Chakalaka Saga

Ke rata thata chakalaka

One of my favorite snacks here is chakalaka.  Essentially, it’s a spicy vegetable mix that comes in a can, like unto salsa.  It’s ingredients are carrots, tomatoes, green pepper, onion, chilies and other modifiers that make it so darn tasty!  I typically enjoy it with some multigrain crackers that I purchased from town.  Fortunately, you can get a can of chakalaka at just about any general dealer.  I hear it tastes nice poured over pasta or pap… it’s up to you.

Let me give you a small snapshot of what a Monday here in Nata looks like for me:

I wake at 6:20 and got ready for the day.  I should have woken up at 5:50 to take a bath, but I didn’t.  I usually will make some oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and honey, but today I just eat some left over banana bread.   Seven o’clock I am walking to the clinic with my neighbor, who works somewhere along the way.  At 7:30 we have our morning meeting with the nurses, doctor, nurse orderlies, cleaners and health education workers.  Luckily, they conduct the meeting in english on account of our foreign doctor and nurses (DRC, Zimbabwe, Zambia).  At around eight we go and have song and prayer with the patients that are already waiting.  I go through this routine Monday through Friday and then I’m off to whatever the day holds for me.  On this Monday I sat around the clinic waiting for transport to Tutume (the sub-district headquarters) so I could harass the District Health Team and demand for my rent to be paid, seeing as how it’s a couple of months overdue.  Also, so I was going talk to the District Aids Coordinator about some ideas for a project on gender-based violence and then the District Youth Office about starting a club for out-of-school youth.  But it turns out the driver hit a cow with the ambulance so that means maybe Tuesday.  By this time it was 10:30 and I was helping some nurses with labeling pill packets or filing some medical paperwork.  In addition, I was assisting a nurse (my counterpart)  put together a program for a workshop on Wednesday, the subject being ‘male involvement in female reproductive health.’  So I was capacity building.  And then, as I was nominated the secretary for the Nata Adult Choir, I was attempting to design a poster for choir recruitment, which is not capacity building, because I was doing by myself.

By twelve, it was blazing hot (a solid 99 degrees F today) and I am off to check the post office,  I try not to check everyday, maybe like twice a week.  But I have been expecting something from my dad and chaela for about five weeks and that is how long it has been since I last got a piece of mail (also, my address is PO Box 144 Nata, Botswana). Trying to maintain high spirits,  I make my way home for lunch.  For lunch I had leftover beans, which I will devour for the next four days.  And then at 1:15, it’s off to the clinic again.

As I make my way back to the clinic, I stop at the social worker’s office.  She gives me the low down (she also happens to be one of my very close friends) and I take back a life skills manual I had let her borrow.  At the clinic, I finish preparing a small lesson for the junior secondary school kids for later in the afternoon as well as making a few finishing touches on the program with my counterpart.  Then, magically, one of the school teachers from the Junior secondary school drops someone off at the clinic and I beg for a ride to the school.  Not only is it bloody hot, but the JSS is about 3km or more away.  I get the ride and this teacher tells me how in his culture you are supposed to put your knees to the ground everytime a woman greets a man- a story he tells me daily, but one I have yet to hear from another person that is Bakilaka.  He tells me about  how his uncles has 13 wives and he asks me about my uncles and I tell him that it’s illegal in America- a fact he goes on telling every school teacher when we arrive at school and each of them also find it entertaining.  Illegal!  I am a good hour early for my meeting so I sit in the teacher’s lounge with the other teachers.  We have a heated discussion about corporal punishment vs. positive reinforcement.  And then it’s time for the PACT club meeting.

PACT stands for Peer Approach to Counseling Teens.  It is a peer education club for these junior schoolers (aged 13-16).  It was our first time meeting since the school year began (back in january) and the kids were very very shy.  But I had them do an activity called ‘human knot’ (or human pretzel).  It was better after that, but I can tell this will take some practice.

And then I came home, melted as I ate a whole can of chakalaka (I don’t regret it).  Later, I will heat up some more beans, wash the dishes and then read until about 9:30, trying my darndest to get a full eight hours before I start the cycle again.