Thursday, February 4, 2010

If you drink traditional beer, you can't get AIDS

I keep getting asked what a typical day is like in Shoshong, so I'm gonna give it a shot. I have good days and bad days.

Bad day:
6:30am- wake up
7:15am- at my health clinic, listen to a meeting in Setswana and no one translates
7:30am- head to the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) office and sit there with our testing counselor and other workers ... conversations go like this:
Me: "Smalls, how was your weekend?"
Smalls: "Oh, it was GREAT!! xxixixisdajkl...Setswana speak...asidjcxi"
and then I listen to a roomful of people laughing and having fun, and no one will translate.I will get "Kiki, why don't you understand Setswana yet? We aren't going to speak English. And no, we aren't going to speak Setswana more slowly because you need to understand it like we speak it- fast."
8:00am- At this point I'm so mad, frustrated and angry (it takes all my strength not to remind them how I speak slowly with beginner words for THEM) that I walk home, muttering every curse word under my breath, until I calm down at home. Then I stay at home for the rest of the day or visit friends or meet other people in the community.

Good Day:
6:30am- wake up
7:15am- at my health clinic, and me and my team of people go around the community to visit the police station, the water treatment plant, the chief's office, and even to peoples homes to talk to them about HIV. We ask them questions, teach them about our PMTCT program and show them how to use condoms. (And yes, since I don't yet speak fluent Setswana, I get to demonstrate how to use the condoms.) The PMTCT program is an attempt to start an "HIV Free Generation" and we need pregnant ladies to test for the virus, and if they're positive to go through the program so they can give birth to a negative child. It was noticed that mothers in this program had a lot of questions with no one to answer them, like how to prepare formula, for example. Enter Diana, our Peer Mother. Then it was found that even these mothers weren't complying with the steps of PMTCT, and it was because their partners weren't supporting them. Enter Smalls, our Peer Male. So Diana, Smalls and I go around Shoshong to let people know what the PMTCT program is, whey it's so important, and let them know that there is a team of people to visit them in their homes (where they are most comfortable) to support them in any capacity needed. Diana and I get to go to homes, and Smalls and I go into bars (where the boys are at!) I love talking with these people and hearing their ideas and experiences. My favorite: if you drink traditional beer, you won't get HIV. I told this guy that maybe if you drank traditional beer AND used protection you wouldn't get HIV. His response? "Have you RESEARCHED traditional beer? I don't think so. So until you perform the research on traditional beer you can't know." Touchee.

Other news- I got a puppy yesterday! I've been trying for a while now, and then Vince just fell into my lap quite easily. He's a little bit of a "fixer-upper" ... he's got a few bald spots, was covered in ticks and i can count his ribs. BUT- he's the sweetest and calmest guy alive! When i picked him up from a neighboring village i just put him in a shoulder bag and the guy didn't move or cry at all. I decided that with a guy that calm, i could hitch-hike home. Sure enough, some guys picked me up and Vinny didn't make a sound. Then towards the end of the ride they were asking me what I do after work so I told them "well I just got a puppy today so I'll be playing with him" and they turn around and I take Vince out of the bag- and these guys LOST it! they thought it was hilarious that this white chick smuggled a puppy into their car. They didn't even make me pay for gas :)

Also, a HUGE thanks is in order. Kristi- thank you for Mountains Beyond Mountains!! This is the book that made me ditch finance and work in an AIDS clinic in Botswana if anyone wants to know. Michelle- thank you for the BAAA-TSSS-WAAANNAAA remix that I can't wait to share with my crew over here. We do crank it Lion King. Jackie- thanks for the beautiful "Reassurance Journal" that I picked up from the post office on my worst day in Shoshong. Perfect timing. Kate- a box full of TREATS?! Trader Joe everything?! I died ... you saved me. Mom-body butter when my skin was drying out. Dad- a french coffee press!! (I'm still in need of that coffee..)Jen- BOGGLE?! you know I loved that one, even if my friends won't bring it the way you did. and for a Runners World that got me out of the house for my best run... 14 uniform-clad school kids AND a guy jumped off his donkey cart to join me for part of it! it was incredible ... and hilarious. And for all the phone calls (Dad, Chuk and Ryan), hilarious emails (Carrie), letters (Rachel/Emma for the latest) ... THANK YOU! I love you guys and am so thankful for all of you!!


  1. oh i just love you mullie and your fabulous updates!! congrats on vince, that is so great! im so happy you have so many lovely friends and family to send you goodies while you are in botswanaland. keep checking the mail, and keep on running!!! LOVE YOU!

  2. HAAHHHAH I love the part about running... you lead a life I wish I could watch a video about... why am I not there with you !? glad you Crank dat Lion King style. loooove m