First off I’d like to point out that this blog was meant for last week, and after literally hours of me attempting to post this, the internet and wordpress finally gave me a break. One downfall – I had TONS of pictures to go with this one, but apparently those were not able to find their way into the internet world.. so I promise that as soon as I can there will be a many of pictures coming your way! Now for the actual blog…
WHERE HAS THE WEEK GONE???
It seems like I blink and the week is over. I can’t believe we’re almost done our third week here, I have no idea where the time has gone. This isn’t to say that I am not cherishing every moment my feet are covered in African soil…and when I say covered, I literally mean covered. While I secretly wish my feet were naturally this beautifully full of colour I know in my heart that it’s because I haven’t taken my own advice and ditched my foamy 2 dollar flip flops yet and the red soil has clung to my ever glowing white feet.
Last saturday was the first “sports” day at Stepping Stones since I have been here in Mochudi. SO excited for this day, I rose on this beautiful morning fully prepared to make a fool of myself due to my very mediocre football skills. At least I thought I had prepared for the day… On my own, I made my way to the taxi, smoked my head off the door and delightfully shook it off. On my way to Stepping Stones I passed the corner that housed a VERY recent litter of puppies and their mum only to find that the mom had vanished…leaving three, 3 day old pups scratching and hollering. Sadly I had to keep going, convincing myself that Kathy Running would not approve of me adopting three brand new nomad pups at this stage in the game… so i moseyed on…only to be confronted with a 2 on 1 dog fight around the corner. YIKES this morning I was definitely not prepared for, still I carried on, teary eyed and emotionally disarrayed. Although I figured some physical activity would most definitely help take my mind of this brutally emotional morning.
Getting to the field, I was immediately slapped in the face with the passion, heart and intensity each of the players brought. After playing some netball (which I finally figured out is a mixture of European handball and basketball – only with no backboard), I nervously made my way to the football field. When the boys asked me if I wanted in, I nervously (and a little regrettably) volunteered for mid field. Yikes, that was also something I was not fully prepared for. Playing football was something I hadn’t done since Grade 10, which apparently was a LONG time ago…It was as though I was a donkey amongst a pack of wild horses. I scrambled to keep my position and ran my fastest for the ball, but 20 minutes was enough for me, the red, loose dirt did not agree with my nike frees. In fact when I came off the field and emptied my shoes, I found over a cup of dirt in each one!! With my awkward dismissal of the game I was able to witness how much of a crowd we had attracted. It seemed as though the whole neighbourhood had come out to see this game, it was absolutely wonderful to be apart of.
That afternoon I decided to take the weekend as an opportunity to head for G-City (how ghetto does that sound? so much better than gabs). Without time, or even the means to shower, I washed the dirt off my feet (shout out Big D) and headed for the Bus Rank. The buses are supposed to come every 30 minutes… but as I’ve come to realize it’s more like once an hour. After talking with the friend I was going to meet up with via Botswana 20 dollar phone, I figured out that I had run out of minutes and needed to get some before I got the bus or else I would never find her. After a very long debate of waiting for the bus or getting minutes for my phone, minutes definitely took it by a landslide, no way did I want to be stuck in G city with no means of communication. So I ran to grab minutes, only to miss the bus… great, wait another hour, outside, in the 30 degree scolding sun. I called my friend in gabs to tell her the awful luck I had been having all day and that the chances of my getting to g city to meet her was very slim.. but just after I hung up, a man asked me if I wanted a ride to gabs in his van (with a ton of other people from Mochudi – mainly females), after getting a good vibe from this guy and the people inside the van, I graciously accepted. I called my friend back and found myself getting into g-city wayyyy sooner than expected! She told me I had to transfer to Lobatse, so after getting to the HUGE/MASSIVE/ENORMOUS outdoor bus station, the lady I sat beside in the van guided me to the right bus. The bus took off in time and excited I was early I called up my friend, only to find out she wanted me to meet her at the bus station in gabs… wooops. Now i had no idea where I was going, I was by myself and no body on this bus seemed to be able to tell me how long this bus would take or where I should get off… great, such a great day.
Eventually I figured it out and wanted for my friends at the Lobatse station. Finally we all met up and made our way over to the field… OH YEAH DID I MENTION we were heading to the Botswana – South Africa World Cup Qualifier???? WOOOOO so exciting!!! I met up with my friends friends and made a bunch of new g city friends, all from U-Penn!! so wonderful to know more people in this large country! Now I do understand that being a foreigner and being white I am a major minority here. That is pretty evident everywhere we go… however, to have a camera constantly following you around because you’re white is another thing. Having a group conversation, there were people literally in our faces with cameras, not talking to us, just taking pictures. This was absolutely not something I was comfortable with. It is one this to be stared at, constantly, but to actually have people taking pictures of us “white” people made us feel like a circus act. Aside from those moments, the game was AWESOME. Botswana took it 4-1 and the crowd was insane!! It was such a great experience to be apart of! Everyone there appreciated our North American support and let us know it.
That night I ate the biggest burger I had ever seen and it was absolutely wonderful! Maybe not as good as the shower I got that night though! wooooo showers! so luxurious.The next time I had a chance to go shopping, but not just any kind of shopping… grocery shopping. Because Mochudi is so small and rural, our food selections are pretty limited. Walking into a grocery store in G-City and seeing more than 4 isles of food was basically breath taking… I actually felt quite over whelmed. I spent maybe 30 minutes just walking up and down every isle. All in all, my only purchases there was some pesto, sundried tomato pasta sauce, spinach tortalini and an aero chocolate bar (yumm).
I came back in the afternoon on Sunday so refreshed and energized! While G-City is a wonderfully convenient city, full of shopping malls, grocery stores, combi’s, and restaurants, I am very much content in this little village of Mochudi (for now). The hustle bustle of the city is great.. once in a while.
It seems that after 3 weeks we are finally getting quite familiarized with our surroundings. People are staring at us less, which is nice and I definitely feel more comfortable here. During my lunch break at Stepping Stones I like to go for walks. It gives me an idea of my bearings and helps me relax, ponder, de-stress. Down the road from Stepping Stones is a primary school. My first walk down this way resulted in literally 20 kids surrounding me wanting to join me on my walk. One thing I’ve really noticed is that a lot of the kids if they aren’t in school and haven’t been taught English see us and yell “Howyouuuuu” as in “How are you”. When you respond with “good, how are you?” they just repeat “Howwyouuu”. It’s quite entertaining. Today on my walk I took a new route and found myself lost in the whiney dirt roads and fenced pathways. With my camera in my hand I was quite content. A group of kids down the road noticed my camera and as expected wanted a billion pictures, after 10 or so I had to move on… I noticed a couple of 3 year olds walking down the pathway hand in hand and had to snap a photo. They too ran to me…the very first white person they had ever seen in their life. Intrigued by my skin colour they grabbed my hands, felt my skin, felt my feet, my legs, my hair, grabbed my face and squeezed it tight. I had a similar experience the other night with the little boy that visits our place quite regularly. Sitting on my lap, he likes the grab my face and bring it as close to his as possible, stare deep into my eyes and I can just see his brain lighting up, trying to figure out what I am. I wish so badly that I could speak Setswana and have conversations with these kids who speak no English. I’m trying my best to learn, even downloaded a couple of Setswana language lessons onto my iTunes, it’s getting that serious.
While I may not be picking up spoken Setswana too quickly, we do have the opportunity to participate in free Setswana sign language lessons twice a week! Hopefully I’m not going to overwork my language capacity soon…
hmmm on another note, our neighbour, who is 22 and I exchanged some music last week. Really exciting! I gave him tons of my underground hip hop, some classified (reppin’ Canada!) and some well-known hip hip/r and b artists he hasn’t heard of yet. In return I got Celine, the Backstreet Boys, Justin Beiber, Brandy, Kelly Rowland and about 4 Chris Brown albums…. I’m not sure how much I’ll keep haha
As far as Stepping Stones goes, I’m pretty much all over the place! Currently I am helping with Study Skills sessions and teaching kids 12-15 Math and Reading… so if anyone out there has some sweet resources or ideas for me please please please share!! I’ve been scouring the internet and have some good ground work but some extra help would be amazing 🙂 I’m also helping to design a summer sports schedule for when school is out! We’re really trying to integrate more physical activity and variety into the program. Hopefully this will help some kids break out of their shells and discover new talents or develop those that already exist. The main focus for these kids has always been football and netball, so introducing rugby, basketball, volleyball and doing some more badminton and track will hopefully keep kids interested in being active! As far as the equipment situation goes, it is pretty limited, although I have to say I have had worse in Canada, so I’m sure there won’t be any problems figuring something out there.
Also, I am working with Stepping Stones to develop a better nutrition plan that we can follow. At SSI the participants receive one meal at 5 pm. As SS focuses it’s attentions on vulnerable youth, it’s a sad reality that for some this meal is the only one that they might receive in a day. This means it is absolutely crucial to have the resources to hit each food group and obtain the highest nutritional value possible in one meal. While at Stepping Stones, most participants are in their growing stages and need lots of dairy, meat and fruit (which can all be quite expensive here). It’s fairly obvious that a lot of participants face stunted growth and aren’t able to reach their full physical development potential. Nutrition is a huge interest of mine and I am really excited to see what developments we can make these next couple of months!
ALSO… I counted my blankets on my bed last night and I’m up to 7… 😦
ps – please please please send me emails! I LOVE hearing from people at home! Send as many as you’d like to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also please check out my travel accomplice’s blog for some more updates and some pictures