Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bucket Baths and Living Simple

Hello world!

I am alive and well and apologize for my lack of posts. Life has been hectic and overwhelming and wonderful and simple and challenging all in the same breath. I will do my best to fill you in. From here on out, internet access will be easier to come by so I hope I will be able to post and share more with those of you who are interested.

I have been with my host family for a week and a half now. At the matching ceremony, my mother greeted me with a loud native sound made with the tongue and some crazy dance moves - including a move that looked as if she was churning butter. She greeted me with open arms and nothing has changed since. She gave me my Setswana name - Mpho (pronounced mm-po) - and has been continuously gracious and loving. She speaks little English but we get by. When we combine her minimal English and the little bit of Setswana I have mastered, we can communicate in a surprisingly effective manner. It is just my mother and I in my house. My mother has taught me so much already. I take bucket baths twice a day and bathe when she tells me to and wash what she tells me to. She has taught me how to cook Botswana food which consists of a lot of starch, meat and cabbage. Last weekend, she told me to come outside with her. I followed her out with a bowl of meat - bone and all. She dropped it in a hollow tree trunk, ground it up with a wooden pole, scooped it out and served it to me. The taste of the meat was not bad but the grit and the bone and the dirt was hard for me to get past.  Today, I learned to wash my clothes by hand. Life here is much simpler. The days stretch on and on, especially on the weekends when there is little to do. Every day gets a little bit easier, but I find myself missing home and the States constantly.

In addition to my host mother, my host niece, who is 22 years old spends a lot of time at the house with her two kids - Nailo, who turned two yesterday, and Kailo who is ten months old. It is fun to have kids in the house but also make me miss sweet Emree more than I did before - if possible. My niece speaks perfect English and we have had many conversations surrounding our respective cultures. Even though she is my niece, she feels more like a sister.

As I said before, the days stretch on here. I wake up at 6:00 to get my water ready for my bath. I eat breakfast then walk 45 minutes to school. We spend 9 hours a day in the classroom and then walk 45 minutes home. When I get home, I go over my Setswana with my mom, eat dinner and by that point am ready for bed. It has been a difficult transition as the support system that has always been my solid foundation is not as easily accessible. I find myself reverting to my inner-nerd and seeking comfort in reading. My favorite thing to read are emails from home! Please write! Hearing from home makes me feel as though I am still connected to the people I miss so dearly.

I hope this blog post is not too dreary. Life here is good and the people of Botswana continue to welcome us, greeting us on the streets, asking us what we are here for. We were even on national news! I am incredibly blessed to have been placed in the home I am in - my mother tells me continuously to live here as if I was in my own mother's home. She calls me "my daughter" and hugs me everyday when I get home. It is nice to learn to appreciate the simple things. Like I said, every day gets better and better and I feel more and more at home in a place that is so foreign. One of the things I told myself as I prepared to move is "You can't grow without change" and I continue to remind myself of that everyday!

Tomorrow, I will post more about the exciting, positive things along with some pictures. Missing you all, every day!

Monday, August 12, 2013

So Long, For Now

The countdown has ran out and my journey has begun! The last two days have been quite a whirlwind, I arrived in Philadelphia yesterday morning for staging and met all 65 volunteers that I will be working alongside for the next two years. We spent seven hours in seminar yesterday which was quite a struggle considering I still haven't slept since Friday. I am currently sitting in JFK Airport (fitting, considering he founded Peace Corps himself) waiting for our flight to Johannesburg, South Africa and from there to Gaborone, Botswana, arriving Tuesday afternoon. Upon our arrival, we get to spend two days in a lodge together with hopes of recovering from some severe jet lag. Bring it on! After that, we will be bused to Serowe, Botswana where we will take part in a host-family matching ceremony, and leave from there to live with our host family for the next 10.5 weeks! After that, we will be placed at our permanent site. From now until October 15, my address is:

Sarah Pagenstecher, Peace Corps Trainee
c/o Peace Corps Botswana
Private Bag 00243
Gaborone, Botswana

Please write me, send me pictures and keep me posted on your lives stateside. I have heard from many Peace Corps Volunteers that letters and packages from home are what keep you going throughout your service. Being homesick is my greatest anxiety about my service.  

As I write this blog, I am humbled by the outpouring of love and support I have received from both family and friends over the past few weeks. I cannot adequately express how much that means to me and how much strength I draw from you all. At the same time, it makes the act of leaving incredibly difficult. Saying goodbye to my family at the airport was, in a word, brutal. I can't even begin to imagine the ways and levels in which I will miss them. Mom, Dad, Katie, Carrie, Brian, and Josh - your support is invaluable. Thank you for everything you all did to help me prepare for this very moment. I will be thinking of you every single step of the way. Saying goodbye to Emree broke my heart. It is hard to believe she will be three years old when I return and the thought of missing all of her milestones is perhaps the biggest sacrifice I am making. Luckily, I trust that Carrie will send me videos and pictures and I will Skype them as much as possible.

Despite the sadness that overcame me yesterday, today I feel an overriding feeling of excitement! I am sitting among 65 individuals who already feel like friends and I imagine soon will feel like family. It has been great to finally put faces to the names of those I have been talking to for months and to have people to talk to that are feeling exactly what I am feeling right now. As I am about to board I ask that you all keep in touch and don't forget about me. When hard days strike (as I am confident they will) push me. Remind me that this has been a dream of mine for a while now. I am counting on you all!

I'm not sure when I will have internet next but will update as soon as I can.

All my love,