Thursday, June 24, 2010

Learning About My Village

Tomorrow makes 2 weeks in my village and I already feel so much more comfortable here than when I first arrived. I pretty much know my way around now and don’t feel so out of place, or rather, I’m more comfortable with feeling out of place.

Last weekend marked the beginning of kids coming to knock on my door wanting to talk to the “lekgowa” (white person). They’re funny. They’re bold enough to come knock on my door, but then when I go outside to hang out with them they all get super shy. Usually one of them will take the lead on the question asking, which is always quite amusing. One group of visitors told another group that I had lots of toys in my house, so that was a big topic of inquiry. I still have no idea what they were talking about because I have like 5 pieces of furniture and cooking utensils…not many toys to play with. But I guess my house must seem like a magical place where the white lady lives and so obviously there must be toys.

So this week I’ve started formally working on our 2-month assignment. Basically we are supposed to talk to the stakeholders in the community and learn about our villages. So far I’ve met with the Kgosi, or Chief, of Masunga, the head nurse at the clinic, and a couple of people in the District AIDS Coordinating Office. I feel really lucky to be in a village with so many resources. Because all of the government offices are here, there are a lot of services available to the people.

Today I also got one of the ladies in my office to give me an informal Kalanga language lesson. During training we had hours and hours of Setswana language lessons. That is the most widely spoken language in Botswana; however, there are pockets where other languages are more widely spoken and Kalanga is more common in the Northeast. It is similar to Shona, which is largely spoken in Zimbabwe, whose border is very near here. My office already thinks I know lots of Setswana (I think they’re crazy, but I enjoy the praise), but I also want to learn Kalanga because that is what most of the locals actually speak to each other. Even though most people can speak English here, they don’t switch just because I’m around. So if I want to be in on the side chatter and gossip I need to know Setswana AND Kalanga...I hope my language learning abilities are up for the challenge. Right now it’s fun and my coworkers are thrilled that I’m even interested. They keep telling me that in 6 months I will be fluent in both…I’ll let you know how that actually turns out.

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