Thursday, December 27, 2012

Life of Pi: A Quote and an Identity Shift

In honor of having finally read Life of Pi this year, and heading out to see the film later today, I decided to share a quote from the book that has continued to resonate with me...

“It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.” 

My name in Setswana, as I have mentioned in my blog before, is Kamogelo. That is as much a part of my identity now as being Tija. Or being American. Or having curly hair. Had you asked me when I first arrived in Botswana if I would identify so much with this new name as I do now, I would have said a resounding no. But now, after nearly two years here, it is a part of me, just as the people that I have met and who have profoundly changed me. I will always be Tija but now I will proudly carry Kamogelo with me for the rest of my days.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmukkah in Botswana

This year I had a very special Christmas and Hanukkah. This was primarily because of my incredible boyfriend, who orchestrated some of the sweetest acts and set out to ensure that joy and fun and all that is merry came true throughout the festive season. (Insert "awww" here. It's deserved.)

I was away on a trip to the Okavango Delta for the first two nights of Hanukkah. I was sad to miss them but decided that a once-in-a-lifetime trip with a couple dozen of my friends was well worth it so I headed north.

Early in the morning on day three of Hanukkah, I began the trek homeward. My boyfriend picked me up from an arbitrary bus stop along the way and seemed giddy beyond what would be normal for seeing me (not that I complained). We had agreed to celebrate Hanukkah together (his first ever!) but I assumed my Humanist boyfriend could not be harboring such excitement over Hanukkah... could he? The answer is YES. Whole-heartedly yes.

When we got home, he rushed to the tree (yes, we had a Christmas tree) and pulled out some presents. He was basically jumping up and down. His excitement made me boil over too. Then I looked at the presents and saw little hand-written cards with quotes and riddles on them and with little pictures in the upper corner of a menorah with lit candles that corresponded to the day. This first present was from the first night of Hanukkah (one lit candle) and the one beneath it the second (two candles). He then told me that he learned the prayers and lit candles for us for the two nights that I had missed. I was speechless. All my words were replaced with feelings of love and surprise. How adorable of a man is he?! I kept thinking. I hugged him and hugged him and couldn't stop smiling. My boyfriend celebrated Hanukkah even in my absence and he went a thousand extra miles to make sure this year's was sweet and special, just like him.

For the next six nights, we lit candles together and opened presents - each one better than the next. I saved his cards and re-read them every day. I taught him a little about the holiday and he practiced the prayers until he got them just right (even my dad's prayer). I hadn't expected this. It was the most precious thing and one of my favorite Hanukkah's to date.

On the last night of Hanukkah, my boyfriend, his sister, and I jumped into the car and drove three hours south to Rustenburg, South Africa for some high-intensity Christmas shopping, some McDonalds, and to watch The Hobbit in 3D. It was a ridiculous roadtrip but extremely entertaining all the while. We had a lot of laughs and missions were definitely accomplished. The car came home packed to the brim with gifts and our tummies with cheeseburgers.

And, finally, the time came for the Christmas holiday. We had planned to go to Mozambique for Christmas and New Years but had a change of heart and decided to spend the holidays with my boyfriend's family in his home village of Mahalapye. This was the first Christmas he would spend with his family since 2008, made even more special because his father would be coming from Malaysia (where he and his wife, my boyfriend's stepmom, live). There would be many of us there to celebrate and I was promised lots of food, fun, and family. I was definitely not disappointed!

We were greeted by my boyfriend's mom, dad (stepdad), sister, sister's boyfriend, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a farm-full of animals. It felt like a homecoming of sorts - encapsulated by excitement and enthusiasm and a little joyful nervousness. We spent the evening decorating the Christmas tree, baking, and finishing wrapping presents. There was a penetrable warmth to it (and not just because it was so so hot out). 

The following days were spent doing so many fun things with my boyfriend and his family. Of the highlights were hiking a hill overlooking the village and seeing volcanic rock, gathering pottery pieces from spring hare holes, hunting for quartz crystals with my Indiana Jones-like boyfriend, and playing with the animals on the farm (especially feeding the pigs!). Here are some photographs of the fun:

And, of course, there was Christmas day with the family. Opening presents, particularly watching the faces of the two youngest (Thalia and Learnmore) light up with every gift they received. It was magical and brought me back to a time when I was also as excited about a nerd candy rope. Not going to lie, it's a beautiful place to find yourself. Christmas day also included more food than any one person could possibly eat (including an entire table of savory snacks and a table of treats that held cookies I helped decorate and the traditional Christmas Cake that my boyfriend and I were prized with adorning this year). 

It was a wonderful month-long holiday spectacular. Truly, honestly, and really. It contained all the key components of the most magical of holidays. It had joy and surprise and fun and adventure and love and family. I am so grateful to this amazing man in my life for orchestrating it and for making the season just a little happier, especially since I had to spend it so far from home. (But at least I got to chat with my mom and sister ample times throughout the holiday! YAY!) And, if I'm being candid, it was one of the first fully happy Christmas season I've had since losing my dad. For that, I'm eternally grateful. Once again, hooray for happy holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012

"The End of the World"

Today, 21 December 2012, was supposed to be the end of the world. Or at least that was the clamor back in the states. This "Doomsday" was hardly spoken of in Botswana and life continued as normal. Why? Why didn't the Batswana prepare? Store food and water and fret away in their homes like their counterparts in America? Well, probably, as Mental Floss (an online website that boasts it is "the place where knowledge junkies get their fix") states, the Mayan calendar actually continues for 70 octillion years beyond today. They site David Stuart, a professor of Mesoamerican art at the University of Texas at Austin, in stating that Westerners are the ones who came up with the doomsday theory. "'The Maya never said anything about the end of the world or anything about a great change in the universe on that date,' Stuart said." So there you have it folks! And, if you don't believe that guy, take it from me... I'm alive and well on 12/21/12! So good for you if you hoarded and saved because now you have extra stuff to share with those less fortunate this holiday season. And hip hip hooooooray for the world not undergoing any massive devastation (outside the norm... war, famine, and the like) because this means we all get to go on living another day. Lets make the most of our "extra" time... hug someone today and tomorrow and the next day... you get the point! Happy day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Deep in the heart of Africa"

The other day, I went to see a film with my boyfriend. We were just settling in with our popcorn and astros when a preview for the new movie "Zambezia" came on. (Zambezia... as in the Zambezi River in Southern Africa... as in right where I am.) The trailer opens with this line: "Far away, deep in the heart of Africa". I turned to my beloved and asked him what he thinks, as an African, when he hears things like this. He chuckled that all-encompassing chuckle when you already know the answer. He then said that he is used to it but that he thinks it sets a bad image for Africa as a continent and that the West is trying to maintain only the mystery of Africa. He thinks this is actually detrimental and a hindrance to progress here. And, honestly, I agree.

Having lived in Southern Africa for nearly two years now, I can say that the things we think of when we hear "Africa" - this ridiculously huge continent - a mystery and breed intrigue to the West exist and definitely deserve this sort of recognition. I have been told not to walk around at night because lions come in from the bush and a leisurely day on the river is peppered with the potential for hippos to lunge at you from beneath the water's surface. "Wild Africa" is real. But there is another side of it too. One that is almost exactly like life back home with big cities, high fashion, tasty restaurants, shopping malls, and air conditioned movie theaters (like the one I saw this trailer in). This almost always gets left out in the tales of Africa. Maybe if it was mentioned, people would see the potential here and come take a visit or invest or *gasp* create a life here.

But, truly, have you ever heard a movie open with "deep in the heart of the plain-lands in America" or "somewhere in the mountains of America"? No, they just show you open fields or high peaks... and then usually cut to bustling cities. Think about it. This is my PSA from "deep in the heart of Africa"...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Anecdotes for Animals (Hippo Edition)

I have been on more than my fair share of game drives. On each of these game drives, the guides share tidbits of information on the wildlife. I soak this up. Combine that with the fact that I have read and researched about all of the animals that inhabit Botswana and what you're left with is a person that could practically lead the wilderness tours herself. Yes, I am a "Botswana animals trivia nerd" and I'm not afraid to say it. This ridiculous and somewhat excessive knowledge has made me an asset on game drives, especially for those patrons who sit in the back of the vehicles and can't hear the guide properly, and hopefully in quiz nights of the future.

Last weekend, I went on a mini trip up to the Okavango Delta. We spent time on the water and surveying a number of small islands. During a nature walk, our guide told me a new and particularly entertaining anecdote about hippos that I am going to add to my repertoire, in the event that I do decide to become a guide myself... it goes like this:

"A long long time ago, when God was creating all the animals, he made the hippopotamus as an animal of the forests and plains. But the hippo was greedy and, finding plenty of food all around him and no enemies to worry about, he grew fatter and fatter and fatter. The hippo became so fat that he had great difficulty waddling down to the river for his daily drink. This caused the hippo to become envious of all the fishes that swam in the cool water and he wanted to be among them.

The hippo then went to God and asked if he could leave the land to bask in the glory of the water. God, upon hearing the request, said that the fish were very dear and that he was worried the hippo would take its great eating habits and begin to eat the fish until there wouldn't be any left. Although the hippo promised not to eat any of the fish, God untrustingly declared that the hippo must continue living on the lands.

After some time of watching the poor hippo baking in the hot hot sun, his heart softened and God went to the hippo and told him that he would allow him to live in the water if the hippo could prove that he wasn't eating the fish. The hippo then declared that he would lie in the cool of the water by day and then, each night, he would return to the land and scatter his dung on the earth with his tail so that God could see everything that the hippo had eaten and see for himself that there were no fish bones. God believed this would be proof enough that the hippo was eating only grass found on the river banks and allowed the hippo to relax in the waters during all of its days.

So, this is the way, to this very day, that the hippopotamus comes out of the water to scatter its dung as it looks to the heavens and says 'Look God, no fishes!'"

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Holidays from Mr. President

I know it's a form letter sent to Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide, but I don't mind. It still feels good to be acknowledged by the President. Happy holidays to you too Mr. President. And thank you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Okavango Delta Mini-Vacation

If you travel by bus for 17 hours northwest of the desert-land where I live, this is what you see...

These are the types of animals you can view...

And this is the kind of antics you can get up to...

This is exactly what we did. Four days on the water (watching out for hippos and "hunting" crocodiles), camping, going on nature walks, drinking and braai'ing, and having a ridiculously good time. The Okavango Delta rocks my socks! I love Peace Corps and my fellow PCVs. Simply the best.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Between hello and goodbye is I love you"

This morning one of my dear friends left Botswana. It was a sad day for me. This is a marked loss since she is someone I grew very close to over the past year. It was also a day for rejoicing (which may have to come much much later after the tears have dried up) because this is the start of something very exciting for her. My friend came to Botswana from Ireland to gain experience in her chosen career path and to have an adventure. Two years later, she has achieved both and is going back to Ireland with an offer for her dream job and with a lifetime of memories. I am so proud of her and all that she accomplished here and I will forever be grateful for her friendship. Having her in my life has made my time here all the more special and has eternally enriched my life. So, today, I shed a few tears for my loss but also toast to her achievements and the knowledge that I have gained a lifelong friend. Ali, my dear, you will be missed. Until we meet again... I love you friend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Teddy Bear Day

On November 23rd, I held an event at my NGO to honor and show love to 147 orphans in my village. The cornerstone of the event was to give hope to these children and let them know that people care about them. To do this, the event included games and activities for the children, snacks, entertainment put on by former students from my OVC pre-school, speeches by orphans that have gone on to accomplish great things, and a very special teddy bear for each of the kids. This special gift was donated by The Mother Bear Project, a nonprofit organization based in the United States whose mission is to provide "comfort an hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear".

I have to say, being able to do this for the children in my village was something that will stay with me for my entire life. They were so thrilled to have something specifically for them and to be put on a pedestal for a day. Popping 5kg of popcorn during a storm and a power outage for hours the evening before makes for a good story but nothing would compare to the look on the children's faces as they watched me unpacking teddy bears onto the table in front of them. They were literally "awwwing" and jumped up and down with giddiness. But the true beauty of this event is in this story:

One of the little girls, who is around four-years-old, that is an orphan at my center and who has a very difficult home life, arrived in the morning thoroughly worn out. I can only imagine that she came to the center without breakfast and likely without much sleep, as this was customary for her. When she was called up to receive her teddy bear, she skipped over with excitement and then hesitantly took the bear from me. I believe her hesitation was because she is rarely given anything to call her own, like I alluded, barely even food. She held on to her teddy bear and hugged it and hugged it all the way back to her seat among the antsy children. A few minutes later, I looked over at her and she was fast asleep sitting up in her chair, clutching tightly to her teddy bear. It gave her such comfort int he moments after receiving it that she was able to sleep, even surrounded by noisy children. It did exactly as it was intended - it soothed her soul. In turn, it instantly put me at ease because I knew she had something that would provide her comfort and love, even when she doesn't get it at home.

I will forever be grateful to The Mother Bear Project for giving me moments like this one. And I will always hold dear all of the exuberance in their sweet faces. What a truly joyous event it was.

Pictures of the rest of the children with their teddy bears:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Six Months Left! Or Is It?

I remember this time last year when my Bots 9 friends were talking about having "only six months left" of their service. They spoke of it with joy and excitement and trepidation. And today, I have reached that same mark. Ladies and gentlemen, I officially have only six months left on my contract. WHOA! As much as I knew this day would come, it has blindsided me.  I remember counting up the days with my group-mates, day by day, and when we reached six months at site we all marveled. I am marveling again at the short time left before us. It is hard for me to believe that, in six short months, my Bots 10 family will scatter and embark on new adventures.

This is also a time for looking ahead. There are so many options that lay before us and so many different paths we could take. My fellow Bots 10s are applying to graduate schools and scouring the internet for job listings that might suit their fancy. And then there are a few of us, myself included, that are looking at extending our contracts for a third year, to remain in Botswana and take on the next challenge.

My decision to apply for an extension is one that I have considered at great length. I have painstakingly gone over the options and scrutinized it from as many angles as possible - looking at options of organizations I could work with and projects I could undertake, weighing my potential impact here against job opportunities back home and/or abroad elsewhere, examining requirements for my "dream jobs" and seeing what experience I might still need and how best to acquire it, and so on. If you know me, then you know many many lists were involved and even more hours contemplating the best choice, not only for me but also for my family, my friends (here and back home), and for the communities I work with. It all comes back to this: I have had the most remarkable experience here and feel like it just keeps getting better. I have been able to influence change in a positive way and have truly helped people. I have met and hobnobbed with some high level officials. I have learned how to navigate successfully at the grassroots level and organize communities for sustainable development. I have gained confidence in myself and my ability to give back. I want the opportunity, now, to put these new skills to use at a higher level and see how else I can assist this country that I have grown to love so much. And, ultimately, there is experience that I can gain in staying here that will be invaluable to my future. Plus, I am happy here. You really can't beat happiness.

For those of you who are worried it will be another year and a half before you see me... think again! Provided my third year extension application goes through, I will for sure be back in the states on home leave for a month (likely in time for my 30th birthday) and I will be expecting to see you (and hopefully you will be willing to take my poor tookus out for a drink or a bagel in celebration of our reunion?!)! Also, for those of you worried that I will fall in love and never come back stateside from Botswana... think again! While you may be right right about the "falling in love" bit, have no fear about the returning home part. The plan is to gain this new experience in Botswana and then bring it all back (the boyfriend too!) and live merrily in the states! So get ready folks because there will be a few big parties in our future!

One last "congrats" to my Bots 10 survivors! Only six months left together! Lets make the most of it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mutli-Cultural Exchange

The other day, I was sitting around talking with a bunch of friends. We were having a staunch debate on religion and politics and sharing our individual insights. During this conversation, it dawned on us that no two people in the room were the same. Now, this may seem obvious but I mean this on a much more deliberate level. When we looked around the room, no two of us were from the same country or of the same faith or shared nearly the same skin-tone (harhar). We had all been raised and lived very different lives and now were sitting together and peacefully discussing some very controversial issues. We were, quite literally, an international group by every sense of the term - multi-cultural, multi-religious, and so on. We had representatives from America, Botswana, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Ireland, and more. We had Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Catholics, and Athiests. We had a hodge-podge combination of folks that honestly sounded like it should be the start of a joke - "A Motswana, an Indian, and an Irish girl walk into a bar...". I mention this because I think it is interesting and because I never thought that, when I came to Peace Corps, I would be surrounded by people from so many walks of life. I expected to meet locals and learn their culture and gain some sort of African experience that was different from my own. And, of course, this has happened and I have made some amazing friends in my local community along the way. But I have also made friends with fellow do-gooders and with ex-pats and with others who have chosen to settle in Botswana. These relationships have made my experience even more rich and complex and educational. I have truly had some remarkable and eye-opening conversations with this group that have broadened my worldview and taught me so much about myself, my beliefs, and about the global community. I am extremely grateful for my random and wonderful group of friends.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

House Building Project

Many months ago, I wrote about an extremely destitute family that my NGO works with through its home-based care program. The matriarch of the family is HIV+ and her health has deteriorated to a level where she is now bed-bound and unable to do basic tasks for herself (like get up to relieve herself). She has six young children living with her and no one in the home to assist with child-rearing (i.e. the father has passed and there is no known family otherwise). There are also two teenaged daughters, unfortunately both have now died of HIV in the months since I have known them. One of the daughters left an infant baby to, essentially, be reared by her younger siblings, making seven children in total living in the home.

In my posts about this family, you may also remember that I said this family is living in a one-room house without water or electricity (in the house or on the compound). The family curls up together day-in and day-out, with the mother sleeping on the only bed that fits inside the home. The other children pile onto blankets on the floor and the infant baby sleeps next to the sick mother. Food is scarce. The family is endowed with a support check from the government in the total of P150 per month (US$21) that they use to buy food. This is not enough but they make due with the supplemental food my NGO is able to give them through our feeding program. This, much to our dismay, is nominal as well but every bit helps. Finally, the family also doesn't have a toilet or a pit latrine on their compound so they defecate into a bucket and bring it to the neighbor's house to dispose of it. This is a hard process, especially for a sick mother whose children are attempting to stay in school, rear themselves, and care for the family simultaneously. This family is, far and away, the hardest situation and most impoverished that I have encountered since coming here. Theirs is a life of hardship to say the least.

A project that I have taken on has been to help build the family a home. I am proud to say that, to date, we have completed the foundation, built support for the walls, and put a ceiling on the basic structure. All of this has been done with donations of time, money, and materials by community members that have recognized the desperate need. We are in the final push right now to mobilize resources and are engaging in a fundraising campaign with a number of individuals and communities. As the days pass, it looks more and more promising that we will raise the necessary funds to finish this house and give the family a home to call their own.

A quick note on the toilet situation because it is a necessary side-project of the "house building project" and is something we all feel is very important (as hygiene plays a significant role in health), and therefore something we have been working diligently on. I am pleased to say that we believe this project will also come to fruition in the upcoming months. I have been working with a Church group in Botswana that has been spearheading the fundraising effort to dig a pit latrine on the compound. They are hopeful that the funding will come through by the end of the year and that we can start digging in the first months of 2013. This will make a huge difference for the family and I am exceedingly grateful for their continued efforts.

I am beside myself with appreciation for the love and support of so many communities in making this project a reality. If you are reading this and have participated in this project on some level, please know the depth of my gratitute - I will never forget your kindness and generosity and neither will the family. This house will belong to these children when they truly become orphaned. They will not be homeless and they will have something to call their own. And, until that day, they will have a safe place to live. This will relieve their stress and their burden and, I believe, bring them comfort both in actuality and in knowing that so many people care about them and their well-being.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thank You: Inspiring Words to Keep Pushing On

In the past, I have posted letters and messages from friends who offered kind words of encouragement when I was going through harder times. I posted them because they inspired me and because they were words I hoped I would internalize and thereby become a catalyst for change. I am fortunate to say that things took a very positive turn for me in February when I was reassigned to a new site and a new primary project. From that point on, I have had the kind of service that I could only have dreamed of. It was the most perfect change for me and has provided me with opportunities I couldn't have imagined. All of that being said, it struck me as odd that I haven't shared any of the letters and messages offered to me since everything turned around. These words are every bit as special and encouraging to me and bring tears to my eyes when I read them. They are so meaningful, especially in light of how far my service has come. So I want to share one such letter with you now. This letter is written by a long-time and very dear friend of mine - someone who has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, having been a close friend of my father's since their youth. Since I first received this, I have re-read his words and they have encouraged me to keep pushing on and keep trying to do more. So I have to say, Tommy, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are kind in a way that makes my heart smile. You are inspiring me and making my service even more special because of the faith you have in me. It means the world. Here is what he had to say:

Hi Tija,
Sweetie, you don't ever have to apologize to me for something that I barely acknowledge anymore. Especially now, as I get older, birthdays are becoming less and less important. What you are doing, what you have done, what you are GOING to do...those things are important. VERY important. You are building a legacy that I am proud to be able to watch, learn from and be a part of, even if it's just as an observer from afar.
More envious I could not be of your family travelling all that way to see you and your 'other' family as well as all your co-workers and friends and having the experience of a lifetime. Your Mom's and Jena's blogs were inspiring, to say the least and the pictures were amazing.
I read that there is talk of you staying there for another that correct? Whatever your decision, I can't imagine anyone not understanding and wishing you the best. We are all so proud of you and what you have accomplished so far, you have no idea. I believe that this is just the beginning of a career that even you can't fully imagine, a 'tip of the iceberg' thing. And I want nothing more than to watch it grow, flourish and bloom, just as the work you are doing now is growing in the same sort of way, thanks to you. I believe that these dignitaries, whether they come from Africa or the US, are being routed to where you are working for a reason and of course, in my mind, the reason is you. Maybe I'm wrong but even if I am, I still find what you do to be compelling and deeply rooted in passion, a passion for people in need, a passion for change and an amazing passion for a better life for everyone.
I have said this to you in the past but I'll say it again...lots of people 'talk-the-talk' and throw money at things, sometimes for the right reasons but oftentimes it's done just to make themselves feel better about themselves. Very few people 'walk-the-walk' and sweetie, you are one of those 'very few'. And the 'walk' you are taking is affecting so many people in such a positive way that it's almost impossible to imagine you NOT doing something for the good of the planet and its' people, wherever they may be, whatever their needs. You truly are an amazing and unique woman and I don't believe I have ever known anyone in my life who inspires ME more than you.
I still look forward to reading your blog, 'hearing' the pride in your 'voice' just from your writings. I know what you are doing is difficult, very difficult. I have 'heard' you at times when you seemed like you might crumble, given in to the loneliness or the pain or the fear or the absolute frustration that arises in all things worth doing. But you have risen above it each and every time and again, you have shown the strength of character that you possess and that, to me, as well as everyone who knows you and is following your journey, 
is awe-inspiring and I absolutely could not mean that more!
Kudos, kid---kudos...and continued success!
Thank you again for the birthday wishes and I hope that when your birthday comes around and you don't hear anything from me, it will not be because I don't will be because I am a scatter-brain who is unable to remember ANYTHING!!!!
With love and a deep sense of pride,

Monday, November 5, 2012

How To Build Community

An old friend of mine posted this on Facebook the other day. It speaks perfectly to what being a Peace Corps Volunteer is all about. And, I believe, states the basic principles that we all should live by.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Weight and Happiness

Today, while eating dikgobe in the kitchen with the NGO's cooks, one of them asked me if I was happy. I responded in the affirmative, citing the fact that I was among charming people, eating one of my favorite dishes, and that great things have abound as of late. I then inquired as to why she asked. She responded that I have lost some weight and it has caused her to worry that it might mean I am no longer happy in Gabane. (Insert a confused look then a chuckle from me.) I explained to her that my happiness and my weight are not connected (thank goodness) and that I am exceedingly happy and, at the same time, trying to get myself back in shape. (Insert a bemused look from her.)

Now let me explain: In Botswana, they believe that the heavier you are, the happier you are. They expect people to gain significant weight when great things happen in their lives, like a marriage or a promotion. It is a good thing. Batswana have often commented on my rise to pudginess as a positive thing and would clamor about how beautiful I had become while living here. (Oh Kamogelo, you are getting fat! You are so happy and beautiful! You love Botswana! and then they would smile and cheer.)

Being raised in America, however, I have thought the opposite (that is, when I think about weight at all - Having only one mirror in my house and having that mirror be only big enough to see my face has really eliminated my concern over appearance.) I was raised in a culture where slim and slendor is desirable. I have turned up my nose at this sentiment throughout my life because I feel like you only live once so you should have that mac and cheese if it makes you smile. I think there's probably a better compromise between the American view, my own, and that of the Batswana.

All of this being said, I recently started a physical fitness routine (because that is what it is for - fitness). I hadn't personally noticed much change in my physique but apparently the cooks at the NGO have! This was something that I had to explain to them - the separation of weight and happiness. They seemed to understand, but with trepidation, and only after I hugged them and danced around with the kids and showed them how genuinely happy I am. I have a feeling that there will be another teaching moment in this when I get back to America...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Adaptations: Do They Make Us Weird?

There is a lot of literature given to Peace Corps Trainees and a lot of time spent discussing issues surrounding "standing out". In not so certain terms, we are told that we will be "weirdos" in our villages. People will think we do things strangely and be curious about us (and likewise us of them). This is oh so true. But there is some freedom in it. It gives us the courage to say and do and try things that we formerly may not have because Why not?! If people are going to think we're a little weird anyway then we may as well go for it! It has been extremely liberating.

What they don't tell you is that you'll likely be a weirdo when you get home too. Now, I haven't been back to America since I came to Botswana nineteen months ago but I can assure you that I have picked up strange habits in my time here. These idiosyncrasies are across the board with Peace Corps Volunteers, at least in Botswana, and are a topic of much discussion when we get together. I would like to share some of the "Adaptations" (as we more fondly call them) to life here that, if they follow us back to America, may make us a little teeny tiny bit weird...
  1. We fill up water bottles every time we take even a single sip out of them just in case the water goes out. If it does, it may be out for a week (or more) and having all the stored water you can manage will be necessary. Our refrigerators are almost entirely filled with water bottles (sometimes in the form of alcohol and/or soda bottles) just for added stored water. This water hoarding sometimes includes filling buckets, pots, or even your bathtub up.
  2. At the first sign of a rain cloud, we immediately charge all of our electronics. If it rains, the power is going out. If it's too windy, the power is going out. During some months, when most prone to power outages, we often try to keep electronics at full charge because, if the power goes out and our batteries are dead, there's nothing left for us to do.
  3. We putz like it's our job. It can take us anywhere from three hours to an entire day to do a menial task. This bodes well for us here because it fills our days with things to do but could be obnoxious (or detrimental) in America.
  4. We make sounds that are words here. "Aish" is an expression that means something. As is "ee" and "eeehhhhh-eh" (with tonal inflection). You can have an entire conversation using just sounds.
  5. "Sorry", or rather "sori", is not used when saying "I'm sorry" but when someone else trips or falls or drops something or any other random thing that you personally had no fault in or nothing to do with. This has become a spontaneous reaction for most of us and we hardly realize we're saying it. In a similar vein, no one here says "bless you" after someone sneezes or asks "please" for things. In turn, neither do we. Are we being rude? No definitely not here.
  6. Public transportation is a way of life. And, no, I am not meaning public transportation like the bus systems we are used to at home. I mean squishing 25 people into a space built for 11 and having people sitting on your shoulders and babies randomly handed to you because there's just no space anywhere else. Now imagine this level of squishiness in 105 degree weather. Your sweat is no longer your own (and neither is theirs). This is normal. When driving in a car, we feel as if we've hit the jackpot and living the high life. And, no, we don't drive. Similarly, we no longer think anything of asking some random stranger for a ride someplace. Transport in a car? We'll take it!
  7. Air conditioning? What's that?! And heating? Oh, you mean the sun?! These are amenities we don't even recognize anymore. When it's hot, we're hot. When it's cold, we bundle up. That's just how it goes.
  8. Media. We watch tv shows by the SERIES and not by the episode (downloaded by those lucky individuals with "high-speed" internet). No need to wait until next week to find out what happens because "next week" is happening right now! Back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes!
  9. We live with lizards. And like it. Lizards eat bugs. Bugs are bad. Therefore lizards are good. On a personal note, I have even tried to catch lizards to bring into my house just to eat the bugs.
  10. Spiders the size of your hand are no big deal. They aren't harming anyone so just leave them be. Make friends with the spider. If the lizards can live with them then so can I.
And many, many, many more weird adaptations that we have come to accept as our own since living in Botswana. But can you imagine hoarding water and speaking in sounds back in America? Yes, it is going to be quite a transition when we get out of the village... 

Healthy Lifestyles

During PST, we talk a lot about "healthy lifestyles" or, more specifically, how to maintain them once we get to site. We are told at the beginning that if you were very physically active before coming to your host country that you'll likely gain weight during your service, whereas those who were less active will lose. For me, I was in the "very active" group, choosing to go to the gym and to snowboard, take long bike rides, and generally be outdoors. I expected to gain some but also wanted to keep a lifestyle that kept me feeling good about myself and spry. Most of us vowed similarly but, unfortunately, this was usually not the case.

Many pick up bad habits to kill the time. Some people start smoking or drink too much or fill the empty hours with learning to cook new foods or waiting for a care package with tasty treats to remind us of home... and then binge eating them. Although I have still never ever smoked a cigarette, I did fall prey to overindulgence. I learned how to bake bread and fell in love with the smell as it filled my kitchen and I struggled to say no to kind neighbors when they over-filled my plate with Setswana foods. But eating what I like has rarely been something I denied myself.

Working out is infinitely more difficult when living in a village. For one, there are no gyms to go to. And second (and perhaps more importantly), we are an absolute spectacle if we go for runs outside. My fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and I have often said that we feel like a zoo animal with everyone watching us and studying our mannerisms. While a daily run would feel great on the body (and likely spur a parade of children trying to keep up), the soul takes a beating when you are constantly scrutinized. Most PCVs opt for indoor workouts of the likes of Jillian Michaels, Hip Hop Abs, or Insanity. That is, until the unbearable heat kicks in and getting up to fill your water bottle makes you sweat like you just ran a marathon. Oh yes, it is a hard life... Oh woe is me. But, really, I have tried on many occasions to get back into the swing of things and re-kindle my workout routine but bloody blisters and torrential downpours and nearly four months without water always kept me at bay. (Would you really want to hang out with me after nine workouts without a shower? Cuz that's how many days I had to go sometimes when I was out of water... GROSS!) I mention all of this because many of my compatriots and I have started to feel the wear and we are determined not to let anything else stand in our way. With less than seven months left in our contracts, we are finally taking a stand for our health.

Last week my mom bought me an elliptical as a Christmas present and for over an hour my boyfriend and I worked to build it. I put it smack dab in the middle of my bedroom so that it would stare at me in the face every morning when I wake up and every evening before I go to bed. And, I am pleased to report, I have been using it every day. I am so happy to have it (this was my favorite workout at the gym after all) but, at the same time, it is A LOT harder to do now than it was 19 months ago (I know, surprise surprise...) and I can really see how out of shape I have become. The occasional workout video has definitely not kept me in the type of shape I am used to. I literally struggle to make it through three songs on my Zune before having to take a break and walk around my house then get back on and go again. It is really sad to me. But I have it now and, as a Bots 10 family, we are going to get our healthy lifestyles back! We are motivated (both for our returns stateside and for upcoming trips - who wants to sit on the beach in Mozambique with a beer/bread gut?! not us!). Plus, at least for me, seeing how hard it has become (much harder than doing a Jillian Michaels video that's for sure!) has re-inspired me and is a huge wake-up call. So I'm going to just push onwards, minute by minute if I have to, until I am, as a PCV friend of mine put it, "a fast little gerbil on that thing"!

So I ask of you, my family and friends, every so often ask me how my elliptical is treating me... hint hint Tija!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How To Save A Life

Today I saved a baby goat. Yes, a baby goat. Only the most precious creature on the planet and one that I have been obsessed with since arriving in Botswana. What makes this "save" even more adorable is that this lost little baby goat had been marching along with a herd of other babies. A baby cow, four baby sheep, two baby goats, and some little chickens! It was an adorably motley crew to say the least. If it wasn't for the endangered baby goat, I would have stopped in awe over the cuteness of the group. Anyway, on to the saving... I first heard the sound of a baby goat crying. I looked around frantically because A. it was a baby goat, I knew it, and I love them and B. it was about to storm and I wanted to get home before the skies unleashed something from Hades on me. So I looked and I looked and finally I found a little baby goat sort of upside-down and stuck in a thorn bush. The other babies were going buck-wild so I knew there was something up. After getting a little torn up from the thorn bushes and a little bruised from the mild battering I took from the baby goat trying to get itself free, I released it to continue on with its other baby friends. And happy to be free that baby goat was! It looked like it was skipping off, tapping its heels with joy! And what a sight it was to see a herd of babies go by! I must ask, however, where were these guys' mamas?! and would this have happened if they were there?! At least these babies will have a good story to tell... And so will I! "The day I saved a baby goat!"

Continued Excitement and Success

Today has been another extraordinary day for me and for Gabane Community Home-Based Care for two reasons:

1. This morning we had a meeting with a representative from a national foundation that wants to fund all of our operational costs for the center for the next two to three years! She said they have only accepted proposals to fund operational costs twice in the foundation's history but that, after seeing our organization and talking with us, she will be our personal advocate to make sure our proposal goes through. We will learn the final decision in two weeks but she thinks it will happen.

2. Our dilapidated old playground is going to be replaced! Why? Because I have organized to get a new one donated to our center! In the upcoming months, the old playground will be renovated and a new playground added to our existing one. That's twice the fun for our little ones!

My NGO has certainly received its fair share of blessings lately. We couldn't be more grateful. I think this sort of achievement calls for a "Percy Happy Dance"!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Community Effort: President Khama Event A Success

On 19 October 2012, His Excellency Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of Botswana, held a "Community Service Day" at Gabane Community Home-Based Care. This day was more than any of us at the center could have hoped for. It was a blessing that will only be truly realized by those we care for here.

The event began with introductions of key visitors - the President and his entire cabinet, among others (protocol observed) - and speeches by the village's Kgosi and other donors. And then the main event was announced... a huge overhaul of our center's garden! This would be a hands-on project and require the participation of all the visitors in attendance.

Our previous garden was small and barely produced the greens we needed to feed the children at our pre-school. And, if the weather got too hot (which it almost always does in the summer), then the vegetables were fried because our net covering was in disrepair. In our new strategic plan, we hoped to expand the garden by the end of 2014. This, we hypothesized, would be a stretch but was a reasonable one. By the end of the day, with the help and support of the Gabane Community and the government employees present, our garden was transformed into something truly magnificent. Two years and two months before our proposed deadline. Amazing.

It was a beautiful thing to watch the community come together to help the center and make our dream a reality. They took turns shoveling dirt, tilling the land, and planting seedlings. Support Group members joined hands with Ministers of Parliament and children ran around playing games, reminding us why we were there. It was a joyous day.

In the end, the new garden is triple in size and has an irrigation system that utilizes rain water runoff (courtesy of a new water collection/pipe system that was also installed that day). Whats more, the new garden will produce enough food to feed the pre-school and the home-based care patients. That means so many more people that are in need will be helped by this new garden! And, on top of all that, fruit trees were donated so we could start a small orchard and our old netting was replaced with beautiful new netting to keep the elements and the animals from harming our produce. (And they used our old netting to create shade cover over the children's playground equipment!)

I have to also mention the fact that I got to meet another president... because this was definitely not something that I expected to happen when I came to Peace Corps. I have met my fair share of important people - Michelle Obama, Former President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, numerous US Congressmen, and now His Excellency Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama. And, not only that, but I've gotten to spend a fair amount of time talking with them and really getting to know them and the work they do. For someone that favors politics, this has been quite something! I feel very lucky to have gotten all of these opportunities.

Other donations on this day included food from a local grocery chain as well as fifty new wheelchairs to be used by home-based care patients that have trouble getting around (donated by the Botswana-China Partnership). This will be invaluable for the families of our home-based care patients. Our gratitude goes out to Mr. Nan for his generosity.

Of course, many thanks are extended to everyone that came out to help, especially the Office of the President, the Gabane Support Group, Peace Corps Country Director Tim Hartman for attending, and my boyfriend Tuan (who helped with preparation before the event and with day-of activities). From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have made this center so proud. We are forever grateful.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

President Khama to Visit GCHBC

This morning I had a meeting with Botswana's Office of the President. We discussed my NGO's needs and our impact in the Gabane community before they made a major announcement... Botswana's President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama would like to award Gabane Community Home-Based Care with a "Community Service Day" to be held this Friday at the Center! He is dedicated to giving back to organizations throughout the country that are make a positive contribution and he has selected my NGO to be the next recipient of this support. His Excellency will be accompanied by the Vice President, Members of Parliament, and others at this event.

The event would be a community service project facilitated by His Excellency and assisted by staff from his office, other government employees, and the Gabane community. The main project would be expanding our garden. This decision was a result of our meeting. During a tour of the Center, they asked about our garden, which is small but provides enough vegetables to supplement the meals for our Pre-School program. I told them that we aspire to triple the size of our garden by the end of 2014 so that we can provide fresh vegetables to our home-based care patients as well as to the children. We had not started the expansion project, however, because manpower is limited since everyone at the Center is volunteer. In response, they told me that the President would like to ensure that we achieve this goal and that the vegetables flourish. Therefore, they would provide the resources for us to triple the garden, including providing the labor, materials, seedlings, etc. They would also put in an irrigation system since water in this dry country is a problem. The President will work alongside members of the community to make sure this project is a success and our garden is able to provide for those we care for.

Everyone at Gabane Community Home-Based Care is overjoyed and grateful for this opportunity. Having an expanded garden will me exceedingly beneficial to our Center and to those we work so tirelessly to help. With sincere gratitude, we welcome the President of Botswana to our humble little Center and thank him for his contribution. This has been a big year for us - first meeting President Bush and now President Khama - and we are forever appreciative of it. It is because of this type of support that we have the confidence to keep pushing forward.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Outrageous Adventures of Giant and Midge: Botswana Edition

DisclaimerThis is the outrageous and only somewhat true tale of Giant and Midge as they took on Botswana. As you might guess, this story is, in fact, based off of actual events but, don't be fooled, some things have been exaggerated for dramatic effect. The names are definitely not changed to protect the innocent... There is no such thing as innocence in this group. Enjoy.

After a laborious (and expensive) delay in Paris, France, Giant finally arrived in Botswana. She looked fresh and fancy, just as you'd expect someone to look when coming from the land of croissants and designers. Midge jumped up and down with glee as Giant walked through the gates at immigration, overjoyed to be reunited with one of her favorite people on the planet. It was a reunion to go down in history as one of laughter, disaster, and hysterics.

Together, they made the long journey through winding tarred roads to the small village that Midge called home (and Giant called "Gah-bain"). She attempted to keep Giant awake to overcome the jet-lag by talking a mile a minute and wandering the earthen roads to different parts of the village. Of course, pictures were taken at every juncture along the way, mostly with goofy smiles. The conversation was like old times, as if they had never been apart. The two friends caught up on life and love and soon started making plans for their next adventure together (yes, even on the eve of the first night of what would come to be known as "the comedy of errors trip of friends").

After barely sleeping a wink (in part due to incessant conversation and in part due to the thunderous storm that occurred all night courtesy of Giant, aka "Mapula", so named for bringing the rain with her from Seattle), the two friends, joined by a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, traveled to "the big city" (the only certified city in the country) to gather food and supplies to head north(ish) to see the great salt pans of Botswana. This would happen in collaboration with an ex-patriot friend of Midge's who would drive and provide entertainment en route. He would be their tour guide and friend on this great adventure.

Most of the drive included ridiculous sing-a-longs with Midge, Giant, and friends. They belted out to every song that came on the ipod at the top of their lungs. Much to their friend's dismay, this was mostly to country music, something that Midge had not heard much of in the passed year and a half. Going to country concerts had been a favorite pastime for Giant and Midge so, of course, making their own concert would be in the cards. Other than country music, of particular interest was the vocal stylings of Garfunkel and Oats, who are an adorable duo that sing hysterical songs. Giant and Midge decided they could probably be awesome like them and made every attempt to demonstrate this along the way.

In addition to singing, the group of girls would also frantically yelled out to stop at interesting signs and landmarks on the way. Of particular note, was the Tropic of Capricorn. This stop required significant time for picture taking.

The rest of the journey towards the pans was peppered with rainfall (thanks again Mapula Giant for bringing the rains to our dry dry desert of a country) and many splattered bugs on the windshield. Sadly, and unfortunately, Zazu also was splattered on the windshield. Screams were let out and tears shed. Lets all please take a moment of silence in remembrance of this lovable little bird that met his demise on the A1 highway.....................Thank you for that. The group carried the scars of his lost life for the next few days as their adventure continued with a shattered upper windshield. A constant reminder that life is short and you best live it up while you can.

They arrived at their destination as the sun was setting. They were tired and their throats were sore from all of the singing.  They still had to set up their tents but thought a libation or two would help give them get the night vision they so desperately needed and soothe their souls from the loss they witnessed earlier. After a few too many, they wandered back to the campsite, haphazardly set up their tents, and all fell into one of the two they set up.

It was squishy and rocks and elbows flailing about made the evening almost unbearable. Sleep was impossible. Hangovers were imminent. And when they arrived, they did so with force. All that was left for this motley group was rest under the shade of an ancient baobab tree. Giant and Midge hoped beyond hope that the healing powers of this baobab would save their aching heads.

Did they? Yes, in time. Thank you dear baobab, you were quite the savior. After a nap in the shade of the baobab and ample water, they were off on their next mini adventure... trekking to the pans!

En route to the pans, their tour guide and friend decided they needed to stop at a gas station to fill up and to get coffee and food for the trip. The gas station was empty, with nothing but a few greasy donuts (yum) and zero petrol to speak of. Will we be okay? they asked. Decidedly so, the magic 8-ball responded. So Giant, Midge, and friends continued on.

They drove through a tiny village, commenting on how great a Peace Corps Volunteer would be in this site and waving at small children until they came to what was aptly called "the bush". There was nothing left but thorn bushes, tumbleweed, sand, and the occasional animal (mostly donkeys and cows but the occasional kudu or ostrich running at full-speed would cross their path).

They drove on. And on. And on. They sang karaoke-style songs and gossiped about life in Botswana and back in America. Midge and Giant told stories of their adventures and the four friends giggled uncontrollably as they looked at the sun to decide which direction they should take. And they drove on. And on. And on. Annnnnnnnnd on...

For eight hours. They were lost. So lost that they pondered their own demise. Would we meet Zazu soon? What predators live near the pans? Why hadn't the case station had coffee? or bread? or petrol? Why are we asking why in Botswana? But they persevered. They came across some people living in the lands and asked them, in broken Setswana and mime, "di-pan dikae?". In strict mime, they were pointed onward. So onward they went!

Another hour went by. Still lost. Still contemplating the end.

They concluded that they would never find the pans and decided they had to turn around and head home. Or at least in the direction they thought home might be, realizing that the sun had moved across the sky and they no longer could keep track. With no working compass to go by, Midge and Giant had to trust their guide (who admitted that he had no idea where he was). But, then, just as they all had admitted defeat, ahead of them came a sight for sore eyes...

THE PANS! Hip hip hooooooray! There they were! They were there the whole time! Who knew that something the size of Connecticut could hide from a group of intellectual-types for so long? But we outsmarted them! Errrrr... or at least that's what they will say!

The group frolicked across the glorious salt pans, content in having found them. They jumped for joy at the awesomeness and the expanse of the pans. They smiled that they did not miss such a glorious sight. And then they sang Hallelujah because they had done it! It certainly felt like a huge cause for celebration! After an entire day stuck in the bush, they found what we were looking for!

With significant difficulty (read: almost drowned their vehicle in an ocean of sand), they traversed the earthen paths all the way back to their campsite. It took a third of the time to get home and they were extremely grateful.

One of the things the group had hoped to accomplish during their trip was to see animals. they had heard that a nearby watering hole was a spot frequented by animals, including elephants! They were eager to see these magnificent beasts so they gathered up their cameras and boxed wine and set their sights on the watering hole.

For the hours before the sun set, Midge and Giant and their eager friend (for the sake of this conversation, lets call her AnimalloverfromthedesertviaMaine) sat watch on a fallen tree alongside the watering hole. They sipped their boxed wine and whispered back-and-forth in an effort not to scare away any incoming animals. An, all of the sudden, a herd of animals started coming through the trees. But what were they? Elephants? No. Kudu? No. They were horses! Followed in succession by cows! And then more horses from another corner of the bush! Then more cows! They came one after the next in a rhythm that had to be practiced because it was so synchronized. It was a sight to behold! Granted, it was not the sight that this group had originally wished for but one that made them smile nevertheless. Not a horrible way to spend the afternoon, that's for sure.
After the sun set, the rest of the evening involved marshmallows, food, more wine, and time by the pool. There was no way that they were going on any more adventures after such a ridiculous day of mis-adventure. They were exhausted and dirty and in desperate need of relaxation. So they settled in for the night, content to start the next day afresh.

The next morning, Midge woke up to find that she had been visited by an entire army during the middle of the night. An army of mosquitos, that is. She was absolutely covered. Giant and friends took pity on her and didn't laugh too much at the rash that was spread all over her entire body. They even helped by restraining her arms and legs when the itching became too much to handle. With that, it was time to leave. There had been enough time on the road for this group. All they wanted, Midge especially, was to get out of the bush and get home!

The drive home was another one of potential tragedy. As you may recall, the group attempted to get petrol for the vehicle the day before but the station was without. They then proceeded to drive for eight hours through the bush on their search for the salt pans. Still, no petrol. This meant that the vehicle was dangerously low on fuel and the light threatening to go on. As each car passed them on the road towards the next village with a petrol station, they attempted to flag them down to ask for even a few liters to get them there. They were unsuccessful. They kept trying. Time and time again, still no luck. They watched as the gauge moved ever closer to the red line. Finally, it reached the end of the line. The signs ahead read 5km to go. Slight sputter on the car. They looked at each other. Can we make it?! And they pressed on. Just as the petrol station came into sight, the car started to cough and control decreased. They literally rolled into the petrol station with only air getting them there. But they made it!

The rest of the drive went smoothly. Naps happened by everyone (driver excluded) and sing-alongs were less vibrant than on the trip up. Showers were the only thing on this group's mind. That and getting to safe ground. The only excitement was the 5pm wine break (because Midge's nana did teach her that a glass of red wine at 5pm should be a daily requirement)!

The next twenty-four hours were filled with activities that Giant and Midge were pros at. Namely, eating, drinking, and shopping! By the day's end, they bought Botswana out of their jewelry and crafts (ensuring many families had lucrative careers and extravagant holidays this year) and had made plans for a ruckus evening out.

They were joined by friends from across the globe, everywhere from Ireland to India to Bangladesh and South Africa. Fun was the aim and they were going to make sure they had it. So they got dolled up and set out to paint the town red. Success!
The culmination of their adventures together, before Giant set out to take "the whisky trail" up Mount Kilimanjaro, was a game drive through a nearby park to ensure they saw animals other than donkeys and goats! Joined by a few more adventure-seeking ladies, they piled into Midge's boyfriend's car and set off down the road!

The game park did not disappoint. Animals were a plenty from the moment they entered. They drove cautiously throughout the park. First a kudu! Then a bunch of monkeys! And then some giraffe! They were seeing hordes of animals and laughing and having a great time as they drove deeper and deeper into the park, eager to see whatever came their way.

All of the sudden, the car started making a funny sound. They pulled over on the beaten path near the far end of the park to see if there was anything wrong. When they tried to start the car again, nothing happened. The car was stopped dead in its tracks. What were they going to do?! They turned the vehicle off and tried re-starting it. The car started but wouldn't move at all. They were stuck!

Darkness crept up on them. They tried, one by one, to call the front desk of the game park to get help but there was no cell phone coverage. Once again, the girls were faced with potential death as the animals in the park circled closer and closer and the day turned into night. Giant and Midge looked at each other and, in that moment, were grateful that they got to see each other one last time. The stress was too much...

Then, all of the sudden, as if by divine intervention, flashing headlights ascended on them. It was an older woman that lives in the park and has fended off the wild animals before. She urged the group of frightened girls to get into her vehicle and abandon their own, at least until someone could safely come and get it. The girls leapt from their seats to seek refuge with this goddess. Saved again!

Midge's boyfriend was anxious when he arrived to pick up the frazzled girls. He first asked if they were safe, realizing that they had defied the odds to make it back in one piece. He then braved the dark of night to rescue his car from the dark depths of the game park. Within hours, they were all safely tucked away and jabbering on about the tragedy of the evening and how it made sense that the world would all but implode when the awesomeness of Giant and Midge came together. Of course, it wouldn't have been right had they gone event-less and it made perfect sense that this would be the way their reunion would go out.

In the end, Giant and Midge had yet another epic adventure together. One that was full of ups and downs and miraculous recoveries and so much love and laughter. There's a reason these girls are best friends. Who else could go through all of these things (or at least things that somewhat resemble the above story) and think it was the most amazing time ever? Two thumbs up for their ridiculousness and for many more times just like this one, cuz, why not?!