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,