Saturday, May 31, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 13 (April 2012)

In lieu of a photo for April, let me share this hilarious (and true) link to every PCV's favorite tumblr page, What Should Peace Corps Volunteers Call Me:

To explain this in a way that brings clarity, I had one mirror that I could barely see my entire face in throughout the entirety of my service. Also, re-read this blog post regarding mirrors in Botswana.

Also important to remember, this marked Bots 10's one-year in country. A huge feat and a wonderful celebration.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 12 (March 2012)

March was spent learning about my new village, assessing
the NGO I was assigned to, and getting to know my neighbors.
This goat was a particularly flavourful neighbor!
(And, yes, he did come hang out like this almost every day!)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 11 (February 2012)

With tearful eyes and a solomn heart, I bid farewell to Kumakwane
and to the Kums Kids. I relocated down the road to the village of Gabane,
where I would spend the remaining sixteen months of my service.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 10 (January 2012)

In January, a fellow PCV and I held a Leader Training
for our Scout Troop. Following the training, we invited
all of the leaders to go swimming. This was hysterical,
as many of them had never even seen a pool before!

Cape Town Vacation
Our first night was one of the most fun I have had during my
service. It was filled with good food, strong drinks, making
new friends (of PCVs from other countries), and karaoke!
This was also the first "proper" city we had seen in nine months!
Cape Town Vacation
Sea kayaking with the penguins was absolutely
amazing and a one-of-a-kind experience.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 9 (December 2011)

Bofelo (left) was home from the deaf school in the neighboring village
for the holiday break so he and Bokena spent every day with me.

While sitting on my couch, I heard Puppy making a ruckus outside
so I went to investigate. She had delivered her puppies and they
had fallen into crevices behind the rubbish pile and she couldn't
get to them. I rescued them and set up a secure place for her.
All of the puppies survived.

I hosted Hanukkah for seventeen Peace Corps Volunteers

Monday, May 26, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 8 (November 2011)

My darkest days during Peace Corps were in my first months of service.
Fortunately, it was also when my family and friends surprised me with
amazing packages filled with love and great things from home. November
was a particularly good month for that. To everyone who sent me something:

Curtis moved into my homestead and was kindly welcomed.

The Kums Kids continued to provide me with love and filled
my home with laughter. They were the true heroes of my
time in Kumakwane and as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 7 (October 2011)

Namibia Trip
First sight of water in six months
Mocking ourselves per the "Bots 10 stereotype"
Namibia Trip
Quad biking on the sand dunes

Bots 10 at the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Celebration

Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a Bots 10 Adventure
Our first rhino sightings ever

Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a Bots 10 Adventure
As the storm rolls in...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 6 (September 2011)

Sowa Salt Pans
The first Bots 10 trip together
and the first time we saw something super special
and unique to Botswana.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 5 (August 2011)

Timmy, the compound dog, who became one of my closest allies...
But who was too lazy to go on hikes or runs with me.

My first attempt at a community garden, complete with PCV participation.
This was also my first failed project.
It fell apart because I wanted it more than the community did.
"Nothing for us without us." 
Throughout my service, I would think back to this project and be reminded of that lesson.
With that, it was no longer a "failure".

A Botswana Zebras football match I attended with my
counterpart and fellow PCVs. It was a bonding moment for us
and my first national-level sporting event in the country.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 4 (July 2011)

These three kids - Bofelo, Goitsemodimo, and Bokena - were
my life in Kumakwane. They came over to play every day and
added so much happiness and joy to my life in the village.
I will forever be grateful to have met these beautiful children.

The first truly African animals I ever saw in Botswana.
Mokolodi Nature Reserve.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 3 (June 2011)

My first birthday away from home. Number 28.
Alongside my cohort, Bots 10, at the overlook in Kanye.

Swearing In Day - 7 June 2011
The day every trainee looks forward to.
Officially a PCV.
Together with my Mafhikana ward posse.

In my first few weeks as a PCV, I got the opportunity
to meet US Ambassador to Botswana Michelle Gavin
at her home, where she hosted FLOTUS Michelle Obama. 

Meeting FLOTUS. What an inspiring woman.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 2 (May 2011)

My host family.
The strangers that became family and my home away from home.

Site Announcement - the moment I learned where I would call "home" for two years.
Kumakwane, the village that stole my heart.

Kesaobaka, my host brother, celebrating his birthday.
Before this day, he had never truly celebrated his birthday.
On this day, my host mother told me that I showed her how
you can make someone feel truly special, even if you don't
have much to give. This was the first time I knew the potential
we have as Peace Corps Volunteers to give back in simple ways.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Photo Reflection: Month 1 (April 2011)

The day before departure - this is what it looks like when
you pack your entire life into two bags totalling 80lbs and a carry on!
The most exciting, scary, and exhilarating day of my life.

Our first steps and our first moments in Botswana!
This was a moment that was a lifetime in the making.
Stepping foot on the land that would host the most memorable times of my life.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

In Commemoration of 38 Months of Service

To commemorate my 38 months of Peace Corps service in Botswana, I am going to post a picture or two a day for each month of service until my Close of Service date on June 26th. That is when this journey will come to a close and the sun will set on my three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I think it's only fitting to look back and honor the ups and downs and everything that made my service so amazing. I hope you, my fellow followers, supporters, and friends, will enjoy recapping the awesomeness with me. We will begin reflecting tomorrow...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ek trou! The Proposal Story

The words of Paulo Coelho could be the anthem to my fiancée and my love story. 

I travelled halfway around the world to meet him. To meet a man that only my heart knew existed. I say this because the draw to Africa, and to Botswana in particular, started long before my journey here. It had to be kismet. Once I met him, I knew. And I think he did too.

Then I had to search high and low throughout the city where we finally met in order to find him once more and to hear the words that would make the entire universe ours - "Will you marry me?"

No words needed to be spoken. Yes.

The story is a great one, though. Both the love story itself and the proposal. The latter is where this blog post takes us...

For months, my (then) boyfriend and our friends plotted the proposal. They met in secret to deliberate and to plan. It would be a scavenger hunt, with clues leading me to a number of significant places in our relationship. It was an activity my boyfriend and I had talked about doing for a long time. I wouldn't suspect a thing. It would be interactive, exciting, and utterly romantic - like a timeline of our nearly three years together. And it would be leading me to a spot where we would declare a lifetime more.

Travel along with me as I recount the tale of the most romantic and best thought out proposal ever told...

Clue One:

Hearing only a brief snippet of the song, I knew exactly where I was supposed to go. The week prior, my boyfriend and I had taken a lazy afternoon stroll to a park near his apartment complex. In the middle of the park was a large rocket ship installation and we had spent quite a bit of time around it, just talking about all the activities that could be done in the park and about how the city should utilize the space more. So I took off in the direction of the rocket and, sure enough, there was a clue attached just out of my short arm's reach inside the ship!

Clue Two:

What is a gourd? What is another word for a gourd? Where in the world could he be sending me?

With a little help from my friends, we deciphered the code! Before too long, we were jumping in the cars and headed to the Calabash, a local watering hole that was around the corner from his old house. Many a hot summer night was spent there, beer in hand with belly aches from laughing so hard. We often reminisce about our times at Calabash and smile. It was also a year of our relationship and probably the most pivotal time for us because it was then that we fell in love.

Clue Three: Following his directions, we uncovered clue number three...

It was fitting that he wanted me to drink a beer at Calabash before proceeding on to the next clue...

Inner city off-roading? We deliberated. There were very few places in Gaborone that would be considered "off-roading" and even fewer that are of any significance to us... bread and cheese? PIZZA! With that, we knew exactly where he was sending us... BULL AND BUSH!

Bull and Bush, or more lovingly referred to as B-N-B, is a restaurant and bar that we have spent a lot of time at over these last three years. It is where we used to go on weekends with our Irish friends and crew, where we play pub trivia, where we spent my 29th birthday, and where I ate a copious amount of margherita pizza! It absolutely had to be the place!

On our way to clue number four, the car-full of us girls danced and sang and rocked out. Cars pulling up next to us joined in the merriment, laughing and dancing from their vehicles. Even a duo of police officers smiled and waved and urged us on. Happiness was literally infiltrating the streets! It was beyond entertaining and one of the more fun car rides I have ever taken. Bless these ladies for making this drive (and the hunt) so ridiculously fun!

Clue Four:

We were right! The clue had led us to the right place! And after only a few seconds of confusion, I knew where the next clue was leading me... "Athos, Pathos, and Aramis" were cover for the three chiefs of Botswana and the Three Dikgosi Monument. But my main squeeze had more in store for us at BNB than merely finding the next clue...

He had arranged for pizzas to be waiting for us upon arrival - because who wants to go to the best pizza joint in town and not get to nom on some, right?! - and for a tray of "his and her" favorite shots. Yes, that means tequila (my favorite) and springboks (his favorite) were waiting on us. Wow. I later learned that he negotiated BNB to open two hours early for us specifically for this scavenger hunt. Talk about planning! It didn't take long for the group of us to eat two pizza and down the shots. And, with that, we were on our way to the monument!

Clue Five: "Are you Tija? ... Are you Tija? ..." "I'M TIJA!!!" The security guards at the monument had been waiting and were so excited when our car pulled up alongside the entrance gate! They were a part of something special and they knew it and were delighted to share in the joy of the hunt! Not gonna lie, I felt like a celebrity when I hopped out of the car and went bounding for the gate. Photo op with the fans?! But, really, it was exciting and I was full of energy.

The quest master, a friend of ours, gave me the "hint": "Endurance, like what you're going to need at the end of this..." And, with that, I knew where to go...

This monument means more to me than it does to my (now) fiancée and it significance is greater for me. He says he put it in to "throw me off" and "make me question what was happening" but it was fitting that he sent me here. For anyone that has been in the early stages of a relationship, there's a point where you wonder if you're compatible - can you sit in silence with the person, can you carry on a conversation with them, are you truly compatible? The first time he brought me here, I was wondering those things and had all those things proven to me. We had wandered to each element of the monument and been silent as we read the plaques, we had discussed them and their meanings, and we had been goofy and playful as we moved on. It meant something to me. And, having read each plaque with him, I knew exactly where "endurance" stood so I went running!

Clue Six: "The Ancient Westerosi King has a hospital named after him in Gabs"

This clue was harder. But there were only so many hospitals and clinics in Gaborone and only one that I knew had meaning to us... And this one was extremely special... BAYLOR. Get it, like Baelor Targaryen from Game of Thrones (his favorite series ever). That had to be it.

This is the site of the first time we met. Although we haven't spent a lot of time here since that day, it is probably one of the most precious places to me because this was the beginning of our love story.

The clue was nowhere to be found though... We looked around and couldn't find it... But then a breeze picked up and we heard something from the road behind us. There, having been swept away, was the clue!

Clue Seven (my lucky number): "Find the phytological stars amongst the green diamonds"

What in the world?! This dude is crazy with these clues!

We had to break it down... 

phytological... plants... Sanitas Nursery? 

but what about the green diamonds?... they are found in the Jwaneng mine... but that's three hours away... that doesn't make sense... hold on, whoa, wait a second, holy smokes... engagement! GET ME TO SANITAS!!!

Hint: "Find something unique to you at the nursery"... That could only mean sunflowers...

So I went searching... and searching... and searching...

After what felt like an eternity of scouring the nursery, I ventured to the Linnaeus Art Exhibition Area. And this is what happened next...


I traveled the world and then scoured the city for our hearts to meet. And I would do it over again forever and ever for eternity.