Saturday, July 6, 2013

100 days!

So today marks a very important milestone for my Peace Corps service.  100 days left.  At times it has felt like much longer than two years, and at other times nowhere close to that mark.  But either way it is here.  Considering I started this blog with the 100 day mark from when I left the states I thought this would be a good moment to offer some advice to past me (or anyone reading this who is thinking about Peace Corps).  So here are the pieces of advice I would tell myself before coming to Botswana that I know now.

  1. Get ready for failure.  You may not be used to it now, but you will be.
  2. Don’t be so na├»ve.  There is no way you will learn everything about Botswana before you come here.
  3. Speaking of which, just stop trying to learn Setswana, you are not pronouncing anything right.
  4. In that same thought, other people are going to be better at the language than you are, that is alright.  You, personally, will not use it that much.  *This is mainly due to me sticking primarily with my school with few outside projects and the kids are supposed to learn English at the schools.  Other PCVs use Setswana much more.
  5. You know those McCall Smith books you are reading that are set in Botswana?  Interesting stories, but no, not even close.
  6. Pack spices.  Seriously, you do NOT need stockpiles of soap and shampoo.  You need spices. 
  7. Also, get a headlamp.  Handy for when your power goes out or you are living without electricity.
  8. Did you seriously pack a wrench?  Why?
  9. The same goes for the screwdrivers, pliers and electric razor.
  10. The hammer comes in handy (but only hardly-possibly not worth the space).
  11. Get a second one of those pans Brandon got you.  That thing is awesome.
  12. Less clothes.  You have only worn some of these things once.  In 2 years.
  13. More gum.  You can never have too much Trident and they don’t have your favorite kind here.
  14. Tangent side note: get used to spelling in British English.  I almost put a u in favorite.
  15. Also, don’t be embarrassed when kids correct your spelling from American to British.
  16. If there is some kind of sauce you really like, bring some bottles.  It is either not here, or way too expensive.
  17. See above in regards to tequila.
  18. Or really any hard alcohol.  The affordable stuff here you didn’t even sink low enough to drink in college.
  19. Quit the cemetery earlier (or rather don’t take the summer job).  Seriously, spend more time with people than trying to make a few extra bucks for a few months.
  20. Scrap the black shoes, dust never leaves them, and bring back-up running shoes.
  21. Bring more duct tape.  It is so useful.
  22. Don’t bring that heavy of clothes.  Layering sweaters and t-shirts is fine for you.  You are used to and like cold.
  23. Summer blows.  But at least there is no humidity.
  24. Speaking of, get used to getting up at 5am so you can run before it gets too hot.
  25. Don’t feel bad if you are not friends with everyone else in Peace Corps.  At training they may drill that into you but it really is ok to not hang out with everyone.
  26. When in doubt on ANYTHING, just play the cultural ignorance card.  It almost always works.
  27. Why did you bring 2 actual suitcases?  Be like almost everyone else and get a hiking backpack.  You are just going to buy one within a few months here anyway.
  28. Did you really try writing in Setswana in your first few blogs?  Seriously?  I know training can tend to be a pissing contest but everyone gets over it really fast.  Try not to sink into it.
  29. Speaking of, you may have just got done with college, and others in your group may be retired psychologists, but guess what, this is new to ALL of you.  Don’t try so hard to impress.
  30. You underestimated the amount of cards you need.  You know how much you play cards.  Buy more.
  31. Buy more brown, it blends with the sand and dirt.
  32. Bring a hard-drive, you need media.
  33. Get comfy talking about poop.
  34. There will be a time when you think about extending for a third year.  You will look back on it as a very funny joke.  Do not take that thought seriously.
  35. You work site will know very little about Peace Corps rules, you can use them as a scapegoat to get out of things.
  36. Never vent your anger on people with cars.  Even if they piss you off don’t burn that bridge.
  37. Stop worrying about whether you have electricity and that stuff.  The mental adjustments are so much worse.
  38. Speaking of which, take time to deal with that.
  39. And don’t feel guilty about it.
  40. Gabs is a money pit.  Don’t avoid it, just be prepared.
  41. Tell people to send you trashy tabloid magazines.  They become so entertaining over here.
  42. Walk around a lot.  Staying in can be nice to hide, but you still need to get out there.
  43. Mindless entertainment is so awesome.
  44. Speaking of which, maybe not the best time to buckle down and read all the classics.
  45. But you can still get through a few.
  46. You cannot take care of all the dogs.  You are really going to want to.
  47. In that same note, get ready to witness what we consider animal abuse.
  48. And corporal punishment.
  49. You know what, just start getting a calloused heart now.  Because you will not be effective in changing the behavior, so get used to ignoring it.
  50. You will have an urge to beat a snake with a rock.  Makes for a cool story, but seriously?  What the hell were you thinking?
  51. Peace Corps may say a laptop is optional.  IGNORE!  Bring one.
  52. Most Batswana won’t say no.  Just assume that unless people show a lot of enthusiasm they mean no.
  53. Even if they say yes, they mean no.
  54. Nothing happens now (or even “now now”).  Just assume things will take a while.
  55. Speaking of the word no, it is about to become your new best friend.  Embrace it.
  56. Your de-stressing activities need to be routine.  Or you will fail to do them.
  57. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself to be calm so you don’t get angry for the wrong reason. 
  58. Don’t sacrifice your personal style just because you think something else will be more appropriate.
  59. You will want those things to make you feel like you.
  60. If you think something is worthwhile do it.
  61. Even if you are doing it alone.  It will still make you feel better if nothing else.
  62. You can actually buy good food with your budget.  Don’t think you need to scrimp on food.
  63. Buy one of those really cool insta-dry towels.  So handy for travel.

My original goal was to try to hit 100 pieces of advice, but I am not going to stretch this out any longer.  Also, thanks to Shannon, Mia and Amelia for some of these ideas.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Turning 24

Well so it is now my second and last birthday that I will be celebrating during Peace Corps.  This past year has definitely been more jam-packed than the one before it.  By the time I turned 23 I had yet to leave Botswana, taken no vacations, and had no major work projects successfully get off the ground.  In this past year I have travelled around quite a bit of Southern Africa.  I have been to different parts of Botswana (especially considering my moving villages), travelled to: Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and back to the US, have written a novel, ran a marathon and finally had some great work successes. 

So for a blog post to commemorate the past year I am going to focus on the positive things that I have accomplished in this past year, both personally and professionally.

Work successes:  I have had two big ones in this category (one at each of my sites).  In my current village of Gamodubu you might remember that at the end of the first Term our school finished putting a library together.  Well, Term 2 just ended and I am proud to say that so far the library has been very successful.  We have had more than 60 kids check out well more than 100 books in just about a month’s time.  With this term being the shortest one (and I being missing for a good portion) I expect this number to rise higher next term. 

The other success I just learned about the other day from a project I left at my old site in Kaudwane.  I was working on a school garden with a teacher there and right before I moved sites we had sent off some requests for donations to get it running better.  Well, that teacher called me the other day to tell me that a few months back the school received 15000 pula to help make the garden work!  With that money shade netting has been bought and put up, new tools were also purchased to work the soil and with the remaining balance they are bringing in a specialist to examine the soil and provide assistance in making the soil yield more.  It is always a huge goal of Peace Corps to see if a project will be sustainable when you leave (and one most people do not get to see first-hand) so this was really exciting to see happen!

Personal successesHuh.  I realize I already used a bunch of my personal successes up in my intro for this blog.  Whoops.  Well there is still one other thing I have not mentioned.  I have finally figured out a firm direction for my graduate studies and the list of schools I am applying to.  I am applying for Gender based programs where I plan to focus on sexual orientation and gender roles and how both societal attitudes and laws regarding these distinctions hinder equal opportunities for people.  The schools I am looking at are Loyola (Chicago), University of Washington (Seattle), the United Nations University for Peace (Costa Rica) and University of San Francisco (guess where?). 

Yet to go:  This part is more a reminder to myself about things I still need to do to accomplish my personal goals from my post entitled Goal 4 back in February.  I still need to edit the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo.  I also need to finish my 300 books.  I can say that I have less than 50 to go, so I think I can still do it.

And well, I think that is it for today.  I am planning to put up another post on Sunday to mark a different milestone that happens to fall very close to my birthday.