Finally Making Some Progress

January 27, Day 545
Mosey on out of bed. My hair is fresh and clean today, I feel like a million bucks.

Meditate for a bit, do yoga for about 30 minutes before it gets too hot today. I’m headed to the local primary school (or elementary school as we know it in the US) because I promised Tuthego that I would ask if we could do a movie showing in the yard.

Get my act together, make eggs and sip on iced coffee.

Pack my bags and walk over to the primary school. As I approach the school I notice that kids are all out in the yard standing, which seems odd that they’re not in class right now.

They are ALL staring at me.

I feel weird.

I also realize the reason they are in the yard is because it’s tea time, so the staff is likely busy giving tea and diphaphata bread and it won’t be a good time to talk to the Headmaster. Botswana takes its meal times VERY seriously and it would be of poor taste to ask the Headmaster to work during a break.

There is a little table outside of the primary school where three women sit all day long. It’s an old wooden spool for cable wire that they have turned sideways to use as a table and sell sweets to the kids. Every time I pass them sitting at the table under the tree, they don’t stare at me but I can tell that they’re aware of me and I should greet them.

“Dumelang, bomma,” I shout to the women as I walk by (Hello, ladies).

“Dumela, Mma,” one of the women replies. “O tsogile jang?” (Hello ma’am, how are you this morning?)

She asks me in a tone that sounds questioning, as if she is testing whether I know enough Setswana to understand her question and reply.

“Ke tsogile sentle! Wena, o tsogile?” I reply. (I am doing well! And you, how are you this morning?)

The three women burst out in laughter, almost giddy, in surprise that I answered.

“Ke tsogile!” the women replies.

I keep walking and decide to go visit Hanlie, who lives nearby and see how her trip to South Africa was. I can chat with her for a few minutes and then walk back to the school after teatime to see the Headmaster.

A few minutes later, I arrive at Hanlie’s house. Her two little jack russell dogs and big boereboel Lulu greet me at the gate and are filled with licks and barks. Hanlie is pleasantly surprised to see me, and we sit on her couch and catch up. I tell her about the projects I have going on in the village, and she tells me that her daughter is getting ready to move to Canada and is about to get a work visa.

We part ways and I walk back to the school and wave to my favorite ladies under the tree again.

As I approach the school, I see once again that the kids are all in the yard. Some of them are walking home from school.

GRRRRRRR. Another mealtime! This time it’s lunchtime, and usually kids go home to eat. WHY IS IT ALWAYS A MEALTIME.

The kids are once again ALL staring at me, some are asking for money.

I feel weird.

I decide to throw in the towel and walk to the DAC office and come back another day, before teatime. The DAC is about 4 miles away and it’s super hot, but I’ll be fine.

On the way to the DAC, I stop in at the local Cultural Centre to ask if we can use their location as well for movie night in a few weeks.

It’s cool and shaded at the Cultural Centre, and there’s Wi-Fi. I always wonder why more people don’t hang out here surrounded by all the cool local artwork. I walk to the office in the back where Moitsesele sits and knock on the door.

“Ko ko?” I call (knock, knock?)

“Tsena,” he says (enter).

He is sitting in his office, looking very busy, in a meeting. He asks me to come back later this afternoon. I tell him I’ll come back.

This is basically the life of a Peace Corps volunteer. At times I feel like a hustler pedaling my HIV activities around the village and seeing who will bite. You just have to awkwardly knock on people’s doors and hope for the best, knowing that some people think you’re strange or don’t understand what you do. I think by now my village is pretty used to it, so I actually enjoy visiting people now and I think they know what to expect from me.
Walk to the DAC office. I’m dying of thirst and overheating when I arrive. Bontle is there, and we talk for a bit and she tells me about her day so far.

There isn’t much going on at the DAC, so I walk down the street to the shops and buy some veggies for the week.

Walk back to the DAC. It’s later in the afternoon now, so I leave my veggies at the DAC office and walk back to the Cultural Centre.

This time when I arrive, Moitsesele is waiting for me. He greets me and I tell him about the HIV program we want to run with movie showings. He says it’s a great idea, wants to work together, thinks we should do more events at the Cultural Centre and agrees to give me the space as a location for our next event.

BINGO!!

Finally, progress! I walk back to the DAC office, and find one of the drivers, Kabo, in the office talking with Bontle. Kabo likes to come to our office and bust Bontle’s chops and hang out when he’s bored sometimes.

Kabo tells me he is considered a colored and his family speaks Afrikaans. He starts to test me on what Afrikaans I know, which is very little. As I speak, he stares at me.

“Kabo!! Stop! Abbie doesn’t like it when people stare at her all the time. Stop staring,” Bontle says. I love her, she always has my back.

Kabo persists on trying to bust my chops, too.

“Do you drink the black juice?” he asks.

“Um, do you mean Black Label beer?” I reply.

“Oh come on, you know the black juice. Yes, Black Label, do you drink it?” he asks again.

Black Label beer has quite a reputation here in Botswana. My parents told me their uncles used to drink it back in Massachusetts when they were growing up and find it totally hilarious that it’s a big thing here. The label says “Champion Men Drink Champion Beer”.

When I first joined the Peace Corps, they warned us that women should not be seen drinking Black Label. Apparently there is a perception that only promiscuous women drink Black Label, a.k.a. the “black juice”.

If I’m perfectly honest, I think Black Label just tastes like normal beer and drink it sometimes. Not all the time, but once in a while. You really get your bang for your pula when you buy it, too, because it’s pretty strong and comes in 750 ml bottles. Pretty much everyone drinks it here and I don’t think it makes me look promiscuous because I don’t hang out in bars or clubs so no one would ever see me drink it. I’m pretty sure that even people that claim not to drink it are doing so when no one is looking anyways.

“Yes, I drink the black juice once in a while,” I tell Kabo.

“WHAT?!!” he starts laughing. “You know, you’re WAY cooler than I thought you were. I thought you were all uptight. You’re so cool!”

Thanks pal.

I gather my veggies and backpack and walk over to BOCAIP to check in with Baitshepi. I tell her about going to the primary school, and she says it’s better to go around 8 am tomorrow. She says it’s getting late and I should go home anyways.

Head out for the long walk home and when I get there, I collapse into a nap immediately.

Wake up just in time for dinner. Tonight it’s my favorite pasta with broccoli, garlic, tomato and olive oil recipe.

Knit for a bit; watch “Grey’s Anatomy”. Why does everyone keep dying on this show??

Go to bed.

Boroko 🌙

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