November 7, Day 464
Alarm goes off at 6:30 am. I get up. My roommate is sleeping so I’m quiet. She get’s up eventually, too.
We actually know what time breakfast is this morning, and I don’t need an hour to eat. So, I take my time and mosey on into the cafeteria.
Grab some toast and beans. Breakfast of champions.
Walk over to the lobby to meet Pako and do my Setswana test.
Pako tells me, yet again, that she doesn’t have time to do my test.
We agree to do it at lunchtime again, and this time I will remember.
Rachel asks for the key to our room. They only gave us one key so we’ve been passing it back and forth.
“Um, no, I didn’t take it. I thought you had it?” I say.
“No, I left before you did this morning. It was on the desk,” she says.
I go to the front desk and tell them my key is locked inside the room.
A look of panic spreads across the woman’s face. She explains that they don’t have another key. Somehow they are running a business and have only ONE key to every room. There is a key that you can swipe at the door, but the battery needs to be changed and they don’t have more batteries.
We walk to my room and they attempt to break in through the door unsuccessfully. I hear her giving instructions to one of the employees to go to the balcony behind my room.
She tells me she has selected this man because he is very small and may be able to fit through the bars that surround my balcony, and then break into the door.
I am both disturbed that perhaps my room can be broken into so easily, and happy that perhaps it cannot.
The man returns and says he is not able to break into the room or fit between the bars.
The woman tells me that a man has the key, but must drive from Lobatse to Gabs to bring it. She tells me to see her at the end of the day.
Go back upstairs and break the news to Rachel.
Now we have a session on learning how to fill out our VRFs. A VRF is a quarterly report that we fill out and send to the Peace Corps sharing the activities we are doing in our villages, and how many people are reached. The data is also shared with PEPFAR. That is the US government entity that funds HIV/AIDS work.
I can’t really hear anything the instructor is saying. But I listen as well as I can.
Tea break, and I’m told the schedule has changed and our tea break is extended. I quickly go to find Pako and we agree to do my Setswana test.
She takes me to her room to do the test. Wait, Pako has her own fridge in here?!! This room is WAY nice!!
I stumble through the test as best as I can and somehow manage.
Pako turns off the voice recorder and then looks at me.
“Now, let’s talk about your eyelashes,” she says, referring to the fake eyelashes that I’m wearing today.
“Pako, you wear the fake eyelashes, too! I remember them at our pre-service training,” I say.
“Yes! I’ve always noticed your eyelashes and wanted to say something,” she says.
We talk about eyelashes, where to get them, the best brands, etc. for a while.
Go upstairs for the panel discussion.
Lunch. Our schedule is way off today, so I don’t know what time things are starting and ending. After lunch I walk upstairs for the next session and realize that I’m late. Whoops.
It’s a presentation from the head of PEPFAR, who has a black eye today. What’s up, bro?
He gives a very informative and transparent presentation about all of the reasons why PEPFAR cut funding in Botswana by 40% this year.
That’s a HUGE cut. Millions of dollars.
Somehow Botswana is one of the only countries where new incidents of HIV are increasing, while everywhere else is decreasing.
I speculate that perhaps it’s not increasing… perhaps this is a problem with data. I’ve seen how many clinics keep their records written on pieces of paper in pencil. They don’t have internet or even computers most of the time. Or of they do have computers, no one has trained them how to properly maintain data or navigate the computer systems.
Many people here have told me that they never received any training on how to type or use computers. In Botswana, the government will pay for you to get your undergrad degree for free. So, many people went to college and were suddenly forced to hand in typed assignments without knowing how to type. They either forced themselves to learn just the basics to survive, or have someone else type their work for them.
I think maybe more training needs to be done surrounding data management. If you can’t accurately enter the information into a computer, how will you accurately know who has HIV? But who knows, there could be many different factors impacting this issue and I could be wrong.
Go to a diversity session on navigating “tough conversations.”
Finally, we’re done for the day.
Go and see my favorite woman at the front desk and ask about my room key situation. She says the man was able to bring the spare key from Lobatse and escorts me to my room to get the key.
She opens the door, and yup, my key is sitting right there on the desk. I see the woman eyeing Rachel’s chocolate on the desk.
“Don’t you think you should give me some money for helping you into your room?” She says.
“Mma, we are just volunteers. We are not paid. I do not have money to give,” I reply.
“Well then I think you should give me some of that chocolate,” she says.
Fine. I give her a piece of Rachel’s chocolate and she leaves.
Hallie knocks on the door and says she wants to walk to the mall next door. I agree to go with her.
We walk over and she buys what she needs to buy. We decide to go have chinese food at the nice chinese restaurant in CBD (central business district).
Call a taxi and wait for a while in the parking lot.
He arrives and drives us to the restaurant.
We eat dinner, it’s delicious! I have spring rolls and vegetable lo mein. She has sweet and sour chicken.
Call for the taxi to come pick us up and take us back to where we are staying.
She has a bottle of wine that she got at the mall, so we sit in the parking lot of the restaurant and drink the wine and talk to Colden by voice message.
Taxi takes us back to our facility. I totally forgot that Bua was tonight. The word “bua” means “speak” in Setswana. Our group has a bua event whenever we all get together. It’s basically a talent show held at night.
We walk upstairs and find Bua still happening. People get up to sing songs and share funny stories.
I feel a sense of comraderie with my group.
We started here in Botswana with 89 volunteers. We are now down to 66 because so many people have left. Service is difficult. We may not always get along, and we may be spread out far from one another in this country; but I feel like we are in it together. This is the group I am here to survive with. We are all here together and going through this together.
The party continues, but I get tired and decide to head downstairs and use my fancy new wifi to facetime with Colden.
Talk to him for about an hour. Rachel comes in and joins our talk.
Go to bed.