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Hi Majorie! I just wanted to thank you for writing this blog. I'm actually leaving today to start a Fulbright in Sweden (Uppsala, for evolution research, to be more precise), and reading your old posts has really helped with my nervousness about starting this adventure and given me a list of cool things to do once I arrive! :) So anyway, thanks for all the helpful info and posts!
Anonymous
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Aww thanks that is so sweet! Good luck on your adventure!


peacecorps:

We just announced our Top Volunteer States! Did your state make the list? For the second consecutive year, the District of Columbia, Vermont and Oregon top the list of Volunteer-producing states per capita, with 8.1, 7.2 and 6.4 Volunteer
s per capita, respectively; while the greatest number of Volunteers call California, New York and Texas home with 1,084, 448 and 381 Volunteers, respectively.

YAY MONTANA.
Montana, Montana, Glory of the West! Of all the states from coast to coast you’re easily the best! Montana, Montana, where skies are always blue! M-O-N-T-A-N-A, Montana I love you!

peacecorps:

We just announced our Top Volunteer States! Did your state make the list? 

For the second consecutive year, the District of Columbia, Vermont and Oregon top the list of Volunteer-producing states per capita, with 8.1, 7.2 and 6.4 Volunteer

s per capita, respectively; while the greatest number of Volunteers call California, New York and Texas home with 1,084, 448 and 381 Volunteers, respectively.

YAY MONTANA.

Montana, Montana, Glory of the West! Of all the states from coast to coast you’re easily the best! Montana, Montana, where skies are always blue! M-O-N-T-A-N-A, Montana I love you!


South Africa

Okay, we only spent a day in South Africa, less than 24 hours. It was really just to meet at the airport and go together from there. At the same time South Africa made a real impression on me. It is so different than Botswana. In South Africa people are distrustful of each other and aware of crime, and have high fences and barbed wire around their family compounds. In Botswana I generally feel safe, you can see right into your neighbor’s yard, and people never tell me that I should be escorted or hire a driver when I want to go somewhere. South Africa is a rougher and scarier place, at least in the city, which is not the case in Botswana.

One thing that was interesting is all of the languages we heard. South Africa has 11 official languages, and most we people we met knew at least 7-9. However, we got the feeling that they didn’t know more than one or two of these languages well, unless they spoke them at home or at school. Because people don’t speak all these languages so well, there must be a lot of misunderstandings between people. These misunderstandings


So sorry for the hiatus, but my computer broke and there is no Internet in my village. So I am experiencing the real peace corps with the isolation of little communication, but reading and playing Ukulele to keep myself busy, I have a big safari coming up soon with family and I am very excited! My mom, grandmother, and uncle and aunt are coming. We’re going to Chobe to see lions. It will be great. So things are good. Just wanted to say that. Cheers!


New things

Okay so since I joined up with the Peace Corps I’ve learned a lot of things. Like how to give a 30 minute health talk on zero notice, how to find the gist of a conversation when I can really only understand a few words of the language, how to work with large groups of people to mobilize them to work toward a common goal. These are all great skills and I’m lucky to have them.

But I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that being around kids can cheer me up no matter how bad my day was. I know that I can live without refridgeration, hand wash my clothes, and bathe myself with only a bucket of water. But I’ve also learned that I don’t need anyone else to be happy. I used to rely on social interactions with friends and loved ones to make me happy. Now I know I can be content on my own. I can entertain myself forever as long as I have a good book or a journal. I can go to a new place by myself, where I’ve never been and don’t speak the language, and be fine.

I don’t mean to say that I don’t miss my friends and family, because I do need and appreciate their support. I don’t mean to say that I am completely on my own here either, since I rely a lot on my friends in the village and my Peace Corps buddies. But Peace Corps has given me a new found confidence and resilience that I didn’t have before. And that’s the greatest thing it has taught me.



Tragedies

January 9th

During the past month at my clinic I have seen….

1) Two babies test positive to HIV. This is a brutal reminder that although Botswana has a highly successful Prevention from Mother to Child Transmission program for Africa, there are some babies for which this program will just fail.

2) A woman came into the clinic because her boyfriend had beat her and broke her foot in two different places. This wasn’t the first time he beat her, and since she went back to him, I don’t think it will be the last.

3) A rape kit performed on a 7-year-old who was raped by a grown man. The girl tested positive for HIV, and since antibodies of HIV take 3 months to accumulate in the blood, it means she was probably repeatedly raped and it was just brought to light recently.

I was not prepared for this kind of tragedy. Tragedies.

I think I need a drink.


End of PST

November 5th (This was originally a diary entry)

As a big thank you for our host families, the other trainees and I threw a big thank you party the last weekend of PST (pre service training). The theme was Thanksgiving, since it was November and we wanted to share a little bit of American culture. The decoration committee made big paper turkeys, and the entertainment committee held a play in Setswana about the Pilgrims. I was on the cooking committee, and because there is no turkey or pumpkins this time of year (or ever?) in Botswana, we had to improvise on the menu. We did have stuffing and mashed potatoes, but the meat portion was substituted with American meatloaf. Cooking for 150+ people is difficult. We had to get cheap ingredients in large quantities, and spent about 12 hours total prepping and cooking. The party was a success, and it was nice to get together with our adopted families. They even acted out their holiday similar to Thanksgiving, which happens in April (our spring, but fall in Botswana!), where everyone brings the harvest to the kgotla and sings traditional songs. They even brought us traditional sorghum beer, which was served in cups with rounded bottoms that you couldn’t put down or else they would spill, encouraging you to drink it as soon as possible. It looks like a recipe for a drinking game gone wrong. Good thing we ended up sharing.

It was funny though, even though we were so happy with our cooking results (which were delicious by the by), the Batswana didn’t seem to like it. They went for the rice and steamed vegetables that we made as “extras”. It just goes to show you that what food you like is totally dependent on you were raised and your culture. It’s good to try new things though!


Coronationif the kgosi

Coronation of kgosi

Okay, I should have blogged about this earlier, but here goes. Earlier this month, peace corps trainees and I got to attend the coronation of the paramount kgosi of Kanye. The kgosi is like a chief, but more of a community city council chairperson, who takes care of the issues (domestic and public) of his ward (or neighborhood). My ward has a kgosi, but then above him is a paramount kgosi, one who looks after the 70,000 people and hundreds of wards in the area.

In an amazing stroke of luck, the new paramount kgosi happened to be crowned in the 2 month period that we are training in Kanye, and we got invited to this event which only happens every 25 or so years. So cool! The ceremony was amazing. Kgosis came from all around Botswana, South Africa, and even Lesotho. There was singing and dancing from all these different cultures. Diplomats from all over attended too, even the US ambassador was there. Probably the coolest thing was the President of Botswana Seretse Khama was helicoptered into Kanye for the ceremony. Not only that, but since he was a pilot in the Botswana army, he flew his own helicopter! So badass!

The ceremony itself consisted of a lot of speeches in Setswana. In addition, the kgosi was adorned with a dried leopard skin that he and his kgosana and killed in the couple weeks before. He looked awesome! I’ll have to post pictures soon.

My host mom helped me get a traditional dress made for the ceremony, which was great too. Although I definitely got sunburned during the 6 hour ceremony, I am so happy and grateful that I got to see it. What a cool experience!


Placement!

I found out where I’m going to live for the next two years! It’s a village called Mookane, a small village of 2,000 people, 2 hours north of the capital. I will be working in a clinic, which serves as the HIV medication clinic and maternity ward for 6 villages in my area. Yesterday I met my counterpart, a HIV counselor and tester named Ernest. He is really nice and very welcoming. We are going to start nutrition projects, to help ameliorate side effects of ARVs (anti-retrovirals, that help keep HIV viral loads down), which are more prevalent in patients with poor access to good nutrition. I can’t wait to start work!