January 17, Day 535
Up at 7 am. Hop out of bed and get dressed, make eggs and sip iced coffee on the porch.
Water the plants and new seeds that I planted. Pack my lunch for the day, but decide not to pack my laptop in my backpack for the first time. It can’t be healthy to be running around in 100 degrees with my 10 year old laptop on my back.
Arrive at the hospital around 9 am for my meeting with Thutego. Meet with both her and Babedi to plan “Village Movie Night” twice a month for the next 6 months. We play a movie outside on a projector, everyone brings their camp chairs and we do health talks and HIV education before each movie. We make a plan and divide up tasks.
Pick up 1,000 condoms to distribute around the village and then walk over to the DAC office to check in.
Mabe is there and I give him a big hug. I haven’t seen him since before Christmas! He shows me his family Christmas pictures at the camel park.
Go down my list of students and call them to let them know that the media production class is starting back up.
Walk over to Choppies and distribute condoms and then do the same at Sefalana. Oh hey, looks like they finally figured out how much those oranges are!
Check my bag of condoms at the parcel counter and buy jelly, oranges and bread. Stand in line. It is taking forever. We aren’t moving.
The woman in front of me turns around and looks at me.
“This line is moving very slow! Too slow,” she says.
“Yes, it is very slow,” I reply.
“You give me 2 pula”
Grrr. I thought we were having a genuine conversation. Turns out she just assumes I’m rich.
“No, I’m sorry, I’m just a volunteer,” I say.
Head back to work, and Mma Pula stops by to hand me what looks like an important piece of paper for Catherine. I call Catherine and tell her I’ll bring it by her house after work.
Walk over to the parking lot where my iron donkey, aka bike, is and I strap the boxes of condoms I have left to the back of my bike so I can ride over to the bars and hand them out.
Ride over to the bar, which I don’t enjoy visiting to hand out condoms because it’s usually crowded and the men will harass me. But, it’s important to hand out condoms, so I do it anyway.
Today is no exception.
The bar is very crowded. There is a group of men sitting at a table outside yelling at me and waving me over. I walk over to hand out some condoms, and they’re full of all sorts of things to say.
“Who will I test this condom with?” one drunken man asks me.
“That’s really none of my business,” I say.
“You should test it with me!” he says.
“No, that’s never going to happen,” I say.
“You should show me in person how to put it on,” another one says.
I leave the condoms and walk away.
I see one of my students from the media production class with his friends drinking at another table, and walk over to say hello and hand them some condoms. He asks if he can buy me a beer, and I decline, and explain that I’m an HIV volunteer so I’m working right now.
Another man approaches me, interested in the condoms. He tells me he is a peer educator. He asks a million times over how I would teach someone else to put on a condom in many different situations.
Finally, I realize why he is asking me all of these questions. He is not trying to be difficult, I think he just doesn’t know how to properly put one on!
Ohhhh, he needs a condom demonstration!
All the men crowd around me at the bar, and I stand in the center of the circle and do a condom demonstration on a stick. Hey, it’s better they know than possibly give someone HIV, right?
Everyone says thank you, and I leave the bar.
As I am walking across the street, a man driving by stops his car and gets out and runs over to me.
He introduces himself as Ronald, and he asks where I’m from.
“You are from America! I have prayed to God forever to please send me an American to marry. God has answered my prayers! You are sent to me from God!”
“Well, I’m sorry Rra, but I have a boyfriend and I am not interested in being married at this time,” I reply.
He asks for my phone number, but I tell him I don’t give my number to strangers. Eventually he gets the hint, and we part ways.
As I am walking away from God’s prayer answered, aka Ronald, another car beeps at me and pulls over.
Do I have a sign on my forehead or something???
I see it is the Social Worker from Khawa. We stayed in her yard when Catherine, Mabe and I traveled to the Khawa Sand Dune Challenge last year. She was lovely and so helpful.
I walk over to her car and she tells me that she has been transferred to my village and is working here now. She tells me she would love to work together. Woo hoo! We exchange numbers and make a plan.
Finally, I get back on my bike to ride home.
I notice all of the children in the village are very friendly today. They all wave hello as I ride by. For once, everyone didn’t yell “Borrow me your bike!”. They simply recognized me and said hello.
An integration win!
I know these are small wins, but to me, this is a big day. I had a vision when I applied to join the Peace Corps that I would live in a small village, and everyone would exchange greetings as I walked to work each day. Thus far, integration has been hard. Today was one of the first days that I actually felt some integration.
Yes, there are ups and there are downs. But the feeling of having a few solid projects to work on, and being greeted by all of the children on my way home was the first time in a very long time I have felt some form of integration. It’s days like this that remind me why I am still in this.
It took a year and a half, but I’m making progress!
Ride my bike home, and when I get there I chug a big bottle of electrolytes. I’m really exhausted. Pass out on the couch for 30 minutes.
Get up and walk over to Catherine’s house with her important piece of paper.
See Anaya, Auntie, the baby and Dawgie and talk with Catherine for a bit.
Talk to Colden, and we get engrossed into one of our interesting conversations. Soon I realize 2 hours has gone by.
Make dinner, relax.
Wakgotla texts and says he is out at a local bar, and invites me to join him. We’ve been friends for a long time now, and he’s at a safe bar that is not crowded. He doesn’t drink, but he likes to be socialize and he says he’ll give me a ride home after. So, I agree to join him.
15 minutes later, he arrives at the house. We drive to the bar and chit chat and I have a beer. Soon, we realize it’s late and he drops me off at home.
Talk with Colden some more, watch a little “Grey’s Anatomy”.
Hit the hay. Time for bed.