I am still internalizing today's events. Today was amazing, yet very sobering. I've been trying to think of how to explain what I saw and how I feel about it all, and without pictures I don't think I can quite get the message across. I'll do my best, though.
Today was the first day that I was glad I committed to staying in Africa for seven months. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, today was our culture study day. One of the nationals on staff, Zhie, took us around town and explained the history and some of the culture of Botswana. Part of that included going on some home visits to people that Love Botswana's ministry Mercy Ministries helps out. These are poor families that are infected with HIV/Aids.
Our first stop was just down the road from Love Botswana, about 2 miles away. We were visiting a young single mother who had two children, ages 2 and 4. The 2 year old looked to actually be closer to 6 months old. She was that malnourished. The mother is working on building a new house, because her old one was washed away by rain. Her materials? Clay (that she digs from the earth herself) and pop cans. We saw what she has been able to start, and she has a long way to go. We are working on collecting cans for her, since they can be hard to come by, and then hope to go over and help her build once we have some free time. It shouldn't take too crazy long...it's only about 15 square feet.
Our next stop was in town, about 10 to 15 minutes away. I think the best way to describe the neighborhood, or community, is that it's exactly like what you see on the late night commercials for feeding starving kids in Africa. We were asked by the LB staff to not take pictures at these home visits, out of respect for the families. I wish you could see what I saw, though. We were greeted right away by one of the adults, who ushered us into her block. There was a community kitchen with pots cooking over fire, there were chickens running around, and lots of people just hanging out. The rest of my team followed Zhie over to one of the houses, but I saw about 10 children who were shyly spying on us from behind the fence. I went to them and was able to spend the next half hour talking and laughing with the kids. It was amazing. We are trying to learn some basic Setswana, so I had my small list of phrases we had just been given with me. I started trying them out on the kids, and they would howl with laughter. They just loved it. We just plopped down in the sand and hung out there. I was asking their ages, and it ranged from 1-8. My heart broke when the little boy said he was 8 years old; I would have pegged him to be 3 or 4, based on his size. Also, several of the little kids had distended bellies and most of the children were half naked, using t-shirts as skirts. I am absolutely in love with these kids and am praying that my long-term placement in the ministry be with Mercy Ministries so that I have a chance to go back for more of these visits.
From there we went and met with the tribal chiefs of Maun. It is custom for visitors to introduce themselves to the chiefs. This is so that they are aware of who is in their town and what we're doing here; also, if anything were to happen to us, they would come to our defense and speak on our behalf. Batswana love visitors; they are very hospitable and kind to them/us. The chiefs were very warm to us. Oh, also, there was a customary court case going on at the time, and they took a recess so that the chiefs could meet with us! Here's a crazy thing: in customary court, the punishments are lashes! Yikes. Hope I don't end up there ever.
We did a few more things, including going for a very nice walk on the other side of Old Bridge. We were all pretty wiped out from the morning/early afternoon, so when we got back, Kevin and Sarah decided to give us a break for the afternoon. Everyone's sleeping, and I'm typing up my blog. See how dedicated I am to you? :)
We are heading back to church tonight for Friday Night Fire, which is a weekly youth event. No clue what that entails, but I'm looking forward to it.
If anything super interesting happens, I'll let you know.
Love to all.