Monday, November 26, 2012


Before I get into all that I am thankful for, let me update all of you on what I remember during the past week or two. For those of you who wonder how I’m living and curious to see where I live, I am still in the temporary house. I don’t know when I will move into the actual house I should be living in but since we are in Botswana and I was promised that it’d be last week, I’ll guess 2-3 weeks from now. Here is what my typical day looks like:
  • -   5:30 a.m. Wake up, brush teeth, go to the restroom and bathe (they say “bath” here)
  • -   5:50 a.m. Get dressed and make breakfast AND lunch (no electricity means no refrigerator which means no dinner leftovers for the next day’s lunch)
  • -   6:30 a.m. Pack lunch and eat breakfast
  • -   7:00 a.m. Throw bath water out on a tree in front of my house
  • -   7:05 a.m. Start trekking through the bush to get to my school (I walk 1 ½ km to and from school everyday which is about 1 mi each way)
  • -   7:25-7:30 a.m. Arrive at Guidance & Counseling office
  • -   7:30-10:00 a.m. Diddle daddle in my office since I just got here and school is now over. Sometimes I work on my Community Assessment Report that is due in January)
  • -   10:00 -10:30 a.m. Tea Break (sit in my office)
  • -   10:30-1:30 p.m. Read paperwork and books or walk around the school meeting and talking to new people
  • -   1:30-2:30 p.m. LUNCH!!!
  • -   2:30-4:30 p.m. Work on things with the Guidance & Counseling Teacher who is also my counterpart
  • -   4:30 p.m. Start on my way home sweating like a hog in the sun and wish I could drive or get a ride on one of the donkey carts that pass me up
  • -   5:00 p.m. Prepare and eat dinner
  • -   6:30 p.m. Read, go online for a very short while, or visit neighbors and make new friends
  • -   8:00 p.m. Debate whether I should go to sleep or not since it’s already dark and the candles don’t do anything for me
  • -   8:10 p.m. Start running around my house killing mosquitoes and bugs while cursing them out
  • -   8:30/9ish Lie in bed thinking about anything and everything
  • -   10ish Fall asleep
  • -   12, 2, 3:30 a.m. Toss and turn and eventually wake up because I am sleeping in a puddle of my sweat (Only when it’s really hot during the day. I always love the crazy rainy weather.) 

So for everyone that was wondering...there you go. Of course there are differences as every day comes but that’s what my week look liked last week for the most part.
My corner desk! :)

The temp. house I'm staying in. This was from a Tango call with Trenton.
If you guys download Tango on your smart phones we can talk for free!

Sweet affirmation notes that our group wrote to each other
to read on bad days. 

An awesome performance! For me!

Yay for Thanksgiving in Botswana!
 This week I settled into my (temp) house to find running water. YES! I don’t even care if it goes off while I’m brushing my teeth and I’m running around my house, frantic, looking like I’m foaming at the mouth. Even if it was off for the next couple days and I secretly prayed that nobody tells me I smell, I’ll take that over none. I also attended the first of tri-weekly assemblies at my school and was able to meet 2/3 of the students who sang and danced for me because they insisted on me “taking a video of [them] and showing it to all [my] friends in America.” (I wish my internet speed would allow me to upload that video. The performance was amazing!) I was able to travel to the neighboring villages in a small khombi that felt like a moving sauna and met a lot of new people including hilarious coworkers I am excited to be working with once school starts up again in January. I got a great package from a friend back home and stuffed my little face with gross amounts of CHEWY chocolate chip cookies and Sour Patch kids. (Hey, I was being really healthy and being good the whole week, I deserve it. Plus, that makes up for not being home for Thanksgiving, right?) I was invited to Stephanie and Tom’s house, the sweetest married couple I have met since being in the Peace Corps, (let me remind you who they are here) for an American-style Thanksgiving dinner of our own which was so nice. I got to see them and 7 other volunteers that I hadn’t seen for a week! (It felt really long for us!) We may not have had turkey but we ate a pretty great meal with chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, butternut (tastes like pumpkin) and salad. We said thanks and of course I got a little emotional and we talked and laughed and complained (or praised, depending on who you are. Lucky people...) about our houses. It was such a nice day and was glad I was able to still celebrate Thanksgiving over here in Africa.

I also realized the reality of hitching, what we refer to as hitchhiking. Many of our villages, including mine of course, are so small and rural that transportation is almost nonexistent. Up to this point I have been scared of doing it but knew that I would probably be forced to. I know you are all thinking that this is crazy and dangerous but in Botswana it is really just another form of transportation that is used daily and is not at all like hitchhiking in America. I keep telling you that the majority of Batswana are super friendly and welcoming. One day I had to take 5 hikes just to get home from my shopping village! Apparently nobody likes to travel on Sundays. That may sound scary, and it was for me, but everyone who picked me up was so friendly. I know most of you all are thinking, “What the hell are you thinking?!” but it is almost the only way I can get out of my village. For drivers, when a person is on the side of the road waving their hand, it is a way of making extra money since you are driving that direction anyway. For people like me who live in remote villages, it is the only way to get home when no other khombis are around and buses don’t even go into your village. Also, When you wait for hitches, you could be waiting hours on end and there is really nothing you can do. I have learned this the hard way. The other day I hiked to the main road (10 km) and walked down the road to the hitch stop. I waited for a khombi for 25 minutes and it took me to my destination. Easy, right? So coming home I thought it’d be just as easy. Wrong. I couldn’t get a taxi or khombi on this particular day and walked a mile to the bus rank. (Like a train station for buses, khombis, and taxis.) Nobody was there. I waited an hour for a taxi to pull in for the driver to tell me I had to wait for it to fill up or otherwise I’d pay 5x the price. I waited for 30 minutes and he took me to the next village over, really close. I walked down the road to catch a khombi to realize I was going the wrong way. The conductor told me what I needed to do so I got off and walked about a mile back. I arrived at a bus/hitch spot and waited. And waited. And waited. I must have waited 3 ½ hours before I saw one of the staff members from my school across the street, waving for me to come over. I got lucky. If he wasn’t there I don’t know how long I’d be waiting. So what I’ve learned from this is : Always carry a book with me and be thankful that I’ll be in great shape when I go back to America.

Back to what I am thankful for...This week I was most grateful for all my family and friends that I talked to in just this week alone. It is the most people I’ve had the pleasure to hear since being here. I was so happy! Both my best girlfriends called and one of them is now engaged and getting married in New York next June! I still can’t believe it. I wish I can be there and be with her but we’ll see what happens. (I’d love to go to New York again but better, a New York wedding!) I also got a call from my mom wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving and that was nice. I spoke to Trenton and practically his whole family! I talked to his parents, his sister, his aunt and uncle, his cousin (Hey Ty!!), and his grandma and got a warm wish from his grandpa on Thanksgiving Day. That really just made my week. I also got warm wishes from his tias and abuela from his dad’s side of the family. I am so thankful that I have people who love me and support me. For those of you who continue to follow my blog and are reading this right now: I love you with all my heart. I wish for your health and safety everyday and hope you are all happy and doing well.

So be very grateful for what you have and remember that all the basic necessities that are taken for granted everyday count, too. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and stuffed your faces with food I can only dream of. Especially a bacon-wrapped Turkey. Please tell me you stuffed your face with a bacon-wrapped turkey so I can live vicariously through you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Dedication to My Best Friend.

On a chilly Monday in November 2006, on this exact date, Trenton and I decided that watching 007 – Casino Royale in the theaters was far more important than completing our psychology of sexuality paper that was due the very next day. I’m so glad we did.

Only with Trenton could I email him about something I think he may be interested in to find out that he had already looked into it just a couple days before. These types of things happen all the time. Only with him could I get excited about stupid, useless things and turn to find him giving me a weird look and laughing at me, but excited with me anyway. And only with him, with thousands of miles separating us, could I feel the same excitement and happiness with him that I felt 6 years ago on that chilly Monday. Every year on November 20th we spend time with each other. Unfortunately, this year is the first time we will not be able to. It’s okay though. The love and support he gives me while I’m chasing my dreams is endless. He makes it easier when life gets hard.

So Trenton, thank you for the ongoing patience, encouragement, love and support you continue to give me daily. Thank you for being right behind me whenever I choose to do another crazy thing. And thank you for always reassuring me and telling me I can do anything. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Cheers to 6 years! I love you more than I can ever describe. Counting the days I can be home again.

“Home…home is wherever I’m with you.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's official!

“I, Diane Phoolserm, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, domestic or foreign, that I take this obligation freely, and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps.”

We are required by law to swear or affirm an oath of loyalty to the United States. With that said,
I am an official United States Peace Corps Volunteer!

Today was the day I have been waiting for. It’s been a long 2 ½ months of intensive training but it also feels like our time together as trainees flew by so quickly. I will not miss Pre-Service Training at all but will miss all the familiar faces that I saw 6 days a week for the past couple of months. I’ve made friends and it will be difficult saying goodbye to them (for now) tomorrow when we all leave to our sites in different parts of the country. Thank goodness most of us spent the day together because although we will be seeing each other soon for Mid-Service Training and other travels, it will not be the same. I would just like to wish all my fellow volunteers good luck at their site and hopefully community integration and assessment will go well. (Not excited about that report!) I know we are capable of doing great things at our site and am glad to be with such a diverse group of volunteers (lawyers, doctors, social workers, nurses, teachers, etc.). We are an amazing group. Congratulations BOTS 13!

As for other news…I leave for my new home in Hebron tomorrow around 10:00 a.m. The feelings and emotions I am going through cannot really be described. I found out that my home that I will be living in is not yet ready (the ceiling needs repair) and so I will stay in a temporary house for about a week or so. This temporary place does not have electricity or running water or an indoor toilet but I am not stressing. When I move in to my actual home it still won’t have electricity but it will have running water (when there is actually water available), a toilet, bathtub and sink, decent kitchen counter space (also a pantry!), and hopefully a fixed roof. I didn’t have any expectations coming here so I actually think that I am lucky. From what I’ve heard, volunteers from other African countries live in a single unit hut. I am trying to stay positive and hope for the best and that’s exactly what I’m doing. My Head Master at the Junior Secondary school is amazing and I am also very grateful for that. She told me that she was able to put a fridge in my office so at least I’ll have something in place of no electricity. She is also fighting to get me a computer, fighting to have my roof done ASAP, and told everyone at the school and in the community that I am coming and apparently everyone is excited to meet me (eek!). I’m sorry I do not have many pictures to load but my internet is VERY slow now. I am trying to unlock my phone and hopefully then I can message and chat with people through various apps like WhatsApp, Tango, and other free messaging services that require me to be online. I will update everyone every so often but I am sorry if I cannot include pictures. To my family and friends, I miss and love you all so much and please do not worry about me. I am excited to start this new phase of my life and hope you will support me along the way. See you soon! Gagona matata!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Host Family Thank You Party and Pula!

Some of us, girls, before the party. Look at the cute pup!

For the past two weeks we have been planning a big party for all of our host families. We had different committees for cooking, decorating, entertainment, ushering, and shopping. We’ve been really excited to host this and it was a pretty successful event. Certificates from the Peace Corps were presented, gifts were exchanged, and food was given to everyone there. (Even IF some people didn’t like it. Haha) I’d say it was a success but preparing wasn't so easy.

I was in the shopping committee and that wasn’t really an easy task. You have to remember that in America, when we need something done it gets done. And it gets done fairly quickly. In Botswana, I will really be learning patience because everything here will take 10x longer than it would in America. For example, if I planned to buy food for 200+ people it would take a trip to the store, a while to find and purchase all the goods needed, and some time to pack it up and drive off. Well, in Botswana it is the exact same thing but for some reason it will take about 5x longer than necessary. I have to keep in mind that this culture is different. I also have to keep in mind I come from Los Angeles. People from LA are constantly rushing, always have somewhere to go, and get pissed off when someone delays them, even to the point of rudeness for some. In Botswana it is okay to stop and talk to someone for a while even if you are a taxi driver and have somewhere to take your customers sitting in the back. (e.g. Me waiting for 5 minutes while the driver stops another taxi driver friend and talks with him) It is also okay for a cashier at the supermarket to talk to the neighboring cashier as I am waiting for her to ring up our 100+ items that we’ve already put onto the counter. We probably waited for a few minutes before she started ringing our items up. My point is that you really have to be open-minded and patient to be here. It is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just different. I am reminded daily about cross-cultural sensitivity and I am learning how to deal with situations patiently and with humor. Some days it is harder than others but I have to remember most people here are friendly and caring and more patient that I would ever be. Haha

So cute in her traditional outfit!

Penne with a tomato sauce, BBQ pulled chicken, garlic toast,
sweet baked beans, and oat cookies.
Back to the party…I helped in the kitchen and let me say, making food for that many people is not easy. We decided to make food that we ate in America and so we decided on an Italian/Southern-style feast. We pulled 10 bags of chicken, we cooked 10 kg of pasta, we toasted 20 loaves of garlic bread, boiled 20 cans of beans and it was stressful and fun. A lot of the Batswana thought everything was way too sweet and most of us trainees thought it was the best meal we’ve had in 2 months. Haha Either way it was fun to sing our national anthem, do skits as a way to entertain our guests, and end it with dancing to some kind of slide I didn’t even know how to do. (Electric slide?) I’d say it was a good time.

This girl could dance - Latin, Ballroom, Hip-Hop; you name it.
Tom is quite the actor.

My baby Junior came to the party!

Some of us went back to the room where we hold our 6-days-a-week-sessions and danced and played games all evening. I have never sweated so much in my life! I learned the electric slide, the boot-scootin’ boogie, and the basics of ballroom and latin dancing. (Thank you Eden!) Even Luis danced with us, being the only male in the BOTS 13 group who is not married and is under 30 years old. I really think all of us just wanted to spend our last weekend in Kanye with the familiar faces we have all grown accustomed to in the past 2 months and realized how much we would miss each other. 

Around 6:30 p.m. we turned off the music and waited for the rain to calm down before we all walked home. While Luis, Sarah, and I started walking home, Luis had the idea of feeling the nice wet grass on our feet for one last time and with that, we took off our shoes and played in the rain! We danced, we laid our bodies down and soaked up the water, we opened our mouths and felt the raindrops on our tongues, we rolled around in the grass, we did cartwheels, and we enjoyed each other’s company while our clothes were drenched in water. My inner child is always with me and this was the most fun I have had in a long time. What I love is that we can really be ourselves and be silly around each other even if we have only known each other for a short while. I will really miss them when we go off to our sites but I will remember to look back on days like these when I am down/bored/lonely and remember that I will have made great friends in my service. It will be a reminder as to why I am here – to help others, to find out more about who I am, to make new friends, and to have fun and enjoy the rain when it comes. Pula!

I believe I can fly!

This Thursday, November 15, 2012, we will officially swear-in as Peace Corps Volunteers. I can’t believe how 2 months flew by! The next time I update you I will be an official volunteer but after that I won’t know if I’ll have internet access readily available to me at my site. I will definitely let you know by Thursday. See you then!

Diamonds and Birthdays.

Enjoying the morning in the bush!

Since its independence in 1966, Botswana went from being one of the world’s poorest countries to one of the few developing nations to reach middle-income status. The need for a skilled labor force is still great as HIV/AIDS severely affect development gains and impacts all aspects of life in Botswana. This country has the second largest diamond pipes in the world which keep the economy afloat. Bots 13 was lucky to have a tour of one of the diamond polishing plants here in Botswana and I was very interested to see what the process was like.

Beautiful diamonds. Don't mind my ugly knuckles.
Getting through security required in-depth measures but once we got in it was really exciting to tour such a nice facility. Steinmetz is a company whose diamonds are not associated with blood diamonds or conflict areas. These are some of the finest diamonds in the world and also some of the rarest. We learned that some of the diamonds of the Steinmetz Company was displayed in the Smithsonian, in Washington, because of the rarity of all their beauty. The plant employs about 160 employees. They are big on their commitment to their community and sponsor different sports teams and marathons in the country. We got to go through the unit where they look closely at a diamond and try to find most of its inclusions so they can find the best possible ways to cut the diamond without taking much value out of it. It was really cool to see how this process was done. We got to see where they cut the diamonds and where they smoothed and polished it. I even got to hold a 10 carat rough stone in my hands. That was really cool but the cooler thing was when we went to meet some of the gemologists and one of the ladies put five different stones in my hand, different colors and sizes, and then proceeded to tell me that those diamonds were worth 2-3 million dollars!!! I couldn’t believe these small little things could be worth so much! Of course I asked to take a picture because this will be the first and last time I would ever be near something so valuable and expensive. The picture does not do the diamonds justice so just believe me when I say the stones were really beautiful.

On November 9 I celebrated two birthdays – my host sister’s and my dad’s. I couldn’t do much for my dad but, like every year, I made sure to wish him a happy birthday, deposit some money into his account and remind him that I miss him and love him. He is always very grateful for that. For my sister I decided to bake her some cookies. In America we usually make a big deal over birthdays and in Botswana they really don’t. I don’t know if that is related to money or not but I’m pretty sure it does. The night before the 9th I baked cookies for my sister because 1) I knew she’d love that since she said nobody remembers her birthday and 2) I needed my family to know what soft and chewy cookies actually taste like. (They do not have any REAL cookies here! Only “biscuits” which make sense since the country gained its independence from the English.) I made cookies from oats, peanut butter, and 2 bars of Cadbury chocolate. It was delicious! I even handmade her a birthday card which I haven’t done in years and took an empty peanut butter jar, washed it, and used construction paper and a marker to decorate it and make it a little prettier. Talk about recycling. My family LOVED the cookies and insists that I show them how to make them. (I’m pretty sure I’ll take baking back up since I’ll have a LOT of free time soon and I love to bake.) My sister said I made her day with all the nice gifts and sentiments and my family ate the cookies in 10 minutes. I made sure everyone would be at the house that day and so I gathered everyone up to take pictures of us being silly. I forgot to mention that lately I have been preparing for the moment I have to leave for my permanent site. I’ve been kind of sad about it and my family keeps jokingly telling me to stay. I decided to also give my host mom a gift as a way to say thank you for opening up her heart and her home to me. So we all stayed up all night eating sweets, singing and dancing, and being silly and having fun with each other. Let’s just say the night ended with happy stomachs and happy hearts.

Cookies made with oats, peanut butter, and chocolate. No flour. Let me know if you want the recipe because they are GOOD!

I love baking. If anyone wants the recipe, let me know!

Best pizza I've ever tasted (here)!

My beautiful Fefe

People come over and ask me to do their makeup. I've only done it for my sister ONCE. -__- They swear I'm the neighborhood's makeup artist. haha

Their dance moves are priceless. Thepo, wearing the tan shirt, has moves like jagger. Better than MJ. I wish I could upload the videos. Amazing.

We can never just get one decent photo. It takes at least 10. 

Doing cartwheels. (I failed) Energized all night and then BAM, knocked out. haha

The nights are always young.

This is for you, Bub! One day...

Junior looking fly.

Mama liked her gift! :)

Trenton, you would LOVE IT.
My family. <3 I'm going to miss them so much.
Birthday success!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


This week was full of random things from A-E.

Anthem - We learned Botswana's national anthem and our language teachers learned America's national anthem. It was really cool to see everyone joining in together to sing both the anthems. It was definitely a cross cultural session. It was sad that the LCF's (Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitator's) knew America's anthem better than some of us knew our own. haha Sad, sad world...

Our Batswana LCF's singing the American national anthem.
Too bad my video won't  load because it was amazing to see.

One of my favorite LCFs sporting the Barcelona jersey.
Batswana love their football!

Bathing, balancing, and baboons: I was in the capital city for a PC med. appt. and randomly saw a baboon chilling on the street. Just sitting there in front of a parking lot. That was interesting.

I also spent this past weekend with my nieces and nephew. They can really make my day. As I was eating breakfast on Sunday (I made eggs and hash browns!) they were getting ready to bathe because they had already spent the early morning playing in the dirt! They were singing and dancing and it was the funniest sight to see because I have never seen kids so excited to bathe (they say "bath" here), so much that they danced to the bathroom! haha 

When we first arrived in Botswana we saw Motswana women balancing all kinds of things on their heads. My friend, Sarah, and I made it our goal to be able to balance things on our heads too. So when we walked back home from the local supermarket we placed our shopping bag on the top of our heads and walked ALL THE WAY home. That's right, be jealous. We got skills!

Look Ma, no hands!

Cooking, cows, and craziness - Lately I have been anticipating being on my own for the first time in my life, in about two weeks. I get nervous about what I will eat because if you haven't heard, I have no electricity in my new place which also means I have no refrigerator! So you can imagine what limited groceries I have to buy that do not need refrigeration. I feel like I will gain 12 pounds in the first week. So, I am enjoying all the time I have to cook at my homestay and enjoy what I COULD eat until I leave. I have been pretty successful with breakfast foods but this week I cooked for my family twice! All by myself! I cooked a "traditional" meal one night and I cooked macaroni with meat another night, the way they make it here. I was really scared at first that I didn't do it correctly or that it may be too salty but my mom asked for more, my sister finished it in 5 minutes, and my niece said, "Auntie knows how to cook!" Success!

A common thing to see are animals crossing the road at random times so it is expected that cars stop and let these animals cross. It's really funny to see and sometimes you are waiting a really long time for all of them to cross. I love it.

During dinner yesterday I took a photo shoot of my crazy brother. He thinks he is funny. haha jk

I'm trying to eat healthier here. For some reason I now enjoy tomatoes
and green bell peppers. Never liked them before.

This may or may not look appetizing to you but my family gave me "Well done!"

Cut up my omelette but it was delicious. And yes, I like my eggs and hash browns browned.

Dancing - The other day during our tea break we put on some Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and other divas and had a dance party. At first the Peace Corps staff was like, "Wtf?" but then some of them joined us. We had people battling and I showed some of my diva moves while Crazy in Love was playing and everyone was having a good time. Too bad there aren't any pictures. Too bad.

Escaping & Eating Out - During the medical appointment Sarah and I was able to escape to Game City and shop for our homes! It was nice but everything was a bit expensive. The best part of shopping was finding paper towels!! This is the first time I have seen paper towels since I've been here. Daily wiping and hand-washing here is almost nonexistent  so I almost cried when I saw the paper towels and hand soap because I only use it at the Education center. I will definitely be using it in my house. Whew! Even though Game is really expensive, people get excited to come here because you find food and other things that are not available in the villages that we will stay in. We were also able to finally try Nando's Peri Peri chicken that EVERYONE swears by over here and although it was tasty the conclusion is: I am still a Chicken Licken lover. I did like the Peri Peri hot sauce but I prefer my food fried. I guess some things will never change.

Soup mix, bacon potato seasoning, cream of mushroom sauce...ahhh!

Oh paper towels, how I've missed you.

My southern belle at Nando's Restaurant

A 1/4 chicken and some chips with hot sauce and tomato sauce. Yum.

Yes Ice Cube, today WAS a good day.