Botswana 2011 Blog

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Trip Photos, Part 2 of 2

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Trip Photos, Part 1 of 2

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A Long Strand of Red

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by Richard Kassissieh

When we conceived the Catlin Gabel trip to Botswana, we wanted to build the trip around a service focus. What better topic existed than Botswana’s biggest challenge, HIV/AIDS? We organized a number of activities specifically focused on HIV in Botswana.
 
We designed and played math games with youth before their Botswana-Baylor Centre appointments. Our students stayed in the Maru-a-Pula dormitories, where many of the school’s AIDS orphans reside. We held a discussion with two experts, Dr. Ava Avalos of the Botswana Ministry of Health and Thobo Mogojwe of PING (Positive Innovation for the Next Generation). We helped paint a mural at the proposed site of the Botswana-Baylor Teen Centre, to help welcome Michelle Obama to the site. We supported the monthly meeting of the teen support group at the Botswana-Baylor Centre. We distributed NikeRED laces to teens in the village of Gumare
 
We thought that our work and learning on HIV in Botswana would end with these activities. How wrong we were! The theme of HIV, woven throughout life in Botswana, kept turning up unexpectedly during the rest of our visit. Over an evening fire at the cattlepost, we learned about the new University of Botswana Medical School, intended to provide more doctors, the key obstacle to extending efforts to fight HIV in Botswana. During our tour of village life in Thabala, one of our hosts had to leave our group to attend an important meeting at the kgotla. The topic: how HIV+ people can take care of themselves.
 
Our Peace Corps host in Gumare works at the regional AIDS mobilization office. He explained how the government has funded different AIDS initiatives over time, changing their focus from behavior awareness to male circumcision in an attempt to achieve measurable results.
 
We saw awareness posters and billboards everywhere we went, inviting people to get tested, circumcised, and consider who is in their “sexual network.” Students and adults with whom we spoke demonstrated a strong command of HIV/AIDS basics.
 
The theme we conceived ended up being a persistent part of the trip experience.

Giraffe, Hippo, Elephant, and Buffalo

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By Chelsea

They were afraid we weren’t going to return, but we did. After four and a half hours of walking around the Okavango Delta we returned to camp tired but alive after a successful adventure. We left camp for our game walk at around 6:30 this morning with a different guide that we had not had before. He was an older man with grey thinning hair, wearing a hat, trench coat, walking stick, and missing his two front teeth. After a while of walking through the tall grass he stopped us and pointed up towards a hill. When we looked up and focused on what his stick was pointing at we saw three giraffes. They were still pretty far and were starting to walk away. As they were walking we also saw zebras accompanying them. To get a better look our guide started leading us quickly up a parallel hill to catch up with them. Let me tell you speed walking is not the easiest thing in the world and when you add a sandy hill into the equation you get a real workout. As we were chasing the giraffes they would walk and run with the zebras. It was an amazing sight to see and at that point we were feeling pretty fulfilled with our game walk because we had all really wanted to see giraffes. We continued walking however until we got to the water. There we saw the hippos. Every night we can hear them but seeing them is even cooler. There were about five in the water poking their heads up watching and talking to us. Wem, our guide, then began to call out for them to come closer. We all kind of laughed thinking he was just a funny crazy old man talking to the hippos until one actually started coming towards us. He would call out, “Come here hippo we want to see you come right over here!” and the hippopotamus would literally move closer to us and make noises towards us (I got it on video if you don’t believe me). He was truly a hippo whisperer. After seeing the hippos Richard said, “now the only thing that would make this game walk complete would be seeing an elephant.” And after walking maybe three minutes away we did see one eating off in the distance across the water. Again I told myself how lucky we were today to see giraffes, hippos, and an elephant and this was the best game walk so far. We started to head back because it was getting closer to when we were supposed to arrive back at camp and as we were walking we saw another elephant a little ahead of us. We didn’t want to walk any closer to it so we sat down beneath a tree to take pictures and relax a little. A few seconds later I looked over and out of nowhere there was an elephant standing to the right towering over us about fifty feet away. I was really startled and amazed at how close he was to us and that we didn’t even realize he was there at first. A second after we saw him we heard banging behind us and when we turned around there was an elephant trying to knock down a tree. Now keep in mind this all happened in about seven seconds and out of surprise we jumped to our feet and started running to the left (the only direction there wasn’t an elephant). The guide told us to stop a few feet away and we just watched. Elephants are spectacular to watch and pretty funny as well. To get the leaves on the trees they just knock them down. So there we were, right in front of three elephants less than 50 feet away. We watched as one of them kept ramming the palm tree trying to knock it down as well as trying to push it down with its trunk. We spend a lot of time following and watching the elephants once we could get to a safe distance. After we had come as close as we could to them, our patience was running out we kept walking on. Seeing those elephants and being so close and surrounded by them was definitely one of the highlights of my life. It was about time for us to be back at camp and the sun was getting hotter by the second. As we continued walking we saw another elephant and started walking towards it to get a better look. As we were walking Wem said, “Buffalo quick come” and he started running forward so we followed. Through a clearing we could see them. A whole herd of buffalo was grazing. Then in a flash they started running towards us and with a panicked look on his face our guide told us to run. We booked it back (I’m pretty sure Kassi has never run that fast in her life) and then stopped when our guide shouted for us to stop. We looked behind us and saw that the buffalo had stopped running towards us. We were then asked if we knew how to climb trees. I said no and was told that if they ran towards us again we would have to jump up into the trees or we would get trampled. A few seconds later the herd moved again but this time right in front of us, not towards us. Wem said that they might have run because they saw a lion. Luckily we did not run into that lion! After this our heart rates had come down to a normal level and the adrenaline was starting to wear off. When we checked the time we saw that we were almost an hour late back to camp and we better get a move on. After what seemed like forever of walking we asked Wem how far away were from camp and he replied with a smile, “we are very far away, it will take about an hour and twenty five minutes.” We thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. The sun was beaming down on us and breakfast awaited us as we made the long trek back through the delta towards camp. They were starting to get worried about us, but we were just glad we could make it back to tell them the tale of our game walk.
 
 

Gumare

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By Kate and Ella

Yesterday we left for Gumare, which was a three-hour drive through absolutely nothing. We arrived at the basket-weaving site and jumped right in. Our pen pals were waiting for us and seemed really excited to meet us. There was a stark contrast between our pen pals and the students at MaP. Many of the kids we talked to in Gumare had never left the country and going to college was exceptional rather than expected. Nevertheless, the kids were just as bright and happy.
Our project during our stay in Gumare was to paint a sign on the wall of the basket weavers’ building. We split into two groups and while some of us learned how to weave, others began the mural. We wove bracelets and earrings to take with us and all of us bought beautiful baskets for gifts. While there was a language barrier between us and the weavers, we were still able to learn a great deal and have fun.   We all also helped paint a great sign on the wall that will hopefully help the weavers attract more business in the future. It was more fun for the group than the mural we painted at the Botswana-Baylor center because we were in complete control of the project.
 
We had both been emailing back and forth with the one of the onsite Peace Corps volunteers, Todd Wright, and had planned our time in Gumare. It exceeded both of our expectations, especially because of how welcoming and excited to see us the students and weavers were. Everything seemed to fall into place because all of the activities were in one place, we even slept there.
 
In the evening, we heard from Todd and Amanda (the Peace Corps volunteers) that there might be some elephants near a watering hole. We loaded up in the vans and went searching. We drove down a long dusty road for a while and then all of the sudden, just outside the village, we saw three huge elephants run across the road right in front of us. After much contemplation, we decided to advance slowly. We inched forward, and then suddenly the biggest elephant was right next to us. He was old and wrinkly with huge tusks. He flapped his ears and dstarted walking towards us so we gunned it forward and everyone was screaming. It was a great adrenaline rush and even Todd and Amanda said that it was the biggest elephant they had ever seen, which was especially surprising considering how close it was to their village. Gumare is by far the most remote place we have visited on this trip. They have one overpriced grocery store, three restaurants and a school. Todd and Amanda have to hitchhike all the way to Maun to buy groceries because it is cheaper. Often it takes two days to do this because they have to spend the night in Maun, so they only go once a month. The differences between such a remote village and Gaborone are significant, especially in the education level of the population and availability of services, but we think many of us expected it to be more different. Even though the students are so isolated from most of the world, they are just as bright, happy and hopeful. Many of them share the same dreams that we do, like traveling the world, going to college, and becoming doctors or lawyers. It is really moving to know that we are so similar our different upbringings. 

 

Ranching, Village Life, and Zebras

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By Mira

         Today and yesterday we got the chance to visit two places very different than what we had been experiencing for the first week in Gabs. First we visited Mahalapye, which is home to MK, the student who was at Catlin for the 2009-10 school year. We got our first taste of living in traditional Botswana architecture when we went to meet MK’s ninety-year-old grandmother. We had seen these thatch-roofed, mud-walled homes in Mochudi, and on our drive out, but it was cool to see them in the context of someone’s home. Next, we drove out to MK’s family’s cattle post, and camped out there for the night. The stars, which we first noticed in Gaborone as being brighter and more plentiful than back home, were out of control. The sky looks bigger here because it’s flatter, so you can lean all the way back and still see sky and stars forever. We ate a super yummy dinner of pap (a chewy, maize meal starch served all the time), greens from the garden, goat meat (from one of their goats), corn and beans, and, for the brave, tripe. We went to bed very full, and very cold, but sleeping in the tents we warmed up quickly.
 
         A cattle post is essentially a ranch. Cattle are immensely important to the culture of Botswana, Kush (another Catlin alum) and MK discussed what the highest number of cows they had heard of some giving in exchange for a bride (30, based on the fact that the girl was pretty, could cook, and had her Ph.D.) We walked out to the cattle pen, and got to walk through it as the cows were being herded in. Cows are huge, and very mob-minded, and luckily, very afraid of us. Their family has some 400 cows, divided between two sides of the cattle post. It was interesting to think that just the day before we had been in the middle of the city, and now we were learning about raising animals. One thing I’ve noticed is that lots of people travel between what they call their home village, and the city. Even if they’ve lived most of their lives in Gaborone, we were told, people will tell others the village they were born in when someone asks where they’re from. For me it would be hard to go back and forth from these two very different environments, but it would be nice to have a slower pace. We had some home made fat-cakes (fried dough), and then headed out for Serowe, where the Khama rhino sanctuary is. We settled into the student dormitories there, and woke up early (6!) the next morning to go on our game drive.
 
         This game drive gave us our first taste of African wildlife: wildebeest, which don’t look like their spindly legs could support their bulky oversized bodies, springbok and steenbok, funny little warthogs, hornbill (which reminded all of us of the Lion King), and the highlight for many of us, a herd of zebras and baby zebras. Seeing pictures of these animals don’t really do them justice, being just feet away shows what makes African animals so compelling. They seem like the purest distillation of an animal, where even the herbivores we saw seemed fierce and awesome, in the original sense of the word. It got all of us pumped up for the safari we’ll be going on in several days, even though we didn’t get to see an actual rhino. The weather is too cold for them, and so they retreat into the bush, but I think the other sightings more than made up for it. For the first time I felt truly removed from civilization.
 
         The next day we went to Thabala, where Mmasarame Gaefele is from. This would turn out to be a favorite day for many of us. Thabala is almost entirely still a traditional village. It is very beautiful, the sand fading into the monochromatic huts, the bright blue sky still stretching forever. It was sunny, and after a couple of relatively chilly days it put us all in a good mood. We started about by meeting Mmasarame’s extended family, of which there are many members, all of whom are super friendly. We then got to see grain grinding, followed by a tour of the village, including the school, the clinic, the cemetery, the area where the Bushwara (Bushmen) live. We ended up being followed by a pack of school children. Every one felt very, very happy. We were surrounded by welcoming people, experiencing a slower pace, fully immersed in something that we all realized we were very lucky to be able to do. Several people remarked that this was one of the parts of the trips that had attracted them: in what other circumstances would we be able to visit a village in the middle of Botswana, given a tour, and served a meal? We got to learn about the culture of Botswana without being told about it, rather in a very Catlin-y experiential learning way. The uniqueness of this was on the back of most of our minds for the day.
 
         All in all, the past few days have been a study in contrasts, but also in similarities. While Gaborone, a cattle post, and Thabala are very different, they also helped us learn more about Botswana as a whole: how the people are friendly, what the culture values, how children are raised. We all look forward to continuing to experience and deepen our understanding of these ideas, and more.
                       

 

The Culture of Community Service Between MaP and Catlin

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Comparing Maru a Pula to Catlin in  the past few days has given me some new insights into just how different the culture is between the two schools. Compared to Catlin's quietly-friendly students, MaP kids are more outgoing than you could imagine. They also (no offense Catlin kids),  just seem genuinely happier. Maybe it's because their school day only lasts until 1:00pm and they're less wrapped up in their school work, maybe because they aren't distracted by as many things in the outside world, but these kids seem to have an unexplainable joy for everything they do. One of the core elements of the school's curriculum is community service. Unlike the individual based, 15 hour service requirement at Catlin, service at MaP is a community activity that is built into the curriculum and meant to create long lasting relationships. 15 hours per year is almost nothing. That's three hours a day for one school week to complete the requirement. Despite that, a lot of students struggle to find a meaningful service program. Of course, there are many students that devote much of their school year to service, building a long term relationship with the people they're serving. But at Maru a Pula, that's less of a choice; service is not just a requirement, but truly ingrained in the culture of the school. For each term at MaP (there are four terms with month-long breaks inbetween), students sign up for a service activity either on campus or off campus. The on campus actvities include cleaning the science labs or maintaining the grounds, but some of the more popular activities are off campus, like working with disadvantaged kids in the local community. When students do service work, they don't go on their own. Instead, a small bus takes a group of students to and from the organization. To me, this makes the process and logistics of service work seem much more manageable and inviting. Also unlike Catlin, the value of service as an extracurricular activity ranks equal to that of sports and clubs. In the afternoon, each student participates in a club, sport, or service. And while some students might commit all five school days to service, and some only one or two, the attitude towards community service makes it seem like less of a chore or even duty, and more of a value that is ingrained  in each of the students.

Classes at MaP

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I stayed at MaP today to attend some classes. In the morning i found my way to English to give them a perspective on America from an American student. They were reading the book Angela's Ashes. It's about an Irish family that immigrates to America. They asked me a lot of questions about how America was compared to the advertised perception. A lot of people think America is big on partying and it's hot and sunny everywhere. We compared and constrasted the schools and i noticed that people here are a lot more friendly and that there aren't as many cliques. It's a lot easier to make friends here. Some of the similarities were the way the school was layed out-very spead out, the way the school day was structured, and how much community service was involved in the curriculum. I also attended an art class. Instead of being inside, they were doing an art project outside in nature. Back in an orchard garden, they were to make art with only things from nature that symoblized "the cycle of life" theme they had chosen. After that i hung out in the library until lunch. A guy asked me if i was good at math, i told him i might be able to help until he told me he was in calculus. We ended up working on English language and recognizing style and language of the writing. I helped out in the library until the end of the day when lunch began. Overall, classes are pretty similar except for the close relationship Catlin students have with their teachers by calling them by their first names. It's very interesting to observe the similarties and differences of the 2 cultures, specifically the schools.

Africa's Color Wheel

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Africa’s Color Wheel

We’ve learned many things so far on this trip, and many previous misconceptions have been shattered. One of which, is the distinction between “white,” “black” or “colored.” Our friend Ludo was telling us about the differences between them and how they are perceived. In the states, most people think of “black” and “colored” as the same thing, however, we were informed otherwise. In Africa, “colored” is someone of mixed race, with a white parent and a black parent. We were also informed that being colored, or of a mixed race, was something that people took quite a lot of pride in, for example people take pride in dating a colored person. This distinction between the three is shown in social workings as well. People segregate themselves in places such as bars. We were told that a black person would rarely enter a colored bar, and vice versa.

Distinctions such as these are ones that are often overlooked or missed in the states. For example, the phrase “colored” is one that is rarely used, and sometimes seen as offensive; however, here it’s something one would take pride in. We’ve even seen an example of this within our own group. When Chelsea was getting her hair braided, a few MAP girls came up to her and commented on how much they liked her hair, they followed this comment by asking if she was “colored,” and seemed to link this with her shnazy hair.

The history of racism and ethnicity here varies from in the US, and takes its own form, but still holds similar grounds. 

By Ellie and Chelsea

 

P.S. Love you parentals.

Mochudi

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By Kate and Jade

Today, we went to a smaller village outside of Gaborone called Mochudi. We had a free day and decided to try and get out of the city. Once we ventured out of the city, clear differences developed. We drove for about 40 minutes on a main highway before turning to a much smaller road that lead us to Mochudi. Our destination was a museum called Phuthadikabo. We got pretty lost trying to find a museum and ended up touring and enjoying the village life. The main street was full of shops and a lot of people trying to make a living selling candy and other things  from tables and tents. More people were walking around the main street then we’ve observed in Gabs. It felt more rural, and we could definitely tell the move from a busy city life to a more town like place. Also, as we drove around residential areas, we saw much less cars than we did in Gaborone. Many of the houses didn’t have a car in their driveway, or around their compound.

While we walked around the main street, we got a lot more stares than we did in the city. In Gaborone, people are more used to tourists and the expatriot population than people in Mochudi. While in Gabs and at MaP, we were constantly asked questions about where we were from, and where we were headed but only one person was questioned on this visit.

Also, while we could have been frustrated because of how lost we were (a woman ended up getting in one of our vans to guide us) I thought everyone really enjoyed the views we got of the town. It got us really excited for the village visits we’ll be doing in the next week.

The Catlin Bubble: Assimilation vs. Celebration

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Yesterday the whole group had a pizza dinner (DELICIOUS) with all the MaP/Catlin Grads.  We had a fun time reuniting with Kush, MK and Mmaserame and also had an interesting discussion together.  Looking to next year when the next Map student, Tapiwa, will come to Catlin, we asked them what they wished that the Catlin community knew about them before they arrived. Their answers were interesting and also shocking to many of us.  The main theme was that they wished people would have at least taken the time to Google Botswana, considering that we have a longstanding relationship with the MaP school and get a student from them every year.  MK, Mmaserame, and Kush told us they had been asked questions such as, “Are those your first pair of shoes? Did you buy them at the airport?,” “Do you ride elephants to school?” and “Was it dangerous to walk to school because of the animals?” (walk, not drive, because of course their aren’t cars in Botswana).  Our whole group was surprised that the usually so educated Catlin community had so little knowledge of Botswana. Being asked these questions made MK, Mmaserame and Kush feel offended that no one took enough interest in them to even Google Botswana, a peaceful, prosperous, country they are all proud to come from. Jahncie and I were shocked by the ignorance of the community. It reinforces an already somewhat recognized phenomenon: the Catlin bubble.  Sometimes the Catlin community can be so wrapped up in itself that it assimilates or ignores new members of the community until they turn into typical Catlin students, rather than celebrating their differences and trying to learn as much as we can.  Moving forward, we have decided to have an assembly about Botswana early in the year to give the new student a chance to tell us what she wants us to know about herself and to educate the community as a whole about Botswana and MaP, a school we have a relationship with and should know more about.  We look forward to many more years with the MaP school, and hope to do more in the future to make the MaP students feel welcome.

Ella and Jahncizzle   

Comparing MaP and Catlin Gabel Classes

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Natalie & Mira
 
Today we attended 4 classes at MaP, shadowing several students. It was very interesting to go: we’ve both gone to Catlin since we were young, so we haven’t been exposed to different school set-ups. These are our observations about the differences and similarities between CG and Maru-a-Pula that we noticed while in class.
Mira: I went to two English classes, one analyzing poetry and one analyzing a play. Then I went to part of an art class & part of a drama class, and then to a geography class.
Natalie: I went to creative writing, literature, visual art, and geography.
M: The biggest difference I noticed was that the classes were lecture based: the teachers talked much more than the students.
N: I definitely agree. Classes at Catlin are very discussion oriented. However, at MaP, the teachers generally lecture, and students ask occassional questions.
M: It was most apparent  in the English class. At home we analyze texts by having decentered/centered discourse. Here, in discussing both the play and poem, the teacher would explain the meaning to the students. Sometimes the students would say their ideas.
N:  I also found  the lack of student based discussion to be very noticable in English class. At Catlin, I’m so accustomed to sharing my ideas with peers, that I was surprised that most of the students kept quiet, especially because they were older than us.
M: I agree. On a more organizational note, it was interesting to me that the classes here aren’t as integrated as ours, subject-wise. For example, we take geography (which in this case was just called geography, but was really geology) as part of our science courses, but here it’s a separate class. I spent a while trying to figure out if this would help me focus more on one subject, or if learning a subject in context of its related topics enriches my learning.
N: I also contemplated whether less integration would benefit my learning. Back home, we tend to learn a diverse mixture of material in each class, which I enjoy, because it allows me to draw parallels between the topics. Math, however, is very integrated at Maru-a-Pula. Instead of taking algebra, geometry, and calculus classes, the MaP students take a general “maths” course.
 
M&N: We both noticed that there are advantedges and disadvantedgesnes to both the teaching styles and the class set up. It would be interesting to see how CG students would react to MaP classes and vice-versa. Please send us candy!

Botswana Needs More Doctors

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By Jade

We first heard this statement as a group during an evening with Dr. Avalos, a leading HIV/AIDS doctor in Botswana. After eating dinner outisde in Botwana’s evening chill, we sat around a fire inside Maru-a-Pula principal Mr. Taylor’s home. Dr. Avalos described the many facets of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. Although Botswana has many resources, and a successful program that provides antiretroviral medication to all in need, Dr. Avalos explained that a lack of health care professionals plagues Botswana more than just about anything. Because of Botswana’s stability and economic success, charities and the like want to invest money here, but the country lacks the numbers to execute new program. For example, circumcision has been shown to decrease the chance of infection by 60% and could be a promising way to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. Also, some tribes in Botswana already practice circumcision, however not always safely. Doctors want to encourage circumcision but only if its safe with a health professional. Ideally, doctors would be able to go into the field to ensure the safety of circumcision procedures. As Dr. Avalos explained, this simply isn’t possible because doctors are too preooccupied with the clinics full of patients to take the time off to complete this task. As a result, Botswana cannot harness this new research due to a lack of health care professionals.

 
We saw this firsthand at the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone. This hospital is the largest hospital in Gaborone and generally serves Southern Botswana. We worked in the pediatric ward and watched as some nurses tended to patients while others went through the paper work involved with medical care. Beds lined the walls of open rooms where children lay with their mothers by their side. In some cases, we saw the mothers holding the IV for their child. We filed into a small nurses office. They delegated some students to clean and organize a supply closet while others went through files. It became obvious that the staff were overloaded with patients and had no spare time to keep up with filing or maintain order. Our group of thirteen kind of overloaded the clinic because while they need more bodies, we couldn’t provide the medical expertise they really need. Without work, a few students and I talked to Aline about this problem. The government has tried to encourage Batswana to become doctors and help the country. Botswana however does not have a medical school. Right now, the government will pay for a student’s education abroad at a medical school as long as they serve in Botswana for two years as doctors. This however, is not always checked. Now, Botswana is building a medical school in the hopes that more young Batswana will be able to get their degrees to benefit Botswana rather than staying abroad. 
 
In our discussion with Dr. Avalos and my personal experiences at the Princess Marina Hospital I saw first hand the lack of medical professionals in Botswana and recognize it as a root problem with medical care here.

 

Lesedi

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By Kassi     
            I did a lot with kids today. In the morning, we went to the Baylor Centre and led their morning play group. I found out that all the kids were all HIV positive, but I don’t think I would have ever known that unless I asked or somebody told me. They all act so normal like children anywhere around the world. I just thought they may have been sick from other things. Besides the language barrier, I communicated with them very well. I had an intense one-on-one experience with a 15 year old boy. Though he looked much younger and didn't speak much, but we communicated through math. I gave him a couple of problems to see what math level he was at, then I taught him some basic algebra and he caught on fast. He understood English well, but didn’t speak much of it, and we still managed to teach and learn from each other. I taught him algebraic equations with 1 and 2 variables, systems of equations, and multiplying and dividing by fractions. He also taught me some math having to do with rate, time, and product using specific equations. Not many of the kids focused on math, but I could tell he really enjoyed it and i'm glad i got to have that experience of teaching him.
              Later in the day when we went to the Princess Marina Hospital and I helped out in the pediatric surgical ward. Qiddist, Chelsea, another volunteer and I held and took care of 2 abandoned babies. The older one was a month old and named Vincent. He was abandoned in the hospital by his mother. He was a very fussy baby, and liked to be held my many people. It showed that he didn’t have much stability in his life, and there were many people who would pass by to say hello or to feed and change him, but not really a constant. The younger boy didn’t have a name yet. He was found this past Sunday abandoned on the side of the road. We just held them and loved them. They were extremely cute and it was heartbreaking to hear their stories, but it reinforces that every child needs parents and people to love them. Just holding them and rocking the littlest one to sleep for a couple of hours felt like I really made a difference in his life. With the hospital being so short in staff, volunteering really goes a long way there. Before we left, they let us name him. We talked with a lady who also visits them and gave him the name Lesedi, which means light/sunshine/brightness so that he may bring light into people’s lives.
 
 

Our Daily Adventures!

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What We Did Today!

Today was yet another exciting day! We began with an assembly to the school to introduce ourselves to everyone, which went over quite marvelously! The general energy of everyone at the school was wonderful and made presenting at an assembly extremely fun! We followed that by splitting up into two groups. Some of us shadowed people and went to classes, and the other half returned to the Botswana Baylor Center to work more with the morning play group, and continue painting the mural. The play group was focused on the math curriculum, however, we also had time to play games and have fun with the kids. When we began to focus on the math, however, it was wonderful to see the level of understanding some of these kids had! Some even taught some of us a few math tricks! The kids were all so sweet and bright. While we knew that these kids were all HIV positive we would never have been able to tell. Aside from the majority of them looking younger than they were, they all had such great energy and joy!
                  After morning play group we returned to more mural painting! The group was smaller today so we were far more useful and everyone got to know the artist better! Turns out, he likes epic fantasy novels and has hope in the existence of unicorns. We all thought he was a pretty cool lad. During a quick break where we didn’t have much to do, we all tried some fat cakes at a café down the street. Fat cakes are as delicious as they sound. They’re basically a very large, dense, unsweetened, greasy, doughnut hole: something that America is lacking. Anyways, the mural’s coming along very nicely, and we hope to see its conclusion tomorrow!
 After lunch, we regrouped and all went to Princess Marina Hospital where we worked in the pediatric ward. Many of us spent the time filing, organizing and working with babies, but for some of us there was no work we could do. What affected me (Ellie) the most about helping out in this hospital was seeing conditions that would never be accepted in a US hospital. I spent some time organizing IV bags, and while sorting through them, we found some that were in the wrong place, or some where the outside packaging was torn. It didn’t take us much time to reorganize everything in the room, putting the right medicine where it should be for quick access, or removing said IV bags, but the lack of space and organization really showed the difference in conditions and recourses available to them. It was also difficult to see the condition of the children in the ward, many of whom had been there for months or even years. 
When our work was finished, we returned to the mural for a little before going back to Maru-a-Pula for dinner and rest.
By Ellie and Ella