Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Development of "Irrational" Fears

Peace Corps is very concerned with safety and security. Rightfully so since it is responsible for its volunteers who are scattered in rural areas across the globe. Throughout our service, they have constantly warned us to be "vigilant" and have given us entire packets full of security plans in case of an emergency. Their concern with safety and security seems to be mirrored by the Batswana's own preoccupation with it. (I predict that the concern is spillover from South Africa.)

In Botswana, houses have bars on the windows and doors, sometimes even on internal doors between rooms, and many houses have high walls with barbed wire and/or spikes atop them. I have been warned about running in the lands or hiking the Kumakwane Hill because of the threat of "rebels and thieves". And, by no means, should you ever be outside after dark unless accompanied by many people, particularly of the large and strong manly type. There are so many precautions to be taken that it can drive a person mad.

Botswana is pretty safe, folks, and I cannot even begin to fathom "a rebel" - I mean, this is a country where their "violent strike" included singing and dancing. Even still, the incessant warnings from Peace Corps and Batswana alike have weighed on me (all of us for that matter). And now, despite my having no evidence that any of these things are necessary, after nine months in the country I have started to develop my own fears about the potential dangers. For example, I always have my burglar bars on my door locked, even when I have the door open. I also never leave my compound after dark without an entourage of people or guaranteed and secured transport.

The other night, a friend of mine came to Kumakwane from Gaborone (about 21km). He came around twilight and stayed to take pictures of the full moon, to hear about my pending move, and to hang out for a while. When he was getting ready to go, I started to get really worried about him driving home. After all, it was dark and there might be animals on the road and it would certainly be extremely dangerous for him to be traveling. (For Heaven's sake, buses don't even travel after dark!) He assured me that he would be fine and that he would drive carefully. Even still, I fretted. (Danger danger, driving at night is dangerous!) He sent me a text when he got home to ease my worried mind. (Thank you!) And then it dawned on me... I used to drive at all hours of the night. There were deer on the road and dogs and cats. There were still stupid drunk drivers. None of this is unique to Botswana. Why was I fearful now? Will this be a fear I carry with me for some time when I get home? And what other fears might I slowly develop in my time here?

At least I can finally say that my fear of ridiculously large and hairy spiders is gone...

Photo © Tuan Van Dyk
Kumakwane, Botswana

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