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.