Friday, September 20, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex!

A few months ago my counterpart and I discussed our ideas for a PTA forum at Iphutheng Junior Secondary School, the school I work at. We planned to have motivational speakers come in to talk to the parents and really get them involved in their child(ren)'s education.
My counterpart proposed that I give a presentation so that the community could get to know me a little better. She wants to help me be more involved. I love her.

I really wanted to do something that would be beneficial for my community, something the parents could take with them and think about. So even though the topic is really sensitive, I thought it perfect to talk about how/when/why to speak to children about sex. I know I was feeling a bit "ballsy" but I was confident...until the day I walked into the room and saw a room full of Basadi Boholo (old women). I was thinking, "Great. There will be so much resistance and they'll hate me after this." The traditional Batswana culture does not talk about these things. They rely on metaphors and talking in code, essentially, and it really isn't helpful in a country whose prevalence of HIV/AIDS is the second highest in the world. It is taboo and parents do not feel that talking to children about sex is a priority. But it really is.

As I was presenting the information I was surprised at how receptive the majority of the audience were! People were asking questions left and right and were really interested in what I had to say. I was so happy. I started by telling them that I didn't want to disrespect or offend anyone and that I'd appreciate an open mind. And that's exactly what they gave me! Their brains were thinking and that's all I could ask for, even if it wasn't something they could change right away.

After I finished presenting, some people came up to me and thanked me for my "knowledge," asked me more questions, and commented on how they agreed that times were changing and different approaches were necessary. I was so happy. Something I was so nervous about turned into something so great. I like to think that something I am good at is being able to talk to people, almost anybody, and really being able to read a lot of people. So when I made jokes to ease the tension that the sensitive topics brought up, I was really relieved when they were responsive to them. I think, really, I was just excited that they understood my jokes. haha It was such a relief and a success. As with everything I do in the Peace Corps, the initial nervousness and skepticism almost always leads to positive reinforcement for myself. As long as I am confident enough to start a project, I know that it will end alright. The benefits always outweigh the nerves and insecurities. So happy I did it and they got something out of it! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Exactly a year ago I left everything I knew, jumped on a plane, and started on my way to my new life in Africa. 

September 10, 2012 - One of the hardest days of my life. (Thanks for the lovely card Josh!) 

It's been such an interesting journey so far. I've learned so much about myself and what I want in life, what I want to be, the person I'd like to become. In many ways this experience has been a self discovery journey, as cheesy as that sounds.

I've made friends here, seen, done, and experienced things I still can't believe, and most importantly, I've seen my self growth in this past year alone. My Peace Corps experience has taught me to be fearless. To take risks and fail. It's been defined by constant struggle and frustrations but also many achievements and successes. It has tested my relationships and is proof that love transcends oceans.  It is proof that fear is only as big as I let it be. It sparks my natural and endless curiosity to meet people and learn from them, to see beautiful places and understand the beauty of culture and diversity.

This really is the hardest job I'll ever love. It hasn't been easy. There are weeks that make me question things, lonely days that make me miss "home" so much it makes me sick to my stomach, and hours that just seem endless. But then there are those defining moments, those "Aha!" moments, that leave me smiling. Like the weeks where every little thing goes wrong and I can't catch a break...only to end with so many other things falling into place. Or the days where I feel like I am not getting anything done or not accomplishing anything and then a student comes in to the Guidance & Counseling office to thank me for talking with her and consoling her, proof that the best thing about this job is building new relationships. Sometimes those silly thoughts of feeling like everyone is living their life and has forgotten about me out here leads to countless hours of lying awake in bed, doubting my service. But then I wake to a sweet message on my phone from Trenton, telling me he is thinking about me and could never be more proud of me. Those are the moments I focus on. Those are the moments I will hold onto and I will never forget how such simple acts can make me feel so happy.

With everything that I've been through this year, I know that life isn't easy. It'll never be easy and that's exactly the way I want it. (Even if I complain now and then) I know that I could never do this without such great friends and family supporting me and encouraging me. Even if it isn't always vocalized, I feel the love from random What'sApp messages asking how I'm doing or the random boxes I pick up from the post office that is filled with all things bacon and a cool Bartman sweatshirt. (Thanks hooch! I love you!) haha Thank you to everyone out there who has my back, who cares about me, and can't wait for me to come home. As much as I love the life I've established here, I cannot wait to see you all either!

I'm not celebrating the anniversary of being in Botswana/Africa (Sept. 13, 2013) or being an official volunteer (Nov. 15, 2013). Today, Sept. 10, 2013, I celebrate the day I left America to embark on my own journey. The day I chose to be selfish, only in hopes to become selfless at the end of it all. I celebrate today because I took a risk to get on that airplane and to say "See ya later" to the people I love most, only to experience a  journey that is filled with struggle and achievement, growth, and love. And I am proud of that.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


One of my goals this year was to read as many books as I could in my free time, that I knew I'd have quite a lot of, in between projects and teaching. In fact, I will make this a lifelong goal because I enjoy it and learn something new in every book I read. I take pleasure in sitting down or lying down in bed, with a dictionary and pen and paper, and writing down thoughts or quotes I find interesting, or looking up the many new words I am currently learning from the book I'm engaged in. Also, tea and/or hot chocolate during cold weather make reading a lot more fun. 

The picture above is a record of things read in 2013. And I hope to add more to the list before I start another list next year. Please, please, please give me more suggestions. I never receive enough. I'd really appreciate it!