Wednesday, October 24, 2012

5 and 1

September brought Tracy and I some milestones (or maybe kilometermarkers would be more appropriate?) in the form of being in Botswana for a full year and also celebrating our five year wedding anniversary.  Both of these seem equally unlikely while at the same time quite concrete.

Every so often I will bring up a story about high school or living in Australia and get surprised that Tracy doesn't remember being there.  Of course she is surprised since we did not even know each other back then.  The other side of the coin is looking back at photos and realizing how much we have grown and developed in the space of 5 years.  Some big accomplishments seem small and other ones have engrossed our lives.  Learning to talk openly, honestly, and often seemed like a no-brainer, but has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our marriage for me and one of the most difficult at times.   We have gotten to travel to Cumberland Falls, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and the rainforest, India, all over the USA, and now live in Africa.  Just shy of a new continent for each year of marriage – watch out Antarctica we are coming for ya’!

Also our individual growth over the last half a decade shocks and delights me.  I have now quit smoking, moved out of my dad’s rental house (that had no stove or kitchen cabinets, but a sheik’s quality vanity in the bathroom) got a degree, sold a house, cut my hair, had a “real” job, lost that job, got another “real” job, quit that one, and moved 8,079 miles away from home (12,999 km).  The Peace Corps has brought out aspects of me that I never knew existed and has given me a real respect and understanding for what immigrants that come to America experience.  I am especially glad to have spent these last 5 years with a thoughtful and loving wife engaged in enjoyable and good times.

We did finally get away to Maun, Botswana for a small anniversary celebration and went on a motor boat jaunt.  It was fun but we realized we have been skimping too much on vacations.  One year in and I have yet to see an elephant or giraffe!!  Luckily our friends Jenn and Liz are heading here in about a month and we are going to see a lot of things we have wanted to.  It will be along the eastern coast of Botswana and will include Victoria Falls (Zambia side) and the Rhino sanctuary.  I am really looking forward to traveling for pleasure and some relaxation.  For a view on traveling and vacations here that I completely agree with, a good friend of ours wrote an excellent post that really captures how it feels:

The landscape
After being in Botswana for a year, I am happy to say we are doing well and still challenged on a daily basis.  We find inspiration almost as often though and that makes it worthwhile.  We are working on a “Child Abuse talk” for the local school teachers and have a great counterpart and team being assembled.  Both Tracy and I have some work to do for it, but it is the kind of thing we envisioned doing here.  The school year is winding down now and I will not see a lot of the graduates again so there is a bit of sadness.  We got to attend the Form 3 party for the departing students and it went wonderfully.  Mr. Keitatotse and I had put together a “movie” (more a slideshow with music) of a trip the students got to go on.  It was a big hit and the kids loved seeing themselves on the screen.  I learned we needed more close ups of individuals and surprisingly pictures of the buses.  No idea why but they went crazy over the buses.  One of the newest teachers sang a song and danced for them also.  He really stole the show and was very entertaining.  I need to get him to help me with some dance moves and choreography.  They also had a 3 man play that addressed the importance of education, but I missed a lot of the finer points since it was in Setswana and I have not grasped the language as I had initially hoped.

Mr. Dimbo and Soldier
Everyone wants to watch
Peter Keitatotse - he planned the whole event!
The crowd
The Drama
Since arriving here a short year ago, we have matured personally more than many years combined.  Getting to know 35 American strangers and living in a room with a host family has become 35 friendships and a new branch on our family tree.  Moving to Hukuntsi and hitchhiking all over the country (mostly the lower half) has stirred up a self-transformation also.  I feel confident and comfortable that I can talk to anyone from the most bedraggled shake-shake (a thick local brew with twigs and an unmistakable smell) drunkard to a government minister with a suit and tie sporting around in an air-conditioned vehicle.  I recall going to coffee shops in the US and not speaking with a soul.  It seems kind of other-worldly now.  I look forward to the future and seeing which things stick and who I keep in contact with.  There are a handful of teachers I hope to see in the states one day and get to return some of their generosity and warm.

Lastly September saw Botswana celebrate its 46th year of independence.  Tracy and I had one of the best days of our service celebrating in the nearby village of Lokwabe.  Between that and the loss of Major Mautle we have been on the roller coaster of life recently.  While excited about our future here, I definitely hold our past in fond esteem.

Hugs and kisses,
John O.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to go on vacation with you! Looking forward to the road trip of a lifetime through Botswana to Vic Falls with you guys! I don't care much about the big 5, the honey badger is what I want to see. :0