This week we were lucky enough to be a part of our Sub-District’s World AIDS Day commemoration. The event was put on by my office (District AIDS Coordinator). This was our last big event for the year and I have to say that it was fun to see it all come together. The event was held in a village called Borolong in our district, about an hour bus ride from Tonota. It took place at the Kgotla (traditional village meeting place). The event began in the morning and the program included different speeches from community leaders as well as entertainment which included traditional dancing and a drama performance. There was a candle light ceremony in honor of those lost to HIV. This was by far the most touching part of the day, many tears were shed. It really puts our work here in prospective to see the emotion coming from the survivors and affected family members of this horrible disease. Everyone in this country is affected by HIV in some way. After the program we handed out condoms and literature about HIV prevention and ARV treatment. The event ended with lunch which as I have said before is a requirement if you want anyone to show up. Tswana food is always the same with a bit of variety in the preparation. Weddings always have the best food, but most catered lunches/events will have the same fare. You are always served samp (corn-like starch,) Bogobe (sorghum porridge,) beef stew (similar to what we would make in the US although the cuts of meat are very different and very chewy,) sometimes chicken, and some sort of vegetable (called “Morogo”, usually cabbage or other greens cooked in a lot of oil). I have to say that even though the event was all in Setswana and over six hours long, we still were able to generally follow along. I have included some photos of the event below.
WE LOVE GETTING QUESTIONS!
Sometimes it is hard to know what to write about, things become normal here very quickly. So here are some questions/comments that friends and family from back home have asked and I thought if they were wondering, someone else must be wondering too. I will try to add a few questions at the end of the next few blog posts for the inquiring minds. We have both contributed to answering the following questions:
1) That's so crazy that you (Jojo) have a 45 minute walk to and from work every day! - Yes this is pretty crazy! I have to say that once I am walking I do not mind much and in fact enjoy time to myself to think. Also it is pretty much the only exercise that I am getting right now. There are some days when it is really hot on my way home and that is not cool to be honest. I have also gotten rained on a few times but that is not a big deal, things dry really fast here.
2) Have you (Jojo) gotten a bike yet? - No, I have not yet gotten a bike although I am planning on getting one so that will help the commute time although nothing is as easy as it sounds over here. There are crazy thorns so not only do I need a bike but I also need a patch kit, pump, tools and everything else that comes along with riding a bike in Africa. It feels overwhelming to me for some reason. Also, I need to find a ride to Francistown to buy one because I have to buy it there and I will not be able to bring it home on the bus. Transport is the biggest issue here, finding a ride is a challenge. I am in a holding pattern right now until our office driver has the time to take me up there to buy it. Also I bought a yoga mat off of one of the other volunteers last weekend so now I can do some yoga at home!!
3) Do you ever feel freaked out? - We love this question, we really had to think about it for a while because of course we feel freaked out on some level, we live in Africa for heaven sakes. But I think that the question was to find out if I (Jojo) am ever freaked out on my walk to work and the answer to that is NEVER! It is not scary here at all, I know it is really hard to believe, being that we are so far away living in a small African village, but Batswana are very peaceful and in no way intimidating. Especially after you greet people in Setswana, everyone just smiles and waves. Sometimes you will be passing someone who in another reality would seem very scary and as soon as you say “Dumela Rra,” they will give you the biggest smile and respond back with nothing but kindness. I think that the two biggest things to be scared of here are getting into a car/bus accident (no different than in the states) they drive really fast and dangerously pass a lot, and getting robbed. We have heard of other volunteers getting their houses broken into but ours feels really safe and I have Erin with me. Our village is also pretty mellow, we met with the Police Commander the other day and he was telling us about the crime, not much happening. Mostly bar fights, house break in’s, and issues with immigration (many Zimbabwean’s come across the border looking for work). Sound familiar? Also we do not go out at night and would not feel comfortable doing so. If anything were to happen it would be at night, there are no street lights so when the sun goes down, the village is pitch dark and spooky. The towns are different than the villages, there is definitely more crime there such as pick pocketing and what not. When we go into Francistown, we are way more conscience about making sure we do not flash money or leave our bag unattended. The bars here are also different, mostly men sitting around and getting really drunk. I do not want to make generalizations but from what I have seen, people at bars drink hard. People drink to get drunk, really drunk, kind of like college kids in the US. This creates a sloppy scene that is not very comfortable or safe to be around. Needless to say, we do not go out to the bars, if we have a drink it is in the safety of our home. I have mentioned this in the past but we are also lucky enough to live on a compound with a police officer (also our best friend in the village). She is really good about telling us what to do and not to do in order to keep us safe. For example, at night it is very important to leave your front light on, close all the windows, and lock all the doors. We take all of these precautions very seriously.
4) How are things there with the recent passing of Nelson Mandela? - Well it is strangely not as prevalent in our daily life as you would have thought. First of all, when you do not have a TV or regular internet access it is amazing how little about the world we know these days. We did hear about his passing first thing on Friday morning. Most people are in mourning, he was more than just the former President of South Africa/anti-apartheid hero, he is seen as an African leader for all Africans. But to be honest if you ask a local, most Motswana would say "he has been gone for a long time." People here are paying their respects with memorials and they have put out flags around just as we would in the US. In my opinion the passing of Mandela does not really affect the daily lives of Batswana and something that is hard to understand for us is that people here really live day to day. I did have a conversation with someone at work who mentioned that she thought that Obama gave a wonderful memorial speech but then went on to say that he really screwed up by not mentioning one of his wives, “only a true African would understand the importance of this, she was the one that had great influence over his getting released from prison.” Makes you think!
5) Does the electricity go off regularly? – Yes, the electricity goes out pretty regularly. If there is a storm, you can be pretty sure that you will lose power at some point. It can also go out any other time for no particular reason and for any amount of time. You learn to make sure that all of your electronics are always charged because if you get stuck with a dead battery, you might be out of luck for a while. We have head lamps and candles that we use when the sun goes down. There are also scheduled power outages when they are working on lines. We will usually hear from a neighbor or a co-worker that there is a planned outage. It is a pretty normal part of life here. Plus the water pumps are controlled by electricity, so when we have an extended power outage the water always goes out too (like on Thanksgiving). Some of the volunteers here don’t have any power or water at all though, so it is really hard to complain about those types of things. Also by worldwide Peace Corps standards we are living very comfortably. I have heard Botswana called “posh corps” for this reason. We didn’t expect that, so we are very thankful. We also realize that most people in our village, let alone Botswana at large, and the world as a whole live with much less…
6) Do you have such a thing as a refrigerator and/or freezer? How about a stove? – Yes we have a fridge/freezer which is actually pretty nice. When the electricity goes out we try not to open it and when the electricity is off all day, we just try not to worry about it. We also have an oven/stove that is gas powered. We have to turn on the tank and then light the stove top or oven in order to use. It is not difficult, you get used to it. Figuring out Celsius baking temperatures has been the hardest thing for Erin.
Keep the questions coming! Anything you are curious about we would love to answer (if we can). We hope that everyone back home is doing well. We will miss you all during this holiday season…
Jojo and Erin
|Head Table with Guest Speakers.|
|My supervisor the District AIDS Coordinator (Chipo)|
|This kid literally sat here through the entire 6 hour event.|
|Female and Male Condoms.|
|Handing out free condoms after the event.|