Monday, April 25, 2011

Adjusting to Botswana

I am still struggling with the day-to-day of being away from home and those I love. Every time I think I’m starting to settle in, waves of homesickness come over me and I feel like giving up and going home. I am still asking myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” and “Why did I decide to do this?”. I didn’t think it would be this hard to be away from Colin and from everyone I care about.  Everything is very magnified here- from the rain, to the sky, to the loneliness.  I feel a lot of guilt and anxiety being away from home. It’s hard making the choice to stay here every day because I know I could end these feelings by getting on a plane to come home. It’s a choice I make every day to stay here. I will say that one of my fellow trainees had to go home to deal with a medical crisis in his family. At that moment, I was (shamefully) both jealous that he was going home and no one would fault him for it, and glad that I didn’t have to make that choice. Easton, if you’re out there, we’re all rooting for you and your mom and we hope you are able to come back to us quickly! It’s hard thinking about all of the things that could happen at home over which I have no control. 

Things you should know about Botswana and Batswana (people of Botswana):
-       Batswana are not immune to auto-tuning. There are lots of Setswana songs that are auto-tuned, and they sound just as stupid as American ones.
-       My host family is now focused on clearing the rocks from the yard. I have helped in this, despite the fact that the yard and the “soil” is entirely made up of rocks. I don’t know why we are doing this or whether or not there will be a time when they’re like, “Ok! Re Feditse! (we’re finished!”).
-       Mail is taking a long time to get here. I received a card from Mr. and Mrs. Ross (thanks, guys! My first and only piece of mail so far!!)- an Easter card, on Thursday last week, very timely. But they sent it on April 1st, so, yeah.
-       The food here is gross. I am not one of those people who was evolutionarily designed to survive. I would starve before eating something I think is nasty.
-       The Batswana do not believe in hand-washing the way that we do. My host mom prepared chicken last night, and those of you who know me can probably imagine how I was freaking the eff out. I mean, her hands went directly from inside the raw chicken (which was being prepared in the basin where we wash dishes), to the light switch, to the door knobs, to clean dishes, to clean cutlery, to the fridge, to the baby. I tried to disinfect as best I could (everything but the baby) with hand sanitizer and hot water. I am hoping that the broad-spectrum tetracycline antibiotics I am on for malaria prophylaxis (doxycycline) will also prevent me from getting salmonella and other food borne bacteria illnesses. Fingers crossed!
-       I have not seen a car here with an entirely intact windshield. There are lots of accidents involving cows/goats/donkeys/dogs/chickens/people. I buckle my seat belt whenever I have one and then hope for the best.
-       Batswana tell me to put a jacket on or shoes on all the time. This drives me crazy because I am used to deciding myself when I am cold. They also worry about walking in the rain- that it will make us sick. Unfortunately, I don’t have much choice about that because I can’t afford to take a taxi every day to and from training and still be able to afford wine and chocolate. Walking in the rain works for me.

Things you should know about me:
-       I am exhausted. From the walking back and forth to training every day (~18000 total steps according to my pedometer) to the constantly being “on-call” as a PC trainee (having to be nice and friendly and culturally appropriate always), to not sleeping very well has made me go to bed by 8 or 9:00 almost every night.
-       Mailing shit to me is extremely expensive. I don’t need anything, so please don’t feel that you need to send me stuff. Obviously, it is much appreciated, but I know it’s really a pain in the ass and not financially feasible. I can live without (or at least that’s what I’m trying to prove to myself right now)! People here live with what they have and that’s part of my job, too. If there’s anything I need that I can’t get here, I don’t really need it.
-       All of the trainees here are becoming like family. Yes, we spend entirely too much time together, and sometimes we drive each other crazy (they have seen me be a total bitch), but we are all in this together and I wouldn’t be here without their support.
-       I still don’t know whether I am going to be able to stick this out. I have a lot of moments of self-doubt. I miss home immensely. I am trying to take things a day at a time, but sometimes it’s really hard.
-       From Wednesday to Sunday this week, I am traveling to Maun to shadow other Peace Corps Volunteers (you should be able to find their blog- Ross and Heidi). I am really excited about this trip. Maun is in the Okavango River Delta and is a very long bus ride away, but I’m happy to get out of Kanye and spend some time seeing what volunteers actually do.
-       I found out that the NGO I will most likely be working with is the Botswana National Youth Council. I think this is good, but who knows at this point.
-       My host family likes me most when I am dancing, or doing impressions of myself running into cows at night or doing impressions of my parents snoring (sorry mom and dad). I am much like a clown here and they are constantly chanting, “Lorato, bina (dance)!”, “Lorato, mogaro (snore)!”, or “Lorato le kgomo (Lorato & cow)!” and then laughing when I appease them. My dancing is terrible, so they ask me to dance often. Actually, they don’t ever ask me to do anything, and I can’t tell if it’s a cultural difference or a language limitation that I am constantly being ordered around.
-       The trainees have claimed a bar called Motse Lodge. We usually go there Saturdays after training ends around noon. It’s expensive, but worth it for the wine, food, and lack of people other than us trainees and the bar tenders. I look forward to these afternoons.
-       Tomorrow (Monday, the 25th) is my first LPI (Language Proficiency Interview). It’s an oral test of my Setswana skills (or rather, my lack thereof). I am trying not to get to stressed about it as it’s sort of just practice, but it’s hard for me because I am not used to being crappy at academic things. Setswana is a very hard language to learn. I am not good at it. Ask my host family, they’ll tell you, “Lorato sesu! (Lorato is a fool)”. I am trying to get used to not being top of the class.
-       I would love to upload pictures, but the Internet here is slow and my time is extremely limited. Maybe while I’m in Maun, I’ll be able to give it a try, but no guarantees. I’m also having issues with my camera in uploading pics onto my computer- don’t know what the deal is there. Meh.
-       Molly (one of our cats at home in Brockport) is sick again. At first they were thinking leukemia (watch my heart breaking), but that is looking much less likely (so thankful for that!). This is part of the reason that I’m so anxious to be home. Colin is taking care of things with the awesome help of our parents who have been shuttling Molly back and forth to specialists and watching him when Colin’s not home. Thanks to Gary & Karen & mom & dad. You guys are life savers! Still don’t know exactly what’s wrong with him, but hoping for the best.
-       My sister Kate and her husband Brent are on a fabulous vacation. They are stationed in Korea, so they decided to travel to Cambodia and Thailand. I’m super jealous. Sounds amazing.
-       Colin and parents and Caitlin (and Mike, too, I think?) went down to see Grandma in Binghamton this weekend for Easter. Jealous of them, too.

That’s about it! Love to all. Miss you! Your emails and texts and calls and mail is so much appreciated. Peace!


  1. Tracy!! I just caught up on your last few posts & am so impressed by your amazing experiences & your honesty about it all. I've been to Africa (Ghana) so I can picture a lot if this but I only stayed for a few weeks so I disnt experience the largeness of it all and the overwhelming sense of loneliness. I just wanted to encourage you in this difficult transition into this amazing experience. However long it lasts, I am sure it's been life changing. Enjoy the good moments, and your huge fan club back here will be cheering, pulling & praying for you. Can't wait to hear more & see pics!!!

    -Lisa Muscato

  2. Hey Tracy!! i also am very thankful for your honesty :) I will almost be in Guatemala now for 1 week!! PC sure is a craaazzy experience, tho and I totally feel ya on the whole guilt-trip about leaving your partner behind thing! I felt it tho the most so far at staging. Us westcoasters flew in a day early but we all came at different times and didn't know who was who! Leaving my hubby that day at the airport was reeeeally tough and then coming into a hotel all alone with all this madness ahead...I kept thinking about how easy it would have been to just turn back around. But I also know for how long I've wanted to do this, how lucky I am to have the great support of my partner and that this is my chance and I gotta take it! You're an amazing lady with amazing experiences ahead of you :) just remember u gotta another SWOS to commiserate with during harder times :)


  3. Oh, Tracy! I am catching up with your postings and must comment at this point. Your open, frank, self-revealing and from-the-heart writing has whacked me as I (another SWOS) await Staging. However, it is probably just the smack of reality that I need.

    Please continue writing. I am truly impressed with how you are handling everything. Continued best wishes to you.