Making Each Day Count

It’s funny how much can change in just a few weeks time. Since my last post, things have really started to turn around. I’m not quite sure why, but I suspect it may have something to do with my attitude. I’m finding ways to stay busy and make each day count. Though I can’t say my basic frustrations have gotten any easier, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s sometimes just easier to laugh about it. Time is flying by! I absolutely cannot believe I only have a little over six weeks left. I’m definitely excited about coming home, but I’m not ready yet. There are things I’ll miss about Gabs, particularly my CIEE friends. I’m trying to enjoy every minute with these wonderful people.

This past weekend I went on another CIEE-sponsored excursion to a city called Ghanzi, located 8 hours away. Because the trip was so long, we basically only had Saturday to enjoy the area. We stayed in small grass huts, which I found particularly adorable. Because Ghanzi is a malaria zone, each bed was equipped with a full-bed mosquito net. It was my first time using one and it certainly was an interesting experience. I felt pretty claustrophobic so I didn’t sleep too well, but I walked away malaria-free! Saturday morning, we began the day with a bushmen walk (in the rain!). A group of about 8 San bushmen (in their traditional wear) led us around the area, teaching us about their culture. It’s nearly impossible to find true bushmen these days, but these men and women were the closest we could get. They are still connected to their traditions, but have become slightly modernized with time. They didn’t speak English or Setswana, so we actually had to have a translator join us on the walk. They dug various herbs and plants out of the ground and demonstrated their medicinal use. There were various uses including treatment of headaches, stomach problems, fertility, arthritis, etc. One root was even used for abortions! After the walk, we spent the rest of the day at the quarry. It was nice to just chill and swim with the fish (I actually got pushed in- thank you Alex!). It really was a beautiful area, and despite the less than perfect weather, it made for an enjoyable day. We returned to the campsite and after a FREEZING shower and dinner, we gathered around the fire to watch some traditional dancing. One of the bushmen had a little girl, maybe around three years old. My favorite part of the night was watching her dance! We roasted some marshmallows and then retreated to bed, exhausted from a long day. I awoke the next morning to find that I had over 25 bug bites, despite the net! I’m pretty sure I had some weird allergic reaction too because they were extremely large and splotchy. Let’s just say I’ve never been so thankful for hydrocortisone cream. Though Ghanzi wasn’t the most exciting trip in the world, I enjoyed getting away and being treated to some good meals.

Other than my trip, the past few weeks have been extremely busy with school! I took a religion and toxicology test and both were pretty manageable. I gave a presentation on family life as part of the CIEE culture class (but they gave us Chinese, so I didn’t mind one bit). I enjoy checking things off my slowly diminishing list. Last week I was at the G-West clinic again and I got to spend all morning looking at adorable children! This week I went to the BOFWA clinic, which is an NGO in partnership with Planned Parenthood. I learned a lot about their services and their struggles with making the organization known in the community. Issues of contraceptives, family planning, abortion, HIV/AIDS, and STIs are very sensitive topics, compared to what I’m used to at home. Most females aren’t comfortable discussing these issues, but BOFWA does their best to provide a safe environment. The nurse showed up a few hours late, so we weren’t actually able to observe anything, which was a bit of a letdown.

Last Wednesday, CIEE had a showing of the film “Girl Rising.” There were some technical issues and we ended up watching it as a silent film with subtitles, but I still enjoyed it. While in Botswana, I’ve often found myself frustrated with the strongly engrained gender roles, so I loved seeing a film about female empowerment through education! There was a panel of speakers from the community and I also enjoyed hearing their personal stories and perspectives. On Thursday, I volunteered at Tlamelo Trust with a few friends. I described this organization in an earlier blog post, but I wasn’t able to make it back there due to my school schedule. It’s essentially an after-school program in the poorest area of the city. The kids go there to get food (often their only meal of the day!), tutoring, and social support. We helped out with dishes, serving the food, and spent time playing with the kids. Despite the challenging language barrier, I always enjoy spending time with these kids, just laughing, playing clapping games, and even having our hair braided. I’ve been trying to be frugal, but I allow myself a little indulgence every once in awhile. Thursday night, I had a great dinner at Game City and discovered a delicious oriental salad, a rare find in Gabs. I also got two packages these past two weeks, one from my employer and one from my mom. Goodies from home always seem to cheer me up!

On a little bit of a scarier note, I’m pretty sure I saw my robber on Monday morning. He was in a group of people and didn’t harm me, but it was scary nonetheless. I couldn’t be 100% sure it was him, so I didn’t want to report him. But based on the way he looked at me, I felt strongly. My heart started beating pretty fast and I got away as quick as possible! Also, on my way home today, two combi wingmen got into a fight over whose combi I should ride in. They were both screaming and grabbing at me and it was actually a little scary. It eventually turned into a physical fight and one started choking the other! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I ended up just choosing the combi with the best seat. Because of incidents like these, I find myself looking at the Batswana in a negative light. However, I know these people are just exceptions. The majority of the people are extremely friendly, often willing to give me directions, help me stop a combi, or just ask me how I’m doing. I look forward to these daily greetings and know I’ll miss them immensely when I get home.

These past few weeks have overall been a lot better for me. My homesickness has never disappeared and I don’t think it will. But I’m feeling more adjusted and confident each day. I can’t wait for the weeks ahead as I wrap up school and head off to the Okavango Delta!

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