December 10, Day 497
It’s cold this morning, which is a very rare occurrence! My alarm goes off at 7 am and I cuddle under the blankets and watch the rainfall through the bedroom window. It’s lovely.
My neck is still stiff and extremely painful, but what else is new?
I call Colden and wish him a good night, since it’s still yesterday in Seattle. I get up because I hear Olive barking outside. Go into the yard, but I don’t see him. Watch the morning goat parade instead.
Get the iced coffee out of the fridge.
Meditate on the couch for a bit. Today’s message from Deepak is about letting go; you are enough and don’t need to improve or add anything to yourself because you are already whole. I love that reminder.
I can’t concentrate though because I’m worried about Olive. Where is he? Did I not feed him enough and he found a new place to crash? He’s lived at my house every day for the past year and a half, regardless of how much he was fed. This is unusual.
A mother knows her child deep down, and I have a deep, lingering feeling that something has happened to him and he’s gone forever.
I decide to give it another week and then go see his owner and find out what’s going on.
I also discover there gas been a bad train accident in Botswana last night and several people are injured. I hope no volunteers were on the train!
I still feel very tense and can’t seem to relax. Ever since Catherine left in November I’ve felt a tense pain in my back from stress. I really need to chill out and relax more.
Get up and make breakfast and listen to music.
Take a cold shower. Get dressed.
Pump air into my bicycle tire because it’s unusually low. I hope I don’t have a leak in it because they don’t sell bicycle tubes in my village.
Bike to the office and Catherine is there. It’s so nice to have her back! Even though she’s just here for this week and then will go on maternity leave. She always takes care of me and can manage everything in the office so well. Just having her here is a relief.
The ministry gave our office money for me to buy a new couch in my house. I ask Catherine if it’s possible to get the couch taken care of before she leaves. She says unfortunately, no one in our office has access to the account to be able to actually buy the couch. That issue won’t be fixed before she leaves. So, I’ll just live with what I have.
We work for a bit and I create the program for World AIDS Day on Friday.
Mabe calls and says he is in Gabs and managed to pick up my bag for me in the Peace Corps office. Woo hoo!
Back in September, Colden left to move back to the US. The rule is that when you finish your service, your organization is supposed to transport all of your things to Gabs for you since it’s a lot to carry your belongings and water filter and medical kit to return to the Peace Corps. His organization made a mistake and didn’t arrange to transport his things until the day AFTER he left Botswana.
One of his bags was a bag he was giving to me, filled with Christmas decorations that belonged to me from our party in July, and many things he was leaving for me. So, he carried his belongings by himself on the bus, and then left the bag for me and his water filter/med kit with his organization to transport the day after to Gabs.
The problem was that Colden and I were flying to Amsterdam while his organization transported the bag for me. They gave the bag to a PC staff member, who promised to look after it until I came back from Amsterdam a week later.
Instead, that staff member dumped my bag on the floor in the volunteer office under the “FREE” sign and didn’t put my name on it. So, when I arrived a week later, I discovered that the bag had been stolen. No one investigated where my bag of belongings had gone or seemed to consider it a security incident that an entire suitcase of volunteer’s belongings was stolen on peace corps property.
Clearly, I was upset. Nothing was done and they made it seem like it was my mistake for me “not putting my name on the bag” though it was a staff member who was in charge of the bag. So, when I went to Mid-Service training, I asked our security team in front of everyone what they were doing to make peace corps property itself more secure.
Magically, I got a call a week later that some of the items had reappeared in the peace corps office! The bag itself was stolen, but they recovered my Christmas decorations.
Hence, I have not yet decorated my house for Christmas because the items were stolen and recovered. Mabe agreed to pick up the bag for me at the PC office while he was in Gabs. And he did! Woo hoo!
Just as Mabe calls, the power goes out.
Now our whole office is dead in the water with nothing to do.
So, I eat leftovers for lunch of rice, potato salad, beans and cucumber salad and chat with Catherine.
She tells me that she is in fact leaving for maternity leave until May of 2020, and the Ministry has not hired a replacement for her job. Our office is supposed to have three people working in it: District AIDS Coordinator (DAC), Assistant District AIDS Coordinator (ADAC) and M&E Officer.
Catherine has been the acting DAC because they haven’t hired a DAC. So, basically she has been doing all three jobs by herself for over a year now and there will be no one coming to replace her while she’s gone.
If she leaves, our office must close. I find this crazy, because it’s a government office and I didn’t think that was possible. Apparently it is!
I could step in and be the DAC for the next 5 months, but that wouldn’t be doing what a PC Volunteer does. My job is to capacity build a counterpart so that the skills survive even after I’m gone.
With no counterpart, that means I must leave the office. I can no longer work at the DAC office.
I suggest that perhaps I go work with Baitshepi at BOCAIP, and Catherine agrees that this is the best option. If anything, this will be good because I’ll gain experience working in both a government office and at an NGO.
Catherine steps out of the room for a minute, and I turn to Bontle.
“Bontle, is our office doing a baby shower for Catherine? She is leaving for maternity this week!” I say.
“I know! I haven’t heard anything, I don’t think they’re doing anything,” she replies.
We devise a plan to throw Catherine a baby shower ourselves after World AIDS Day.
Catherine comes back and we all sit around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the power to come back on.
With no power, we decide to leave and go home early. As I pack up my things at 3:30 pm, the power comes back on. Dang!
So, Catherine and I sit down and write the speech for our keynote speaker on World AIDS Day.
Just then, Baitshepi comes by the office to say hello. I ask her if I can work with her as my counterpart after the New Year, and she agrees.
Phew! I’ve got a job at BOCAIP (Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Project). They focus counseling and testing for HIV and do alcohol and drug counseling, too. They also preach abstinence and faithfulness, so I suppose my condom demonstration days are over, but that’s fine.
We finish around 4:30 pm and I ride my bike home. As I ride out of the office, I see Mma Bimbo walk by and we wave to each other.
Get home, FaceTime with Colden for a bit.
Make potatoes and tuna for dinner and watch “Outlander”.
The power goes out again.
So, I light a candle and take out my little Christmas tree. I can decorate it when I get the decorations from Mabe tomorrow.
I watch a bad Hallmark Christmas movie until the battery on my laptop dies.
There’s a full moon tonight that is so bright it’s lighting up my whole yard. I go into the bathroom and try to take a shower under the moonlight, but I discover I have no water, too.
Go to bed instead.