Monday, October 28, 2013

Another List.

Not much happened this week but since I promised to try to be consistent on my updates, here are a few things that brought a smile to my face this week:

  • Quantic and Anita Tijoux's remake of Lauryn Hill's, Doo Wop (That Thing)
  • Seeing Trenton and my daddy in Thailand together in my dreams (February can't come fast enough!)
  • Finally watching The Perks of Being A Wallflower and it brought me back to 1999 when I was a freshman in high school and I first read it (Loved the music too)
  • Agreeing to volunteer at the first annual Botho Arts Festival in the capital in December (I'll be playing games with the kids while they wait to paint what compassion means to them. Music, food, crafts, dancing, and games...should be fun!)
  • Not freaking out when I saw a huge camel spider, and this other bug that was the size of my palm, in my house
  • Lightning and thunderstorms that lit up my sky and brought music to my ears
  • Being a cheap-o and saving all of last months allowance to prepare for December, where I'll be away for pretty much the entire month! (Hey Livingstone and Cape Town!)
  • Eating a big spoonful of Nutella and not feeling bad about it
  • Having water for that one day of the entire week to wash clothes, clean, and take a bucket bath
  • Dancing in my living room like nobody was watching except somebody was watching and that was awkward, which in turn, brought a smile to my face
  • Watching my students teach me aerobics for the weekly classes I'll start teaching to the staff, (Shelley, did you get my email?)
  • Putting a Coca Cola can in my "freezer" and enjoying it as a "slurpee"
  • Messaging my sister on WhatsApp (Hey hoochie!)
  • Anticipating the 5 packages that will be on their way! (You guys are the greatest.)
  • Using my latrine in peace (Poured cooking oil down there so it has been mosquito free!)
  • Playing Mahjong on my computer and winning...twice! (I could never successfully complete it!)
Love you and hopefully I will have more to share. If not, you'll be getting a lot more of these lists. haha

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

U.S. Embassy - Gaborone, Botswana Feature

I know I already posted on the GLOW Camp I recently helped organize with the other volunteers in my region but I am proud to say that we are featured on the Embassy's site and Facebook page! It's really exciting and special for all of us volunteers who worked so hard to make the camp come to fruition! So having a Member of Parliament, a Councilman, Peace Corps Botswana's Country Director, and the U.S. Ambassador to Botswana show up and make speeches really gave us something to be proud of!

Check out the feature and pictures of us on their Facebook page by clicking here!

SO exciting! Yay!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dear Diary,

I've been thinking a lot lately. Of what I will do when I get back and in my future. I have just a bit over a year left into my service and I've really been thinking about grad school and career choices, living situations, and a family of my own. It's really difficult to plan my life when I'm planning for a future that is unknown, and I'm over here on the other side of the world. Even though it's cliché, life really does pass you by. I really am a different person at 28 years than I was at 22 or 23 years. I've grown a lot and I continually learn things about myself and what I want. I think about things differently and things I used to stress about, I realize, are trivial. I don't regret anything, I know that. Life is crazy though. I genuinely love what I am doing with all its frustrations and I can't wait to be home, in America, to start a different chapter. These are just thoughts. Thoughts that have occupied my mind a lot lately. I guess what I want to say to myself is "I am ready!" I'm ready to take on the second year of my service and try to make the most of it and I am also ready to say, when it's over, it was a great part of my life and I am ready to start another great adventure, with family and old friends.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Being Culturally Sensitive v Being True To Myself

Hey everyone! 

I got a lot of responses about the article that I wrote in to Peace Corps Botswana's monthly newsletter. A few of you wanted to read the article so I am posting here on my blog. I was also asked to do a monthly column on Spending Smart on A Volunteer Budget because who else would do it better than this bargain queen? I am so excited to add this to my routine and be part of the newsletter team.

Life is going great over here but sometimes there are those days where I just want to go home and stay there. It's tough being a volunteer in a country where people idolize you and isolate you at the same time. It's tough trying to assimilate into a culture in which you do not agree with some of the things people do and how they behave. I know, as an American, I stand out wherever I go in this country and continent. But sometimes, I just want to feel normal and not be pointed out. In this article I write about cultural differences and how to adjust to life in a completely different environment, an environment that I call home when sometimes it feels like the exact opposite. At the end of the day I like to tell myself, "It's all good."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thank You Mother Bear Project!

Back in August I contacted a non-profit organization in America called Mother Bear Project. I heard about this from other volunteers and researched what they were about. Mother Bear Project’s aim is to provide comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in different countries around the world in the form of a one-of-a-kind, hand-knitted or crocheted teddy bear. Such a cute idea! Every bear comes with a tag that has the name of the volunteer/knitter who knitted or crocheted that bear.

I received the boxes of teddy bears in September, last month, and I wasn't able to set a date with the Primary School Head because our schedules kept conflicting when we tried. I finally sat down and planned a date with the staff and that date is today!

I cannot get enough of the kids. They were eagerly waiting when I walked into the classroom at the Primary school. Their eyes automatically lit up when I began taking out the bears one by one. Some of them thanked me as I handed it to them and some were so shy but thanked me with their beautiful smiles. Either way I know that they all enjoyed receiving their gifts. Some of these kids have never owned any kind of toy or gift. Their families may not have money for basic needs so giving them a gift like these teddy bears means so much to them. It means having something they can call their own – a friend to some, a message of love to many of them. I’d like to say a very big “THANK YOU” to Amy from Mother Bear Project and all of the volunteers that take the time to make these unique bears out of the kindness of their hearts. These kids deserve this and because of all of you, they are smiling and happy. I love the idea and mission behind Mother Bear. “Re a leboga thata!” (Thank you very much!) from all of us over here in Hebron, Botswana. We love you and can’t thank you enough!

For my friends, family, and people who creep on my blog (you guys know who you are. haha), you can click here to see what Mother Bear Project is all about. Also, they should be posting all of my pictures up really soon so stay tuned and check that out if you’d like to see all the smiling faces of each student who got a bear! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Congratulatory Message and Shadowing Week

Today, the newest group of trainees that arrived 2 months ago swear-in as official United States Peace Corps Volunteers.
I know the feeling of excitement because it didn't feel like long ago when I was doing the same. I just wanted to post a quick congratulatory message to all the Bots 14 trainees and say that finally PST is over and the real fun begins! Congrats to all of you!

Also, current volunteers hosted "shadowees" (trainees) last month to show them a taste of what village life and volunteer life may be like. I had the pleasure of hosting Molly last month and it was so great getting to know her. She's from Washington and it was fun hearing her stories. She's very easygoing and we have some things in common. I showed her what it was like in Hebron, a very small village. We visited my school and she introduced herself to one of my classes, met my kgosi (village chief), played lots of card games, watched a whole season of New Girl, cooked food that she couldn't get at her host family's, looked at stars and tried to find the Southern Cross, and visited other shadowees and volunteers in my region. I had a lot of fun and am happy for her new journey. Congratulations Molly and good luck at site! We will need to play rummy again and make all kinds of good food like we did shadowing week. Also, I'm still undefeated. Just wanted to remind you. haha 

Ice cream! Cause I only give the best. Haha
             What I do best...EAT!
   Grilled chicken with creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes. Thanks girl. So good.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Borolong Camp GLOW

During the last weekend of September I was able to finally see all the work and planning that was done for Camp GLOW in the past 6-7 months come to fruition. I’ve helped out at the Kang Camp GLOW in May and that was wonderful so planning one with the volunteers that are in my region, I knew, would be even more special. I miss the girls still and it has been only a week since the camp ended!

I was really excited and nervous to plan our own girls camp for the Borolong Region (where I stay) because it meant I would take my own girls from school and the other 10 volunteers would take girls from their schools. At first, we were very nervous about mixing Primary, Junior Secondary, and Senior Secondary students together but it all worked out alright because we planned our lessons accordingly. I loved seeing all the girls’ faces when they first arrived. Everybody was so shy but the girls made new friends by the end of it all. Our camp’s theme was, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” and the theme song was, of course, Roar by Katy Perry. The girls loved it! We wanted this girls camp to be empowering and inspiring and I really feel we did a good job in accomplishing exactly this. Our visitors included a Member of Parliament, a councilmen from the sub district, the U.S. Ambassador to Botswana (a female!), and Peace Corps Botswana’s Country Director!
It was so exciting and the turnout was something to be proud of. 

We all worked so hard to make this happen. We planned for accommodations, budgeting for the whole camp, buying supplies, getting T-shirts made, food preparation, hiring cleaners and cooks, preparing lessons, and much, much more. (A big shout out to Eden, Tom, and Steph!) Every day was exhausting. We were up by 6:00 a.m. and usually slept around midnight each of the days. There was always something happening and something we could do and help out with. My responsibility for my girls made me worried too. I felt like a mother constantly worrying about where my girls were and if they were okay but I knew I didn’t need to hold their hands and be with them 24/7. But still, I worried anyway. (Oh gosh, is this what motherhood is like?) It was all very exhausting but so rewarding for both campers and volunteers. To see them smile, dance, and laugh made me feel like it was all worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I really feel like these GLOW Camps are
one of the best things that I like about my service. The camaraderie, the friendships, the inspiration and feeling of sisterhood is so strong and it is just so much fun. I was able to get to know other girls from the region more and I got to know my girls a whole lot more too. The volunteers learned games that the girls taught us, we all danced and sang and cried together, we shared secrets and insecurities, and made it a point to stick together and help each other out. I love what these camps bring and I can’t wait for the next one. I am hoping to coordinate, with a good friend/volunteer, a Guys Leading Our World Camp early next year for all the boys in the southern region. I could only hope that it is just as successful as this past one.

Sally! Oldest volunteer in the Peace Corps! :)

Celebrating Liz's birthday.

Self-esteem and leadership lesson

Singing and dancing all weekend!

My girls with their certificates of completion

Our T-shirts came out great!

Member of Parliament making a speech to the girls.

Reppin' Iphutheng JSS

Journaling and mental health
Theater Group from Mokgomane came to perform and Maggie joined them!
Condom demonstration

U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, Michelle Gavin and Peace Corps Botswana Country Director, Tim Hartman

After hours of waiting, finally ready to go!

HIV and STIs lessons are never enough without Jeopardy games!

We made "mailboxes" and gave each other notes and affirmations. Some of the ones the girls gave me made me cry! So, so sweet. 

Gender Roles v Sex