Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ready for Site Placement!

I know I’ve been neglecting the blog big time. Sorry about that! Since I last wrote, a lot has been going on.

My host family and I are settling in to a comfortable routine. I have been teaching them about important American things like French Toast and smores (they loved both). My sister taught me how to make diphaphathas (baked bread sort of like an English muffin) and I showed her that they are delicious with egg and cheese and tomato. I wake up around 5 and bath in my room (bath here, not bathe, yes, you get used to saying this). I leave by 6:15 (still dark) to meet fellow trainees in my ward (neighborhood) for the walk to the training center. Get there around 7:30/7:45 and have a few minutes of Internet time. Training starts at 8, usually beginning with 4 glorious hours of Setswana. I really hate these 4 hour sessions. My brain stops working after about 1.5 hours and then nothing but frustration occurs for me and usually my LCF (Language and Cultural Facilitator) as well. We have rotated LCFs since our practice LPI a couple of weeks ago. The practice went ok- somehow I managed to score Novice High (which is the standard for passing PST at the end) despite not actually meeting the list of requirements for this score. Anyway. Lunch happens from 12:30 to 1:30, followed by more PST sessions- Project Design and Management, Safety & Security, Medical, Cross Cultural, etc. At 4:30 we are released and I make the long walk home (and usually stop at Choppie’s, the grocery store chain here, to buy junk food). I get home around 6:00 when it is getting dark. I usually try to relax between 6 and dinner (7? 7:30? 8?) followed by watching soap operas (South African or Batswana, kind of awesome and addicting) for a bit before retiring to study/do homework/sleep. I usually help with dishes but lately I’ve been too tired and had too much work to do, so I’ve settled for helping to cook and do dishes on weekends. What can I say, I guess I’m a bad daughter. Saturdays we have class usually until between 12 and 2. Then I come home and hang with my family, or if I’m lucky, I go to Motse Lodge with the other trainees to have a couple glasses of wine. Sunday I get to sleep in (9 a.m.!!) and then I’ll make lunch and do laundry. Doing laundry here is not that difficult, except for the constant criticism and the berating from my family who says I’m doing it wrong. This may or may not be true, but I told them that I’m the only one who has to wear my clothes so their criticism was unwelcome. I’ve also tried explaining that calling Americans fat or old is generally considered to be very rude. But I suppose they are having trouble explaining to me why baring my underarms or knees is scandalous, but taking a poop next to a crowded bus full of people on the side of the road is perfectly acceptable.

This leads me to my next point: the trip to Maun! It was awesome. Aside from the 10 hour bus ride (with aforementioned pit stops by the side of the road), the trip was really great. I got to see how Heidi and Ross live- their house is really cute and felt very safe. Maun is a big city with lots of people, and lots of foreigners. This was pretty appealing to me. I wasn’t starred at or harassed as I am in Kanye. No one screaming “Lekgoa!” (which means “white person”, but literally translates to “vomited from the sea”. Pleasant), no one asking me for money or quizzing me on my Setswana, and no one calling me baby or following me home or uninvited touching. It was more fast-paced than Kanye (but by no means close to American-paced) and there was a ton more stuff to do and more available in terms of shopping, groceries, and NGOs. I got to see the kind of work that Ross and Heidi are doing, which was awesome and overwhelming. They seem to be the gold-standard for PCVs. They are both NGO volunteers like I will be and they work for two different NGOs in Maun- Heidi at WAR (Women Against Rape) and Ross at Thuso Rehabilitation Center. We ran around like crazy to see the kind of work they do and the projects they have taken on in Maun. They’re pretty great. They also fed us lots of American food. I was with 3 other volunteers in Maun and we went on a safari in Moremi Game Reserve. It was sooooo cool. We started our trip at 6 a.m. and made it to the game reserve by 8:00 with our driver, Liebo, and two British guys who teach in Phalapye. We saw giraffes first thing- before we had even crossed into the gate. Then elephants. Throughout the day, we spotted warthogs, impalas, red lechwe, kudu, a wildebeest, a jackal, vervet monkeys, lots of different birds, a HIPPO, and leopard footprints. No cat sightings, but that’s ok. It was a really great day! I will try to get pictures up at some point. 

I have received 4 packages so far- 3 from my parents and 1 from Colin. They were great- lots of dried fruite, jerky, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, etc. Loved getting mail! I know it was a pain to send, though, but it was definitely appreciated.

Site assignment day is coming up on Saturday. This is the day we find out where we’ll be placed for the next 2 years. I’m pretty nervous, but I know Rosemary, the NGO APCD, is pretty awesome and that I’m in good hands with her. I’m trusting in the process (or at least telling myself that until it’s true!). I’ll post when I know where I’m going! I’m hoping for a big city close to other volunteers, maybe in the North. Mostly I’m hoping for great NGO placement in terms of my job and counterpart. We’ll see.

On Saturday, we did a cultural visit to a village outside of Gabs where we were fed traditional food (there is nothing new or exciting about traditional Setswana food at this point- I was over it when I was served a chicken foot a couple of weeks ago), watched traditional dancing, and learned about traditional brew (think Chibuku, look it up), tanning leather, blacksmithing (shout outs to Graham and Jeremy on this!), and basket weaving. The dancing was pretty amazing. I took lots of video. I really loved watching it and hope I have more opportunities to see it!

Today I went to Gabs to get my visa. Which was good because our original temporary visas expired thanks in part to the government strike. I got to eat pizza again. I may or may not have had more than one ice cream cone in an hour.

Thursday we are going to a wedding. I’m looking forward to this because I haven’t yet been to a Motswana wedding. It also means an interruption of 4 hour language sessions.

That’s about it! Looking forward to Saturday’s site announcement. Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes, emails, texts, FB posts, mail, blog comments, etc. You’re all amazing! xoxo

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