John told me I should post a recent email I sent home to Dad and Karyl. I took out the specific family stuff and fixed a few spelling errors. The email is below:
Some thieves broke into the post about two weeks ago. The post office here is also a bank of sorts. Many old people get money sent to them from family and they also get a 225 pula (about $35) pension mailed to them once a month. Many can’t read or write so the post office serves as a savings and loan where received funds can be immediately deposited. It is sort of surreal to see so many people using their thumb print for signature.
I happened to go to the post office the morning after it was robbed and about 75 people (mostly really really old people) were just waiting around outside hoping it would open. One of the workers came out and told me about the robbery. He said it would take several days to sort it out and the post office would be closed until it was sorted. I wondered why he didn’t tell the others, but I couldn’t tell them because they only speak Setswana. I called several days later and they still were not open. About 10 days later they opened up, but were too busy to do packages and asked me to wait a few more days. I called when I got your email and sure enough there were 2 packages. Yours and another package from one of my friends.
We have been so lucky to have so many family and friends send us so many great things for us and the children here. I know this isn’t just about me. I know people want to do good in the world and love being able to send “nice things to poor children in Africa” and I am in a place to help them participate. But it also makes me feel good to have so much good will in the world that people view me as a trustworthy and earnest enough person to be the vehicle for their own generosity.
I loved everything in the box, especially the books for the children. There are four kids in the neighbourhood who read everything you send (except Mark Twain because they don’t get the colloquial speech). They beg me to discuss the books with them when they are done and are very disappointed if I don’t know the book myself. One of the books has a list of Classical Starts at the back and one boy is keeping a list of all the “classical” books he is reading and is hoping to get to 100 before he finishes grade school.
I was going to donate all the books I am getting to the school library. But the library is so protective of the few crappy books it has that it will not hardly ever let the students in and they are not allowed to check books out. I am as close to a library as the kids at the school.
John and I have met a nice American ex-military couple here. They guy was a mechanic in the air-force and Botswana has a bunch of old planes America doesn’t want anymore, so the Batswana have some American ex-military on their payroll to keep the airplanes going. They are an interesting couple and have lived here for 10 years. We had planned to go to nice little resort right over the border in South Africa with them this weekend. They said there was a great grocery and hardware store with lots and lots of supplies directly from Europe. We were so excited to be able to go with someone fun who has a car and could drive us there and back!
But the truck drivers in South Africa went on strike and a few people have been killed so the Peace Corps denied our travel request. We had planned to go this weekend because it is a four day weekend. The couple spent all day trying to find a place in Botswana we could go – but everything is booked up. So instead we will go on a picnic on Monday afternoon at a park just outside Gaborone. This is quite a disappointment – but at least I will be able to catch up on housework and school work. John and I did finally book a trip to Victoria Falls over New Years Eve. It is one of the seven wonders of the world and we will look forward to that.
I can’t believe we have been here for a year now. Everybody kept telling us things will start to click at the year mark – and things sort of are clicking. It takes about a year for people to trust you and to understand the value of your work . But I think this gives a false sense of success here. I think when PCV’s get to this point of service they believe people will listen to you AND take your suggestions. In fact they will listen but they don’t really change who they are or what they are just because they trust you and let you add your own value to their workplace. So, while things are nicer on a personal level – the struggle to accomplish something stays the same. There are very nice moments of satisfaction or success – but not that many.
All morning I had 4 children over wanting ALL my time and energy. This is a daily event with 1 to 10 children a day. I was just so tired of their constant needs. I almost always ignore my feelings of wanting to be alone, because these kids truly don’t have any adults that are kind or interested in their lives. I also want to constantly show parents how to better interact with their children. But dang it – I never had children and didn’t really want children mostly because of the constant needs that they have and it has been really getting to me.
But then, I started to think that this was really the crux of my Peace Corps work. I have never viewed my work at the school as a sacrifice or an accomplishment. It has been a job, which I am often extremely frustrated about, but a job a great deal like other jobs I have had in my life (with a lot less pay). But taking care of these kids – that is Carol going out of her comfort zone. This is me learning to love people I have no obligation to love or to like. This is finding all of the resources, education, love and support I have been given and giving back to the world, where it is truly needed.
I see children learning manners, learning how to speak/read/write English, learning empathy, showing kindness and love, and coming back every day to learn and find out more. I also see them thrive in my attention and love. They wait at my gate for me to get home from school to show me their accomplishments, ask for more help, or just spend time with me or John. That is what this is all about. I have made this commitment for two years and I should be able to work at giving of myself, of my heart, and of my soul to small children who need it for two years of my whole great big giant life. I have always been able to give my labour – but love is much harder to give as though it is your job. Now that I think of it that way – I am better and more patient with the children. They still do exhaust me – but I have posted a quote from one of my favourite people on my wall:
“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” — Mother Theresa
Miss you and love you much – Thanks so very very much for the box and all the goodies. You truly make our life and the life of the kids in the neighbourhood so much better!