Sunday, April 15, 2012
Ke nna mo Kanye le Mma Koloi
“I live in Kanye with Ms. Koloi”
I will use this post to provide a somewhat general introduction to my host family, my host family’s home and then some of the acronyms I will probably use in my subsequent blog posts.
To begin I will introduce my host family. My host mom’s official name is Dinah Koloi, although I have never heard her called by this name, most people call her by nick names and I just call her Mma Koloi. She is 50 years old, a divorcee, and an important person in the local community. She is a Chancellor/ Counselor (I am unsure what the term directly translates to in English as I have heard both). What this means is that she is an elected official, elected by her ward (part of town) to serve in what is effectively a town council role. Elections are held every five years, and she is currently serving in the third year of her second term, thus has been in office for eight years. However unofficially this means that she is very involved in her community in many ways including but not limited to advising members on personal matters, speaking at ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, driving constituents to the hospital, etc. She is always busy. Besides these roles she is often also taking care of my host niece, her 6 month old granddaughter.
This leads me to my host sister, Matlhohonolo (who goes by a nickname that I am unable to spell). She is 27, and my host niece, 6 month old ‘Natasha’ is her daughter. She graduated from the University of Botswana with a degree in Accounting and works for the government in the capital of Gaborone. She is extremely hard working, working 7 days a week most weeks, leaving before 7 am and often not getting home until after 8 am factoring in her daily 2 hour commute. When she arrives home then she spends what precious time she has with her daughter. The baby’s father left when he found out she was pregnant, and thus she is raising her daughter on her own with help from her family and community. I asked once about how child support in Botswana works, she informed me that in order to claim child support you must file through the Magistrate Court, similar to in the US. However when I asked whether she received child support she said no, that it is popular belief in Botswana that if a woman files for child support and the man does not want to pay that he can go to the witches and have her cursed. While she knows logically this is untrue, she is still reluctant to file for support. This will be the first of many gender inequalities that I will write about, as well as the first of many myths that perpetuate through society.
Secondly I have my host brother, Thato. He is 16 and in Form Four, meaning he will graduate high school in a year and a half. I find him the easiest to relate two because he is often home, and his English is very good. But besides this he is also very responsible, sweet, helpful and smart. Thato has shown me how to do most everything at home, is the one who is sent to check up on me, and as the youngest takes on much responsibility in the home such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of his niece etc. He has his moments when he is what I would call a ‘typical’ 16 year old boy in the US, but for the most part children here grow up with so much responsibility in the home that by his age they are much more capable than most 16 year olds I knew back home.
Finally I have two older host brothers whom I have not met. They are 29 and 32 and live in Gaborone. I sometimes feel as though my host family is much larger though, because Botswana is such a communal culture that the home is always filled with neighbors, family, friends, colleagues etc. Also if you are in someone’s home and a meal is served, you will be served a plate. From an outsider perspective this making meal planning a bit chaotic, but somehow there is always just enough in the pot.
To move on to my host family’s home, it is a well built and seemingly new building on a large plot. The ceiling is made of wood, and floor of tile and the house is kept very clean, excluding the kitchen. While the house is set up for indoor plumbing it has not worked since long before my arrival. Due to drought we often do not even have water coming from the standpipe. We keep water stored outside for washing and in a large barrel in the kitchen for drinking and cooking. I once attempted to carry a 25 liter jug of water from the standpipe to the house…let’s just say my attempted prompted a good laugh from Thato. Adjusting to bucket bathing is not too difficult, the only challenging being my hair. The advantage of living in Botswana is that tap water is generally potable. The only times that I worry are when water is stored in unclean containers, particularity when I get to the bottom of the barrel as there is often a lot of dirt and debris in the water.
I am sure that as time goes on I will speak more of my host family and I hope to be able to post photos of my host family and their home to my Facebook, they should be available there in the near future.
Finally I just want to quickly run though a few acronyms relevant to Peace Corps and to development and HIV/AIDS just so I don’t end up explaining them each time I use them.
CCB: Community Capacity Builder
COS: Close of Service
DAC: District AIDS Coordinator
DCL: District Community Liaison
ET: Early Termination
IST: In-Service Training
LCF: Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitator
MST: Mid-Service Training
NGO: Non-Governmental Organization
PCMO: Peace Corps Medical Officer
PCV: Peace Corps Volunteer
PST: Pre-Service Training
RPCV: Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
Development and HIV/AIDS
AIDS: Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome
ARV: Antiretroviral Therapy
CBO: Community Based Organization
CDC: Centers for Disease Control
CSO: Civil Society Organization
FBO: Faith Based Organization
NACA: National AIDS Coordinating Agency
NGO: Non-Governmental Organization
PLWHIV: People Living with HIV
PMTCT: Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission
UNDP: United Nations Development Programme