7 April 2011
The time has finally come for the Peace Corps Botswana experience to kick into reality. Until today, we have been together as a group of Americans submerged in Botswana, though kept safe in a bubble of cultural familiarity. We left our hotel and headed to Kanye, which is about 80 km Southeast of Gabs. This is the day we met our host families, with whom we will be living for the rest of the time we are trainees.
The ceremony was just what I needed to start this part of service off. The leaders of the village and Peace Corps staff shared the big-picture reason that we are here. A couple of the ministry officials in attendance shared their stories of being in the United States, as well as personal interactions with past Peace Corps Volunteers. The gravity of our time here had been realized for me, when at an instant we began to meet our host families. I cannot properly describe this part, but know that we were each greeted with the kind of unconditional love and excitement that is fittingly reserved for the word ‘family.’
My host family is lead by Mothibi (moh-tee-bee), whom I call ntate (my father). They call me One (oh-nay), which I was named because I am the one son God gave him. Mothibi and his wife make an older couple with a large family. Their house has 3 large bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, sitting room, and indoor bathroom. My host home has electricity, running (cold) water, a dog named Fluffy, and, ironically, the biggest bedroom in my life. Their teenage granddaughter lives with them as well, though she goes to school close to the South African border about an hour away. She is very bright and makes a great translator since neither of my host parents speaks much English and I am nowhere near close to conversing with them in Setswana. I’m grateful for her presence during these first couple days, though she will be leaving for a few weeks soon. Today, my host sister and I made dinner together, though I was sure to explain that I can only cook sometimes since I will be very busy. We watched TV for a little while, and went to bed.
Although this will soon become more challenging with my host sister leaving, the host family aspect of Peace Corps Botswana is one of the most important parts of service. We take this opportunity to learn about our host country’s culture first-hand, and to take the necessary steps to becoming independent members of our host communities. It is day 1 of the home stay, and I’m sure it will have its rough patches, but right now things are good.
I was able to briefly talk to my actual sister yesterday. It was good to hear her familiar voice, if even for a quick second to get my number to someone in the states. I will again recommend that you all get Skype accounts, which are much cheaper than international calls. I’m going to call it quits for the night, this time from the village of Kanye.