and chose to finish my lunch before figuring out what to do. In my head, I debated, clean this or leave clean this or leave. I couldn't just leave it. So I held my breath, and went in to investigate. The fridge was hot and everything inside felt like it had just been cooked. The meat in her freezer (including bits of a cow's udder) had melted and left the blood all over the floor. Flies buzzed. I grabbed a mop and went to work, then threw everything out, propped the fridge open, and got out of there. Before I left, I remember to grab 5 hula hoops that my friend, Chloe, made from PVC piping. I had asked her to make it so I could give it to the hostel kids for some after school recreation.

Thus leaden with bags of groceries and 5 hula hoops wrapped around my neck, I rushed to the Rural Administration Center with "my" dog in tow. The Dog followed me into the offices with the stares of people which I ignored. At the RAC, I was meeting my friend Tshepo, the youth officer for New Xade. She asked me to bring some of the officers some money and airtime. I, in turn, made photocopies and asked her to bring the hula hoops when she comes to New Xade. I unloaded and headed off to the post office where I was to pick up a package and meet Permaculture.

At the Post Office the line was long and I was high on adrenaline (and accompanied by a dog). So I stood in the back until I saw the Post Office attendant, who immediately waved and said "Yeah Wame!" and I yelled back quickly, "I'm here to pick up a package do I have to wait?" I suspected that the package was a box of toy donations from friends of my parents. I handed him the package slip and he disappeared for a while. I sat with my dog. Finally he returned, "You actually have 3 packages, and they're bigger than you!" he said. As he hoisted the first box on the counter he announced, "AND HEAVIER THAN YOU!!"

Luckily, Permaculture has a truck, and in the interest of time, I had asked them to meet me here. LUCKILY.

I signed for my 3 packages, paid my package handling fees, and met my friend Margret from Permaculture outside. We put my stuff in the back of her truck and headed to the hiking stop to unload. There we met my friend Itekeng who I asked to look after my boxes. I went back into the truck and Margret and I went to her offices. At the offices, Margret, Mr. Mokwati, the founder of Permaculture, and I discussed concerned they had for my garden project proposal. Then, as I was about to leave, my friend Dieter, who was also involved in the project, appeared. i sat back down, hands flirting with my phone to make sure I didn't miss a lift. Once the conversation dove into the technical aspects of the project, Mr Mokwati, sensing my panic, told Margret to send me back.

She drove me back to my stuff and there was the clinic ambulance waiting. I talked to the driver who said he'd give me a lift no problem, and left the larger than life package with Margret, since she'd be coming to New Xade tomorrow. Problem solved, so lucky.

I waited there with my peace corps friend Hannah who was also in from the settlements and swatted bees from my ginger beer (a soda made from ginger and sugar). After she left, I ventured off quickly in search for P20 airtime which my friend Mhaka had asked me to pick up for him. There was no airtime in New Xade, apparently. I found a teenage girl who ran a street shop. She had P20 airtime, but didn't have change for my P100 bill. So in an effort to live in the moment and save some time, I bought 3 P20 airtime cards and a bag of local spinach for P67 and took the rest of her change. She was so happy that I could speak setswana, she just smiled and smiled. When I got back to the hiking spot, my friend Serala arrived. Serala is an electricity worker for Ghanzi and uncle of one of the kids who frequents my house. We discussed matters from the school, to travel, to living in tents, to the kid's future schooling. He left, and soon after, we were on our way.

In the back of the ambulance, we were crammed like sardines, which was awesome when we stopped to pick up another person. The driver had to chase away other hikers, saying that Parks was coming, which indeed he was. He was right behind us. The ambulance was full of one person, a large lady whose boobs were so big they rested on her thighs when she lay down. She wasn't really sick though, or maybe she was but she had a good attitude. She was laughing and eating fried chicken. Then I found out why she was laughing, the whole back of the ambulance was sharing a six pack of beer. They told me not to tell the authorities and as they finished the bottles they threw the evidence out the window. Sitting across from me in the ambulance was a man who screamed at me to be heard. I still didn't hear him. I learned he was a cowboy from the other side of the country, he was a kalanga. He learned english from a Peace Corps volunteer in Dukwi when he was little. He talked and talked and talked between sips of beer and I nodded even though the rattle of the truck reverberated in my head louder than anything he was saying. Finally I pretended to fall asleep and rested my eyes and tried not to get car sick.

We arrived in Xade as the sun was setting and as usual, I got let off at my side gate which is usually locked. But today it wasnt. the Lock had broke and was sitting there looking pathetic.

At home, I unloaded my goodies in the fridge (YAY I have a fridge!) and went online in search of company. An hour later, my friend Kago arrived. Lately we've been working out together every night for about 30 minutes. Simple things, just to get him started on the road to being buff. He's been visiting the doctor pretty often for random pains in his chest and I had started to worry about him. We worked out. and it was short, and usually it's easy, but I was so tired I was surprised how difficult it was. Afterwards both he and I just lay there for a few minutes.

I'm going to write more about the packages I received later when I can give it due attention. But I want to say now that even with the excitement of yesterday, the highlight of my day was the generosity I experienced from the package senders. Boxes of toys and school supplies from people I've never met. Who have never been to New Xade, who just felt in their hearts it was good to give. Kites and Lego's and stuffed bears, things that the kids here have never ever seen before in their lives. My dad sent me an email later that night saying that, when he was a kid, missionaries had brought over small things like Christmas Cards that he remembered even now.

Before I left Ghanzi, I showed the kites and a make your own volcano kit to Ketelelo, the youth who works with the orphans in New Xade. He loves science and yet he's never seen anything like these items. His eyes grew wide. I wish he were in New Xade full time, so I could play with these things with him now, but he went back to school yesterday. I told him I'd leave them for him, in case I dont see him here before I leave. I wish I could be around when he gathers the little kids around him and explodes the volcano... or stands outside and lets the first kite go up in the air. The excitement on the kids faces... it would be like something out of a movie. That night, Kago looked at the kites too. He said that when he was a kid, they used to watch white kids flying kites from afar. They tried to copy the kites by making their own, but this was his first time actually touching one.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

This morning, I was watching an episode of Good Eats about crabs when I heard the pitter patter of feet and the sound of squealy voices. Soon, the noises reached my front porch and I heard a young boy, "We are visiting Wame!"

I tend to be slightly cruel to kids here, I make them work for my company. That is to say, if I see children coming, I don't meet them at the door, I make them come to me, knock politely, and state what they want. These kids don't know that yet. So they stood on my door step for a very very long time, talking to each other, bouncing around, climbing the walls and saying, "We are visiting Wame! We are visiting Wame!" I paused Good Eats, sat inside sipping my coffee and listened to them move around. Finally, finally, I heard the faintest little tap on the door and answered.

At the door was an 11 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. The boy introduced himself, and then pointed to the girl, "this is my uncle" he said. I smiled, nodded, and made small talk while we enjoyed the cool morning air. Then, after he exhausted all of his, "Do you have water/food/ball/jump rope/toy cars..."questions, he went off to have tea. He came back a few minutes later with a teenie tiny baby, the size of an American football except with a little sweatshirt and limbs. The baby, upon seeing me, broke into a huge wail and the boy started laughing and shoving the baby in my face. Poor baby. I picked the infant up (which irked me a little because he wore no pants and I rarely enjoy the pleasure of touching a baby's bare bottom) and the baby wailed some more, tears streaming down his face, little arms fighting to push me away. This is not the first time a kid brought an infant to my house. It seems to be something they enjoy doing here, bringing me children and seeing them freak out upon seeing a white face.

The baby broke loose and started hobbling away for his life. Wearing no shoes, he stepped immediately onto a small thorny weed and broke out crying again. I backed away slowly, like one would when stumbling upon a grizzly bear, and started clearing my driveway of weeds with a heavy shovel. Soon, all the kids were on their hands and knees (including the infant), weeding my yard, pointing out spikey things, and exclaiming, "ke a go thuso wame!" (I am helping wame!)

When I arrived here, I never would have let kids help me with yardwork, but after experiencing child after child come over when I'm weeding, pick up a shovel, and go at a weed or a large bush, I let them, just for fun...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chunk by Chunk

It's only 10:30 am on a Saturday morning in Xade and I'm already
bored. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do while I brush
my teeth is run around my house and check...

Electricity, check.
Phone service, check.
Water, check.
Refrigeration, check.
Cooking gas? check.
I boil water for coffee, finish brushing my teeth, and sit down in
front of my computer.

Today's morning activity was apartment extras. I say extras because I
already found my soon to be apartment in the states. I've already
walked around it a dozen times using google maps (at a rate of about 1
frame every 10 minutes because my internet is so slow), I've already
checked out reviews of the local restaurants, found parking permits in
the area, and traveled the route to my soon to be university campus in
my mind. It's exactly 0.9 miles away, and the reviews say it takes
about 5 minutes to walk. Until I'm actually there I can't actually
walk it, but in my head and in my dreams and in the night time while
I'm falling asleep I'm walking, biking, driving around the streets of
Pittsburgh, exploring it's restaurants, cafes, boutique grocery
stores, clubs, working out at the school gym, taking notes at
lectures, meeting professors, looking for a part-time job...

They say that the end of Peace Corps service can often be like this.
You disengage, you begin to feel anxiety about the future, you start
daydreaming. I suspect the solution to this is to write farewell
letters, say goodbye, force yourself to be here. I see now why so many
volunteers have parties when they leave. It's an designated time to say
goodbye to everyone we've ever met here, big or small: people who have
had profound impacts on our lives but we take them for granted every
day. People like the post office attendants who know my name, the
grocery store lady who shares my lunch, the drivers who act as my
bodyguards when I travel.

My friend Ketelelo came over last night. He'll be going back to
secondary school in a couple days, after that, I may not see him
again. I gave him all my old art supplies and a moleskin sketchbook.
He gave me a card that he wrote and illustrated. It was very creative,
very beautiful. At the risk of embarrassing him if he finds this blog,
I want to share what he wrote on top because it was touching, "My New
Xade, Our Wame." (Wame is my setswana name). The sentiment wasn't what
touched me, sentiment rarely does. Rather it was the simplicity of the
message that brought my racing Pittsburgh-bound mind to a halt and
forced me to take stock of where I am and who I'm with. It was sweet,
it was simple, it was not necessary nor expected.

No one has ever actually told me, "Hey, I know it sucks, but thanks
for being here." I hadn't realized that the sentiment even existed.
Now that I know it does, I realize I have to be careful. I can't just
whiz in and out of here without saying goodbye. It's something that I will
regret later, on the plane ride home 2 months from now, lying in my
new bed in Pittsburgh 6 months from now, popping up in my mind as I'm
studying for a test a year from now. 2 years is nothing to sneeze at,
and if you're going to say goodbye, you better do it right.

I've boxed up my souvenirs, taken pictures off my walls, and every
time someone comes over, they leave crating a box full of my old
stuff. My life here is walking away from me chunk by chunk...



Friday, April 13, 2012

Life in the Peace Corps: COS'ing Time

I have 8 weeks left before I get to board that plane and go home. School is out and projects are stalled, which means I'm scraping the bottom of my mental barrel for motivation to keep going. Luckily, phone network is back and electricity is up, though my water and pipes are still broken.

I believe that during my whole 24 months here, I can count on my fingers how many months I've actually had the golden 3: water, electricity, and cell phone service. I've gone long stretches without one or the other and it looks like another long stretch is still on the horizon. Still, I'm so impressed with these maintenance guys for actually making it out here after 2 years of meekish complaining that I'm happy with their work. As long as they get my toilet flushable by the weekend, and some sort of tap on, I'll be content as a clam. Who cares if I have to wash my face in a bucket and brush my teeth with a tin can!

There are 5 workers here today. 2 for doing actual work and 3 to just stand around, watch, and nod. It's hard work. They already dug up all the pipes in my backyard and are currently in the process of replacing each one.

I came out this morning snotty nosed and sleepy eyed at 8:30 AM and was immediately told by the 1 female worker that I should use the toilet. What she meant was, I CAN use the toilet. But, being so accustomed to my mom's bossing around, I immediately turned around, headed inside, and pee'd. She says I can flush, but I'm going to wait to do that. Since there are 5 men in the backyard monitoring my every move, I don't want them to know that I used the can. For some reason, despite having bathed by moonlight, dumped in the bushes, and sweated like a man while spending 5 days in a truck without bathing, I still feel the need to exhibit some sort of dainty female propriety around others. I still don't fart around strangers, unless I'm asleep.

Last weekend was Easter weekend, and while children at home to the delight of their parents ran around the yards finding colorful easter eggs, my friends and I were reading online about the origins of the easter egg and other easter treats. It was a jolly good time, we even roasted a chicken! On the way there, I took the bus. Disillusioned by the sight of a full bus station, I was rushing, stepped onto the curb and fell flat on my face, scraping my knee for the first time since I was out of a training bra. I've been watching the scab heal with deep fascination for the past few days. Like seeing an ant farm for the first time, every few minutes I glance down to see how far the healing process has come, if it's changed colors, or if any of the ants have sprouted wings yet.

On the way home, I chose instead to hitchhike. Before I even got to the hiking spot, a car was already waiting for me. "Get in," the man in the front said, like something out of a stick up or kidnapping. Like the good asian daughter I am, I immediately obeyed, grabbed the door handle, and then stopped, "Wait, where are we going?"

As we headed down the highway I asked the man, "You pick me because I'm not white wait yes white I am?" What I meant to say was, "How did you know I was going to town? Is it because I'm white?" He answered back, "... no?" and then said, "You're not white, you're pink!" We all 4 in the car giggled. Then he asked if I had a boyfriend. "Yes, a very big man from New York City and he misses me very much." And we traveled the rest of the way in blissful silence...


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cow & GDC Shenanigans

On days like these when the water goes out not an uncommon thought to have is, "Shit. I shouldn't have flushed that..."

Computers arrived at the school today, happy to report, minimum damage. Only 2 broken monitors. Though only with electricity will I really be able to tell what is what. Ghanzi District Council to my unhappy surprise labeled each and every wire, computer, monitor, mouse and keyboard with a spray can, a big ugly whomping "GDC." One of the teachers commented, "Why did they do that? It's not even their computers." Frackin' GDC. And may all readers be advised: the opinions on this website are not a reflection of the U.S. Peace Corps or the U.S. Government. 

In other news, a cow got stuck on my fence today. Ha.

See photos above.

Losing my fizzle...

You know fizzy drink powders like Emergen-C that you pour in water and stir until the fizzy bubbles stop churning the water into a white white foam? I feel like that fizzy powder. Someone poured me back into my village and I fizzled white foam knowing inevitably that my bubbles will one day end and that I'll be nothing more than some stale, warm, sugary water...

I was supposed to go to Ghanzi today to buy some sports equipment for the hostel kids. But I was exhausted last night, and exhausted this morning, so I'm canceling until next week. The guy who runs the hostels responded with a text, "but.. what about the balls?" The balls are coming, man. Relax. Besides. I'm doing you the favor. 

I'm tired. I'm tired of hitch hiking. I'm tired of the cows in my yard. I'm tired of the birds that flap like a piece of construction plastic in the wind. I'm tired of the stink outside my windows. I'm tired of that dirt road and traveling on it back and forth and back and forth every other day so I can do things for people, things that they very well could be doing for themselves.

Case and Point: an 18 year old appears at my door step as I'm preparing to go to sleep at 8pm 2 nights ago. He literally shoves himself into my house even though I haven't invited him in, he hasn't introduced himself, and I have no idea who he is. He stares at my walls, my pictures, my books and electronics. Finally he speaks, "I want you to help me prepare for a football tournament." The details: 4 teams, 16 players, needed: balls and t-shirts. "Ok..." I say, "You need to write a donation letter." You can tell this is not what he wanted to hear. "Help" here means "do for me." "Tomorrow, write the letter and bring it here to show me." I tell him. "Ok," he says. And I push him out the door. 

Last night, another knock on my door as I'm preparing to go to bed. Scares the Bajeezes out of me. He walks in, no invitation and plops himself down on the table, two BLANK pieces of paper in hand. "Do you have another sheet of lined paper?" he asks me. "No. No paper here. Just the junk you see," I gesture to the piles of pamphlets, newsletters, notes, and checklists I've recently accumulated at our Peace Corps Close of Service Training. He stares for a while and then asks for a pen. I give him a pen. He starts writing the letters in silence. I want to yell at him. I told you to do this on your own! I think... but then again, did I? I patiently let him finish, listening to classical music spilling from the tinny speakers of the laptop I was just about to power down. 

Minutes pass. I'm curious what on earth he's writing. He didn't ask for any guidelines, any suggestions, any help. Finally he stops. "How do you spell sincerely?" he asks. "S-i-n-c-e-r-e-l-y" "Ok." He puts down the pen. I pick up the letter and read it. Not bad. "It's pretty good" I say. "Now, you need to make 3 copies of it, give one to the youth department, one to the DAC office, and one to CB or Jet."

He looks at me, his mouth hanging open a little, seeming to say, "What?" as if this was enough work I want him to deliver them too? "That's a lot of work" he finally says after a pause. 
"Yes it is," I answer, "I know, I've done it a lot of times" for you guys I want to add. "But if you really believe in what you're doing, you'll do it. It's worth it." 
He nods and continues to stare at the letter. "So..." he stalls, "I make a photocopy?" he says.
"Yes"
"And go to Ghanzi?"
"Yes"
A long pause. I can tell he's trying his hardest to figure out how to get me to do this for him. The cogs in his head are turning. His brow crinkles. Finally... "When are you going to Ghanzi?"
I'm supposed to go the next day but I don't want to and I don't want to tell him that, "Don't know, maybe next week." I answer, nonchalantly. 
"Oh..." Another long pause. Finally he looks up and spots a picture of some friends on my wall and stares. Then he points, "Who's that?"
"Just some friends." I steer the conversation back to the subject at hand cause I'm tired, there's no more discussion to be had, and I didn't invite him in in the first place. "So you'll deliver this in Ghanzi next week." 
"Yes"
"Ok then. I'm going to sleep. Bye."
"i'll just leave this here and pick it up tomorrow." he says and puts the letter on my table. 
"Um.. I think you should take it. I might not be here tomorrow." We shove responsibility around. 
"Oh. ok." he says and picks up the letter. I stand up, he stands up.
"You want to go to sleep?"
God yes. "Yes," I answer. Go away. I smile. 
He leaves. As I close the door behind him I make sure to turn off all my lights immediately so he can tell I'm not kidding. 

I feel like a bitter old crank. It certainly doesn't help that yesterday the Peace Corps Doctor called and told me i tested positive for Schistosomiasis. Worms living in my blood vessels contracted from contact with fresh water. Ironically, there is no fresh water near me in Botswana. I don't know how I could've gotten that.

I have this fear that I'm not going to make it home. It's a fear that may become an obsession in the next few months. I want to pad myself in bubble wrap, but bubble wrap won't keep microscopic worms out of my system.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Go Figure!

I go on vacation 5 days after I get electricity, go figure!
I get back after a month and a day later the electricity goes out, go figure!

The cows have broken down my fence in a manner eerily similar to those
on Sim Farm, and are now living in my backyard... but for some reason,
I don't mind. My garden is a lost cause (my neighbor took my shade
netting for safe keeping cause the tomato plants are toast anyway) and
despite the smell, I actually feel safer at night... if the grunting
sound of cows eating, drinking, and pooing ever go away, i know I have
a visitor.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Home Sweet Home

You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A village
means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees,
the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you
when you are not there. ~Casare Pavese

There is a phrase here that many of us Peace Corps Volunteers in
Botswana cringe when we hear, we cringe because of the absurdity of
the word and all the cultural connections and frustrations associated
with it. That word is "now now." Now now, two nows. Now now means now.
Just now means anywhere in the next few hours, and now means anytime
today or tomorrow. So, by instinct most of us have also developed a
new phrase, "Home home." Home refers to our homes in Botswana, the
villages we have come to grow in, and (for some) to love. By
extension, home home means the good old U.S. of A. Home home, the spot
of earth supremely blest, a dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
(Robert Montgomery)

So today, when I talk about home, I am talking about New Xade. The
place I have grown to love (and not love) at the same time. New Xade,
the place of acacia thorns, cows that moo, goats that poo, and sun as
hot as you'd imagine it to be on Mars. This post is about my journey
home.

After climbing (or attempting to climb) Mt. Kilimanjaro, my friends
and I were tired of the drama of airlines and tour guides. We arrived
2 hours early for our 1PM flight determined to make it home in one
piece, drama-less, content with our adventures so far but aching for
some normality and a good bed and shower. At the airport, we went to
lunch at a cafe after being told that we couldn't check in for another
hour. No worries. We sat, we ordered delicious homemade burgers and
chips and cokes and drank and ate happy that our journey was over.
Half way through the burger, I heard a message over the intercom,
"Last boarding call to Flight 1497 to Dar Es Salaam, last boarding
call." I looked at our tickets, I looked at my clock. Shit, that's us!
But how can that be? they wouldn't let us board for another 30
minutes!

One of us got up, dashed to the check in counter and asked them what
we should do given that our flight was leaving now. The guy handed him
our boarding passes and we abandoned our cokes and fries and ran to
the plane. We were ushered into the plane and immediately i knew
something was wrong. There were 3 of us and three empty seats for
sure, but the seats we were assigned to was full. The plane was teenie
tiny and I had a pack the size of madagascar on my back so I shuffled
up and down the aisle backwards and forwards looking for a flight
attendant, an empty seat, a place to put my bag down. We finally sat
in some empty seats and waited while the passengers stared at us.
Finally we heard our names being called. We were told that we were not
on this flight and that we would have to leave.

"Sorry, sorry... sorry... excuse me," I mumbled to passengers with
apologetic and sympathetic looks on their faces as I tumbled down the
aisle with my bag. "Good luck," they mouthed to me. We got out of the
plane and made a beeline straight for the first lady who looked like a
flight attendant. All three of us threw our mouths open at once, where
do I even start! How could this have happened? What flight were we
actually on? How could you do this to us again! Fingers started
flying, pointing, accusations, deflections, finally a stubborn
defiance on behalf of the flight crew. "Come back in an hour, we will
call the office in Dar Es Salaam and figure this out." Camilo was
determined not to let this newest development get the best of him and
made his way determinedly towards the cafe. "I'm going to get our
fries back."

I was livid. In SA, a nice big fluffy bed waited for me, a clean
bathtub NOT a shower/toilet combo, water that I can drink and not get
the runs, rands that I can make sense of instead of shillings I'd have
to divide by ten thousand to make any meaning out of, and best of all,
a flight home to Botswana where I can see my friends again. There was
no way I was going to miss out on the first day of our Close of
Service Conference at a 5 star hotel in Gaborone just because this
airline decided to screw us over for the 3rd time in a row!!

I made my way back to the flight desk not sure what I was intending to
do, but determined none the less. The man we had been dealing with saw
me coming and I saw his eyes glaze over as he slid out of his chair
and pretended to help someone next to me. "Excuse me!" I announced,
"Can I ask you something?" "Go talk to her" he deflected, not looking
at me in the eyes. He pointed to a lady wearing a visitors tag. What
the --?

The lady introduced herself as Ester, customer service relations
agent. I looked at Ester in her casual clothing and visitors tag and
wondered if they purposefully post a clown at the airports in order to
listen to disgruntled passengers like a therapist and pat us on the
back. How could she help me? "I dont want to cause any trouble," I
started, "I just want to know if I can call my hotel in South Africa
in case we arrive.... late..." I mumbled. "You see, on our way here,
you deferred us for 2 nights, once in Johannesburg and once in Dar es
Salaam. We already missed a day of our travel... and got charged an
extra $150 for it... I dont think I can handle it again!" I had
started crying by this point and Ester sushed me towards a corner.
"Don't worry. Just sit over there and I will see what I can do."

I sat and waited in front of Camilo, Kelly, and a steaming hot plate
of fresh french fries. Moments lady, Ester arrived and pulled me over
to the side to the confusion of my friends. "Ms Lin," she started, "it
looks like you have 2 options. We can put you up here for the night or
in Dar Es Salaam." Unacceptable! I thought. "I have to get to Botswana
tomorrow... that's not really an option..." I started. Ester went on
to explain that we could try something else. If we caught the next
flight to Dar, we would land at 10 past 7, there's a flight to
johannesburg that leaves at 7 (the one we were supposed to be on!).
She could call customs and ask them to rush us through. "Yes please.
do that..." I said, and handed her our passports.

Long story short, after much back and forth, Ester, my hero, my saint,
got us on a flight to Nairobi and a connecting flight via Kenya
Airways to Johannesburg. We would arrive at midnight, but we would
arrive. I hugged her and nearly kissed her. She gave me her cell phone
number and email in case anything happened and we were on our way.

Close of Service Conference was at the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed
at (except that my particular room didn't have a working TV, or
internet, and only a passable hot shower, but we didn't complain, too
much). The Phakalane Golf Estate cost me P90 to get to because it was
set so far away from the main city. There, we met our Bots 9 group
again, all 50 something of us left. Gave lots of hugs, ate buffet, had
sushi and expensive drinks, and said our goodbyes to one another.
Peace Corps paid for us to do a game drive, but due to a transport
issue, I didn't make it in time and missed that little treat. After
that, we were put in another hotel to do our medical exams (pooing in
a cup, yay!) and dental exams (mild gingivitis???). and sent on our
way home.

Home, so close and yet so far. I arrived in Ghanzi thinking that I had
a lift home with my good friend Kago, the policeman here. But when I
arrived, I learned that they are keeping him in Ghanzi for the week
and he wouldn't be going back. I went to the hiking spot and found 2
folks who were on their way somewhere else. No lifts today. You can
try so and so though? I tried so and so, called more so and so's and
finally decided that the day was a lost cause, I'd check into a hotel
and wait for tomorrow.

The next day, I checked out of the hotel, but after many unsuccessful
phone calls I decided to wait till Sunday. No one leaves for Xade on a
Saturday anyway. I checked back in. In the hotel room I watched TV,
made more phone calls, had coffee, and lo and behold, got a lift. He
said he'd be ready at 3:30 to leave. The time was 2:30. I quickly
gathered my stuff and checked out with the hopes that the hotel would
penalize me only with a late check out charge. The manager demanded
that I pay the full night's fare, P550. The friend I was with thought
that was ridiculous and demanded to see her. She refused. My friend
insisted. Afterall that was her job. After making us wait a good 5
minutes awkwardly with the desk clerk who just smiled at us with a
look of, "sorry I can't help" on his face, she appeared. She made her
point and I made mine, I'd just checked in and there would be minimal
clean up to do, literally, just empty the garbage. "Fine" she said
with a wave of her hand
and walked away. "Fine?" I asked my friend. She shrugged. I looked at
the clerk, "Fine?" I asked. He shrugged. "What does that mean?" We all
shrugged. I left my number with the poor guy behind the counter and
left. Ok.

I waited at my friend's place pacing the floor and playing with dogs,
puppies, and a cat that I'm severely allergic to till 7:30 when my
lift showed up and asked if I had made him dinner. "no." "oh no... ok.
how about just meat?" "no..." I said. "oh... ok, can i borrow P200?"
ummm... "no." I said. "i only have P20 which i was going to give you
for gas." "Oh ok, give that to me then." So i gave him P20 and he ran
off, yelling behind him, "I'l be right back, I'm just going to drop my
sister off at home." His sister gave me a weird luck, beer in hand,
and the men in the back of the truck, each holding a glass of
something hard and alcoholic, waved at me. I spent the next hour
sitting in front of the window watching the sun set, the mosquitos
come out, and the cars pass. No lift. At 8:30 I gave up, popped a
benadryl, sent a semi-threatening text demanding that he repay me, and
passed out in my clothes and contacts next to an adorable and
freaking-non-hypo-allergenic cat.

The next morning I woke up with half my face swollen and my eyelid
half shut. Popped a benadryl, made lots of phone calls, picked up food
with money I don't have, and waited and waited in a puppy-poo infested
yard for the fates to shine on me. As ride after ride fell through, my
friend commented, "looks like the gods don't want you to go home
today..." I couldn't help but agree. At some point, one of my friends
told me just to go to the hiking spot, she'd be there too. Hiking
spot.

Pause for a moment. The hiking spot I usually go to on the weekdays is
in town, across from a grocery store. The weekday traffic (government
vehicles) usually stop there to pick people up on their way home.
Though recently they've been avoiding this stop because there are too
many people there and they can't control the masses trying to squeeze
themselves into the back of their trucks (nearly 20 people at times!)
So if you want a ride with these cars now, you need a hook up. The
WEEKEND hiking spot, which is the spot my friend is referring to in
the paragraph above, is a spot about 2km from town next to a bar under
a tree which I despise going to because it means that you're stuck out
there next to drunken guys for who knows how long.

Resume my pathetic story. I call a taxi to go to the hiking spot. He
spends 20 minutes trying to find my house. Picks me up, charges me the
same amount I usually pay to get the 108km to xade, and drops me at
the hiking spot where I meet 10 or so of my fellow New Xadians for the
first time in months, shake hands, account for my whereabouts, and
pick a spot on the ground among broken beer bottles to settle for the
next few hours. I sit. I smile. I make more phone calls.

40 minutes later, I have a lead, the clinic vehicle by some miracle
(or because of some poor patient) is in town and can pick me up. BUT
they dont want to stop at the hiking spot for fear of having to fight
off the 10 or so New Xadians sitting there. Would I be willing to go
to another spot and wait? (Aha, this explains why earlier 3 people had
gotten up and driven off, I was wondering where they were going!). I
said sure. Why not. I gathered my things and tried to sneak off, but
no can do in the middle of nowhere in front of 10+ people who are
staring at you. "Where are you going?" they asked. "To get water." I
lied. "with all your bags?" umm. "I left my water bottle at my friends
place (true story), besides, I dont think that there will be any rides
today, right?" people shook their heads. no, no rides. "right, sharpo.
see you tomorrow." I would have gone off scotch free except that i had
5 bags each weighing no less than 35 lbs. Some nice guy offered to
drive me into town... how.. .nice. I said.

I got in his car and as we were driving, whispered to him that in fact
i'm not going to town but just to the other spot down the road, could
he drop me off there. I told him someone told me to try my luck here
and asked if he thought that was a good idea. "yeah," he said, "good
idea' a smile growing on his face. Maybe it was my paranoia or maybe
it was my guilty conscience, but I like to think i was just happy for
the lift, but I offered to buy him a drink. "no thanks," he said.
Instead, I gave him my lunch, a cheese and onion roll (yum.). I waved
goodbye and he turned right around back to his friends at the hiking
post. A few minutes later, the clinic vehicle rollled up, i gave my
nurse friend a hug, threw my things in the back, and huddled in the
corner trying to hide myself from the view of the windows in case
anyone looked inside. And indeed, they did. We stopped at the hiking
spot where the drivers made nice with the hitch hikers and the hitch
hikers peered in the windows to see who was in there, I hid and wished
myself invisible while the nurse next to me laughed at me.

Arriving home after nearly a month away, i'm surprised how foreign the
faces here look, and how familiar as well. The dark skin tones which
ones seemed so normal had a new curious color to them. My house has
turned into a cattle crawl, the cows broke down my fence and have made
themselves at home. It stinks. My gutters have been re-done, by whom,
I don't know, my leak is still there, and most surprising of all, my
hot water is now cold and my cold water is now hot. Other than that,
my house is just as I left it, the village almost exactly the same. At
COS people were asking me, knowing what i know now, would I change my
site if I could? I dont think so. As much as the transportation
situation here moves me to tears each time I try to come in and out, I
wouldn't trade this experience. I can say that now that it's almost
over. After all, when someone joins the Peace Corps, their dream is to
live in a small rural village. This world needs villages. If not just
for the pleasure of leaving it... As much development is happening
here, New Xade is timeless. I have a feeling, it will always be
waiting for me.