Monday, November 26, 2012

A Case of the "I Hate Everythings"

Before anything else, this post needs a few explanations:

VET GATES: All over Botswana, there are these fences spanning the whole country. To be completely honest, I couldn’t tell you the real purpose for them but they have something to do with keeping the wildlife and the livestock separate… and preventing the spread of foot and mouth disease (see explanation below). Vet gates are one of the worst parts of traveling, because  going through them means that everyone must get out of the vehicle, dragging all of their bags. These bags are often just patted down once or barely unzipped… think the worst event security in the world. It’s 10x more difficult to sneak something into a festival than through these fences and security check points. Once they are done ‘checking’ your bag for shoes, meat and who-knows-what else, you get to walk through gross, white, soda water (I think) and dip all of your extra shoes in the stuff too. Doesn’t sound too terrible if you’re in a private vehicle, but let me tell you…. When the bus is so full that if you’re lucky enough to have a seat, but your arms can be literally stuck in a stranger’s fleshy backside…. It can take forever and a half, feels completely pointless, and half the time people aren’t actually required to get out, especially if it’s dark out or they have a lot of luggage in the trunk that the officers don’t feel like searching, they don’t take the bags out from underneath the bus so all of those shoes are magically immune, and they just blame the disease on the buffalo anyway.

FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE: This is going to be a poor explanation because I actually don’t know much about this disease and don’t won’t to use my airtime on my dongle to look it up… but I do know that it is devastating to farmers who survive off cattle. While I have a strong dislike for Vet Gates, foot and mouth disease is a serious problem that can obliterate a family’s livelihood.

CHINA AND LEKGOA: Frequently, people of any sort of Asian descent are called ‘China,’ usually by children but occasionally by an ill-mannered adult. It doesn’t really matter where one is from, or if he or she is even Asian as I have had completely Caucasian friends report being called China as well.  Lekgoa means white person or English speaker... this one is also usually done by children or old people, but adults will use this term more frequently. Generally, I would say the terms are not derogatory, but rather a statement as pointing out physical characteristics (from weight to hair styles) is a just a part of Batswana culture.

HOW MANY BUSES I HAVE BEEN ON LATELY: a lot of them. Going a long ways away.

With these explanations, the following what not to do is from a single weekend of travel.

 What NOT to do when you have a case of the “I Hate Everythings…”
I would not recommend that when the bus conductor repeatedly calls you ‘China’ and Lekgoa’ and then pushes you out of the way in a tiny aisle on a crowded bus while you’re not paying attention to him, to tell him he is being a giant ass. I would however continue to tell him that is unacceptable, especially an adult speaking to a customer, to call someone “China” and/or “Lekgoa.” It also probably isn’t the best idea when forced to go through the vet gate again because someone pulled your bag off after you got out because it looked like it would contain shoes (… they were only worn once, okay? I didn’t want to get that slimy stuff on my new shoes and then stuff them back in a bag) to pitch a fit when they actually search your whole bag and make you walk through the slimy stuff three times because your shoes weren’t covered in the fluid the first and second time around, and finally bark at the guy searching your stuff that ‘this is (you can probably fill in the expletive here) stupid’…. They will remember you and ask if you are in a better mood the next time you go through there. Lucky for you, they will laugh it off, and so will you.

What to do when you have a case of the “I Hate Everythings”
Spend the afternoon watching The Sound of Music and taking a cue from the film, compile a list of your favorite things:
-sunset over bots after a thunderstorm
-the so-fluffy-I-could-die baby donkeys
-the smell of baskets
-mosadi magolos (old ladies) -from refusing to do anything while standing, gossiping under trees, well-meaning sense of ownership over me in e13, to their great pride in saying, I’m a mosadi magolo, I’m not doing that.. I find them adorable and hilarious.
-when Batswana have the same reaction I do to something interesting on the bus- i.e. an elephant charging across or the driver doing something stupid….
-my neighborhood kids… even when they’re being bratty and obnoxious.
-thunder and lightening
-boating on the Okavango Delta
-southern carmine bee eaters (they’re hot pink birds that have long tails!)

From personal experience, I can say the latter will relieve your frustration while the former will just leave you feeling embarrassed. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This year I am thankful for:

My family, both immediate and otherwise, my mom and her friends for flying halfway across the world to see me, my incredibly supportive friends from high school and my McAlister&Friends family who constantly remind me what amazing people I have been blessed with in my life, the amazing PCV community and people that inspire and support me and are just, my Batswana co-workers/counterparts (both the easy to work with and the not-so-easy-to-work-with… always learning), my Batswana counterparts who took me up on my offer to share the idea of thanksgiving with them, Peace Corps Volunteers willing to host 30 volunteers for holidays, both the bratty and the adorable children in my village, water, vegetables, and refrigeration; postcards, internet and it’s opportunities to communicate;  my country for giving me the opportunity to be in Botswana, and all of the opportunities, decisions, and luck, that led me to this spot right now. It’s been a crazy ride and I can’t wait to see what comes next. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Americans in Africa

My mama and friends came to visit, which meant I got to spend some quality time with them exploring Bots and the surrounding areas! 

We went on an AMAZING safari- we were told that it was some of the best game viewing he'd ever seen by someone living here. We saw tons of giraffes, hippos, crocs, hoofed creatures, zebra, lions, literally hundreds and hundreds of elephants, two leopards and a wild dog (only about 2000 left in the world!

This lovely lady leopard walked right up to our vehicle!

some of the hundreds of elephants we saw

lion post meal

We also shimmied over to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; the falls were beautiful but the bureaucracy in Zim was not so great.  

Then, we took a quick jaunt through the Caprivi strip in Namibia, stopping over to stay in some amazing tree houses and back down to my village. The ladies helped out in my clinic, with my PACT Club, learned about basket weaving, and spent a little time on the Okavango River.

It was a wonderful whirlwind of a time and so nice to show my mama and friends my life here. It's hard to explain all of the crazy details over facebook or a blog, so I'm happy that more people were able to see this wonderful, challenging, hot, beautiful place. 

A special thank you to everyone who sent stuff with my mom over here... as I told most of you already, I brought it back up to my village after sending my visitors off... it lead to a lot of laughing and crying at the same time. Most of all it made me feel so much love and support- KE A LEBOGA THATA THATA! You are all amazing. A special thank you as well to my mom, Lori, Kathy, and Karen for hauling all of that across the world and for coming all the way to see my life here. <3

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


What to do when the waters been off for four days, you’re out of clean clothes and really need to do laundry and you don’t have enough water left in storage to bath, let alone wash clothing, the electricity is flickering on and off, the guidance counselor your working with has decided to cancel PACT Club (again) without notice, and it’s over 40◦C (105F)….

Turn on an episode of How I Met Your Mother, cook something good to eat with a friend, and try again tomorrow, of course.

PS Happy Election Day! I managed to vote from Botswana, I hope you did too!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Namibia Vacation

Having just returned from an amazing vacation in Namibia, my top five:

5. Mma Tokalosi: She is the result of a “if it’s not a good time it’s a good story” moment. A khombi driver who was supposed to be our transport throughout our vacation was being a royal pain and screwing us out of money, so we decided to toss out that plan and hitchhike. This weird doll was sitting in the back of the khombi under a seat, so we decided she should come along with us for the remainder of the trip. The result was numerous entertaining photos with a creepy doll. I’m not sure if anyone else outside of the group there will think this is funny, but we all found it hilarious.

4. Hitchiking: As mentioned above, our transport was not as expected. Luckily, Namibia has a flourishing hitchhiking culture. I hitched over 1500 km throughout the trip, and never waited over half an hour for a ride. It was quite possibly the easiest time I have ever had getting around through hiking and we had some interesting rides.

3. The Atlantic Ocean: I saw the ocean for the first time in 8 or so months, so that was awesome. Cooler weather, salty air, and seafood (more on this later), what’s not to like?

2. Quad Biking in the Namib Desert: Swakopmund is a beach town famous for its food, adrenaline related activities, and sand dunes. We spent a day on quads out in the Namib Desert… so clearly this makes the top five. We also went sand boarding down the dunes that were much steeper than I was expecting, and proportionally fun.
1. Food & Drink: I think I ate my body weight in seafood, Mexican food, sushi, schnitzel, pizza, burgers, etc etc. I’m salivating just thinking about all of the delicious things I ate now that I’m back at site.  The first night in Namibia, we went to a restaurant that had game meat and beer from a microbrewery…. We were in heaven. I had a real beer and zebra, which was quite possibly the best meal I have ever had (although it is possible that my standards are a bit lower than normal). Regardless of where my standards fall, there was a whollllle lot of consuming. We joked that our goal was to come back from Namibia 10 lbs heavier and we gave it a good effort.

For all of the wonderful things that Namibia had to offer, I’m still really happy that I live in Botswana.  There were several ‘if it’s not a good time it’s a good story’ moments, most of which we did manage to make a good story out of it. There were a select few moments that were just infuriating and a good reminder that Namibia is younger than I am as a country and race is still a huge issue (Namibia was under South African rule until its independence in 1990). Suffice it to say, Namibia was a wonderful break from village life but I am really happy that I am living in Botswana.