30 March 2011

The Fear of Missing Big

Summer when I was a little kid meant a few things: trips to the beach, lemonade stands, my Barbie bike, picnics and flying kites, yard work with intermittent ice cream breaks, camping, play dates, and more ice cream.

But mostly what I remember is baseball: being out with the whole family on our side lawn or at the local fields, a cap on my head, feeling the weight and shape of my plastic yellow bat in my hands as I stepped up to the plate; the satisfying thwack of whiffle ball against bat; and when I was in the outfield, there was no distance too far to throw that ball in to home base. 

All that changed when I graduated from whiffle ball to Little League and joined the boys’ team.  As the sole female on the roster I was the obvious target for popcorn throwing contests, which I used to lament, but now realize how much stronger it made me to grow up defined as a person, rather than by my gender.

More pressing than gender roles, however, was the game itself.  No longer was this a harmless scrimmage among friends – this was the big time.  There were innings and outs and no “do-overs.”  A turn at the bat also meant a turn in front of hundreds of peering, judgmental eyes, waiting for me to make one wrong move.  A row of popcorn-monsters sat in the dugout, betting on if “the girl” would strike out or hit a foul ball and then strike out.

And so I unfailingly let the ball machine whiz one-two-three times past me, most times unable to even take a swing.  However, days later on the weekends, my dad would pitch to me in the side yard and bam-bam-bam I’d hit them hard with reckless abandon.

Finally, after another no-hitter, my dad asked me, “Why don’t you ever swing when it’s your turn to bat at the games?”

“Because Daddy,” I replied.  “I don’t want to miss big.”

The fear of missing big has plagued me throughout my life.  It’s why I’ve never been good at sports, auditions, or contests.  My brain sends “mayday” signals, my muscles seize up, and I walk away or give only a half-assed effort.  If I am not at least 95% positive that I’ll succeed at something, I would rather not try it at all. 

Except that I’m finding Peace Corps to be one long series of opportunities to miss big.  I may live alone, but there are still hundreds of beady eyes watching my every move – from my village, to the Peace Corps staff, to friends and family back home.

I find myself in many positions of leadership daily, but two are on the forefront of my mind: the work I am doing to get funding for Pula Matlho HIV Support Group and my role as a representative on the Peace Corps Volunteer Advisory Council.  Both of them have plenty of potential, both could result in great achievements, both have people relying on me to make their wishes a reality, and both could result in disaster, in failure.

With both of them, I could really miss big.

And so the time has come for me to face my fear.  The thing with fear is that it convinces you that it’s protecting you from making a mistake, but in reality, fear is the one thing guaranteed to trip you up.

With that, I’m taking a deep breath and diving wholeheartedly into these projects.  Maybe I’ll stick my neck out and no one will be there behind me – or maybe I’ll finally find the support I’ve been searching for the past year.

Only one to find out, really.  I’ve gotta pick up that bat, keep my eye on the ball, and swing…

*Dedicated to my dad.  Happy birthday!

24 March 2011


Every family in Botswana owns land out in the bush where they plant their crops.  This land is called masimo. I recently went on a quick trip with my landlord to her lands, as she had hired some community members to help hoe and was giving them a ride to masimo, 11km away.

My landlord's lands.

My landlord is an extremely generous woman (imagine if someone in the states who made a million dollars a year decided not to take their $100,000 tax break but instead gave that money to people in need... that would be my landlord) and lets people plant their crops on any land that she is not using.

The daughters of people who are borrowing my landlord's lands for their crops.

The government actually gives away plots of land for free, but the application process is fairly long and drawn-out.  

Trying to avoid the blazing heat of the sun.
People go out to their lands (which are sans running water and electricity, by the way) and plan to stay for days or weeks at a time, in order to get everything done.  Keep in mind that this is no backyard garden - these are large-scale plots of lands that need to be hoed, weeded, and watered.  Luckily, my landlord can afford to hire people to do the work for her.  This saves her effort (she is getting on in years) and provides income for a needy family.

We didn't have time to walk through the fields, but are planning a return trip soon to do so.  It's beautiful and peaceful at masimo, and I can't wait to take more pictures.

My landlord is the woman in the red dress, third from the left. 
In addition to masimo, all families also have cattleposts where they keep their cattle (duh) and other animals.  My landlord's cattlepost is about 2 hours away near a village called Mahalapye, but we are also planning a trip there soon.

I don't think it comes as a surprise to anyone that in the past months I've been struggling a little bit with integration and harassment in my village.  It was such a pleasure to go out with my landlord and learn about the culture as part of a family rather than as an outsider.

22 March 2011

Sadly This is True Everywhere

It does not matter what you say. As a woman, as a woman of color, as a woman of size, as a woman with large breasts or no breasts and a lifetime of experience with bucket loads of passion. It does not fucking matter.*
Because unless there is a white guy backing you up, you are an angry bitch. Uppity, spirited, “that girl”, the femanazi, the super-libber, the PC chick, the conspiracy theorist…"

Read the post here.

09 March 2011

The Biggest Bags of Cheetos EVER.

Basically, I was in heaven.

08 March 2011

Don't Call Me Beautiful

If you don’t know me, please:

Don’t call me beautiful.
Don’t call me lekgowa.
Don’t call me English.
Don’t call me your wife.
Don’t ask me for money.
Don’t ask me to fly you to America.
Don’t ask me to marry you.
Don’t ask me to find a white girl that you can marry.
Don’t ask me if I know some random white person you met in Mahalapye five years ago.
Don’t tell me you hate me.
Don’t tell me you love me.
Don’t whistle at me.
Don’t slow down the car so you can watch me walk by.
Don’t hit me – with your hands or your donkey whip.
Don’t touch my hair.
Don’t laugh at me.
Don’t make fun of my mannerisms to try and impress your friends.
Don’t scream or yell at me.
Don’t stare and point at me.
Don’t try to steal my bag.

If you don’t know me, for the love of God – say hello, be polite, and just be my friend.  Then you can do all of those things. 

Well… most.  Please don’t ever steal my bag.

02 March 2011

Botswana Book Project

In my first months of service here, I went with a social worker to deliver mopako, or food baskets, to a nearby rural village.  Instead of having a pen for people to sign their names, they had an ink pad for fingerprints.  Not for extra security, but rather because the overwhelming majority of community members were illiterate.

Imagine being 50 years old and not knowing how to read.  Not knowing how to hold a pen.  Not knowing how to even spell your own name.

Now imagine that you could do something to prevent that, and here is your opportunity.  An inspirational woman named Pam moved to Botswana in 1997 for one reason: to address illiteracy and health issues through donating books to schools and libraries throughout Botswana.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I will be on the list to access thousands of books on the very first day.  That means come June, my junior secondary school and preschool will have hundreds of new books.

This whole project hinges on one condition: the generosity of Americans.  Most urgently, donations are needed (no matter how small) in order to pay for the shipment of 25,000 books from Atlanta to Botswana.  Last year, small private donations of around $10 resulted in $6,000 - or half of what is needed to ship.  Currently, the Project is in need of $5,000.

Attention All Teachers: A book drive could be a great project to do school-wide.  If interested, please email me and we can brainstorm ideas - teaching the students the importance of reading and education, about a new culture, generosity, the Peace Corps, etc.  Upon my return to the states, I would gladly come thank your school personally.

For more information and guidelines, check out my "Get Involved" tab or the main website of the project.