Tag Archives: Africa

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I hope you all laughed at that because it looks nothing like Christmas here. Although, in Letlhakeng where I was for the weekend they have a really bright white road and rocks and if you just squint right, it looks like snow. Then you also have to find a way to reconcile why it’s 95 degrees and it looks like there’s snow on the ground, but the world isn’t perfect, so you just have to do your best.

The weather is one of the biggest factors for why it doesn’t feel like the holiday season. It’s too hot, dry, and sunny for me to feel like drinking hot cocoa and preparing for a turkey slaughter. Obviously, those aren’t going to be part of my holidays for these two years, but they’re just a few of the things I took for granted back in America.

The holidays come with a lot of homesickness and that’s OK. They should, it means I have something at home worth missing and that is the most beautiful thing that I will never take for granted again. I want to acknowledge my homesickness, because as John Green so eloquently wrote, “pain demands to be felt”, but I also want to acknowledge that my homesickness is just one small part of my experience and I have so much to be grateful for here. I had a whole post written about my cynicism, annoyances, and homesickness, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to write this one about what I’m grateful for instead. That doesn’t mean I won’t be posting a cynical one in the future, but you all get a small reprieve from my negativity for now 😊

So here are the many things I am grateful for this year:

My family. Both blood and built. I’m grateful for all of you and wouldn’t be where I am without you. I especially want to thank my mom and brother and two best friends Melanie and Bethany for all of the support they’ve given me through this adventure. My whole Peace Corps family is amazing and Thanksgiving was a little more bearable after we made an amazing Thanksgiving feast complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, peach crisp, and much more.

I’m thankful for hot showers and bath tubs. I don’t have either in my house, so when I’m off to a training or visiting a volunteer with more amenities, I am sure to be in the shower/bath at least once a day.

I’m grateful that my school has electricity and I’m able to charge things there. I really only miss having my own electricity occasionally. I’ve grown very used to it already.

I’m grateful for my health and that I am able to just keep getting healthier. I’ve lost 50 pounds since getting here and can already feel the small changes that makes. I still have a ways to go to be to the physical fitness and health I want to be at, but I’m grateful that I’m able to make healthy and positive changes.

I’m grateful for my literacy. I can’t imagine not being able to read. Which brings me to my gratefulness of books. Books can bring you into such an alternate universe, and make you feel an amazing array of emotions. I’ve read 40 books since getting here and it has truly helped with my homesickness.

I’m grateful for the people in my village who really want me there and are making positive changes already. Even though it seems my supervisor is not at the same level of distaste for corporal punishment, my counterpart may be able to still help me abolish it. When I first met with my counterpart, he didn’t think we would be able to eliminate corporal punishment, or that any of the teachers were at fault for the poor results of the school. It’s very common here to blame the students, saying that they aren’t trying to learn, so how can the teachers teach them. Since that meeting though, he has brought up eliminating corporal punishment in a staff meeting with no provocation from me and told the teachers during a test results discussion that they must be doing something wrong and they all need to reevaluate their teaching strategies. These two small changes are huge here! I’m so happy that after only 2 months of knowing my counterpart, I’ve been able to plant little seeds of change.

I’m grateful for a roof over my head, and water to keep me hydrated. That’s more than a lot of people have and I am extremely lucky to have both.

I’m thankful for my resilience, openness to change, and drive. I know my drive can seem extreme and overwhelming at times, but it has helped me accomplish so much in my life. I am extremely happy to always be motivated for positive change.

I am grateful for the earth and how much shit it puts up with from us humans. I only hope I can help to protect it as much as possible in my short life.

I’m grateful for the insanity of time. Even when I think time is going to move so slowly and I’m going to be somewhere forever, I look at the date and realize I’ve been here 4 months. Time here is very different than at home because life here is so different, but I love that it’s been 4 months and that I still have 23 left.

I’m thankful for a lot of small things that makes America my home and I can’t wait to be home, but I’m also so grateful for this experience. It was definitely not the Thanksgiving I’m used to, but homesickness or not, I’m really happy here. I love that I’m doing something so out of the box and even if it’s not everything I thought it would be, it’s life changing.

The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with the new cohort of GYD (Global Youth Development) students tonight (yay technology!). They asked some great questions about how the program prepared me for my service, what I’m doing during community integration, gender roles here and how they’ve effected me, projects I’m thinking of doing, how to teach about HIV/AIDS when I’m not allowed to teach preventive sex ed, etc. With each answer I gave, I felt like I was becoming more and more of a Donald Downer (I’m trying to break some gender stereotypes here humans, bare with me).

But this is the truth about Peace Corps, if you’re going to be an effective volunteer who can handle this type of work, you have to know what you’re getting into. Peace Corps is not all rainbows and unicorns; everyday we face new challenges. Those challenges can be worries that we’re doing something wrong, not knowing how to handle the corporal punishment we’re hearing in the next room, not having running water or access to water, getting tired of constantly being a show pony or being free game to be touched and poked and prodded by every person in your community, working in a corrupt system, being far away from your support system, dealing with loss and grief, etc… (All but one of these already applies to me. I’m happy to say I haven’t witnessed corruption). Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of rewards as well, but in the end, the challenges are what make or break your service. You can have countless amazing things, but one major challenge that you aren’t prepared for can break you.

This environment is no joke; emotions are always more extreme than you expect here. Learning one new Setswana phrase can make me happy for days and thinking about how much I wish I could be watching the new season of Grey’s Anatomy can make me cry. That’s a small exaggeration, but barely. Anyway, the point is, where is the line between realism and Donald Downerism?

I think it’s important to share every aspect of Peace Corps. And everything I said was true, it may have been a harsh reality, but reality’s a necessary bitch, isn’t he? And if you’re really considering Peace Corps, it shouldn’t surprise you much. Even the Peace Corps themselves used the slogan, “It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love”. One of the stories I remember the most from an RPCV who served in Tanzania, was a gruesome story of corporal punishment and lack of power over those situations as a PCV. Yes, it was hard to understand how people could do that to children, but in the end, that story increased my resolve to become a volunteer because I knew what I was getting into.

If you’re a little squeamish and don’t like peeing in a bucket and dumping it out your window (it beats the alternative of going out to your pit latrine in the dark and being eaten by a giant cockroach or having one crawl up your bum, seriously), don’t think you could sleep through plaster dust falling all over you because it’s a windy night, don’t think you could sit back and just listen while your counterpart gives a presentation on learning challenges with completely false information, or sit in the next room while you hear the standard 1 teacher hitting kids who are sobbing, this job may not be for you and I totally respect that! I personally would be a terrible plumber or massage therapist, but there are great people out there for those jobs. So it’s OK that I’m not trying to do those jobs. It’s just extremely important when you’re going to make a commitment like this to see it from all sides. It’s a multifaceted world we live in, don’t treat it like it’s two dimensional. So, anyway, I’m kind of glad I was a bit of a Negative Nate. My sugar tooth is waning here anyway, so all that sugar coating just doesn’t sit well on my tongue anymore.

Boredom Has Struck

This post was written on November 1st

I knew it was just a matter of time before my newfound relaxation was going to turn into boredom, but I was hoping I’d be able to stave it off for a bit. Unfortunately, it’s here. Yesterday was Halloween and it felt very strange for me to not be celebrating. So instead, I spent the day contemplating what I could be doing in various places in my house. Laying in bed, “maybe I should just keep reading”. Laying on the floor after doing sit-ups, “maybe I could watch a movie”. Sitting on the couch after my computer died in the middle of the first episode of ER, “maybe I should cook something, I’ve been meaning to try to make kettle corn”. Standing in my kitchen after deciding to not make kettle corn and instead eat a cookie, “I guess I could write some letters”. And so on and so forth. It got to the point where I couldn’t wait until it was dark and I could go to bed without feeling bad about myself.

Part of it is the heat, when it 99°F outside and my plaster house retains the heat so it’s really like 105°F inside, it’s hard to want to do anything. It’s also that this is more free time than I’ve ever had. When I was a kid, I was always at work with my mom and busy. When I started college, I was taking 20 credits and working four jobs. When I was in grad school, I was taking more than a full time load and working. I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m alone with this much time. There isn’t anywhere in the community I could go either unless I want to be ridiculed for my lack of Setswana at some random persons house because all the people I know are gone on the weekends.

When I’m bored in the states, I eat. I’m trying really hard not to do that here because it’s really not healthy and I don’t want to lose my momentum of losing weight (I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds). I tried filling my time with extra exercise, but there are only so many squats I can do when my legs are already tired from trudging through loose sand all week. I’ve been reading a lot (5.5 books this week alone), but that’s a lot of new information for my mind to assimilate, so I can’t fill all my time with that. I can watch about 2 movies before my computer battery dies, so that doesn’t get too far. And then once it’s dead, I can’t easily work on my community assessment or writing. I’ve been writing Christmas cards, but I get terrible cramps from my shoulder down through my wrist if I do that too long as well. I can write these blog posts, communicate with friends, and play solitaire on my phone, but my phone battery only lasts so long as well. So now I spend a fair amount of time chasing flies around my room trying to kill them and I’ve taken to learning all the solitaire games in the According to Hoyle book. It’s keeping me occupied for now. Maybe I just need to get a little more creative with how I occupy my time. Hey, I’ve got 2 years to figure it out, right?

It’s a Village Life for Me

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!

Outside of building

Oh, that’s a scorpion

Well, it’s been a week since I swore in, packed up all my belongings, and headed to Ralekgetho. Of course it was my luck to start getting a stomach bug during the move and keep it for the whole weekend. That didn’t stop me from getting settled though! My house is called a two and a half because it’s two and a half rooms. On the left is my bedroom, it’s the newest room to the house and the plaster keeps shifting and crumbling off. It’s really fun when it’s one a.m. and I notice that’s happening because it falls on my face 😉. The middle is my small kitchen, and the right is my sitting room. I’m lucky to have a new house and the freedom to make changes. They’re also very helpful when I notice things that need fixing. My roof had some holes in the tin sheeting where my room would have flooded if the rain came, but they’ve already patched those up. When the wind really hits the roof it likes to lift up 2x4s and all about 4 inches. So hopefully my roof doesn’t blow off. But otherwise it’s very nice. I’m allowed to paint, so I’ll be doing that soon and as my landlord gets money he’s going to make improvements. I may even have electricity by February!

My furniture is very nice. I have a couch, desk, chair, bed, wardrobe, kitchen cabinet unit, and stove! When I get electricity, I will also be getting a fridge. I can’t quite decorate yet because the walls get too hot. Sticky tack, and tape both melt with the heat of the walls and they’re plaster so I can’t put in small thumb tacks or anything like that. I’m going to enlist some friends to help me drill into my walls soon though, so that should help. My landlord essentially said I can make any changes I want as long as they look nice enough to keep for the next volunteer when I leave.

I don’t really have a lot of bugs because it’s so dry here. So I have the occasional fly, some worse than others. Otherwise, I just have some ants, the occasional chicken, and today I found a tiny scorpion in my kitchen. So I guess I’ll have to watch out for those.

So that’s a little taste of my home in Botswana!

I’ve Metamorphosed! (But I really think the word should be metamorphisized)

One minute, we’re a group of 74 trainees and the next we’re 74 volunteers! Swear in was a blast! Most of us wore our pretty new traditional dresses or shirts in the case of men (I really thought they should have worn the dresses as well, but none of them went for it.) We took tons of pictures together before the ceremony. Then we sat through long introductions and thank you speeches to the staff and host families. Next came the fun part! We all stood, raised our right hands, and said the same oath that the U.S. president and every other official government worker has to say. We also recited the first ever peace corps pledge for Botswana that our country directer and other staff prepared for us. At the end of the pledge, we were instructed to say “I am a Peace Corps Volunteer” and some of us started to tear up (I didn’t, because I’m clearly more bad-ass than that, but I did give a little squeal, a very bad-ass squeal). Then we sat through some more long and slightly boring speeches. And finally we shook hands with all the officials including the U.S. Ambassador and our country director and we finally received our official volunteer pins! We did it! We’re official volunteers! And for life! When I return, I’ll always be a returned (not retired or ex) peace corps volunteer. Here’s to volunteer life!

Joiwyn in Peace Corps Shirt

The 5 things that had nothing to do with why I joined the Peace Corps, and the 5 that maybe did

This post was written on October 13th.

It’s half past seven on a hot Tuesday evening. I’m laying in bed in a wet t-shirt, drinking ice water, and listening to the occasional Christmas song as my phone shuffles through my music. I’ve just finished packing all of my possessions in preparation to move to my site on Thursday. Today was our last day of training and tomorrow we swear in as official Peace Corps volunteers. We did it, we made it through training. Now we get thrown into the ocean to see if we’ve learned how to swim from the countless lectures we’ve gotten on how to doggy paddle. I think this is a perfect time to think about why I joined the Peace Corps, but first, let’s talk about what didn’t contribute to the decision.

I’m constantly asked why I joined the Peace Corps, even from other volunteers. I have yet to really figure out my answer, but I can tell you what didn’t lead me here and maybe a little of what did.

  1. I did not join because I thought that I was going to be an invaluable help to a whole community. Yes, I do think I can help with some things, but not really any more than a local could. The only difference between me and a local is that I was raised in a different culture. Just because my culture does some things differently and perhaps better (although absolutely not in every case), does not mean that my presence is going to change that much here. The main point is that I am not so full of myself that I can say I am really going to be able to help that much. I can try and I want to, but I am by no means an expert or that special. I have a lot to offer, but so does the next person. All I can hope is that my presence touches some people in a way that makes them empowered to help themselves and their community.
  2. I didn’t think that Peace Corps was a great way to get sent to another country and just drink and travel all the time on the governments dime. Some people do, it’s not as uncommon as you’d think. There are volunteers who barely show up to work, play the system to get out of things, and just spend two years breaking rules and being a bad image for who Americans are. These volunteers are not only wasting Peace Corps training hours and money, they’re also making it harder for future volunteers in their village.
  3. I didn’t join because I thought America was the best place on earth and I wanted to make sure other countries knew how awesome we are. In fact, I was really unhappy with a lot of what happens in America. I was tired of the ways we did things and hoping to learn more about ways to improve America. Surprisingly, in the short two months I’ve been here, I’ve started to realize that America is not as bad as I thought it was in many regards. We have a long way to go, but not quite as long as I thought.
  4. It wasn’t my intention to use Peace Corps to boost up my resume. My resume is already pretty impressive for a 21 year old and I honestly heard before I left that Peace Corps can hurt your resume. I don’t know how you can make this choice to sacrifice your American life for two years just to build up a resume. We don’t get paid enough for that.
  5. Lastly, I know I didn’t join the Peace Corps because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve known since I was 16 the basic idea for my career and it hasn’t changed that much. I thought my plans would stay pretty solid throughout my Peace Corps service, but was open to them changing if that’s where Peace Corps took me. And maybe they have, I’m starting to think of international work focusing on reducing the stigma associated with mental health now. But I didn’t join the Peace Corps because I felt lost.

The following are some possible contributing reasons for this choice:

  1. I want to grow as a person. I want to become healthier mentally and physically. I want to learn things I don’t know. I want to experience things I can’t experience in America. And most of all, I want to learn how to be a better person and how to control my insecurities and issues that haunt me from my past. I wanted to get away from my norms, and the controlling grip, expectations, and pressures of people in my life and American society as a whole, to help me accomplish these goals on my own.
  2. I wanted to learn about another culture and in the process, learn more about my own. America really is the melting pot and different parts of America have really different values and ideals. I’m learning about Botswana culture, but I’m also learning from my fellow trainees (nearly all volunteers) about other parts of America.
  3. I wanted to expand my experience by working with other cultures on issues such as mental health and education. As America has so many different cultures and populations, I think it’s extremely important to be open to these other cultures and be culturally sensitive when working with hot button issues like culture.
  4. I wanted to get away from America so that I could see what I take for granted and learn how to live more simply. We are so inundated with these contraptions, technologies, and material things in America. I wanted to know what it was like to live without those things.
  5. I wanted to take a break from school that was meaningful and productive. I didn’t want to just work a meaningless job that didn’t give me any fulfillment. I wanted to do something that was important and made some sort of impact. Even if it is small.

So really, I’m selfish in many ways. I didn’t make this choice with no benefit to myself. I came here to learn from the experience and hopefully someone else can learn from me. I’m not brave, I don’t think it’s brave to leave my privileged home to learn how to live less spoiled. The only difference between me and the locals in that sense is that I have been exposed to privilege where they’ve never had the opportunity. I just can’t imagine living in a world and not knowing how others who are less privileged live. How selfish would that make me? We live in a bubble. The only place that matters is the space around us, but there are people suffering all over the world. Botswana is not the poorest, or least privileged country, but they definitely have their challenges. And yet the Batswana are so happy, friendly, and welcoming. You may come over when they’re eating their last piece of bread, but they will break that bread in half to share it with you. We take for granted all the spoils and material things in America, but why do we really need all that stuff? Does it make our lives more meaningful to live lavish life styles when other humans are suffering? We don’t just live in America (I definitely don’t live in America right now), we live on Earth, together. One world, one species and that’s what matters. Our sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, religion, physical and mental ability, location, etc… none of that matters. All that matters is that we work together to make the world a better place for everyone. That’s really why I joined the Peace Corps.

Joiwyn in Peace Corps Shirt
Joiwyn

It’s Getting Hot In Here, So Wet Down All Your Clothes

Well, we’re officially in spring. I wish it were like the beautiful Washington spring, but instead it’s days of 100 degree weather with no air conditioning or cooling systems. I only just discovered that my home stay has ice cubes, but I can’t get used to that because I most likely won’t have a fridge/freezer in my site. It’s also culturally inappropriate to wear clothes that reveal your knees (specifically your knee pits) and your shoulders and armpits. So I have sweat more this month than I think I have sweat in the rest of my life combined. I’ve started taking cold baths nightly and soaking my t-shirt to get some coolness from that. This is mostly why I decided to cut my hair.

I was trying to grow it out because I thought I would like to pull it back in a ponytail. That way I could go upwards of 6 days without washing it and it would be out of my face. That was a good plan until my sweat was making it so that I had to wash it more often, and I realized I don’t like just pulling my hair back everyday. So I asked Bethany and Evan to buzz my hair (Brenna came along to give support and suggestions). There was a little confusion on what I wanted at first and with how much hair I have, it took over two hours to get the first cut. So we stopped a little earlier than I wanted and decided we’d go back to it. Bethany cut a little more off the top a few days later. And about a week after that we went back at it with the buzzer. Evan didn’t feel comfortable cutting more off, so I enlisted Brad. He went at it happily and then Fatima joined in because she thought it looked fun. Finally we got it to a nice short length that I can not worry about for my lockdown period until In-Service Training in January where my friends will help me out again.

We’ll have to see how hot it still is in January. It will most likely be pretty terrible still as that is the end of summer/beginning of fall. It supposedly starts cooling down for winter around April. I’m not used to this weather, but I am adjusting slightly. We’ll see how it goes.

Three friends in front of peace corps sign

I get by with a little help from my friends

Well, I’m coming to the end of training and am about to go into my cultural immersion phase. The current and previous volunteers refer to cultural immersion as lockdown because you’re not allowed to really leave your village for more than just one day grocery shopping trips. So as I head into lockdown and all of my fellow PCVs and I go off to our respective villages, I think it’s a perfect time to reflect on the friendships I’ve made here.

There were 78 of us when we started and have since become 74. I have made many great friends who have helped me rejoice in my triumphs and supported me in periods of grief, homesickness, and frustration. My five best friends here even helped me chop off all of my hair; thanks Bethany, Evan, Brenna, Fatima, and Brad! There are a few who stand out, but I cherish them all. Training has been an extremely frustrating process because there has been a large lack of communication throughout the entire system and that has lead to a lot of chaos and disorganization. So it’s been extremely helpful to have friends and peers to commiserate with.

You’re most likely going to hear me talk about Bethany a lot. So I might as well give you an idea of our friendship. You’ve probably already seen posts and pictures of the two of us, may have heard me mention her in blogs, and if you’ve talked to me recently, you’ve probably heard me at least mention her. I would definitely say she is my best friend here. We of course get tired of each other occasionally and need a day or two without each other, but otherwise we are pretty much always seen together. People refer to us as soulmates, peace corps spouses, and besties. If we’re seen alone, we’re constantly asked where the other is. I’ve even had people tell me they didn’t want to do something with me that would make Bethany jealous because they’re scared of her. There was a joke going around that she and I were the only couple who got placed in villages near each other because all the other PST couples have been separated across the country (she and I are only about an hour and a half away from each other). She has been the most help while I was processing my grief and processing the changes I would need to make for my village, and she has been a huge supporter for me while I’ve been losing weight and trying to battle with some old scars that have come up with the emotional strain of this experience. I am really lucky to have her and we already have it planned that after lockdown, I’ll be spending a weekend a month with her. Today she made a joke that she bought us ice cube trays because I’ll be over so often. I know that she’ll keep me in check and I’m really lucky that our last names are the same, so we were assigned seats together on the 15 hour flight and a room together during orientation. Otherwise, I’m not sure we would have approached each other.

I could talk about my friends all night long, but I’ll save that for conversations we can have personally. I’m lucky to have so many people to reach out to here because it is a very stressful and emotional time. You never really realize how many emotions can bubble to the surface at a whim until you’re in a completely new and challenging environment. It makes the love and support I get here even more important. It also makes the love and support from you all more important as well. I love and miss you all, but overall, I’m having the time of my life here 🙂

Blogging

So, I’ve gotten a few concerned messages this week because the last two blog posts that went up were not on the happier side. I really appreciate the support, but I also want to make sure everyone knows why and how I’m using this blog. I also want everyone to know that while your support is always welcome, I will ask if I need help and I have asked when I needed outside support.

My blog holds many purposes. Mainly, it’s a place for me to document my Peace Corps experience. It’s also extremely cathartic and helpful for me in the processing of all of my new experiences. Especially since I can’t really talk to a Motswana about these experiences and the other volunteers are also going through stressful and challenging times. So this is a way for me to vent some frustrations, rejoice in triumphs, and voice my experiences. It serves as a place I can keep you all apprised on my life here, and makes it easier for me to keep in contact with you all because you have an idea of what’s been happening here. Ideally, you’ll be keeping up on this and won’t ask me questions like, “So how was Africa?” There is no way I’ll be able to sum up my two years to give you the succinct answer you’re really looking for with that question. So this way, you already have some of my stories and experiences and we can build our conversations from that.

When I write the posts it is usually about a week before they go up. This is because I send them to my brother, he reads through them to make sure I haven’t said anything terribly stupid and check my grammar since I’m already forgetting English, and then posts them. This can take a while because he already had a lot on his plate before I asked him to essentially become my life manager. My blog is not always top priority, which is extremely understandable. I also on occasion get hit by a giant fit of inspiration and write 5 blog posts at once. That’s what happened with this last batch and he didn’t have an order to go on, so two that were not the most uplifting ended up back to back. I promise you, I am not terribly depressed or upset. I’ve just got a lot to think about and am trying to fully process everything as it comes.

I love being able to share this experience with you all and I love your feedback, but I want to make sure you know that I will reach out if I need encouragement or support. I am not trying to look happier than I am and I’m not trying to complain about any experiences. I am just trying to be authentic with everything going on and share true experiences. I don’t feel the need to always have one emotion and I hope that I don’t worry you too much by expressing the whole range. I love you all and am so lucky to have people who care so much about me.