Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Definitions of Normal

My new definitions of normal… just to name a few. I'm sure I'll continue adding to the list as time goes by, but I want you to hear all about these now now.

  • Holding hands while talking
Gender doesn't matter. Neither does age. Just hold hands! Men hold hands, women hold hands, men & women hold hands…. It's just what you do. Don't lace your fingers though, that's just weird. And uncomfortable for everyone involved. But don't be rude! Hold hands when you are having important conversations with people or you want to show them your support. I've grown to love this!

  • Interrogative words at the END of a sentence
It's truly a strange phenomenon here in Kang. I'm not sure I completely understand it, but I do know that I catch myself phrasing questions in my head the same way now. And just to clarify, these statements are said in English… I'm not translating from Setswana or Sekgalagadi.

"You are going where?"
"You were at the post office to send what?"
"Your siblings are how many?"
"The report was given to who?"
"Our meeting will begin when?"

  • Sand = Dr. Scholl's
Kang is in the middle of the Kgalagadi Desert, so of course, sand has become a familiar friend of mine. I used to take the time to dump the sand piles out of my shoes as I was walking, but I've quickly discovered that if I DON'T dump the sand out, the sand will begin to accumulate beneath the arches of my feet. No thanks Dr. Scholl's, I'm doing just fine here in the desert AND I'm saving money.

  • Saving water to flush
Water outages are becoming more and more common here in Kang, so I have learned to take advantage of water while it is flowing. I save water to drink when the water goes out & more importantly, I save enough water to fill the toilet to flush. Trust me, this is an critical lesson to learn as a Peace Corps Volunteer!

  • The Spider Stomp/Smack
As many of you know from a recent blog post, I have encountered some pretty gross looking spiders (p.s. NO ONE in this community claims to know what kind of spider I killed after they saw the picture… but it sure did make me feel better when they said they would have killed it too!).  There are some spiders here that Peace Corps Volunteers like to call "flatsies" because, well, they are really flat. They're BIG, but they're flat. And they kill bugs. Ok, fine, they can stay. But I still don't enjoy seeing them.

SO, I've learned that whenever I open cupboard drawers or move something from where it used to be sitting, I do the spider stomp/smack. It's really quite  self explainable, but it's become like second nature to me.

  • Overemphasizing statements
After a while, I've learned about how much the Batswana like to emphasize things they say. "It's cold cold" or "that's far far". Silly, perhaps, but I've learned to do the same. The most common one I've heard is "now now", but really, chose any word to repeat & people will be pleased. 

  • Knocking off
When I am leaving work, I'm knocking off. It's what everyone says. Strange and yet, so normal.

And just to bring everything full circle…
"You knock off at what time?"

  • Name games
Imagine someone calling your name whenever they see you; when they walk past your desk, when they see you across the street, when you're running, etc. Sometimes people want to have a full conversation, other times they might look at you like you're crazy for coming to talk to them. Often they are just acknowledging your presence... It's a game. They call your name at all times throughout the day - and it's a up to you to try to figure out whether or not to try to engage in conversation. Great fun!

  • Nice is the only adjective in the world
There is simply no other adjective in the world that compares to the word "nice." It's just the nicest word there is.

"How's the day?" You have two options here… 1)"it's nice" 2) "it's just ok"
--> p.s. they both mean your day is going well, it's not like what you would say to your boyfriend/husband when they screw up
"The food is nice."
"Oh it's very very nice!"
"The movie was nice."

You get the idea.

It's nice not to waste space in my brain with all these big, fancy words I learned at university. ---> Ha. I just made myself laugh. I didn't even do that on purpose.

  • Pens are powerful
If I have a pen, people want to be my friend. Because they lost theirs. Or don't care to find it. Either way, I gain a lot of new "friends", but after a short time, I've figured out that those friendships are one sided. The pens often don't return… they end up in the Botswana Black Hole for pens. And soon enough, I have to go make new friends of my own because when I'm pen-less, I have no power in making friends. 

That's all for now now! I'm procrastinating writing my report that's due next week :o) Love to each & every one of you!

Love & Light,

Monday, August 6, 2012

Truly Absurd & Tender Moments

Life in Botswana seems like an  insanely crazy roller coaster ride for my emotions.  I thought it might be fun to share some of the life changing events I have experienced, along with some of the moments I never expected. Some are touching, inspiring, and moving, while others seem mundane, ridiculous, and silly. Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is a combination of everything you could possibly imagine and I would love for you to have a taste of the difference between each day (or moment) of my life here.

Absurd Moment: During my time in Kang, I have to put together a community map outlining where things are in my community. I was out in the community one day to observe where things are in relationship to my home & work when a man drives up next to me on the street and starts telling me I'm beautiful. I ignore him & keep walking down the street as he continues to yell back at me with his head out of the window. Not even five seconds later I hear a huge collision & look back to see that this man got in a head on collision with another car. I think to myself, that couldn't have possibly been your fault, tate. Stay calm. Well, everyone involved in the accident is fine & the police come to fill out a report, so I head back to the clinic. As I pass through the patient waiting area, a man grabs my arm and says, "don't you remember me?" And I say no... He proceeds to say, "I am the one who was in the car accident. I was captivated by you. Won't you be my wife? I almost died for you!"

Tender Moment: During a sermon at church in Kanye, the Bishop was preaching about how the Lord says to love one another. He asked the congregation to give an example of love in our presence and he pointed out that Claire (another Peace Corps Volunteer present at the time) & I were examples of love. He told them that we flew at night over an ocean to Africa to serve the Batswana. He told us he admired us for our large act of love. I was amazed at how highly he thought of us - it truly touched my heart and brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Absurd Moment: During my shadowing week in Shoshong, I was staying with Amelia and learning from her about what life would be like one I moved out to site on my own. I followed Amelia around for the week and one memorable activity was sitting in on her Life Skills class. Amelia began to teach a small group of students about how to make better personal decisions in order to accomplish their life goals. At the end of the class, Amelia asked everyone to write down a question, comment, or something they wanted to share anonymously with her & leave it in a box before they left class.  Little did we know, one of the students was writing a love note. To me. It reads:

Boitshepo, I lov u 4 more than everything in the world. U have a special place in my heart, so live like a candle which burns it self but gives light to others so then this world will be bright and beautiful for your life, any tears for u I will cry for u.

Please keep in mind this boy is 14 years old.  Silly.

Tender Moment: Romeo, my little nephew who lives next door to me in Kang, is two years old and has the disposition of an eighty year old man. He rarely smiles, barely talks, and sits quietly in the sand playing with cats the majority of his day. He is about as cute as they come and for the first week I arrived in Kang, he wouldn't make direct eye contact with me. After warming up to him, he decided it would be ok for me to sit with him in the sand. We slowly got to know each other and then one day, I was holding him while I sat on the couch talking to my sisters and he curled up in my arms and fell asleep. My family declared, "Romeo loves you!" Absolutely precious. We are good friends now and I know exactly how to bring a smile to his sweet little face.

Absurd Moment: Since it is winter here in Botswana, I have developed various coping mechanisms against the cold. There have been nights when it gets down into the thirties, which is truly no fun without insulated walls or indoor heating. How have I learned to cope?
  • I drink tea immediately before bed & as soon as I wake up to try to stay warm.
  • Long underwear, sweat pants, long sleeve shirts, hoodies, north face jackets, gloves, wool socks, headbands to cover my ears, sleeping bag liner, sleeping bag, flannel sheets, large blankets = my new best friends
  • Since I don't have hot water, I must boil the water to bathe with. Even with boiled water, I've learned to NEVER wash my hair and my body at the same time (and often, I avoid both in the same day)! When I wash my hair, I stay fully clothed and hold my head over the bathtub. I always make sure to boil enough hot water to rinse my hair and warm my hands after I am done.
  • Since my hands go numb when I wash the dishes, all dirty dishes must sit in my sink until around 2 PM when the water in the pipes isn't quite ice cold & I'll boil water to help convince myself that I really can't leave them sitting in the sink the rest of the week.
  • Placing the clothes I want to wear the next day underneath my blankets works wonders! It's difficult to convince myself to get out of bed if the clothes I am changing into are as cold as it is outside.

Tender Moment:  singing songs like "If you're happy and you know it" with my  host mom, dad & niece in kanye always brought a smile to my face. They know songs that we all grew up singing, but the words always seem to be a little bit off. :o) I love that they say "if you're happy & you know it, clap your feet" (not stomp your feet), "if you're happy and you know it, nod your head" (which sounds like noodle head) and they always conclude with "if you're happy & you know it ...say amen". They are so kind & happy, regardless of what is going on in their life.

Absurd Moment: At a loss of what to do with my afternoon, I found myself watching a fly for at least twenty minutes. The fly was overjoyed with the left over crumbs on my plate and I found an equal amount of satisfaction with watching him consume tiny morsels of food. When would I have ever made the time (or even consider) staring at a fly? There is so much going on in the world around us that we never stop to observe! The absurdity about this story is that I would consider this a productive lunch time activity.

Tender Moment: While I lived in Kanye, I met many of the neighbors who lived by my family. One of the families nearby had two small children, ages 2 and 4. The parents were very friendly, but the children seemed to be a bit more timid. After some time went by & the children were accustomed to seeing me in the streets, they would come running down the street yelling "BOITSHEPO!" when I came home from classes. It sounds so very simple, but the sight of these two cute small children calling my name after a long day of training really did make my day. It still warms my heart to think of those two..

Absurd Moment: While taking a taxi back to my house in Kanye, a man in the taxi decides to tell me that he loves me. This is typical behavior... but I responded by saying," You can't possibly love me. You don't even know my name!"  And his response? " I know your name. Your name is my wife. " I don't think I will ever quite understand how the men here think that is charming...  Crazy.

Tender Moment: There is a woman in Kang who is as sweet as they come. She is a volunteer with the Police Department and she was so sweet to show me around when I first arrived .One Saturday, I invited her over to have tea & we began discussing her family, hobbies, etc. She is very religious so she was sharing all about the values she strives to live by & she told me that she was so happy to have me here in Botswana. In her words..."We all have so much to learn from each other. We are all just people, regardless of color. You are white, and I am black. But that doesn't mean we aren't the same... We just look different." <3

Absurd Moment: Trying to learn two new languages is crazy as it is, but I really love when I discover things that they say in English don't mean the same thing at all to me in English. Examples?
  • He/she is late… really means they died.
  • I'm coming…. really means I'm going (or maybe I'll come back much later on).
  • I love your skirt… really means I want your skirt & you should give it to me.
  • Borrow me your pen… really means I want your pen & have no intention of returning it.
  • We will be married… really means are you interested? (more of a pick up line)
  • You are fat … really means you are well off, well fed, and rich. (it is intended to be a compliment... But only sometimes. You can see why this one is tricky)
  • Rubber … really means an eraser.
  • Now … really means sometime in the future.
  • Now now… really means right now.

Tender Moment: I have asked the staff in my clinic to tell me their birthdays so I can try to keep up with them & a few weeks after my arrival in Kang, I had a few staff birthdays coming up. I simply made a few homemade happy birthday cards & decorated the envelopes. I gave the cards to the two women in the clinic & they each responded by giving me a great big hug & expressing their gratitude for my thoughtfulness. So sweet.... Then a few hours later, one of the women came knocking at my office door. She asked to borrow my pen because she wanted to remember something important & she proceeded to ask me when my birthday was. :o) She said she was so happy about her card that she didn't want to forget my birthday either.

Absurd Moment: People don't seem to be bothered by small children running around with sharp objects in their hands, but as a former nanny/babysitter, it really irks me. While I was doing homework one evening in Kanye, my host niece was playing with a steak knife. She was just poking things on the table when she told me she wanted the paper I was working on (my homework). I told her calmly, that no, she can't have my paper to poke with a knife, and as you can imagine, a temper tantrum followed. Remember the knife that was in her hand? Yup, she started swinging it towards me & screaming. Children throwing a fit and throwing their legos at you might be one thing, but I must admit that I was actually afraid of this little one injuring me with a knife during her fit of rage.

Although it doesn't paint a full picture of my life here as a PCV, you can definitely see that with every moment that passes, I am experiencing many ups and downs. Some days bring tears of joy, others bring tears of frustration. As we all do, I'm taking in the good with the bad, learning from everything I'm going through & finding a way to (hopefully) make a meaningful impact on the lives of the people I encounter.

Love & Light,