Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May 23, 2008

Have just escaped to my room after The Most Trying Night Yet.

Tonight went something like this:

I arrived home at sundown to find Niallil (15) alone with Pel (3) and Are (1). Niallil was looking despondent and groaning because her older sister (Are’s mother) had left her alone with the kids and gone to Gabs for the weekend. I sympathized with her and silently cursed Indil for throwing all the domestic responsibilities on Niallil, yet again. I assured her that we would have a good weekend together with the kids. She mustered a smile and we began to prepare dinner.

The Peace Corps gives our host families a food basket every 2 weeks. Because we have 7 kids in the house and two absent parents (mum at the fields for the last two weeks, dad at the mine for the month) our food is usually gone within the first five days. Today is day number 13 (basket tomorrow, thank the Lord) and we are down to a box of pasta, a bag of rice, half a tomato and some flour. We reluctantly agree on the pasta and Niallil begins to heat water as I tackle the rubber bucket, overflowing with a week of dirty dishes (a feast for our Ever-Growing Cockroach Companions).

Niallil and I are thirty minutes into preparations, singing songs in the kitchen when the electricity goes out. Sigh.

The pasta continues boiling away but we cant find a candle and the babies have started to scream for food. We open the kitchen door to let in moonlight and I fumble into my room to find my cell phone light. After 20 minutes we finally resign ourselves to The Absence of Candles only to find the pasta has clumped into a mass of starch at the bottom of the pan. Niallil holds Are in one arm and the shines the cell phone light with the other while I use our Only Fork to chip apart the spaghetti mass.

With the pasta salvaged and continuing to cook, I finally succumb to baby-screams. In a frantic scramble I find a stale ¼ cup of cornflakes, dump them in a bowl, and put them on the floor between the babies. Niallil oversees the Cereal Scramble while I prepare pasta plates.

At last the pasta reaches an acceptable el-dente-ish-state and I begin to fill the bowls under close scrutiny of six hungry eyes. Our condiments selection includes crystallized salt, 1 tablespoon of ketchup, some soupy margarine (unavoidable without a fridge) and a scandalous jar of mayonnaise residue. Niallil flashes the cell light at me with a face that says “If-you-waste-those-precious-flavors-on-babies-there-will-be-hell-to-pay.” For a minute I’m scared of her.

I scrape out the mayonnaise, ketchup and salt and throw three bowls of pasta onto the floor where my little angels wait ravenously. In a moment of pure amusement I step back to watch the girls hover crazily around the cell phone light devouring their heaps of pasta. When my own stomach grumbles me to attention I grab my bowl and collapse onto a plastic chair beside the girls. I manage half a sigh before shooting into the air as a puddle of dirty dishwater seeps through my bluejeans, soaks my underwear and freezes my skin.

The girls laugh hysterically.

I scowl.

The electricity turns on.

We all cheer.

Thirty minutes later the babies have been fully nourished, my ass has started to dry, the dishes have been reasonably cleaned and I am sitting down to a quiet game of Scrabble with Niallil. For the second time in the past hour I release a premature sigh which, for some reason elicits a scream from Niallil. I snap up to follow her glance and see that Are has peed all over Ondam’s bed. An inevitable peril of this diaper-less-society.

Odnam is the oldest sister at 25. She works twelve hour days at a local clothing shop and comes home at 9:00 every night in a sour mood. It’s 8:15.

Niallil and I abandon Scrabble to dry Are and fetch my hairdryer. We spend thirty minutes hair-drying Odnam’s comforter. Pel screams hysterically when the hot air accidently hits her skin. She will only be consoled with focused affection.

In the final minutes of This Chaos I’ve got Pel on my hip, comforter in my left hand, hairdryer in my right and Niallil looking fretful at my side. When the pee has nearly dried Niallil drops her head onto my shoulder and lets out an exhausted laugh. I press her forehead with mine and congratulate us for incredible perseverance. She nods. We relax.

I feel more love for these little ladies in four weeks than I thought possible in a lifetime.

Niallil beats me in Scrabble.
Are falls asleep on the floor.
Pel cultivates an obsession with the hairdryer.

And I

I take my soggy ass to bed and thank the Lord for a quiet bucket bath finale.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rush Hour

I’m running late to language class (not terribly out of character from the girl you knew in America) when I turn to sprint path near Hael’s house. Normally this particular dirty path disrupts my commute with tiny spiked burrs that slip into my sandals, wedge between my toes and force me to stop and remove them no less than 3 times on the 100 yard stretch. This morning, however, the burrs are the least of my concern.

As I turn onto the path I glance towards Hael and Anel and they wave from the end of the road. Then I notice someone else’s eyes: a man herding six enormous donkeys. We stand at opposite ends of the path blinking at one another. I get the distinct sense he is daring me to start. The reality is that I know I’ll get mauled by donkeys if we attempt to go it together and yet something makes me hesitate (Did I expect him to flag me through a polite wave? A greeting? A smile?) Lo and behold, he wins the draw.

For the next 4 minutes I wait impatiently as the old man whips his donkey herd up the dirt road. In Botswana-style, the animals all have their front legs tied together so they take a particularly long time hopping up the sandy path like rabbits.

Eventually the parade passes me and I shuffle down the path to class. At 8:05 Soma scowls and asks why we’re late but seems fully satisfied with my account of the Donkey-Delay.

I slip this into my reserve of Late Excuses That Fly in Africa.

May 21, 2008

Sat through my first Botswana class today and nearly collapsed of boredom. The African school child is truly an amazing character.

How does sperm fertilize the egg?
What happens to a girls body when she becomes pregnant?
What are the risks associated with teenage pregnancy?
What is the best way to avoid teenage pregnancy?

A room full of forty 12 year olds sit in front of me chanting answers in unison while sneaking peaks over their shoulders to check out the visiting lkgoa (literally, “white vomit of the sea”)

I sneak smiles back at them and feign attention by flipping vigorously through the little green book, dense with English paragraphs and anatomy pictures. I make a concerted effort to look engrossed in the monotonous text of “Growing Up and Responsible Living”.

Form 1 has Guidance and Counseling sessions one time each week for 40 minutes. The session allows them to regurgitate facts on teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, alcohol abuse, contraception, anatomy and sexuality. I am impressed by their knowledge and awed by their ability to retain these dry details.

These children face an average life expectancy of 33, due mainly to HIV/AIDS.
Predicted statistics for 2010 show the average life expectancy rate dropping to just 29.
The Botswana government provides free counseling, testing and ARVs medicine to every citizen of the country.
The Bostwana government also provides 15 Peace Corps volunteers to pilot the new Lifeskills program.

Chances are I’ll go back to the States with a handful of success stories and a suitcase of frustrations and very little sense of the effectiveness of my work. I’ll train the 30 new Lifeskills volunteers in 2009 and the 45 in 2010 and then head home to hold my breath for the next decade and pray for infection rates to drop and life expectancy rates to rise. Quite literally, I’ll pray for my students to live.

I look up from the little green book and catch the eye of a girl in the front row. We smile at each other while the responses chant on
and I am impatient to know her.

Monday, May 19, 2008

May 18th, 2008

I’m nursing another stomach ache when the village loses its electricity.

The girls drag me into the yard where I watch them dance and giggle in moonlight and I’m reminded, again, of how lucky I am to have been placed in this gorgeous family. I take turns picking up Are and Pel and they wrap their dirty little feet around my waist and stare at the moon with big black baby eyes. Pel and I have started to communicate little words and phrases and this feels like incredible progress—I’m inspired to study the language harder just by the prospect of gaining a relationship with her.

Eventually the ache worsens and I retire to my room to lie in the dark and wait for the cramping the pass. I count the days until I acquire a kitchen and the freedom to prepare and eat meals without fear of illness. Never thought I’d rue the food over the bucket baths, but there you have it: self discovery.

Robala Sentle Good night
from a tiny cement bedroom with pink flowered drapes and a tin roof in Lekwapaynge ward of Molepolole village of Botswana of Africa.

May 17, 2008

My host mother has left to harvest the family lands this week leaving me alone with my seven younger siblings.

I wake up at six and step into the unfamiliar quiet of my hallway… Saturday morning whispers in a grey kitchen as I heat my bathwater and greets me in the yard where I brush my teeth.

The images I remember from China are not the Wall or my work or even my students—those memories from Asia are much simpler somehow:
…waves of hot through my hair as I race a rusty bicycle down colorful streets, thick with smells and faces and music…

Botswana does not have the color of China. There are no street markets, no food vendors and the desert yawns out long stretches of sand, peppered with a few lonely trees. I would lie to say I wasn’t slightly disappointed to learn that all “ethic shopping” takes place in “China Shops” which are, quite literally, cheap Chinese products being sold in Botswana by Chinese merchants who have a better place in the economy than the Motswana themselves (don’t get me started)…

Still, the Botswana I take home will be composed of the same type small moments I found in Asia. My Molopolole training memory will be walking out into the yard to brush my teeth by the bush with those soft pink flowers. Something about the way those flowers stand still against the backdrop of a sun rising into ribbons of purple and blue. Something about looking out across my quiet village with the round rooftops and those thick aloe cactus plants. Something about my dirty toes flip flopping over pink dusk. Something about silence.

I tread back to the house where my little brother sleepy smiles in the kitchen and I look at him and miss Eli. He’s too tired to fumble through English so he points at the water to indicate that it’s warm enough. I shuffle back to my grey little bedroom to bathe.

Some of this world will be heartache, some progress, some reflection, some epiphany, some rant.

And some will be Lekwapagne at six a.m. Somehow this will remain my Africa long after I go. Photographing it here so I remember to remember. So I remember to be.

Friday, May 16, 2008

May 13, 2008

Two and a half weeks in counting until we’re finally assigned to our villages. To say I’m excited is a gross understatement! Once learning our placements we get to visit the site and meet our counterparts for a full week.

I am thrilled to be getting close to finally having a “job” (i.e. community, permanence, purpose) and “home” (i.e. privacy, kitchen, silence)

Next week they’re holding interviews to help with final placements and I’ll need to rank the following items in order of importance:

Cell phone coverage
Ease of transportation
Running water


May 12, 2008

Inram lives in an enormous house with hot, running water, a fridge and two ceiling fans. This is paradise compared to my Molepolole homestay life of bucket baths and cockroaches.

In the evenings the village kids come over to do their homework in Inram’s kitchen. Their homes do not have electricity and, since many of their parents were never formally educated, they beat them for doing school work at home. Inram spends time checking math equations, correcting spelling and showing praise on these kids to enhance their fragile sense of self worth.

One child told Inram she wanted to buy a backpack and agreed to sell cookies around her village to raise the money herself. Inram funded the biscuits and then took the profits from this little girl to buy her backpack in Francistown. For kids who have never seen their parents sober or working, experiencing this type of simple entrepreneurship is incredibly empowering.

Inram arrived in Olibukom 25 months ago as a CBC (Community Based Care) volunteer slotted to work with orphans and vulnerable children. In two years Inram has made a number of significant contributions to the health and resources of this community. For one, she has learned the language fluently and thereby gained the trust and respect of her counterpart, colleagues and community (very tough shoes to fill—sorry for the volunteer from my group who will replace her!)

Once the community had accepted her, Inram was able to run a number of successful campaigns and workshops, start an annual orphan camp and obtain computers and resources for the local school and NGOs.

With the help of her counterpart from the Social welfare and Community Development Department (and heaps of village bureaucracy above her) Inram was able to coordinate weekend workshops on Gender Equality and HIV/AIDS as well as a very successful Alcohol Abuse campaign. These educational events have sets the groundwork for developing a progressive dialogue and sustainable behavior changes around the health issues that plague this village.

When we walk through the village people stop Inram and embrace her. They beg her not to leave (she closes her service on June 7th) and they tell me stories and praises about her work in their community. Inram blushes and they ramble off Setswana for several minutes while I watch awed and envious.

Last week Inram cleaned out her house and made a heap of paperwork she could not take back to the States. With no garbage system most Motswana must burn their rubbish.

Inram sits at her kitchen table and tells us how she watched two years of her notes, grants and reports turn to ash. I am quiet as her eyes fill with water.

“I just watched all of that work go up in flames—and it was a horrible feeling. But after a few minutes the neighborhood kids showed up and started dancing around the fire and giggled and pulled me in with them. And then it was okay.”

May 9, 2008

Olibukom is so small it is not listed on most maps of Botswana. The village is located just 100 kilometers west of Francistown and 100 kilometers east of the first and largest diamond mine in the country. The volunteer we stay with will finish her two year service on June 7th. She is fluent in Setswana and knows the names of every child, shopkeeper, neighbor and dog in the village.

Inram spends time walking us through the village and telling us stories of this place and its history. We visit the clinic, school, lands, bar and shop. We meet hundreds of people in just two days.

What I see and hear in this place breaks me to a shape I have not felt before.

I cannot describe my reaction to these things with any justice so I’ve listed them here as a report. My intention is that, in reading this, you will experience a small fragment of this aching world, as I have. My sense is that this is the beginning of us both learning to interact with a broken place that holds potential and purpose and hope.

Even so
there is much that overwhelms me here.

Here is a brief (and thus unjust) account of what I’ve learned about Olibukom:

The village population is 1200 inhabitants, 600 children of whom are children

200 adults, 25 pregnant women and 5 children are being treated for HIV with government funded antiretroviral (ARV) medication

In 2007 over 30 children were receiving ARVs but this past January the government removed 25 of the children from treatment due to noncompliance by their caregivers

Medical noncompliance is a problem for most Olibukom caregivers due to alcoholism and their own illnesses


90% of the adult population in this village suffer from severe alcoholism

Shabines are small houses turned “bars” where villagers brew their own beer

Beer brewed in shabines is considerably cheaper than brand named brews and has a potency equivalent to that of moonshine

In a 15 minute walk through the village one can come across 10 shabines packed with people who have been drinking since 8:00 in the morning

Parents and caregivers receive monthly food baskets from the government for orphans and vulnerable children

A large majority of parents and caregivers sell the items in the food basket for alcohol to feed their addictions

Olibukom teachers complain of children coming to school drunk and hung over from alcohol fed to them in place of food

Last month an elderly woman got drunk and crossed the one main road in town. She was hit by a passing car and died instantly. The driver was a government official who had killed another drunk pedestrian just last month.


The village does not have ambulances and, as a result, wheelbarrows are often used to bring patients to and from the clinic

Today a patient arrived in a wheelbarrow and was told that the gangrene in his leg was so bad it would need to be amputated. The man elected to be wheeled home where it is believed that he will die.


Vulnerable elders receive monthly food baskets from the government which their children often steal from them and sell for money to fund their alcoholism.

There is a community of elderly citizens that live on the outskirts of Olibukom

One of these elders is a very old woman who the town social worker and PCV have been working to help.

The woman was given a lock to keep her son from stealing her food.

The social worker also hired this woman a caregiver who lasted a month and then became drunk
one night and jumped into a fire. She was sent away to Francistown for medical treatment.

The old woman was found dead in her hut this morning.


When someone dies in Botswana family and friends come to the home to sit, talk and pray for the family until the burial. Burials occur only on weekends.

Many families go bankrupt trying to feed all of the people who come to grieve in the week before the burial.


Violent corporal punishment and pedophilia run rampant throughout the schools systems in Botswana.

Teachers whose offenses are discovered are transferred to different schools throughout the country. They are not fired for misconduct.


Children between the ages of 5 and 13 attend primary school in the village

To begin the day, primary school children line up in the school courtyard at 7:00 shivering and singing morning prayers. Many of them arrive with half uniforms, torn clothes and no shoes.

One child is elected to begin singing the morning prayer. After the first few soloed notes, 600 children join into the prayer in perfect unison and harmony.

Olibukom’s primary school as built in 1985 and is the first educational facility the village has ever seen

Because the great majority of the village parents have never attended school they do not encourage or understand homework and many children have reported that they are beat for studying outside of school


Children who opt to attend school after the age of 13 must travel 120 kilometers to the closest secondary school and live there for the term

This past February Olibukom’s secondary school children left the village and spent several weeks at school where they were not being fed.

Several students were given or promised food in exchange for sexual favors from their instructors

Other students eventually attempted to walk back to Mokubilo to find food

Two children were lost on their way back to Mokubilo and have not yet been found

It is believed that one of these children was kidnapped and killed for witchcraft

Tomorrow I will write of the amazing work Inram has done for the community and the progress they are making towards health and prevention.

There is a place for hope and a place for grief.

It is 11:22 in the evening on May 9, 2008. I am sitting in Inram’s kitchen writing by candlelight because the village does not have electricity in the nights and early mornings. Tomorrow I will be hopeful. But there is a place for hope and a place for grief. This is my place of grief.

May 6, 2008

There were four funerals last weekend and today we learned that one of my family’s aunts had passed away. It is nearly 9:00 in the evening and there is a crowd of people outside our house singing prayers.

Hael’s host mother, Ailuj, is a widow. She dresses in black every day and is not permitted to leave her home until the one year anniversary of her husband’s death. When I ask Soma about this he tells me that Ailuj must stay inside so that she does not bring bad luck to others, as she did to her husband.

We are required to make a portfolio of our work during training and one assignment is to map out the members of our host family. My host mother is one of eight children and my host father is one of ten. Together they have lost just four of their 16 siblings and this makes them incredibly fortunate.

When I got my Peace Corps placement I remember sharing the news with my advisor in a floury of excitement. Joe listened and smiled, reminisced about his own PC years and then leaned in and asked me quietly “So, are you ready?” I beamed and quickly replied that I was. Joe’s voice dropped slightly and he asked again, “But, are you ready?” When I hesitated he said, “For all the death. Are you ready for all the death you will see?” and I remember looking at him for a very long time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


So about once a week Peace Corps delivers our mail. What happens then is a little ritual we call, Who’s Loved The Most.

Who’s Loved The Most goes something like this:

One volunteer stands at the front of the room calling out names for letters and packages
Everyone whose name gets called for a letter gets a big cheer from the crowd
Everyone whose name gets called for a package gets shrieks, applauding and vulture-like eyeing as we look to see what the hailed package contains.

This entry is to say that today, for the very first time, my name was called and I ran down the aisle to receive a letter from JENNIFER MELDRUM who earns major friend-brownie points for not only sending me a letter but sending it on April 13, three whole days before I left.

So panic not, my loved ones, your items WILL make it and know that they will be welcomed with envious cheers and, yes, even a little eye-welling-up from me.

ALSO—many many many thanks to the 26 amazing people who signed up to send me packages each of the 26 months I am here. Mum handed me the list on my way to the airport and I spent a long time gasping in awe at how generous you all are.

Heading out to the village in just 13 hours.

Sala Sentle (Stay well)

The Simple Things You Take For Granted

Washing Laundry

I have attempted this twice with varying degrees of success. The first time Odnam (eldest child) was home from work and agreed to help me. She spent the first hour laughing at me and then took over the task completely because my Learning Process was clearly too slow for her taste. After the second hour we had finally finished and my knuckles were bloody with the proof of my labor (this is not an exaggeration—they are still healing now!)

So despite this painful tutorial I decided to have another go at laundry washing yesterday. At 9:30 Niallil helped me pull out the metal basin into the backyard then I was on my own. ‘On My Own’, however, does not mean I was alone-- merely that I was working independently. What swarmed around me were hysterically laughing neighborhood children and the disappointed stares of my sisters and mother (again, not an exaggeration—they literally stood three feet from me staring silently for 2 hours).

In the third hour a few of the neighborhood children came over to help me wash but lost interest shortly after my colorful t-shirts had been finished. About this time Baby Ame also waddled over and began throwing dirt onto my pile of washed clothes (my mother rescued most of them, thank God.) When Anel entered the scene to pick me up for lunch she took one look and began empathetically hanging clothes on the line. In the shadows between the pillowcases and socks she leaned in and whispered: “Have they really been staring at you like this all day…?”

Grocery Stores Aisles

Choppies is like any other supermarket: there is a produce section, a bakery, various food aisles, a row for cleaning supplies and milk at the back (to make sure we walk the whole store and buy things along the way). A slight difference is the variation in width. For many this would appear a trivial element, “Narrow Schmarrow” you’d say.

But no. Width actually does matter. Even a few inches.

Imagine a few less inches in your grocery store aisles. Now imagine carriages, strollers and the occasional obese shopper-- squeezing through those narrow aisles, bumping into canned good and mulling over Which Chicken Looks Freshest while you wait impatiently to pass so you can justmakeittothefreakingwaterbottles.

Lets just say Botswana grocery stores have taught me to better appreciate The Art of Indian File, the Power of Elbows and Limit of Patience.

Oh, and I’ve never waited less than 30 minutes to check out. Ever.


They’re not here. I’ve looked. They tell me they exist but there must be some kind of black market. Seriously. Where do the school children go and why must my host sisters keep snatching mine?

Monday, May 5, 2008

May 4, 2008

Perhaps the most amusing experience yet: The Cooking Dinner for My Host Family Experience.

In an effort to achieve the Peace Corps goal of “culture exchange” I offered to cook for my host family last night. They eagerly accepted and what ensued was three hours of mayhem with a hilarious finale.

After braving the local supermarket in torrential downpours I sloshed home at 4:00 equipped to make eggplant parmesan, spaghetti and salad. Since the Botswana diet is loaded with carbs and scant on veggies I thought this peek into my vegetarian diet would be a nice change. (‘Change’, I found, is relative—as is, ‘nice’)

To start, Idnil and I hefted a dusty stove into the kitchen that had “baking capacities”. We then spent a frantic half hour attempting to light the oven without burning ourselves or exploding the appliance. When the oven was finally on we spent more time learning that you could not use the burners at the same time as the oven and that closing the door with too much “zest” would blow out the oven fire.

I finally began slicing eggplant. I pined for a peeler.

Pasta sauce was successful (thanks to expensive herbs I bought with Anel and Hael) but breadcrumbs were more of a challenge. After an hour of drying and crunching up enough crumbs for half the eggplant I gave up and threw the slices into the oven to bake.

While dealing with oven-chaos and bread-crumbing Pel had taken the liberty of squeezing up my evenly-grated cheese and Naillil had become fixated on eating the left-over eggplant skins. By this time Baby Ame had also begun screaming for food and would continue to do so for the full three hours of My Cooking Extravaganza.

After re-lighting the oven ten times, wrestling Pel for the cheese and struggling to keep everything warm while heating the pasta --- I finally finished. At 7:30 we all sat down to eggplant, pasta and salad.

The meal began.

All family members launched hungrily into the food. Idnil and Naillil immediately began raving and praising me and, to everyone’s relief, Baby Ame finally stopped crying. Pel threw a piece of spaghetti on the floor and stepped on it before generously placing it on her sister’s plate. My mother took one bite and asked in boisterous, broken English “will this food make me poop?”

While this amused me, the great finale came when all of my family began chattering something in Setswana and appeared to make a collective decision regarding the meal. In mere seconds I watched painfully as the pasta, salad and eggplant were mixed together into one giant heap and lathered in ketchup and mayonnaise. (!!!) Although I had seen this technique used with the family’s rice and veggie meals, somehow the practice over my precious Italian dinner seemed sacrilege.

Nevertheless, I sat back to watch and appreciate yet another moment of cultural madness.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

May 2, 2008

Ame left on Thursday for a family emergency. Her family called at 7:00 and just two hours later a little, white Peace Corps bus pulled up to take her away. After hugs and tears I silent stood in the yard with Soma, Hael, Anel, Ame’s host family and three neighbors. The little van kicked up a floury of chickens and dust and a sense of impermanence that stuck in my throat for the rest of the day.

On Monday we’re heading to Gabs to open bank accounts and get work visas. I’m looking forward to this trip to break up the training routine and am even more excited for Tuesday when I’ll be traveling to Mokubilo to shadow a PVC who has been serving there for a year and a half. Mokubilo is very small village in the center of the country, close to the largest mine in Botswana. While I’m not looking forward to the 6 hour bus ride I am dying to see more of Botswana and explore a bit of the rural areas. I’ll be there for four nights and promise a full report upon my return.

Sometime mid-training I’ll be interviewed for my placement and will be asked to give my preference of an urban, suburban or rural placement. After living in “urban” Molepolole for 3 weeks this trip will provide a good contrast to help me make my decision. Expect stories next weekend. Week three begins.

May 1, 2008

6 more weeks of training before we swear-in as official Peace Corps volunteers. Counting down the days to privacy, work and permanence but trying to enjoy training as well.

For most of us, the challenge posed by these first two months of training is a lack of freedom (home at sunset, no drinking, no social life, no bathrooms, no meal options, etc.) But there are certainly perks here and there-- one of which is learning a lot about Botswana culture and the HIV/AIDS work being done throughout the country.

I am dying to get my hands into the actual prevention work I’ve come for but someone gave me very good advice before I left which I’m trying to follow:

Don’t rush any of it… enjoy every second for what is it…even the challenging times have their lessons, perks and beauties.

In honor of this great advice I’ve opted to let you into a slice of my Life In Training so you may savor it as I am attempting to.

Training Days go something like this…

6:30 bring bucket of bathwater/pee/toothpaste residue to the latrine (being careful not to slosh)
6:35 wash bucket thoroughly at outside tap, dodge laundry and chickens in the yard
6:45 heat water for first “bucket bath” of the day
7:00 finish bath and shiver into clothes while host mother yells to hurry up for tea
7:15 drink tea with host mother while babies cuddle and beg for food
7:30 give in to babies and feed them sour porridge or cornflakes while chit chatting with mum and older sisters
7:45 say good-bye to host mother, 4 daughters, three neighbors
7:50 walk to meet Ame (fellow PCV) with trailing host sisters, watch sunrise
7:55 pray that Ame’s host mother stops drilling us on our Setswana because we’re going to be late for class
8:05 meet Teacher Soma and other PCVs, Anel and Hael for Setswana lessons
8:30 spend time repeating Setswana while brushing off fire ants from feet
9:00 decide to study with feet extended off the ground to avoid fire ants
9:15 shift chair because sun has peaked over house and is blinding but warm and comfortable too 9:30 break for “tea” and take a walk with Anel, Hael and me around our neighborhood
9:45 answer a thousand “dumelas” from curious neighbors, receive hugs from village children
10:00 return to Soma for last hour of language
11:00 lather in sunscreen and begin walk to school in blazing afternoon sun
11:30 curse Soma for making us practice our Setswana with every passing person
11:45 buy apples and water from the store, marvel at how dirty our feet have managed to become so early in the day
12:00 meet other PCVs from the Lifeskills group. hug. compare host family stories from previous night and strange Botswana lunches
1:30 receive technical training on HIV/AIDS biology and epidemiology, cultural integration, Botswana geography, political hierarchy, the Lifeskills program, etc. etc.
3:30 break for tea and run to post office or pharmacy
4:00 return for more technical training or guest speakers from the Ministry of Education or PCVoffices
5:30 leave to walk home with Ame, Hael, Anel and Soma… convince Soma that we truly enjoy the walk and not to worry so much…
6:00 take pictures, marvel at African sunsets, practice Setswana with Soma, greet neighbors, reminisce about American food and social lives
6:30 return home, greet mother and neighbors in formal Setswana, kiss babies
6:35 dance with family to American pop while helping mother prepare for dinner
7:00 eat starch, veg and beans while struggling to participate in family Setswana chatter
7:30 wash dishes with Naillil under the stars, avoid hungry chickens and dogs in yard
8:00 wish family goodnight, heat water and take bucket bath
8:30 crunches, Setswana, journal
10:00 pray for call from home
11:00 pray for good sleep without malaria-med nightmares
11:30 drift off to rooster crows, dog barks and neighborhood stereos