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.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Food and Traveling

I would first like to answer some of your questions. I have been helping Flora cook most nights. Some homestay families do not cook family meals every night, so I feel lucky that I am having that experience. It makes it really nice. A typical dinner consists of rice or phaletsche, meat like chicken or beef, morogo, and sometimes salads. Salads are mostly shredded cabbage or carrots in mayonnaise (like cole slaw). Phaletsche is made from maize meal and stirred into water until it is like dough. It is just a starch used to eat other things. It is very filling. Morogo means greens. Often we will have morogo wa dinawa, which is a specific type of greens made from beans. Most things are boiled/fried with a combination of spices, water and oil.

I LOVE the food here. Some trainees are having a harder time adjusting to it, but it works really well with me. The portions are too big so I have to eat less than the rest of the adults, but it is still enjoyable. They also make homemade bread. Some are called madumbe, which is the boiled bread. Other bread is baked, some is fried. It is all amazing.

We also have tea or coffee probably 3-4 times per day. The Batswana put roughly 4 teaspoons of sugar in each cup. Although I am drinking slightly less sugar, my sugar intake is still through the roof between the tea and my chocolate addiction. My dentist is not going to be happy when I come home from Botswana.

Although it is cold and is going to get colder, I packed enough blankets and jackets. Layering is the key. No need to worry! I am well equipped to deal with whatever Botswana weather can throw my way.

I just had my first Language Proficiency Interview. It is kind of intimidating because you sit down with one of the staff members and they ask you a bunch of questions in Setswana. It is just a conversation to gauge your Setswana skills. I feel fine with how I did this first time. I just kept talking and hoped that what I said was correct. We are going to get the results in a week.

So, starting Wednesday all of the trainees are shadowing current volunteers. I am heading to Nata in the northeast of Botswana. I am traveling with another trainee named Maggie. I am so excited to see another part of Botswana and what life is like for a volunteer. This will give us a better understanding of what our life will really be like for the next two years. And it will be a good chance to practice our Setswana with people with different accents.

I will update again after shadowing!

More Pictures in Kanye

This is Flora on our porch. She is holding Bophelo (left) and Dubi (right). Dubi is Flora's youngest child. He is one and a half years old. Dubi likes to grab EVERYTHING. He has a particularly affinity to sugar, like most Batswana. He also likes to grab my skirts and try to pull them down, much to the hilarity of all family members currently in the room. He is adorable, even when he tries to bite me.

There is a gorge near our house in Kanye. We have walked there a couple times. A friend of the family told us that there is a beautiful waterfall if you walk far enough, but we haven't gotten there yet. It is hard to walk through after it rains because the water is too high and you are inevitably walking through mud. I hope to see the waterfall before I leave Kanye, though.

Bophelo and I at the gorge

Bophelo, Flora, Dubi and I at the gorge

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I have more pictures, but I figured I would post what I have on my computer at this point. Pictured above is my host mom, Flora. She is sitting outside of our house, near the garden. Lately we have been dancing all around the house to both American and Batswana music. I wonder what the neighbors think we are doing.

The two children above are Tikololo (left) and Bophelo (right). Tikololo is Flora's nephew. He was with us for the first week, but is back with his mother. He was staying with us because his mother was at the cattle post. Tikololo's father, Flora's brother, works and lives in a different part of Botswana. That is actually the norm for families -- many of the men visit their families on the weekend, but often have cattle post and work responsibilities elsewhere. Bophelo is Flora's four-year-old daughter. Bophelo means "life" in Setswana, which I love. Most names seem to have a meaning in Setswana.

Things continue to go well. I am beginning to cook things by myself, although I need Flora's help to start most dishes. I try to watch how much she portions out, but she does not need to actually measure anything. I suppose it's the years of cooking traditional Batswana cuisine.

Learning Setswana is going well, although grammar is complicated. Setswana has 18 noun classes and they all correspond to completely different subject markers, possessive prepositions, adjective concords, etc. Definitely enough to make your head spin. But I have loved learning it because I think it is the most important part of PST (Pre-Service Training). If we don't know how to communicate to the people at our site, how do we hope to do any real development work? We can know everything there is to know about HIV and how to be culturally sensitive about it, but if we cannot actually speak the language, what good are we? That is what is driving my learning at this point, anyway.

The volunteers before us said that it would get cold, and they aren't kidding. We have needed light sweaters everyday and it will get progressively colder. I am glad I have my sneakers and layers of coats, including a vest. Good planning.

I will have more pictures to upload later this week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Settling In

Although we were matched with our homestay families on Thursday, I feel like I have lived here for months. I couldn’t imagine being in a better situation. My Motswana mother (Mama) is 30 years old. She speaks English and lives with her parents, her two small children, ages 4 and 1, as well as her nephew, age 3. The grandmother and grandfather do not speak English, which I like. That way I can just hear Setswana between them and try to piece it together.

Being with the kids is amazing. The little girl is the most hardworking four-year-old I have ever seen. She helps me do the dishes, sweeps with her mom, serves the family food…you name it, she chips in. The kids are so much fun. Of course it means that all of my Setswana flash cards have scribbles on them, but I love it.

I am not only learning to be a real Motswana woman in terms of household duties. Mama is teaching me Setswana. I also have a Setswana name – Nnete. It means truth. Mama throws at least 30 words at me per day. I have piles and piles of flash cards. She knows I can’t learn them all right away and that’s okay, but my pronunciation is better and my vocabulary has increased tenfold, even in these last two days.

She also takes me around the town with her, which is great. We have taken a walk everyday. Mama makes me greet everyone I see, which is great for my Setswana and getting over the discomfort of approaching people I don’t know. It was intimidating because of my lack of Setswana skills, but everyone is so friendly. I have been proposed to multiple times. I am learning new ways of how to say no to that, but it is tricky, especially when the man in question lives in the area and you don’t want to offend anyone.

All in all, life in Botswana is great so far. I know this homestay situation is making the transition a lot easier, especially since we have running water and a toilet in the house. I have been taking bucket baths, though, so that is a change. I think the gradual change in living style has been helpful rather than shocking me with no running water or electricity right away.

One other point – notice the change in my address on the right hand side. It is no longer “PO Box,” but rather, “Private Bag.” Apparently there is a distinction so I don’t want any letters to be lost in the mail, if possible! By the way, when it is 80 degrees in the sun, the grandmother says it is cold. Love you all. I hope life is going well for all of you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dumela Borra le Bomma!


It is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. We have only been staying in a lodge (for lack of a better word) for the past 3 days. The lucky ones (myself and my roommate Sara included) sleep in gorgeous little cottages. We have mosquito nets even though the area is supposed to be pretty malaria-free. It is a slight adjustment sleeping under a mosquito net but it generally makes one feel like a princess. We are all now on malaria medication. We are currently in orientation because we move to our home stay in Kanye on Thursday. We are all pretty nervous about living with a family, and none of these families have hosted Peace Corps volunteers before. We don't know what to expect but it's exciting.

Orientation consists of briefings on security, cross-culture learning, and LOTS of Setswana. We have been studying Setswana for 2-3 hours per day. I know how to have basic conversations with everyone now. I have been greeting everyone who works at the lodge, because the more you say it, the easier it becomes. I want to do it until I don't have to think about it. The language facilitators are amazing. They are Batswana and have all taught language before.

Examples of Setswana:

O robetse jang? - how did you sleep?
Ke robetse sentle - i slept well
Ga ke a robala sentle - i did not sleep well
Le kae - literally means where are you but actually used as "what's up"
Le teng - response to "le kae," literally means I am here, but used as "I'm good"

My fellow trainees (because we aren't considered full volunteers yet) are great. Everyone seems enthusiastic and willing to learn. I am hoping that we all swear in as volunteers on June 7th. The statistics show that ten percent of volunteers do not make it through Pre-Service Training. I hope we break that rate. The diversity of our group is also amazing. We have two older married couples, an 84-year old man, and a wide variety of races and backgrounds. It all helps us to learn better and develop deeper perspectives.

A few volunteers and I took a trip to a local supermarket, kind of like a smaller Cost Co. Everyone was so friendly. Walking outside and not being in our bubble re-affirmed my commitment to be here. There are always moments where we question if this is the right thing for us, but I am so sure at this moment. The culture is beautiful and I can't wait to learn more.

Sala sentle! (Stay well)

Friday, April 1, 2011


In about eight minutes, we meet for the first time as a group so this is going to be a short post. We have to get up at 2 am to leave for JFK tomorrow, so that will be fun. Mom, dad and I also devised a brilliant plan of putting one rolling bag on top of another. The easy trek from the Philly airport to our hotel told me that our plan was pretty terrible. Carrying everything in a backpack would have been a lot easier. Hopefully I only have to carry all of my bags at once three or four more times, so it shouldn't be that bad. Live and learn, I suppose. Today has been pretty rough. I didn't buy any close-toed shoes for the trip, which was silly but I thought -- hey, Botswana is hot! -- so why bring them? Well, it is reasonably cold in Philly and it was raining today. I am not averse to cold weather, but we had to walk to our clinic appointment today to get the Yellow Fever vaccine. I was also wearing relatively new shoes, so my toes got numb and I had blisters all over my heels. Awesome. But, no big deal. I put band-aids on and went to buy new shoes. I went into Ross, a local discount department store, and got a couple great pairs of shoes for cheap. Very psyched. I started to walk back to the hotel, in good spirits, when a cab drove through a puddle near the sidewalk and I was completely sprayed with water. I thought, "you've got to be kidding." Seriously, though. Doesn't this stuff only happen in movies? I was not having a good day. I came to the conclusion early on in the application process that the Peace Corps journey was not going to be easy for me. And I am okay with that -- I even welcome it. It's just sometimes hard to put that in perspective and not get upset over the little things. Then, as I came back into the hotel, "Norweigan Wood" by the Beatles came on. It reminded me of all the days I drove in the car with my dad up to school and I knew that everything would be okay. And if I can't handle a little water, I am out of luck when it comes to the harder challenges. So get up, move on and it will all work out.