Hey all! (Bear with me, it's a long one)
I realize it has been quite a while since I have written and apologize for my lack of commitment to this blog. I have been quite busy in a number of different ways and my internet access has been limited since the unlocked smart phone I brought over broke. Africa really is hard on electronics! But, as of this week, I finally have internet at my site again! I'll fill you in briefly on the last two months and also vow to do a better job keeping those of you interested posted on my adventure – something that will be much easier now that life has settled down and I have reliable internet once more.
December brought an interesting dilemma as my school was shut down and the amount of free time I had was endless. After a few days lounging lazily in bed with Simba watching media, I vowed to use the month of December as an opportunity to integrate into my village. I made every effort to befriend my neighbors - cooking meals for them, sitting outside reading for a chance at small talk, leaving my front door open during the day (usually only kids wander in) and taking long walks throughout the village and stopping to say hi. In no time I was noticing my efforts were paying off. My neighbors started coming over to check me and inviting me to events. I spent every single weekend of December at braiis (BBQs) and really began to feel like I was a part of my community. Two of the teachers at my school took me under their wing and made the month of December a lot less lonely and a lot more fun.
Things continued to look way up for me as Katie and Brian made their way from Kenya, through Uganda, down to South Africa and up to Bots! We spent eleven glorious days doing absolutely nothing (luckily their trip coincided with school vacation, otherwise I would have been hard pressed to leave them everyday). We made the decision to save our funds for our upcoming South Africa trip and spent our time in Bots nursing them back to health, playing cards, writing music and cooking a lot of delicious food! They got to see what my life is really like here and that is something I know I for one really value.
Following their visit, I went immediately to a three week In-Service-Training, where all 58 of the volunteers from my intake group got to stay in a hotel, meaning we got to live in luxury with wi-fi, air-conditioning and all our meals prepared for us. It was such a nice treat from the village life and came at a good time with the scorching summer temperatures – I'm not kidding when I say I swam three times a day (lunch break, after sessions and late night). We left that conference with some more training under our belts and a lot of ridiculous memories made. Not to mention I got to skype with family and friends. My spirits were at an all time high.
Two days after the conference ended I boarded a 26 hour bus ride to meet Katie and Brian in South Africa. I'm not even going to try to describe all the magic of this trip but let me just say that South Africa is the most beautiful place I have ever been full of the most interesting, diverse and welcoming people I have ever met. Every day I would wake up and say “This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen”. And then the next day I would change my mind and say, “No this, this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.” Katie, Brian and I traveled along the Garden Route and then spent our last few days in Cape Town. The highlight of the trip for me would be night one; we were staying at a backpackers and Brian played a show on a deck overlooking the mountains. Afterward, a group of people staying there decided to go on a night swim that was rumored to have some great bio luminescant water on this specific night. We almost opted out as we were tired (I had just spent more than a full day on a bus) but decided to go. That may have been the best decision of my life. We got to the beach and the entire ocean was glowing. Each wave looked as if it were lit up by a thousand black lights. As we ran toward the ocean, the water splashing out of the sand from our footsteps was also glowing. Even though it was a bit chilly, we ran forward into the water and what happened in that water is something I will never be able to adequately describe. After recalling the night every night for the past few weeks, my best description is that it looked as if our bodies had been dipped in glowsticks. The water was glowing all over us, trickling down, each individual drop looked like a twinkling star. We played in that water for hours, laughing and screaming like maniacs, astounded at this site. The rest of the trip was full of more beautiful scenery, delicious food, amazing company and lots of thoughts about continued travel. I am so grateful to have been able to take a trip like this with Katie and Bri, exploring the country footloose and fancy free.
I won't lie, coming home from that trip was incredibly rough for me. I had a solid six weeks spent with family and friends, escaping the realities of village life. The first week that I was back was a struggle indeed. Security issues at my site paired with a lack of purpose in my work and a tempting job offer in South Africa were pulling me in every which direction. I think the hardest part of volunteerism (and I do believe my fellow PCVs will agree) is the ups and downs in our moods. Some days you feel like “I got this, this is nothing. I love my life here.” And then other days you wake up and think “Why am I here? America sounds pretty damn good right now.” I have learned to tell people “Today I am doing great, but ask me again tomorrow.” Or vice versa.
I was closer than I would like to admit to calling it quits when things once again shifted for me. We had yet another (thankfully shorter) conference with every volunteer in country last week. 130 of us got together to collaborate, share best practices and celebrate Peace Corps 10 years of returned service in Botswana. The US Ambassador and the Country Director lifted us up and encouraged us. I had conversations with my peers that got me excited about the work I could do upon returning to my village and reminded me of why I began this journey in the first place.
I'm not sure if things just clicked for me or what combination of events set in, but this week was by far my best week in Kumakwane thus far. My students are warming up to me and coming to me for advice, even checking me at home. I am in the beginning phases of starting some exciting projects that have great potential to assist my students. My colleagues are coming to me with ideas that they want assistance on. All in all, I feel rejuvenated and focused. I am hopeful that I got all the uncertainty out of my system (although just having finished a memoir of PCV in Ecuador, something tells me that's not the case). At the end of the day (and this incredibly long blog entry) I just want to thank all of you for sticking with me through all my ups and downs – for lending me your listening ears time and time again. Peace Corps wasn't kidding when they said the most important part of your service is the support system you have back home. So thank you, most sincerely, to all of you -especially my family. You keep me grounded and remind me why I'm here day in and day out. Missing you in a big time way.
All my love, always,