I realized last night that I have been very one-tracked in my updates lately and that I have been missing the opportunity to share a lot of great experiences and memories. This post is going to be all about catching up on some of those for you...
A Peace Corps Wedding
Two friends from my group, Dan and Theresa, fell in love during our pre-service training and decided to spend the rest of their lives together. Recently, in front of a few of their closest friends, in a country far away from home, the two tied the knot and became Mr. and Mrs. We had the opportunity to share their union by throwing them a wedding reception. Although our party was quaint and very "PCV", we went all out with the traditions - cutting the cake, the first dance, a champagne toast. This day and their marriage is special to everyone in the Bots 10 group because we have become family over the passed year. It is truly special when two people can find love and, for us, it's even more special because our "family" actually became family. So, for all of us in the group, this was a night that we will remember forever.
"Cultural Exchange": Wedding Style
There was recently another Peace Corps wedding that was truly special to me. Two dear friends from my old village of Kumakwane joined names on the 5th of May.
Mary, the other PCV from my beloved village, and Fila, my neighbor, became Mr. and Mrs. Konege, in front of family, friends, and fellow PCVs, showing the other side of finding the love of your life in the most unexpected of places.
Mary and Fila met when Mary first arrived at site in June 2010 and it didn't take long for them to fall in love. And I had the great honor and privilege of spending nearly eight months watching them, laughing with them, and sharing experiences with them. They are among the two best people that I have ever met. Mary, with her humor and wit, and Fila with his huge smile are a match made in heaven.
Their wedding day was every bit as special as they are. A number of other PCVs and I gathered in Kumakwane to share the day. The ceremony took place in Fila's church and was one of the more fun experiences I have ever had. The entirety of the service was dancing and singing - it felt like a giant party! Afterwards, we all went back to Fila's family's house and had a meal and listened to speeches and danced! Although the entire day was amazing and so much fun, I have to say that the biggest blessing of it all was that Mary's parents were able to make the journey to be here for it! This is so heartwarming because Mary's parents had not been on a vacation in thirty years and Mary's mom had never been on an airplane before! Having them there made a truly wonderful day all the more exceptional!
The Bots 9 group is getting ready to leave the country next week. This is a truly bittersweet time for all of us. Watching them pack their things is emotional for those of us left behind, as they have become our friends and support system over the passed year (and forces us to examine our own service and what time we have left). It is even more bittersweet for them, as they have to say goodbye to their villages, their homes, and the people they have lived with, worked alongside, and grown to love.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to my friend Paco's very rural village called Medie to be part of his going away party. It was so touching to watch him interact with his village and to see how much they cherished him.
The event started out at the kgotla, with a huge agenda planned. It looked as if they entire village came out to share in the festivities! There were speeches made; entertainment and performances by the students at the school he worked at, the local support group, and the traditional dancers; gifts given; and tears shed. After the program, everyone went to the school for a meal and then continued well into the night (and, for some, the early hours of the morning) with a bonfire, music, dancing, and a braai. For me, being able to see how other PCVs live and witness how much they care about my friend, was amazing. I can only hope that my village(s) will care about me as much. It was beautiful to watch.
My Bots 10 family recently lost another PCV. This is a happy goodbye, however, as our dear friend Maggie accepted an amazing job offer (and career opportunity) in her home town. Maggie has been an amazing volunteer, working with the disabled and disadvantaged population in Botswana and making a significant difference in her time here. While we are sad to see her go and realize what an asset Botswana will be missing, we are also excited for her and what this means for her future. Plus, we're family now so we'll always always always be close!
Sadly, Maggie had three cats that she had to leave behind in Botswana. They were her buddies and, I think, made leaving even more difficult. She has found them loving new homes with new PCVs from Bots 12 (to be sworn-in in two weeks!!!). These new homes, however, are not available until the Bots 12s go to their sites sooooooooo the three kitties are living at my house until then. Their names are Sisi (black mama cat), Pudi (colorful critter), and Mokibikibi (fluffy guy). They have been a handful, especially since I've never been much of a cat person, but we're getting along well and are starting to figure each other out. And, I have to admit, it's been kind of fun having animals in my life again, even for a while, because they really do give you all sorts of love.
This, specifically, is not an update. It is more of an "I have the best NGO and the kids are super cute" portion. These are a few of my favorite kids from the "older group", meaning they are 5 and 6-years-old. From left to right, you will see: Boitumelo, Shamiso, Abigail, Refilwe, and Kamogelo. They are HYSTERICAL and I am really having fun playing with them and helping them along.
Brrrrrrrrrrrrr It's Cold Out Here: Winter Clothes for All!
Another wonderful thing happened at my NGO yesterday... They got winter clothes!
My friend and fellow PCV, Carolynn, is working with a highly developed Scout troop in Gaborone. As part of their mission, they have been collecting winter clothing to donate to orphans and vulnerable children around their community. Carolynn called me a week ago and asked if we were in need and I said yes and explained the harsh reality for the children at our center. After our talk, I sat with the women from my NGO and explained that we might get a donation of winter clothes and the women literally started crying tears of joy. A week later, the children of Gabane Community Home-Based Care were among those that benefited from the Scout troop's generosity! We can now all sleep soundly at night knowing that these wonderful children will be warm and cozy and safe from the cold cold winter! What a blessing! These kids' lives were made infinitely better because of the kindness of otheres! Ke a leboga thata thata!
...... And there you have it folks! Just a few of my many updates on some of the wonderful things happening in my life!
By the way, still no water, still no house... And the house we thought we had identified is a bust. We're back to scouring the village for houses without curtains (the "sure sign" that it's vacant and for rent)! Wish me luck!