Seven Weeks

My brother is engaged!  To this wonderful lady.  it is loveThey are so happy.  I am so happy!  They scheduled their wedding date for May 12th, a full month before I my original Close of Service (COS) date, June 9th. Fortunately, I have  a very generous country director and he is allowing me to end my service a full month early, so that I can attend the wedding.  So my new COS date is May 10th, which was the earliest I could leave.  I’m excited that when I land back on to the American continent, I will have my whole family there with me and love will be in the air.  I love weddings.  And I especially love family weddings.  It’s heart-warming to see my siblings make such significant steps in their lives with out trepidation but with a full heart and faith in the future.  Who knew when we were terrorizing each other over broken toys and hurt feelings (and occasionally broken bones… sam) that we would one day be old enough and responsible enough to create a life of our own, full of love and hope.  I know Paul and his bride-to-be have a bright future ahead of them and I am so happy to be have to opportunity to witness the beginning with their marriage in the Manhattan Temple in New York City on May 12th

I need to find a dress, but I never have any luck looking online.  When my sister was married (also while I was in Botswana), I bought a dress online and then when I met my family in New Hampshire I tried it on and I hated.  I ended up buying a dress at the jcrew outlet two hours before the wedding ceremony. Hectic stuff.  Any ideas where I can find modest dresses online?

Bots 9

This past week I was in the capital where Peace Corps was hosting us for our Close of Service conference.  It was mostly admin stuff, how to go back and stay sane kind of stuff.  They put us up in this really neat, fancy hotel in Phakalane.  And one night they took us on a game drive in Mokolodi.  On Tuesday, the held a fancy luncheon for us and our counterparts.  Ministers and other dignitaries came, including the former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae.  I had the honor of sitting at his table.  After he gave his keynote address, I was asked to give a short speech in setswana.  I did and I included a song I had a sung at our swearing in ceremony two years ago, Modimo O Refile.  God had given us this moment, even this very minute.  It was a fun moment in my service and very rewarding to be given that honor and I know all of the volunteers deserved the same opportunity. 

I have had some exceptional opportunities while being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, from meeting the First Lady Michelle Obama, to making the former president of an African country crack up in his seat, to raising funds for a camp, to learning a new language, to trusting complete strangers so so many times.  It has been such an adventure.  But it has also been very challenging.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to talk about my two years in Botswana. 

Seven weeks.  Seven more Sundays in the Francistown Branch.

Magical Cape Town

December in Botswana was fairly uneventful, aside from the aforementioned cat drama.  BUT I did get out of Botswana and took two great trips to South Africa.  I mentioned my trip to Johannesburg for Christmas (which, I found out, is not even one of the top ten most dangerous cities in the world).  But the day after GLOW I flew down to Johannesburg and went to Cape Town with a friend. 

Cape Town is absolutely magical.  It the a wonderful costal town that captivates each traveller that passes through.  I do not think I can overestimate the power for Cape Town, the magical city of South Africa.

We spent a short, but exciting, three days wondering around the costal city of Cape Town.  Here are a few of the highlights.  We went to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held during the apartheid.  It was informative and great.  Very through provoking rather than heart wrenching.  I realize I know close to nothing about the apartheid in South Africa and there is much to learn.

The differences in meals for coloreds/asiaties vs bantu (blacks)

We took the very nice hike up Table Mountain and saw the view of the peninsula from the table. It was breathtakingso fresh and excited

But the view that won my heart was the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean at Camps Bay. I won’t forget thee

But the best part about Cape Town was the penguin colony at Simon’s Town. I think penguins are universally adorable (after baby goats, of course). Did you know penguins have one mating partner for life?

its windy in Cape Town

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.

We Are All Our Hands and Holders

I just hosted my parents for two weeks in Botswana.  We spent a little time in Nata and then I took them exploring the great bush of Botswana.  Our first stop was the Okavango Delta, outside of Maun.  Here we boarded a wooden boat.  We were poled through the reeds and then we camped on an island in the delta.  It was a beautiful to glide through tall grass and clear water.  In addition, we saw a few elephants here and there. tip of mokoro

with out guide Martin

We spent a few days in Nata.  I showed them around the village and gave them a very big tour. During the tour, complete strangers would walk up to my parents and say ‘your daughter Refilwe is my best friend, we are always together.’ This made my parents think that I was very well liked in my community but it made me think that Batswana are pretty great liars! 

During their time in Nata, we held a GLOW meeting.  The GLOW club at this school is for guys and girls.  The lesson that day was about goal setting and my counterpart asked my parents to share a few words.  My parents were impressed by the kids and their ability to dream big.  Because these kids will literally be the future of Botswana.  And they can actually obtain their goals. Last week I also handed out the application to all the girls for GLOW camp.  We got 20 applicants!  Myself, two nurses and a teacher will sit down to pick the lucky five.  It is going to be hard to pick only five girls from those 20!

We then headed up to the Chobe National Park outside of Kasane for a three day safari.  Safaris are no joke and they a more than a little pricey. i figured my parents had earned their right to a safari and my default of being their daughter meant i could tag along.  The safari was unbelievable.  We saw every kind of animal you could see.  Buffalo, lions, elephants, kudu, crocodile, hippos, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest,impala, kingfishers, vultures, storks, wild dogs, blah blah.  so much!  And it was nice to be able to just watch the animals do their thing.

We came upon a pride of about 9 lions just seated under the tree as the cubs ate some scraps and the lionesses slept around the male lion. 

honestly, they looked like Zaza. (who happens to be pregnant again)

And just before they left i took them to my family in molepolole.  I introduced my parents to my african family.

In October, the Daily Herald in Utah published a story about me and they put a plug in for my GLOW camp.  My african family’s picture was included in the article.  This is a picture of them reading the article from the Utah newspaper in Molepolole, Botswana.

It was fun to go around with my parents having a grand adventure in the African bush, but it meant more to show them the people that had become so important to me.  Especially my beautiful church mates in francistown.

Highlights from the past month

I have had a splendid month.  It has been crazy and a bit intense, but I’m thankful for the wonderful people that I have met and for the blessings that I have received.  A few highlights…

  • We have finally started meeting as facilitators for Camp GLOW (by the way, we just need a couple more hundred dollars!  we’re almost there!).  It has been very time consuming, but I’m excited for the potential outcome.  A small glimpse at the camp- ‘smores, glow sticks, TYE DYE… seriously, this camp is going to rock
  • I took the GRE! It wasn’t as bad as I expected.  Grad school applications here I go
  • I went to South Africa for a weekend church retreat (read: YSA Convention).  There were 400 LDS young adults from all over South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana.  It was amazing. I had the best time I have ever had as a young single adult.  I also met another mormon peace corps volunteer living in South Africa!  There are a few of us…
  • It was independence day in Botswana last weekend.  i celebrated in Kasane with a couple of peace corps friends.  We saw a couple hundred elephants.  literally.

    we make elephant look good

Next big thing:  Parents in Botswana.  My mother and my father are coming to botswana in less then two weeks!  everyone is very excited, including me!

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