Friday, June 29, 2012


I just saw another volunteer post this comment to her blog:

"Living in Botswana you have a different sense of time. For instance, if someone says we are leaving “soon”, that means we are leaving in the next 3 hours. If we are leaving “now”, it means at least a 45-minute wait. If we are leaving “now now” we are leaving in the next 10 minutes, and you better be in the vehicle because they will leave without you. This whole “now now” business drives me crazy. I want to shout “But now means now!” I hate people saying we should meet at 2, and then not showing up until 2:45"

Reading this made me laugh, and reflect on how many times I've been frustrated with the difference between the cultures in how we view time. Everything runs a little slower here, but as a chronically late person even in the US, I have come to enjoy knowing that no matter how late I am here, someone else will be even later than me. It is NOT fun to attend meetings at 8am only to have them begin at 9am, or 10am (or 11am... or later) -- but this far in I know what to expect and I am no longer surprised. I also love saying the phrase "now-now", which used to mean just "now" in the US, but here in Bots you need extra emphasis to show you really mean NOW!

Here's a shout out to someone if they are reading...
Congratulations to my mom’s friend Forrest at Klahowya on his graduation, and happy belated 21st birthday!  Way to go Forrest!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Handing Over a House

This past weekend I attended a very moving ceremony in a village about 45 km from mine. In this village called Maboane there was a Peace Corps Volunteer, Jeanne Davey, for 2 years - in fact, she ended service and left her village today. The ceremony taking place was a "Handing Over of a House" event -- and it was, quite literally, opening the doors and handing over a newly constructed house to a local family. The building of this home began with Jeanne. She wrote a grant to pull in funding from the US and from community members for construction, and from start to finish the project took about 1 year.

This whole event was extremely touching for all attending. Not only was this house created for a very impoverished family -- a blind grandmother, 3 daughters, and at least 15 grandchildren (some orphaned) that actually had no shelter and were sleeping and living outdoors -- it was pushed thru to completion by community members working together despite many difficult circumstances. And so, this was truly a wonderful story about a community here in Botswana.

Seeing this was also a big deal for me personally, from a Peace Corps Volunteer perspective. I'd met Jeanne only recently, and at that time she told me about trying to raise money to hopefully complete a house before leaving. The next time I saw her she informed me, still shocked herself, that the money was raised and the house was built (and the building only began in early April!). She invited me to the ceremony and I knew I couldn't miss it. To everyone this is a community success story, but to me, it is also a Peace Corps success story. It really is remarkable that Jeanne got this going after seeing the basic need of a local family (which by the way is still heartbreaking to think about), and more importantly, was able to come thru for them. I'm so happy to have met Jeanne, to have seen what she accomplished, and to have been able to celebrate in her community with her. It was one of those days where I felt pride being part of Peace Corps, because despite what I may be feeling about my own service and accomplishments, there are Volunteers around the globe struggling to get things done but still doing amazing things. These successes often feel like my own in some way, and so it is great to see and share those moments with other Volunteers.

Congrats again, Jeanne, if you're reading! And thanks for all the inspiration you've given me.

Here's some photos from the event!

Jeanne speaking at the ceremony, thanking all the contributing community partners.

Community members gathered around the house for the ribbon cutting part of the ceremony.

Tents set up on the compound next to the house, where everyone was seated for the speeches

One area where the family 19+ members used to sleep outside

Another structure used for shelter by the family

The family's new home!

Jeanne and one of the family members in front of the new house

Also, our Country Director sent us a link to the US Embassy in Botswana Facebook page (who knew they had a Facebook page??) highlighting Jeanne's project -- there are more photos there as well -- this is the webpage:  US Embassy, Gaborone

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Just posting an article about veterans currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Botswana (a Huffington Post piece, written by another volunteer). Some things I found interesting were the similarities and differences between serving in Peace Corps and the military, as noted by the veterans during interviews.

The Few, The Proud: Military Veterans in the Peace Corps

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Phakela le Bosigo (Morning and Night)

Just adding some sunrise and sunset photos from my village - I thought they were too nice not to share...

Sunrise - the view from inside my compound looking out.

Almost sunset - this is walking on the road towards my house.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Baithaopi ba dira eng? (What are volunteers doing?)

I can hardly believe I haven't written an update in 2 months already! The time is really passing here. I've been meaning to write something about what volunteers do in Botswana, so I think I'll start there...

First, let me list the 3 goals of Peace Corps:

1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

This is very broad, which is why what Peace Corps Volunteers do in one country is not necessarily what they would do in another - the program is designed around each countries' needs. The Peace Corps-Botswana program is a good example of this. Volunteers first entered the country in 1966 (shortly after independence) and continued coming until 1997, at which time Peace Corps withdrew based on Botswana's economic success. At the request of the president, the program re-opened in 2003 and volunteers began to serve with the specific focus in HIV/AIDS. This is the goal of Peace Corps in Botswana to-date, though volunteers serve in different roles, e.g.:

1. Life-Skills Volunteers - these volunteers are placed in schools
2. Community Capacity Building Volunteers - these volunteers are placed with a clinic or a social work office
3. District-Level Volunteers - these volunteers are placed with a District AIDS Coordinating Office (DAC Volunteers) or a District Health Management Team (DHMT Volunteers).

For those that don't know, I've been placed with the DHMT for my sub-district, Kweneng West. This office currently oversees 25 rural health facilities (clinics and health posts) and reports directly to the Ministry of Health every month. This is called my "primary assignment" and it is where I spend 3-4 full days working each week.

So you probably want to know what I really do? As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, my role is not to do a 'job' (i.e. I am not fulfilling a position a host-country national could have); rather the intent is to assist with work and train where possible. For the DHMT as a whole I try to improve organization and management, and I assist individual members with using the computers, improving presentations, writing reports, compiling monthly data from the facilities, etc. - whatever I feel I can help with.

To be honest, this is not the role I expected to have - I don't think any volunteer imagined working in a government office when they signed up for Peace Corps! But I have a good opportunity here -- a greater opportunity to learn than to teach, really, because 11 months into service I still feel like I'm trying to figure out the way things work! And I cannot fix the systemic problems I see but simply focus on the small-scale help I think I can offer.

In case you're interested...

Here is more about what volunteers do globally -
What do volunteers do - Peace Corps website

And here is more about volunteering in Botswana -
PC Botswana Program
PC Botswana WIKI

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ngwana wa Obama (Child of Obama)

In many foreign countries Americans are not always well received, but in Botswana it’s different. People here generally have a very positive view of Americans, which is great news for us! One little detail that’s helped us out has been good ol’ Barack being President. Since he has roots in Africa, many Africans claim him as their own, or at least display a great deal of fondness towards him. I saw this in Kenya (intensely so, as this was his father’s country of origin) and have experienced this several times in Botswana. Just today I was given a lift in my village by a man who asked where I was from. When I replied, “The U.S.”, he said to me “Ohhh. Ngwana wa Obama" with an approving nod and smile. Then we carried on with small talk and I answered a few questions he had about the U.S.

Many people in Botswana know a ton about America, especially in urban areas. It’s common to hear about people having studied at a university (for instance, many high ranking government officials) and lived or traveled there. But even in smaller places, bits of American culture permeate the everyday lives of people: American shows will show up on late night television; American news is often on the radio; and American music artists are constantly being played (I can hear American R&B and rap music every day on the radio…and the family I live on the compound with LOVE to blast Dolly Parton from their cars). 

It’s in the smaller areas, however, where misconceptions of the U.S. can thrive (many are quite hilarious). There is little known or understood about its’ diversity and complexity, or the fact that not everyone has as much money as Jay-Z, etc. Sometimes I find myself frustrated, falling into thinking, “Why don’t they GET me?”  But really, how could they? They cannot possibly understand where I come from - they are processing the information they are given. And while most people in America think Africa is a country and not a continent and/or can't name 1 country in the continent, at least people in a tiny village called Letlhakeng will name our President. So it’s our opportunity as Peace Corps volunteers to fill in the gaps in knowledge about our country as best we can… and I guess what I’m saying is… thanks Obama for the conversation starter!

ALSO, I tried to find some information on US-Botswana relations... all I could easily find was a tiny bit on Wikipedia:  US-Botswana information

And there is this piece about our Ambassador to Botswana, written by a Peace Corps Volunteer who had the opportunity to shadow one of her trips in-country:  Huffington Post - Michelle Gavin

Lastly, some Peace Corps-Botswana info:  US Embassy- Peace Corps

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dikwalo (Letters)

Do YOU like writing letters? Do you like ME?

If you answered YES to either of the questions above, you should send me a letter! Really, just a letter! I have everything I need in Botswana, but I love to hear from people back home.

Here is my address:

Diana Arper, PCV
District Health Management Team, RAC
Private Bag 003
Letlhakeng, Botswana

This is where it all comes ... it's the happiest place in town.

I love getting a parcel notification. See how happy it makes me!

By the way, my sister sent treats for my dog Bert in her last package. I needed to post some pictures for her to see how much he enjoyed them.

Here's what happened...

Sniff sniff...

Still sniffing...

Got it.

So happy. Thanks Alicia!