Shadowing Cont’d – Birthday Braai and the Flood Plain

One of the most mysterious things to me before joining the Peace Corps was the daily schedule of the average community development volunteer. What do they do all day if they are not in an office from 8:00-5:00? Watching my host I learned that there is some downtime, usually around lunch, but the mornings and afternoons (at least for our shadowing host) appear to be somewhat busy with community meetings, clinic work, and other new and ongoing projects – such as helping a basket weaver’s group raise money. I also observed that the job really is as busy as you make it. It’s possible to sit around for most of the day and read, but that lifestyle would drive me mad with boredom and I would feel like it was a waste.

Friday was our host’s birthday, and to celebrate she planned to visit the flooded plain near the Delta and to cook a braai. A braai is like a barbecue, except without the sauce. People gather and cook meat outside, drink a little, listen to music, and socialize. Our host planned this by collecting 10 Pula from each eating attendee, and essentially delegating tasks to her Motswana friends.

The flood plain was surprisingly elegant. A friend of hers ferried us around in a large, wooden canoe, and the cattle and cattle egrets wandered lazily around us. We spent about an hour an half at the flood plain, and arrived at around 4 to begin preparing for the braai.

Around sunset people started trickling in to our host’s house. A Motswana friend brought the electric braai stove, another brought the freshly slaughtered cow meat, and another brought an axe and chopped some wood for a fire. The other trainee and I prepared a pasta salad, I tried a new alcoholic beverage called Hunter’s Dry, the ipod played some familiar hip hop, and everything came together as it was supposed to.

Getting to experience a local Motswana party was really something I needed. I learned more about their sense of humor, how they relax and socialize, and I also got a chance to see the beautiful starry Botswana sky. In Molepolole, aside from the fact that during training we have to be home before dark, the stars are muted as they would be in any well populated city. Out in Etsha though, I saw shooting stars and the Milky Way, and looked forward to living at my site and perhaps seeing that sky on a regular basis.

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