Monday, October 5, 2009

Boring Posting for Bored Man

It's been awhile...I know...

I'm going to use this post to reflect on the last six months in sort of a stream of conciousness/mish-mash of styles kind of way. Because that is the kind of mood I am in currently, and thus, that is how it shall be written. It may not make any sense, but let's just go with it.

Since touchdown in April life has been slow moving, frusturating, mind-bendinbg, protocol ridden craziness. Some days hair needs to be torn or shorn from it's roots, otherdays a smile accompanies my walk down endlessly looping tar roads veined by dirt tracks. Running naked through the pans, working on my mean farmers tan, missin' water, life slowly trods on. I sit at my desk day after day watching world's fall apart while we sit in blissful ignorance.

Okay, I'm bored with that...hah... I guess that word sums up my life right now though-bored. I just don't really understand my program I guess. Instead of capacitating as Peace Corps Volunteers should be doing, I am just replacing - exactly what Peace Corps Volunteers shouldn't be doing. To give an example, our Monitoring and Evaluation Officer left for brighter horizons which has left me being the M and E officer... This is fine, i know how to do it, but it means that I am not teaching anyone jack shite and when I leave, so does the skill set. There is no rush to fill the position because there is a PCV in the office who can do it. So in essence the government is having me do exactly what the Peace Corps does not do...replacing a job.
I'm frusturated because I DID have expectations about Peace Corps. Basically, sitting under a mango tree talking to villagers about stuff and doing cool stuff (broad enough, right!). Instead I wear slacks and a tie everyday, take a taxi to my desk job and sit at my desk from 7:30-4:30, with an hour for lunch from 12:45-1:45....like clockwork. Of course, this routine is broken up when I attend a workshop or a conference and stay in a hotel room in some other village/town/city. I guess it boils down to I just don't understand why there are Peace Corps Volunteers in this position in Botswana anymore...but...here...I...am. In the words of Ren and Stimpy "happy, happy, joy, joy."

All is not boring however. I got to go up to the Sowa Pans this last week and visit the Dukwe refugee camp. That was pretty, freaking amazing. We also did a naked run on the pan which was great and just all got to hang out/let it hang out...which was also great. I probably should talk about the refugee camp, but that will have to be saved for another time. On the way home our bus hit the car in front of it, so we had to hitchhike back to the capital (400km away). All was good though and everyone made it home in one piece. I of course lost a pair of shoes and my phone...as I normally do.

I have also spent too much money this quarter. See, we get paid on a quarterly basis with this quarter starting in September. Unfortunately, I spent most of September in the capital at In-Service Training and then Workshops for work. This translated into me eating out...a lot...which one can not really afford to do on a Peace Corps budget. So the next two months are going to be brought to you by rice and beans...at least there I'll get some authentic Peace Corps experience;-)

Okay, I think I'm done...this one was short and not very informative...guess you'll have to wait two months to get a really witty posting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

3 months, 4 days, 18 hours

So here we are, three months in-country and one month at site. Only 24 months left to go…24…
I heard there is some worldwide Peace Corps graph that shows enthusiasm over period of service and that one of the lowest points is the period 3-4 months. I guess this would be the stage I am currently in. Unfortunately, I am unsure as to what it is that I will actual do in my office. Originally the DAC volunteers came in to help setup the offices and get them running, but now that they are staffed and been running for 6 years, it is a little unclear as to what to do. The one area that I have noticed a need is getting all data uploaded onto a computer so that we may then chart trends and USE the data to effectively plan. Unfortunately, no one seems too excited about this prospect.
I also need to get out of the office more. I am thinking that I will propose one day a week for me out of the office where I can go around and visit with the various NGOs in an informal catchup. This will help paint a clearer picture of what is going on in my village while at the same time providing a chance escape the cold, fluorescent tomb that is my office!
I had a conversation with a good friend from graduate school once about expectations for the Peace Corps. I lauded that I had absolutely none, circumstances would arise and I would adjust my course accordingly – prepared for anything. He chided that off as foolish, that everyone has expectations, but I stuck to my guns. I think I am now coming to an understanding of the expectations I had. Basically, that I wouldn’t be sitting in an office, dressed in a suit 5 days a week from 7:30-4:30…I had the expectation that this would not be my life in Peace Corps…wrong!
All is not bad though…we are soon to be coming out of winter, which will be a nice reprieve as it has been colder than a mother fracker(I’m on a BSG kick right now) the past month. I also have In-Service Training in a month which will be a nice 10 day break to reconnect with the other volunteers and fervently discuss the trials and successes of the Peace Corps program.
There are also many other things to look forward to. There is a big election in October which, based on whisperings, is going to be a big deal. Apparently, however, people are not allowed to speak out against the very strong, centralized government, a right I hold dear to my little American heart. It seems that the country is starting to approach some apprehention about the future as the market for diamonds declines and programs rapidly run over-budget. Whatever the outcome of the election, I just hope the leaders can move forward to getting Botswana less reliant on foreign imports and developing strong Batswana-run small businesses.
(I hope that last paragraph was bland enough. It is so hard to speak my mind on this blog and still remain totally PC.)
In November, the illustrious Mama Marr is rumored to be making a stop in Cape Town, which will be awesome. Then in December there is Christmas vacation, which should be a great chance to explore more of the country. By that time, too, I should have a clear understanding of what can be done in my office and community and have days which are a bit more filled than they are now. I also have to start working on completing my degree at some point!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Finally a New Post

So it has been awhile since my last entry! There is good reason. For the last two months I have been in Training with very limited access to email. Whenever I did get a chance to logon I only had enough time to quickly respond to emails and update the ever important facebook status. Anyhoo, let’s get this started!

The Politically Correct Entry on Peace Corps Training:

Peace Corps training is amazing…just kidding. People say that it is the toughest and most arduous task before an incoming volunteer. For anywhere from 8-12 weeks you live with a host family, attend 4 hours of language training followed by sessions pertinent to your placement. In my case, this training was on development and HIV/AIDS…exactly what I have been studying in school for 6 years (college and graduate). As some trainees have no schooling in either development or HIV/AIDS, the training is at a very basic level…which led to me being extremely bored in certain hours. With saying this, it is important to note, however, that it is always good to get a refresher in fundamentals.
My host family was amazing. They were an incredibly gracious family who opened their home and their hearts to me. I would, however, like to recount some of the moments that were a bit comical and lessons learned!
1. American’s do not know how to do anything!
a. The first day I went to wash my clothes my host sister told me that I was doing it entirely incorrectly. My method of handwashing clothes is to put the soap on the garment and then rub the dirty area between my knuckles. After chuckling at my ignorance she said that “NO! You must do it like this!” This led to her doing, what I initially thought was the exact same thing. Upon, further observation however I noticed that she used her knuckles on one hand and wrist of the other hand. “Is this not accomplishing the same thing?” I said to her…”No, no…you must do it like this.”
b. Cooking…I made chips one day (French fries to us Yanks). Simply heated the oil and threw in some cut up potato. I like my fries super crispy and delicious… My host sister found this to be totally inappropriate and decreed that I was a lazy cook! We battled back and forth a bit with me saying that I was cooking them the American way and, afterall, Americans INVENTED French fries, so we sure as heck knew how to cook them! Upon finishing, I tested the perfection of my creation and then had my host brother try some. He loved them! One point for me!
2. Fun With Pit Latrines!
a. We had a super awesome pit latrine. It was clean, not smelly and all around pretty great. I had no problem visiting the throne for a few minutes to get down to business. One day, however, I arrived home a bit late as it was getting dark out. Having to use the facilities, I retired to the building in the corner of the yard. “Reading” a magazine, doing my thing, I was immediately confronted with a terrible pain in that one special region! Thinking that I had just scratched myself on the rock I looked down to see…ants…everywhere. For some reason, and it was the only day I ever saw them, the ants had decided to invade the latrine and ME! I jumped up screaming and frantically slapping myself trying to get rid of them! Terrible news….
3. Botswana Gets Cold!!!
a. People had told me…it will be cold…I did not believe them. I did live in the Northeast for many years afterall….that being said…I AM CURRENTLY FREEZING and have been for the past three weeks!!!
And Now for Something Completely Different:
The other volunteers in my cohort are amazing. Botswana is an interesting Peace Corps program in that it is slightly different than any of the others. As the program was asked to return to Botswana to solely focus on HIV/AIDS, many of the volunteers have tremendous experience working in the field. Almost everyone has at least a master’s degree with a doctor, nurses and a lawyer thrown in for good measure. They are all awesome people and I feel I have made life long friends in just the two short months we have been together!
Some Other Stories From Training:
Around the third week of training we left our training village and went all over the country to shadow different volunteers. The volunteer I shadowed lived in a town called Bobonong in the eastern part of the country. It was great to get out and chill with volunteers currently serving. We ended up going to a woman’s ranch in the Tuli Block. The volunteer is trying to work with her to set up workshops around HIV/AIDS when she hosts orphans for a two week camp at the ranch. She is an American woman who lives 6 months of the year in this very isolated section of bush…and who is incredibly interesting! We ate kudu, wildabeast and impala which were all DELICIOUS!
Site Placement was a very nerve racking day. We had received a list of possible sites the week before and had all made little tallies in our head of our top choices – even if we outwardly said we didn’t care! This was afterall, where we would be living for two years of our lives! We arrived to find little numbers under our chairs. These numbers were the order we would go up and receive our placement. Upon calling my number, I went up to a table filled with cookies baked by our country director. In the bag with the cookie was a quote (mine: “Do not let great ambition overshadow small accomplishments”) and a number that corresponded to a town on a big map. I first looked at the one place I did not want to go….not my number “phew!” Then I looked at the place I really wanted to go…”no number? Odd…” Finally, looking south I found my town….Kanye! It had not even been on the list previously, but from what I heard it was a pretty chill place. I was happy, especially since I ended up being close to some trainees that I have grown close with.
Okay, enough for now…Now that I am in the office, I have regular access to internet so I should be able to update more regularly.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Here we go!

“So what are you doing this weekend Alexander?”

“Why I, madame, am moving to Africa!”

There are only so many times in one’s life (read:never) that one gets to say this and it is pretty cool. In a big way it also just reaffirms the present to me, sort of an interal “yes you are doing this.” The problem is I don’t feel nervous yet. I don’t feel scared, I don’t feel trepidatious, in all honesty, I don’t even know if I feel entirely excited. This is not to say I do not have any enthusiasm over this endeavor, just that I don’t feel the excitement yet. I think that this will all change the moment I land in Johannesburg and realize what the heck is going on. We shall see…

 

At this moment here I sit on the Chinatown bus going from New York to Philadelphia. I had what could be perceived as a terrible time getting here. I left my mom’s house in CA at 4am and then flew to Denver, Chicago and finally DC. Upon arrival I hoofed it to Chinatown to catch a 4.5 hour bus up to NYC…I got in at 3am…But it wasn’t all that bad, I slept most of the way. And besides, at this moment the sun is shining, the tunes are good, and I am content, with eyes fixed on my concrete oasis. New York lies out my window. I miss New York a lot and believe everyone should be required to live within one of the 5 boroughs for at least a year.  Her siren song will enter your head and call you back to relive your affair. She is a place where magic happens and the future is just a block away. Though, it is no longer my home, it will always hold a grip around my heart and a certain twitter in my __________.

 

Moving away from the reminiscent, I have decided that I have packed too much.  I have my backpack and my little backpack – not like an 80’s little backpack, mind you. A proper, manly, safari, camelback with beer spout…and football screen…yeah….yeah…- (notice the dash after the elipses? This would be called improper use of grammatical symbols, also denoted by use of the paranthesis after the dash. But enough, we shall return to the conversation at hand). So I got the backpack, the little backpack and a duffle. They are heavy and I am little. I forgot that I was actually going to exercise a bit before leaving so that I could muscle through…but I seemed to have misplaced my muscles.

 

Note: A svedka ad is on the bus next to me…svedka is from Sweden…GO Sweden!!!!

 

Ready! Time to play a game…it’s called hold your breath through the Holland Tunnel! Oh no! Traffic, minus five points. Uh oh, you drowned while fording the river. There is no way anyone could hold his breath for the dursiation of the trip through this tunnel, so it’s kind of an un-winnable game…

 

Bye New York! Everyone, wave bye to th is marvel of American wonderment…no? No one’s interested. Oh well. Then this will be my private show,  the city all dressed up in her Monday best to wave me goodbye from across the Hudson. Sometimes I feel like an adventurer, conquering the American highways via the low-budget wonders of the Chinatown bus system. How far could one get and how much would it cost? That might be an adventure when I get back.

Here comes the statue of liberty, well at least her derriere and backside. Does anyone else find that funny? The statue of liberty turns her backside on New Jersey. “Sorry New Jersey, you get to just see the bum.” 

OOO, my favorite site on the drive south on the New Jersey turnpike. The wonders of the Newark airport sattelite parking lot. This thing is huge and now that I pass it, think it may not be a parking lot. It looks like new cars…definitely new cars….a lot of new cars sitting. They must be product which isn’t moving from the port. That isn’t a good sign. There were a lot of cars.

 

STAGING

 

So, I went to Philly and saw my friends Bradley and Clintonious the brave, who were just as amazing as they always are. In fact they were so amazing, that my meal last night was ruined due to the lingering side effects of alcohol. But now I’m here, staging complete, sitting in a hotel room in Arlington, Virginia. Tomorrow it’s off to South Africa, where the adventure really begins!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Inaguration

The Inauguration or How I learned to stop feeling and embrace the numbness filling my soul

I had been casually discussing going to the inauguration with a fellow Tulane MI who lived in the DC area during the fall semester. I could take a break from the endless hours of painting to skip down to DC for a little while and see a moment in history. However, with news of millions flooding into DC and horrendously crowded scenarios bouncing across the ticker of cnn, I jumped right onto the fence about this decision. As a result the Sunday before the inauguration was spent having too many conversations with myself, here is an example:

Alex: Uggg, do I really want to spend 8 hours on the bus just to be met with swirling crowds and endless lines.

Alex: Just do it

Alex: But I don’t really have any money, due to my semi-forced vacation – the doldrums of any possible career path.

Alex: Just do it.

Alex: But I just moved out of New Orleans and I am sooooo le tired.

Alex: Just do it.

Alex: You know what? I should just do it, yeah ...i am…I am just gonna do it! YAY ME!

With decision made, I began frantically calling friends to have important logistics figured out. I made plans with a friend in Boston to stay the night and chill so that I could catch the earliest bus out possible (6:30am...thanks Lynn!). Then I bought my bus ticket from NYC├áDC which ended up not being till 3pm, leaving me a 3 hour window in NYC…which is just fine by me, because I miss my NYC peeps ridiculously. The three hour layover meant I could hang with my dear friends T. Vance and T. Pohliqhchrosznehe for a few moments. Finally I secured a meeting with my dearest Ryan Dunn K. Kommeh or something like that in DC. While I treasure my friends, they don’t always have the easiest names to spell, and for that, the fault definitely lies with them.
Anyway, I set out at 6:30am bound with dreams and hopes over what would be! No inaugural ticket in hand, the cold winter wind upon my brow and a little fire in my heart. I sat on the bus seat, ready to take on the voyage: *snore* *snore* *snore* and 5.5 hours later I was coming into NYC (there was a ton of traffic apparently).

*****Sidenote******
Quickly, I want to talk about my super power. Yes, I have one. It developed over time and not in some kind of X-men/I just turned 16 kind of way. No, this power was cultivated through years of mental training. I, oh I can’t believe I am about to divulge this secret! I am afraid of being used in science experiments so that my powers can come to the masses. No, I must be strong, must stand proud as the mutant I am! My power is that I fall asleep immediately upon sitting on a bus or a plane. There is something about the vibrations of the engine that harmonizes with my melatonin drip and the eyelids just close. No matter how awake I am, when those soothing engine sounds begin, I go to war with the ability to stay awake. Now you might not think this is special, but when you fly and bus a lot this little power becomes essential in order to walk off the plane/bus and get down to business.
*****End Sidenote******

Okay, so I was in New York. I am sure New York will get its own special posting, probably at some sad moment when I am missing the US, but suffice it to say, I miss and love New York immensely. If you ever have the opportunity to live there, just do it, it is a global city of incredible offerings. Anyhoo, I hung out with friends, playing Wii and quickly catching up before hightailing it back down to Chinatown for the DC bus….which was packed…more than packed.
The energy was palpable on the bus. Everyone was going for exactly the same thing, and there was no better thing to be doing at that moment. I sat next to an awesome that was originally from Ghana, but moved to Brooklyn when he was a boy and was going down to DC to make some money during the inauguration, selling inauguration goods. We shared a cigarette when our bus broke down (don’t smoke, it is terrible for you and is in no way cool, hip, nor delicious), and we talked about Africa and the unrivaled spirit inherent in so many African countries.
After a bus change and 3 more hours, I finally arrived into Chinatown DC…which was a cluster&$*%. People were everywhere, crawling ahead slowly, mingling amongst neon signs and booths promising one-of-a kind, collector’s edition, and Obama-mania inauguration souvenirs. I finally made it down to the metro where the lines for each machine were about 20 deep to buy a ticket. It was so crowded that they ended up giving free pass and I ran through during the window – which I knew would be short lived. The platforms were even more crowded, but I made it on the first train, bound for Union Station and a reunion of sorts with a fellow MI’er.
Upon walking out of Union Station, I looked to my right and noticed that walking with me was the Rev. Al Sharpton. I have this strong belief in leaving public figures alone, so I just relished the moment silently as we walked side by side in the shadow of the capital. I met up with Ryan and her friend Monica and proceeded to mingle with Ryan’s friends and eventually crash (we had to be up at 4:45 in order to get to the public area of the mall).

*****Day of the Inauguration*****
Beep, Beep….”Alex…are you gonna turn that off?” Beep, Beep….”Alex!”
I was in the middle of dreaming and not in the mood to arise from my glorious slumber. Finally, upon realizing where I was, and the situation ahead of me, I turned the alarm off and got up. Me and Monica got ready and were the first to leave as everyone else in the house had tickets and we were the only ones braving the general public area. We were in a line by 5:30, but the line seemed sketchy. There were police officers saying that they would open this gate at 7am, however the “gate” was just a back alleyway near the capital and we had been told we would be able to get on the mall way before 7am. We waited for maybe 5 minutes, until we overheard a girl saying that there was a gate open across the mall. This necessitated a walk through the tunnel at 3rd street (usually a roadway) and then a walk up to 7th to then enter the mall. I became a part of a mass migration - thousands of people meandering down a metropolitan tunnel way too early in the morning.
Upon reaching the 7th street gate, we were then told that this gate too would not open until 7am and that we would have to go down to 12th street to get in now. While these distances seem short, one has to remember that one had to claw his way through throngs of confused people in order to go anywhere…in the dark and cold… Finally, we found a small little back way that was open to the mall and we were free to roam! I looked at my phone and realized we had about four and a half hours until anything started.
Waiting and pushing. These were the two words that defined those first few hours. People were trying to make their way closer even though there was no ability to achieve this idea of ‘closer.’ I bonded with the group next to me in trying to create a barrier from the throngs of people trying to get to the rumor of a throughway to the section closer to the capital (this was simply a rumor and did not really exist). Around 9am my feet began to go numb. I had worn very thick wool socks, but apparently they were not enough…they just went numb and I tried my best to keep them moving. Then I got hungry…there was no food…or there was, but it was impossible to get to and the line was apparently, to quote Rachel Zoe, Bananas. (That was for Rodrigo and Kathy).
At around 10am the energy became palpable. We were getting closer to the event and we had been out in the cold, at the center of our nation’s capital to show our support for this moment and this country. As the time ticked on, I looked across the crowd. I have never been in such a densely populated area that was so filled with joy, smiles and excitement. My little area was a microcosm for the American experience: Black, White, Latino, Japanese, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, we were all there together, rejoicing in the promise of our American system.
The announcements began introducing the various govt. personnel who were present (diplomats, Supreme Court, house, senate, etc.). Certain cheers were heard for various people, and the Bush came on the video screen. He was walking down a hall in the capital and the entire crowd erupted into a simultaneous boo. It may have not been couth in the moment, but in my opinion, it represents one of the most American things you can do. We are allowed to show our distaste for a leader, we are allowed to openly boo a sitting president! While I do not condone the act, I respect the right to perform the act. The booing became a cacophony of disgust over 8 years of angst, false promises and outright lies that citizen’s had felt from a leader who, in their minds, had betrayed them.
And then it became the Obama show. Silence led up to his name being announced. A quite calm filled in every inch, with energy and expectation. He emerged and the crowd lost it. Flags waving, voices screaming and smiles beaming, we were a people united (at least there on the mall), screaming the name of the man that many think will restore Americas place.
A quick explanation needs to be given. I think the best way to describe the experience was almost one of monarchy. Here were people completely drunk with the vapors of history surrounding them and ready to pledge absolute devotion. The world was simple for one instant. The past 8 years were bad and this man standing before 2 million people was a savior of sorts. While I do not buy into this dogma, at that moment, it was true. He put his hand on Lincoln’s bible and then flubbed his lines; he was one of us (we later learned that it was actually Roberts who messed up). With a quick phrase, he became our president and the crowd exploded yet again.
I’m not gonna lie, his speech brought a few tears to my eyes. It was just impossible not to with 2 million people standing around you all listening to brilliant words, experiencing a brilliant moment. I wanted to capture that feeling and be able to give it to people in two years, when perhaps the novelty wears off and people begin to lose hope again.

With all the speeches and performances over, including an interesting performance by Aretha Franklin's hat, we proceeded to exit - with 2 million other people. It was insanity, but joyous insanity. As i meandered through the streets trying to find something to eat (I hadn't eaten all day!), I noticed the ex-president's helicopter flying over DC. I wonder what he was thinking at that moment, watching people of every creed and color coming together to celebrate a new era. Now I hope that he can do it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Introductions

I must apologize, this first posting is going to be rather dry and boring, and severely lacking in wit and levity.

Introductions:

I considered doing one of those survey things that at least 43,000 peers seem to send me everyday to find out “more about them.” You know, those fill-in-the-b lank (is that hyphenated?) snapshots of a person’s name, favorite color and other potpourri that for some reason my eyes lust after. But instead, let’s stick with the tried and true biographic paragraph which is as destimulating as possible…ready…go!

Hello, my name is Alexander Marr, and I am a graduate student at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where I am specializing in epidemiology. I wrapped up classes in December and will be heading to Botswana in April to work as a District AIDS Coordinator. I have worked as a waiter, photographer, dishwasher, bedturndowner, advertiser, counselor and perpetual temp. I grew up both outside of Boston and on the Central Coast in California. Since then I have lived in Boston, New York and New Orleans, with a brief stint in LA. I enjoy skiing, scuba diving, rafting, swimming, debating politics and traveling. I am a definite dog person, but cats can chill if they are down with leavin’ the feline attitude at the door.

If one read closely, he/she would see that there is a 3-4 month disparity between when I finished classes (December) and when I leave for Peace Corps (April). I am taking this time to say goodbye to friends and family (they are very spread out over this country), as well as help my dad work on his house – in fact I should be painting right now. I just got back from the inauguration and visiting some friends in NYC, but these will be discussed in a later, more exciting posting.

In this introductory blog, I feel it would be good to discuss the application process for Peace Corps and my experience from first applying and finally receiving my placement.
Applying to the Peace Corps:I must preface this by saying that sometimes I am lazy. This is never true in a work environment or things such as school projects, but with little things which only affect my personal life, I sometimes get a bit lazy/forgetful. Just keep that in mind.
It always cracks me up on the Peace Corps website when it says that you could leave in as little as 6 months. I have never met someone who went through the application process this quickly, but I guess it’s possible. For me, I initially began the application process in April 2007, after I had been accepted to Tulane. I am leaving in April 2009, so that gives you a clue of how long it has taken me.

After I had initially submitted my application, I was very busy. I had to wrap up my life in NYC, travel over the summer and eventually move to New Orleans. As a result, I did not do much more work on my application, but then in October 2007 I had my interview and was officially recommended by my recruitment officer…this just left the medical clearance and final placement, and herein lies the biggest issue I faced: medical clearance.

When I was 10, I had a terrific summer where I had to get a root canal and then got kidney stones. It was pretty rad. As a result of the kidney stones, Peace Corps asked me to go see a Urologist to make sure that my kidney stones would not reoccur. I knew I needed to get this done, but I became busy with school and it just didn’t happen. I don’t have a car and the urologists office was about 15 miles outside of New Orleans, but that is more an excuse than an actual reason. Finally, in June…yes June, I had an appointment booked and a borrowed car. From my physical the week before, my urinalysis was perfect and I was on the road to being medically cleared...and then my urologist did a little dipstick test and said that my urine concerned him and he couldn’t sign off on my forms. This was awesome because I was leaving the next day for two months in Europe and Africa and couldn’t do much to get it done. As a result, two more months went by. Finally, with the start of my last semester I completed all tests and submitted my medical forms to Peace Corps, which resulted in some more back and forth over what forms they actually wanted/needed.

This lasted until October, when finally I sent the last thing needed – a letter from my doctor. With this, I eagerly anticipated my placement news. One of my friends found out two weeks after she had mailed in her medical information, so everyday there was much anticipation while checking my mail. Nothing ever came. Then I was contacted by a placement officer who wanted to talk to me on the phone. At once, my friends (many who are RCPVs) predicted she would give me some information over the phone. Not so much the case as she asked me some basic interview questions, which I found odd (I had been in this app process for over a year and a half!). Then she asked me if I had any experience in HIV/AIDS, which perturbed me,as I am getting my MPH in epidemiology focusing on infectious diseases…I thought, as a Master’s Internationalist student, she would at least know this. At the time, I was very confused and a little angry, but I realize she was just trying to get a clearer picture and my frustrations were much more my fault then hers. This led to much, much more waiting.

Finally, in late December, while sitting on the beach in Costa Rica, I got a facebook message from my roommate:

“You got Botswana, regional aids coordinator or something, you leave in March!”

Botswana? Botswana? First thought - random. Fantasies had been spinning through my mind about where I would end up, and Botswana was never even on my radar (good or bad). I had asked for a French speaking African country due to my lengthy and arduous past with the French language and was dreaming of a possible coastal country. Instead, I got a landlocked ex-British colony. This feeling of confusion lasted about two minutes, until it was replaced with absolute excitement. One of my dear friends at Tulane was a volunteer in Botswana and he had told me many stories of the country. I also knew of the huge HIV/AIDS problem that is currently threatening their economic development. I thought about it, and realized…no…this country is absolutely perfect!

Upon returning to the states and reading through my packet and my job description my excitement grew even stronger. I will be working for the Govt. of Botswana evaluating and planning various HIV/AIDS programs. This is exactly what I want to be doing at this point in my life and while not being the usual Peace Corps experience, I think my past education will best serve this job and that this job will best serve my education.
So now I’m ready to go…and I just have to wait…and wait…and wait.

This entry was quite boring, I apologize…but I had to get the introductions and my experience with the application process out of the way. I promise a quick return to wit and whimsy.