Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Hello all. Yep, I’m writing a blog post. Lack of internet in my site kept me away in the beginning. I’m living in a very remote village, and if you have looked at my FB page you can see some of the sites. To get straight to it and recap, Botswana is awesome! Sure it’s dry and sandy, but not everywhere. Some places are pretty nice. When I arrived I got the best feeling from the Peace Corps Volunteers, but people are the same all over the world. So far I’ve been to around 13 different countries and nothing really surprises me anymore. Ya know, we came to literally the other side of the world and we see the same stars at night. I remember sailing across the ocean in The Marine Corps and looking up to see Orion. I thought to myself, “Wow! The same stars!” Duh… Right? Same sky and all, but to romanticize it comes so easily to me. If you wake up in a different place, at a different time, are you a different person? Nah… Which for me is very great. In the States, I loved the people and here it is the same.
My host family was huge. Three houses in one compound. 12 people eating all the big meals together laughing, teasing and having a blast. I got the best host family out of everyone. My host mom was strict. In Botswana, it doesn’t matter how old you are unless you are the oldest, and mom was the oldest. She runs the house like a head mother and a nunnery. But, you can do pretty much what you want as long as you are home, safe and make a reasonable effort to obey the rules and stay out of her sight when being naughty. She knows what we were doing, but it disrespectful to do it in front of her. I would come home late, after dark, day after day and she would be waiting with that silence that tells you that you are in trouble. I would just sit and apologize like a good boy. I tried not to make a habit of it, but sunset at the time was around 9pm. Now’s it around 7pm. The new volunteer has it worse.
Swearing in day was my birthday and my host family through a party for all the volunteers, plus I got a package from home so we ate and drank and had Oreos and Chocolate Chip cookies. I even got an Ostrich Egg for a birthday present. Awesome? Yeah…it was. I still have it.
Pre Service Training was nothing. We sat in a classroom and talked, or listened all day. We played games like summer camp kids, talked about procedure, culture and whatnot. Professionally, not difficult, and compared to Marine Corps Boot Camp…HA! So I switched gears and tried to work on some of my personal goals for Peace Corps. It was pretty sweet. I tried and did make a great friend. (Don’t worry. I chose wisely.) It was difficult once I started working on myself. Very painful at times, but I followed every impulse and trusted in the quality of PC Volunteers to help. It was very intense and I’m still thinking about it trying to learn as much as possible from that time. Self-development lasted through the end of PST and into site.
When we got to site, we were supposed to stay in site for three months without leaving, in order to facilitate community integration. I stayed, but I can’t say the same for some others. I kept working on self-development throughout that period. There just wasn’t much do to professionally because shortly after I was placed at my school, they went on year end break. I skipped the parties and whatnot trying to stay committed to following The Peace Corps way of doing things. It wasn’t difficult. I just remembered the tiny amount of personal sacrifice that they were asking for. How could anything compare to the sacrifice The Marine Corps demands, and both are government service organizations…and both are “Corps.” Corps to Corps for me :-)
We went to In Service Training after the three month period, and I had this indescribable time. I was dizzy with the new territory I was in personally. Many times it felt so very strange…confusing…like being lost in a giant ocean, which is doubly odd because, in The Marine Corps I was once floating in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. I don’t think I’ll really understand what all that self-development phase taught me for some time, but I’m glad I took the risk. It was certainly something I never experienced…ever. It was once in a lifetime for sure…
So I went back to site, started switching gears to professional development, which seemed like a course in anger management. Coworkers were doing things in strange ways that seemed to make no sense to me. I would get angry every day. I still do to some degree, but I just go home and calm down then try a new approach the next day. You know me…I never quit anything. They’ll just have to try and kill me, but we all know that ain’t happening. Ha he ha ha. I eventually found enough work around the village developing the entire village and working at the school to keep me working enough to feel like I’m doing some work. It’s still really easy though. My schoolhead is great. She knows how to fix a school and cares about her students. She’s not messing around. Now I teach, run school clubs for the students, advise village businesses, travel around Botswana teaching Self-defense and HIV/AIDS awareness. I even attended a Youth Forum for children that were HIV positive or at risk. That was pretty intense. I got to play my guitar for them and sing the boys to sleep at night. They really liked one of the songs I wrote and would sing along with me. Now, tell me that ain’t great :-)
I went to Namibia with three volunteers. It was beautiful and we had a lot of fun staying in hostels and eating food near the beach. It’s good to see the ocean when you live in the desert. I liked it so much I plan on going back three more times. I plan on skydiving in every African country I can, but didn’t have the money to do it then.
Nowadays, I string my days together one by one. I’m almost completely done with my self-development project. I can’t say it was a success. By that I mean, I don’t really know how it affected me or what will come of it, but I tried real hard. Am I quitting? No, but I certainly need a good long rest. It was very very very very tough. I’ll tell you what…if you really wanna know how people are, show them your soft vulnerable side and see how they behave. It’s difficult and exhausting.
I love the kids. I enjoy everything that happens to me, even the bad stuff. I even smile while it’s happening. I have such a great life and an infinite future. They say that Peace Corps is what you make it, and I’m making it almost as big of a part of me a The Marine Corps is, but it’s not there yet. I still have over a year left. Who knows what will happen.
I go to big fancy resort to spoil myself. The closest volunteer is 5 hours way. I have to hitchhike to go anywhere. I have waited 8 hours in the rain for one hitch and I have to take two, then an hour bus ride to go to the grocery. Basically, it takes two days. Others hitch because they think it’s cool or part of the experience. Shhh… Let me tell ya… I’m perfectly happy using public transport when it’s available. If I were in their shoes I would act just like them, but I’m not. I’m in my shoes and around here, hitching is not just an option for cool points…it’s a necessity.
So you should be pretty much caught up now. Planet Botswana….. just come see it. And see me. What’s coming up next? Well, I might get to shake hands with the President of Botswana tomorrow, and get a photo op. I was in the Huffington Post. My host family is having a party for the new volunteer this weekend. Their graduation is soon and I’m prolly going to Durban, South Africa in July. I was trying to go to the London Olympics, but a Peace Corps workshop cancelled that trip. Ya know, dedication to service, dedication to the Corps and all that. Planning on jumping out of a plane while in Durban, so I have that to look forward to. Cheers to all of you. You people really are amazing. Gotta go. A Jedi’s work is never done J Dream big. See ya soon. Planet Botswana…Out.