Friday, April 27, 2012

Pics are up!

Hey, check out the pictures page.  27 new pics from Commonwealth Day.  All are taken at the school and show some traditional dancing and skits by each grade.  So you get to see my students.  Hopefully a video will come in a few weeks with some live action of the material.


Of all the things I have done in Botswana that I would not do in the US I think hitching has to top that list.  If only because it is going to be such a hard habit to break.  It is it the only way to get to my village, and even when there is public transport in other places, hitching is usually faster.  But, not all hitches are created equal.  So for this blog post I have decided to describe the different types of hitches that I have seen.  This list only concerns rides between Kaudwane and Letlhakeng, this is because during this stretch hitching is the only option and the hitches between places like Gabs and Moleps can be very different from these. 

Note: several of the different types of hitches can overlap.  Especially in the areas of speed, comfort, and amount of people.  So there are several different combinations available. 

Type 1: Having the appropriate amount of people
This has happened to me a total of once.  Just once.  In 5 months at Kaudwane.  And this was only because it was in a car, and not a pick-up truck.  Unless the vehicle you are in is only seats and without a truck/bed to fit more people this never happens. 

Type 2: Undercrowded
This type means that there is plenty more room for people to fit, and it is only due to the lack of passengers that you have space.  Not as rare as type one, but still fairly rare.  I have only encountered this between Kaudwane and Salajwe (the first or last step of my trip depending on direction).  Once you start that trek between Salajwe and Letlhakeng this type ceases to exist in favor of….

Type 3: Overcrowded
“Excuse me ma’am but you are sitting on my foot, and have been for the last 50km.  It is alternating between being asleep which means I just know I will fall over when I stand and pain spasms.  Please be getting out of this vehicle soon.”  While I have never actually said this (at least not in this words, especially the last sentence), I have thought it an awful lot.  There is the stereotype that Mexicans can fit a lot of people in a truck.  Bullshit.  That award should go to Botswana.  It is simply fascinating how many people and things they get in a truck.  Honestly I think these hitches break at least three laws of science, yet they happen all the time.  I will never have space bubble issues in my life since I always seem to be constantly touching people due to these rides.

Type 4: Going a respectable speed for the conditions of the road
Not real.  Next.

Type 5: Going painstakingly slow
Unlike the undercrowded/overcrowded distinction, this one is about 50% of the time.  It would be one thing if the slowness made the ride more comfortable, but the drivers of these hitches always seem to be in the worst part of the road, making it so bumpy I can’t even read.  So instead I get to lazily watch the landscape go by and wonder if I shouldn’t have waited longer so I could have gotten on that truck that just passed us.  Worst offender: a red truck belonging to an old man in Kaudwane, but I always take it because I know he will take me the whole way.

Type 6: “You have a brake pedal, please use it”
Let me clarify that the general speed these hitches go is not necessarily unacceptable…if it was a real road.  But you have no reason to go as fast as you do on a paved road when we are on loose sand.  Please slow down.  Just a little.  Every time we hit a big bump everyone gets air.  And then I alternate between thinking I might fly out of the back or coming back down at the wrong angle on the paint bucket I am sitting on and bruising the left side of my butt for 3 weeks.  This last one happened to me about 4 weeks ago.  Yet I do prefer it to the slow ones for the reason that I get where I am going quicker, if only because…

Type 7: Comfortable
Also not real.  Next.

Type 8: Uncomfortable
Remember my foot story from a few types back?  Well between too many people jammed in to give adequate space, the driver always finds a way to pick the worst part of the road.  I don’t know how they do it.  And I know there are better parts, because when they swerve to avoid cows the other part of the road is always better.  STAY THERE!  But this has given me a glimpse into the reason why about 95% of the people here have big butts, they have nature’s padding for these uncomfortable rides. 

Type 9: The ideal hitch
You would think this is a combination of types 1 (or 2), 4, and 7.  But you would be wrong.  It can be any combination of types as long as it is one thing.  Free.


The worst hitch ever!  So this happened to me today actually.  I find a free ride leaving my village going all the way to Letlhakeng around 6:30am.  Awesome.  “Oh we just need to go pick up something from where we are camping.”  No problem.  “Oh we are just going to wait to eat breakfast first.” It was already being cooked, so no problem.  I had plenty of time.  FOUR HOURS LATER!!!!  “Oh we aren’t actually going.”  SCREW YOU!  The only progress I made was four kilometers in the WRONG DIRECTION, waiting for you useless wastes of space.  So I am now outside my village, in the bush, in the wrong direction.  I hear cars coming by.  So I literally run out of the bush to find….

THE BEST HITCH EVER!  So I have no idea what the South African tourists first thought when they saw a white man run out of the bush and flag them down.  But they gave me a ride.  A ride all the way to the door of the place I am staying in Moleps.  They even waited for me to pick up a package in Letlhakeng.  And they fed me.  FOR FREE!  Seriously, weird day with my two ultimate hitching extremes.

The passage of time

Between sitting under a tree the other week for 5 hours waiting for a ride in Letlhakeng (a time which Rose and I used to come up with a complete social order to all the animals in the village) and spending a quiet Easter at home drinking wine out of a peanut butter jar (this classy moment brought to you by Peace Corps!), I have had a lot of time to think about…well time.  More specifically how quickly it passes.

Over the Easter holiday I also had some free time to update the d├ęcor in my house.  This was mostly done through a few calendars and pictures sent by Tori and Erika.  There were a few pictures that really sparked this line of thought about time.  The first was a picture from a wine tasting trip in Zamora about 2 and a half years ago where Casey and I were drunk enough to sing Spice Girls on the bus.  This picture is not of that moment but from early in the day.  Conveniently located next to my map of Salamanca it made me realize that it had indeed been years since I had been there.  It still seems so recent, yet also much longer than that at the same time.  Just like this Peace Corps experience.  I have been gone a long time, but some days it feels like no time, and others I wonder how I still have so much left.

From that picture I moved on to a few that brought back fond memories: rock climbing in IL with Brandon, Halloween parties at Aunt Jackie’s, raising money for Peruvian orphans in Queen’s Pub,  or my first ever trip to Cedar Pointe for Ashley’s 21st birthday.  These got me thinking about the fact that even though I do keep in touch with many people even though I am a continent and an ocean away, there are at least some people in my life that I consider friends that I won’t see again.  First of all, this is not on purpose.  Secondly, I do not think that most of the people reading this will fall into that category.  This is just another mystery about the way time works.  Even at Aquinas there were people I liked perfectly fine that I would go a year without seeing.  And that was a small school.  Without being confined to a small campus it just stands to reason that there will be people I lose touch with.  At first I was depressed about this, but I realized that nothing I can do will reverse this fact; it is just the way of life.  Even if I spent all my energy just trying to maintain contacts, I know I would accidentally forget someone.  So I have already made peace with that, and as I said, I don’t expect to lose contact with most reading this.  Again, the quick passage of time at work.

And there was one category of pictures that brought about my last wave of thoughts on time.  This was some that I got from Tori and Erika that showed things I did not remember.  Nor could I remember because I was not there.  These things all happened since I have left.  I have been over in Africa for 7 months, so naturally a lot has happened (even if EVERY TIME I ask for news from stateside everyone assures me nothing is going on).  But it is strange to see pictures of things and think that you will never really know what is going on.  Sure, I am smart enough to figure out what are pictures from a Halloween party, or people picking pumpkins in a field.  But I will never completely understand how it felt to be there.  And that made me realize it is going to be the same the other way around.  I can post pictures and blog posts all I want, but no matter what the people reading this will know what happened, but they won’t have the experience.  And in just 19 short months from now everyone I see again will have years of experiences I did not have, and vice versa.  This is not a bad thing, and won’t stop me from blogging and putting up pictures and such, but just another of the many intricacies concerning the rapid passage of time.  There is nothing you can do against it, despite how hard you might try, but it is something interesting to reflect on (if you find yourself drinking wine alone during the holidays you should give it a try).

One thing I have learned in Peace Corps is how to spend a lot of time alone with your own thoughts.  I do that a lot.  It is just part of life being the only person who natively speaks your language in the surrounding area.  And that is what this post has been.  An attempt at making some coherence out a mind’s ramblings about the passage of time. 

Now to give a very quick update on general stuff.  I am doing well.  Term 1 is over, and Term 2 starts next week.  My counterpart and I are planning to start 2 girls’ soccer teams, one for at school youth and one for out of school.  We are also looking at reviving more clubs at the school since the PACT Club revival has been effective so far.  Finally starting to get close to chilly in the mornings.  Not to that point yet, but getting there.  And working on a putting together a video from our Commonwealth Day celebration (showing traditional dancing and such done by the school kids) as well as figuring out what pictures to upload next.  That will all be coming down the line in anywhere between a few weeks and a month or two.  It all depends. 

And with that peace out.  Happy belated birthday Heather, and happy early birthday to anyone who has a birthday before I post again.