Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Girls and Guys Leading Our World

Last weekend, the first of four GLOW mini camps occurred, which meant an incredibly fun and utterly exhausting weekend working with 30 primary school students. Teenage pregnancy rates are through the roof in our district, so we focused the two days around activities that empower youth (especially girls) to live happy and healthy lives. We did sessions on goal setting, decision making, alcohol abuse, implications of teenage pregnancy and games. Lots and lots of games. There’s was lots of fun all around, and I’m really looking forward to doing the next one in the Etshas in two weeks, hopefully with a few of the kinks worked out in the planning and execution stages.

It was also an exciting weekend for the women of Voices of the Community, an anti gender based violence group Jeff, Aimee and I have been working with for the past few months. They were a new group, in the very early stages when we all arrived at site; Jeff has helped through the numerous steps of registering as a Society in Botswana and general day to day capacity while Aimee and I have been training them on subjects from gender vs sex basics to facilitation skills. This GLOW workshop was they’re first time presenting sessions, and they rocked it! It was incredible to see them interacting with the kids in such a fun, animated way. When we first started out, they couldn't say anything related to genitalia without giggling, and in last weekend’s sessions they were acting out parts the female reproductive system and talking to the kids about healthy relationships. Things can be so difficult here; but man oh man, when something really goes right… it’s a pretty incredible feeling. 

One of the Voices ladies, Mma Day, talking to the kids

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facing the Post Vacation Blues

To be fair, it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be. I was greatly aided by the pushing up of two workshops to the week I returned, keeping me busy. But, eishe, over the last couple of days in Cape Town I was dreading going back to site in a very strange flurry of being incredibly happy and sad at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong; I really do love my village. It’s adorable, I feel like a part of the community, and I am doing a fair amount of good work. I recognize how lucky I am to have all of these things in a Peace Corps experience. But the thing is, it was so easy to be happy in Cape Town. Here, you have to work at it. You have to find joy in small things- and even though there are lots of small things to find joy in it still requires a conscious effort. Getting onto my usual bus in Maun and the bus conductor greeting you by name and a mosadi magolo excitedly greeting you in Thimukushu can make your day (and it did for me on the return trip). It really is wonderful feeling like I am a part of this community.

I recognize that happiness coming easy, all of the time, isn’t true for anywhere. And that any vacation isn’t like day to day life, obviously it is going to be easier to be happy. But what I realized I was missing so acutely was much broader than what I realized day to day: the lifestyle. I miss being able to go to dinner with friends, and then go home. I miss any type of food whenever I want it. I miss hot showers. I miss drinking craft beer while listening to live music. And while these things are replaced with coloring with my neighborhood kids or boating on the delta, spending time in Cape Town, with all of these things easily in reach, evoked a feeling of homesickness that I hadn’t yet experienced.

Moreover, the trip was a wakeup call for parts of me that have been lost in the shuffle of this experience; parts that I really don’t want to lose. Somehow, I have become complacent here…. I’ve become okay with spending hours of a weekend at site watching too many episodes of something, or expecting and accepting mediocre work from not just others but myself. I think, well, I knew I would have to lower my expectations about how projects turn out; plus, I am happier than many other volunteers because at least I’m doing something… but really, I know my counterparts and I could have done better. And that’s just not how it’s going to be anymore.  

Cape Town also pointed out through some of my interactions with perfectly kind people that I have become far too skeptical and now assume the worst from others. I’ve always been a “people are inherently good’ type of person, but I’ve fallen prey to a common PCV shortfall of cynicism. So what if there are some less-than-stellar people out there who continue to call me lekgoa and ask for money for cigarettes every time I see them? For every one person that drives me up the wall, I have met four who have gone out of their way to help me or happily try to get past my poor Setswana and befriend me. I’ve met far too many jaded volunteers, and that is just a category I refuse to fall into.

So, since returning, I have been make an effort to makes some changes and avoid the post vacation blues. It hasn’t been perfect; I will admit to a day of watching far too much tv and as well as some planning and delivery in the workshops that I certainly didn’t give 100%.  But, I have been much more patient with the kids (and adults) in my neighborhood asking for things, have a better attitude about people in general, and spoke up to various counterparts about not just letting an event simply happen but rather preparing far enough in advance. Transitioning into 2013 seems like a perfect opportunity to make, and keep, these much needed New Year’s resolutions; well that, and exercising more J

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cape Town, My New Happy Place

Man oh man, I do not know where to even start! I want to use every positive adjective in my vocabulary.

I suppose I should put in a brief word in on the twists and turns it took to get there. Originally, we had purchased plane tickets, but discovered a few weeks before that the company went under and no, the new company's flights would not be up and running by the holiday season like the website had proclaimed to hope. Thus we spent countless hours utilizing every bit of our resourceful PCV man power to sort out this vacation. We joked that we would have given up, but we felt our desire for sushi, nightlife, and the ocean might kill us if we didn't get after so much anticipation. 

Oh boy were we unaware of how many more amazing, awesome, astonishing (and those are just the a's) aspects of Cape Town that were to come. Now that's not to say the Mother City didn't present us with some challenges; from police corruption to a frightening mugging, she gave us her fair share of unfortunate incidents. It didn't matter; this was still one of the best trips I have ever taken and quite possibly my favorite city I've ever visited.

I mean, what kind of place has two oceans, vineyards, and a mountain within half an hour? Oh, and craft beer, tons of fun neighborhoods, excellent customer service, super friendly and helpful residents, food from all over the world, artisan markets, nightlife that rages until dawn but you can wear flipflops out and fit in, and people are just so laid back and cool? What is this magical place?! Feeling like my heart was about 10 feet above my chest I'm so happy should have come as no surprise. 

I realize that I am coming from a bit of an unusual place; after living in the bush for 9 months, any city might look spectacular to me after a real shower has rinsed the dust off my face. But no matter the place I'm coming from, this was still an incredible trip that will stand as a highlight of my two years on this continent (and I do think that Cape Town really is this awesome).

Enjoying a little theater

Sampling some tasty craft beer and food at the Old Biscuit Mill Market

Mexican Food, nom
Indian Ocean!

Kind of a big deal. 

Thoroughly enjoying ourselves while wine tasting

Having a perfect last day atop Table Mountain
Sunset towards Cape Point, from Table Mountain