Lesson #1: Bus rides in Botswana are cramped and hot
Last weekend, all trainees ventured out into Botswana to shadow current volunteers. Maggie and I went to visit Sydney in northeastern Botswana. We first rode a six-hour coach bus (without a bathroom) to Francistown, then took a minibus (fit maybe 20 people) another 2 hours to our site. Even in the heat, Batswana believe that opening the windows can give you a cold. So we constantly played window wars with fellow passengers trying to keep the windows open. We also have to get used to a general lack of personal space in Botswana. People stand in the aisle of the bus, bumping into you when the bus turns. The up side: the bus stops a couple times and you can run to the bathroom if you know what you are doing. Also, Batswana are really nice, which helps to make up for the lack of personal space.
Lesson #2: Moving slowly is preferable in all aspects of life
I had a great time shadowing Sydney. She showed us what she does on a daily basis, and it helped me realize how flexible my service can be. I can spend lots of time at my clinic or social work office, or I could be very involved in the schools, etc. It made me really excited about the types of projects I can do when I go to my community. She also gave Maggie and I great info on how to integrate into our communities, who we should get to know, and tips for doing a thorough community assessment. It made me feel more confident that I will be able to actually do this job. Also, there is no rush to get things done. We walked slowly everywhere and I loved it.
Lesson #3: Umbrellas are useful for the sun and the rain
The first day I was shadowing, I actually got pretty fatigued from the sun. It was a lot hotter than it had been down south. I felt pretty sick. From that point on, I vowed to use an umbrella in the sun. Most Batswana women do so and now I understand why. The heat probably also contributes to the slower pace. I couldn’t imagine trying to walk anywhere quickly in this heat.
Lesson #4: Cooking bread is harder than it looks
For one of our assignments after we got back from shadowing, groups of trainees were tasked with preparing original meals. We then brought them all together and tried them this past Saturday. For our dish, my group decided to make madombe, or steamed bread. It turns out that steaming bread is pretty difficult unsupervised. We had the right recipe, but I think the portions were just too big. After three hours of effort, we ended up with a plate full of half-cooked bread. And yes, we still ate some of them. Our dish did not win first prize, however.
Lesson #5: African dancing is awesome, no matter the country of origin
Later on Saturday, we all went to a Botswana cultural village. Locals showed us how Batswana lived hundreds of years ago. We saw leather making, blacksmith, basket weaving and brewing demonstrations. But the best part was definitely traditional dance. My senior year of college, I took a Malian dance class, so I was interested to see the difference. Botswana dance is really cool – instead of using drums, the dancers have beads on their legs that make noise as they dance. They make the music themselves by singing and stomping. It was great.
I find out my site placement this coming weekend! Very exciting.