I usually don’t write consecutive blog posts, but I didn’t want to delay this one. I had an amazing day today. It started out rather ordinarily. I went to the clinic by 7:30. I helped the nurses with some filing. I was going to do some work on the computer but the power went out. At 9:45 I left the clinic. I was going to visit one of my favorite old ladies (mosadimogolo) in the village. We had planned to make a traditional dish and eat together.
On my way out of the clinic, one of the patients called me over. She and the women around her asked what I was doing in Shoshong and how long I would be here. When I told her that I was going to be working on HIV/AIDS in Shoshong, she said that she wanted to go around the village with me and teach people. SCORE. If you ask other volunteers, they will let you know how difficult it can be to find motivated people who want to work with you. And here was someone just offering herself up. I was psyched. I got her number, gave her mine, and left.
I then had coffee and magwinya (fat cakes – fried balls of dough, pretty much) with one of the PMTCT volunteers at the clinic. And when I say coffee, I mean instant fake coffee. Not the best, but it will do. When I arrived at mosadimogolo’s house, her husband told me that she had to attend a ceremony on the other side of the village and that I should come back around 1:30.
So I decided to go home and do my laundry. They are doing some work in the village and there is a rumor that we may not have water for a week. We have water storage at home, but I figured I should clean my clothes while we still have running water. My mosadimogolo friend still couldn’t make food with me, so I decided to go visit people who were rebuilding a church.
I only know about this church project because an Afrikaner (white South African) named Charles showed up at my house last night. He just decided to walk across Africa preaching God’s word. He came to my host mom’s house. She called me over and we all talked. He told us about his sinful past and how he was saved my God. He decided that we all needed to pray. Very surreal. He is only staying in Shoshong for a few days, but he had a dream from God, he said, to rebuild this church. So he is seeing that to completion.
Anyway, I visited the church. Charles wasn’t there but I stayed for a while and hung out with the Batswana who were working. And I ate more magwinya. In Botswana, it is generally rude to refuse food given to you, even if you aren’t that hungry. Or maybe I just love fat cakes. One or the other.
I went back to the clinic to pick up a package that was delivered for me. On my way, I walked through the community and talked to some people. I stopped at one house and met a couple of 17 and 18 year old girls that go to Shoshong Senior Secondary School. I told them how I wanted to talk to the principal and guidance counselor about working at Shoshong Senior. They seemed to think that was a good idea.
I went to one of the nurse’s house at the clinic because she was holding onto the package for me. I haven’t been able to interview many of the nurses yet because they are always so busy so I took the opportunity to do so today. This particular nurse is 23 years old so she really understands how important it is to work with youth. She is really motivated to have a youth counselor at the clinic and involve youth in the community. We devised a whole plan about how she is going to be my counterpart for my work in the schools. SCORE NUMBER 2. Very excited. I didn’t know that any of the nurses were particularly passionate about doing community work because most of them stick to their clinical duties. So I was really pumped out to find out that a medical professional was serious about getting involved.
Finally, I headed home. I passed by the teenage girls again, who asked if they could walk me part of the way home. I agreed. As we were walking, I asked what sorts of things the youth do in Shoshong, to which they replied that there is nothing to do. I then asked what sorts of activities they would like to see created. They told me that they would like to organize groups to go around and peer educate about HIV. SCORE NUMBER 3. Teenagers wanting to help each other and openly talk about sex? WHAT? AWESOME. They said that they would ask around and see who else would be interested. We exchanged numbers, parted ways and I came home. This is exactly why we shouldn’t ignore our neighbors. We could meet potential community partners just by walking around and being friendly.
I can’t put into words what amazing things happened today. Especially during these first two months in Shoshong, it is sometimes hard for me to see how I will help or empower anyone. We are all so new at our sites. I constantly feel like I am being empowered by the things I am learning from people in Shoshong, not the other way around. This was the first day I finally realized that I could actually do some good here, that I can really capacitate these people to talk about HIV openly within the community. And those are lifelong skills. My role is really just to catalyze things that others want to do. And today I had three different sets of people telling me that they want to partner with me. This is, without a doubt, the happiest day of my three and a half months in Botswana.