Notes from the field #1
Monday – August 24th 2015
I woke up at 6 today and got out the bed at 6:20 a.m. Actually I woke up at 3:37 a.m. and don’t really know when I fell asleep again. Must have been nerves. Thinking about all the elements coming together for my first ever 3-day workshop. I’ve been planning it for the past four weeks and yes I’ll admit I am an over planner. Dotting my “i’s” and crossing my “t’s” excite me. The workshop is a “training of facilitators” for the Social Transformation and Empowerment Project better known in the Peace Corps world as STEPS (or STEPS for the future). Volunteers were trained on the program during In-Service training back in January. It’s a great program and if you have it in your country of service you should do the training. My goal at site was to train as many people in my community as possible. 14 people registered and two other volunteers from different villages are helping with the training.
Fed and dressed we left my house at 7am. The walk to my office is about 15 minutes. I was worried because I’ve never been in the office that early before and wondered if the door would be open. It was! I introduced my volunteer friends to my coworkers then we packed up and headed down to the conference venue. As we were walking down the street my counterpart picked us up in his car.
There were already two participants waiting at the gate when we arrived. We set up all of our materials and waited to start the training. Everyone else was late haha. They came around 8:00 a.m.-8:15 a.m. But I’ve learned to adjust to the fact the clocks are just for decoration here. Time isn’t of the essence! Either way I tried my best to stay on task with the schedule of activities for the day.
The training went well. Of the 14 people that registered only 10 showed up. However it was still a good day and the participants that came actively contributed to the discussions and were really enthusiastic about the new information we were giving them.
We finished right on time at 12:45 p.m. For the three days the program was scheduled for 7:30 to 12:45 p.m.
After the training and we packed up and walked with all of our equipment to the office. The sun was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To say it was hot is an understatement. We reached the office unpacked and headed back to my house. Once there we all collapsed on the floor and the couch. Man! Such a long day already and it is not over.
After about 10 minutes I got up and changed my clothes and prepared lunch. The other ladies were busy using my wifi or talking to their boyfriends.
Around 2:30 p.m. I changed again into workout clothes and headed to my health class at the refugee camp. There is a UNHCR refugee camp about 20km from my site. I provide women at the camp with fitness classes. There should also be a nutrition component but my counterpart there is always 3o minutes late so it never happens. I really like the classes and am getting to know the ladies better. So far I’ve only had four classes but they will continue as long as I am in Botswana.
The only hiccup is finding a ride home. To get to the camp I have to hitch hike (I know scary but it is normal in this country) and that can take awhile. Usually one hour. Then coming home I thought my counter part arranged with the UNHCR office to have me ride home with them since they all live near me.
Nope. *Headache* Turns out they were only doing me a favor…one time. Or so it seemed. I have no idea what my counterpart said to them but that was the arrangement we wrote in the letter for my permit to work in the camp.
Today the lesson was really fun! There were two new women and three little boys. So a total of 7 today. I played music on my iPod until my counterpart came (3o minutes late). He started to hook up the stereo but I told don’t worry it wasn’t necessary at this point.
Class ended and I hitched a ride back home with the UNHCR folks. I arrived home around 6 p.m. My volunteer friends were ready and waiting for me to return. I told them that we would go for a walk around town. We left straight away and arrived back at the house at 7 p.m. We stretched and then started dinner. I was starving by this point. Oh! Did you guys know I am doing the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body workouts. Yea I am on week two. I decided not to do the legs and cardio and switch to LISS. I actually used some of the moves with the ladies at the refugee camp so I kind of did my BBG workout today haha!
Man after dinner I was drained. But need to start writing this post…and here were are.
Tuesday- August 25th, 2015
Welp looks like I never finished writing yesterday and just passed out from exhaustion. I’m not complaining about being busy though. Because for the pass 12 months I wondered every day why Peace Corps would send a volunteer to a site with absolutely no work to do. I just learned it’s best to start my own projects or I’m gonna end up terminating my service early. #facts
This morning was pretty much the same as yesterday. We left 10 to 15 minutes later and the participants were actually on time. I’ll tell you who wasn’t on time though. The catering crew! They were late yesterday and again today (30 minutes). #Eisshhh! You win some you lose some!
The conversations during training today were great. I did the bulk to the activities going over “Planning a screening” which entailed a lot of components. I won’t bore you with the details but here are some pictures from day two 🙂
Today we actually got a ride back to the office which I was so grateful for #amen! After unpacking the materials, we walked back to my house. Back at the house we talked about todays session and any improvements that we needed to make. Much like yesterday we ate lunch and hung out around the house until I left for my fitness class.
Hitching today only took 20-30 minutes because I got a ride with a police officer to the camp. I’m always weary of getting in cars with only men, especially police officers. I get harassed on a daily basis just walking around my town. But he turned out to be normal and I didn’t have to pay him.
As I was getting out of his car a piece of it fell apart. I picked it up and told him and he got out to fix it. I thanked him and ran across the street to the camp gate. Actually there isn’t really a gate just the beginning of a dirt road. As I walked down the long stretch of road I couldn’t help the random stream of consciousness that played in my mind. It went pretty much like this:
Why is the dirt here red and the dirt in my township grey…we are only 20 km apart?
I wonder if this house to my left has the biggest pawpaw plantation in Botswana? Are pawpaw and papaya the same fruit? Why does papaya taste like the smell of vomit?
Oh wow look at that garden! I wonder if that is a community garden for the refugees or for the staff that live here?
There are so many shops here! Oh look a barbershop and a tailor.
The children playing in the street are so full of life. Dude you almost ran me over with your bicycle!
So many men in dishdashes or is it called thawbs? Long white robes touching the ground. Young women in hijabs. This must be the most ethnically and religiously diverse part of Botswana.
Am I late? What time is it? I didn’t wear my watch. It’s OK…almost there.
I hope the ladies enjoy the class today.
I know, my thoughts are always all over the place! The class went great today. Sometimes I think I work the ladies too hard but they really want to work on their bodies. I’ll try to create more dance fitness routines this weekend. After class my counterpart told me to go talk to the UNHCR about a ride. Again this is apart of his responsibility #smh. But I’m grown (Cartman voice) so I went.
The driver had to talk to the acting head of field for permission. I heard him say “she’s asking for a ride again”. I guess it was Ok because when the driver came back we just stood outside talking. He told me his name was Gift. That’s actually the english translation of his name in Setswana. I waited for a ride for an hour but once again I was extremely grateful.
As I stood outside the UNHCR office with the driver we both were met with silence for a few moments. I don’t know what he was thinking but I was taking in the sunset. Sunsets in Botswana are so beautiful. My thought was broken by the loud sound of a man on a speaker.
Is that a call to prayer? I don’t remember if I said that out loud or in my head but when I looked up at Gift he was already staring at me. He told me that it was the call to prayer and all the muslims are headed over to that building (he pointed to the left) to pray. I immediately was taken back to a memory of standing on the balcony of our high-rise hotel room in Cairo staring out at the hustle and bustle while the call to prayer played from a distance.
The driver said let’s go. It was about 6:50 p.m. at this time. He unlocked the car and said I could get inside. I sat in the middle of the backseat. A few minutes later a young motswana lady opened the door looked at me and rolled her eyes (I can’t make this stuff up…#smh).
She then said something to the driver in Setswana. In my head I translated it to “we have a boss or you have a boss”. Whatever her deal was she wasn’t happy that they were giving me a lift. Then the acting head of field (hmmm is that the correct term) got into the passenger seat.
He looked to be in his mid 30’s and of Indian descent. Then an older Chinese woman sat to the left of me. She didn’t even look at me. So I didn’t introduce myself. We pulled out of the camp and headed on our way. They started talking about work and I couldn’t help but think that teaching the class tomorrow wasn’t going to happen because I most certainly will not have a ride home.
A few minutes later the lady to my left said “And who exactly are you?” #rude haha. I explained that I am the Peace Corps Volunteer and I am teaching a class at the camp. The guy in the passenger seat chimed in and said I am working with one of their partners and they are helping me out by giving me ride.
While she was listening she pulled out a packet of antibacterial hand wipes and started to vigorously clean her hands. Based on her demeanor and how everyone was addressing her I deducted that she may be from head quarters and she was visiting the camp for reporting purposes. Or for M & E (monitoring and evaluation) reasons. They dropped me off on the side of the road and I ran the rest of the way home.
My volunteer friends were waiting for me when I arrived. Again we decided to go for a walk. We took a shorter route this night. When we got home I was beat. I made dinner but couldn’t stop eating. I kept looking for more food. Must have been the workout calorie burn kicking in!
I passed out around 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday – August 26th 2015
Yayyyy! Today is the last day of training! I’m excited because today is the group screening presentations! So now the participants get to put everything together that they have learned in the past two days. I made the mistake of telling everyone to arrive at 8:00 a.m. They arrived by 8:20-ish but we managed to finish on time. Actually we finished at 1:00 p.m. because people were lingering and talking. Looking over the evaluations back at my house we were all really impressed. They were really good and offered useful critiques!
I let out a sigh of relief that my first workshop was a success! Next week I will start planning another workshop called Community Conversations Enhancement. This one will be five days and all day #Eisshh!
I didn’t go to the camp for class today. Last night I forgot to mention that I sent a text message to the center manage and my counterpart requesting a meeting to talk about the time of the class and transportation. And that I can’t return until we solidify it.
I took my volunteer friends to the local country club for dinner. It is not as fancy as it sounds. I live in a mining town so there are somethings here that you wouldn’t find in regular village in Botswana. We left the house around 4:30 p.m.
On our way we saw my favorite combi (mini van taxi)guy driving around. He asked why he never sees me anymore. His combi leaves at six in the morning. There hasn’t really been a reason to go to town that early the past few weeks. I told him that the ladies are leaving tomorrow and wanted to take his combi. He said he would come to my house to pick us up.
I thought dinner was at 5 p.m. but it turns out it’s at 6 p.m. We sat at the bar and had some beverages while we waited. We ended up watching Randy Jackson’s America’s Best Dance Crew. I love dance battles so that was fun.
FINALLY! Dinner was ready at 6: 23 p.m. and we ate an option of rice, pap, chicken, beef and salad for 45 pula (say $4.50)
We walked back together happy and well fed. It was dark but my site is pretty safe and we had flashlights. Back at my place everyone was ready to go to bed.
Thursday – August 27th 2015
Up bright and early we chit chatted as everyone got ready. At 6:30 a.m. on the dot Lucky was outside blowing his combi horn. We rushed out and he was outside waiting at my gate. He is so adorable but in like a “awww you’re so adorable but you are like 21” kind of way haha.
It takes 2 hours to get to my shopping village. On the way I sent a text message to the Peace Corps duty phone to let them know my whereabouts and to my office receptionist for the same reason. I usually go into town twice a month to get food. I’ve been meal planning for the past 6 weeks so it is not a problem now with regards to having enough food to eat.
I parted ways with the other ladies and got out my to do list.
- Pick n Pay- food
- BTC – pay internet bill
- Mascom -Pay for Myzaka
- Choppies -To do Myzaka if the Mascom store lines are too long (They were!)
- Get lunch for the ride home
It’s a good day when I accomplish everything on my list! Though I dislike my haircut 🙁 But I’ll give it two weeks to grow out!
On the 2 p.m. combi ride home, I couldn’t wait to get off. My plan once returning home was to unpack, clean and then mop the floor.
I unpacked my groceries, made food and watched YouTube videos….ummm hmmmm.
Friday – August 28th 2015
This morning I spent about 30 minutes responding to newsletter emails.
Friday is always “causal fridays” in my office. But I always forget and dress up! Oh well. I spent the morning organizing my STEPs DVDs and making a new log in excel that lists all the new dvds I brought and the ones the office already has in storage.
I also set some time aside to have my DAC read over the evaluation forms and then to talk with him about planning the Community Conversation Enhancement workshop. This workshop will most likely take place the fourth week of September. Next month will be busy. Thank you Jesus!
It’s practically the first week of September now, which I will spend planning. Also working with the women’s sector and helping them to plan their first meeting (been working on this since November 2014 #Lawdness!)
The first saturday of the month I will attend a wedding with another volunteer. It is for the second ever volunteer in my site and her motswana husband. They live in Washington now but due to tradition are returning like seven years later to do the traditional wedding.
The third week I have to travel to the capital city for a technology for development committee(I function as the secretary for the new term) meeting and a newsletter committee ( I function as the EIC for the new term) meeting. This week PC trainees are also doing their site shadowing. This is new for Botswana. Unlike other countries we were never able to visit the outgoing volunteer. But we did do a couple days shadowing someone. I don’t know how this is going to work or if I am participating. I guess they will send out an email the week before to fill us in the know.
September 30th is the independence holiday. I hope I can celebrate with some cool folks this year. Botswana will be turing 49 years since independence.
After I finished meeting with the DAC. I cleaned up my desk and peaced out. Oh yes I did use someones computer to email him a copy of the most current CCE training manual that I found online. It’s weird to me that he is always using really outdated material which he can easily find new versions of online.
When I got home I just chilled. I swept my house and mopped the floor. Boring!
It’s friday! #happydance!
Saturday – August 29th 2015
I spent the entire day blogging and doing social media 🙂
Oh and I baked an apple bread and talked to my sister on SKYPE. It’s 12:21 a.m. now…I’m going to bed!
It’s officially been one month since my birthday!
Sunday – August 30th 2015
Again I spent part of the day blogging and doing social media. I read a fews chapter in the Guns, Germs, and Steel book. I did some light meal prep for the week and created some dance fitness routines.
I hope this post isn’t too long (hmmm 3210 words). We shall see how it goes post #2 next week.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section.
Are any of you considering joining the #peacecorps?
Until next time.