What I Do All Day Part 1: The Art of Visiting
Somedays, I cannot wait for the time when I will have a job with a structured schedule and a clear job description. One with supervisors and report forms and time cards. I dream about my office job with a list of things to do and tasks to accomplish. I relish the thought of having my own office phone with voicemail and making call backs. Fortunately, I’m don’t get lost in these thoughts too often, as I turn to the job I had right before I left, and remember the constant state of boredom I was in.
But I do miss structure and I miss being busy.
It will happen during some pockets of the day, I’ll have finished what I had to do for the day by 9 AM and then I don’t have anything scheduled until 2:30 PM. That’s five hours of time to kill or time to be useful, somehow. At the beginning of the my service, I didn’t know what to do, so I would sit at the clinic or I would go home and read. But more recently, I find myself visiting various friends or strangers for hours at a time. We call it ‘just sitting’.
I found myself just sitting yesterday in front of a shop, talking to the shop owner’s son. Before I realized it, two hours had passed and all I had done was sit and chat. But I felt proud of myself. Visiting is a really strong and important part of the Botswana culture. And it’s a great way to get to know people and learn how they live. But the thing is, during my time here, no one has invited me over to come and chat. Invitations… it’s very American. So I’ve had to get over some of my insecurities and Americanisms and walk into people’s home and work places and sit.
It’s part of the job. A simple task, like faxing a letter, can take me two hours. On my way to the police station, where the village fax is housed, I stop to make small chat with every third person I see. When i’m in the police station, I sit and tell all the officer about my weekend and they let me walk around the station like I were actually a cop. Actually, I have a case of nail polish that I bring once a week to the police station, and me and the female police officers paint our fingernails.
And to be perfectly honest, these visits, take most of my week and while I am doing work- like following up, talking to interested community members, sharing idea, organizing a meeting- we are mostly just sitting.