Monday, October 31, 2011

end of the week

Celia and Shannon (Boston and Seattle) on the way to school

cows have right of way

catching up,,,,

I remember a story from the Australian outback, where the ‘white man’ was making an expedition with many hired hands carrying his bags. At some point all the ‘natives’ stopped walking and sat down. When questioned, they told the frantic man that they had to rest. “We must wait for our souls to catch up with us,” they said.

That is pretty much how I have felt many times since arriving in Philadelphia on September 12. The peace corps gathered us 37 strangers in a hotel in center city, gave us four hours of paperwork, ice-breakers, and skits, then sent us off to find dinner and sleep until 2:30 am, at which time we gathered in the lobby and were put on buses to JFK. Word is that we lost one or two people at that point, people who didn’t ‘get on the bus.’ I confess I didn’t notice. All I remember is the full moon outside the bus window as we cruised up the turnpike, then the long wait for the South Africa Airlines desk to open (at 5 am) and another few hours wait for the 11 am flight. Then it was 15 hours from JFK to Johannesburg, a couple of hours wait at Jo’burg, and a one-hour hop and skip to Gabarone, Botswana.  I didn’t really sleep during all that, but I know I slipped into some form of unconsciousness  from time to time.

This is all you need to know:  I got a sunburn walking from the plane to the terminal in Gabarone. We were greeted by Peace Corps people (current volunteers and staff and the new country director), our large suitcase was put in storage and we were bussed off to a ‘lodge’ with the rest of our belongings. An hour later we gathered for more ice breakers and skits and were told to keep standing “so you won’t fall asleep.” Then it was time for innoculations, dinner, a slide show and a few hours sleep in a horizontal position. At 8 am the next day we were given medical kits, cell phones, mosquito nets, and once again put on a bus, this time to meet our host families.

Five weeks later it’s hard to believe that we were delivered, sleepless and speechless, to these unsuspecting Batswana families. This is the reality show better known as Peace Corps (pronounced Peace Corpse by the locals—a rather apt description of my state of mind for the first few days).

Since then I have come to respect and admire all of my Bots 11 group. We are a diverse group—ranging in age from 21 to 65, we are a pretty good representation of American society—in race, gender, age, marital status. The locals are sometimes perplexed by the fact that we are not all basic white people.  In a taxi the other day, Mary was explaining to the driver that America has many different people, people from every part of the globe. “That’s why you have so many states,” he said, as if we have a state for every group. We all jumped in to say that no, in America, people live all over the place. I’m not sure he bought it.

My host family’s son told me that the Botswana flag is Blue, White and Black because the Black and White people live together and everyone needs water. This may not be accurate, but it is definitely believable. Batswana people are gracious and kind and other  than the children who laughed and pushed their eyebrows up to indicate that I am Chinese (the only white people they had seen before were the people who run the China store), I have never been made to feel ‘odd’. Greetings are very important in this society, and “Dumela Rra or Dumela Mma” easily opens up a conversation even with strangers.

The truth is, I rarely know what day it is. We go to ‘school’ (Peace Corps pre-service training) 6 days a week and my computer has not been able to log onto the internet long enough to connect to the current time.  I watch BTV news every night, but have not heard any US news. I am looking forward to moving to Kopong, my site for the next two years. Hopefully being close to the capital will mean I can get internet connection and be able to stay in touch more consistently.

At the moment, I am heading out for our second PCV writing group (YES, AWA is alive and well in Sub-Saharan Africa…) and hope to get some training from our tech savvy PCVs on how to get some photos uploaded. We only get one hour 3x  a week on the internet, and every time I try to upload a photo I run out of time. Must be a better way…

Thank you to all of you who have emailed, snail mailed, and sent good wishes across the globe. I live for your messages…

Tsamaya Sentle!

kanye or kyoto?

walking to school

Lelwapa yame (my family)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Still hereDu

Dumelang Borra le Bomma!

I have been trying to update my blog, particularly with photos, but getting internet time has been difficult. Here's what the photos would have told you:

I walk to school everyday beside cattle, donkies, and chickens. If I think I've gotten a tan, I need a bath, which is basically a bucket poured over my head. My host family is lovely, and for all of you in my writing group: they are the incarnation of Minnie and Beatrice (!), complete with 4 children. It is summer here, and getting hotter day by day. PULA (rain) has not arrived. People greet you with "may you bring the rain." wish I could.

For those of you who haven't heard, I have been posted to Kopong, a small village close to the capital of Gaborone. It is not far from the airport, so I expect to be a stopping by point for many people coming and going. I will be working in a junior/secondary school, and will have a small 'cottage' on a family compound.

All in all, life is good, although I never know what day it is, Peace Corps keeps us busy, the family wants to spend time with me, and then there's other PCV's to hang out with. Every once in a while I realize the trees must be turning at home, the temperature must be dropping, and then there's something about people camping out on wall street (?) not much news here...

Love to all and apologies for any typos here, i am madly trying to upload before they turn off the internet...

celia/olbogeng (the Setswana name I was given by my family on the day of my arrival, which means "praise God")