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


  1. Hey babycakesss... ok, read the top post and didn't get through the rest yet.. probably have to stop there for tonight b/c i have a crazy hectic next 48 hours.. i'm a bridesmaid, wedding saturday, nuff said.. ANYWAY... IDEA FOR YOU:

    Sometimes the best way to really drive it home with kids is to have THEM teach the material. I don't mean to each other in class necessarily. But as part of a broader assignment, you can divide them into groups and have THEM reach out to their community... even make it a contest... base it on creativity, etc. They will believe what it is they are trying to convince others of, and on top of that it's a ripple effect... a "pay it forward" kind of thing.

    You can have THEM come up with ways to effectively reach their community. They can't regurgitate that kind of stuff, they have to be innovative. Ask them probing questions, like "what's the disconnect? why do people not get it?"... kids are way smart and even as teenagers will understand the depth of the question. have them come up with ways to reach out to their community and then carry it out... it will be fulfilling for them and you...


  2. Tara doll!!!
    Thanks so much for the feedback! I will definitely do that once I gain their trust and start having to go out in the community and teach the other villagers. I love the kids so much already, even when they are being little punks!

    I liss you like whoa!!! Sorry you have to read my rambling life through a blog, once I get wi-fi (African wi-fi that is) I will be able to do personal emails, etc

    Love you!!!