*Notes From The Field are weekly blog summaries of life in Botswana as a Peace Corps Volunteer. They are written and published on Sundays.
October 5th, 2015
I know I know! I’m like two weeks late. But with good reason! Let’s get into it!
From September 14 to the 19 I was in the capital city of Gaborone for Peace Corps Committee meetings. As the secretary of Technology for Development (T4D) and the incoming Editor in Chief for our newsletter, there was a ton to discuss for each meeting. I also took the opportunity to have dinner with a really lovely and inspiring CDC doctor, who is becoming a great mentor figure to me. It’s always fun and a nice change of pace when you can travel to the capital. Life is just different there than what I’m use to during my day to day in the township. It’s easy to forget that you are still a broke volunteer! The next thing you know you’ve just spent your entire allowance in a week. Hey it happens! Haha.
It was good to also see the staff members. Once you’ve finished all your training and move to site, you rarely see them. The communication from them rests mostly on email, phone calls and text messages. I don’t know if you remember in one of the previous #NFTF that I mentioned some issues with my counterpart. I did get a chance to touch base with both of my program managers, in person, about the issues. One of them reached out to my counterpart and then informed me of the conversation. Now my next steps were to talk to my counterpart again about everything and come up to a new agreement.
Our Peace Corps country doesn’t have a “training campus” or “PC hostel” as in other countries. We rely on rented accommodations. The lodge where I stayed is right across from a really big shopping center! Thankfully I have self control and try not to spend beyond my means. The cohort before me, Bots 14, were undergoing their “close of service” medical appointments. And many of them were staying at the lodge or hanging out in the IRC. It was interesting to hear about all the medical tests that I’ll have to endure a year from now. Not looking forward to the three day stool sample collection!
Back in my township and office from September 21st to 27th was pretty standard. I had a very major epiphany during this week in part by this quote “the less you care, the happier you’ll be“. You see the problem with young visionaries like myself is that you forget that you can’t change the world over night and you can get so wrapped up in the grind to make a difference.
I had to remind myself that I am not in Botswana to “save the country” of it’s “HIV crisis”. Peace Corps has been here for years now doing development work and not much has changed. But what I can focus on is building relationships with women in my community and listening to their concerns. And trying to help them on a more personal level. So it doesn’t really matter if my counterpart continually plans health programs and fails to include me in the planning process. It doesn’t really matter that he requested a volunteer but doesn’t really have a need for one. What matters is that I am here and after a year of being at site, I now understand where the opportunities lie.
Oh and we did have a conversation and he basically told me he doesn’t want me working in the office. And to just go out and find my own projects and build my own “legacy project”. Well sir thank you! I’m glad I started doing that seven months ago.
And now with this new frame of mind there is no reason for me to get frustrated when there is a lack of work. My new motto is to everyday ask a new person if there is anything they need help with. Because if I have nothing to do, I am not talking to enough people. It’s been working quite well and it’s only been two weeks. So far I’ve helped the new pharmacist reorganize the medication stock room, inspired two seamstresses to open a shop, helped the guidance and counseling teacher apply for the Fulbright Teacher’s Exchange program, recruited new members for the women’s sector, and found a lead mentor/activist for our HIV/AIDS support group.
This past week September 27th to October 4th has been great. On Monday I assisted the CDC doctor at the refugee camp during a site visit. It was great to see the indicators that PEPFAR uses to make sure their programs are running swimmingly. Especially their PMTCT program. I also created another “side project” from that visit to assist the clinic doctor with creating a few feedback forms.
Tuesday was very hectic in my office as Wednesday September 30th was the independence day celebrations. Their were people running around trying to finish last minute details. I on the other hand wasn’t included in any of the hoopla and worked on creating a flyer for the upcoming women sector meeting. On Wednesday the celebration at the kgotla was great. It started two hours late per usual but it was fun to watch. There was a young female poet there that everyone loved. I had no idea what she was saying but she looked nice in her traditional clothing.
The next day was also a holiday so I stayed home at worked on my new project. I had the idea to create a women economic empowerment workshop to help teach the ladies in the community finance and business skills. Thus far I am in the beginning stages of putting it all together but I am really happy about it. Now I wake up in the mornings excited to go to work!
Friday back in the office I had a meeting scheduled with the female activist who will assist me with the HIV/AIDS support group. We just sat and talked about ideas for meetings. She came up with a great suggestion for creating a theater group. I told her this is definitely doable and all we need to do is create flyers and send letters to the schools and local businesses. After our meeting I took her on a walk to visit our HIV/AIDS resource center. This will most likely be the venue for meetings and the theater group rehearsals. It was great speaking with her and her energy was amazing. I am really excited for our partnership and feel as though she will continue to keep things running once I leave Botswana.
Saturday October 3 was the best day ever!
During the week I had received a call from PC staff saying that the ambassador and president were in the area and that they may come to see me. SAY WHAT!! I was told not to say anything until it was confirmed. I received another saying that the ambassador wanted my number so that he can call to talk about logistics. SAY WHAT!!! They thought the visit was for Thursday but no one called.
Friday evening I received a call from the ambassador’s driver requesting directions to my house. They were coming up on Saturday but he wasn’t sure what time. I was a little concerned because I made plans with a friend to head to the Makgadikgadi Epic an event sponsored by Botswana Tourism board in Nata Bird Sanctuary. Saturday morning I just made sure my house was spotless. I wasn’t sure if the ambassador was coming in my house or wanted to see my office since it was Saturday. My friend showed up at my house at 8:30am as planned and I had to tell her of the change in plans. She returned home while I waited for “the call”. Two minutes before noon it came!
The ambassador was really cool and down to earth. I gave him a tour of my house and we talked about the projects I was working on. He even gave me a little goodie bag of snack from his hotel. I told him of my plans to go to the event. Then he said he was there and is going back now. He even said we could tag along with him! This day turned out to be so epic that it needs it’s own post!
Click here to read the rest of the story 🙂
Until Next time.