Severe Culture Hangover

It’s been a while since I wrote – my life’s been pretty hectic with work and play and hosting people. I spent Thanksgiving devouring American food with friends in Selebi-Phikwe, went camping in the rain with other friends at Letsibogo Dam (near Phikwe), and coordinated with the DAC office 5 World AIDS Day Celebrations in Francistown. Oh, and I attended National World AIDS Day in Palapye, where I chatted with our Ambassador Steve Nolan and watched President Khama give his annual WAD speech.

Immediately after the final World AIDS Day celebration in Francistown, I hastily took off to Cape Town for a two-week long holiday. I had no idea 2 weeks could have such an impact on me – it made me realize just how slowly time passes here in Bots. If I could do as much as I did in those two weeks, then it’s become a resolution of mine to fill my time here more efficiently as well. Course, I’m back on my Peace Corps budget, so “filling my time” might mean “reading more books” and “exercising more frequently” as opposed to the following:

Things I did in Cape Town:

  • Ate copious amounts of sushi
  • Drank delicious, high-gravity beer with this crazy thing added called “flavor”
  • Visited 6 vineyards in the Stellenbosch region (only really remember the first 5 though)
  • Met and befriended several locals from Stellenbosch and Cape Town – sincere thank yous to Couch Surfing
  • Saw Harry Potter at the Waterfront – a part of town near the ocean filled with malls and breweries and restaurants by the water. The area has a huge ferris wheel and other fun attractions like “still-dude-in-all-bronze” and “man who makes portraits of you and advertises this talent with his portrait of R. Kelly”.  Also, choirs.
  • Visited Simon’s Town – the cute touristy spot just north of Cape Point – one of the most southern parts of Africa.
  • Enjoyed many hours shopping the markets and cafes in Cape Town – and though it’s hard to find a restroom, the urban design of some of these areas are beautiful, welcoming, and green.
  • Stayed at one hostel for the duration of the trip – the Kimberley Hotel – and by the end really felt like family there. Highly recommended, assuming they provide a fan in your room. Their cheap breakfasts of eggs, toast, beans and coffee really saved me a few mornings. It was also fun to watch people finishing their beers while eating these breakfasts.
  • Climbed Lion’s Head with my friend Hays and viewed all of Cape Town and the ocean from one single point at the top
  • My New Year’s Day consisted of visiting a Turkish Bath, watching The Social Network at the Labia Theater,  hitting up a Mexican Restaurant, a jazzy cigar bar… and a brewery at the Waterfront.
  • Drank 2 exquisite martinis – one bar-made and one home-made
  • Went salsa dancing, then later got booed off the stage singing Karaoke (crappy song + drunk people = little patience for anything other than “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond)
  • Ate at a Kurdish restaurant called Mesopotamia, shared a tobacco hookah, watched a belly dancer who later invited me to belly dance with her… which i did.
  • Drank a neat Laphroaig (this deserves a bullet of its own)
  • Ate a perfect meal with an incredible person at a restaurant called Blonde
  • Laughed until I cried at least twice
  • Danced and danced and danced with truly great friends

So from this experience I can see why some wait a long time before visiting the States during their service – I didn’t want to come back to Francistown. And though perhaps the sleepless night before the exhausting day of travel might have had something to do with it, I teared up a bit walking back to my house. Even in my wonderful tiny city of Francistown, everything seemed so flat in comparison to the saturation of culture and beauty I had just immersed myself in. I questioned what I was doing in Peace Corps again, but eventually resolved (again) to stick it out and use my time here as best I can. No sense in not living in a place like Cape Town if I’m just going to sit on my thumbs living in Botswana.

Though I don’t feel so energized to sit again in front of my screen in my FTown flourescent office,  I do, however, feel energized to fulfill some personal goals I’ve been sitting on for a few months. I need to act on them in a practical way  – like, inching forward by doing at least one thing a day on one of my goals. And I’ve got lots.

Will I mention my goals right now on this blog? Nope. Thanks to insight from Derek Sivers on TED I’ll be keeping them to myself for now.

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Happy New Year, everyone. And to quote the naked lady in the Turkish bath (who probably got it from someone else), “may the best of last year be the worst of this year.”

President’s Day Weekend

So Botswana just celebrated its President’s Day, which is different from Sir Seretse Khama day because this time we received two whole days off from work.  So some friends and I took advantage of this by doing the following:

  • Cooking an exorbitant amount of food
    • Macaroni, failed attempts at rice krispie treats and caramel corn, egg dishes, roasted vegetables, roasted marshmallows, hamburgers, hot dogs, coke floats (tonight for dinner I will be eating carrots and beets). P1030419
  • Playing with and Feeding orphans at the Mother Teresa Resource Center
    • Spent Saturday morning playing with close to 200 orphans who are offered a healthy, filling meal each Saturday. More on this in next post. It was amazing!P1030361
  • Attending a Motswana Baby Shower
    • These events are fierce. “Bring your own Bottle” was the only thing mentioned on the invite aside from the time and place. Though the one we attended was tame, I learned that a game frequently played at these is to give unmarked gifts to the mother-to-be, and if she can’t correctly guess who gave the gift then someone has to “punish” her by executing various hazing activities (ie smearing mayonnaise in her hair, making her expose various normally unexposed body parts, etc.)P1030414
  • Playing a lot of cards
    • Ever played 31? Ever played 31 after 3 glasses of wine? It’s pretty addictive!P1030480
  • Checking the layout of the World’s Worst Golf Course
    • So I heard a guy saying he owns two sets of golf clubs: one he takes to the Francistown Club Golf Course and one he uses for everywhere else. This place doesn’t have greens, it has browns. Amazing. I will make a future post about this as soon as I actually try it out. And that will be soon.
  • Watching more Bruce Willis movies than could fit in a China Shop DVD
    • Die Hard with a Vengeance, Die Hard 4.0, The Whole Nine Yards, The Whole Ten Yards, I know there was at least one more in there.P1030449
  • Enjoying the new Braai stand
    • Please see above bullet about foodP1030425

More photos

Happy Sir Seretse Khama Day

Today is a holiday, in fact it’s President’s Day, or Sir Seretse Khama’s Day (first Botswana President), so we had the day off! It has so far been blissful – I slept in, did a little laundry, made coffee, split the purchase of a braai stand for this weekend’s festivities, drank a real milk stout from a can (yes, today I discovered it actually exists in Botswana), helped make some onion rings from scratch, drank another beer, and it’s not even 4 pm!

I’m thinking that bread making, a bath, and some RadioLab is probably an order for the rest of the day.

Happy Sir Seretse Khama Day, everyone.