It has been a very long time since I last posted, and I apologize for being off the grid throughout the holidays. The month of December involved a lot of relaxing and traveling; I’ll do my best to back-track and cover everything that has been happening.
I had my first American visitor – my sister came during her winter break from school. We had a great time and it was fun to have a piece of home here in Botswana with me. I got to show her around the country and specifically my village. I don’t know how well she liked roughing it in Rakops, but I insisted that she see where and how I live in order to appreciate my life as a volunteer. She got to see a fair amount in the short time she was here, and I think she had an eye-opening experience. Having her here meant that I got to be with family for Christmas, even though most of my family remained in the US. Usually I spend the holidays lethargically eating and resting, but this year it was about travel.
Upon arrival in Cape Town I was struck instantly with an overwhelming culture shock. After all, it had been more than 9 months since I had been in the states, and I was knocked out by the sight of diverse peoples and downtown buildings with more than a few floors. I had become so accustomed to village life that I forgot what it was to walk down the street anonymously.
Cape Town offered everything I needed in order to feel connected to my former food norms, from delicious sushi to McDonald’s. I indulged in both and have no regrets about eating so well for a week. There was also access to the ocean and a cool climate to relieve me from the sweltering desert – a few of us kayaked to Boulders Beach to hang out with the penguins. One day we went on a tasty wine tour through Stellenbosch and took in the beauty of South Africa. I also went out! There was night life which meant I could wander the city well past my normal bed time. In a lot of ways this was a big relief for me. I had the freedom to be myself and to do what I pleased when I wanted to do it without feeling like I was being watched or chastised.
The city has been described as the “New York of Southern Africa” in terms of New Years Eve parties that attract crowds from all around, and the amount of people in the city definitely confirmed that to me. The night was absent a ball drop, but the electronic music festival we attended made staying up to see the sunrise possible. I had a great time with my sister and fellow volunteer friends throughout the week. We drank, ate, and danced and it was wonderful.
Digesting this whole travel experience has been tough on my morale. It felt pretty amazing to be back in a developed part of the world that offered so many things to connect me with my pre-Peace Corps lifestyle. There were the comforts of people who looked and talked like me there, and in many ways I have more in common with them than the people of Botswana. Coming home means going back to work and settling back in to a lot of the rigors and frustrations of daily village life.
But I am here to work. In fact, I have completed more than one third of my service, and it was this time in 2011 that I received my invitation from Peace Corps. I’m constantly looking to the big picture here. In the tradition of resolutions, I have simply my original goals to guide me through the next year. I have to take this as a continuing part of the journey, and maybe as I travel more I will be less susceptible to the flashiness of distant lands.
Today has served as a reminder of all the things I began before that break, and I do have my work cut out for me. That departure was a glorious relief, but it also forced me to think about why I’m here. And I suppose it’s nice to be back in a place where I’m not anonymous: everybody here knows my name.