Friday, August 31, 2012

The "Big 5" And The "Village 4"

One of the really exciting things about my family's visit was that we were able to see Africa's "Big 5". They were chosen for a number of factors, most notably because they are among the most dangerous and thrilling animals to see. Africa's Big 5 are as follows (in pictures taken from our trip):

Cape Buffalo





Seeing Africa's Big 5 is one of the most exhilarating things you can do. Some people spend a lifetime trying to see them but fall short. We were fortunate enough to see the Big 5 many times over! (Yes, we saw three leopards, four rhinos, a half dozen lions, and countless buffalos and elephants!) It was absolutely remarkable and something that I can say with utmost certainty will be with each member of my family for the rest of our lives.

I mentioned that seeing these majestic creatures is rare and yet many people back home think these are the animals I see every day since, after all, I live in Africa. I want to introduce you all now to the animals I do actually see with frequency. They are the "Village 4" and require no formal introduction...


Not gonna lie, I am quite grateful that these are the creatures I see as I walk through my village because it offers some sort of comfort that I'm not being tracked by a lion or fear being trampled by an elephant. Plus it makes the fact that I did actually see the Big 5 all the more special. So three cheers to the Village 4 for being so humorous and the Big 5 for their glory.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thank You: Gratitude for a Family's Visit

I have been trying to articulate and encapsulate my family's visit but have fallen short in adequately expressing how amazing it was. In fact, most of what I came up with was a series of adjectives strung together like Christmas lights - great, exciting, adventurous, wonderful, enchanting, joyous, breathtaking, heartwarming, and so on. When I moved on to the next attempt at conveying the magnitude of their visit I was left with anecdotes about seeing lions and leopards, showering in "hippo water" (as my sister referred to it), shivering and sweating within days of each other, and running full bore away from spiders. These stories left me smiling and laughing and in awe all over again. But, still, it didn't seem like enough to really share what this time together meant to me. So I have decided on this: to write an open letter to my family...

To My Amazing Family,

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to visit me in Botswana. Thank you for caring enough about me to want to see my world and to experience it first hand. Thank you for accepting the crazy things about my life - bucket baths, power outages, and haphazard weather included - and for loving those people close to me here. Thank you for being open to adventure and trying new things and pushing yourself to your own personal limits. Thank you for laughing when things weren't perfect. Thank you for making sacrifices as you scrimped and saved the money to come and thank you for including me along the way. Thank you for the hugs and the kisses and the encouragement. Thank you so much.

I want you all to know how truly special this trip was for me. To have you know where I am and to have actually experienced a bit of my life here makes it feel more real to me. Sometimes, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you can feel detached from the people you love back home. It can be a long time without hearing from your best friend or a loved one and you can feel like you are in a whole different world that could be a product of your own imagination. The fact that you were here, walking the same paths as I do and being a part of this life, brings validity and authenticity to it. It is even more real to me now. You know, you understand, and you can appreciate this world. For that, thank you.

When I sit in my now empty house and look through pictures and think back to everything that we experienced together, my heart feels so full. 

I could never thank you enough.

All my love,

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wow. Time flies in the BEST possible way!

After sixteen months without seeing my family, the time has finally come for them to board a plane and travel the distance to visit me in Botswana. I have teared up with joy on more than a few occasions in the last week at the mere thought of it. It is absolutely unbelievable to me that they will be here and that I will be seeing them in a few short days.

For more than six months we have been putting together the details of their trip to Botswana. Going through possible itineraries and fantasizing about all the things we will get to do together. And for the last few hours I have been putting the finishing touches on my house in preparation for their arrival. Yes, that means doing laundry (my least favorite chore these days - hand-washing is rough - but I have water to do it so I won't complain!) and making beds and sweeping and dusting furniture (why I continue trying to dust is beyond me because by the time I finish cleaning one side of a piece of furniture, the other side is already covered with dust again). In doing this, I have had a few moments where the excitement (read: exhilaration) was peppered with anxiety.

This anxiety caught me off-guard and caused me to stop for a while to decipher the emotion. And what I have come to is this: I have changed. I am a different person now than I was when I came to Botswana over a year ago. I have a life that is very different in so many respects. And while my family has "been on the journey with me" in that they have read my blog and my countless emails and have supported me so much along the way, they haven't been here to actually be witness to this life and to the changes that have occurred in me. What if they don't like what they see when they get here? What if we don't understand each other the same way anymore? And what if they can't appreciate this life that I have grown to love so much? To me, it is beautiful. Yes, it is rough around the edges, but I have come to like that things take (so much) time and nothing goes as planned and I can laugh at the idiosyncrasies of life here, knowing that things work out and a new special moment is likely right around the corner. I am a new me in a new life and I want so badly for them to be as happy about it all as I am.

I believe these are probably natural worries for someone that has been separated from their family for sixteen months, especially someone who has experienced all the things that come along with being a Peace Corps Volunteer. I share this in hopes of quelling these thoughts in my fellow PCVs (or at least reassuring them). You cannot escape the fact that, as PCVs, we change and we live in wildly different environments than those at home and we run the gamut of emotions throughout our services and that includes when preparing to host visitors. But, at least for me, the reason I am anxious is because I am so excited to share with them everything that comes along with my life here. 

The key word is EXCITED. I am excited to have my family with me, to hug them and to bring to life all of the stories that I have told them. I am excited that they will know the people and the places that are dear to me, as they are. I am just so excited about my life here being joined together with my life from home. To bring these worlds together is such a magnificent thing. I really can't imagine being anything other than thrilled about this reality. And my family is excited too. Because being able to experience this together is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and because it will be a shade of wonderful that even words can't describe.

Only one more day until they leave their cozy homes in America and three days until I share my home with the best family in the world: mine! Amazing!

Now it's time to go back to obsessing about something productive... like taking my clothes off the make-shift line outside and dusting just a little bit more... Because MY FAMILY IS COMING!!!

A Must Read

Have you ever heard that Africa, all of Africa, is impoverished and war-torn and underdeveloped and struggling? Have you even given this a second thought or wondered about the other side/complexity of such a huge continent? I am here to tell you that there are many dimensions to life here. That is part of my role as a Peace Corps Volunteer - to break down stereotypes and educate our respective nations about the other. We have a responsibility to share what we know. This is me doing that once more. Do yourself a favor (especially if you are an ex-patriot, a PCV, or a traveler of Africa) and click to read this article:

The White Correspondent’s Burden: We Need to Tell the Africa Story Differently