Sunday, October 16, 2011

Over the hill with training

Only 3.5 weeks of PST left!  That’s right, training is winding down at this point, and we have all made it well past the midpoint.  In the past two weeks I have had tests, saw a coronation, and left Kanye for a week to shadow another volunteer.  So needless to say it has been a busy couple of weeks. 

Most of training two weeks ago was spent agonizing over the practice LPI (language proficiency interview) and the other round robin tests we had on the core competencies of PST that we were supposed to know by that point.  And those exams all happened Thursday morning.  I still don’t know quite how the LPI went (we find out on Monday I think).  Even though it was just a practice it did have a lot of people on edge.  Although that morning was not quite the best so by that point I was already just ready to be done. 

In case you haven’t heard yet, I had my first injury in Botswana two Thursdays ago.  I was running with Julia when I caught a rock lodged in the dirt path we were on.  Needless to say I went down.  Had a few cuts on my elbow, bruised my knee, and took quite a bit of skin off parts of my left hand.  I am happy to say that the hand is nearly fully healed by this point and looks much better (although if you want to see a picture of the damage when it was fresh check fb).  I also managed to lose my keys that morning since I was too busy paying attention to my hand that I didn’t notice they fell out of my pocket.  When I got home I had to sprint back to find them, but alas, no luck.  On the lighter side I am sure the people of Kanye were wondering why a lekgowa (white person) with a bloody hand was furiously running through the streets and got a good laugh out of it.  And luckily there was a spare key, so really this experience was ok.  I learned that I can clean a wound with running water in the house and just using a bucket.  J

The day after the LPI and my spectacular hand fiasco we were invited to the coronation of the Kgosi of Kanye.  Now each ward in Kanye has a Kgosi (which is a chief btw), but this was the main Kgosi of the entire village.  We got to see the coronation tradition of adorning him with the skin of the leopard that he killed weeks earlier.  And the entire village pitched in to give him many cattle and a new truck.  The event lasted about 5 hours, hand some interesting dancing at the beginning, but alas, my Setswana is not good enough to tell you all that happened.  But it was a VERY high profile event.  The American ambassador came.  Many members of the government of Lesotho were present (the Kgosi’s mother is from Lesotho).  Ambassadors from Germany and other countries were present.  And the President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama, came to the event since he is also a chief from another village as well as the President.  It was incredibly to see him and other old presidents of Botswana were in attendance as well. 

And then after all this was over we got a “week off” from training.  We all went in separate directions (for the most part, because some volunteers did host two trainees) for the week on Shadowing.  Basically we were placed with current volunteers in the country and got to see how they live their day to day lives.  I ended up going to Rakops which is in the middle of the country, north of the Kalahari Game Reserve, to stay with Jeremy Hardy.  Fun fact: he is also from Michigan so that was pretty cool.  It takes about 9-10 hours to get from Kanye to Rakops and you need to change busses in Gaborone.  So in the past week I had nearly two full days on a bus.  But it was totally worth it.  Sure Rakops is in the middle of nowhere, but we had a great time and actually did a lot.  I helped out with the groundbreaking and putting up of some posts to attach shade netting to for the garden his organization is making.  We conducted a focus group at the Community Junior Secondary School, presented at a workplace wellness workshop on the importance of volunteering, and I got to meet many of the people he works with.  But I also got to see that many days in the average PCVs life can also have a lot of down time.  So that was good to know that I should not go into site expecting to be busy all the time.  While I was in Rakops we also battled the electricity being out the first night (although he only has an extension cord from the neighbor with one plug anyway), and the water being out quite often.  But all in all it was fantastic and I would do Shadowing again in a heartbeat.  Probably the best and most useful week of training yet.  But it is kinda good to be back in Kanye and see all the Bots 11 that I haven’t seen all week and hear how their experiences were. 

And I want to wrap this up with a few important date announcements.  First of all happy belated birthday to Aunt Jackie, Grandma, and Alex Wolf.  Sorry I was not able to contact you on your birthday exactly, but I did remember it happened and will try very soon.  In the same line of thought, happy early birthday to both Liz Beam and Erika Hallatschek (yes I actually know your last name finally) since I know yours are very soon.  And also, next weekend I will at least be putting on FB my site placement since we find those out Friday afternoon.  In just a few days I will know where I am spending the next 2 years.  Although I regret to report that I will not know my permanent address until after I get to site and rent a PO Box.  Which I will do ASAP and let you all know my address.  And since mail takes a few weeks, if anyone was planning to send me anything, I would like to ask you to wait until I have my permanent address since if you send it now I might not get it before training is over.  I already have quite a few letters nearly ready to send out, but I am waiting till I am at site so that way they will have my return address.  And people will get them closer to Christmas. 

Ok, that’s about it for right now, lots of excitement happening over here (even if it doesn’t seem like it, but to at least me it is all exciting).  I don’t think I will do another one of these until the very end of training, so expect it in about 3 weeks.  Or so.  We’ll see.

Go siame.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Happy Independence Day!!!

First of all I should preface this by saying that Botswana Independence Day was actually Friday, but since this is when I am getting around to accessing the internet I am still using it for a title.  Also, don’t get used to blog posts being this close together, but we had a few interesting things happen this week, and I wanted to get it out there before I forget.  And I am sure some of you know just how bad my memory can be at times.  J

Monday night was the kick-off to World Tourism Day which was Tuesday.  We were guests of honor at the Kgotla that night for some festivities.  And I can officially say that after that night I have officially and willingly lost all dignity in front of at least 200 Batswana.  We were mostly watching, but at one point the Emcee asked our group to perform a traditional American dance as part of the cross cultural exchange.  There were about a dozen of us that got up the courage to do (although I apologize to Caitlin for dragging her up there), and of course the ONLY thing we could think of was the Macarena.  So yeah, we did the Macarena for hundreds of people.  Like I said, lost my dignity, but at least it was fun. 

At the Kgotla there is also a tradition where the men at one point all meet at the head of the Kgotla and eat seswaa together.  For those of you unfamiliar with seswaa it is called pounded meat in English.  And this is a loose term.  There is not just meat, but bones, gristle, probably intestines too all mashed together.  Not the most appealing thing.  The Kgosi (chief) got us all to come up on stage to join in this tradition.  My original plan, give my meat to my neighbor.  Well I got lucky enough to be chosen to serve the seswaa to all the men at the head of the Kgotla.  So I was serving chiefs, our PCTs, and all the other Batswana.  I know that some people got pictures of this event, which was, well unique.  The seswaa did not really sit well in anyone’s stomach for the most part.  Once I got done serving everyone the Kgosi gave me some meat to eat, right into the palm of my hand.  I tried to say I wasn’t hungry, but hey, the chief tells you to eat and you at least take a bite.  After that I slipped the rest into Nate’s bowl.  But hey, for a while I was probably the most popular guy there since I was handing out the food.  I definitely felt immersed in the culture, and that is what I came here to do, so I can’t complain, it was at least a fun and enlightening experience. 

Also this week we went to Gabs to fill out our immigration papers.  So guess what?  I am now officially allowed to be here for the two years in the eyes of the Botswana government!  Hooray for the small victories.  And then as I said above, this Friday was the celebration of 45 years of Independence for Botswana.  It is amazing when you look around and see all that the country has you realize how impressive of a job they have done, especially for only 45 years of independence.  I know that in America we could never have made these kinds of strides in such a short time.  We celebrated with an easy day of training and then a visit to a cultural site near Kanye with a picnic lunch.  Plus a bunch of people made a dance circle with some of the LCFs, so staff and trainees got to cut loose a little bit, which was a lot of fun. 

Yesterday we had the Diversity Day session in the morning with some awesome volunteers from Bots 9.  I can easily say it was the best session of training we have had so far, and I want to thank them all for coming and doing that with us.  All I can say otherwise is that I feel like I learned a lot about my fellow trainees and feel closer to them after the session, so it was a really positive experience, and I only wish we had it even earlier.

Other than that it was just a normal, packed week of training.  Not this coming week, but the week after, we go on shadowing where we stay with a current volunteer in there village so we get a better glimpse of day to day life, so that will be interesting to see.  Also, don’t expect an update until at least after the shadowing week is over.

Well, that is about all I have to say for now.  OH!  And check fb for pictures, I am going to try and upload a bunch today hopefully.

Tsamaya ka kagiso (go in peace)

Adam “Thato” Hii

P.S.  Major shout out to Ben Stoltman.  I got my first letter this week and it was from him.  Was a major pick me up. 

P.P.S.  Also like to say thanks to all the people who either helped our watched my first haircut in Botswana.  Especially Rose and Carol for their marvelous work with a razor.  I gotta say it takes used to getting used to short hair, it is probably the shortest it has been in about 5 years or so.