So seeing as I’m not even sure when the last time was that I posted something, I figured it was high time that I wrote. Time has just been racing forward these past few months and it’s hard to believe that we’ve been here 9 months, the bots 12 group is not only here but will be swearing in really soon, and the bots 9s are gone! As we approach the one-year mark, I’m happy in many ways about how my service is going, but also of course a little frustrated as well. At the beginning of May things felt like they were finally picking up. I was leaving for the US to visit my family in the middle of the month and I think the deadline finally lit the fire that was needed under some of these people to get some of my projects that I’ve been trying to make happen for so long to finally happen. (I’m just jumping in with where I’m at now, since I feel like there are too many things that have happened between when I last wrote and now to go all the way back to where I left off.) As a result of either this deadline or people getting tired of my constant pushing to get things done, I managed to have an unusually busy week the week before I went to America, which also happened to be the week I had a trainee from the Bots 12 group come shadow me! I held a health workshop that went on for a few afternoons in which the nurse and health educator spoke to the students about hygiene, puberty, and safe sex; they even did a condom demonstration with the older group of boys which I was really happy about since that is not usually something which happens in primary school. Overall, I was pleased with how it turned out and the kids seemed engaged and interested in getting information that they don’t normally have access to. Additionally, I held a workshop for the teachers at my school about implementing the Life Skills curriculum into their lessons (yes, it took 6 months to actually get the ball rolling on the main thing I’m here to do, but hey that’s Peace Corps…) which I also felt went pretty well. The teachers seemed to be on board with using the Living materials which is a set of worksheets and lessons that teachers can use to teach life skills to their students. They can also use the materials as a vehicle for teaching other subjects thus ‘infusing’ life skills into their core-curriculum subjects. I really support the curriculum and think it’s easy to use and makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, in reality it doesn’t get used very often in the classroom. I’m hoping that the workshop encouraged teachers to get behind the idea and start using the materials, but since I’ve been back from the states so far I haven’t seen much change aside from seeing the books on teachers’ desks rather than in a closet, which I suppose is a minor success. Anyway, besides the health workshop and the teachers’ workshop, I also finally got a meeting together with the out-of-school youth in the village with a surprising turn-out of 23 people. The meeting got out of hand a little as the attendees had so very different views regarding what I could help them with, but overall I felt it was productive as it gave me a sense of what the youth were looking for and the kinds of things they would be interested in doing. Their biggest concern was with unemployment and they all felt that they lacked necessary skills and money to be able to get jobs outside of the village. I left the meeting feeling like I was making progress and made a plan to meet with them again once more before I left. Unfortunately no one showed to the meeting. Nor the 2 that my counterpart scheduled while I was gone. Nor the meeting I scheduled for this week. So, looks like that project has come to a temporary standstill as I figure out what is getting in the way and try to come up with a different angle to take.
My trip to America was great, but it was very strange at first to be back. Even though I had only been gone 8 months, it felt like longer as so much has happened in my life over here in that amount of time. It was odd to be back in all the familiar yet somehow unfamiliar places and to try to explain to people I haven’t had much communication with what my life in Botswana is like. It’s really difficult to come up with concise answers to questions like, “how is Botswana?” or “how is Peace Corps?” I found myself feeling like I could either answer with one word of “good!” or go on for hours about what it’s like and what I’m doing, and so it was hard to come up with a middle ground and not talk people’s ear’s off while also giving enough information to satisfy! Another weird thing about being home was thinking about all fo my friends back here in Botswana continuing on their lives in tiny villages while I was driving around in America on super-highways and ordering pizza for delivery. It was just hard to wrap my head around the simultaneous existence of these two totally different universes existing in the same planet.
Anyway, coming back was not quite as weird. Getting off the plane in Gabarone and haggling with the cab driver for a good price felt normal and it felt like home. It felt comfortable to not be overhearing conversations in English and it was nice to say hi to every person I passed by again. Going to my village was a little lonely the first night, but it did feel good to see the kids light up when I came through the gate and get to snuggle with my poor kitty who missed me so much! Of course after everyone hugged and greeted me when I came back, the first question I got was, “what did you bring us from America!?” Oh well. No matter how much I settle in here, I’m still an American!