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.

Friday, May 17, 2013


The last weeks of Peace Corps are curious.  Staff says not to start any new projects.  Actually, we shouldn't really be starting any new projects the last three months we are at site.  We should be wrapping things up, saying goodbyes, etc.  But, as most things in life, nothing really goes the way that you planned.  People come up to you asking to help them with this and that.  So that is how I found myself yesterday, finishing up a proposal for a gender-based violence workshop in Shoshong next month.  Am I going to be here for the workshop?  Definitely not as a Peace Corps volunteer, but perhaps I will try to come back, just to see how it turns out.

I haven't packed at all.  I have a whole other week for it.  I think I'm lucky, though.  Since I am just moving to Gaborone, I don't have to fit my entire house into two suitcases like most of us ending service and going back to the states.  Yet, the amount of stuff that I have accumulated and have to transport is quite overwhelming.  Just thinking about taking all the photos off the walls is pretty crazy.  Gonna try to get someone to help me with that so I can focus on shoving clothes into suitcases and books into boxes.

Because I am moving to Gabs, I don't feel a huge sense of loss.  I feel like I'll be coming back to Shoshong (or at least I can if I want to).  I have other friends that are happy to get the hell out of here and some that are really sad.  There are things we are all going to miss, of course.  But surprisingly I haven't tapped into it that much because mentally I am still here.

Yet, all of this is making me reminisce.  I'm not thinking much about my service in its entirety, but rather just the beginning.  I am remembering the moment I got off the plane, thinking that it was pretty hot when I boarded that bus.  Little did I know I hadn't seen nothin' yet!  I remember the first few days at Big Five Lodge, first impressions and trying to learn Setswana, all of us being really nervous for home stay matching ceremony.  I remember how we played a name game with all of the staff.  The number of Batswana was incredible and I thought, "How am I ever going to remember all of these names?!"  But I did.  I remember all of us trying to practice our Setswana with workers at the lodge, stumbling over "tsogile" and "jang."

I remember the smells, the hot air, the lack of humidity that has made my hair a sight to behold these last two years (in a good way).  I remember how little I knew and how I kept progressively thinking I knew more and more as time went on.  But I suppose that is life's trick, right?  The minute you think you have something figured out, another aspect of life smacks you across the face and says, "Oh yeah...well take a look at this!"  I find that absolutely wonderful.

After being here for two years, I am still learning more and more about this culture and the way people relate to each other.  Entering the professional world in Gaborone will be a new step in learning about how to survive here.  New rules.  New procedures.  At least I have been primed for waiting by life in the village.  Now I know the trick: always bring a book.  You'll never be bored!  You could wait for hours!  No big deal!  It's brilliant.

Moving always causes a small amount of anxiety, regardless the circumstances.  But I am happy that I am not returning to the states.  Thinking of going back almost scares me.  The thought of food excites me, REAL italian food and a DECENT martini for once, dairy ice cream instead of vegetable fat...the list goes on.  But the things I miss about America are pleasure-related (food, museums, site-seeing).  I suppose I miss the efficiency, but I don't miss the attitude that goes with it, the frustration, the stress, and the feeling that I AM THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD SO WHY AREN'T YOU DOING WHAT I WANT.  Reading about American news makes my head spin.  I am away from that world and I still can't stand hearing about it.  How am I going to feel when I am back there again?  No, thank you.  I will take another year or two before I decide I can live in America full time again.

Perhaps I will blog more, perhaps not.  For those of you who have been reading my blog since the beginning, I hope you have enjoyed it and have learned along with me.  All we can do is learn and hope that we make good decisions in our lives that positively affect those around us.

So here's to the next chapter.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pics of Northern Botswana

During February and March, I did some traveling to the northern parts of Botswana.  I went to Maun, the Okavango Delta and Shakawe.  These are some of the most people parts of Botswana.  Here are some photos:


I saw this advertising airtime in a shop window.  It is promoting buying airtime as an act of love for your significant other.  It is quite funny because this is viewed as one way your significant other showcases his/her love, by buying you airtime for your phone.  And it is strongly linked to HIV because it is commonly believed that people (especially women) will stay in unsafe relationships and will consent to not use a condom because their partner is buying them gifts.  Stay in the relationship for the airtime!

This is a sign outside of Bateman's Fine Wine and Liquor.  I have ordered cases of wine from South Africa for friends of mine through this wine distributor.  It's a great store with a great selection.  And I just love this sign.

While in Maun, I took a one-day mokoro ride through the southern part of the Okavango Delta.  Here is my view from my mokoro.

My mokoro had some holes in the back.  So the man driving the boat had this big sponge that he would mop up the water with.  I got to sit on some straw so I never got wet.

This is one of those lily pad stalks in the Delta.  And that little white thing is a frog!  They were so cute!

We also went on a game walk.  Game walks are amazing if you are able to see animals because you really feel like you are one with them.  In a car you can easily get away (and can also get a lot closer).  But game walks are special and make you feel like you are part of nature.  Here a zebra is the designated lookout, making sure that we pose no threat.

The Delta

A PCV named Dinah organized a half-marathon/5k all-day event to raise money for an ambulance in Shakawe.  Tate and I (pictured above) are getting ready to run the 5k.  Or in my case...more like jog/walk.

After the half-marathon and 5k, there were performances, prizes given out, and many tables with people giving out information about health.  Here, some PCVs are doing face painting.

The Shakawe Clinic health tent.  Here one of the nurses is seated with condoms, informational pamphlets and penis/pelvic models all around her.  Obviously this is where I sat.

A bunch of us stayed with a married couple (volunteers) who live in Shakawe as well.  Since it was around Easter, they organized everything for us to make Easter eggs!  It was really sweet.

The next day, a bunch of us took the trip to Tsodilo Hills.  Tsodilo Hills is actually the birthplace of homosapiens.  It was amazing to be there.  The place is beautiful.  And there are rock paintings from thousands of years ago.  The ones pictured above are dated about 1000 AD by the San peoples.  The guide told us what materials people used to paint the different animals but I forget.  Here Danielle and I are posing at the beginning of the hike (which was really more like mountain climbing).

It got a bit treacherous!

Some of the rock paintings.  I was quite surprised to see a penguin and a whale depicted there.  But these tribes were nomadic and apparently some people had gone down to South Africa.  They painted the animals that they heard about from those South African travelers...or perhaps they even saw them themselves!  There are also white paintings by Bantu-speaking peoples but they aren't pictured here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Peace Corps keeps us in a bubble.  It’s almost like middle school.  You can’t drive, you have to tell someone everywhere you go and you have to be home before dark.  Those of us who are younger may have our parents to help us when we get home from Peace Corps.  Many older volunteers don’t even have that.  But parents or not, leaving Peace Corps is daunting.  We’ve had health insurance and a paycheck covered for two years.  We haven’t had to worry about car payments, life insurance, or repayment of student loans.  Coming to Peace Corps wasn’t like moving the next state over.  Many of us sold personal possessions, some even cars and houses.  Some of us aren’t even sure where we are going to spend our first nights after Peace Corps.

Luckily I don’t have that problem.  I know where I will be staying in Gaborone for at least my first few weeks after closing my service.  I don’t have a job yet, but I have been talking with a few companies and organizations.  I am confident that something is going to work out.  And I am shopping for a car.  A lot is still up in the air and probably will be for most of the month of June.  But I feel such a sense of awe and excitement.

Peace Corps volunteers in Botswana will tell you that we watch a lot of movies and television.  It passes the time and it’s nice to catch up on shows you may have missed.  I have spent the last few weeks watching “Boy Meets World,” one of my favorite shows growing up.  At this point, Cory and Topanga have just gotten married.  They hate their apartment.  It’s a dump.  And they go crying to their parents for help, complaining about bad plumbing and bugs.  We have all done that at some point, but I am happy to say that I am doing this on my own.  My parents may still have to help me with some things, like health insurance.  I’m not sure.  But I do know that I am getting my own car, my own job and my own place to stay.  I did this before Peace Corps as well, for the year after college.  But that was in Providence, where I attended Brown.

This is different.  This is new.  No more Peace Corps watching my back.  No more parents an hour’s drive away.  Real life.  Adulthood.  Wow.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Further Thoughts on "The Voice" Article

I have shared the article from "The Voice" mentioned in the previous post with a few friends.  It sparked good conversation.  Most of them felt that few people actually feel the same as the men in the article.  But the topic of sex and its place within a relationship garnered a lot of opinions.

One friend of mine said that he was talking about this with his co-workers, all married men in their 30s and 40s.  They said that he "just doesn't understand" because he isn't married yet.  But they assured him that when he gets married, he will know the frustrations when his wife doesn't want to "give him" sex.  They cited examples of coming home from long trips, missing their wives and having their wives not in the mood day after day.  One day, the excuse would be "I'm tired," the next, "I have a headache," etc.  So the men were asking my friend, "When does it become forcing your partner?  What are we supposed to do if our wives continue to say they don't want to have sex?"

I don't believe these men were saying that they physically rape their wives.  I think they were saying that perhaps they try to verbally cajole their partners into having sex because they are sick of the excuses.  They asked my friend, "Why do our wives keep saying no?  We try to ask them what is wrong and they say 'Nothing.'" 

My friend then asked these men, "Are you sure your wives still love you?"  That made me laugh.  And I think it's a great question.  I am a lover of "Sex and the City."  At one point one of the characters says, "Sex is a barometer for how everything else is going in your relationship."  If one or both of the partners repeatedly does not want to have sex, the problem is probably outside of the bedroom.  And this is what I told my friend he should tell his co-workers.  Perhaps the women get home from work, their husbands ignore them and watch TV all night.  And then when they get into bed, the men turn on the charm and expect lovin.'  But we all need to feel appreciated in life, not just in the bedroom.  So the problem for these men could be that they aren't showing their wives that attention in the way their wives need.

And this brought up a larger issue: communication within the relationship.  We both agreed that these couples need to work on it.  I also didn't like the way they talked about sex...saying that the women "give it."  Sex should be something that two people decide on and talk about.  It is not that one is giving and one is receiving.  It is a partnership.  And that notion seems to be lacking within the discourse on sex in general.

Although articles like the one in "The Voice" may represent extreme views, they reveal things about us within relationships and how we can improve the dialogue.  And isn't that what good journalism is supposed to do?