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“You don’t have to immediately eliminate world poverty, bring world peace, or save the environment. You just have to do whatever you discover works with you modest resources to make a difference in the lives of poor people” – William Easterly The White Man’s Burden

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Dear Meredyth,

I am really sorry again for how long it’s been since I have written to you here. I would really like to blame my circumstances; I live in Africa so I have no access to the Internet, or something along those lines. The truth of the matter is that most weekends I go to Lobatse, a town about two hours from my village, where I get to sit by a pool, order filtered coffee (a rarity in Botswana), and spend as much time as I want surfing the Interweb. The problem is that I tend to binge on the coffee, become overwhelmed by caffeine, Facebook, Gmail, and the New York Times that I need to take a pool break, and then forget to come back to this. So what I’m say is, sorry that I’m lazy.

These past weeks have been especially long, hard and often frustrating. Botswana schools have been on break since November, 26th, so for the last month and more I’ve had no real job and nothing specific to do each day. This might seem nice, a long vacation right? Wrong. Having nothing at all to do makes me feel pointless, adding to this was spending the holidays in Africa. So many times I asked myself, what am I doing here? Nothing. Why am I putting myself through the pain of missing my family for nothing? No good answer for this. Luckily I have great Peace Corps friends and we got together to make the holidays the best week could, there were tears but also a lot of caroling, eating, and merry-making.

I reached a make or break point one morning a week before Christmas, I had been hiding in my house all morning, wallowing in a bit of self-pity, when a little (evil, hateful) voice in my head (that’s not that weird I swear) asked me a question: You ridicule Batswana all the time for being slow, lazy and unmotivated, aren’t you kinda doing the same thing? Is there really nothing you could do to help anyone or is it easier to stay inside watching movies and baking bread?

In fact that voice sounded a lot like Mom when she’s playing the Devil’s Advocate in an argument, and you get super pissed cause you know she’s just a little bit (or a whole lotta bit) right. In this case that voice was spot on, I had been ignoring this little fact for a week at least.

So I laced up my shoes, pulled on my sunhat and walked through the sand to the clinic to see what could be done. The sun scorched my head, children ran to their fences to point at me and screamed “lekgoa, lekgoa, lekgoa” (that’s all they do, point and scream over and over), my shoes filled with hot sand, basically it was the worst. When I got to the clinic the had nurse scolded me for not coming before now, I ignored this and asked where I could help. She asked if I knew how to read a scale and draw graphs, I said, “yeah, maybe, I dunno, I guess so”. She sent me to the Child Welfare Clinic where all the children in the village from 1 month – 5 years old come once a month to be weighed and measured, then the family receives their food rations: cooking oil, bread, dried beans, and fortified bran porridge. So this is what I have been doing for the past three weeks, weighing babies, ya know what? It fuckin rules. The babies are really cute when we put them in the scale (it’s similar to a baby swing), I feel like I’m really doing good when I track their growth & nutrition, then I get to do my favorite thing: giving that mother, who has no money at all, food for her family.

Love you,

Julia

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