Dear Meredyth,

Productivity is a double edge sword as a Peace Corps volunteer. We think we want it, we wait for it, we complain about its absence in our lives, but when it does come, it can happen in really unexpectedly or, for me at least, really obnoxious ways.  Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful. It’s just that “being productive” and “getting work done” in Botswana looks and feels way different than in America.

This term (August to November) my counter-part and I have three project events planned, outside of school I am working with other PCVs on a week-long camp for girls empowerment, in the village library I set up a weekly jewelry making/business skills class for the village women, and lastly I tutor students in math and science (well since we don’t have enough teachers the students are one year behind on materials that they will be tested on starting next month.) Now that really long sentence might sound like bragging, but I promise you, its not what it sounds like, most of my time is spent waiting.

Despite all the waiting, having “things to do” is a great relief because I have much less time to sit on my front stoop and miss all of you. There is one thing that annoys me though, in order for anything to happen in Botswana you must have a written, signed, stamped, and filed document; which means that I spend a horrible amount of time, typing, printing, signing, stamping, copying, stuffing envelopes, and chasing down the school postmaster to get him to do his job delivering.

Here’s a word problem:

I am planning three school events: Career Fair, Alcohol Abuse Awareness Day, and Wellness Day. Every government office, NGO, and business in the village, 16 in total, has to be informed, invited, and asked to participate in each event. Since a single letter cannot possibly carry more than one message, I have write three letters to each of these offices, one to inform them of the event, one to invite them to the event, one to ask them to speak at the event. Each letter must also carry the school’s stamp in order for it to be “taken seriously.” Each letter that carries a school stamp also has to be filed, in the main office and the Guidance & Counseling department, which means 3 have to print three copies of everything. All sixteen offices have to receive 3 letters, and I have to file 2 copies of each letter, for 3 different events. So, how many trees did I just waste while “being productive”?

(If you solve my problem please don’t tell the Sierra Club or Greenpeace)

Yours truly,