Sunday, April 25, 2010

My homestay has begun...

Dumela! I have been living with my homestay family for a little over a week now, and I love it! We arrived in the village last Friday and met at a school, where we were paired with our families. There was a ceremony with prominent members of the community in attendance to welcome us. The Botswana TV station was even there! (Yes, I was on the news haha). :)

My family is great. I live with my parents, older brother (27), younger sister (19), and younger brother (7). My sister and I hang out a lot and I try to help her cook when I have time. Last night we cooked bread and fat cakes (fried bread), both of which are delicious. There is a lot of starch in the diet here. Phaleche is a corn based mealie meal that they cook with boiling water. It really has no taste, but is usually the go-to starch for most meals. Other than that we usually make vegetable stew, chicken, or beef.

The house I stay in is really nice. I have electricity and running water so my only inconvenience at the moment is lack of computer and internet. The majority of us are lucky and have these things, but there are a few people in houses that use lamps and carry water from the backyard.

The neighborhood I live in is about a hour walk to the training center, but it's nice to have the exercise. If we choose to, we can always take a taxi or a combi which are readily available all over the village. The village is pretty large with shopping centers similar to those in the States. There is even a KFC!

As for training, it's coming along...Our days go from about 8-5. We have a lot of language classes where we are learning Setswana. We also discuss issues related to development and HIV/AIDS. Older volunteers have also been around for us to talk to, which has been really nice. Everyone's experiences are different but it's good to talk to people that are actually doing some of the work that we're going to be doing soon.

Right now I am just trying to enjoy my time here with my host family and get to know the other volunteers. I am anxious to find out my site placement, but that's still about a month or so away. Between now and then we will get to shadow a current volunteer in their village for a few days, so that should also be cool. It will be nice to see another part of Botswana and experience a little bit of another volunteer's life.

While it's only been about 2 weeks since I left Atlanta, it feels like I have been gone for much longer. I think it's just hard to process that I will be here for the next 2 years, but I am definitely excited and know I am where I need to be. It has already been an adventure and I can't wait to learn more about this beautiful country.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm in Botswana!

Wow, it has been a LONG few days and feels so good to finally be here.

All 57 volunteers met in Philly on Saturday. The age range is mixed from recent college grads to 60+, with 5 married couples. There are four sectors of work that we are split into, Community Capacity Builders (me), Life Skills, District AIDS Coordinators, and NGO Capacity Building. We had registration, and then discussions with icebreaker type activities for most of the day. We went over expectations, anxieties and aspirations, and some logistics.

Later in the evening we were free so about 15 of us that went to dinner. It was nice to relax for a bit, but a few short hours later we checked out of the airport at 2 am. From there we took a bus to JFK where we were just a liiiitttttle early for our 11 am flight. But after a 15 hour flight from JFK to Johannesburg, waiting in the JoBurg Airport for 8 hours, then a 40 minute flight to Gaborone, Botswana, we are finally here!

We will spend the next few days in Gaborone getting shots, logistical information, and language lessons. Then it’s off to our homestays where we will be for the next 2 months.

I’m excited to find out more about my position, Community Capacity Builder, and see who is in my language group (it’s usually groups of 3 and these are the people we spend the majority of our time with during pre-service training).

Right now I just can’t believe I’m finally here. I’ve wanted this for so long and it’s all happening. A volunteer that is almost done with her 2 years sat with a few of us at dinner and we jumped at the opportunity to ask questions, but there are so many answers you just won’t know until you are at your site. I have a lot of different emotions going on inside of me, but I am very excited for what’s to come.

And everyone, please bare with me as this will probably be the last time I have internet for a while. But feel free to email or Facebook me…I’m sure I will love the messages when I finally do have internet again. Love y’all!