Mid-Service Training and Mma Obama

The second year of my service is already well under way, and what better way to recognize it than with a week long training in Gaborone with all of the volunteers, ending with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet First Lady Michelle Obama.

Mid-Service Training

Getting a chance to reunite with the other ~45 volunteers was refreshing. Aside from all the catching up and partying, it was great to exchange experiences and be reassured that the problems or concerns I sometimes have at site are shared by most of us.  The actual training part was somewhat lacking, and the sessions I thought could use a little more planning and attention, but just getting out of the routine in Francistown was beneficial in itself.

Mid-Service Training
Me peering though friends during a Mid-Service Training reunion party

Other highlights included eating several different kinds of pizza, celebrating a birthday, sipping wine around a hotel mini-bonfire, and coming home with a lot less money in my Peace Corps bank account (still worth it).

During training, the acting Country Director made several announcements regarding the possibility of the volunteers attending an event where we would have the chance to meet the First Lady during her last stop to Gaborone. It became a week-long suspenseful fiasco, because we were told we could go but were repeatedly reminded that at any moment it could fall through.  Luckily it didn’t.

Meeting Mma Obama

The Beautiful and Freezing Cold Venue

That Saturday morning of the event,  US Embassy staff,  PCVs and PCV staff met outside the residence of the US Ambassador to Botswana, and we waited for a good hour in freezing temperatures before being allowed on the premises. We were never allowed into the house, but the spacious backyard garden provided hot tea and heaters. Walking through the gate to the backyard felt like entering an airport – we passed through metal detectors, and a team of secret service inspected our clothes, bags, cameras, phones, and especially passports. We all had to turn in our social security numbers ahead of time so security could run background checks.

After another forty-five minutes of chatting around heaters with our tea, all of the volunteers and staff gathered to a fence near the podium where the First Lady would speak. We all settled and readied ourselves for the speech,  strategically positioning our cameras between the heads of those in front of us. Like the sound check guy at a concert, the events coordinator walked up to the podium and received wild applause. She introduced herself, roused the crowd in preparation for Michelle Obama’s arrival, and then announced that Peace Corps was assigned to a separate roped off area and that we would have to move. So, somewhat begrudgingly,  our large herd of volunteers slowly peeled out from the tight cluster of Embassy staff, relocated to our newly designated area and repositioned our multitude of cameras. I guess our presence was a slight distraction from the event, because we were then publicly informed by the events coordinator that we’d be “more difficult to handle than the children.”

US Ambassador Michelle Gavin Introducing First Lady Michelle Obama

The First Lady spoke for about five minutes, then took the time to spend a moment with each of us. She shook everyone’s hand and really circulated around the event. I was excited to meet her but also felt relaxed. Whenever I have the opportunity to meet or see someone well known, I tend to appreciate the accomplishments of that person in relation to their physicality, and oddly enough I also think about the degrees of separation the person closes between myself and a world of distinguishable people and events. Someone like, say, Nelson Mandela, whom Michelle Obama met just days prior.  I also appreciate that she is essentially living history, and nonetheless history I’m proud of. So all in all meeting her was a pretty incredible experience.

Click on the photo below for an album of the event, and below that is a video of the short speech Mma Obama gave. Hope you all enjoy!

Meeting Michelle Obama Photo Album

One Response

  1. […] has certainly brought me to some unexpected places, and I think this event juxtaposes nicely with meeting First Lady Michelle Obama last year. All in all life as a third-year is much busier than before, and I’m enjoying how it’s […]

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