Dear Meredyth,
Thank you for your patience, I know that it has been a while since I’ve written to you but there are far less wifi hot spots in Kanye, Botswana. Today I lucked out though, I am currently sitting at the Kanye Public Library where the wifi is free, the shelves are empty, the tables full of kids skipping school, and everyone is staring at me (I’m pretty used to the last one but it is pretty obnoxious). I have been in Botswana for exactly one month today, it feels like years though. Those last few weeks of summer feel like memories from years back. I can hardly believe that your wedding was only months ago, the sister nights, going away parties, and tear filled good-byes were just over a month ago. Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in training is crazy, scary, exciting, and boring all at once. Everyday is actually a new adventure, but the safari kind of African adventure, more like Lost in Translation, Meet the Parents, and a touch of Animal Farm (only because there are so many farm animals roaming around downtown). I don’t think I can count how many lessons or discoveries about myself have occurred in this time already but, lots of them, some are harder to deal with than others. For the sake of time (the school children are now approaching me in turn saying “one pula, one pula” which is Bots’ dollar) and because uploading photos on this internet connection is nearly impossible, I’ll share some of the highlights:
1. Sometimes we eat awesome food here in Botswana. The traditional cuisine is delicious, nutritious and affordable. The house maid for my host family makes fresh Phaphata bread every Wednesday, the dough is simple and can be stuffed with meats, veggies, or cheese; it can be lightly fried or baked with a sprinkling of sugar, so good. Diklotho is another cheap favorite, it’s like a brean and grain soup but we spice it up and throw in carrots, onions, cumin and pepper. I know it’s just soup but the beans taste so fresh and they have an awesome crunchiness too. The most decadent of my favorite traditional foods it the minced lamb stew, it has a name is Setswana that has too many clicks in it for me to type or pronounce, this we make by boiling the lamb with spices and putting it in a huge wooden grinder to punch it til its tender.
2. Sometimes the food sucks in Botswana. So there’s this other thing they eat all the time called Poridgee made from corn maize, cooked it’s the consistency of polenta, but it’s white, bland, and there’s always a softball size of it on my plate. The Batswana love this stuff, or really anything that is a starch. If poridgee is not taking over my plate then a mountain of rice or pasta takes it’s place. Also, the favorite sauces to pour over your starchy carbs loaded plate is ketchup or tangy mayonnaise. I have twice now eaten a bowl of rice with ketchup and mayo for dinner, not my favorite moments.
3. The Botswana sun is beautiful and brutal. I run every other morning with my friend & fellow trainee Adam around the village. We meet up at 5:45am to run for about an hour. I know that sounds crazy but we got to bed here around 8:30pm so I wake up at 5:00am no matter what. Every run is rewarded with a sunset that I swear was more beautiful than the last but could not possibly be real. The sky is full of colors I never saw in nature before I came here. By 8:30am I am walking the 3km from my house to the training center the sun feels like a space heater on my head. Most days I wear my big floppy hat and carry my umbrella to help. I love the sun in Botswana but summer is just around the corner and I am actually scared that I will bake.
4. Pula in Setswana means rain, but it is also the word used for the currency, like the dollar. Everyone in Botswana asks me for money, my host mom, the kids that follow me up and down the road, the owner of the public library, the old ladies that sit in their yard all day. I had begun to hate the word Pula, until Independence Day. The Batswana pray for rain every day and they pray a lot, every meeting, event, workshop or anything really is opened with prayer. Most times these prayers are the usual thanks and blessings, but on Independence Day the Batswana scream pray, and they scream “Pula! Pula! Pula!”. Or when a leader, chief, or poet says something exceptional they cry out “Pula!”
The Batswana and I are still getting to know each other, I’m optimistic that the pointing and begging will end someday, but I plan on cheering “Pula!!” at least once a day for the next two years.
Love you,
Julia/ Neo (my Setswana name)