Dumelang! On September 2nd, the Bots 18 crew (we’re the 18th group to serve since Peace Corps came back to Botswana) departed Molepolole for visits to our future sites. I headed to my village (which I can’t name, due to PC security policies) with one of my two new supervisors, Ausi Stella,
with whom I’d just spent two days in training at the Tlotlo Hotel in Gaborone. I’m more than a foot taller than her, so we made a funny pair as we made the rounds. She dropped me at the home of Mma Menyatso, with whom I’d spend the next 13 days. The next day, we attended a wedding, which was a lot like an American wedding, except
with much more singing. Afterward, we enjoyed a welcome feast prepared by Mma Menyatso’s grandson, with fresh fish, potato wedges, and multiple salads. It was monate (delicious).
I spent the first week with one of the two NGOs (non-governmental organizations) with which I’ll be working for the next two years. It was founded in 1998 to provide home-based care to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Since then, it has expanded to include services for orphans and vulnerable children, including a preschool. They also operate a beautiful garden, which provides food for the preschool and for sale. I paid visits to the dikgotla (courts) for my ward and village to introduce myself to the dikgosi (chiefs), and met with the District Commissioner (Botswana is divided into 17 districts, which are kind of like US states) and the Coordinator for the District AIDS Coordinating Committee. I also met with the Head of Traffic at the Police Department to discuss security issues in my village. I was warned to avoid “bushy” areas (my village is surrounded by beautiful hills and red rocks, which I’d love to explore, but the ne’er-do-wells hang out there) and to not be out after dark.
I met with a traditional healer, which was fascinating. He offers to treat cancer, epilepsy, fractures, asthma, and “discharge,” among other ailments, for a fee of P2,000 (around $200). He uses a variety of herbs that he finds in the bush. I was glad to learn that he doesn’t claim to cure HIV, which some healers do. At a meeting of the District Health Management Team, I learned that they have problems enrolling some HIV+ people in anti-retroviral therapy because they are being seen by traditional healers. I also attended a meeting of my ward’s Village Development Committee, which is kind of like a town council. A group of a dozen volunteers sat around deciding on issues like whether someone could add a kitchen and bathroom to their house, and planning the party for the upcoming Botswana Independence celebration (on September 30th). I was impressed with the respectful dialogue they had (although I didn’t understand much since it was in Setswana, but I managed to follow the gist of the conversation). Batswana pride themselves on their “consultative” approach to decision making.
I spent the second week at my other NGO, which is much larger, with offices in four other villages, and was founded in 2006 to serve orphans and vulnerable youth (ages 12-25) and their families, with a program that combines life skills, leadership, psychosocial support, and community mobilization. At both NGOs, I’ll be helping with many of the same tasks that I did in the US (fundraising, grantwriting, communications strategies, board development).
I attended a funeral last Saturday for Mma Mercy’s brother.
Funerals are a big deal in Botswana, lasting a week, and culminating with a service, burial, and huge meal. This funeral was held at the departed’s house, and began shortly after 6 am. The service featured prayers and lots of songs and viewing of the body. We all departed for the cemetery and the burial, and then returned to the
house, where I got recruited to serve up plates of food to more than 200 people. They slaughtered three cows for the event, and the men stayed up all night to prepare seswaa, which is pounded meat. The women prepared three kinds of corn-based starches and morogo (vegetables…in this case, a delicious cooked cabbage).
I took a very hot and crowded bus back to Molepolole after a stop in Gaborone to attend a meeting of the Gaborone Rotary Club (which was a lot like the Rotary Club meetings in Montrose, except with better food) and to spend the night at a hotel and take my first shower since July (sure beats a bucket bath). It was great to see my Molepolole Mma. Spring is coming to Botswana. I took these pics in Mma Peggy’s yard this morn:
Thanks for reading, and I have a new address for my site (where I’ll be starting on October 6th), so if you’d like to send me a letter or package, please shoot me an email and I’ll send my address. Every letter receives a response!