Meeting Mma Obama…..
Well the timing could not have been better. Our year of service just passed on June 11th and last weekend we were honored by a visit from Michelle Obama here in Botswana. At first we were told not to get our hopes up about meeting her or even being invited to an event at which she would be speaking. She will only be here for a few days, we were told, and she is so busy.
Well, I am not really sure what happened but that all changed. Peace Corps has always been important to President Obama’s administration. In fact, several of my Peace Corps friends say that they made the decision to join Peace Corps after hearing him talk about it in some of his campaign speeches. So I figure that this had to have worked in our favor and Peace Corps staff here in Botswana worked with the White House to get us “on the list”. We were so happy when we heard the announcement that 50 volunteers would be invited to an event at the US ambassadors house in Gaborone (the capital city). But at the same time we were told that it would be so quick and there would be no guarantee of getting a picture with her or anything. I think we were all just excited to get included anyway, and if nothing else we would meet the new ambassador (Michelle Gavin who is only like 36 herself and very nice and personable too) and go to her house which is also pretty exciting. So on Saturday morning we woke up and went out into the cold (yes, it is winter here and cold in the mornings!) to the ambassador’s house. We waited several hours outside because of security checks, there were real secret service guys standing around with sunglasses and ear pieces just like in movies!
Finally, Mma Obama (as Batswana call her) came out to deliver her speech. She was very stylish looking with skinny pants on, a jacket, and a scarf tied around her neck. She gave a short but personable speech thanking all of the Foreign Service workers AND PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS for the important work that they do for the United States aboard. Then, amazingly, they had all of the PC volunteers get together off to the side and told us we would be taking a group picture with her. We were jumping around in excitement and there might have been a little bit of pushing to get to the front of the picture…..After a few minutes she came over and started shaking our hands and talking to us. She told us that she loves Peace Corps and thanked us again for what we are doing here. She said that she has a nephew that might join and that she would love for Sasha and Malia to have the experience themselves someday! Can you imagine the former first daughters as PCV’S?! Not likely to happen, but still it was a nice thing to say and showed how much she respected Peace Corps as a program. One of the female volunteers in our group who is funny and brave said to her when she was standing right in front of us, “Wow your makeup looks so fabulous!” She was right, because it did and Michelle is really beautiful in person. She just laughed (a real laugh I might add) and thanked her for “getting right down to business”. She made a few other little jokes like telling one of the smaller volunteers that she was too tiny to be standing in the back and had her move up closer to her (lucky girl!).
So overall, it was just a really amazing experience and I’ll always remember it. I’ll remember that she was so personable and seemed to really want to be there with us in that moment. I’m also glad that Peace Corps was given this opportunity, she visited a PCV at his site as well, because Obama has talked about the importance of Peace Corps service for building positive world relationships and this shows that it wasn’t just talk and that they really meant it.
So, Re a leboga Mma Obama, thata!! (We thank you very much Mrs. Obama)