Have you ever wondered what a Peace Corps Volunteer does?
While this is mostly satirical, it isn't completely off in the (albeit exaggerated) perceptions of what a Peace Corps Volunteer does. It made me laugh hysterically, which is why I wanted to share it. I decided to share it now because I'm about to tell you about a particularly productive day in my life (yesterday to be exact) and the development in my projects in Gabane.
My new house in Gabane has an electric stove. This was much to my DAC's dismay because the country is plagued with significant power outages. Being the motherly type, she worried I would go hungry for days on end if the power went out in Gabane (Ha! She obviously hasn't spent enough time with me! Allow myself to starve? I think not!). As such, she made me bring my gas stove from Kumakwane with me to the new village (I now have a second stove and a gas cylinder in my living room). Unfortunately, the attachment for the cylinder lost a piece so it leaks out gas when turned on so I'm unable to use it until that gets fixed. Fortunately, I haven't had a problem with electricity yet. That being said, yesterday morning I set my kettle up to boil water for coffee (thanks again Mom!) when POOF - my power went out. I felt my heart whimper a little bit. I looked longingly at the gas stove, realizing I couldn't use it but wishing that a small gas leakage into the house wouldn't kill me (because not having coffee just might!). But fear not my fellow coffee drinkers, it was short lived. Unlike my previous 5+ day stints without electricity, this one lasted less than five minutes before I heard the hum of my refrigerator return. If this wasn't a sign! This was going to be a good day!
At the NGO, I was greeted by 41 smiling children eager to do our secret handshake and get underway with the lessons for the day. They were smiley and chipper and very very happy to see me. (This, of course, makes my day all on its own because the kids are so precious.) The morning lesson was English - my speciality - and the kids were excited to show off how well they could identify the window, door, chair, and a sundry of other things around the classroom. It is at this point that I would like to brag about how wonderful the Head Teacher is at the NGO. She is an older woman, retired from her previous life in the primary school system, and passionately dedicated to these children. She approaches each lesson with patience, kindness, and percipience. I mention this now because the children are flourishing under her tutelage. I am constantly amazed at how these children, none older than 6, are able to understand and communicate in both Setswana and English (and succeed in other subjects as well). Even those that are having a harder time grasping the lessons, are comfortable in trying and giving their best effort since she supports them so beautifully as they learn that "E" comes before "F" or that "chair" and "table" are two different objects. It is a joy to watch her teach, especially in a country where teachers are not always as diligent. This is a blessing for those children, but also for the other teachers at the NGO who are watching and learning from her and for me in getting to work with her.
After the morning lessons, the Head Teacher (who is also the Center Coordinator) took me around Gabane to introduce me to our key partners. This included the Head Nurse and staff at the Community Clinic and the Health Post, Peer Educators, volunteers that work with our Support Group for HIV+ individuals, teachers from the primary schools in the village, and, finally, the Kgosi (village "Chief") and his staff. I had nearly six straight hours of meetings. I was warmly received along the way - meeting so many new people, learning about the work they are doing, and being invited to help in a plethora of ways. It was during this time that I really began to feel a part of this community and began to understand all the issues that the NGO and community faces. What's more, I started to see where I could fit into the mix and how best I can help in all these areas.
When the day was through, I sat down to plot out a schedule and figure out where to allocate time to assist (gasp) everyone. If I am to do all that I hope, there is very little way I will be lounging around in my bath bucket (as pictured above). My days will be filled with capacitating the NGO staff, assisting with lessons plans for the Early Childhood Education Program, working with the Clinic and Health Post, leading a PACT Club at the Junior Secondary School, developing a better M&E system between the NGO and Gabane Primary School, teaching basic computer classes, working with the Segoditshane Scouts Troop, and revising Reneetswe Happy Home Care Center's Constitution and its organizational documents. Phew. To say I have my work cut out for me is an understatement. Am I excited about this change of pace? You betcha!
Moral of this story? What this Peace Corps Volunteer is doing falls somewhere in the middle of all the pictures above, probably with some elements of each (except of course the CIA thing... and the monkey backpack!). And it looks like I am in for many more busy and happy days ahead!