"I'm going to Africa in August." I've been saying these words for over a month now, but they haven't really meant anything. I could just as easily have been saying, "I think I'm going to visit Shangri-La," or "Wow, I can't believe I'm going to Atlantis." The fact that I'm going to spend six months in Botswana has been something so intangible that when I arrive, it will actually be a dream come true.
Today was the first day of orientation. I found out that two other Associates, not "interns," are going to Botswana with me: Graham North and Amy MacDonald. We'll all be living in a townhouse in Gabarone (pronounced Hab-a-rone-ee; I was way off originally), that is apparently across the street from a KFC. If there's a parking lot with a bunch of guys revving the enginges of 1989 Thunderbirds, it'll be like I never left St. FX. I'll be working with the Botswana Network of AIDS Service Organizations (BONASO), mainly organizing awareness events and publishing a newsletter. Amy and Graham have different placements in the area.
Now that things are starting to fall into place, the gravity (pun intended) of what I'm about to do is starting to hit me. For the past two years, this has been what I've wanted to do after my degree. Now that I'm about to do it, I've realized that I could have been much more prepared. While I do have some experience traveling, there's so much more I could have learned about international development, sustainability, or the AIDS pandemic. I'm going to be bombarded with so much information in the next month that to take in only half of it will be overwhelming. I hardly know anything about Africa itself as a continent. Most of my impression of it comes from clips of The Gods must be Crazy! that I caught between naps, and an episode of America's Next Top Model that had the vixens competing on the serenghetti. Neither of these paints an ideal picture of the region, to say the least.
On the other hand, maybe that's the reason we have five weeks of training. It should be enough time to at least get a foundation of knowledge upon which I can build once I get to Botswana. The staff at the Coady Institute seem more than willing to assist us, and I'll be taking full advantage of their hospitality. Hopefully in my next post I'll be a little more sure of what's going on and a little more well-versed in international matters. That's it until then.