Well, I’m officially a PCV now. I moved into my house in Mahalapye about a week and a half ago. And, as I suspected, everything has changed. I’m no longer subject to the ‘go, go, go!’ mentality of PST, and I no longer feel like I’m being treated like a twelve year old. I have time to do things that I enjoy now (reading, writing, socializing within my new community, etc), and I’m much happier. I suppose I’ll start with work and then move on to play…
I’ve just started my second week working at the Xhosa 1 clinic. Our first two months at site are dedicated to doing a community assessment, so the tasks start off very basic and the more complex programs come after In-Service Training. So far, I’ve done a lot of data entry, as I’m the only one at the clinic (that I know of) that is fluent in the use of computers. I’ve spent a good deal of time entering results from lab tests, primarily CD4 cell counts and viral loads, and filing the hard copies of this data. Apparently these results have just been piling up over the last year or two, because a few of the results have dated by to ’09. This goes to highlight that monitoring and evaluation is not one of Botswana’s strengths. This may also explain why there are so often problems with issues like funding and adherence. The levels of accountability are very low. Aside from data entry, my counterpart has spoken with me about helping them with some upcoming project, but the details are a little sketchy at the moment. Also, I have a friend/colleague in the community named Mpumi who has approached me about helping out with a safe male circumcision campaign. Outside of the clinic, I’ve met with some of the major stakeholders within my immediate community. In particular, I met a local Kgosi (headman) who publicly introduced me to a large group of community members (which is why at least once or twice a day I hear ‘Hey Bakang!’ from someone I don’t really know…). I also had a brief meeting with the staff at the Xhosa Primary School. I’m particularly interested to check out the state of their Life Skills classes and see what programs they have in place to address prevention and support for children affected by HIV. The headmaster mentioned to me that the school has a large number of OVC’s (Orphans/Vulnerable Children), so there is definitely a lot of potential for programs at the school. I’ve only been at my site for a few weeks, but I already see a lot of potential for strong programs. Now I have to see if I can find passionate people to work alongside, and also a little bit of funding.
As I just moved to Mahalapye, I don’t have a whole lot going on outside of work yet. That’s been a very good thing for me, though. The pace of life has slowed down a lot, and I’ve had a lot more time to focus on myself. I’ve gotten a good bit of reading done over the last couple of days, and I feel more relaxed than I have since the day the Peace Corps called me to tell me that I had an invitation on the way. There are a number of volunteers in close proximity to me, which is nice, but I’ve been able to make a few non-PC friends in the community, which has been encouraging. I suppose that makes it feel a little more like home. My house is on a family compound, which I was very opposed to when I was in PST, but I’m actually very thankful for now. Different family members have come to check on me multiple times to make sure I’m settling in well and that I have everything I need. They also invite me into their home occasionally to share a meal with them. I’ll never turn down a good home-cooked meal! They also respect my privacy, which goes a long way with me.
Over the years, I’ve spent a vast amount of time thinking about Peace Corps service. PST was a really rough experience for a variety of reasons, but it really challenged my preconceived notions about what Peace Corps service would be like. Luckily, PST is a thing of the past and I’m finally a volunteer. My service is different than I anticipated in a lot of ways, but the essentials are a lot like I had hoped. The people at my clinic seem to appreciate me being there, and are very excited to work alongside of me. We’ve established relationships based on our individual strengths and the realization that we can be mutually beneficial. Although I’ve only been doing data entry so far, the work itself means a lot more in the bigger picture. Having that data on the computer means easier access and quicker assessment of ARV regiments. The clinic becomes a little more efficient and, in the end, can take on a little bit more. I’m not saying this to boast in myself in any way, but to just point out that something simple can be much more fulfilling because there is a bigger picture. Being so far away from home can be so incredibly challenging sometimes, but a sense of purpose goes a long way in making it manageable. Don’t get me wrong, I would hate to be stuck entering lab results into a computer for two years. But, I think that if data entry can feel a bit more meaningful, how much more meaningful will bigger projects be? I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.
Some people have asked about care packages, so I figured I would address that now. First off, I have a new address for my site:
William Blakely Ruble
Private Box No. 3470
Now, for ideas of things to send:
-Magazines of anything I’m interested in (Travel, Snowboarding, Martial Arts, Outdoors/Adventure, etc…)
-Easy Mac/Doritos (awesome combination)
-Books (Just ask what I want at the moment, I’ve got tons in mind)
-Sour Parch Kids (delicious)
-Mixed CD’s with good new music
-Socks (SO HARD TO CLEAN BY HAND!!!)
-Things to decorate my house (pictures, notes, things that remind me of home, etc)
-Trash bags (hard to find here…)
-Any other kind of delicious food
-Cold medicine (I’m not sick, but it’s hard to find good stuff here)
-Ask if you need any other ideas, I’m sure I’ll think of more…
Thanks in advance to anyone who sends anything. Getting a care package is a huge morale booster!
Please write me. I want to hear from everyone about how everyone is doing, etc. It should be really easy for me to get back to you quickly IF you send an email to me via RubleWB@gmail.com. I can’t access Facebook all that often, and I can’t usually access my Wofford account, so make sure you send things to my gmail account.
Ke itumetse, sala sentle!
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