Monday, July 27, 2015

Fare thee well. Almost.

Hi to everyone back home, hope that you all are having a great summer.  We are entering the home stretch in our 2 year Peace Corps adventure with just 3 months remaining.  There are a wide range of emotions to hash through at this point in our service.  We will miss many things about Botswana, and feel good about the way we have lived this side.  I feel humbled at the kindness of Batswana and the way they have almost universally welcomed us into their country.  We have learned so much, laughed a lot, and helped where we could.  Re a leboga Botswana, re mmogo!  Some of the work we have done will be lasting, some will not.  That's just the reality.  The actual relationships with people that have taken 2 years to build are the things I am most proud of.  It is going to be so hard to say goodbye to our host family and other friends and co-workers, not to mention all of our PCV hommies.  But.... that also means we are coming home, and I cannot wait to see family and friends!!  There are so many new additions to our lives since we've been gone, including one just last week.  Huge congrats to Sheila, Bill, and Esme!!  We are still in the process of making final plans for our after Peace Corps lives.  Stay tuned.

We had an absolutely amazing trip with our Portland family back in June.  Seriously, trip of a lifetime!  Thank you guys so much for coming all this way to see us!  It meant the world, and we had such an awesome time.  We got very lucky with wildlife, hung out with a lot of our Batswana friends, learned how to speak 'village voice', saw a big waterfall, and drank about 100 biers (okay maybe 300).  It will be hard to top in the future, but I can't wait to try.

Last week we had our final Peace Corps conference!  It's called the Close of Service conference and it's kind of more of a celebratory atmosphere as opposed to the mostly training oriented previous conferences we've had.  You have a lot of administrative sessions dealing with post service medical (they put us through 3 days of med tests before you can leave the country).  A bunch of other sessions about how to be a real person again.  You know resume writing, job searching, eish...  How to act normal when you get back to America, seriously people, I think many of you will think we are weirder than we were before.  Food, showers, a variety of activities to do in your community, all these things will just become normal again after a short time, I hope.

After the conference we took our last leave days before we settle back into 'lock down' where we can't leave our village for the last 3 months.  Along with Mike and Botho we rented a 4x4 truck and drove out into the bush for 3 nights of camping.  We drove about 300 km into Chobe National Park to a place called Savuti.  This place was the most wild and beautiful part of Botswana I've been to.  Absolutely amazing numbers of elephants and giraffe in stunning landscape.  We saw two different prides of lions with males and a mother lion nursing 3 small cubs.  We camped in the bush at a public campground.  At night there were hyenas sniffing at our tents and scavenging through camps and we could hear elephants stamping through the bush next to our camp and lions roaring in the distance.  Super fun to drive on crazy sand trails (Jason Clouse dream) and come upon a family of elephants playing in a water hole.  So lucky to have been placed in Botswana, definitely appreciate it for many reasons but this one being high on the list.

Now it's 12 weeks to go, and I think it will fly by.  Jojo will be very busy writing and researching, and I will try and keep myself busy with gardening and planning for life after Peace Corps.  We wanted to again say thank you to our Portland family for visiting and bringing us so much awesome stuff kwa America.  We feel very spoiled.  Another very special thank you to Liz & Dave Graves.  Two of our oldest and dearest friends, thank you guys so much for the package.  It made our day in more ways than you could know.  We love you!

Finally to close out another exciting blog entry I'll give you a little taste of one of our Close of Service conference sessions.  We were given a short list of questions to consider in order for you to try and process certain parts of the experience of being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Here are some of my responses, some snarky, some serious, with explanations where needed in parenthesis:

- What I liked best:   Tea Time  (here in this Anglo-centric part of the world we stop and have tea sometimes twice per day.  It's very civilized).
- My biggest accomplishment:  That I made it!
- Something I will never forget:  THE WILDLIFE
- Something I'd like to forget:  Male gender norms.
- Something I've learned:  A bit of Tswana culture, and a lot of new music.
- Biggest challenge I overcame:  Dealing with PC rules  (hard to be an adult and have so many rules and regs to deal with).
- At work I've...  Shown up and been present  (the only way to learn anything).
- People who have been special to me:  Host Family!!
- I'd like people in my community to remember me for:  Smiling and greeting.

Bots 14.  What a crew!
Sisters :)

Team RJ in the bush.

Everyone got tswana names.  Aratwa (Becky-adorable), Ditedu (Blake-beard), Mma Dijo (Lisa-Mrs Food), Kabo, Neo, Ditau (Rick-Big Cat!)