November 6, Day 463
Somehow I am halfway through my service. Can you believe it?
I have less than a year left in Botswana. That’s nuts!
Alarm goes off at 5 am. The beds in this facility are hard as rocks. I think we’re sleeping on box springs. BUT, there’s air conditioning and hot showers, which I would trade any day of the week over a comfortable bed. So I decide to ignore my back pain because I’m not sweating to death.
In fact, I’m almost cold from the air conditioning and it’s glorious!
We were told that breakfast starts at 6 am, and I have to take my Setswana language test at 7, so I get my act together. Rachel is still sleeping, so I quietly go into the bathroom and shower (hot showers!!) and get dressed.
Walk to the cafeteria and guess what? They told us the wrong time. Breakfast doesn’t start until 7 am and I’m somehow supposed to both eat breakfast and take my test with Pako at the same time. Okay, fine.
Walk back to the room and chill out for a bit. Meditate. Go back to the cafeteria and eat breakfast. I take my time because there are a few people who take their tests before me and I know it will be a bit.
Go to the lobby and wait for my turn to take the test. Chat with Robbie for a while. He brought Colden’s tent to me. I’m so excited, it’s a nice big tent that I can use on all the trips I take with the DAC office!
Just as it’s my turn to go, Pako says she’s done testing for the day and has to go prepare the room for the next session we are going to.
Are you kidding me?? Oh hell no. I got up at 5 am because she told us the wrong time. I waited an hour just to see her and now she tells me she won’t see me?
I give her a piece of my mind.
“Pako, I just sat here for an hour waiting for you! This takes less than 5 minutes. You got me up at 5 am and I rushed to get here. We WILL be taking this test today, I’m not going to walk around all day with this hanging over my head,” I say.
“Well, I was going to suggest you come and see me at lunchtime and we do the test then,” she says.
Cool. We agree that I will come find her at lunch.
Walk up to the room where our next session is. The staff member leading the session welcomes us and apologizes to us. She says our group is the largest group they have ever had come to Botswana. They thought they knew what they were doing and could handle such a large group, but it turns out it was more difficult than expected.
Yeah, that makes sense. That’s really great that she at least acknowledged this. She didn’t have to, but I appreciate that she did.
There’s bottles of water and mints for us to take. What a treat!
Walk to the next session, which is with our program managers and other people in our sectors. Basically, all the other local government volunteers. We have a session about processing the challenges and successes at our site. The person leading our session is more worried about being on time than letting volunteers share, so we end up rushing through the last few volunteers. Sorry guys.
Tea break. God I love tea breaks. I hope to bring this tradition back to the States. It really changes my entire mood for the day!
Next up is a one-on-one meeting with my program manager. She says she thinks I’m mature and wants to thank me for the way I verbally express myself in a mature manner. I think she’s telling me I’m old compared to many of the volunteers, but that’s fine.
She says she even learned from me at our pre-service training by bringing issues to their attention. It made them change how they did things. That’s cool. She also acknowledges that I was put in a site that is very far away from everyone and have almost no support, but she is impressed that I am able to get so much work done anyways and thrive. Cool.
Go outside and there is a cultural sharing session happening. Pinny throws you a weird hair net wrapped into a ball, and you have to share a cultural tradition in your village that you learned about. I talk about how prevalent polka dancing is in my region of Botswana.
Legend has it that the Germans occupied this region a long time ago. They forced the Batswana men to work in the fields, and women to work in the kitchens. At night, the Germans would blast polka music and get drunk. The Batswana men would sneak into the kitchens and dance with the women.
The polka dancing continued inside houses for many generations, unknown to many outside of this region. It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that the polka dancing was discovered. Now our area hosts national polka dancing competitions.
Hence, the type of polka dancing done isn’t the traditional European version that many know. It’s more of an African style of polka.
Go to lunch. Chit chat with a few volunteers. The food is decent.
Head upstairs for a resiliency session. I admit that I’m feeling pretty low right now. I love my village, I love my work, but I have issues with the Peace Corps itself. This is the reason I am always happy to be left alone in my village. When I speak to other volunteers, they also admit that they think the group morale is low.
Go downstairs for a safety and security update. I ask them what has been done about my belongings that were stolen by a peace corps volunteer or staff in the peace corps office? No answer is given.
However, I think it’s important to ask this in front of a large group to have some accountability take place. I fear if I just kept addressing it individually, it would continue to be swept under the carpet. An entire suitcase of my belongings was stolen! That’s a big deal.
Just as I’m sitting in the session, I realize that I never had my Setswana test with Pako today.
I turn to Hallie, sitting next to me, and say “Wait, did we have lunch today?”
“What?!” she laughs. “Yes, we had lunch today, Abbie.”
Dang. I forgot to meet up with Pako. Yikes! I find Pako and apologize and agree to find her tomorrow for the test.
We end the session early, and I go back to my room and take a nap and chat with Rachel.
Walk to the mall next door. While at this training session, I discovered that many volunteers have wifi now. One of our cell phone providers has come out with a new wifi box you can purchase and it’s not that expensive. It can easily be paid for from our small monthly stipend that we receive.
I go to the store and get the wifi box. The woman initially tells me that they have run out of wifi boxes, but when I tell her my village and how far away I live and I have no access to this store in my village, she takes pity on me and manages to find a wifi box in the back room and help me.
Holy smokes, my life will change!!! Wifi!!!
I take my wifi box and walk next door to Linga Longa and celebrate with a Mojito by myself. I see a big group of volunteers all having dinner together. They walk by and say hello and leave.
The Peace Corps warned us not to walk back from the mall alone after dark. Apparently it is dangerous. I realize it’s getting dark and decide to walk back.
As I am walking, I run into Cathie and Rachel. They invite me to Cathie’s room to help prepare for a gender based violence workshop that they are working on and sip wine. Sounds lovely!
We all head to her room and talk into the night and have a blast. Love those ladies.
Go back to my room.