Dilo (Stuff)

Go mogote thata kajeko!  That means, “It’s very hot today.”  The Setswana word for today is gompieno, but I live in a village where most folks speak Sekgatla, and it has some different words, like kajeko.  Also, the Bakgatla say chelete instead of madi for money.  And we also say, “Ke tsogile pila,” which means, “I rose well,” and in Setswana, it’s “Ke tsogile sentle.”  I’m not sure why Sekgatla uses different words, but I’ll find out and let you know.  Anyway, using my few words of Sekgatla wins me friends on the khombi.  As I think I posted before, the khombi is the primary way I get around, when I am not tsamaya ka dinao (walking).  Here’s a view from the back of the khombi I was in on Friday.  I learn a lot on the khombi, like how to find the path up the hill near my house (and being from Colorado, I must climb to the top of everything around me) and I went up there today.  The views were monate (nice/delicious) and there even were critters that looked like marmots!  I just learned that they’re called pela in Setswana and are rock hyrax in English.

But back to how hot it is….it is 38 degrees Celsius, which is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and sweat is running down my back.  Botswana is arid (we are home to the Kalahari or Kgalagadi Desert, after all) but it’s humid today.  I’ll need to venture out to the internet café where I can upload this.  The metric system is another thing I’m learning.  I’m getting pretty good with my baking conversions, and my cookies are developing a reputation!  (Some reps from Barclays Bank were at one of my NGOs to follow up on a grant they’d given, and they sampled some I brought for the staff and offered to pay for a class to learn how to make them!  Who knew I’d come to Botswana and teach folks how to make oatmeal raisin cookies?)

I’m doing more than baking cookies…I also have been settling in with my two NGOs, both of whom work with orphans and vulnerable children.  I also spent the first part of November conducting a Community Assessment of my village.  I met with governmental, tribal, nongovernmental, and religious leaders, attended meetings, visited offices, consulted statistics, and kept my ear to the ground, and prepared a draft report to submit to the Peace Corps.  I answered a lot of questions, but it seems like every answer prompts another five questions.

The census information was interesting…I’m kind of a census nerd, having used statistics from the US Census in many of my grant proposals.  Botswana conducts a national census every ten years, and the last was in 2011.  From it, I learned that my district (roughly the equivalent of a US state) had 91,000 people (but it’s growing fast and that number surely has topped 100,000).  I mention a lot of these statistics in the column I wrote for the Montrose Daily Press, and you can check it out  here.

One sobering statistic is that two out of every five 31-40 year olds that I meet in my district are HIV+, according to the latest information from the 2013 Botswana AIDS Impact Survey.  And one out every five people, including every man, woman, and child, is positive.  That really puts things into perspective.  Thankfully, Botswana has done a great job of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV through its Treat All strategy (to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to all HIV+ people) and just six of the infants born in my district in 2015-16 tested positive.

Thanksgiving came to Botswana, and my landlady and I organized a Thanksgiving dinner/family reunion (for her family, not mine, alas) for around 60 people on November 18th.  She even scored two turkeys from Gaborone.  I supplemented with some roasted chickens.

We had stuffing, and mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie, and much more, and it was a lot of fun.  Alas, my iPhone went home with someone else that night, so I lost my pictures.  The ones shown are from a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer who came down from the north for the festivities.

But, I brought a back-up iPhone (an old one that one of my sons replaced) and I’m back online.  The day after the Thanksgiving celebration, my three fellow Volunteers and I headed to Gaborone for 10 days of Interim Service Training.  The highlight was spending two days with counterparts from my NGOs and designing some future projects.  We got another Thanksgiving feast on the 23rd, courtesy of the hotel where we were staying.

I returned to my village on November 30th, and it felt so good to be home.  I put up my tree this afternoon!   Masego a Keresemose!  (Merry Christmas!)

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