One year left

I have been in Botswana for one year threeish months and today is my one year left mark. I thought I would catch my many many readers up on what has been going on.

I have been talking about this forever but it is finally starting to come together. I received P270,000 (about $40,000) to build pit latrines (kind of like fancy outhouses) in a neighborhood in my village. In the last year there have been cholera outbreaks and too many children dying from diarrhea- really wish I would have been able to work faster on this. But I got the money to build about 140 of the 190 I want to build.

Right now I am trying to send every orphan age 4 and 5 to preschool. In my community assessment I found that many of the orphans start behind and stay behind in learning. I found a preschool that would take them all in for free but have no idea how to come up with a sustainable way to get them to school every day. We have been working on buying vans, leasing vans, free ride share programs… I will figure something out.

Personally I am doing great. I met another Peace Corps volunteer and we just celebrated our one year anniversary. I just got back from vacation in Namibia and went to the biggest Octoberfest in Africa. We went swimming, rode 4 wheelers on sand dunes, chartered a boat that showed us 20,000 seals (the fat ones were the funniest), and ate food we haven’t had in a year (Mexican, Chinese, Zebra Meat).

I think right now more than missing America, this job has made me appreciate America. I hope everyone makes it out to the polls on Tuesday.  Well not everyone- really hoping the other 50% forgets.  Okay miss you all and see you in a year.


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I am a horrible person

Okay so I haven’t blogged in the better part of six months I am the worst. Here is my attempt to catch people up with what I have been up to.

At work I am staying busy. My office is in charge of the HIV response for 50,000 or so people. We go to different villages and give community talks on: teenage pregnancy, abstinence, condomizing, nutrition, drug adherence, women’s empowerment, the importance of staying faithful to one partner… and another dozen topics. Most of these are all in Setswana and I am fairly useless but I chip in when I can and try to help with the “way forward” section where we come up with action plan.

My biggest project is trying to build 300+ latrines for a local Basarwa settlement. In a neighborhood of 3000 people there are only 4 latrines (like outhouses) and two spots to get water. Children are dying from diarrhea and communicable diseases are rampant. Cholera is going around Southern Africa and I hope to get them built before it hits my village. The story is too long to be interesting or readable but I have been working to make the project feasible for eight months now. I am super excited, we brought down the price from 3.2 million pula to about 900,000 pula and I think I am going to be able to find a funder soon.

Check out . This was another of my projects. I wanted to create a way to study the local language so hopefully future volunteers are not as tragically bad at the language as I am. Other projects : I am building 10 websites for HIV stakeholders in my community, head of Safe Male Circumcision marketing for the district, trying to find money to get local orphans to preschool, trying to fund an orphan camp for all the kids in my district…. The list is growing longer and my time here is half over.

I haven’t been on a proper vacation yet but have traveled throughout Botswana. It is amazing here. I have seen leopards, giraffes, rhinos, warthogs, ostriches, wildebeests, and a billion different deer-like animals. My favorite is the dick-dick; funny name and they are like the toy poodle of antelopes. I am going to Namibia in October for Octoberfest. Polka, sausage, and the Atlantic Ocean- Pumped. My friend Adam Briggs is coming to visit in November and we will go to the game reserves and I hope to see a lion and crocodile fight to the death.

The biggest question I get is what do I miss most about America? Not being a million degrees or freezing most of the time. Movie theaters (although I did go to the capital to see batman in a theater), Mexican food, having a car/not taking Botswana busses. But I can go without for a couple of years I bet you haven’t seen a dick dick in months.

Other than that life is pretty boring here. I work from 7:30 am to 4:30. I go home and eat either a peanut butter or an egg sandwich, then watch TV or Movies on my computer till 10 when I go to bed. Most volunteers are on their 300th book I am on my 3rd.   So I would like to say I will blog more but that probably won’t happen. Internet is becoming scarce and I need it to check and Facebook J Miss everyone and thanks for all the letters and packages.


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The Best Text Message Ever Written

People here text in a sort of short hand that I find to be amazing and hilarious. Many times the short hand is longer than the real word. “mny tmes da shurt hnd is lungerdan da rul wurdz” This is a text from my host brother Gaspy as I was leaving his Kanye. It has become famous with some volunteers and I read it at least once a week and it still makes me laugh. Here it is verbatim…

Ws such a grat momnt wit u,
1st experienc evr wit a white
in our family in our huz in our lyf,
myt hav bn a shot tym
2 experinc a lot frm u frm ma syd
ma wok ws jeoulos kepn me ot ol ths tym…,
wish u al th bst ur lyf intirely,
b wel soon nd gudnyt “Brandon (shouting)
ur brothr Gaspy-

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R.I.P: My Mortal Enemy/Worthy Foe

Every day since I arrived in my village I had to have a weapon in my hand ready to fight. Only a quarter mile from my house lived the nastiest, ugliest, racist dog in Africa. This dog hated freedom and apparently white/Japanese people. I was told by a local Japanese volunteer that he was bit by the dog and had to go to the hospital.

I would watch as he would let dozens of local school children go by without a thought but as soon as he saw me come down the road he would totally lose it. He would bark and sprint towards me snapping his jaws. So I would grab the nearest stick or rock and challenge the dog to a “Queensbury Rules” boxing match. For some reason, the locals would stand around and laugh they loved seeing me try to fight a dog.

For months I came up with revenge plans. Would I be a bad Peace Corps volunteer if I duck taped a dog’s jaws shut and killed him while he was sleeping? Well yes probably.

I would imagine what 7th grade karate moves I would use on him if he ever really bit me. This dog made me hate all other dogs. He had me looking at all animals in a different light. I would stare down goats and donkeys with contempt.

Several weeks ago when my girlfriend was in town I prepared her for the worst. I told her to kick gravel at the dog, to yell loudly to scare it, and then it is stick waving time. As we drew near the dog’s home (or reverse 1960’s Alabama as I like to call it)… nothing. Kind of a letdown really, I was excited to show her my stick/lightsaber moves.

Day after day I was ready for battle and nothing happened. Neighbors and onlookers would look at me funny as I picked up large rocks and sticks and then disappointingly throw them down after I was not attacked. So as of 4/2/12 I am calling off the search and considering the demon dog dead. Maybe the demon dog just wants me to believe he is dead and he is plotting an elaborate scheme to end me BUT if not….

RIP you son of a bitch,

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Top Ten Funniest Things About Africa

#1 Lots of Batswana ask if I am a rapper. Back in the states I really don’t put off a rapper vibe. But here all white people are rappers.

#2 The Setswana word “mabele” means sorghum porridge and human breasts. Your pitch determines which one you get. I keep missing it up and get sorghum porridge (wah wah).

#3 I have been asked three times by someone if they can take a ride on my helicopter. All Americans own helicopters.

#4 The belts here are awesome. I decided on an Obama 2009 belt but I could have got a rhinestone dollar sign on spinners or one that said “Thug Life” with a six shooter on it. (If I was to guess I will own all of them soon.)

#5 Americans AND Batswana say my Setswana is funny. I guess Ozarkian and Setswana make for a pretty indecipherable combo. Dumella mam.

#6 Those that know me well, know I am terrified of snakes. I have not seen one since I have been here, but my sick mind thinks that every lizard, chicken, dog, donkey I see is a black mamba out to get me.

#7 There is a lady at my work that tells me every day that I need to ride a donkey. The thought of it consumes her- It would be pretty funny.

#8 Every time a child sees me he/she will yell “Le Kgowa” (white person) and either smile and wave or cry in terror.

#9 I get marriage proposals from women every week. If they only knew what disappointments were ahead of them if I accepted.

#10 (Less funny/more cute) Men hold hands here. If you got a best buddy just interlace those fingers and go for a nice walk.

Bonus for anyone under 40: There was a barber shop in Kanye called “Tupac Haircuts.”  Now we know where he went.

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Lost Blog Post: The Boy Band

Ok when I was reading through old posts I noticed that I forgot to write about the funniest thing that has happened since I have been here. This happened in Kanye right before I left for Letlhakane.

So I got home from class and my mother, usually in house clothes, was dressed up and said we have been called to see someone very important. So I kept on my dress clothes and we walked across the street to a very nice house. There was this older woman who greeted us and she introduced me to her college age daughter. I thought “oh this is why we are here; she wants me to marry her daughter.” But then the daughter quickly left, “huh”. As the women sat and talked Setswana to my mother for the next thirty minutes I wondered if I was going to get a meal out of this.

Finally this woman, well into her 60s, asked me if I like music. I said I liked Botswana music very much and told her that I grew up on many of the hymns that they sing here. She said, “no not Botswana music, do you like men’s music.” As I pondered what that even meant she put in a DVD. I began telling her about my past as a music venue manager just as the show began. There was smoke, there were lasers, there was matching outfits, there was screaming 12 year olds, and THERE was a boy band.

The first song came on and the woman (can’t explain how old and African this lady is) stood up and began to sing along. It was a band I have never heard of but it was the normal N’sync, Backstreet boys, New Kids dreck. This woman knew every word to every song and she sang along and more importantly danced along to every song.

She would say, “Wait, this one here with the beard is called Kevin. He is very good looking. Yes? He is the tough one.” About two songs in I realized that she was going to do the whole DVD and it was going to be a while because she would rewind it if she thought we missed something. She would explain why this band was the best band ever and redeeming values of each of its members. “Steven is from Australia and he takes care of his mother. Brian is the best looking and six songs from now he takes off his shirt.”

For two hours me and my mother watched the show. Slow jams, love songs, dance break downs, the Irish medley…she knew them all. My mother sat and smiled and clapped along. The show was over. Big applause. I didn’t know how I would die first… from holding in my laughter or hunger. But what me and my mother forgot  was that a show that amazing must have an encore. As we rose to get out of our seats our host told us that there were four more songs.  My mother looked at me with terror (And I think my favorite moment in Africa so far was when) she gave me the universal “let’s get the **** (insert four letter word of your choosing) out of here face”.

Our host assured us that we could come back any time to finish the DVD or that she had another one we could watch that she liked just as much. After we were out of ear shot, in the dark of night, my mother and I laughed all the way home.

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Swearing in

Yeah! I get to swear in today! Yeah, I passed my Setswana test, kind of! Yeah after tomorrow I won’t have to sit through another PowerPoint for months. It is the last day I will get to see all of my friends and girlfriend. Boo… I think I have food poisoning. So I have been SUPER sick for 24 hours and I don’t think I can make it for the hour + ceremony.

I made it to the ceremony but had to leave several times to go sweat and curl up in a ball. As soon as it was over I ran home and Kaybahderey kneaded my intestines for me (she is such a good mother). I got dozens of texts from other new “volunteers” wishing me well and making me sad I was missing the party. But before bed I got a visitor who took care of me and made me feel much better.

Post note: Turns out it wasn’t food poisoning it was some type of virus. My visitor caught it and sent me the text message “I curse the day your mother bore you.” I ended up being sick for the first six days in my new village.


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Monkey fights and swimming

During my shadowing week in Gaberone we got to do some house sitting for someone at the US embassy. They had a pool and it was awesome. I will let the pictures do the talking but while swimming I got to see monkeys wrestling. My friend Dana from Oakland made us some “Mexiacan Lasagna” and I got to have cheese for the first time in months. I got to the movies “teeth” and “The room” back to back. Best week ever.

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Witches III: The LeKgowa Lives

Lekgowa means white person. I hear it ten times a day. Well it actually means “vomit from the sea” but that is another blog post entirely. So this week  I get to go to the capital city and shadow another volunteer. I was waiting for my bus at 6am when the first neighbors came by to say hello. He said “oh it’s the LeKgowa who visted the witches and lived!” WHAT? I talked to him and he said I was very lucky to be alive. Then another visitor talked to me and said “don’t you know they steal babies?” My rasta neighbor said that they drink blood. I told them that I only saw them drink Chibuku (traditional beer). In that morning alone I had six separate people talk to me about surviving the witches. Each conversation I tried to dispel any rumors about the Zulu group and told them how nice they were and what a great meal they had served us.

Weeks later: Peace Corps staff, after a meeting with the host parents, had to mention in front of everyone to not go see the witches after dark. I never got the chance to hang out with them again but sometimes at 2am and after I would hear their whistles and drums and want to sneak out of the house to watch them dance.

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Part II- The Goat Tooth

I called my friend to have her join me and once again we were waved in to sit next to the chief. Now it was the guys turn (well a 20something and a kid that was probably 12). They beat the ground and kicked up the red earth. Then instead of spitting on the crowd they cried and pleaded for mercy. The kid was pretty cute- he would get tuckered out pretty quick and just cry for a while. After only 20 minutes or so the man ran out of the tent and no crowd member was brave enough to try and drag him back in.

Just as we were about to leave the host of the gathering asked us to stay for dinner. She explained that we had seen the graduation ceremony for a group of Zulu witch doctors. The witches washed our hands and served us a huge plate of goat meat and samp. It was one of the best meals I have had in Botswana.

As we were leaving my friend had a funny grin on her face and she said “check it out”. She pulled out a goat tooth that apparently was mixed in with her goat meat. Now the only question is should be make a bitchin goat tooth necklace or earring to commemorate one of the coolest things we have ever seen?

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