Key Change

I just arrived back to familiar ol’ Molepolole after a five day site visit to Francistown. In Ftown I was fortunate enough to essentially shadow the current outgoing volunteer, and that greatly helped smooth my transition in. I got to experience living for a few days in my future home, walking around the town, sitting at my future computer, and meeting my future colleagues at work. This new life will begin when I arrive on June 11th, just a day after swearing-in as an official Volunteer. I’m so, so ready.

Trying to decompress it all, I sat in my Moleps room, smiling at the reunion I just had with the chickens and goats and donkeys near my home-stay house (there are none in Ftown proper).  Things will soon change drastically from my life in Moleps, and I’ll be living in a city again far sooner than I expected.  I’m not upset by this – I feel incredibly fortunate to have the placement and assignment I do. In fact, I couldn’t ask for anything better suited to me and my goals.

Francistown has a ton of personality. It is a thoroughfare to Zimbabwe, an attraction to a lot of global tourists, and home to a population of people who speak Kalanga as well as, or instead of, Setswana.  It’s mostly urban, but does a great job of incorporating greenery along its fences and sidewalks. It’s big and walkable, and there are several booming businesses and many community organizations and civic centers. People have been known to call my neighborhood the “Little United Nations” by previous volunteers because it’s occupied by families from a variety of countries all over the world. The outdoor mall nearest to my house, Galo Mall, is beautifully designed, with perfectly lit walkways that bring in sunlight but also provide shade from some of the rain and heat. It’s an inviting space that’s got amazing potential for people watching – something I plan on doing at Mimi’s Cafe, which is located in the mall next door to Pick n’ Pay, my new grocery store of choice. I realize this is not the typical site placement people think of when they think of the Peace Corps, but it still is, in many ways, representative of the “Peace Corps Experience”. More on that later.

I did a considerable amount of walking around my new home town, got lost a few times in the process, and as I did some issues of integration came to mind. Rather than where I shadowed in Etsha 6, where everyone can quickly familiarize you as a resident, it’s going to take much longer to differentiate myself from the abundance of white tourists that flow in and out of Ftown daily. 

As a side note, when people move to a new village in Botswana they immediately plan to meet the Chief, or Kgosi, of that village, so that the Kgosi knows the person by name and face and welcomes the person into his/her village. Well, Francistown doesn’t have a Kgosi – it has five. Though most Kgosis are born into their role, the Francistown Kgosis are hired. They are furthermore not even referred to as Kgosis, they are called Court Presidents. This is only one example but an important one that illustrates how my upcoming service will be quite different from that of many of the other Bots volunteers.

Speaking Setswana in Francistown will also be more of a challenge since most residents expect to have to speak English to anyone who is white. I look at this as a positive challenge that can reap tremendous benefits should I face it head-on. My Setswana practice will have to go into somewhat of a turbodrive – perhaps I’ll get a tutor – and I’ll use that to help wedge myself though the redundancy of the American/British/Australian passers-by. It will take a while, but eventually the local neighbors, co-workers, and near-by residents may begin to recognize me as someone who’s not passing through and who, at the very least, attempts to speak their language.  I want as many friends as possible.

Lastly, my house is far, far nicer than I could have ever expected. I am incredibly grateful for this, and I am vowing to keep it well taken care of.  

 

 

Hey, check it out! I think I figured out how to use the photo album part of my blog program. I will try to add more photo albums from prior events, and will make note of it as such. Enjoy!

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