Well, I’ve officially been at site for nearly two weeks (probably two by the time you read this). It’s been an interesting beginning. With a village this small and underdeveloped, they’ve never really encountered a white person or an American before. So I’ve kind of become the village show pony. This week we had two major events: a Kgotla meeting with the Vice President of the country and a torch lighting ceremony for the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s Independence. Both of these events were opportunities for the village to dress me up, make me sing and dance, talk to me in lots of Setswana that I couldn’t understand, touch my tattoos, and make me sit right in the front of everything. Both events made me very uncomfortable, but I’m glad my village is trying to accept me as one of their own and hopefully my newness will wear off a bit and they won’t all be touching and grabbing me. Setswana is probably my biggest challenge though. I managed to test as intermediate high at the end of training, but that really didn’t prepare me for speaking it here. Everyone talks very quickly mixing all their words together making it impossible to differentiate them and when I ask them (in Setswana) to repeat what they said slowly, they just change what they’re asking to fit their limited English. So I don’t feel like I’m learning any and I don’t know how to respond to something I don’t understand. Since my village has an extremely low percentage of people who speak English, even the kids who are supposed to be learning it in school for up to 7 years already, I’m definitely going to need to keep working on my Setswana. They say it’s the easiest language to learn and I’ll be fluent in the next two months! We’ll see about that.
Otherwise I’m just in my community assessment, so my days aren’t very busy. Once my Setswana is better, I plan to visit every family’s home and interview every member of the village! I think that would be a great way to get the whole community involved and hear what everyone thinks of the village. Currently, I just go to the school every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I stay long enough to charge all of my electronics and chat with the teachers. When everyone else is busy, I study my Setswana, read, or work on my community assessment. On Wednesdays I go to the clinic to help with anything they need and chat with the nurses. They disperse their HIV medications on one of the last Wednesday’s of the month. In the evenings and weekends, I do my chores like washing the laundry, cooking, sweeping, bathing, etc… and I do lots of reading (I’ve read 4 books since getting here). Sometimes I’ll write some letters (I’m trying to make that a daily thing) or watch a movie, but I mostly read.
I also hosted my first visitors this past weekend. Mike and Marcy who are volunteers I shadowed with in a nearby village called Thamaga. They came over to help me hang my bug net, some picture, fix a couple door locks, move my gas cylinder outside, and help with some other household mends. My house feels so much more like home now! I was very happy to have some friends over who are so amazing and kind to help me! The next step for the house is to have my landlord and a roof guy come fix the roof so that when the wind comes, it doesn’t blow off (right now it lifts about 4 inches with big gusts of wind).
Overall, I’m settling in very well and I’m extremely excited to start my projects! I really feel like this is the perfect village for me and I can’t wait to see how these two years go! What an adventure I’m on!