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... 

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