Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Very Hot and Merry Christmas

A lot of volunteers warned me that the holiday season in Peace Corps, wherever you’re placed in the world, is really rough. I’d have to agree.

I didn’t think it’d be so bad because I was doing so well up to this point. But then I started missing Trenton. Then my family. And all my friends. Not to mention it felt nothing like the holidays wearing a tank top and flip flops, getting darker and darker from the sun that made sure to make me sweat in the 90 degree weather. Christmas didn't feel like Christmas to me and it was so bad, to the point where I was almost dreading it. But I told myself to be with friends and surround myself with people who are here with me, who are experiencing similar emotions, and to just be in the present. I am so glad I chose to get away and spend the holidays with lovely, kind people who can make me laugh and who surely know how to cook and dance.

I spent the weekend before Christmas with friends in BOTS 13. We hung out in a house a lot nicer than mine and played cards, cooked, played with puppies, and watched Christmas movies. I helped make pizza with cheese, tomatoes, and green bell peppers. Oh. My. Goodness. So good. Not to mention I made a pretty damn good dough with the help of my friend Liz from a random recipe we got from a yoga magazine. We ate hummus (Can you believe that?!) that someone found at a supermarket and felt so lucky to find food we could eat back home and I made brownies that came out a little burnt from an oven here that has no measure of temperature on its knob. I also watched A Muppet Christmas Story (or something like that) for the first time. I fell asleep though. (Sorry guys.) It was fun.

Then I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day in my shopping village of Lobatse and saw volunteers from previous BOTS groups, volunteers who’ve been here for a year, others who’ve been here for 7 months, and a few who are almost leaving. It was so cool to meet other volunteers and to hear of their experiences here. It was also very nice to stay in such a nice house. I could not even believe it was Peace Corps standard. Seriously. The houses we partied and stayed at were regular, normal houses you’d see in the states. So jealous. We hung out, ate again (of course), played games, sang Christmas Carols, danced, and had a good time. I ate a total of 4 ice cream cones in two days and didn’t regret it.

Although I missed everyone back home I was grateful to be with people who are so welcoming and intelligent, kind and funny. The best part of Christmas, other than making up ridiculous dance routines with people I just met, was getting texts from family back home and talking to the Amaro’s, Trenton’s family, again. It was good to hear everyone’s voice and to laugh with his mom, Shelly, about things I can’t even remember now. It made me feel really nostalgic but really glad at the same time. I was told that Dee, Trenton’s aunt, had blown up a picture of my face and put it on cardboard so that I could be there in spirit with them and so that Trenton would be able to enjoy Christmas with “me.” The thought of that still cracks me up and what’s really funny is the fact that he is driving around with my big head in the backseat of his car. I love it.

 I reminisced at all the Christmas traditions I did back home and found pleasure in knowing I can make new ones here and that the ones back home will still be there when I get back. I have to remember that, like a friend once told me, I may be lonely at times but I am never alone. With that I will say I had a very merry Christmas and hope all of you did, too! I can’t wait for the next one. On to the new year...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bats. Beets. Battlestar Gallactica.

Ok, so that last one didn’t really have anything to do with the past couple weeks but if you got that reference, points for you!

A lot of things have been happening lately that have really been breaking my heart to see but I don’t want this to be a depressing post so I suppose I’ll save that for another time...

Lately, I’ve been eating a LOT of things. Things I don’t necessarily like and things I never ate back in America. My school head felt bad that the Ministry of Education STILL hasn’t given us furniture or appliances so she gave me a small refrigerator she rarely used from her office. (Must be nice.) I was really grateful for it because she’s been so nice and accommodating towards me. I was also really excited to be able to buy food that I haven’t eaten in months because of refrigeration. Let’s just say I went overboard. I bought things I didn’t know how to cook. “Oh, beets? How do you prepare that? Pretty sure I need that. Hmm, do I want yogurt? Eh, I don’t like yogurt. I’ll buy 6 of those. Butternut, what is that? Get it anyway.” Seriously. I ended up with a 6-pack of yogurt, 2 liters of milk, 4 tomatoes, 2 green bell peppers, and butternut; all of which I would have never bought or ate back home. I guess I just got so excited for a fridge that I really didn’t care about what I liked. And now that I’m eating these things I actually am starting to like them! My fridge is not even in my house (no electricity, remember?) and I know that walking to my office, at the school, 1.5 kilometers away from home seems like a hassle but having been without a fridge for a while, I am just grateful that I have one, even if it means I have to walk a total of 2 miles to and from school just to cook meat and vegetables for dinner. Cold water has never tasted so good!

Another thing. Here is a story about my eventful night, two nights ago. There was a bat in my house. A BAT. I don’t know how that sucker fit through a small opening at the tip of my ceiling but it came in as I was reading and scared the crap out of me. There I was enjoying a book. It was dark and I had only lit one candle this particular night as opposed to my usual two. I hear a flutter and a thud thinking it was a bird that fell but I realize, just as I turned my head to look, it was unusually hairy and quite smaller than a bird. I suddenly realize that it may be a bat and start putting on my beanie, zipping up my sweater and tying it at the neck. The thing with me is I can kill bugs, spiders, insects, whatever, but if that thing touches me and I feel it on my skin I will freak out. So I got my gear on and slowly walk over to it. It flies right out, towards me, and I yell and run out of my house. I am so scared at this point. I leave the door open thinking it will fly out eventually. It doesn’t. I wait 10 minutes, nothing. I realize that nobody is around (of course) and I don’t know what to do.” I know! I’ll call my friends and they’ll know what to do. Oh. But there is my phone sitting on the table, inside the house.” DAMN. Now think of the smallest room in your house. Pretty sure that is the size of my “living room” and I wasn’t trying to go back in there with a bat circling around in it. I seriously wanted to cry. I put my hood on, ducked, and ran in to grab my phone and immediately ran out. I made a few phone calls and with the help of other volunteers and my counterpart, came to the conclusion that I will just have to kill it. I had to talk myself into it thinking of the Nike slogan the whole time. Seriously, this was what was going on in my head as my brain was working: Just do it, Diane. Either you kill it or it will just stay in there and possibly bite you at some point. Do you want rabies? No you don’t. So go in and kill that mofo! I know I sound crazy but if you have never seen a bat up close then shush. So I got enough courage to go in. I go in and the first thing I do is grab the DOOM can and my broom. DOOM is a really strong bug/insect spray that has an ingredient that is illegal to use in the states. (It can’t be good for one’s health if too much inhalation occurs) I mean, I didn’t really think I would spray the thing to death but that was my first instinct. The crazy bat would circle the room and then come towards me. I nearly pissed my pants every time this happened. I would spray every time and then try to hit it but mostly I missed. I did this for about 15 minutes with no luck. I think the spray made it dizzy because it started to hang its ugly little self on the corner of the ceiling but would fall right after. This happened twice. When I went to see if it was dead that little beast would trick me by flying up towards me. UGH! By this point I was determined to kill it. I did my little motivational self-talk to myself again and I waited. I waited and kept my eye on that nasty bat. I kept my eye on it for 5 whole minutes determined that I will hit that sucker with a good aim. You see, I’ve always had a liking towards baseball. You can learn a lot of things from baseball. I kept my eye on it for so long and once I finally hit it that thing flew straight to the wall and slid down. Homerun, baby. I went over to it for the final time to make sure it was dead and kept whacking it and spraying it with DOOM (I don’t know why, don’t ask). I put a bucket over it thinking I’d slide it out my front door but as I slid it, I must’ve caught its wing or something because it let out the most distinct sound of pain, like a sort of hissing/screeching. Now, a normal person would slide that thing right out as soon as possible, wanting nothing to do with it, but am I normal? No. I want to take pictures of everything no matter how disgusting or inappropriate things are so naturally, I wanted a picture of this ugly thing. So I slowly tilted the bucket over to make sure it was dead. Sure enough, it was. For you animal lovers, at first I did feel bad for killing it.  But if you could see up close how sharp its teeth were and how many it had; you would have been glad that I killed it, too. Trust me. Pretty sure that sucker was a vampire and if it sank its teeth into me I would’ve become one, too. I also would have probably had rabies by now or some other disease that bats carry. Didn’t feel so bad after all. After I was able to get a picture of it I kicked that thing out, shut the door, and relished in my recent accomplishment. No big deal.

So the moral of this little horror story is simple: Always keep your eye on the bat.

Monday, December 10, 2012


As you all know by now, evenings in for me are always accompanied with candlelight and new ideas of entertainment. Honestly, living without electricity is not all that hard. It just requires more patience and more sleep time. I’m always down for more sleep but need to work on the former. Recent nights consisted of playing solitaire, shaving my head, drinking hot cocoa/tea, eating apples with peanut butter or Nutella, etc. As of late, evenings have forced me to think a lot...about everything and anything. Some nights I found myself feeling lonely and homesick. Other nights I am thankful and grateful for where I am and what I’m doing in my life. Everyone tells me how difficult it could get during the holidays when nostalgia kicks in and I start wishing the sweat on our bodies from the strong heat was rain or snow from the holiday season back home. Today I am wishing that.

I spy the smoothest peanut butter I've ever tasted, my iPhone, Trenton and me... (Does anyone
ever play solitaire with an actual deck of cards these days?)

But I talked to Trenton and he was able to make me laugh and feel better about things. I worked with the staff members at my school and taught them how to use Microsoft excel and how to be more efficient with data entry and that made me feel accomplished. I talked to my kgosi (chief) of my village this morning and he told me how fascinated he was at how I am integrating into the community and how I am speaking Setswana to people I pass by and meet. This made me feel extremely proud of myself. I am doing things day by day and slowly learning that I am here and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

So although I miss all of my family and friends back home, terribly, I am happy right where I am. The days I start getting lonely and sad pass and are filled with days of achievements and making new family and friends here. And I realize that I will always have people who reciprocate their love for me and that home is wherever I choose, any place that I can learn and be happy. And I will continue to be strong and remember that I am doing something I’ve been wanting to do, something great.

I hope all of you are filling your stomachs with great food and continue to be in the company of people you love. I wish I can be with all of you back home but know that I am doing well and I have established a kind of Peace Corps family over here, too, and they are great people. I hope everyone stays happy and healthy this holiday season and know that I am missing you so much it hurts sometimes. But, like always, I will be fine. J Much love.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Weekend Slumber Party


I hope everyone had a great holiday and is continuing to have a nice Christmas season. I don’t have too many things to update everyone on other than still going around trying to meet everyone so I can complete my long and tedious community assessment report. I’m sure it’ll help me in the long run but complaining sounds better at the moment. :P What I did do this past weekend was hang out with some friends and had a grand ol’ time so I’ll tell you about that.

This past weekend 3 other volunteers and I decided to hang out, I was so glad to see them again and we were all very proud of each other for braving the transport situation. Let me tell you, when you are in a remote village transportation SUCKS. It is not very reliable to get in and out of your village and some days nobody shows up. We waited in the rain, cold and windy, for hours until we finally realized nobody was coming. Then I had to travel pretty far to a big village just so I can pay again to come back to my village, which was initially only 25k away. Not to mention the accumulated hours I had waited. I will definitely learn patience. Anyway, my friends and I had a blast cooking, playing Milles Borne (best card game ever), eating, laughing, and just being with each other. It was nice to get away from the loneliness that I feel when I am home during the week with nothing to do which I’m sure I’ll get used to. Eden cooked this great chicken and mashed potatoes dish with a meditteranean tomato Peri Peri sauce that was amazing and the second night we made a nice chicken rice broth with onions, celery, carrots and herbs. Oh my gaahhhhh. All our meals we ate in mugs, bowls, plates, and bread loaf baking trays of course. It wouldn’t be a true Peace Corps experience if we hadn’t. We sat around in a circle eating our yummy broth listening to the rain. We made simple things for lunch like grilled cheese sandwiches and we cut up some apples to eat with peanut butter and honey. On Saturday night, Liz played the Guitalele and we all joined in and sang along to songs like “Ho, Hey” from the Lumineers, “Make You Feel My Love” from Adele (Bob Dylan, really), and “Wagon Wheel” from an old country band whose name I forgot. We even sat in a circle and ate homemade cookie dough and spiced applesauce while we did it. It was really nice. We had to go to the restroom at night which meant scary bugs and terrifying winds in the dark. Good thing we stood outside of the latrine and sang to each other and made sure we were safe while we did our duty. We also attempted to tell scary stories in the dark but chickened out right when we started. We had so much fun this weekend and it made us all really tired but we were glad to FINALLY get home on Sunday to bathe, change clothes, and lay in our comfy beds – things that some of us were not able to do for the entire weekend. Sounds like a successful Peace Corps slumber party to me.

Some of the funniest staff members

School children singing and celebrating their win on Fun Day

Picture from our Thanksgiving!

Woke up to these guys in my backyard. Thanks for dropping by and thanks a lot for the droppings, guys.

Holding your computer out the window means getting reception to go online

Sarah's creeper face

It was so hot Eden made me a toga/dress. Pretty fancy, ain't it?

Singing along to the Guitalele