The opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and mine alone. They do not represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

So What do You DO?

I realized that I have reported a lot of cultural challenges, anecdotes and reflections, but my posts have been dearth of reports about my day-to-day life. I don’t do much by American standards. My life in the states was filled with meetings and research and rushing from one place to another. In Botswana, my main goal is never to rush anywhere. I always want to make sure to have time to stop and talk to people.

I know that helping Shoshong with the problem of HIV/AIDS is important, but that’s only one-third of my job description. The other two-thirds are to promote cross-cultural understanding. I may not have any impact when it comes to HIV. There are many reasons why HIV is so prevalent here, and those will be very difficult to change. We will have to find other ways to feel fulfilled. I plan on doing that by building relationships.

For the first two months at site, all volunteers must complete a community assessment. Ideally, we learn about all of the workers at our primary job, meet people in our village, and begin to understand the socio-cultural, economic and political landscape. Peace Corps gave us questions to help guide our report. To do this analysis, we can do a combination of interviews, focus groups, participatory community assessment tools, research, and appreciative inquiry.

To find out some basic things about Shoshong, I have chosen to interview community members. I ask things like:

Where are you from?

Do you have children? Husband/wife?

Do you like Shoshong?

What do men do in Shoshong everyday?

What do women do?

How do people get money?

Who makes political decisions about Shoshong?

Do you trust the community leaders (chiefs, councilmen, member of Parliament)?

Do you feel like people can give their opinions at the kgotla meetings?

In your opinion, does the leadership listen to peoples’ grievances?

How do you learn about HIV? In churches/clinics/schools/kgotla meetings?

Do you think that HIV is a problem in Shoshong? Why?

Do you think that people know about HIV? Or is more education needed?

What should be done to end HIV in Shoshong?

A typical day looks like this:

7:30 – Arrive at Shoshong Clinic

7:35 – Sit in on the daily health talks given to the patients by nurses or clinic volunteers

8:00 – Do data entry of the blood work (viral load and CD4 counts) of patients on anti-retroviral medications (ARVs)

10:00 – Eat breakfast

10:30 – Interview some clinic staff

12:00 – Either do some planning about who I want to meet that day, or just begin to walk around the village

1:00 until dark – This really varies. Sometimes I go to the post office to mail some letters and hang out with the post office workers for a half hour or so (I love them). Lately I have been doing interviews of general community members, as well as specific stakeholders that I may work with. I have done research about Shoshong at the library, met the socialworkers, planned some programs with one of the councilmen, and gotten to know some really motivated people who have great ideas of things to do in Shoshong. Every meeting gives me another person to meet.

I am also trying to just walk around Shoshong and get to know the different wards. I will sit down with people in their homes and just introduce myself. Because my job doesn’t have specific tasks to do, I have to make a daily plan of things I want to get done. There is a lot of self-motivation. Surprisingly, I am rarely bored. And I usually don’t complete all my self-assigned tasks everyday. Things move a lot slower and I find it more important to sit and talk with someone than try to get to the library before it closes. Most things can wait until tomorrow.


  1. "Things move a lot slower and I find it more important to sit and talk with someone than try to get to the library before it closes. Most things can wait until tomorrow." I love this.

  2. amelia: nice portrait of day to day and your experince - this'll be short - experiment in posting - dad

  3. ok: for a longer comment - relationships relationships relationships - what life's about. Interesting that you are rarely bored. is good. any follow up on the school you made contact with to go in and talk with kids? when i am in a good spce emotionally etc, i too find it more important to sit and talk than rush off to the next task. unfortunately too often there is anxiety and push. perhaps the trade off between efficiency, the well oiled economic social culture and a more personal one? love you - dad (it all plays into the choices we make on how to live our lives)

  4. I love your insight! YOU ARE 100% correct about the importance of building relationships. Those bonds will bring about as much change in HIV transmission and attitudes about AIDS as your talks and demonstrations. YITB, Itu