Having spent my years in high school and at Michigan State in marching bands, I had resigned that to a thing of the past (pre-real world). Music has always been an important part of my identity, though I didn’t imagine that those skills would be useful to me like this in Peace Corps. It is the norm here in southern Africa for boy and girl scouts troops to have a marching component. They seem to function as combination boy scouts-JROTC programs from what I have gathered so far. There are certainly still the outdoors and community service aspects of scouts here in Botswana, but the troop in my village has been spending just as much time on marching. I’m told there is performance time when troops get together.
Working with youth was never on my radar as a project for my service. I had seemingly gotten my fill from my limited prior experiences, and compartmentalized youth as a demographic that was not really my cup of tea. Images of screaming infants and misbehaving pre-teens come to mind, though I don’t completely disregard the benefits: young people are open to change, resilient, passionate, and malleable.
If you’ll remember back to November, I got the scouts troop in my village involved in my tree planting initiative and helped them put 10 saplings at their Junior Secondary School. Fast-forward to January, and this troop has somehow become my central secondary project. A few things are to blame: 3 fellow PCVs are working with troops in their villages and the dialogue between us has strengthened my desire to work with scouts; additionally, my time with the scout troop is limited to 2 days per week. It’s a huge relief for me to step out of the leadership role of my primary assignment and participate in a purely voluntary capacity. Since I am not an expert with scouts (having never been a boy scout in the US) I don’t have to make the decisions or delegate tasks. I am able to observe and interject where the advisers and I see fit.
I never anticipated that my expertise with marching would arise as a useful skill, but that’s what has happened. The troops in Botswana have their own style of marching, which is sloppy by my standards, and the opportunity for me to clean it up simply presented itself. I have also begun teaching them what I call “American-style” marching, though it is truthfully borrowed from my alma mater. They seem to enjoy it, and it will hopefully result in some sort of performance activity for them. There’s a lot more to do with this troop aside from that, and my hope is to help them earn some badges next. Stay tuned!
Also, I recently cut my hair – I now have a Mohawk. I’m adding this to my list of ways I’ve altered my appearance during Peace Corps (don’t forget the caveman beard from a couple months ago)! It’s not a dramatic change, and no one in my community has commented on it yet. I’ll try to get a picture up soon!