Last of the training and on to work: We have officially ended our community assessment period and are now supposed to start our work as Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV). At the end of the two month assessment period the PC called us all back to review our assessments and agree on what projects we will try to implement or improve. They put us up at the Big Five Lodge, which has hot running water, electricity, and a swimming pool. Plus they gave us three meals a day. This was quite a treat for many people who have been without at least one if not all of these thing for the last few months:
The swimming pool was to dirty to swim – but several people begged daily for it to be cleaned. The last two days it cleared up enough for a few brave souls to jump in. I was not one of them:
They also provide more language training before another language test – and finally – they provide specific training for the job we are supposed to be doing.
Despite the language training I’m not doing a lot better but at least I don’t worry about it as much either. I know 20 good sentences such as:
-I am from America, specifically Chicago (I don’t say Schaumburg)
-I am married
-I like cooking with my husband
-I work at Kwena Sereto teaching Life Skills………
Every time the tester would asked me something I just provided one of my standard 20 sentences. I can’t understand the question and I thought some answer was better than none. The tester was a little confused at first and repeat his questions – and I would give another answer. About half way through he started laughing and just let me leave. NO TEARS this time!
We actually got to spend some time in the Capital city during training – and I found I can speak Setswana as well as several other native Botswana people. In the Capital everyone speaks English to the point that some native people never bother to learn their tribal language. I even had a moment or two of feeling superior – maybe I only had seconds of feeling superior.
The PC did a really good job teaching us how to teach the teachers to implement and infuse Life Skills into the class room and us non-teachers are pretty excited to get some solid instruction about how to do this. I’m really looking forward to getting back to the school and accomplishing some specific goals specifically stated by the PC.
It was also great hanging out with 35 Americans again in a city with nearly all modern amenities.
Botswana made it to some sort of soccer playoff for some cup title that is important all over Africa. It was the first time the county made it to competition and everyone was soccer crazy. It was sort of contagious to us too.
Reality – HIV Status: I met a bunch of young sweet teen girls, right before training started, who were all born with HIV/AIDS and are orphans. Baylor University runs a program to keep them healthy and a part of that is to give them hope. The University set up Clubs for the kids to meet, talk and socialize about once a month. At each meeting there is a box which they can drop questions about HIV/AIDS they don’t want to ask directly. Nearly all the girls ask how they can have babies without infecting someone else. Having a baby is about the most important thing in the world a woman can do here – and there is no good answer for these girls.
Most of the children (boys and girls) have stunted growth and they look three or four years younger than their actual age. While most look health some do not. They are generally stigmatized in the community. Most are all poor as well as HIV infected and rarely have friends and often don’t have family support. They were so happy to have someone to hug them or hold hands with them. They were basically normal kids laughing, running, playing and being kids – but I saw the sad things that are the center of their lives every single day in the corners of their eyes and the slump in their shoulders. It is one of those wretched unfair things life hands out that I just can never understand. I can be kind to them, and hug them and hold their hands. I can sit and eat dinner with them and share a conversation. Sadly, it is more than most people do – but it is something I can do.