So what exactly am I doing in Botswana? I am still not an official Peace Corps Volunteer, which I know sounds strange to anyone who knows about my application process. I am a trainee, and on June 12 (which is also my dad’s birthday, the day I graduated, and the day that I will close service in Bots and head home in 2014… weird, right?!) I will swear in as US Peace Corps Volunteers.
Training is a pretty intense period of service though. We have training six days a week, with Saturday being a half day. A typical day starts with a 7 am wake up, cornflakes for breakfast with watered down whole milk, another bath, tidying up and heading over to Claire’s house to meet her and Ryan for language in the morning. Her house is like two or so houses behind mine, so it’s nothing too strenuous. Our LCF (language and culture teacher) Gomolemo meets us there and from 830 to 1230 we have language lessons, with a half hour tea break. Batswana love tea. I usually go back to my homestay for lunch, which is often rice/beans/sorghum/ and some kind of stewed veggies. I hang out, wash up, and help cook for about an hour and then head over to the education center, which I am unfairly close to. Most volunteers are anywhere between 30 mins to 2 hours away walking, and I am maybe 15 minutes.
After lunch, we have sessions on safety, HIV/AIDS, cross-culture, keeping ourselves healthy, etc. They often involve a lot of group activities and a lot of discussion. Also, Peace Corps volunteers tend to be the type of people that like to say things in class… thus, there is a lot of talking and someone always has an opinion to share. The sessions can definitely get a bit tedious, especially if they are the ones that require reading from a script from PC headquarters. It’s all good information, but all-day-everyday gets exhausting.
After training, some volunteers will occasionally hit up a tuck shop (think vending machine with people and a small builiding) grab a pineapple Fanta and then head home. Once at home, I am help cook dinner, which is pretty similar to lunch, and wash up. My job in the house generally revolves around dishes, which most days we have running water so it’s not that different then living in college house. Then we watch the South African soaps, including everyone’s favorite, “Generations.” So bad and so good.
A word on gender norms in Botswana… it’s pretty damn patriarchal. There is definitely a transition towards gender equality, especially in big cities, but even in my household (my sisters work as an engineer and health worker in Gaborone) I am expected to do household chores such as cooking and cleaning while my host brothers do not. And beyond the house hold, there is no such thing as chivalry sexism. In public events such as Kogtla meetings, funerals etc women give up chairs for men, men are always greeted first, men eat first etc. It’s been a source of frustration for me (and many other volunteers) but it has also led to some really good conversations with my host brothers about gender roles. My personal favorite happened with my host brother and, well some guy at his church, who came up to me with the fairly typical “I love you and want to marry you.”Current PCVs told us to make a joke about it, so I responded with “You don’t want to marry me… I would not cook or clean for you! Just ask Mpi, I am not like that.” Mpi was cracking up and in agreement with me.