Cats are the worst

So we all know Zaza, right?  She’s the cat I got last year in October.  She has had two litters of kittens in six months.  And five little ones each time.  That makes for a full house for about eight weeks with six cats running around.  So we are on the second batch and they have passed their nine week birthday and I am still left with three.  And they reached their terrible stage.  They just run around the house, getting into things, hiding, and in general being nuisance.  But they are also insanely cute.  I mean nothing really rivals baby goats or penguins, but kittens take a close third.  But still, cute terrible kittens.  And maybe it’s obvious, but I’m not really a cat person.  I do like Zaza when she is alone, not with child or feeding, when its just me and her we are ok.  We get a long well.  When she’s pregnant she doesn’t want to be pet and when she has babies she is just crying all day and tries to steal my yougurt.  But anyway, this doesn’t even touch on why cats are the worst.  brace yourself.

In the past month, I have found inside my house,a dead bast, a dead pigeon and a dead iguana.  Did you really read that?  A dead bat. a dead pigeon.  A dead iguana.  They are the worst.  I almost had a heart attack when i walked in and found the kiddies fighting over pigeons, feathers were everywhere and there was blood.  And I don’t even have words to describe my reaction when i saw the bat.  And aren’t iguans in endangered or something?

I’m looking forward to when it’s just me and zaza.  We can just hang out without any stress.  Without mopping six times a week (which is alot!).  But I do need to be a responsible adult and get her fixed because ten babies in six months is a little much and I am tired of the kitten drama

Best.Present.Ever.

Let me introduce you to perhaps the greatest invention ever

personal washing machine

Its called the ‘Wonder Washer: personal washing machine.’  Is it not amazing?  It is a bucket placed on top of an agitator that agitates the clothes for a good fifteen minutes.  Isn’t that amazing? My wonderful mother sent this to me for Christmas and she has managed to give me the best present ever.  Seriously…. I feel high class now.  I spent my Christmas is Johannesburg this year.  And it was amazing.  It felt nice to be in a real city with lots of people.  So for New Years I am back in Nata.  Bringing in 2012!  its going to be a very good year.

 

All on a Starry Night

Today I received some christmas cards in the mail from friends and family half way across the world.  (if you haven’t already, you can still send your card to PO Box 144 Nata, Botswana).  What an absolute pleasant suprise it was to recieve a written note from a friend so far away.  I haven’t received very many letters this past year.  Which is fine, I don’t need them as much as I used to.  But I had forgotten the warmth i feel when I open an envelope and remember that I am actually connected to a world that is much bigger than Nata.  It sends me into a nostalgic state where I remember all of the events that have happened in my life and the people that have walked with me.  I’m glad those people are still with me.

I just passed my six month mark.  This means I have less then six months left in Botswana.  This means I have been in Botswana for one year and eight months.  Its feels like a long time.  Or it feels like a short time.  Either way, the time has gone.  Sometimes I feel like I have been here for three years, and other times it seems like only six months.  So it’s confusing…

As it always happens, December is the slowest month in Botswana.  And with GLOW over, I find myself twiddling my thumbs more often than usual.  But I have determined to fill my days with Christmas hymns.  But I noticed just now that I haven’t put up my Christmas decorations from last year.  Good thing Christmas isn’t actually about the decorations.  or christmas trees. or carols. or even gifts for that matter. It is about Love.  It is about celebrating the greatest gift that has ever been given to us, the chance to live with our Heavenly Father through the gift of His son, Jesus Christ. Because He loves us. And this is truth.

So a tender Merry Christmas from Botswana.

Go GLOW

GLOW camp came and then it went.  And I cannot believe that its already been over a week since it ended.  It feels weird.  I wonder what I am going to do next.  My colleagues and I have been working on GLOW since April, when we first wrote our grant proposal for the project. 

GLOW Camp was an absolute success.  Absolutely.  We put in so much work during the month of November to make sure that we could have a successful camp and sometimes it did not look good.  I remember breaking down in tears because I no longer had transportation to go and buy food in town and I was not equipped with a plan b, c or d (all which are necessary).  There were so many small issues that week up to the camp, even the day it started, it seemed like one delegation wasn’t going to make it, but then.. 7PM Friday Night, they were there.  Like magic.

the facilitators

There were five girls sent from seven villages around Nata. And somehow we ended up with 53 girls, rather then the original 35.  But it was fine, it was no big deal.

My Nata GLOW Girls

We kept a very packed schedule.  We wanted the girls to spend all the time they could engaged in uplifting activities.  They could rest when camp was over, but at GLOW camp they had to be active. 

And just so we are clear, we didn’t actually camp.  I can’t even imagine trying to deal with the nightmare of sorting out transportation so we could go into the bush and camp.  No, not these girls, not this girl.  We held the camp at the brand new Nata Senior Secondary School.  There were two reasons for this.  Number one: most of the girls were in junior school and holding the camp at this facility encourages them to go on in their education and do well in school.  Number two: they are brand new, which means the bathrooms are still ok. 

Each night we had a big activity.  The first night we held a bon fire and shared the practice of s’mores (huge success).  Second night we did popcorn and a movie (hairspray).  Third night we had a talent show.  At the talent show the facilitators debuted the talent with a lovely lip sync to ‘I will survive.’ And the last night we had awards and certificates where every girl was honored for her participation in GLOW.

And the days were full of sessions, including: goal making, healthy friendships, puberty, leadership, HIV/STI, communication, etc.  And then crafts, such as tye dye, journal decoration and bead making. 

I have a couple of favorite moments of GLOW Camp 2011. The first is about glow sticks.  My mother had sent me GLOW sticks and I forgot until the very last night, at about 11pm that I had sixty glow sticks.  But I had to give them away.  So we woke up the girls in their rooms, showed them how to make the stick glow, danced a little then told them to go to bed.  They didn’t sleep until about 1AM. 

My second favorite was the girls I brought from Nata.  The worked so hard the weeks before the camp to write and learn a song to perform at the camp. And when they did I was blown away, I was so proud I made all the campers learn the song.

Hello World, this us, here we are.  Trying to lead the way. Life is easy when your in glow Camp, just wear and smile and never lose your hope.  You are you, I am me, we’ll be free.  Hello World, we are girls.  Come and see.  Come and celebrate.  Life is easy if you don’t lose hope.  Just come join us here in Glow Camp.  Wear  a smile., don’t look back, you’ll be free, Hello World. 

Doesn’t that just give you chills?

hello world

Here’s the thing… there was this feeling that was present throughout the camp that reassured me that we had truly accomplished what we set out to achieve.  Luckily, we also used evaluation tools that will measure that, instead of my feelings. 

And that was GLOW Camp.  Let me just give a warm thank you to everyone who supported this initiative.  The girls were crying at the end. They didn’t want to leave their new friends and the environment we had created for them.  I truly believe that we helped build the future leaders of Botswana.  Kealeboga.

GLOW family

I’m on Fire

GLOW Camp is only a little less than two weeks away.  Things are coming together but it is now proving to be a little challenging.  Certain things take longer and it is exhausting to chase people around and the endless follow up and the plan a, b, c and d.  But it is going to be awesome.  Have I mentioned we got a hold of glow sticks?  This is going to be off the hook.  Those girls better feel empowered!

I used to think I wasn’t very diligent.  I just figured it wasn’t in my nature.  I don’t wash my dishes daily.  I have a hard time remembering to brush my teeth at night.  If you come to my house, its not filthy but it’s not very clean.  I only sweep when absolutely necessary and mop even less.  Perhaps this means I am not a hard worker, but if I’m working with a group of people, I will put in my time and then some.  But maintaining myself is difficult and I thought this meant I wasn’t very diligent

Then summer came…

Today I looked at what I was doing and realized that I have this really insane frozen water bottle system.  At any given time, I have two 1.5L and six 500ml bottles in my freezer.  They are on a strict rotation.  One bottle in the morning, one after lunch and then I keep the 1.5L half full so that I can pour water in it when I get home from work and skip the ice cubes.  And then at night I use the other 1.5L as an ice baby in addition to my fan.  And then I keep a couple of extra in case someone needs one. I am extra diligent about keeping this system going…

This system keeps me alive.  Who needs ac when you’ve got leagues of frozen water bottles?

This summer has been very hot (105- 110).  It has been a lot worse then last year.  We have praying for rain, as it seems to be late (again) this year.  When the rain comes, I will be sure to say a prayer of thanksgiving and perhaps dance.  It’s funny, because my setswana is very versatile when it comes to talking about the weather.  I can say ‘I’m hot’ in six different ways.  I’m hot, I’m burning, I’m on fire, I’m in the sun, I’m afraid of the sun, it’s hot.

A Message to Get You Through the Day

“When we have sampled much and wandered far and have seen how fleeting and sometimes superficial a lot of the world is, our gratitude grows for the privilege of being part of something we can count on- home and family and the loyalty of loved ones.”- Pres. Thomas S. Monson

 

Jalo Jalo

I’m finally starting to give away Zaza’s babies.  They reached there uber-cute stage some weeks back.  But they are hungry and needy. So i’m happy to give them away.  Remember when I met Michelle Obama?  I found some of the pictures from that special day.

Heidi and I cannot contain out excitement

And here:

addressing the crowd

and then she came over to us

shaking hands

I promised my mother I would post pictures of my ‘before & after’ of my painting of the kitchen.  It only took a year!

before

and the after:

after

Girls Camp

Exciting things are happening in Nata. And the MOST exciting thing for me, is this upcoming project for girls. In this culture, it is expectant of young girls to have children before marriage, to not only prove their fertility but to fulfill their duty in society. In addition, girls often have little to no say in relationships. There is the ever-present reality that girls are entering into transactional relationships with no negotiating power. We believe that through building confidence and self-esteem, young girls will be better prepared to make healthy decisions based on heir individuals preferences and not necessarily of societal beliefs. So we are hosting a Girl’s Health and Empowerment Camp for Girls this coming November.  The camp will be focused on creating a safe space to learn about a myraid of health and social topics.  But to also help girls create and find voice.

ANYWAY, if your interested in helping us complete this project please donate.  Click here to find out more about the project and how to donate

What I Do All Day Part 3: Idea Filtering

A new senior secondary school opened in Nata this past March. I knew I wanted to work with the students but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. So I set up some meetings with the headmaster and eventually introduced myself to the students. I said who I was, what my specialties were and that I was eager to be involved. Then for the next month, I came to the school twice a week in the afternoons. I sat in the courtyard and waited for students to approach me with ideas on how I should be involved in the school. I got a lot of great ideas and some funny ones. We did come up with two clubs to form, a drama league and a PACT club.

This small activity is something I do on a day-to-day basis in the village. I’ve been here long enough, that people understand a little bit about what I do. So people will come and meet me at the clinic, or stop me in the village and tell me their ideas. Mostly, I’m wiling to help others, as long as I have some skill pertaining to that and is loosely related to my mandate. Sometimes it will be helping a young person fill out an application for a business grant or teach an individuals about project proposal, or editing a society’s constitution, etc, Sometimes the person never follows up and I try not to be disappointed… it happens.

In May, some students that from the school’s Anti-drug club, found an ad in the paper about some events in the capital city for the Month of Anti-Drug Abuse in June. They to came to me, with paper in hand and asked for help. So together, we contacted the organizing agency in Gaborone and said we had some interested students. The Department of Youth sponsored their accommodation and meals, BOSASNET gave presentations and the Police provided transportation for the 15 students. I loved working on this because it was like every partner was as equally as involved as the other- the teachers, the organization, the students, the police. I didn’t have to do all the work by myself

Meeting Michelle Obama

The credit for this picture goes to the US Embassy in Gaborone. Can you see me?

Michelle Obama and Fifty Happy PCVs

They had organized a meet’n’greet for the US Mission staff in Gaborone at the US Ambassadors house in Gabs (btw the Ambassador, Michelle Gavin, is a RPCV). We had to be there at least a hour before the First Lady arrived.  When she arrived, she gave us a few ‘thank yous’ and a shout out to the Peace Corps Volunteers.  She then went to the audience (which we weren’t a part of, because they had petitioned us to the other side of the yard) and shook everyone’s hand.  She then came over to us volunteers (there were 50 of us) and shook all of our hands and posed for this picture.  And then she was gone.

Mma Obama and PCVs

She was at the Ambassador’s house for maybe twenty minutes max.  But it was still a exceptional honor to meet her.  She is a remarkable, intelligent, and strong woman (her speech that she gave in Soweto is awe-some).  She didn’t have to shake all of our hands and address us with such kindness, but she did.  In terms of the US Mission Staff and personnel, PCVs are at the bottom of the food chain. And we have been made to feel that way, but not Mma Obama.  As a volunteer with the US government, it felt nice to be recognized and appreciated by an important American.  I like how my friend, Ross Szabo, put it in his huffington post article.