They Call Me Kesa

Dumelang borra le bomma. O thlotse jang? Leina lame ke Kesaobaka. Sefane same ke Gosalamang mo Botswana. Kwa Amerika leina lame ke Joiwyn. Sefane same ke Lewis. Ke tswa kwa Washington State kwa Amerika. Ke gorogile mo Botswana ka di 3 tsa Phatwe. Ke moitaupi wa Peace Corps ke dira le tsa banana mo Botswana. Mo Molepolole ke ithuta Setswana le ngwao. Kwa Amerika ke ne ke le moithuti gape ke bereka ke le morutabana. Ke rata go bala le go robala. Ke a leboga!

Did you figure all of that out? Don’t worry, I won’t test you yet. Let me translate for you:
Hello gentlemen and ladies (don’t be surprised, men always come first). How did you spend your day? (the mid – late day version of how are you?) My name is Kesaobaka Gosalamang in Setswana (Kesaobaka means I praise him [for giving me another daughter]). In America, my name is Joiwyn Lewis. I am from Washington State in America. I arrived in Botswana on the 3rd of August. I’m a Peace Corps volunteer working with youth (banana) in Botswana. In Molepolole, I am learning Setswana and culture. In America, I was a student and a teacher. I like to read and sleep. Thank you!

Can you tell we’ve been working primarily on introductions? On the one hand, I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since I left home already and on the other hand, it feels like I’ve been here for so long. I absolutely love it here. The people are so welcoming, the other volunteers are amazing people that I am so happy to have in my life, I’ve changed so many bad habits already (I have been really good about my dietary restrictions, have had better hygiene, haven’t watched any movies or TV besides the religious TV and news my host mom watches, haven’t been spending countless hours on the internet, and have been sleeping better and actually waking up in the morning like a normal person), I’ve learned how to do laundry by hand (sort of), have been doing much better with Setswana than I expected, and have been the least anxious I’ve ever been in my life. I can’t believe how much stress I’ve let push me around in life. I’ve had this amazing sense of calm and contentedness this past week. I know I am in the honeymoon phase of Peace Corps and there will be more ups and downs to come, but I honestly am just so ready to take this journey. But enough about my crazy Peace Corps high, let me tell you a little about my life as a Peace Corps Trainee.

Since you formally heard from me last, I got matched with my host family and started official training. In the matching ceremony, they called out the trainees one by one and then called out their families. When I stood up in front of everyone waiting to hear who my host mom was, I really had no idea what to expect. When they called out her name, Solofaleng Gosalamang, she jumped up and started yelling in Setswana. She came running to me, grabbed me in a big hug, tried to pick me up a few times and continued yelling in Setswana. Then she presented me in front of everyone with a few more yells. Since then, she has done this in other groups, and I believe her shouts are mostly “this is my daughter, my daughter, my daughter, my baby”, but that is a very rough translation. After we sat down, she told me my new name, Kesaobaka, told me I had three older siblings and started asking me questions. I was quite overwhelmed because I am really used to being the loudest most affectionate person I know, and she trumped me, by a lot. When she took me home, I was a little worried at first because I felt like a complete outsider being treated as an insider, which essentially, I was. She took me in as one of her children and immediately started worrying that I wasn’t eating enough and I wasn’t liking it at her home. At first this was a little hard for me to handle because I pride myself on being pretty independent, but then I started to realize how much she cared and how to navigate the situation and now I really do feel at home. She’s an extremely sweet women. She is very religious, but also very liberal. We have had amazing talks about diversity, labeling, race, and how we are all just humans and should love each other both because and despite of our differences. She says her English is improving already from talking to me and my Setswana is perfect (which, thanks to her, the few phrases I know are, but there is still so much I don’t know). Our house is great in love, but small in space. It has two nice size bedrooms, a very small kitchen (It has a refrigerator, freezer, and stove!), a small bathroom (but it has a working bathtub and toilet! No hot running water, though), and a decent size living room. Her son, my brother, Laone, lives in a house about the same size 10 feet in front of us on our compound. There are about 10 neighborhood children who love to watch me and talk to me. They will yell at me through the kitchen window when I am helping to cook, swarm around me when I am walking home from training, and watch me when I am walking around our compound. I am working on remembering their names and love to talk to them. They love to greet me and then they will occasionally yell to me that they love me when I am around.

Everyone is so friendly here. I have a small walk home after my daily training sessions (we have language classes from 7:30-9:30 Mon-Fri and then other classes until 5 on those days and then more language classes from 8-12 on Saturdays). During my walk, I am always greeted by at least 5 people, honked at by passing cars, waved and yelled to by young children and usually stopped by at least 2 people to have actual conversations where they ask me how I am in Setswana and when I respond correctly they reply with an emphatic “You people know Setswana!” It is also common for people in the neighborhood (known as the ward or Kgotleng here) to know my name. My mother is very well known and is often parading me around. We went to meet the chief of our ward, known as the Kgosi, on Friday. We had to do a small introduction of ourselves. After I did mine, my mother got up and ran over to me saying how well I did and hugged me. All the other mothers stayed in their seats. After the meeting was over, she was yelling to everyone about “her Kesa” and having me speak Setswana to them all. There was even one woman who came up to me and said, “Kesa, do you want it?” holding out her baby girl. At first I was very confused, but she kept pushing her infant toward me. One of the current volunteers here told me that that happened occasionally, but was usually a joke. It didn’t really seem like a joke though.

Otherwise our days aren’t too eventful. We just go to training and then I come home and have dinner. Every three days or so, I take a bucket bath (it’s common here for people to take a bucket bath twice a day, but I used the drought as an excuse with my host mom to get away with twice a week instead of twice a day.) I typically go to bed around 7 and read until I fall asleep around 8. The only things that hinder my sleep are the loud bar about 50 feet away, the pack of dogs that wait to bark until it’s about 9 and then all bark in tandem, and the man who walks around with a megaphone giving the village information about meetings and other events occurring in Setswana. That doesn’t stop me from reading though. I’ve already finished 5 books and am almost finished with my 6th. I’ve also been working on a long letter to my mom (it’s at 13 pages right now). I promise I’ll start writing to everyone else soon (and by soon, it will probably be more around my lock down, I mean community integration period, when I get to my site in 9 weeks). I of course miss you all, and there are things happening that I wish I could be there to support everyone with, but I really am extremely happy here and so proud of myself for doing this. I want to thank you all for your unending support and love. It makes this adventure so much more rewarding, knowing that you all support me. Sala Sentle (Stay Well).