Friday, May 31, 2013

Greetings from Pretoria!

Hi everyone. 

As most of my family and close friends know, I have been MedEvac'ed to Pretoria, South Africa for my sinus problems. I've been having a hard time breathing because of so much congestion and for a while, I couldn't even lie on my back without feeling like I was choking on phlegm. I know, gross, huh? My symptoms got worse, to the point where I couldn't breathe even during the day and I was dreading going to bed each night for fear of suffocation. Seriously. Washington finally approved me going to the regional medical area which is where I'm at now, to get further opinions and expertise from ENT specialists here. 

South Africa is a very developed country. It really reminds me of any other big city in America: high-rise buildings, traffic lights, paved roads, shopping malls, and of course, McDonalds. haha The medical care given here is excellent and I definitely feel like I'm in good hands. I think the care here is a lot better than America in some ways but I won't get into that. I immediately flew in to Johannesburg to find that I had a driver waiting there for me with a sign with my name printed on it. I've never felt so legit! ha He drove me to Pretoria and I immediately got acquainted with the Peace Corps staff here. The medical officer referred me to the ENT specialist and an appointment was made scheduled for two hours. I couldn't believe it was that fast and easy. I had another CT scan done for sinus x-rays and I got blood drawn for allergy tests. Same day appointment in a busy hospital, everything done within 2 hours...come on America, what's up? He diagnosed me with chronic, acute sinusitis and I am now on antibiotics/penicillin, saline nasal spray, a steroidal nasal spray, other pills, and probiotics to help with the antibiotics. It's pretty ridiculous. haha He says that I have a septal deviation towards the left and that it may be making symptoms worse. He also suspects that the dry environment and other factors at site are making my symptoms worse. So for now, we will see if I get better here and he will be able to clear me to go home when I am doing well. If symptoms occur again while in Botswana, I may have to continually take medications or decide if it is bearable and worth it to stay. Although the idea of going home makes me sad, only time will tell if I could really handle it and bear it. I think I can. :) 

So that's the update for now! In the meantime, I will continue to explore the Brooklyn/Sunnyside/Pretoria area and try to take some photos for all of you following me. :) It's a very beautiful city with Jacaranda trees that line almost every single street. Too bad it isn't springtime when the flowers have blossomed and the streets are covered in beautiful purple flowers...oh well! I'll enjoy it while I'm here and make the most of my visit. I've walked around like a tourist, lost, and it's been fun having people stare at me. haha I've met some really cool volunteers from South Africa and may be hanging out with them this week, too. My roommate left this morning but is a really cool older lady volunteering in Rwanda so it's nice to meet other volunteers in the Africa region. I plan to go out and explore and meet more people. I really don't want to be stuck in my room all day despite how cozy this bed and breakfast is. Did I mention I get to eat bacon every morning for breakfast? I'm in heaven.

My driver to/from the Peace Corps office, guest house, and hospital.
Lazarus is the man. With that name, he is by default.

This area really reminds me of San Marino, CA. Beautiful!

The Rose. Really cozy guest house I'm staying at for these next weeks.

Funniest, most blunt and honest roommate ever. haha

Had Thai food for the first time in almost 9 months! YUMMY!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Who run the world? GIRLS! (jk. I'm all about equality)

GLOW Camp stands for Girls/Guys Leading Our World. Obviously, this one in Kang was a girls one since we took the girls from Matsha College. We even held it on Mother's Day weekend! Usually, GLOW camps include sessions that are included in life skills curriculum such as leadership, self esteem, STIs/STDs, condom demonstration, goal setting, etc. My session was on Intergenerational Sex, Transactional Sex, and Defilement. (If you want to know more about this, get at me!) Although these sessions can be tiresome for the students, we try to make the camp fun for the participants by including fun activities like games, movies, arts and crafts, etc. Volunteers plan it themselves and hope that everything gets done, which can be very stressful.

I didn't know how much preparation went into these camps. I volunteered to help later in the planning process. I could not believe how much work goes into the camp including sessions, budgeting, food, activities, supplies, venue, applications, etc. I have to give it up to the girls who were in charge of this one. Budgets were made, grants were proposed, venues were secure, and the food situation was taken care of...or so we thought. Anything that could have went wrong did. The budget was cut practically the first day and that meant we did not have a place for the girls to sleep, food was an issue, drivers were very late and everything seemed like a mess. But luckily, like Peace Corps Volunteers learn how to do so well, we didn't stress, we were quick on our feet with new ideas, we didn't have high expectations and lastly, maybe the most important, was that we were able to laugh things off. That is really what you have to do in the Peace Corps. Nothing will go the way that is planned. People will flake, the budget will be significantly cut (and you will not be told until the day of), they'll be problems after problems and you are forced to think quickly. We had many issues but made sure not to fret and all in all, it was a successful camp. Hopefully it'll prepare me for the upcoming camps we have planned for the boys and the one we will have in my region!

My session on Intergenerationl/Transactional Sex and Defilement

Keep smiling.

They LOVE pictures.

Teaching them US camp games and songs!

I swear, Africans are born knowing how to sing! Talent show fun.

My first GLOW Camp turned out to be a success. Despite all the things that didn't go as planned, I had so much fun and it turned out to be a great experience for me. The girls really opened up and it was nice to be with them and get to know them. My favorite part was when the girls went to the front of the room on the last day and started telling us affirmations. They thanked the volunteers and told us that if it wasn't for our camp and our friendships, they wouldn't be able to feel confident and have a higher self esteem. Girls were going up, one by one, telling us about their hardships and horrors they have faced and continue to face throughout their lives. Hearing all their stories literally brought me to tears and had me bawling. And I didn't care. I've come to terms with my emotions and I never try to hide when I'm crying, something I used to do.  I let all their fears and emotions permeate me and was truly able to empathize with them. I cannot believe what some of these girls go through on a daily basis but I respect them for living life with strength and happiness. They danced, sang, cried, and I did it with them. It truly felt like a sisterhood and it was such an amazing thing to experience. True sisterhood in my eyes. I'd say that the camp was definitely a success and I cannot wait for the boys camp next month on Father's Day weekend!

Do yo thang, girl.

Next African out, she can sing!

Being silly for the camera.

She asked me to prom. haha

We all started with the same number of beads. Every time we would meet someone new we'd tell that person about our self and trade beads. At the end we went home with friendship bracelets and new friends!
2013 Girls Leading Our World Camp :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Week(end) With Sarah

Tshane salt pan
 I think you all should get to know one of my closest friends here in Botswana. She is a southern belle from Kentucky and she doesn't give a f#!%, always keepin' it real, which I find extremely refreshing. One of the very first conversations I had with her was at Staging, in Philadelphia, before we even left JFK airport in NYC, and we talked about...well, I can't tell you what we talked about because it would be very inappropriate. Anyway, my friend Sarah does all these great things in the village of Tshane and I was honored to be a part of her weekly routine. I helped her teach hip hop and latin dancing classes at Tshane Police Department, I watched her convince about 20-25 inmates to get on the floor for meditation at the prison, and I finally got to see what a lovely garden she has built in her backyard with vegetables that made an appearance in our daily entrees we cooked up that week. Yum! The garden was really impressive and it made me feel bad about myself and not having one. Did I mention she lives in the desert yet somehow was able to grow all these delicious and healthy vegetables? This girl is hardworking I tell ya...

Sarah and I live very far from each other. She is in the Kgalagadi desert and I am furthest southeast near South Africa. So we don't see each other often. But when we do we get weird, fat, and crazy together. And I love her for that.
Mango and avocado salsa, garnishes for our tacos, and rice pudding!

Just call me the Baker.
My first French Bread roll came out pretty good.

Naan and chicken tikka masala.

Her beautiful garden!


Basil and onions

Cilantro and...carrots?



Hitching in back of a pickup.
Wheeeeennn your weave's almost gone and your friend holds it on that's amore!
(She really held mine on. <3)

 After I left Sarah in Tshane and headed home at the end of that week we thought we wouldn't see each other for a while. Because of our attachment issues we decided to spend a romantic weekend at the Grand Palm Hotel and Resort for some thebe slots and a nice Asian cuisine this past weekend. haha Since we had no idea what to do with ourselves Saturday night and we were so impressed by our hotel room, we stayed in, watched RuPaul's Drag Race, and got pretty freakin' weird until we fell asleep. On Sunday night we decided to dress up a bit and pretend we were real fancy tourists who frequented the hotel. We made reservations for the restaurant and gambled the thebe slots. (Cheaper than the penny slots) Little did everyone know we actually didn't spend much at all and even shared one slot machine, each taking turns spinning. haha We also didn't want to pay for dessert so we shared a chocolate bar in the room on our comfy beds while we enjoyed the comforts of hotel accommodations. We really probably won't see each other again for a while but I had such a fun time. Thanks girl! Til we meet again...


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Maun! (finally)

Okay, so I don't have enough space to put up all the pictures from Maun but this is plenty, I hope. I went to Maun in the last week of March and it was beautiful. Maun is known for the Okavango Delta that you see in Disney's Earth and the animals that inhabit that area. It was so beautiful and have been the most relaxing weekend I've had since being here. I actually felt like I was on vacation! People from all over the world come to Botswana for the safaris and they pay big bucks for it, too, so I was glad that I was able to get ridiculously amazing prices for lodging and two safaris! I even had a basket weaving class on Easter Sunday and that was so fun! (That counts as making Easter baskets, right?) We booked with Backpackers and it is supposedly one of the cheapest ways to go in most countries. We did a safari on land, safari on water, and met lots of cool people all over the world. We conversed with people from England, Scotland, Germany, America, and different African countries. My favorite part of traveling is the interesting people you meet along the way. I hope to visit Kasane, which really big for Botswana's tourism industry. One of my goals was to see Botswana and all of Africa and I'm on my way! Currently planning trips to Namibia and Mozambique in the new future. But really, looking forward to New York in July to see Trenton and my best friends. Ahhhhhhh, can't wait! I hope you enjoy the pictures!