Friday, December 16, 2011

Youth Forum and Lock Down

So since I wrote last a few things have happened. First of all, I went to Youth Forum which was described to us as a camp for out of school youth that we were going to help facilitate, like camp counselors.  A bunch of us Life Skills volunteers signed up since it seemed like a fun opportunity and was also a chance to get off of lockdown for a bit (lockdown or ‘community assessment phase’ is the first 2 and a half months or so of service when we are not allowed to leave site). Anyway, we were bussed up to Kagoadi which is a village about 6 hours or so from Gabs. The camp was held at a junior secondary boarding school and so when we got there we split boys and girls and were given rooms (after some confusion over availability etc.) us girls were all packed into one very small room which didn’t have enough beds and was packed with more girls as the week went on. At one point there were 16 women in a room meant for 12. Anyway, we then waited and waited and waited for dinner to be ready, ate around 9:30 and were finally heading to bed when they called us back for an emergency meeting to warn us that there were scorpions and black mambas around and there had been a few cases of children being stung already, just what we wanted to hear! And that was only day one. We spend the next ten days on a rollercoaster ride of cultural clashes, long meetings in Setswana with no one to translate, bonding with kids, communal bucket bathing (due to disgusting bathrooms and a lack of buckets), and trying to figure out exactly why they had asked Peace Corps to come to this camp in the first place. On the first official day of the camp they did this activity where they had all of the kids lie down in the auditorium type room where the events were being held and just told them to relax, close their eyes, and think about any issues they were facing at home. Within the first 5 minutes at least 5 kids “broke” as they called it and started crying. As soon as a kid “broke” they were led outside where there were social workers and counselors waiting for them to talk to. Quickly all the counselors and social workers were occupied as more and more kids broke down in tears so kids were asked to write down what was bothering them. The whole ordeal lasted maybe an hour or an hour and a half, but was really heart-wrenching.  I had to try hard not to start crying myself, and felt pretty helpless. I’m still not sure whether it was a useful or healthy exercise for the kids or not, but I guess at least they had a chance to tell someone what was going on with them. Aside from that event, the rest of the camp was upbeat and focused on educating the kids on various life skills such as HIV prevention and hygiene. It was very frustrating at times because of the language barrier and also because Peace Corps didn’t have a defined role at the camp. We hadn’t been part of the planning process so we didn’t have sessions to lead aside from one which was the World AIDS day events. Anyway, I struggled with feeling useless and had a hard time getting my head in the game so to speak. We also had issues with the management and the way things were run. Overall, it was a crash course in cultural difference, and it probably wasn’t the best idea for Peace Corps to send in 11 brand new volunteers into such an intense experience, but we made it! The week ended with a disaster of a field trip in which all the Peace Corps volunteers were stuck into the back of a truck and all feared for our lives while we barreled down a dirt road for hours on end. It’s hard to really explain all of this because everything that happened is so distant from things that happen in the states that I’m having a hard time giving a clear picture, but in a nut shell, it was a crazy week. On the plus side since our bus back to Gabs broke down 3 times and it took us 10 hours to make the trip, we got to stay in Gabs at a hotel! Which was amazing, I was particularly excited about the sinks, and of course a hot shower! And a pool! Quite luxurious. Back at site, I’ve been pretty bored. School is closed and since my main job is at the school I don’t have much to do. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, my village is super small so there isn’t really anything to do and not many people around. I’ve been doing some wandering around, which has been nice, but mostly I’m just trying to get through the month and looking forward to school being open again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First Days at Site

The first few days at site have been very interesting, scary, exciting, and boring all at the same time.  It is hard to really adequately explain how it feels to move to a very small village in Africa, but I will try. I got here on Thursday November 10th. Pulling up to my village in a pickup truck full of my only belongings was surreal to say the least. We pulled onto the school grounds and everything seemed to stop, at least to me. This was a place I knew that I would get to know very well over the next two years. These were children I would hopefully make some sort of impression on. This was a big moment. I was with another volunteer whose site was a few hours past me, but her supervisor has been so kind as to drop me off on their way. Naturally, the teachers who were there to meet me were eager to find out which of us was “theirs”. When they found out it was me they were very happy and welcoming, but gently asked me why I wasn’t white. I was sort of expecting that since that has been a common question since I got here two months ago. After the explanation was given and other introductions made, we set off for my house which was just a few minutes down the road on a family compound. Without any furniture in it my house is four concrete rooms --2 bedrooms, a sitting room and a “kitchen”. I put kitchen in quotes because there is nothing in it that distinguishes it as a kitchen—no cabinets, no counter, no sink and obviously no dishwasher. Luckily they had followed through on the promise of furniture (including a fridge yay!) and a stove, and slowly but surely the concrete box is looking more like a home. The first and most immediate challenge is the heat. It is so incredibly hot here; sometimes it’s hard to think about anything else. Although the Batswana comment on the heat, they never seem to sweat even a tiny bit as much as I do. It’s really unfathomably hot. The second challenge so far has been not having a sink anywhere. I have to wash dishes kneeling or squatting on the ground in front a plastic basin I bought. And the third challenge is harder to explain. It’s hard to actually get myself to leave the house! It’s exhausting just walking out of the house because you really do live in a fishbowl as they say in the Peace Corps. Everyone stares at you everywhere you go, which I didn’t think would bother me all that much, but it actually does wear on you for one reason or another. Culture here also requires you to greet every person you pass, which also doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets to be a lot. Believe it or not, it’s hard to be a stranger in a strange land! I must admit that I’ve been a bit of hermit these first few days, although I’m assured by seasoned volunteers that this is ok and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it (although I do a little…). I took a trip into my shopping village on Sunday which is only about 40K away, but requires hitching (sorry mom!) as there is no public transport and 5k between us and the nearest paved road. This means we have to hitch out of the village and wait at the tarred road for another hitch to Molepolole. People with pickup trucks essentially become public transport because so many people pile in. I guess it’s because I’m American and so presumed to be fragile, but every hitch we got I was promptly given the front seat instead of getting in the back. I thought about insisting otherwise, but I didn’t feel like taking up that battle yet. In Moleps I bought most of the rest of the things I needed for my house including a very ugly (but cheap!) set of burgundy polyester curtains for my living room! Anyway, today (Monday) was my first day at the school.  My supervisor who is the school head introduced me to all of the staff, many of which I had spent time with over the weekend. She then took me around the village to all the major places which consisted of the clinic, the police station, and the goat ranch; all of which are in within a ten minute walk from the school to give an idea of the size. Everyone was exceedingly welcoming and nice and expressed their appreciation for me being there. I hope that I will live up to everyone’s expectations. I then chatted with the school head and deputy school head about issues the school is facing and differences between the US and Botswana (I once again had to dispel the widespread myth that there are no poor people in America). As I mentioned before many of the students at the school are boarders and are part of the indigenous population of Botswana. The school head described them as a marginalized group and said that they struggle in school because they don’t have guidance or support from their parents, obviously in large part due to the fact that they are living so far away from them. When it was break time, I went home as there isn’t much yet for me to do as I am still in the “introduction phase” as my school head put it. She was sure to allay any worries that I had coming from a fast paced American culture that I would have to be super productive right off the bat. “How can we expect you to do anything before you feel at home?” she asked me, and she’s right. Considering I’m still overwhelmed by leaving my house, I think it’ll take a little while before I’m churning out genius ideas that will save the school, but don’t worry, they’ll come…I hope! 

Monday, November 7, 2011

I haven't written a post in a while so there's a lot to write! We got
our sites and leave in only three days! My village is called
Mantshwabisi and it is about 40k from a big village called
Molepolole. The village is very small; there are 700 people, 500 of
which are students or staff at the primary boarding school where I
will be working. There is 5k to the closest paved road. I will be
living in a house on a family compound and will have electricity
(yay!) but no running water (ah!). The school I'm working at is a
boarding school, like I mentioned, for San people which are an
indigenous population in Botswana. They are typically hunter/gatherer
people and have a very different culture then the Batswana. Their
children go to this boarding school since their families live in very
remote areas, far apart from each other and do not have schools close
by. This means that there are children as young as 6 years old living
in a boarding school and only going home three times a year.
Obviously, this is a huge challenge on many levels. Children have a
hard time coping with being away from home so the drop out rate is
very high. My supervisor told me that they have students as old as 16
or 17 still in primary school because their education was interrupted
so many times. Additionally, Setswana (which is what most Batswana
speak and the language I've been learning) is not their first or even
second language, and English is their fourth language. School is
taught in Setswana and English, so the language barrier causes a lot
of issues. The whole issue surrounding the settlement of the San
people and other minority ethnic groups is pretty controversial, but I
will get into that more in a later post. My role in the school is
pretty loosely defined at this point, but since I am the first
volunteer in the village, there is a lot of room to help and also a
lot of flexibility with how I get involved. I met my supervisor who is
the head master at the school and she is super nice and really excited
about me coming there, which is great! However, my house currently has
no furniture! Hopefully, It will be furnished by the time I get there
on Thursday, but I have a feeling that I will be sleeping on the floor
for a while.
Anyway, training is coming to a rapid end. We had a great party on
Saturday for our host families which was really fun. We made it
thanksgiving themed and shared the story of thanksgiving with our
families; in return they acted out a similar tradition of celebrating
a plentiful harvest for us. I was on the cooking committee and made a
massive amount of mashed potatoes which was awesome as I LVOE mashed
potatoes! On Sunday we were all invited over to an Indian man's house
for a party which was really generous and the man was Guajarati so
that was exciting. It was a good party, except he is also a butcher
and they were slaughtering cows (to donate to poor people which is
nice..) while we were there and that was REALLY hard to be around. I
ended up leaving for a while with some other people so we wouldn't
have to be in such close proximity. It was a really fun weekend, and
I've been realizing that everyone is really close in our group and it
seemed to happen overnight in a way. It will be sad to say goodbye on
Thursday. I don't know when I will get the chance to post again since
I will not have internet at my house and will only be able to get
internet at an internet café in Molepolole, so I will try to get a
post up as soon as I can once I get to site. I'm really excited to be
finally swearing in to Peace Corps after deciding to join over a year
ago! I'm definitely nervous for the challenges and mostly at this
point scared of the unknown, but I'm super pumped to get started and
get settled in my own house and village.

Friday, October 21, 2011

One month down, 25 to go

I’ve been in country for a little over one month now! It’s gone by so fast! This past week I was in Semolale, a small village near the eastern border of Botswana with a current PCV for shadowing. The purpose of shadowing is to give us a chance to see what current PCVs are doing in daily life, how they’ve integrated into their communities, etc. It was really an eye-opening experience for me and I enjoyed it a lot. We left early on Monday morning and were dropped off at the bus stop in Gaborone, and then were left to our own devices (finally!) to get on the correct bus and all that. My first bus ride was about 6 hours which wasn’t so bad except that for some reason Batswana like to keep the windows shut on the bus and the woman next to me kept making me close my window! With no AC, this makes for a VERY hot bus ride! Anyway, it was nice to see some more of the country and just actually be doing something on my own. The emptiness of the country struck me again as we would drive for miles without seeing any people or houses, just goats and donkeys! I switched buses in a village called Bobonong and then had about an hour ride from there to Semolale. 
My host, Jen, met me at the General Dealer which is the only store in the village and is about a five minute walk from her house. Jen is in the CCB (Community Capacity Building) program which is not the program that I’m in which is life skills, so some of the things that she does I won’t be doing, but it was all still cool to see. She works mainly in the clinic whereas I’ll be working mainly in the schools, but she also does some work with the primary school in the village. On Tuesday it was ARV day at the clinic which is when HIV-positive people who are on treatment come to get examined by the doctor and get a new set of medication. Jen sits with the doctor during all the appointments and fills out paperwork for ordering blood and other lab tests as well as scheduling patients for their next appointments. Patients who are having adherence issues are only given two weeks supply of medicine at a time so that the doctor can keep closer track of them to make sure they are adhering to their medication.  Adherence is a big issue because if patients don’t take their medicine or take it only sporadically, the virus will build up tolerance making the first-line drugs ineffective. This makes them more infectious to other people and causes them to have to switch to second-line treatment which is more expensive. The Government of Botswana provides free ARV treatment (with the help of PEPFAR which is a US program that provides monetary aid to African countries which makes ARVs more affordable) to HIV-positive people who qualify. In order to qualify patients have to wait for their CD4 count to drop to a certain level since there are too many HIV-positive people to put everyone on ARV treatment immediately. Anyway, when we got to the clinic on Tuesday morning there were a lot of people ranging in ages from 2 to 65 and everything in between waiting for their turn to see the doctor. Not everyone on treatment comes every Tuesday; patients are staggered so that the clinic isn’t overwhelmed on a given Tuesday. If a patient is adhering well they will be given a six-month supply of medication and only have to come in to the clinic twice a year. Some are given a three month supply, some one month, etc. Patients have to come to the clinic the week before they are scheduled to get medication to get blood drawn so tests can be done to track their CD4 count. This process can be inconvenient and time consuming for adult patients since they may have to travel far (the Semolale clinic serves 2 other surrounding villages as well) and might have to take off a full day of work. However, it’s especially harrowing for babies on treatment. When I was there, there was a 2-year-old who was just starting treatment and had to have blood drawn, but babies’ veins are too small to take blood from their arm so the doctor has to use the femoral artery which is in the upper thigh. The nurses had to hold the baby down so that the doctor could get enough blood. It was really painful to watch because the baby was screaming and crying and it really struck me how devastating HIV is. I had to walk away from the situation because I couldn’t fight the tears. It was so hard to see a child in pain like that and know that they have to go through something so terrible at no fault of their own.  It’s especially sad and frustrating because with the correct treatment mother to child transmission is highly preventable. PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission) therapy is also free for all HIV-positive pregnant women and is very effective if followed correctly in preventing the baby from being born HIV-positive. Yet, there are still babies being born with HIV. There are various reasons for this, but I think I would like to work on PMTCT as a secondary project when I get to site. Anyway, the rest of the day was spent with patients and was very interesting. I won’t be working daily at a clinic since I’m Life Skills, but I would like to at least spend some time at my local clinic.  
That night we ate tacos, yum! (If anyone is wondering what they can mail me, tortillas and taco seasoning are highly appreciated!)Other meals throughout the week included homemade Pizza, soya burgers, and pasta! The next day we spent some time at the clinic and that afternoon we went to the primary school and I sat in on a life skills lesson that Jen gave about transmission of HIV. It was helpful to see a lesson in an actual classroom of children since that’s what I will be doing. The lesson went well, although it is sometimes hard to tell whether they are absorbing the information or not. At the end of the week we conducted a focus group about youth opinions on the government and economy and about the US government which was part of my assignment for the shadowing week. It was hard to find people to attend because the required age ranges were either from 13-18 or 19-25 and since there is no secondary school in Semolale there aren’t many youth around. We managed to get together a group of 19-25 year olds, mostly special constables from the police station. We discussed their attitudes towards the government and what they saw as the biggest issues facing their community. We also talked about what they thought about the US which was really interesting because some words that came up were “heaven”, “everything”, “peace”, and “better life”. They were really shocked to find out that there are people living in the US that are homeless and that there are US citizens who are HIV-positive but can’t get on treatment because they can’t afford it.
Overall, it was a really interesting week and I could go on and on about all of the things that I learned, but I don’t want to bore you all! We only have three weeks left of training and I have a feeling it’s going to go by fast! This Friday we get our site assignments which is very exciting and on Saturday we get to go to Gaborone for a party that the Peace Corps is throwing to celebrate Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary! Should be a good week.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day-to-day life, The Coronation, and Botswana Cook-off!

We’re half way through training now, and it’s really flying by! This past week went really fast and was generally really fun. Day-to-day I generally wake up around 6:30, eat cornflakes for breakfast, have language class for 4 hours, and then lunch at the training center which I pack and is usually a PB+J and an apple, and then various training sessions for the afternoon. Sometimes we go downtown after training for a little bit and hang out at the Ko Gae Café which is basically the only place that we can hang out and get food/beer that isn’t super sketchy or full of really drunk men. We have to be home before dark so that means I’m back at my house by 6:30-6:45 every night. For dinner usually either I or my host mom cooks  since there’s only two of us in the house. We usually have either rice or mele meal which is this corn meal-type mush/porridge that kind of has the consistency of gluey mashed potatoes but actually isn’t so bad. It doesn’t taste like much on its own but we have it with some kind of vegetable (spinach or cabbage usually) and the two things mixed together is pretty good. It’s been very easy to stay vegetarian here but the diet consists of a lot of starch and a lot of carbs so I’m afraid I’m going to gain weight! Sometimes we also have baked beans or if my host mom is having meat too I’ll make a veggie burger or some other meat substitute which I was so surprised that they have here and taste pretty good. We usually watch the news while we eat dinner which is interesting because it is totally absent of crime or other depressing news like we generally get back home. They usually have about 4 or 5 headlines about politics in Botswana or other African countries, maybe some news about the economy or businesses and other stories like that. Pretty different than the headlines in the States which are usually riddled with murder and rape and all that! It’s important to note though that Botswana is a REALLY sparsely populated place. There are less than 2 million people here and it’s really noticeable, especially after living in a city for the past 4 years. There’s no one here! Really! Its nuts.
Anyway, we had our first language proficiency interview this week which was kind of scary but went well and I understood a lot more than I thought I would so that was good. On Friday we went to the coronation of the new Chief of the Bangwaketse tribe which is the tribe of the area that we are living in. It was a long day but the president was there which was really cool! Also really interesting because if the US president was at an event the security would be crazy, but there wasn’t even a metal detector here! Everyone just walked in and took their seats and the president showed up (on time surprisingly!) escorted by maybe 2 or 3 police officers and just walked down the aisle casually. Another funny thing was that even though this was like a really big event, Batswana are still so informal! People were answering phone calls, eating in the audience, chatting during speeches etc. It was pretty interesting and indicative of the laid-back nature of the culture here. Also interesting was that the chief has to kill a leopard (he get special permission to do this from the government) and wear the skin of the leopard during the coronation. He was also given a spear and a shield from his uncles…and he also got a car!? Talk about a mix of modernity and tradition! Anyway, the event was cool and the luncheon afterward was chaotic of course…they ran out of plates and silverware in about the first five minutes so people were using napkins and random pieces of tinfoil for their food and it was really hectic.
On Saturday we had a cooking practicum aka Iron Chef: Botswana. We split into five groups and each group had to bring something they cooked in on Saturday morning which was tasted by a panel of judges and the winners got pizza! Everyone’s food was awesome. My group made a really good vegetable soup and some kind of weird version of kettle corn with peanut butter on it since we couldn’t make caramel, but it actually turned out tasty! We didn’t win, but the winning group shared their pizza with everyone (except it was a meat-lover’s so I didn’t eat it L ) and it was a really fun day.
Anyway, it’s Sunday now which means its laundry day! We are all leaving early tomorrow morning to travel to current volunteers’ houses to shadow them for the week which I’m really pumped for! Our first experience with Botswana public transport will definitely be an adventure I think!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cultural day, baboons, and training!

Well it’s been over 2 weeks now! The second week of training flew by as I have a feeling will the rest of training. Everyone in the group seems to be opening up and getting more comfortable so it has been nice to feel more connected with everyone. This week we got to do some fun cultural stuff which was great! On Monday night we went to the Kgotla, which is basically the main gathering place for the people of the village, for cultural night which included a choir and a really awesome traditional dance group. The dances involved a lot of stomping and the use of noise makers which the dancers had tied around their ankles. I unfortunately didn’t have my camera with me because we didn’t find out we were going to the event until a few minutes before we left, so I don’t have any pictures, but it was really awesome to watch! They also had some people there from other African countries such as Angola who spoke a bit about their culture. Well, needless to say, the large group of Americans stuck out of the crowd and it wasn’t long before the Emcee of the evening called us out and told us we had to come to the stage and perform for everyone! He wouldn’t take no for an answer, so about half of us got up and after a 5 second huddle decided that we would sing and dance the Macarena in front of 100
Batswana after they had just done incredible dances for us! It was pretty hilarious and everyone laughed (with us or at us?) a lot. I think they appreciated the effort at least!
On Wednesday we went to Gabarone to do some immigration stuff and set up our bank accounts which of course took way longer than expected. But we saw a huge family of Baboons on our way which was awesome! Haven't seen any other wildlife except cows and donkeys, so that was really exciting. This worked in our favor though because we got to eat lunch at the mall in the city which meant American food! I had a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and it was amazing! I have been craving cheese because it is not at all part of the daily diet here, but I am realizing that it was DEFINITELY a part of my daily diet back home! 
On Thursday we had an interesting session about stigma and HIV and got to talk to a panel of people living with HIV. They told us their stories and how they are coping and what it was like to tell their friends and family their status. It was really interesting to hear what they had to say and I was impressed at how well they were coping, especially the youngest woman of the three who was only 28 and just found out her status a year ago. I can’t imagine being in her position. Stigma is a huge issue here though and it was one of the major contributing factors to the spread of the virus because people are afraid to test or reveal their status to their partners. Hopefully our group can be a drop in the bucket towards breaking down the stigma and contributing to the prevention of the virus. As training goes on I’m getting very excited to start working and start my service. Since the Peace Corps program here is so targeted I think it will really be able to make a difference in the long run in preventing new infections. The people we have interacted with so far have all been very welcoming and stressed the importance of our role in making a difference in Botswana. It’s hard sometimes to feel like anything we do will make an impact, but since the program is focused on capacity building and sustainability I think all of us really do have the potential to make an impact! at least I hope so...we'll see if the optimisim remains..

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I'm in Africa?!?!

 I have been in Botswana for over  one week now so decided it was time to sit down and write a blog post. I don’t know when I will have a chance to post this as there is only internet available at the internet café in town which is about an hour and a half walk away (or a 10-15 minute cab ride, but on a Peace Corps budget I’d prefer not to spend the money!) and we cannot walk around after dark. Since we get out of training around 5 pm every day and it starts to get dark around 6 or 630 I’ve only been able to get on the internet once so far. Anyway, I guess I should start from the beginning! We left Philadelphia for JFK airport on Wednesday morning around 3 AM, even though our flight did not leave until 11:15. This meant a lot of sitting around and waiting at the airport. Over 24 hours  and one stop over later, we arrived in Gabarone international Airport. The plane we took from South Africa to Gabarone was very small and we walked down steps directly outside instead of through a terminal into the airport. Everyone was exhausted from the trip, but it felt great to finally be in Botswana. We were greeted by some current PCVs as well as the Country Director and some other PC staff which was exciting! I’m really in the Peace Corps! From the air port we were taken to a lodge called “Big 5” for the wildlife that is found in Botswana. The hotel was very clean and pretty and it was wonderful to sleep in a bed after so many hours on the plane. The next morning we woke up early, had breakfast, and boarded the bus to Kanye which is where we will be spending the next two months for training and is about an hour outside of Gabarone. Once in Kanye we attended the Host Family Matching Ceremony in which important members of the community spoke, welcomed us, and talked a little about Botswana. Finally it came time for us to be “matched” with our hosts. We had all been given little slips of paper with a name and a number on them and had been practicing pronunciations all morning. One by one our numbers were called and we had to announce the name we had on our paper and our host parent had to read off our name and then that was it, you were matched! My host mother welcomed me with a big smile and several hugs and told me she was very happy to meet me. We all had lunch at the center and then we were on our own with our families for the weekend. This made me a little nervous. I have never lived in a host family before and as it was only our second day in the country still knew very little about the culture, what to expect, etc. so the whole weekend ahead of me was quite daunting but also exciting. We drove the short distance from the center where the ceremony took place to my host mother’s house, and lucky me it has electricity AND running HOT water! Hooray! I also have my own room and closet which is very nice. My host brother was waiting at the house when we got there and we got along right away. It has been very interesting to see how people here perceive Americans and the United States based on the media and movies that make it over here.
Anyway, the weekend had its ups and downs. I had to find my way around the kitchen basically right away and cooked lunch for about 6 people on my second day here which was stressful but also funny. Interestingly enough as a vegetarian I have been placed with a poultry farmer! We joke that we think Peace Corps finds it funny to put volunteers in to families that are the opposite of them to see if we last. For example, one fellow trainee who is Jewish was placed with an evangelical Christian family!One highlight was a nice long walk around the village which is basically just sand/dirt roads and houses and lots of roaming cows, donkeys and chickens!
Anyway, after the first few nights I started to get used to the roosters (although they are still waking me up at 4 am every day) and began to adjust to my new environment. I made friends with my nine year old “host cousin” who is very smart and helped me over the weekend with my Setswana skills. She was also very interested in the pictures I brought of friends and family from home. One picture was in front of the ocean which she has never seen before and she was totally blown away. We got into a good conversation about the creatures that live in the ocean! She was very fascinated. I am alos teaching her how to shuffle cards which she has been practicing at very hard.  
 Training started on Monday and has filled our days up. So far a lot of the information has been more general about Peace Corps policies and such but we have also started learning about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and how it is affecting Botswana which has been interesting. A huge part of the issue is the stigma surrounding HIV positive people which makes it difficult for those living with HIV. ARVs are free and available here, but the issue arises for people who cannot afford to get to the ARV distributing centers.
 On Wednesday we got a chance to walk around town a bit since we got out of training early and we checked out the public library (which has lots of funny books from the 70’s and even a vegetarian Indian cookbook!) as well as a local café that sells French fries! Today, a group of about 7 or 8 kids knocked on the door wanting to meet me which was pretty cute; everyone is pretty fascinated by the Americans in town. On Saturday I went to a wedding which was held at another volunteer’s host family’s house which was very cool to see. We were welcomed into the wedding very graciously and got to eat lunch at the reception and spend the day at the wedding. Today I hand washed all my clothes which was actually a lot more involved than you would think!! . Anyway, I’m just taking one day at a time and trying to take it all in! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting Ready to Leave

So I leave for staging in Philly tomorrow which will officially start my Peace Corps Adventure! I still have packing to do, phone calls to make, and general organizing/tying up loose ends to finish in preparation to leave for 27 months. Right now everything is feeling surreal since I have been waiting, thinking, planning, etc to go to Peace Corps for SO long. This whole process started around this time a year ago so it is hard to believe that the time has FINALLY come to leave. Anyway, I'm really excited but also really nervous! Looking forward to meeting everyone in the Bots 11 group and getting started on the journey. I'm hoping I will have enough internet access to keep this blog updated, but we will find out! Ok, it's almost 2 pm and there is still a mound of stuff on the living room floor waiting to be packed so I need to stop procastinating and get to it! More later!