Tag Archives: Travel

What am I doing with my life?

This is one of a few posts written while I could not sleep one night during my site visit a few weeks ago.

Today I took a 5 hour nap in the middle of the day, so naturally it’s 1 am and I can’t get my mind to shut down. So here are a few ramblings of the future. But first let me take you to a glimpse of the past:

I’ve known that I’ve had a passion for psychology since I really dug into college when I was 16 and since then have been exploring different paths I thought I might want to pursue with psychology. The latest of which was to go back to school when I returned from Peace Corps to get my masters and licensure and then hopefully my doctorate in social work. I’ve been thinking that I want to start my own child therapy practice with an emphasis in trauma and that plan hasn’t really changed, but tonight I lay awake for hours wondering if that was really the best plan for me and if I would really be good at that. I think a major part of why that came up for me is because I’ve been thinking hard about whether I will want to extend in the Peace Corps.

I know at this point you’re probably thinking, what the hell is wrong with this girl, doesn’t she know how to be present and let life just unfold. The truth is, no, I don’t really know how to do that. I’ve always had pride in my motivation, drive, and preparedness and that comes from always thinking about the future. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely live in the present and enjoy the experiences I have, but when my brain just has time to free flow, it goes to the future and that has helped me to accomplish everything I have in my short 21 years. So yes, I’m having this amazing experience in Africa and still thinking of the future.

So originally, before I even got accepted into the Peace Corps, I was already thinking of extending my service. All the RPCVs I had met who had had the best services had extended, you get extra money in the end, and I thought that once I came home, I would want to settle down and build a life in one spot and that wouldn’t leave time to do something like this again. What I’ve realized is that you don’t actually need two whole years to get a good appreciation of a culture (although, I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the time to come and all of the views of this post may change). I already have learned far more about Botswana in these 2 months than I would have imagined. So maybe settling down with a career and a house, and traveling and working abroad aren’t mutually exclusive. Once I realized that I could have more experiences like this after I’ve established my career, the need to extend fell away. I realized that I don’t need to prove anything by being away from home for more than 2 years (that’s already a hell of a long time). So maybe I don’t need to extend, but then this changed my thinking of what I would be doing when I got home.

So anyway, I had lots of doubts and questions about what I was doing with my life and after about 4 hours of hard thinking about it and consulting with the people who know me best, I decided to stop thinking about it with the realization that nothing has really changed and who knows what the future will bring. I just need to maintain my way of planning and then changing the plans with life. I’m sure I’m bound to go back to this question many times in my service and maybe it will change, or maybe the plan I’ve been hashing since I was 16 will persevere through all of life’s many changes.

Bandaged Hand

Shit, I Stabbed Myself

So, as most of you know, I went and stabbed myself while I was on my site visit. I was being pretty stupid and in a hurry while trying to get some raw meat apart and jammed a kitchen knife into my palm under my left thumb. Luckily, it was just about a centimeter deep and a little over that long, so it just needed one stitch. My brother became very overprotective and angry when I informed him, but both my parents just said ouch, don’t let it get infected and I haven’t, but it does bring to mind the topic of health care here.

In Botswana, health care is all free. I just went straight to my health post and said stitch me up and she did and then I got sent home with free pain killers and antibiotics. I’ve also been going in each day to get the wound redressed. It’s definitely not the crazy sterile environment we have in the U.S., but it’s also not a breeding pool for infection and sickness.

There are of course still precautions I should take and try to, but they’re mostly precautions I should also take in the states. I’m below the malaria line, so I don’t have to worry about malaria medication here. The water is not always safe to drink though. My village water source seems to be OK, but it’s always better to filter or boil water before drinking it. I don’t have dental services or regular checkups here, so I need to make sure that I keep myself as healthy and hygienic as I can. Otherwise, it’s mostly things I should be watching for in the states, don’t come into contact with foreign blood on an open wound, don’t sit with someone coughing right in your face, don’t eat raw meat or food that’s been sitting out too long, etc.

If I end up with a more serious medical issue, Peace Corps will handle it. Either by taking me to a bigger city such as Gabs or Joburg for treatment or med-evacing me home. So as long as I’m taking preventative health care measures, I should be grand!

Women Sitting

Toto, We’re not in Kansas Anymore

This post was written on Sept 10th. It was posted out of order with the last one “Adjustment” for timing reasons.

So I obviously knew when I decided to move to Botswana that I was leaving what I knew behind and I’m totally OK with that. These are just a few of the differences that I’ve really noticed here in Botswana that I think are interesting to share:

  • The cultural expectation here is that you greet everyone you see and every time you see them. So everyone on the street greets you. Unless you decide to look like a really unfriendly American, but I don’t suggest that. It’s also really common for people to know my name and for little children to run after me. So these are definitely a few things that you don’t expect in America. When I would walk down the street in America, I would usually either give a friendly smile and head nod or pretend that my eyes have forgotten how to raise high enough for eye contact. Here it is considered rude to not greet everyone you see.
  • Fat is good. I repeat, being fat is considered good! It’s seen as a sign of status. If you’re fat, you must have enough money to feed yourself well. Of course, Western views are influencing the culture, so some of the younger folks think that fat is bad. However, I’ve had more strangers here call me beautiful and fat in a good way in the past month than I had in the 21 years of living in the states.
  • On that same note, since I am fat, I am supposed to eat like my brothers (AKA way too much). I’m not really down for that for multiple reasons. Honestly, I didn’t eat that much in one sitting even when I was eating food that was not as carb heavy and strange to my system. Here, every meal is at least half rice or phaltshe and there are generally also potatoes or some other grain or carb. I get full after like five bites. It’s also way hotter for me here, so that makes me eat less. Also, I’m still trying to lose weight, so I don’t want to eat that much. Unfortunately, eating less is seen as bad here. Either you don’t like the cooking, or you are feel depressed. So that’s why there was a little bit of a miscommunication with my host mom and I at the beginning of my stay.
  • Religion. I am a firm believer in owning your identity and not letting others oppress you, or even worse oppress yourself to fit into what others want you to be. So I didn’t hold my beliefs back when my host mom asked. With her, it was OK because she thinks of me as her child and believes she has to accept me no matter what, but there are a few people that it causes tension with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not yelling from the rooftops “Hey Christians, I don’t believe in God”, but if I’m directly asked if I believe in God, I don’t like lying. I should be able to celebrate my own faith and that shouldn’t really be anyone else’s business. My host mom is very religious, so I went to church with her one Sunday. They had someone sit with me and translate because my mother is in the choir, so I was sitting alone. The woman translating for me kept asking if I knew the various stories and when I would reply that I didn’t she looked shocked each time. Then, at the end of the service, I was cornered by a gentleman who asked me what my prayer group was at home, whether I was a Christian and then the question I can’t get away from “Do you believe in God?” When I told him that I wasn’t raised Christian and that I don’t really believe in a God, he wouldn’t leave me alone about it. He kept saying things like “if God doesn’t exist, how do we exist?” and when I would respond, he would just ask it again in a different way and say things like “No, Kesa, there must be a God. How can you not believe in God?” So I’m still trying to decide if I will start skirting around the question more, or just keep owning my identity no matter what others think.
  • “Why did you draw on yourself, Kesa? Will they come off?” These were the first questions that my host mom asked me about my tattoos. They’re definitely not as common here, but they are becoming more accepted as more youth get them. My host mom’s views have fluctuated on it. Once, she told me that she liked my tattoos and wanted some herself, but was afraid of needles. Then the other day, she saw my thigh tattoo for the first time. She told me she would beat my brother if he ever came home with a tattoo and that I would never find a husband. I told her that I didn’t want a husband that didn’t accept and like my tattoos as a part of me. She didn’t have much else to say after that.

That’s all I can think of right off the bat, but my personal site, Ralekgetho, is going to be an even more drastic difference. My brother mentioned to me yesterday, that he thinks I’ve gone through good transitions to get me ready for my official site. From America, to South Africa, Gabs, Molepolole, and then Ralekgetho. It’s been a small step further into the middle of nowhere with each new place. I can’t wait to see what other new changes are in store. Here I come, Ralekgetho!!

This One’s For You, Sarah

A few days ago, I learned that one of the most beautiful people I know passed away. It came as a shock to me and is one of the most challenging things to face when you’re living across the world. Sarah was battling Leukemia, but the last I heard from her, she was in remission and looking toward the future. In our last conversation, a week before I left, she told me that I inspired her and she was going to live vicariously through me. She said she had a new drive to help people and live life to the fullest and was even talking about going back to school for her Master’s degree. Sarah was an amazing, kind, beautiful, thoughtful, and courageous woman. She was always trying to help people and be the best person she could be, and she inspired me to do the same. I remember our time together so well and am heartbroken we don’t have more time together.

Losing someone always makes you question life. This is the first time I have wavered at all about moving to Africa and pursuing this dream. After talking to my best friends back home and here, I realized that was just grief talking. I am loving it here, and the best way to honor Sarah is to continue pursuing the dream that she wanted to live vicariously through. I know that this is what she would have wanted and I am inspired by her to continue to live my life to the fullest and be the person she saw me as. I know that this is the type of thing Sarah would have loved to have done if her health had allowed it, so I think the least I can do is dedicate my service to her. I have a purpose now to live my life in a way Sarah would have been proud of each and every day. I’ll be better about being gluten free like she told me to be millions of times, I’ll stop procrastinating as much as I do (like she told me to do a million times), and most importantly, I am going to try to touch others the way she touched me. After all, that’s really all we can hope to do in our short life times. Sarah was always in my corner for the most important things. She told me I was wise beyond my years when I wrote about being fat shamed on the street. She was always cheering me on when I decided to pursue grad school and Peace Corps, and she always told me that she knew I could accomplish my goals. She made me a better person and I always want to remember that. It’s only been a few days, so I know I am not done grieving the loss of such a beautiful soul, but I also know that she accomplished something in her short years that some people don’t accomplish in their lives of over 80 years. She inspired people, and expressed a love and kindness that I’ve known from few others. I cherish every friendship I have, and see how each and every one of you has inspired me. I hope I can inspire you, too.

Outside Motel


I don’t even know where to start. We’re sitting outside on our last night in Gaborone (Gabs as I will from now on refer to it as). It’s 63 degrees outside and we’re under a beautiful starry night sky. Even the sky is strange with all new stars that I’ve never seen and millions more than I’m used to seeing, and we’re in a well-lit hotel in the middle of the capital city! I can’t even imagine what the sky will look like in my village. It’s been a jam packed few days with lots to do and lots to think about and lots of crazy early mornings!!

Our trip started on Sunday morning as we got up at 4:30am EST to get all of us to the airport. As you all know, we then had our little bus/taxi accident that left us on the side of the road for over an hour. Once we got to the airport we had few hitches, just a little less time. Our fifteen hour flight was exhausting for our butts and minds, but otherwise uneventful. I read half a book, watched two movies, and slept for about three hours. When we arrived in South Africa, there was a long period of going through passport control and a whole other set of security checks, but that was also not as bad as I expected. We were there for a little over 4 hours, but most of that time was used to get through passport control and security, otherwise, I just looked around at the shops, got a neck and back massage, and bought some post-cards. We were then shuttle bussed to the little propeller plane to get us to Gabs and I promptly passed out as soon as we started taking off and woke up as we landed (shortest plane ride that I’ve ever been on). Once we arrived in Gabs, we were bussed to the hotel where we started our training! We got information about what was to come this week, ate an interesting meal (I’m doing really well avoiding gluten, dairy, and eggs so far!), and then turned in super early. Tuesday, we started bright and early with breakfast, then had some logistical stuff (immigration paperwork, receiving our allowances, getting bug nets, and taking head shots), did some Setswana training, and learned how to take bucket baths! And today, we woke up even earlier, had two hours of language before I got pulled out for medical clearance and the end of immigration, the we had information about our training village and what pre-service training (PST) is going to be like, and received our cell phones. It’s been a crazy packed schedule and now I’m getting ready to go to bed before getting up at 5:30 to head to our training village.
Tomorrow we move to Molepolole (Moleps) and meet our host families. This is a big deal. We’re going to be participating in a matching ceremony and have to look really snazzy (which means I have to cover my tattoos, so I’m borrowing some tights). It’s going to be another crazy eventful day. Then we start our typical training schedule of language lessons at 7:30am-9:30am, and then training from 10am-5pm. We even do language lessons on Saturday’s. While in Moleps, I probably won’t have internet more than once a week and I definitely won’t have it until after the first week. We’ll see how it goes. My goal is to post once a week.
The awesome part of this week has actually been getting to know all the amazing people. I have met some awesome people that I already click with extremely well. I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me, it’s already been eye opening and amazing. I know this hasn’t been the most exciting post, but I wanted to let you all know that I’m here safe and I’m having a great start to my adventure. I love you all!

Lower Manhattan Skyline

It’s Finally Getting Real

I’m sitting on a bus, on the side of the road because a taxi hit us, no joke. But that’s a long story for another day. Oh, well, why wait? Let’s just take an early tangent. We’re on the bus and for some reason there is a taxi sitting on in the gore area on our right side with no signals or anything. It looks like it might try and pull in front of us, though, so our driver honks at him. He doesn’t pull out until we are already passed him for a little bit and then he decides to try to use the shoulder to get passed us, hits us, hits the guard rail, and bounces back and forth a little bit, then speeds off. He didn’t look that worse for wear though. So we’re sitting here, waiting for the police, which we have been for close to thirty minutes and I’m starting to think, what if we don’t make our flight? I think this is making it hit harder for me that this is really happening. I’m moving to Botswana! It’s been fun saying that to random strangers for months, but now it’s real. I’m flying out in 3 hours! I think that this is also why my goodbyes weren’t that hard. That is until the last couple of days. It didn’t feel real, but now it is. Saying goodbye to my brother and mom who have been my everything this summer was the hardest. They have been there for me through the entire process and I can’t imagine not talking to them every day. When my mom dropped me off at the airport, I cried through the whole security line (quietly and discreetly, of course! Although people have been talking about how they were sobbing in the airport.) It’s a tough transition to go from so much communication to an unknown scenario of communication.

As soon as I got on the plane to Newark though, with my friend Kyra, I realized that this is the most exciting thing. I’m moving to Africa and my family is also excited for me! They support me unconditionally on this decision and I think that makes this so much better. When I got into Newark, I was sad, but of course there was so much going on that I just got sucked into new experiences and that is great! I met new friends, had a great dinner, went on an adventure to find a bar at 1 am, and had a great night sleep. Then the staging began. I got up around noon, went down for registration, got sent back to my room to put socks on to cover my tattoos (I’m kind of of the opinion that white athletic socks with black dress flats is more unprofessional than some tasteful tattoos, but oh well), got registered, and then sat through 5 hours of talking about the basics and history of Peace Corps (PC). Then we had an adventure in Jersey finding a little hole in the wall Mexican place (which was a BYOB restaurant, I’ve never heard of that before!!), and then hit the town for our final night out before we leave America! So in other words, it was a very eventful weekend with little time to feel sad for leaving. And I’m really not sad to leave, I’m mostly just excited to see this next chapter of my life unfold. I’m sure that I will have highs and lows though and you’re just catching a high right now. I’m really looking forward to sharing my experience with you all and seeing where this crazy life takes me. So stay posted on that, but of course, I also miss you all and wish I could take you with me. It’s time for me to take this journey though.

P.S. The bus is moving again and it looks like we’re going to make our flight (crossing fingers).

Peace Corps Volunteers In Gaborone

Welcome To Africa

This post was written by Nick, Joiwyn’s Brother.

While Joiwyn has been traveling to Botswana she has sent me a few pictures that I posted to facebook and/or twitter along with some real-time updates on her progress across the globe. She traveled from Seattle to Newark, NJ on Friday and spent Saturday there. On Sunday morning she took a bus to New York and then a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. She had some text message and WiFi access there and then took a flight this morning to Gaborone, Botswana. She is now out of reliable contact and has a post written that has more details about her trip that she will send me as soon as she has a better internet connection.

For now here is an update from the Peace Corps Country Desk Officer for Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Botswana:

Hello family and friends of the newest members of the Peace Corps Botswana family,

Below is a picture of the Peace Corps/Botswana 2015 training class upon arrival at the airport in Gaborone, Botswana. All trainees arrived safely after some extensive travel time. By all accounts from Peace Corps staff in Botswana they are doing extremely well, in great spirits, and excited to get started on the next couple of months of training. You should hear directly from your loved one soon, but it will take some time for them to get situated and the days are full of training sessions.

Peace Corps Volunteers In Gaborone
Peace Corps Botswana Safe Arrivals Photo