Tag Archives: sustainability

Au Revoir

Last week I learned that a close friend in my village received a notice of transfer. In the Botswana government system employees sign short contracts, generally 3-5 years long. Transfers come suddenly and the person leaves quickly afterward.

This person was a doctor at the hospital in my village. We worked together closely for the past few months on circumcision projects. It’s common for volunteers to have a variety of counterparts for different activities – this doctor was one of the best counterparts I have had throughout my service. He is passionate and hardworking, which are not the most common qualities even in the developed world. I’ve written a lot about my involvement with circumcision here, and none of the success I’ve had would have been even remotely possible without his help. Although he will still be in Botswana I am going to miss having him here, both as a counterpart and a friend.

The news of this departure came during the visit from my shadowing trainee. Halfway through pre-service training, Peace Corps trainees in Botswana travel to visit a current volunteer. I enjoy hosting shadows because it offers a chance to pass on some of the wisdom I’ve gained since arriving, plus it’s an interesting gauge of how far I’ve come. The trainee I hosted was an older gentleman; it made for an odd dynamic to be a sort of teacher to someone with so much more life experience than myself. But we have a lot in common and consequently had some really thoughtful conversations. I always like having visitors, and they get the rural village experience in Rakops.

Having this Peace Corps neophyte in my midst showed me the unique place I’ve reached in my service and some of the challenges to which I have adapted. The reality is that I’m on the downward slope of my 2 years. It’s an accomplishment to be sure, but also indicates a change in attitude toward my organization. Most important is the need to instill some sustainability and wean the NGO off of my help. And of course, that means saying more good-byes. Will we either of us be ready? This won’t be quite as abrupt as my doctor friend’s departure, so I can hope.


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Thoughts of what comes next have been dominating my mind lately. The danger in this is that I’m starting to detach from the present, though it is good preparation for my organizations and their respective projects. I have enough time left in my service that I can still accomplish things, but the pressure (and excitement) of the developed world is approaching.

I’ve finally taken a break from travel and can settle back in to village life. Constant disorganization has marred the past couple of months because I have spent so much of it in flux. Staying put will help me focus and give my bank account a break. Independence day is coming up Monday, and country will take a couple days off to celebrate. A large number of government workers are employed away from their families, so holidays in Botswana represent opportunities for them to head back to their home villages. Rakops will probably empty out today, but I’ll welcome the quiet.

It’s strange that I find comfort in solitude now. I suppose it means I’ve truly achieved some of my original goals, because the isolation of my site was once my biggest fear. I do have a good reason for appreciating the alone time: I’m studying for the GRE. Like many other things, I’ve procrastinated in my preparation so I’m left with about a month to buckle down. The whole graduate school application process has stirred up uncertainty about what I will do after May. Living in the African bush has revealed to me that I can live almost anywhere and do basically anything. Though I will say that the next place I live will allow me access to better food, and hopefully a shower. That’s still leaves me with too many options.

The rains came yesterday for the first time in about 7 months. Incidentally, it was a planting day at our garden. The same sort of thing happened last year when my group received our orange saplings. The weather gods smile on my village once in a while. With all the difficulties the garden project has faced in the past, I think it now has what it needs to find some success.

My projects are coming along, and I’m working more on the circumcision campaign over the next few weeks. Having done this project before provides a little more confidence for me, and I know I can do more with it than last time. I’ve also started to prepare my counterparts at my support group for my departure by teaching some of the more basic things I do, like typing letters and networking. After I leave, the organization will be without a Peace Corps Volunteer for almost 6 months, so they need to gain a little more self-sufficiency. I’ve written before about my predecessor and how I’m compared to her – in this way I’ve had to separate. I can no longer fill the commanding role, so I’ve started to delegate more and more. This kind of growth is difficult, but it’s more important than most other things. Hopefully it will translate in sustainability.


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