Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Change is gonna do you good"

20 November 2010

~I live in a world where my television is replaced by a world map and I love it. In fact, I discover new countries all the time. I was never a great student, especially when learning important things like geography. Nothing ever stuck. I never knew where Tunisia was and here I am sharing the same continent. Life is simple now. I enjoy reading book after book, strolling throughout the village just saying "Dumelang" to my neighbors and new friends. I look forward to my guitar lessons with myself and my "idiots guide" and sitting on my little porch talking the late afternoon away with Richard and 'our kids'. Life is hard here, sure, but life is beautiful here.

~I found out yesterday at a doctor's appointment that I have lost 30lbs here. Holy crap.

~Here is a lesson learned story:
I remember before I even set foot on the plane to come to Botswana people were saying, "Mary, you're going to meet your husband there!" and I can't say I didn't have those words stored in the back of my mind. My dream since I was thirteen was to come to somewhere in Africa and be in Peace Corps and maybe, just maybe meet an amazing African man who I would love forever. However it didn't take long after I landed in Botswana to harbor major stereotypes and bad thoughts about the men here. I do believe that most stereotypes derive from some sort of truth and that's where all my thoughts against Batswana men came from...truth. If you've been reading my blog from the beginning you already know that I've said the men here are cheaters by cultural standards. Also, the women are as well but they're better at hiding it. Of course when I say things like that I am not saying ALL men and women are. It's a gross clumped stereotype that is shared by not just me and other PCV's but by Batswana as well. The many Batswana I have spoken to have been hurt by someone who has cheated. This however does not make it right to say. Anyways, let me get to the point of why I'm even saying these things. MCP (Multiple Concurrent Partnerships) is a cultural, could I use the word 'practice' here in Botswana? Trying to stop MCP is a job Peace Corps is here to do and it's one of the most important ones at that. Having many partners at once is spreading H.I.V. considerably fast here. It is very unfortuante.
Arriving in Botswana and learning about the MCP problem and hearing Batswana women tell me "No, no, men here are cheaters and beaters and they are bad!" made me slide down a slippery slope of stereotypical judgement. I did not come here to judge people or make assumptions and I am sad to say that without even realizing it I was doing those very things. Do I think that men here are cheaters? Yes! However, I have learned from getting to know some men that this is of course not the case for all men but once you start to judge some men you slowly lump them all in the same category. I knew this from the start but I was fogged by what I saw and heard. When you are constantly approached by men who are asking to sleep with you, say that they love you or both and the whole time they are wearing their wedding rings or telling you about their children it can poison your thoughts. I was getting so irritated and frustrated that these men were disrespecting their partners and me.
Something that helped unfog my mind was a friendship I made with a guy in my village the first week I arrived at site about 5 months ago. I was very weary of him and cautious because of all the things I had heard but he slowly showed me that he was genuine. After about 3 months of seeing him around and saying our hello's we started to hang out. We would talk for hours about our different cultures, I would go to his football matches and teach him how to use a computer and it was just nice. He didn't creep me out like the countless guys I pass everyday. He was my friend. To help him in the 'good guy' points department he works at a counseling center as a volunteer MCP counselor. Bonus! This fact didn't make me swoon just yet, here even Pastors preach about love and faithfulness while they themselves are sleeping with many women at once behind their wives back.
Our friendship kept growing and it got to a point where I wanted something more but I struggled with the thoughts and stereotypes I had. I spoke with a good friend back in the states (Princess C!) who told me, "Mary, if he treats you well, if he appreciates you don't hold back, just let it flow" and so after some thought I decided she was right. So for the past two months I have enjoyed getting to know this great guy. He is sweet and loving, not to mention a smile to die for! I really like him. I still have my guard up for the time being but it is slowly crumbling down. Are we dating? do you date here in Botswana? A picnic at the cattle post? I like to say we're together and learning from each other. I like not being so defined mainly because I don't want to get hurt. He likes to talk about the future, I don't. It's too scary. So, for now I am happy with him and he tells me "Mary, you are in every sunrise" which I still don't know if I should laugh at or smile like a girl would in a cheesy, romantic movie. Those of you who know me know that I thrive off humor so believe me it was VERY hard not to laugh right in his face when he said that! You also know that I've been waiting for a "Noah Calhoun" type to say things like that to me so when it actually happened I didn't expect it or know what to do but smile. Oh man, I am swooning now.
Don't worry Mom, I'm not going to stay a day longer here than I have to but don't get your hopes up either for me bringing home an African husband! Our families are too important to us so it will end. It will be dreadfully sad but I am sure I will be thankful for all that we taught each other and the time we shared. Man, I am a cheese ball to the MAX today! Oh, his name is Omphile but he goes by Fila. His friends call him Soldier (Destiny's Child would give me a pat on the back for that one.)
I didn't even think I would be blogging about a relationship on a public space but I had to share that I have learned that even when I think I'm not judging I am and I need to watch myself. Stereotypes are dangerous and they can lead you the wrong way and you can miss out on the greatness of people.

More to come.
Peace and Love,

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When it gets too hard, open your eyes, there's beauty in everything.

When you're looking at the world with nothing but negatives then nothing but negatives come your way. It's all about hope that one day things will shift, even for a moment but that moment will be perfect. That moment will make you smile. That moment gives you hope to get through the next obstacle. I am trying to live my life this way because if I don't I will get stuck in a dangerous place. A place where nothing seems hopeful. A place where only sorrow and pain stay. I believe I am doing a good job so least for today. At least for this particular moment in time. I could sink deep into a dark hole if I let it overtake me, the sadness that creeps in from time to time.

I woke up this morning to a blazing hot day, just shy of 95 degrees before 9am. As I turned on the faucet to brush my teeth there was no glorious flow of water...yet again I was left with the thought of 'when will my water come back? An hour, a day, a week?' My previous incident with no water for 5 days almost broke me like I mentioned in a prior blog and I took a second to take a breath and think. Thank God for that moment of clarity. I could feel the sadness trying to come, trying to take me to where it has so many times in the 7 months I have been here. Not this time, not today. I may not be able to live without water for too many days at 100 degrees but I know I'd find a way. Somehow. So, I turned on my sink faucet in the morning just in case my water decided to come back on.

As I sat in my sitting room thousands and thousands of miles away from the only comfort I've ever known I felt blessed. I felt as though I am not alone. Reason being? Would you even understand if I said I felt so happy in that moment because of the weather, because of Mother Nature? Probably not but I will try and explain. There was just an amazing (if ever so short) rain storm. I opened my windows and curtains and let the cool wind flow through my house like a literal breath of fresh air. It felt magnificent, especially after hours of heat pouring into my house and no immediate way to cool off without water available. I was more then pleased to not only hear the rain BUT hear my sink turn on! Granted the pressure was terrible but I ran to the bathroom and took the opportunity to take a cool shower. Though it took a little extra time to get the shampoo out of my hair due to the lack of water coming from the showerhead I felt refreshed! As if on cue, as I finished in the shower the water again stopped. However, my smile didn't.
Positivity. That's my new outlook. Even though I've always stood by the saying, "Life won't give you anything you can't handle" I have struggled a little with it here. I am doing my best to turn that struggle into understanding and I believe it's working.

As of right now I am still listening to the thunder roll across the sky and I hear the children come out to play now that the rain has ceased to fall. The dark clouds take over the sky but the light of the sun pushes through as best as it can. The world is so quiet and yet so loud. Quiet with its stillness of the Earth but loud with its singing of birds and laughter of children.
I am happy. Do I get sad? Yes, everyday but I don't want to let the sadness win anymore.

Ok, so I know I'm clearly a little wack-a-do here with emotions but y'all still love me!

In a bit I'll have some funny stories but some students are coming over to my house in ten minutes so I can't write them down...stay tuned!

Peace and love,
Dinkles (as my fellow Bots 9ers call me)

Friday, October 15, 2010

There is too much death, too much sadness.

After months and months of sadness but no tears I finally broke down. Every week here in Botswana there is a funeral, every single week. There is too much death, too much sadness.
As I sit here and write I desperately try and think of how I will put into words the sadness I feel for a student at my school. On Sunday October 10th his Mother passed away from being "sick". I put the word "sick" in quotations because it is the word often used to describe someone living with HIV or AIDS. I do not know if this particular woman died from complications of the disease but I can only wonder. His father already passed a couple of years ago and he is left with an older and younger brother. He himself is 15.
This evening I attended the prayer service which occurs the night before the burial. He lives quite close to me so I made my way to his families house. Batswana women are expected to wear certain attire to funerals so I put on a dress, something to wear around my shoulders and a scarf to cover my head. When I arrived I went to where the females sit because there is a place for men to be and a separate place for women. We all sat and waited for the body to be brought from the capital of Gaborone. Some sat in silence while others spoke softly to one another. When the body arrived everyone stood. As the coffin was unloaded from the car a low, beautiful murmur of a song began to be sung all around. Though the song was sung in Setswana and I couldn't understand the words it didn't matter because I felt the beauty in my heart. I watched as the coffin was brought passed us and placed inside the house. While a pastor prayed inside the house with some relatives everyone outside continued to stand and silently listen to his words through apen door and windos. I turned to the people standing around me and I noticed the boy from my school standing next to a younger boy who I took to be his brother. I couldn't help but watch him. A woman inside the house was sobbing loudly and though I couldn't see a tear among anyone else in the crowd I saw the boy's eyes. They were filled with tears but not once did one drop.
As the relatives and pastor exited the house the singing began again, this time it was louder and filled with heartache. My eyes became blurry but I held back tears, though it would have been ok it just didn't feel right to be crying among people who were not. Especially because my tears would have been for the boy because I never met the Mother. After a prayer some people began to disperse while others waited around for food to be served. I waited a few minutes but I felt out of place and too vunerable so I stood up and started home. I heard my name as I walked past a neighboring home on the compound, "Miss Duggan..." and when I turned to look I saw the boy. He was standing in a doorway with his hand on the younger boys shoulders and he smiled and waved. It was a sad smile, an appreciative smile. I smiled back and softly waved. I will hold his smile in my mind forever. Here is a boy who lost his Mother. Here is a boy who lost both his parents. Here is a boy standing with his younger brother at their Mother's prayer service, being strong, brave, and smiling. Behind that smile there is a lost and scared boy. Behind that smile there is a broken heart. Behind that smile there is a boy who is forced to become a man.

There is to much death, too much sadness.

If you believe in God, say a prayer for Maogisi Koko and his brothers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

6 months of change

10 October 2010

This entry is just going to be full of random things from as far back as early September...mainly because I haven't been good about keeping up (unless I'm miserable;)...apparently I'm real good at that)

I'll start with an amazing success story that I had. If you know me from pre-peace corps you know that I had the amazing opportunity to work at Crossroads for Kids for many years and develop team building and leadership facilitation skills. When I was accepted into Peace Corps I was hoping for the chance to bring what I have learned over the years to the people of Botswana. I was able to do that in early September. A volutneer from Bots 8 (the group who have been here a year prior to our arrival) heard that I had a background in leadership and team building so she asked me to come to her school and run a Leadership workshop for her school's Prefects (Student school monitors)
I was extremely excited! I asked a volunteer named Kelli in my own group if she would be a co-facilitator with me. I developed a 1.5 day workshop plan and when we arrived at the school I was both nervous and excited to begin. There were about 25 students who participaed in the 1.5 day workshop. In the beginning it was hard to get them to open up. Sometimes even back in the states it is hard to get children (especially teenagers) to open up in front of their peers and take a leadership role , but here it was more difficult then I imagined or ever experienced. By the end of the first day I knew these students were changing in front of our eyes. They were becoming more confident and unafraid to speak up. They were showing us they had a voice and wanted to be heard which is extremely inmportant for youth here in Botswana. A lot of times the students are overlooked and misunderstood. They need to be cared for and looked after but there is a big gap in pyscho social support for children. It is something I have become very passionate about. If you read an earlier blog I wrote about a young girl who was almost raped by other students you remember that the support she got about her situtation was minimal. Very minimal in fact. When it comes to emotions here, things are swept under the rug. A lot of people do not want or know how to give the support needed in terrible situations like that.
By the completion of the workshop Kelli and I saw a noticeable difference. The students had learned how working together as a team to have their voices heard was important if not absolutely necessary. Here is some of what they had to say about the workshop from a feedback form we handed out:

- "I learned how to cooperate and talk to other people in a good way."
- "I learned how to lead people. I should respect people so that they can respect me too. I have to be cooperative."
- "Working together as a team makes tasks very easy. How to respect my peers and cooperate well with them."
- "I learned how to lead other students and to work peacefully with others."
- "I learned so much because we were taught how to stand for ourselves and speak out without fear or concerns, to be cooperative,working together as one team to make a change as leaders."
- "I learned that with cooperation and respect you can succeed in anything you want to."
- "From now on I am not going to give up on anything I do."

And here are some things theywrote about us as facilitators:

- "They are awesome and loving ladies. They were very cooperative and never gave up even if we seemed like we were tired."
- "They teach us how to work with others and to cooperate with them"
- "Facilitators were kind, friendly, loving, and also caring because they didn't want us to get hurt. They were amazing, fabulous, great and I liked them"
- "They respected us."
- "They were lovely, nice and also caring people. They opened up to me."
- "They were passionate and understanding. Encouraging you to keep on doing that!"
- "They were good and kind to us. They didn't get angry at us."

This is why I am here, I just know it.

Kelli and I have already been in talk with our own schools and other volunteers to bring the workshop to other students and teaching and administration staff as well! Success!

On to other things:

~At one point I had no water for 5 days. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Picture living in a cement house which is directly in the sun ALL DAY just baking. It is 95 degrees outside and you are thirsy and sweaty and you have NO WAY of cooling down. I didn't have enough storage water to last me 2 days let alone 5. Those 5 days broke me in a way. I would never wish that feeling of thirst on anyone, ever. I have a new respect for water that I never knew was even possible.
Just yesterday I was out of water and thankfully it was only for 1 day and half of the night. I had my shower turned on and when I heard the water start up at 12:34am I jumped up out of bed and I stood under the cold, cool shower and cried with happiness.

~My bother Jimmy proposed to his girlfriend Cali at The Grand Canyon! I am thrilled for them! Wait for me though you punks!

~In my village there was the annual Toyota 1000k Desert Race. It is the biggest sporting event in Botswana and this was the first year it was taking place in Kumakwane. Racers from all over Southern Africa come to compete and spectators from all over come to camp out and party the whole weekend. My village is about 4,500 people but with the race there were over 30,000 people here to watch. 10,000 alone were camping! I had people over for the whole weekend in my teeny tiny house and we watched motor bikes, quads, these cool looking futuristic cars which names I forget and trucks! We were splashed with obscene amounts of dirt and sand and we loved every second of it!
When I got back to school that Monday the teachers were talking about how fun it was. One said, "I love the race but I hate how the next day there are all these used condoms around." I really, really wanted to say "Hey, at least they were using condoms" but I kept my mouth shut. Is it weird that when I did see all the used condoms throughout my village I smiled and thought to myself, 'good work people, good work...wrap it up!'? Welcome to get happy at the strangest things.

~It is offcially Summer here now and it has been consistently 95+ everyday. Yesterday it hit 100 and I wanted to die sitting in my brick oven house. It's strange because all day the house is heated up so it is terrible trying to fall asleep. I actually think I may just pass out every night it's so hot and I just claim I 'fell asleep naturally'. Anyways, it's strange because by morning I am under my sheets because it still gets a bit cold. However, by 8 am it is back to grotesquely hot.
With summer comes bugs. BUGS EVERYWHERE! I don't even know what these bugs are. I think some must be only in Botswana and Hell. Even the flies seem to be on steroids and they fly around bashing into the walls and even me. They are crazy and HUGE! I know I have mentioned the bug killer DOOM before...well let me just say that I have gone through 2 cans in 1.5 days. The cockroaches are the biggest things I have ever seen and they just don't die! I sprayed 6 with DOOM one night and woke up to them on their backs STILL MOVING! I used a whole can on just those 6, a whole can and they still had the nerve to be alive!
Also, there is still an array of Flatsies but there is this new species of spider that moves like the dickens as well. These spiders have these gross antennas and they are seriously evil. In fact, I think every bug here is evil. I am starting to pray for only lizards. Even the crickets have turned against me and I have had to turn to killng them. They throw themselves AT ME sometimes!
I'm sick and tired of knocking on doors in my own house before I enter a room in hopes that whatever is in the room scurries away.
I had a cockroach in bed with me the other night. I freaked out (obviously) and the only reason I was able to fall back asleep after I killed it was because I think the heat made me pass out, no joke.

~Ok,I can't keep typing right now...I have to go stand under the cold shower again...second time today. It's only 2pm.
I truly believe I may be living on the surface of the Sun and not on Earth anymore.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"I've been down so long that the end must be drawing near."

October 5, 2010

Ok, I know that lately I haven't been writing and when I do it is usually me writing about my frustrations and how angry and sad I get. Having said that, I just have one more thing to say and then I'll tell you some good tings...if there are any...

I haven't really cried here. In fact I feel like crying a lot but for some reason I just don't. Back in the states I would cry during a baby commercial for goodness sake. I don't know if its because here I feel like I need to be strong or if I have lost that part of me. Some would say maybe it's good that I don't cry as much but I disagree. Crying is a release and one that I used often before to keep my spirits high and be able to laugh. I used to be able to get my sadness out and move on. Here, I am fading. Fading into someone I don't recognize. Someone who is angry all the time. Someone who gets so frustrated but wears a smile to hide it.
I laugh, I joke, I smile but it's not the same. The dark times consume me and yet I don't acknowledge them the way I should. Am I depressed? I don't think so. I think I am just changing. Becoming synical but synical with a smile on my face so noone knows. Of course fellow PCV's know what I am going through because I lean on them when it's unbearable and they lean on me. It's a simple give and take. One day I will be the one saying, "Don't give up, it's supposed to be like this, feel like this." The next day I will be the one saying, "I can't do this, it's too hard. I can't change these behaviors. We're in over our heads."

Today was one of those days that I needed help. Help to understand why I'm here. Help to understand why people are the way they are. Though I want to cry and scream and hide, I am still here because of the support I have here. However sometimes I wish that I hadn't made these connections; not just with other PCV's but with Batswana as well(especially the children). It would be easy to go home if I didn't care. It would be easy to abandon if I didn't see hope. It would be easy to hate. It IS easier to hate, but I don't let myself go down that road...not now and hopefully not ever. I struggle to love the way I thought was easiest because there is so much anger inside me. I am not comfortable feeling angry. I am not comfortable with me.
I don't even know if writing what happened today will really show what it's like here somedays, some hours, some minutes. In fact, I am certain that when I am finsihed with my service noone but other Botswana PCV's will understand and that makes me feel alone. I could write and write and I woudn't be able to express the way my heart aches for the students who are neglected. There is an immense pain growing within me and it is tearing me down. I don't think I will try to explain. I will say that there must be good there. There must be a reason I feel so strongly. The pain I feel is not even an ounce compaed to the suffering I see daily. If I didn't stay, if I didn't care so much, who would? That is what allows me to smile, to laugh, to play and to continue my journey of self-discovery. To challenge myself to push past this anger that is so foreign to me, to push beyond the hurt and to love. Plain and simple.

Keep me and the people I share my life with here in your thoughts.
Peace and Love,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"One has to face fear or forever run from it"-Hawk

Then why do I continue to run?

21 September 2010

The second time in my 3 months at site I have walked out of school with absolute anger flooding my bones. Where do I start?
A student walked into the guidance office today and asked to speak with the guidance counselor. They talked for a while and because they were speaking Setswana I didn't know what was being said, only that the young girl was distraught and scared. After she left I asked if she was ok. I was told that last night she had been cornered by 3or more male students (from the same school) and they attempted to rape her by pulling her into "the bush". Thankfully she was strong enough to sit down and begin
to scream until the boys ran away. After hearing why the girl came in to talk I began to get extremely angry because I recalled some of the words that she was told, mostly because here in Botswana people speak in Setswana with English words thrown in. She was told not to say anything to her friends and to go back to class while they figured things out (whatever that means). The part that angers me is that the 3 male students who were invloved are still in school and this female student who was
attacked by them was sent BACK to class!
I am mostly mad at myself. I should have said something but the thing is I am not intergrated enough in my community to tamper with subjects like this. It is probably hard to understand if you have never had an experience in another country trying to live in another culture completely different from anything you've ever known. I can't even understand it sometimes. If I had said something it could have angered my co-workers and I would have lost the trust I am trying to build. The problem in my opinion is that that shouldn't matter when it comes to serious issues like this. But here I am, sitting at home, so angry, so frusrated, so sad and I feel lost. I wanted to hug the student and tell her eveything would be taken care of and that she should be picked up by someone and taken home. I wanted to go to the classrooms of all the boys and look them in the eye and ask them why? Why her? Why anyone? I wanted to tell the people in charge to step it up, get the boys out of the school, get the police here as soon as possible to file a report and to have an assembly letting the other students know that what happened is NOT OK! But I did nothing. It's no their fault for how they're handling it, it's mine for not speaking up. But I am so afraid to ruin my work so far. I am so afraid that I will cause an issue that forces me to not be as involved with the children as I hope to be and as I am beginning to be. I live in fear here. Not for my on safety but fear of stepping on toes, of losing trust, of letting people slip through my fingers. I need their trust to move forward with any ideas and plans I have but how can I be silent and watch when I need to act. Do I need to act? I feel beyond lost, beyond hope, beyond change.
I don't know where I stand. This is the hardest emotional journey I have ever been on.
"One has to face fear..." I have to face fear "...or forever run from it."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sour Patch Kids, Goldfish and Flip Flops. 11 August 2010

Today I received TWO packages! One was from my family and it consisted of clothes I asked them to send, heels (yes, even though I live in a desert I tend to look like a hobo in my flats compared to Batswana women who wear heels constantly), flip flops galore, goldfish, Rice a Roni, a National Enquirer magazine which cover story read, “Oprah’s Secret Life as a TEENAGE PROSTITUE!” (Riveting), East Mac ‘n Cheese (although it’s microwavable and I’m pretty sure I’ll go 2 years without seeing a microwave), and a beautiful “Krama” which my brother and his girlfriend got for me while traveling throughout Asia (it’s a scarf). Oh, how could I forget about the Grow Creatures they sent as well? The village kids are going to go bazurk! They are safari animals too, bonus!
The second package was from some friends at home. I almost died because they sent TAMPONS, which is incredible! Ha! Also, there was an array of toothpaste, bug repellent wipes, aloe vera goo, hair bands, sunscreen, sour patch kids, mentos, gum, a book, spices and my favorite part: LETTERS from all of them! Here in Botswana, since I only get to check my email about once every 3 or 4 weeks I am completely out of the loop as to what’s going on at home with them and current events. Although their letters dated back as early as June 6th I LOVED reading what they’ve been up to! I miss them all so much. At least I get to speak with my family every once and a while so I get the family scoop/gossip but with my friends I have to solely rely on a casual viewing of a facebook status here and there. Getting these letters made me feel like I am somewhat caught up in their lives again.
Thank you all so much for making my day AMAZING! I can’t wait to get started on my letters back to you!

~On a side note: I have been here for 4 months and a day! That is absolutely insane in my opinion. I feel weird when I think about calling Botswana my home. I don’t like that realization yet but at least I am not miserable anymore. Plus, instead of hating certain things about the country or the job I just hate that I miss everyone back home…so that’s good, right? There are things that are just starting to fit, slowly but surely and I’m finally excited about the possibilities.

Well, hello Mr. President! 12 August 2010
Today I met the President of Botswana, Ian Khama. What a great experience. I was able to shake his hand and then sit with him and eat traditional Setswana food; seswaa (pounded meat) and dinawa (beans). When we arrived in Mmankgodi where he was visiting, Richard (a Bots 8 Volunteer) and I stood in the back of the crowd while the president and other important people spoke to the residents of the village. I could not understand a word of what was being said because it was all in Setswana but that didn’t take away from the experience. While standing in the back I was trying to go unnoticed as the only white person present, I failed miserably. All the young children turned from listening to the president and stared at me. I smiled and tried to not feel so awkward but it’s hard when you’re staring straight ahead and the people in front of you are turned around staring at you in wonder. Richard was joking around that I was causing a scene…Richard is African American so he tends to blend in from time to time. Needless to say I felt a little strange getting so much attention while the president was there! What can I say? I’m kind of a big deal! Yeah right, if they only knew me personally they wouldn’t take so much interest! Overall it was a very cool experience and I’m glad I was able to have the opportunity to meet him.

Another funny Lekgoa (white person) moment today was when I got on a packed bus with Richard to head to Mmankgodi. There was a man standing in the front and he wouldn’t move to the back like you’re supposed to. The conductor asked him to move to the back so we could all be out of the way of the exit but he just turned to me and said I needed to move to the back…me, not Richard or anyone else. Richard kept laughing hysterically that this guy was telling me that I needed to go to the way back of the bus. I couldn’t help but laugh as well. Just call me Rosa “Dintle” Parks…I stood my ground!

~ I was attending a “Young Women’s Empowerment MCP workshop” which was also primary conducted in Setswenglish, so I can understand the main points but I get lost most of the time. Anyways, some of the girls were asking a question and I kept hearing the word “discharge” amongst the Setswana words. I had no idea what they were talking about exactly but I had an idea. One of the facilitators said, “Dintle, these girls have a question that I think you’d be better to answer. She says her brother told her that if you have yellow discharge as a female it means you need to have sex with a man and then it will turn the healthy white color after sex. Is this true because the other girls say they have been told this by men as well?” I know that this is probably WAY too much information to be writing about on a public blog but I also feel as though you can get a better understanding of how the myths and misconceptions about sex here in Botswana really increase the spread of HIV/AIDS. I gave them the correct answer and hopefully helped them realize that they shouldn’t believe everything they hear and it was great that they were asking these questions. Hearing a question like that initially made me want to laugh and say “hellll no, that’s not true, come on girls!” Unfortunately a lot of Batswana have many questions that may seem silly and ridiculous to me but to them they are very real questions and concerns that if they go unanswered or unquestioned they may make an uninformed decision that could seal their fate negatively. It’s hard to hear things like, “Having sex with a virgin means you can be cured of HIV/AIDS, or as long as you are faithful to both of your girlfriends you don’t have to wear a condom” but I hope that every question I answer I am helping one person realize that they should change their way of thinking even just slightly. Who knows but all I can do is continue to be present at important workshops and make myself available in the village to answer even the littlest of questions.

~If you don’t like Celine Dion then you would certainly go insane living in Botswana. Once a day you hear someone blasting Celine Dion from their house, car or the bar as if she just released a new hit! Someone should tell these Batswana that “My Heart Will Go On” is over 10 years old. Plus it just brings back bad memories of when stupid Rose said; “I’ll never let you go, Jack” as she ripped his frozen hand from hers and watched him sink to the bottom of the Atlantic. Also, she was the one with the lifejacket on, how come SHE got to lie on the floating door? I always hated her.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

“MORE COWBELL!!!!” 13 July 2010

Today when I was walking home from school I heard a cowbell. Now, this is not unheard of here in Botswana. There are cows all over the place and a lot of them have bells on. Anyways, I didn’t think much of it because I hear it so often so I kept on walking without even turning around; you see one cow you’ve seen them all, right? The cowbell’s dinging started to speed up all of a sudden which caught my attention. I turned around to see the before unseen cow running down the road, directly towards me. I froze and watched it bombarding at me! The noises coming from the crazy cow snapped me back into reality because it was clearly running for its own life with no regard to any innocent bystanders. Therefore I started running myself. Why is it that when people are running from something they run in a straight line? They should clearly run in a zigzag formation to make it harder for the attacker to catch them like I did today. When I looked back I realized the cow had made a right turn into a field and all I saw was the dust it left in its wake and some small children in absolute hysterics. Apparently I, the Lekgoa, looked like an idiot running all over the road. I gave them an ashamed wave and turned to continue walking home only to step in the biggest pile of donkey crap I have ever seen. God does have a sense of humor.

On the same subject of cows, the other day I was walking from the Primary School by myself and I passed a bunch of cows grazing and lounging just off the road. One cow looked up at me and I said out loud, “Sup Dikgomo” with a head nod in their direction. ‘Dikgomo’ means ‘Cows’ in Setswana…don’t worry I’m well aware I am getting closer and closer to being committed to an insane asylum. I think speaking ‘gangsta’ to cows in a language you barely know is one step away from a straight jacket.

Today my brother and his girlfriend will be arriving back in America from a year in and around China where they were teaching English and traveling. I am so happy they get to be home! It is also a great feeling to know that a year may not in fact seem as long as I thought. It seems like only a couple of months ago I was saying goodbye to them. Maybe it feels a little different because I spent a month with them in China this past October but even that feels like it was yesterday! 23 months to go and I can handle that…right?

Like an idiot I didn’t bring my hair straightener even though all the blogs said to. For some odd reason I decided to bring a curling iron though and let me tell you, it’s great to have 2 choices in hair style: The big frizz ball or the curled up Prom Queen…

I witnessed a goat giving birth to three little goat babies (‘kids’ I guess). I don’t know why people insist on saying childbirth (or animal birth?) is a beautiful thing to see. It is nothing short of the most painful and brutal thing to ever cross my sight! The babies were so cute though. They couldn’t quite stand and were just wobbling until they decided to sit in the sun and rest. Adorable.

A teacher asked where I was from today. When I said the United States she said, “Oh, my cousin is in America.” When I asked what state she replied, “Belize.” Hmmmmm…

“Water, water everywhere yet not a drop to drink.” 20 July 2010

By ‘water’ I mean men and by ‘not a drop to drink’ I mean I’d rather go thirsty. Boy does that water look good though. I think Tyra Banks should come to Botswana and have “Botswana’s Next Top Male Model” because she would have plenty of gorgeous men to choose from…too bad most of them just seem to stare directly into your soul and try and will all your clothes off, or ask you to be their wife, or ask to come ‘check you’ which I don’t even need to explain. Men all over the world probably think the same when it comes to the matter of women and what they want to do to them, but here the men seem to have this crazy confidence that allows them to actually SAY what’s on their mind…let me tell you it gets tiring.

It is starting to get warmer during the day here. I am scared. Coming from New England I know what hot is, but normally you can always find refuge in an air-conditioned house or car. Or, even better you can jump in a pool or the ocean and cool off. Here there is minimal hope for any of those luxuries. On top of that, the mode of transportation is bus or khombi. On either of these you feel like a bunch of sardines and there is always someone who smells like they haven’t ever used a stick of deodorant in their lives. Sweaty, smelly sardines…if sardines weren’t already smelly enough.

A few neighborhood kids came over my house the other day. I taught them how to play a few card games: Spoons, Old Maid, Memory and Slap Jack. We had a blast but the best part was I decided to put on some music. I chose Michael Jackson which the kids proceeded to dance just like the King of Pop himself, it was fantastic. I think next time I will have to get a video of it because they were actually really good! Mini- Michaels! They also love Beyonce and knew the ‘Single Ladies’ dance by heart, brilliant.

~This is going to be completely random and unrelated to my experience in Peace Corps but I just have to ask because I was watching a movie the other night and was bothered by it: Why is it that in movies and on TV everyone always knows how to dance? “Would you like to dance?” One character will say to their date. “Oh no, I’m not a good dancer.” The date will answer, most likely blushing. “But I insist.” He or She will playfully beg as they take each others hand. They enter the dance floor and start dancing better then trained dancers themselves whether it is the salsa, tango or a form of swing. I hate that. I really, really hate that. Ok, that’s my little rant for the day.

~I had my first hard boiled egg ever. Oh how Peace Corps has opened my eyes.

22 July 2010

~This morning, just to spice up my daily routine, I added Bran Flakes AND Cheerios together. My excitement for the creation was way better than my appreciation for the taste.

I just finished washing 42 articles of clothing by hand. Let me tell you, it is not fun. Mainly because I had to wash my whites first with hot water which is a process and then washing the darks in cold water but having to change the water several times because of the running colors and dirty water. Next time you are all tossing your load of laundry into the washing machine and pressing start, think of Dintle bent over in the bathroom scrubbing out stains and dirt one by one. Now I wait for them to dry in the African sun, who needs a dryer? This is life at its best!

28 July 2010

Walking home I passed a child playing with a tire which is the most popular form of playing I may add. He said, “Good, how are you?” I said, “Good, how are you?” and he answered, “Hello.” Sometimes the little things make my day, even if those little things are laughing to myself at a 5 year old who can’t speak English properly…but the reason I’m allowed to get a laugh out of his lack of knowledge is because daily I am laughed at (to my face I may add) at the terrible use of my Setswana. At least I kept my laughter hidden.

~I am down to my last razor cartridge. I refuse to buy a 4 pack of Venus razors for 150 pula (We are only paid about 60 pula per day) so I am holding out for a package from friends. This should be rather interesting, and hairy…

~I can now add lizards and beetles to the insects that are taking over my house, and it’s not even bug season yet! There’s one lizard or gecko that lives in my bathroom and often scares me by scattering from behind the sink to behind the toilet. I’ve come close to a heart attack when he does that. I say ‘he’ because I’ve named him Peter. I thought Peter and I had an understanding that he needs to stay behind the sink or toilet while I bath or brush my teeth but apparently not. I’m not afraid that Peter or any of the other lizards (nameless at this point) will hurt me. It’s the Flatsies that scare me. What’s a ‘flatsy’ you ask? Well, a flatsy is a spider that haunts my every waking moment here. They can be small or freaking HUGE and they stay flat against the wall with their creepy eight legs protruding out of their bodies, hence the name flatsies. With a normal spider you could hit it with a shoe and it would die. With a flatsy you can’t even move fast enough to hit it. A flatsy is so smart that it knows what you’re thinking. It zigzags as fast as a bullet when you try to kill it making it nearly impossible to kill. Today I bought “Doom” which is an insect killer and once one of those flatsies shows itself I am going to doom the hell out of it. However, I have heard horror stories that even “Doom” can’t end their reign. We’ll see flatsies, we’ll see.

29 July 2010

~THIS JUST IN: I KILLED A FLATSY!!!!!!!!!!! Is it sad that this rivals the time I read that students raps as the best thing that has happened to me yet? Man that was amazing! I may have used ¼ of the can of “DOOM” but what the hell, victory is mine Flatsy! SUCKA

2 August 2010

On Saturday the 31 of July I was invited to a Teen Club meeting in Gaborone with a few other volunteers. The Teen Club is a club strictly for teenagers who are HIV positive. When we got there I was both saddened and amazed by the children. Though they are HIV positive they do not seem to let it take over their lives, they continue to be children and smile, laugh and play. I believe a lot of the reasons they are able to accept their status and go on in a positive manner are because of the amazing people who work at the Baylor Clinic and the Teen Club that they are able to be a part of. The clinic is a pediatric center and mainly does work with children living with HIV/AIDS. It’s hard for me to imagine being so young and having HIV. Most of the children in the program contracted the virus through their parents so though it is sad when ANYONE contracts the virus, it is extra hard to learn that most of these younger teenagers had no control and played no role in their outcome whatsoever. However, their strength, happiness and ability to just be children is incredible. Of course they have stress and they don’t always understand but I have faith that if they continue in this club with the great people who help out they will strive! The club takes place the last Saturday of each month so I am going to do my best to attend them when I can. I feel in love with the children, the staff of Baylor and the other volunteers immediately.

Today was a marvelous day. Two Bots 8 volunteers and I went shopping with raised money to buy books and other little things for the center that helps with Orphans and Vulnerable Children. The money was raised by students at a private school in Gaborone by picking up litter to help the environment and knowing that the money would go to a literacy project for the less fortunate. We all took a bus to the OVC center and brought over 120 books, some mats and pillows, a rug and a table to create a book corner. The private school students read books with the orphans for a bit while we put together the corner. We were unable to finish it all today but will be back later this week to put the final touches on the room. The children were so excited to see the new and donated books that were brought for them.

~The other night I took a hot shower for the first time since our orientation at The Big 5 Lodge in mid- April. Just when I was getting used to freezing cold showers that literally take my breath away I was teased with this luxury. Oh the finer things in life.

5 August 2010

News of a volunteer in our group being transferred to Mali was a shock and quite saddening. We don’t even get to say goodbye to people when they leave. So far two have ET’d (Early termination), two have resigned but remain in country pursuing jobs and now this latest one being transferred. At first I was a bit envious that the others quit, were let go or were transferred because they got to go home. But now, even though it is hard and I miss home I am in it to stay. It is very scary knowing that this will be my life for two years. However, the relationships I am making within the community feel as though they are long-lasting and genuine. That of course doesn’t mean my stalker neighbor. He’s just annoying and his “I miss you”, “you’re my only friend” and “sometimes men kill women for not loving them and it’s ok because it’s how they feel” is just ridiculous. Don’t get too scared for me, I think he’s just lonely…but of course those could be the last words I write because he could be outside my window ready to cut out my heart and devour it to make us one. Was that a little overboard? In all seriousness, I don’t feel threatened by him; he has the maturity of a 12 year old. I think I wrote about him before…he thinks he predicts the future through his dreams…so if he tells me he had a dream he might kill me then I’ll get scared. Still a little overboard? Sorry, I’m having fun with my own silly scenarios.

6 August 2010

~Another Flatsy dead! This time it was a baby Flatsy, but don’t let its perceived innocence blind you from its evil ways. I almost killed Princess Lilly in the process (another lizard I have decided to name) because I didn’t know she was behind the mop head. I would have been saddened by her loss if it had occurred but equally grossed out if I had to pick up her dead lizard body. And I met King Tut today. He is a very large lizard who also lives in my bathroom. He has yellow stripes on his body. With my luck these lizards are poisonous and here I am making light of my infestation.

Yes, that is all I want to write about today…if you have any problems with that then you can fly to Botswana and take it up with me…but bring some bug killer, would ya? The good stuff.

That's all for now! Inservice training this Sunday for two weeks!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

“I’m half alive, but I feel mostly dead” 5 July 2010

I can’t grasp how I will be able to do much good when the majority of the people I work with seem to have no passion for what they do. Today I came close to having a regretful freak out. Thankfully I decided to just walk out of the office and go home to just breathe. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing an entry right now because I am so overwhelmed, frustrated and angry. My job here will no doubt be trying to show these teachers that the kids need them, that they themselves NEED to go to class and stop bullshitting around and TEACH the students, and that I am NOT here to do their jobs FOR them! I hate that realization more than anything. However, I can’t place blame on them, it’s just how they are and I know many teachers back in the States are just as bad. Of course not all of them are that way and some love the students and understand that education is key BUT that amount of people that show they care are far and few between. Right now I feel like I’m dealing with leeches that had no intention to suck the life out of me but have drained me to my last drop. I need the strength to get up, be strong and come back with a better attitude and a plan. That plan needs to come fast and that better attitude seems way too far off in the distance.

What a difference 48 hours makes. 7 July 2010

Well, well, well. I don’t think I stopped smiling yet today. Granted it’s only about 2pm but it has been a great day. I went to school with a whole new outlook on things thanks to an impromptu meeting that all the Life Skills volunteers had yesterday with Jane, the head of The Ministry of Education. I was able to tell everyone the concerns I was having and listen to theirs. We all have incredibly different experiences and I got great advice. My biggest concern had been the “sustainability” aspect of our service. I had been so hung up on thinking I couldn’t do anything at the school by myself but I was told that everything positive I do, whether or not I have a teacher with me will be setting a great example for the students and teachers. Now I know I can go into a classroom with the students and if I am by myself at least the students will be benefitting and learning while the teachers possibly recognize that being responsible means going to your class. Maybe the passion I bring to class will show others they need to step up their game or change professions. So, I went to school today with a new mission; Do it Dintle. The day started off with me telling my counterpart what I plan on doing and how excited I am now that I have new insight. We took a trip into the village to go and speak with a couple of students that haven’t showed up in quite a long time. Seeing these kids out of school and lounging around their houses made me sad. We all hated school when we were younger but the difference is most of us had parents or someone who cared about us telling us to suck it up and get to school. These kids seemed to be living with their families who almost pretended to be concerned that they weren’t going to school but at the same time sitting there with them. Both kids said that they’d come to school the next day and though I don’t believe they will I hope that they do.

Something else happened today that has both made me excited for tomorrow and terrified at the same time. A Form 3 student (15 yrs old maybe) came into the office and shyly asked me if he could have a counseling session with me. Of course, though I have no experience as a guidance counselor I happily said yes because even though I don’t know what I’m doing it’s my job. I am nervous I won’t know what to say to whatever issue he is having. I can’t even imagine what it is about…school work, teacher issues, home issues, sex, drugs, etc but I hope just listening and giving the best advice I can give will help him and allow him to trust me. It’s somewhat weird because this student clearly didn’t want to speak with my counterpart, the actual guidance counselor, so I wonder what is on his mind and what my counterpart thinks of it as well. Either way I have to report back to her anyways so I hope it’s not something too extreme or if it is I hope I can handle it.

I hope my feeling of happiness is not temporary. I would love to enjoy going to work everyday and smiling and laughing because I don’t know if I would come home the same person if I was as sad and frustrated as I have been.

Here comes another one of my random thought streams:

~ I’m back on the peanut butter train. I know I said in an earlier blog that I would never touch the stuff again but I felt I could hop back on because we had parted for a solid month. Making a sandwich reminds me of my Mom because whenever she made us all sandwiches when we were younger she would draw a heart in the peanut butter with the knife before she put on the other slice of bread. At home whenever I would make one for my brothers or sisters I would do the same and here I find myself doing it even if it’s my own sandwich. It’s one of those silly things that makes you feel good and being so far away from everyone I love it just seems right. Love you Mom.

~I really need to learn how to cook and learn what to buy because the amount of carbs I’ve been eating can’t be good. I tend to eat yogurt with granola or cereal every morning, then for lunch it’s usually a grilled cheese or rice and this vegetable soup-gravy and then for dinner it’s pasta and garlic sauce. I mean, they all taste great but it’s not good for me. Here, there are fresh vegetables available but it’s hard to know what to buy and what will stay fresh for how long. Plus, to get those vegetables I would have to take two separate khombi’s one way just to get them. Living by yourself you quickly realize that you don’t eat a lot of certain things and more of others. I have carrots and apples in the fridge and I occasionally grab one and I have these vegetarian chicken patties that I eat every now and then but not as much as I should I guess. I would LOVE some broccoli and an orange or banana every now and then but I don’t want to waste food and money if I buy them and they go rotten. Hmmmm, I have some Julia Child kind of thinking to do.

~I found out the other day to my great disappointment that during the long 9 months of summer here my freezing cold shower won’t help because the sun will constantly be heating up the pipes. So, in the winter I take a freezing cold shower and in the summer it will be nice and toasty, crud.

~Watching The X-files in the dark when you’re alone in Africa is a terrifyingly awesome experience.

~I want to learn to play the guitar here. If you’re lucky you can find a small (kind of ghetto) guitar here in one of the China shops for around 260 pula which is about 45 U.S. dollars. All I would need is some sort of “teach yourself” book and a lot of time…I have tons of time so that’s not a problem.

9 July 2010

I am still feeling like I’m riding the happy train. Ok, I apologize fully for my previous sentence. I guess I could just erase it but that wouldn’t show you how weird I am now would it? Most of you already know that fact about me anyways…

Yesterday I had a guidance counseling session with that student I wrote about. It was good. I won’t lie; I felt a little awkward sitting behind my guidance counselor’s desk trying to give him advice when I feel like a kid myself most of the time. This student, who was 16 I found out, was worried about his marks (grades for us Americans) slipping because he can’t seem to concentrate or retain information. At first I thought, ‘this is easy, I can talk to him about school stress no problem’ but it didn’t take long for him to tell me what was really bothering him. He told me about how depressed he’s been feeling for almost a year, he doesn’t want to hang out with friends or do the things he used to love. ‘Shit’ I thought to myself, I’m definitely not qualified for the deep stuff. However I felt all I could do was be honest and we talked for about an hour about things he could do to start feeling better. He said he used to write raps and rap often and he hasn’t been doing that. I gave him paper and told him I wanted him to start writing down his feelings over the weekend and maybe even turn it into a rap. He actually got excited and told me he wanted to show it to me when he was done. I honestly don’t know if I told him all the right things, especially when he said he thinks about sex a lot and it is hard to go near girls or concentrate. That was a shock; I wish I could go back in time and see the look on my face. Hopefully I kept it together and I didn’t look like a deer in headlights. I gave him the best advice I could; that thinking about sex, especially at 16, is completely normal and he shouldn’t be worried about that at all. Most of the children here in Botswana don’t know enough facts about sex and adolescence in general so it was good to give him some guidance that I don’t think he has heard too often. He also lives with a teacher on the compound because his parents aren’t around (whatever that means) so I felt like he saw me as someone he could trust and talk to which was fine with me. I hope I helped! Man oh man. And that only took me to 7:50 a.m.

Later in the day we had a class. I won’t explain how it went I will just give you a snippet of the conversation:

Guidance teacher: “What are some ways boys can control their sexual feelings especially when they get an erection?”

Male student: “Exercise!”

Guidance teacher: “Good, good, go for a run and if your little brother asks you why you’re running around the yard just say, ‘I’m exercizingggggg to control my feelingssssss!!!!!’” Of course there were some giggles, including from me. She then proceeded to say, “Miss Duggan will you tell the class another way the boys can control their feelings and erections?”

Miss. Dintle Duggan: “Well…they could masturbate…”

Guidance Teacher: “YES!!!! YES!!! Touch yourselves, pleasure yourselves! Release your sperms! Even girls, you can touch your private parts too!”

Female students in unison: “HOW!!?? How?!!!!”

Guidance teacher: “By massaging your clitoris, don’t be afraid. You will release the pleasure. It’s good, it’s good. And boys you will feel tired afterwards. In fact, don’t fall asleep in class; you will wake up with an erection!”

Saved by the bell, but maybe not soon enough…

I don’t think I’m even going to write a comment, it speaks for itself. All I’ll say is this: My future consists of erections, sperm, wet dreams, growing breasts, menstruation, and giggles. Jealous?

That evening I had a meeting with a Bots 8 volunteer and a teacher from my school who are working on getting a grant for the Reneetswe Happy Home Care Centre which is an organization that helps OVC’s (Orphans and Vulnerable Children). It was so great to see the change that is happening there. Father Tshiamo, the priest who is also working on the project is full of hope for these children and it was inspiring to see all of them so passionate about the cause. I am going to start being a part of the plan as well so I will be able to help keep the ties between Peace Corps and the Batswana at the centre going once the other volunteer leaves in a year. The OVC’s need the grant so they can fund the income generating projects so they can make money to buy food, get petrol for transportation, and be able to learn necessary skills. The project is extremely important and I am excited to be a part of such a great cause.

~Crickets, Ants and Spiders, OH MY! I will only write 7 words pertaining to this issue: GET THE F OUT OF MY HOUSE!

Have you ever heard someone say, “My heart is full.”? Well, unfortunately not only have I heard it before but I have been a user of the phrase. It wasn’t until today that I actually felt it. I know, I know, I’m a total cheese-ball! The boy I had a counseling session with came into the office with a friend and had the biggest smile I have ever seen on his face. He handed me a stapled packet of papers and said he wrote what he was feeling like I said to and put the words into raps. He wanted me to read them then and there. I was absolutely amazed while I was reading his words. The raps he wrote had to do with sex, feeling abandoned, not being able to concentrate and other thoughts. Reading them made me feel like I may have a place here after all, not so much with the teachers but the students, which is what I prefer anyways. His feelings were clear and touching and made me happy he was able to get them out in a healthy way. Some of his words were intense and I can tell he’s going through a lot of painful things but just expressing himself in the beautiful way he did was a fantastic start. He told me that he feels more confident and more like his old self now that he spoke to me and started writing again. His smile was infectious. I went to class later with happiness that soared through me like crazy! I hope I remember days like this when the hard ones creep back in.

Sunday, July 4, 2010's A LOT of BLOG

So…I haven’t been able to access internet for quite sometime so I decided to start a continuous document so I don’t forget to tell y’all anything when I finally can blog. It will no doubt be long! Gotta love flash drives and copy and paste, huh?

Life is a Rollercoaster… 15 June 2010
I know I have mentioned before the emotional rollercoaster that one can go through being secluded and so far away from home. Today, my second day at work, I had one of those rollercoaster days. I was sitting in the guidance office at school which I guess I should get used to calling MY office, and I was thinking, “Why am I here?” Mostly because I was bored out of my mind! I have to arrive at school at 6:50 and I am a co-teacher with the guidance counselor. That basically means that once, maybe twice a day she has a “Life Skills” class and they last a whopping 40 minutes, that is if she shows up to class on time. Don’t get me wrong I think my Counterpart (the guidance counselor) is one of the sweetest people I’ve met here but a lot of Batswana tend to be late for things and walk real, real slow. Class is important to her but teachers tend to show up late and sometimes not at all. Thankfully the students behave well unattended for the most part. I will have to get used to this weird schedule quickly or I may go insane.
Anyways, the reason I had a “why am I here?” thought is because the classes my counterpart taught were great and the kids seemed to understand and grasp what she was saying. The Life Skills theme for the week is Sexuality so you can imagine the trouble I thought she’d have when teaching 13, 14 and 15 year olds about menstruation, wet dreams and homosexuality (which is illegal here in Botswana by the way) But the kids gave great answers and although there were some giggling moments those were expected…I mean I had to hold in a few giggling fits myself when she said things like, “Girls, if a classmate gets an erection, support him, don’t laugh…and don’t touch it!”
The class went well even for its briefness and the children seemed to benefit and this was all while I was just observing like I will be doing for the next couple of months. I felt a little unneeded and concerned about if Botswana was really my “Peace Corps” dream after all. Will I feel like I’m helping at all? Will I make any needed changes? Am I even one bit useful besides being a new face to stare at? Of course that was my downer moment on this rollercoaster ride.
On the way home I had to stop in the General Dealer to pick up a loaf of bread and some Chakalaka (you may be thinking, what the hell is Chakalaka? Well, it’s delicious! I don’t think it’s in the States…) and the sun was setting in front of me. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Mary, you made it to Africa; this has been your dream since you were 13.” It made me feel good despite the feelings I had earlier and I tried to rationalize that maybe I needed to give the school, the teachers and the students a second glance because maybe it’s not as good as it seems. I wasn’t thinking about going home but I was definitely missing my family very much and prayed for some sort of sign. Later that night I got a call from my brother Jimmy in China who I haven’t talked to in almost 3 months, I almost didn’t pick up because I didn’t know the number but at the last minute I did. Hearing from him was definitely the comforting sign I needed at that moment. We talked about his plans to visit me after I’ve been here a while and he told me how strong he knows I am, which at the time I wasn’t feeling all that strong anymore. That was my rollercoaster ‘up’ moment.
I still don’t know exactly my game plan for how I am going to begin my service here. I know these first few months will be very emotional and difficult but I can only hope that something will inspire me and little things will need my fixing. I guess I am lucky to see that the students seem to grasp certain concepts but at the same time I need to figure out if they are just regurgitating facts that have been jammed in their brains or if they actually understand it. My role here is behavior change, which is a pretty difficult thing to grasp with no formal training. How will I know if they understand what we’re teaching them? If we are not there when they are wrestling with if they should have transactional sex for a cell phone or if it’s ok to tell their Uncle to stop molesting them, etc then how do we gauge? I want to empower them, I HAVE to empower them or I’ve failed. I guess on some level I know what it would feel like to be a parent, constantly wondering if your kids are going to make the right choices in life. It’s tough to wrestle with myself but something that keeps me here is knowing that what if I weren’t going to be here for the next 2 years? How many lives would I miss helping? How many of these kids would slip through the cracks? In a way, as hard as that is, I know it’s better to not see the change if it’s happening rather than not trying to change things because I know I won’t see it. Along with teaching the students, an equally challenging obstacle if not more will be with the teachers. Gaining their trust and helping guide them to love their jobs instead of praying for a transfer. I’ll have to be patient. I never realized how impatient I actually am. I bet my family and friends could have told me that would have been a problem of mine;)
My Peace Corps service won’t be 2 years filled with praise and recognizable changes, they will happen over time and some I won’t ever get to see…that is where my heart sinks a little bit. However, I hope my time here is not wasted and that one day, even if I’m old and gray, I will be able to say I was a part of a team who helped stop the spread of HIV.
I hope kids here in Africa will one day say, “Mom, what was AIDS?” as if it was some terrible disease that was only a part of history. One can only hope…

Change will come, it just has to. 17 June 2010
Here at the school there are announcements that take place every MWF and students sometimes get up in front of everyone and read what the theme for the week is i.e. Sexual harassment, peer pressure and they give a short summary and/or definition. I have seen two students on different days get up and read something, and both times a teacher got up after them and basically insulted them. The teachers have said how the student fumbled over their words or that they mispronounced things and that they should do a better job. Now, keep in mind that they have to read everything in English which is their second or third language. The strangest part is that the teachers are not saying these things to embarrass the students and the students don’t seem to feel insulted because it’s just a matter of fact thing. Since I am doing a needs assessment these first few months I of course would love to change this behavior, but it seems like it would be a big struggle. I think Pink Floyd said it best, “Hey, Teacher, leave them kids alone!” However, I have also noticed that it occurs between teachers as well. They are very blunt with each other. In America if a co-worker said, “You really dropped the ball in that meeting” or pointed out to everyone that you sounded stupid while giving a lecture you would no doubt feel terrible , but here it’s just part of the norm…weird, weird, weird.
On another topic, I have a cricket infestation in my bathroom. Ok, I know they are harmless but they freak me out…they come out of my sink drain and their antennas are just freaky! I haven’t killed any yet because I just don’t have the heart but I don’t know how long that will last. They are loud and annoying and chirp, chirp, chirp all night. I fear if I kill one then the others will join forces and kill me in my sleep. I also decided to keep all the spiders alive and their webs unharmed, I’d like to think it’s because I know they’ll kill the mosquitoes but another part of me fears their retaliation. Yes…Africa is making me crazy.

It’s days like these that remind me the Devil is real and he loves to see pain. 18 June 2010
Today was bad. I witnessed my first stint of Corporal Punishment. I knew it was only a matter of time before I did but I hoped I would delay its arrival. Actually the first time was in the morning when I was sitting in my office with the guidance counselor. I heard a dreadful noise coming from outside the office. It sounded like someone was using a textbook to kill a fly on the wall as hard as they could. Of course I knew that wasn’t going on. The guidance counselor must have seen the horrified look on my face because she said, “That’s corporal punishment” to which all I could say was, “Oh…” with my mouth hanging open. The teachers are allowed to punish the students with a certain size stick, I don’t know the exact length and width. I see teachers walking around with homemade ones, from a tree branch, etc. For the most part I think it’s just an intimidation factor but I haven’t been here long enough to figure that out. The punishments are supposed to be supervised and I believe the whips/whacks can only happen on the palms or buttocks but I’m not completely sure. The sound I have heard twice from the office of the Deputy Head who administers the punishment is loud and atrocious! The second time I heard it I was alone in the office and I didn’t even realize I had stopped breathing momentarily until I gasped for a breath. It is a horrible, horrible sound and I actually got so nauseous I thought I would be sick.
In the afternoon I got a shock. I was walking with a teacher and we stopped in front of a classroom where students were doing work silently. The teacher got so mad that (even though they were behaving) they were doing their homework when they should be doing it at home. Granted, the kids are left alone so often that I almost thought she was going to praise them for working even though they could have been talking and misbehaving. Boy was I wrong. She started yelling at them in half English half Setswana to get out of the room and “How could you all be doing this when you know you’re not supposed to! Do it on your own time, NOT MY TIME!” The students started to file out without looking threatened or even bothered by her outburst. I am thinking it happens often because they did not seem phased at all. She stopped one student and asked him something in Setswana and apparently she didn’t like the answer so she hit him in the face. He backed up and she walked towards him again and hit him hard two more times in the face and then proceeded to push in down into some desks. The other kids just watched or went about their business; their expressions emotionless. The student got up and just waited for her to be done yelling. I was frozen. We are told not to bother picking any battles when it comes to how the students are punished. I am wrestling with how to deal with it. I’ve said to some teachers already that I don’t agree with it when it has come up in conversation (before I had even seen any) but they seem to laugh and say that I just don’t understand because it’s the only thing that will work OR that they survived it in school and they turned out fine so there’s no harm in it. It’s a battle I know I can’t fight the way I would want to because I would lose but it’s not a battle that I am going to run away from either. I have a lot to think about when it comes to how I express my concerns. The worst part is that my school is gentle compared to a lot of other schools. I have only heard a total of 5 whacks through a door and witnessed one (though it was uncalled for and horrific) physical encounter. I have heard horror stories from volunteers who have been here for a year or two already and have been told that some beatings which are not done properly lead to unconsciousness, hospital visits and blood spattered walls and floors. If this is a test of strength for me well hell, I don’t want any more tests.
To top off my terrible day I had some news from home that crushed me. I know everything will be ok but it is so hard being here when all I want to do is be home to help when my family goes through hard times, in actuality I want them all around so they can help me too. I am so glad that I am able to talk to them on the phone every once in a while but hearing that they are going through something makes me want to be there more than anything. However, I know that they are strong without me. There is nothing for me at home anyways in a career sense and though I haven’t felt like there is a place for me here either I know I have to give it a chance, I owe it to myself. Life surely knows how to suck sometimes.

When things aren’t happening, make them happen! 21 June 2010
I decided to go on an adventure today. My counterpart had to go to Gaborone for a family issue so I had a choice, awkwardly sit in the office all day or go exploring. I chose the latter. I walked to the primary school (about a mile) and loved seeing the younger kids running around and playing! They came to their classroom doors to wave at me and announce to everyone else that there was a “Lekgowa”(White person/foreigner) coming. I spoke to a few teachers and asked how I could be of help to them over my 2 years here. They mentioned that running a Christian-based activity for the students could help i.e. knitting, jewelry making, etc. Of course my number one goal for Peace Corps is capacity building and sustainability and if I were to run an activity by myself the kids would have fun but it’s all about making sure when I am gone they are still able to keep whatever I bring to them going. I am interested in helping them but will have to find another teacher to co-facilitate with me so it’s sustainable for the future. Seems simple enough but I’m sure there will be many obstacles. Also, you all know I definitely don’t know how to knit or anything like that so I will have to figure out if I have any creative talents! The kids are young so they do not know English as well as my students at the Junior Secondary School so the language barrier will be difficult for any of the games I know.
After my visit at the school I went to the Clinic to see if I could be of any help for my two year service there. All this is part of my “Needs Assessment” for the first few months. The volunteer before me held some typing classes for the staff in the clinic and the Primary School but since I am not very good with computers I have to find other things I can bring to them. I met with the head nurse and she said I could come whenever I was free and if I wanted I could learn how to weigh the babies, etc. Of course that wouldn’t be a sustainable thing in a certain sense but I know going there and being around people in the village would help me integrate better! I am excited to help at the clinic because the people that go there are not only there for the common cold, etc but they are there to receive ARV’s for HIV/AIDS and it would be a great opportunity to talk with people about those issues. Also, I noticed a lot of young mothers and teenage pregnancy is also an issue here and I’d love to address that as well. Overall it was a good day and I feel like branching out of my school to work on secondary projects will really help with how I’ve been feeling lately.
I still have a lot of hurdles to jump and hills to climb but I am slowly realizing that positivity goes along way for my own mental well being. Easier said then done but I’m not giving up yet!

On to something else. I have a huge gas leak in my house. I have two large propane tanks for my stove and ever since I moved in there has been a tremendous smell. I have a headache all the time and today is bad because I feel really lightheaded. I know I’m stupid for not doing anything sooner but I blame it on stress. Today I will find someone to translate for the landlord so he can attempt to fix it but I already had a few other volunteers over the other night and they had no luck. Ugh. Life.
27, June 2010
The gas leak has not been fixed yet, but I hardly notice it anymore…does that make it safe? No. HAHA I am going to just start somewhat of a stream of thought. Forgive me if there’s no order or sense to it:
~Yesterday I hand washed some clothes along with two pairs of flats. The sand here really makes the shoes gross and dirty fast! So anyways, the shoes were taking longer to dry then the clothes so I left them outside overnight…big mistake. On the compound where I live there are about 15 chickens and a few roosters. They decided, in my opinion, to purposefully crap in my newly scrubbed shoes. What else could I do but laugh really.
~The loneliness I feel daily is ridiculous. It’s not the being alone part, that’s actually relaxing and nice, it’s the missing family and friends part. I can’t explain it but sometimes my heart actually feels like it’s aching inside my chest. During training I never once seriously thought about going home. Here I think about it every 20 minutes. However, this weekend I was able to see some other volunteers and just talking with them made me feel better about being here, mainly because a lot of them are going through the same thing. The best advice I got was from a volunteer named Ashleigh and she told me “just think of these first two months as your time to socialize and just get to know people” which is exactly what we’re supposed to be doing but I never actually sat down and thought of socializing as my ‘job’ for two months. That advice has already helped me yesterday and today. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks trying to awkwardly talk to people who sometimes clearly don’t want to talk to you but for the most part it’s been nice. I am going to really try and stick it out through the hard, awkward parts of my daily routine and wait for the weekends when I can see friends. Of course I know that’s not the healthiest way to go about things but it’s what I need to do now to survive the feelings of isolation. I look forward to the weekends where I WANT to stay in my village and be with the people, but I’m not quite there yet!
~Ok another funny thing I thought I would share is that sometimes Batswana think that people in Peace Corps are spies for the U.S. Government. That’s not the funny part. The funny part is that we are supposed to do everything to not look or act like spies (obviously, how could we act like spies when we’re NOT spies) but anyways, for our needs assessment we have to ask them questions. Some of those questions, after putting some thought into it, seem like questions spies WOULD ask!
~Here’s an example of how some men act in Botswana (it’s a text from my neighbor who I’ve spoken to several times on my way to work.) “Hei hw ar u doin? H’vnt seen u ovr the wiknd, wr u on vacation, aniwy jst chckin on u. M js copin wth lyf. Nd jst MISSIN u, jst wsh I cud c u. Hv a gr8 nite.” I hope you’re able to decipher it haha Anyways, this guy is 24 and though he’s very attractive with washboard abs (he does yard work without a shirt on) he A: is too young B: is my neighbor C: told me he has dreams and sometimes they come true D: told me if we were to get married I would live here because then I would be a Motswana NOT an American anymore and I could visit home a couple times a year (gee, thanks). I have learned these things over two conversations totaling 30 minutes maximum. I also met a guy on the street who said “You must marry me!” and I said “Why?” and he said “Because you are white and white women know how to love and women here only know money.” So much for my hopes in finding a beautiful African man to bring home to good old Duxbury, MA! Haha The men here ARE in fact beautiful and they are kind but like I mentioned in another blog, they are don’t quite understand that just because you’re white doesn’t mean you have money or aren’t a gold digger, are better at sex, are HIV-free, are even nice or any of the other misconceptions they hold. They claim they love you when in reality they lust for you. I will have to teach them the difference ;) haha Kidding
29 June 2010
~Michael Buble sang it best, “I wanna go home, let me go home. I’m just too far from where you are, I wanna go home.” {That’s for you, Emma(} I do want to go home but at the same time don’t worry about me everyone, I take my sarcastic humor wherever I go and it helps me get through the hardest times! Just think back to the chicken pooping in my newly washed shoes and the classroom lectures on wet dreams is enough to keep me laughing and pushing on! If I didn’t love you all so much I’d live here in my misery forever but since I have people to miss I like to think that I am blessed. Just knowing you’re all reading my silly entries and missing me too helps me ALL THE TIME!
~My favorite parts of the day are when I come home and I read a book or turn on music and dance around the house!
~Today, I was sitting in the staff room with the teachers and like usual they were speaking Setswana all around me. I don’t have a problem with that at all, it’s their 1st language and I don’t expect them to speak a less familiar language just because I am there, the only thing is that it’s frustrating to try and integrate when I can’t even follow a conversation. Anyways, I was sitting there with a smile on my face like usual just pretending to feel comfortable and a teacher says, “Dintle, you’re always so quiet and shy.” I just shrugged, smiled and said, “Yeah, I guess but I’ll get better.” What I really wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs, “WHAT DO YOU EXPECT, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL YOU’RE SAYING!!!!!” That wouldn’t help of course! Situations like that make me a wee bit closer to crossing that line over to insanity.
~I miss a lot of things but one is Camp Wing! I miss everything about it and since CWDC is in its first session I find the want to be there crippling sometimes. I did spend 8 years of my life there so you can imagine. The thought of belly flops during counselor swim, “You screwed up”, Scavenger hunts with the Senior boys, Whitewater Rafting trips, Jim singing ‘Rattlin Bog’, Winkle Picking, Scott Gary (obvs), Extended day when you’re so tired you can’t stop laughing, Poopsies for beers and gossip, The chaos of pick-up, Wesley and his “Mr. Mustache” haha, The Vermont trip, Moo C.O.W.’s, The whale watch field trip, the look and smell of the staff room after about the 3rd session overnight (ewwww). I will even say I miss the staff meetings, the longgggg day after an overnight, cleaning the stage, collecting the Lost and Found and sometimes throwing someone in it or being thrown in, etc, etc. I wish everyone there now the best summer, but don’t have too much fun without me!:)
~Almost every adult male over the age of 21 has at least one kid…not necessarily married.
~I am shooting to come home in April for a couple weeks to visit. How I will afford it I just don’t know but a girl can dream, right?
~Sometimes the sand is so deep I think I am sinking.
~The sunsets and sunrises here are amazing. They are usually a deep red and orange or purple and pink, depending, and the colors spread across the horizon. Who needs street lights when you have a full, bright moon and billions of stars leading your way. However, the moon was no help the other night when I took a HUGE digger when I didn’t see the lip in the side of the road. It was one of those slow motion falls where your arms are flailing and your feet are doing a ‘running man’ motion while you’re making these horrendous ‘whoa, whoa, WHOAAAAAAA!!!!’ noises. How embarrassing. Good thing I was accompanied by an old woman who in her frail, old woman state helped me up and dusted me off in the darkness…perfect.
~My vocabulary has suffered tremendously(not like it was anything spectacular to begin with). I forget easy words, draw huge blanks in conversations, even when I’m crazily taking to myself which has started happening more often. I thought I would have better vocab skills because I’ve been reading A LOT! I’m already 12 books deep here. I’m attempting to pull a Mandy Moore from ‘A Walk to Remember’ and read as many books as I can. OK, her character picked intelligent books from her teachers list whereas I am just reading trashy vampire porno’s and Stephen King novels, but whatevs.
~I’m already planning my trips for when I’ve finished my two year service. It is probably all not plausible but I’m thinking my first stop: Egypt to see those good ole pyramids. Then a cruise (which may consist of me and a row boat)across the Mediterranean to Italy and do a pop over to Spain, Greece and France, basically wherever my little heart takes me. Then a stop in Ireland to see my roots and fellow Irish Homies. Finally, rounding it off in Scotland to see what cliff I’ll be marrying Prince William on. Very doable. Of course none of this is logical. In fact it’s not smart to want to use all my readjustment allowance money from Peace Corps to travel but you only live once! In all honesty I definitely plan to at least see Egypt and hopefully Ireland and Scotland…the others would be an amazing bonus! A girl can dream…especially if that girl has been bathing in a bucket and eating rice and ketchup!

Peace and Love, Dintle

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My new address....just in case you love me enough to send me a letter!;)

Mary "Dintle" Duggan
Kumakwane Junior Secondary School
Private Bag 00290
Gaborone, Botswana

Peace and Love!

Dinky Dintle

Sunday, June 6, 2010

PST is coming to a sad end...

I am sitting at Lemepe Lodge listening to Buckcherry (shout out to Emily) while the internet is down here as usual in Botswana. Fortunately I am on Microsoft Word writing a blog surrounded by good friends. It has been 7 long weeks but as I reflect I realize that it has in fact flown by. On Friday June 11th I will be leaving my new family here and heading out to my site for 2.5 months in a ‘lockdown’ type visit. We have all grown so close and in some ways depend on one another and now we have to leave each other. The feelings I have are mixed and hard. I am excited to go to my new home for the next to years and meet Batswana in my village and get my job started. On the other hand I am sad to leave the people who have been with me for the experience I cannot share with anyone but them.

Lockdown will be extremely hard. We are not allowed to leave our sites to visit each other for the first, most important months so we can integrate ourselves into our new communities. Being surrounded by 56 other Americans for 7 weeks and then alone for another 8 weeks will be my biggest challenge yet. I look forward to the challenge to a certain degree but also do not look forward to the loneliness I will feel. At least I will be busy at my school and decorating my home and meeting other people. I plan on getting a tutor and hopefully improving my Setswana…which needs a lot of help ;) Bring it on Botswana!

I found out last night after talking on the phone to my parents and Nora and Amy that my little nephew Keiran has teeth now! I am sad to be missing his growth spurts but hearing his baby jibber-jabber over the phone was great! He will turn 1 in July and I can’t believe his first year is going by so fast! Even scarier, Emma will be turning 20 this month! No more teenagers in the house! Crazy! One of my favorite holidays is 4th of July and I will be very sad that I will miss the annual barbeque at My Aunt and UnclesL I hope the rockets that are sent this year are recovered and some good pictures get taken! There’s nothing like hockey puck hamburgers and hotdogs and family volleyball games…Have fun everyone!

Thursday June 11th we will be officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. It is a big event and I am excited! My host Mother made me a traditional skirt and she said I am now a true Motswana women! I am even going to miss bathing in a bucket and reading by candlelight. Don’t get me wrong I won’t miss it too much, but I know the experience has changed my outlook on life. I now know how all those foreign exchange students felt…freaking awkward 24/7, but at the same time amazing!

Yesterday we had a Thank You Party for our Host Families which was great! My brother was the only one that was able to make it but he is really shy and when I screamed his name he was so happy! Two other trainees asked me if I would sing a song with them as part of a little talent show that we had. It was called, “Down by the River” I think from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou” and we sang it Acapella. Julie, you’d be proudJ Oh, and BTV (Botswana Television) was filming the whole thing so if there’s a way for smart people who are good at searching for things online you may be able to find it and watch it.