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.

My new home and life

I think for the first time I feel like I am a peace corps volunteer, which is ironic because only on Thursday I became an official PCV, before that I was only a trainee. The swearing ceremony was a long awaited event. Here in Botswana, it is not difficult to make the news, considering their small population (1.8 mil) and their relatively stable domestic affairs. Our ceremony was covered by the local news BTV. Today, in Nata, some people told me they saw me on the TV. But I am skeptical, I think it may be easy to mistake one lakoa (foreigner) for the other. But perhaps I was. They asked me to sing a setswana spiritual. It was more like lead… so I lead the whole audience in a spiritual. The words are Modimo o refilwe, sebakanyana se o motsosoya. It means God has given us this moment, even this very minute (Post Script, I actually was featured on TV singing this very song, making my first day of work interesting). As it turns out the female volunteer in Nata two years before was named Neo (my setswana name), so I changed it to Refilwe, which, if you look back one sentence is from that song that I love, which mean ‘to be given.’ Pretentious? A beautiful song. I have been singing it during training for the past two months (if you can believe it, people here know think I have a song for everything). As the Batswana audience broke into their harmony I tried to add my own gospel variation, but looking at the video I see that, alas, I am still a lekoa, despite how hard I try to be a Motswana. The ceremony was nice, with the Ambassador, the Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Health, The National Aids Coordinator, and the PC Country Director. After we repeated our Oath of Service they gave us pins with Botswana and US flag- totally cute and also a nice piece of memorabilia to remember that one time I ran away from everything and joined the Peace Corps.

Me with Tunda, making a funny

After the ceremony, I took a lot of pictures and then said my goodbyes. I went out to lunch with a member from the church in Moleps. She took me to KFC! Finger lickin’ good- as they say. Botswana has a lot

At church with Sis. Thlapa and Sis. Dorothy (in blue)

 of fried chicken chains. The one next to the training center was called Western Fried Chicken, and then there’s Lickin’ Chicken’, Nando’s Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken and of course KFC. I never thought I really liked coleslaw but mayonnaise is a must here, carrots and mayo, rice and mayo, potatoes and mayo… bring it out. If you can’t beat um, join um… except for the sour porridge (bogobe or sorghum meal) I won’t, I can’t. It is like a sticky substance that seems a bit like porridge but it has been fermented and might have sour milk. I now I didn’t paint a very nice picture and let it be known that I could probably like it if I tried harder, but I don’t, not in that area


Then I went home and my family made pink scones which essentially taste like muffins- they made them for my trip. Nice family, right? 

My Botswana Family- mother and three sisters

The sisters and me- always happy to have me around

The next day a government vehicle picked me and another volunteer to take us to our sites. I got to Nata at around 6 that evening. Well to settle in I turned on some music and made a delicious cup of tea (thank Kali for showing me that beautiful website www.mountainroseherbs.com the hibiscus high is fantastic) and turned on some Phoenix to drown out my creeping sense of aloneness. But after a nervous thirty minutes of trying to feeling liberated I switched the music to The Weepies and tried to accept my fate. I know that my two years here will be great and will be what I make it. But I accept that fact of the emotional roller coaster, that at first I will feel lonely and then it will be the small triumphs that get me through, being able to form a sentence, being able to express my needs and my feelings. Then the failed projects or sense of isolation- it is all part of the package that I gladly accepted. It now is more real then it was before. 

a sneak peak of Nata