I want to start by saying thank you to everyone for keeping up with my blog! Directly and indirectly, I’ve received so many compliments and you can’t even begin to imagine how encouraging it is. I really enjoy blogging and knowing others are enjoying it too keeps me motivated to share my experiences.
This week has been a great one already. My classes are going well and starting to pick up speed. For some reason, my psychology class is so insanely easy. It is essentially a repeat of the other developmental class I took at WKU. Perhaps it will get more difficult as we progress, but for now, I guess I’m enjoying the break. My religion class is going well too. Though my professor’s lecturing style is not at all what I am used to, the topics we have covered are extremely interesting. We spent the week learning about Botswana Traditional Religions. Toxicology is still hard and I’m having a bit of difficulty understanding such abstract concepts. I am actually really enjoying my Environmental and Public Health Class too. This week we discussed Malaria and I thought it was fascinating! For some reason, professors here really like group projects. The count is up to about 6. It’s stressing me out having so many different groups and trying to communicate with all these new people. Another thing I’ve realized is that I absolutely have to pay attention at all times. Dozing off and doodling are no longer acceptable. My teachers all find the need to call on me every ten minutes. My psychology teacher asks me “how is it in America?” after every topic we discuss. I guess the class finds my perspective interesting, but it’s tiring being the only one to speak. In religion, I’m having some trouble understanding my professor. Sometimes I’ll get lost in his accent or he will start naming people and places and I of course find them impossible to spell. My classmates have started spelling out any remotely new word and they seem to find it hilarious. I know there are no ill intentions, but I am not at all used to being the center of attention. Let’s just say being in class is definitely not as easy as I am used to, but I’m overall enjoying them, so that’s all that matters.
I went back to the phase 2 clinic on Tuesday and it was a much better experience than last week. It was still kind of boring and the language barrier was definitely still there, but I got to see much more. We decided to rotate around so I spent time at the ARV center, the bandaging room, and the sexual health facility. At the ARV center, I basically just saw a doctor fill out a bunch of paperwork for various patients. There were huge lines of people waiting to receive treatment or find out their AIDS status, which made me happy. It’s good to see people seeking treatment and turning their lives around. In the bandaging room, I saw lots of blood samples being taken, as well as bandages being changed and immunizations being given. One of the nurses asked me if I wanted to take a patient’s blood. I guess she thought I had already gone to medical school or was just in desperate need of help. Either way, I was shocked. The sexual and reproductive health facility mostly just consisted of pregnant mothers, people seeking contraceptives, and babies getting shots. One of the biggest things I noticed during my four hours at the clinic was how distracted the nurses were. They were constantly texting, taking breaks, and goofing off, while patients just sat there. It was frustrating to me and I wasn’t even the patient! A few of the nurses were actually sick with nausea, coughing, and/or sneezing and I just couldn’t believe they were at work. Tuesdays are always long, but fun days. After a long day of classes, we finished the night off at a restaurant called Fego and I got some delicious pesto pasta. Yum!
Also on Tuesday, the students at UB decided to hold a strike. We were just chilling by the student center when we saw a HUGE group of students gather together and start screaming and singing. Of course, we had no idea what they were saying. We later found out they were protesting their education allowances, because they want to receive them in cash. At the time, we were just super confused. It actually started to get violent as they were knocking people down and even hitting people with sticks. They also ran into classrooms and forced students to leave class who were not participating. It was kind of scary, but kind of intriguing at the same time. I’ve just never seen anything like that. I later found out that UB students go on strike at least once a year, and they never get what they want. Seems a little silly to me. The only effect the riot really had on me was one of my classes being cancelled because no one showed up. Things are slowly starting to calm down after a few days.
Today might have been the best day of the week. After a few classes, I headed to a place called Tlamelo Trust, where I’m considering volunteering. One of the staff members organized a meeting for us with the staff at the trust. It’s basically an after school program located in Old Naledi, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Gaborone. Kids ages 4-15 go there after school for tutoring, food (maybe the only meal they get of the day), games and sports, and most of all, attention. As we pulled into Old Naledi (via police car), I started to get a little nervous. The neighborhood looks a whole lot different from what I’m used to seeing around Gabs and I could tell there were a lot more bums hanging out on the streets. As soon as we arrived, we were swarmed by an extra large group of kids. I quickly noticed they were extremely thin, dirty, and poorly dressed. Most of the kids didn’t have shoes and had pants that wouldn’t button or shirts that were falling off. Many of the kids had yellow eyes due to some nutrient deficiencies. Despite these setbacks, the kids were full of laughter and excitement. I was attacked by several kids wanting me to pick them up, hold their hands, and play games with them. The kids would just stroke my skin and my hair. They were super fascinated by a lot of my stuff including my shiny purse, my watch, and even my water bottle. They kept asking me for money and I felt so bad having to say no. Some of the kids could speak a little English, but most only Setswana. It was frustrating not being able to understand them, but we were able to communicate at a basic level using gestures and facial expressions. In my friend’s words, we communicated “in the language of love.” It think all the kids cared about was that extra attention they so badly needed. We learned about the different volunteer opportunities within the program, which are basically endless. I can’t lie and say it wasn’t a little overwhelming, but I want to go back soon. Old Naledi is a little far away, so I’m nervous about getting there alone, but I think the commute will be worth the experience. As we tried to get on combis back to UB, the kids wouldn’t let go and kept hanging all over me. It broke my heart to have to say goodbye. Afterwards, we headed to a restaurant to celebrate my friend Wendi’s birthday. The restaurant she chose was actually fancy and I was wearing jeans, so I had to borrow another friend’s dress. We went to a Chinese restaurant at the Grand Palm hotel. It was crazy fancy, complete with fountains, lights, a casino, a spa, and even fancy cars. This is the hotel where Michelle Obama stayed when she visited Botswana, if that says anything. I was so excited for Asian food, and the restaurant didn’t disappoint. I had my fill of rice, noodles, chicken, and dumplings. It was a great atmosphere and great company, making for an overall wonderful night.