Saturday, September 25, 2010

I wrote too much...

9-20-2010
Bad News. It's 4:30 Pm right now and I've been in bed since 10AM, sleeping and listening to the Grey's Anatomy sountrack. Once during my epic nap, I got woken up by my friends who came to see me on their lunch break, twice i got woken up by a dream that a hot white man was outside my window trimming the shrubbery because magically overnight the village was developed into a bustling American-atown complete with fake roman statues, and three times (actually only twice, but three times sounds more poetic) I got woken up from a dream that either I found wifi or phone service and was busy talking to friends online but suddenly lost the signal.

it is hot. Very hot. But not really. The sky is happily overcast, there is a strong refreshing wind, and yet I'm in my undaerwear sweating a storm. My Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) thinks its anxiety. I just think it's just damn hot.

Late last night I arrived back in New Xade, relieved at it's quiet, consistent existence. I couldn't find my friend who had my house key, so I literally camped outside her gate for half an hour, napping in the sand under the dark cloudy night sky enjoying the warm breeze. She let me in around nine or ten, and as expected, the gas in the fridge had gone out and my house smelled peculiar, but thanks to her watchful eye (and an airfreshener sent by a good friend ;) ) it could have been a lot worse. After 3 weeks of being away, the house was covered in dust, spiders, and I saw my very first african flying cockroach trapped in my sink, then I saw two, then three, then too many to mention here or I'll start to scream again.

I spent 8-10AM sweeping, dusting, mopping, and washing every piece of clothing I own and then 10 to now (4:30) sleeping. Nothing I eat is of interest to me anymore, and i can't believe i used to eat (and enjoy) some of the stuff I found in my pantry (mustard sauce, black olives, peri peri sauce and wheat crackers??). I've also lost interest in exercising. I guess this does mark a new phase in my service. Or I just need this one day to be a huge lazy sweaty slightly numb and depressed bum in order to get through the week.

Some time yesterday there was another way of dreaming
But there's another way, you don't have to be a hero
Life's not easy, but there's a lot to keep you holding on forever
Whatever gets you through today
Whatever gets you through today

9-21-2010
In addition to another epic nap (from 1-4:30PM this time), I walked around New Xade visiting friends and getting caught up on the going ons of the past few weeks. Though one lady talked dramatically of a defilment case that occured while I was gone, the others said nothing new had happened at all.

Waking up this morning, I was in awe of how purple everything was. It seems that while I was gone, the seasons had changed. The tree leaves fell and were replaced by budding purple flowers. The cloudy sky above was also purple. Even the sand and our pink houses took on a purple shade. It looked as if some artist had created the perfect purple palette and then accidentally smashed it across the canvas and somehow it created this beautiful uni-colored world that would otherwise be considered mundane because of its monotony, but for its uniqueness was overwhelmingly beautiful, especially in the right light when all the diversity of its tones shone. In a way, it's sort of how I feel about this village-- its beautiful people, fauna, flora, buildings, culture, and history has sort of been smashed onto this canvas in no particular pattern, in no particular order, with no particular purpose. In the right light, its multifaciticity is brilliant and luminous, but on a day to day basis, that beauty has no practical purpose in this income-driven world and is thus trivial and forgotten.

I sort of kind of lost a lot of ambition this week. I know that the cardinal rule for anyone who may be depressed is not to sleep all the time, but I can't help it. It's either sleep or think, and I'd really rather not think right now. Sleep seems to be a better option. The good news is, I'm not neglecting my work ethic. I am getting as much done as I possibly can, following up with as many people as I can and pitching project ideas to the people who can give good input. It's assuring that even on my worst days (and this is by far not my worst day, let me assure you that) I can still be somewhat productive.

And if anyone is still looking to send me care packages, please send me hot weather gear, like cargo shorts, sun dresses, wide brim hats, cool-tech bandanas, sleeveless shirts. It seems overnight it went from cold to ohmygodi'mgoingtodie-hot and I'm told it's just going to get worse.

And if you happen to be computer savvy, tv shows are even better to send, particularly:
Gilmore Girls, Nurse Jackie, Grey's Anatomy.

P.S. I heard a soft knocking at my door tonight as I got out of the shower and I instinctively knew who it was, some really sweet teenage girls who like to sit in my family room and listen to my ipod. Guess what I did? I got back in the shower. Peace Corps staff wisely advised me to sit down with them and tell them not to visit me at night or every day but I'm too chickenshit right now to have that discussion. I'd rather sit naked in my bathtub and wait for them to go away.

9-22-2010
A Life Inspired

That's one of the Peace Corps Mottos-- a Life Inspired. I'm not entirely sure what it means, perhaps it means: a life that is inspired by the peace corps, or a life inspired to join the peace corps-- today though it meant something completely different to me. My life, inspired by the very people I left: the other Peace Corps Volunteers who continually smile in anticipation of activities I would be freaked out about, a friendship that has lasted two dozen years (Thank you for the most awesome care package and even sweeter letter, Janice, the rice cakes are to DIE for), photographs of my parents on vacation in Canada, and mom and dad coming through for me with the most peculiar package I have ever received (seaweed, miso soup, and dried mushrooms.)

Today, I felt.. achieved, happy, warm, tired, confused, and frustrated.

Achieved because I had gained the friendship of those who I never would have thought I'd become friends with, my coworkers, my boss, my neighbors, and the teenage girls I've convinced to take english classes with me once a week instead of visiting me randomly at night and sitting awkward on my couch. And in the process of the day, we are one step closer to finishing the work that Seema Patel (PCV 2006-2008) did on her OVC poultry project-- Seema if you are reading this, we're getting toilets and cages, and by the end of the year Eva says we'll have our first meat-chicks!

Happy because I felt comfortable for once in my new world, not feeling like I had to keep moving to find a safe space, comfortable because people now know me and the fear of strangeness is gone.

Warm and tired on my long ride home in the front of the pickup squished under the arm of my coworker, a 40 or so year old San man who had been my mentor all day. (Don't get any ideas fellah's! He's happily married with kids)

And confused and frustrated because after being away for 3 weeks, and having my first productive day, I asked for a few days to travel across the country to be with a friend and was confronted with the very clear reality that every moment spent away from my village is a moment further from integration. I wasn't denied the trip, and in fact it will be a very productive one, both in the cause of project-work and emotional-health, but I did have to think long and hard about the costs and benefits of such an endeavor (both personally and professionally, and I feel that with this choice, I've lost some professional integrity, which makes me cringe in resentment). I leave on friday, but I returned from Thato's house tonight already missing her and her daughter. I've only just gotten back into the swing of things, and I'm already leaving for a week. I know in the grand scheme of things, one week is not a lot, but in the excitement of returning and seeing familiar and expectant faces waiting for me to reveal my grand plans to save the youth and end world hunger, I got so excited and confused at the same time. Almost out of a willingness to prove that I can have my cake and eat it too, I made plans tomorrow to do more than I am physically capable in this weather: walk around with 2 people looking for 3 sets of people, but I did it because I am so excited to see what this village can do.

I had a moment today though, when I realized a little bit more why things are the way they are here. Thato and I discussed the defilement of one of our sweetest girls by an outside construction worker, the work crew that stole her sister's iron pots and tried to sell them to the village, and the company which refuses to pay rent for their occupation of her plot for the duration of the construction. I asked Thato-- why do you think they do this? is it because we are New Xade? Is it because they think we won't fight back?
Thato said, with a hint of realization herself, "yes, that's probably it..."
because we won't fight back...

Later that night, i asked Thato if she knew any young leaders in Xade, any young men or women who can be teen role models so I can put together a youth council to plan the youth center and prove to the younger kids that you can succeed without becoming drunkards. I'd always wondered why Thato hadn't been more involved in the leadership of the community-- a clear leader, a helper, a wonderful overall person with wits, courage, smarts, and boldness-- and her answer helped clear things up. She said, "Youth ba Xade? (Xade youth?) These guys-- there are none."

In contrast, when I asked my police-friend Kago the same question tonight, he said, "Tomorrow, find me in my office, I will take you around and we will look for them. Don't worry, they are there."

I realized then and there, that there are 2 types of people in the world. Those who believe in the best of others and those who can't help but see the worst.
Me? I don't where I fall-- those who spend enough time with me will laugh at this statement I'm sure. Let's just say, we pulled the pick up truck into the youth hostel today to unload some toiletries. When we arrived, we were swarmed by kids. Yelling, joking, eating porridge out of plastic packages with their hands, singing, dancing, helping to unload our boxes, getting my attention and then running away, shy, so cute. I went back into the car because I started to cry.

In the end, my coworker decided to reload the toiletries because he was sure that without a responsible guardian present, the supplies would dissapear too quickly. So tonight, I have 6 boxes of soap, detergent, and toiletpaper stashed in my living room and a very heavy heart to sleep with. If I'm going to go back there, I'm going to need to call in the calvary or at least put on some more emotional gear.

And dear itekeng, I know you can't read this, but if you do happen to be listening to the cosmic winds... thank you for keeping an eye on my mail and thank you for making sure I got a ride home today. You are the most unexpected friend I ever thought I would make here in New Xade. Please keep helping me, I may not ever say it, but I need you. And thank you for not saying anything when I started to cry last time we hitch hiked home together. Oh and to my other coworker in Ghanzi-- thank you for saying that I lost some weight. I know you didn't mean it, but I know you knew how much it meant to me so you said it anyway.

9-23-2010
"Own Your Service"

You know this kitchy catch phrases that always sound great in the moment, but at the end of the day when you stop and think about it, you really have no idea what they mean or what sort of practical application they have to your lifestyle? Well, in the Peace Corps we have another motto, "Own your service." In the most recent newsletter (all of us pcv's in botswana get a newsletter every month), one of the PCV's wrote a short article on what that phrase meant to her-- in my interpretation of her article, what I believe she meant was, "own your service" means "do what you need to do to be the best PCV you can be," including but not limited to: taking mental health days off, sleeping in, taking long lunches, eating too much (I think I added those last two in for myself).

Today was another hugely productive day which resulted in me being in bed at 7PM with my front gate locked, an indication for everyone who comes to visit that I am mentally checked out. I did a lot today. I learned a lot. And unfortunately, I felt a lot as well. The thing that KILLS me is that there is SO much MORE to do, and learn, and think about, and feel. Tonight, I left the company of my 2 teenage friends who were playing cards in their plot off an upturned bucket. The sun was setting, the pleasant children were frolicking in their pretty dresses, the purple trees swayed in the purple breeze-- it was beautiful and yet under my thin appreciation for the beauty of the moment was a much deeper longing to be asleep. Not to be alone, not to be watching a movie or eating something good, but to be asleep!

I fell asleep at lunch today and had to force myself out of bed twice, and then out of my house twice, and then finally out of my plot. It took me so much energy I didn't even know I had in me, and the other worst thing is-- it paid off. Every effort I make here pays off in some way. I'm wracked with guilt for not taking advantage of every single opportunity that comes my way, and even more so for taking a few days off during this botswana holiday. I spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon with friends talking about New Xade, our feelings about the direction of our lives an this village, the upcoming holiday, and my feeling of overwhelming stress and guilt over my upcoming trip. My friend told me, don't worry, you won't be missing much. He's going on vacation too. My other friend told me, don't worry, we'll start our meetings when we get back-- she's going on vacation too.

Maybe it's becuase my supervisor at Peace Corps told me point blank that I would be missing out on a lot by leaving so soon after training that I'm feeling so guilty. I know in my heart of hearts that she is most definitely right-- but I wouldn't have asked to take this trip if I didn't already count the cost. I've always had this thing for authority, I respect it. I thrive off of it. I need to know that my superiors trust me in order to be the best that I can be. And the darndest thing is-- I think I could be a damn good peace corps volunteer if I can feel that I am trusted by my superiors! That's all I need to keep my emotional head above the water. I just need to know that the Peace Corps trusts me. I just need to know... it eats away at me at night to think that my superiors may feel that I am foolish or untrustworthy,

And finally-- the daily call to action. For those of you who want to help me out, letters, packages, episodes of 30 rock are great-- BUT this is the exciting part-- very soon, if things go alright within the next couple of weeks, I will be issuing a request for donations to build our youth center. The youth center may cost upwards of a couple thousand dollars, but I've identified this need, I've gathered plenty of support, I'm on the edge of identifying a steering committee, a designer, and a builder-- and once inspired, I will have a very elegant article of prose explaining the purpose and the dire need of the youth center for the children of New Xade who make me hold back tears on a daily basis.

I wish you could all be here with me to experience the joys and the pains of New Xade... and the odd emotion of joy and pain felt simultaneously for the same moment. The children here bring me so much joy-- and yet when I am with them, I feel pain, sadness, frustration, anger. Maybe I have too much empathy and when I hear stories of their woes from their parents, caretakers, teachers, and social workers, it's too much for me to handle. But there is still peace here, New Xade still brings me peace, despite the woes-- even though there are many.
Sending you my love from Africa. And reminding myself that it is indeed a privelage and an honor to be part of the Peace Corps here,

Sunny.

p.s. fridge has been out now for 3 days. tonight's dinner: a can of corn. and surprisingly, I'm loving it-- bah dah bap bap baaaaah (that's supposed to be the mcdonald's ditty-- do they still do that?)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What I'm Not Saying...

What I'm Not Saying is that I'm miserable and sad and desperate to get home.

What I AM saying is, I've spent the past 22 nights in a motel room eating food I can't afford, taking medicines I'm not accustomed to, and staring at a bottle of Jack Daniels every morning wondering if that might make my unpredictable days run a little smoother.

What I'm Not Saying is that I'm an alcoholic or a druggie.

What I am saying is that I'm on medication that reduces my anxiety and my anxiety is heightened by the fact that I have no control over my situation or my surroundings.

What I'm Not saying is that my situation is sad or that I am in any sort of trouble.

What I am saying is that I'm learning that I am a very Type A person, that I like to plan things, that I normally know what my next step in the day is.

What I am saying is that over the past week, I don't know where my next meal is coming from, where I will be sleeping, and how much of my 80lb bag I can unpack before I have to move again. I am broke, and tired. and I don't know exactly how I'm going to get home or how long
I'm going to have to wait. I'm running out of airtime, and so is my counterpart who is supposed to be getting me a lift home. The poor girl still sends me messages in Setswana as if somehow I can read them. Poor me stares at it and thinks, "Oh No... does that mean something important!?"

What I'm not saying is that I want to go home.

What I am saying is that I miss home, but don't know how to reach it. For those of you who've called me, you know I'm useless over the phone. And when I go online, I scan my chat lists over and over again-- but for who? I don't know. No one person is going to save me from feeling scared, alone, useless, and sad...

The storm is coming, but I don't mind
People are dying, but I close my blinds.
All that I know is I'm breathing...
I want to change the world, instead I sleep
I want to believe in more than you and me.
All that I know is I'm breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing now


**I haven't gotten your care packages because I've been away for the past month. But I will try to respond to every care package I do get in some way or another. It may be another week or two or three until I get a chance to pick things up from the post office. Have patience with me.

And suanne, yes perry can and should come visit, but I'm a bit off the beaten path and a visit to me is definitely more than a 1 day trip, unless you have your own car.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To my Peace Corps Friends,


Being in the Peace Corps is unlike any other traveling experience I've had. I've learned so far that not only is everyone's experience completely different from each other, but they're also deeply and significantly common in many ways. So much so that in times of distress-- whether they are real, such as the death of a coworker or a failure of a project, or petty, such as not having water for a few days or finishing all the seasons of Lost-- no one quite understands the tragedy of it all except for someone who has been in the Peace Corps. Someone who understands that even the littlest things can make us feel so very small, ineffective, and stupid for being here.

I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the love and support, care packages and kind encouraging words of friends and families, or the phone calls, emails, and facebook comments-- I'm not saying that at all. Most of the time and in very real cases, these words and acknowledgments of where I am and what I'm doing get me through the dark nights and remind me that I am here for a reason, I am someone, I can do something. What I am saying is nothing, nothing I had read before departure has prepared me for the kind of mixed emotions I have experienced in the past few months. "Ups and Downs," no longer describes it accurately. "Roller Coaster" would even insinuate that somehow I had expected the fall down to be timed proportionally with the ride up. A better way to describe it is more instantaneous, almost... manic.

Ice cream one spoonful with friends can make your days seem glorious and the sunsets endless, that comradery and friendship will last a lifetime. The next spoonful, you're remembering that you're the fattest you've ever been, the ice cream isn't made from real dairy, you're almost as poor as the man outside the store begging for money, and you smell like you haven't bathed in months.

In this next phase of service, I have an instinctual feeling that instant gratification will no longer work anymore. That chocolate bar at night, that ice cream in the morning, that shot of whisky with dinner, it's a temporary solution to a more significant and daily more concrete challenge-- The challenge? To make this TRUE:
Peace Corps will be the hardest job You'll ever love.
So love the mania. Love the difficulties. Love the smells, the stares, the weight gain, the weight loss, and the occasional hot shower that runs out mid-shampoo. Love the drunk people, love the orphan children, love your impossible boss, and importantly, love your friends. Love the dark lonely nights, and equally important, love the bright sunny days. Love every second of the hour you wait for a meeting to start and love every word of Setswana you can and cannot understand. Love it all so that, even if we fail in all our programming somewhere along the way, we can at least say, We Learned how to Live and we Loved Every God-Damn Moment of it. Cause to be honest, when you get home, no one is going to ask you what you accomplished, they're going to ask you what you did. And to be able to say that and actually mean it is pretty god-damn awesome.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Whatever you do...

"Whatever you do, do it with all your heart and soul."
- Bernard Baruch, Huletts sugar packet in the Kgale Views Motel
I wish I could show you guys the tan lines I have on my feet. It looks like I've been marked by Zorro. Over the course of IST (Training) I managed to splash on some neon pink nail polish and I have to say, my feet rock.

Living in the big city without a permanent home is certainly an experience. I eat out at every meal and try to choose the healthiest foods in the smallest portions and most valuable price. Surprisingly, it's not too hard to find. I'm starting to enjoy it. No friendly neighbors poking in at all hours of the day and night.... but I do actually miss it too. I hope I haven't stayed away too long. To be honest, I'm already forgetting people's names. I'm glad I've been taking notes here and there, hopefully when I get back I'll spend my first few days getting reoriented again.

At the recommendation of some of the staff here who know what a Type A personality I am, I have been spending most of the day in the Peace Corps resource room, reading through manuals and doing research online. There is little I can do outside of my own village talking to my own people, but the much I have done is giving me a much better perspective of what exactly I'm doing and the cultural significance and value of the people I work with it. It is an honor and a privilege to have been placed in such a unique area and all difficulties with money, transportation, and wildlife aside, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity I have in front of me.

I must safeguard against myself though. i have a tendency to think too large, to dig too deep, to go too far and plan too big. In the works I have a Youth Center, an Alcohol Awareness week, a Healthy Eating and Drinking Support Group, Exercise classes for prenatal women, a mentor/tutoring program for hostile children, a support group of Orphans, and Career Counseling/ Computer classes in mind. Of course, all this takes resources and community mobilization skills that I have yet to acquire, but like I told my program director this morning, "it looks like we're just going to have to become what we need..."

God help us all.

Oh and P.S. on my limited Peace Corps budget, I decided to treat myself to a movie today, I watched inception all by myself in a large theater and when I came out, I was greeted by a tiny motswana child asking me for money "for the orphans." She held a ratty tatty ledger with names and donation amounts on it, I took a look at her and said, perhaps a little too quickly, "Sorry. I don't have money"

She looked me square in the eye and said, "Check your bag." I was so dazed that I almost did check my bag and then I realized-- now way am I going to take orders from this child, even if it is for the orphans. So I stopped and said pretty firmly, "NO. Sorry." and walked away.

My little Jimminy Cricket inside said nothing and my guts said, good freaking job. So next time you good do-ers out there are asking people for money and they say no, please don't judge us. They just might really be strapped for cash and possibly have already donated 2 years of their lives to live in the desert to help out the orphans anyway

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Promise

9-13-2010
3 weeks in Gabs
I went to the dr this morning, and against my initial shock (because I wanted to go home so bad today), we decided that I should spend another week in the city. I can't go into details as to the reasons, but today marks the 3rd week I've been away, and I miss my village and my friends. Air conditioning, reliable water, movie theaters and popcorn, bars and restaurants are great, but I don't really care for those things right now.

The sink water leaks in my too-small hotel bathroom. Drip, drip, drip, strange noises and lights emit from my stylish windows. Where are the chickens and the donkeys in heat? the shooting stars and the awe-ing darkness outside? The air conditioner whirs. I keep it too low simply because I can. I contemplate sleeping naked because I dont want to wash my clothes in the hotel sink. I want to go home. Home. Which home you ask? New Xade, Chicago, any place the magic shoes decide to take me. Any place that will make me feel like myself again. But unless Pink Chacos miraculously turn magical after too many months of wear and tear, I can't.

So, instead, I am committing to staying. Staying and getting better so I don't have to spend another week in a plush hotel again. No matter how hard it gets. I promised a friend. I promised myself. I promised my fellow PCV's. I promised my village, they just don't know it yet.

I want to be a good PCV. I just don't know what that means anymore. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer definitely isn't what I thought it would be. It's not a walk in the park, it's a process of really getting to know people without losing yourself first, and for some of us, it seems to be taking forever. At the moment I wish I wasn't a type A personality, or all this would be so much easier.

(oh I don't mean sound so miserable, man I'm doing it again. I have a tendency to describe things as half empty. I'm not miserable, I swear. On the full side of things, the staff here has been amazing to me, I feel more supported by them than I have been supporting myself. It's good to know that there are so many people here who really will carry me if I need it. Plus, I get to spend another week around good food and great coffee and have a cleaning staff what will pick up after me in the morning. Electricity, phone service, running hot water, and internet service 24/7? Not to bad.)

You know I like my chicken fried
A cold beer on a friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
and a radio on...

Gabs

9/11/2010
I'm sitting in a portuguese inspired restaurant in Game City next to a flowing fountain listening to the sounds of heckling taxi-drivers yelling "Taxi! Taxi!" to passerbyers. I'm at a mall in Gaborone. Day 1 after Training. I'm supposed to be happily on my way home now, asleep or dozing on a crowded slow-ass bus making its way across the God-forsaken dessert to my black hole in the middle of nowhere, where nothing seems to grow and cell phone service comes to die-- but apparently something in my psyche is keeping me from leaving this place.

As much as I sometimes complain about my village-- I can say beyond a shred of a doubt that I like New Xade, its people, its culture, its landscape, its lifestyle-- yet still at the end of the day, I can't help but wonder if God has forgotten these people. Their completely alien way of life which is just now being touched my development in the form of westernization-- wear our clothing, eat our foods, work our jobs, pose for our photos-- is fascinating yet exhausting at the same time. So like I said, something in me is tired, crazy, exhausted... 3 words have come to mind this week-- complete nervous breakdown.

9/12/2010
I had some good friends call last week and ask, "so is there anything you like about botswana?" and then I had another friend say in a moment of crisis, "you sound so unhappy here" and then I got a bunch of, "I'll support you no matter what you decide to do..." and I realized that I may or may not sound absolutely depressed and miserable.

So yeah, it's tough here. and yeah.... i'm a bit broken right now... but I'm going to make a public resolution here and now to stick through this. There is potential here, there are good people here, and even if I do absolutely nothing but make friends and start planting ideas for alcohol awareness projects out there in the next 2 years, I'm going to resolve to be satisfied with it. I'm also going to spend more money on things like travel and fun and souvenirs and not worry about things like budgets, the stench of my unclean clothes, and how on earth I'm going to carry all the shit I acquire home. I'm also going to start telling people to go home and stop visiting me at night. And I'm going to go out and visit people on my own time. And I hope that that particular resolution doesn't backfire and wind up with me hiding in my house every day all day...I'm going to force you all to call me more often, though just how I'm going to do that I don't know. I'm going to try desperately to get better and more accessible internet access--- god damn that stuff is out of my control...

Ok temporary solution? Whisky, sleep, funny movies, and bad jokes.
Dear all, please send me the worst jokes you can possibly think of.



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

8-23-2010

I'm writing this from the comfort of my friends Glen and Cherry's extra bedroom as I prepare to leave tomorrow bright and early (or rather not so bright and early) for gabs-- training-- and a larger semblance of civilization. I'm learning this week that civilization is definitely something we take for granted. Most of the time we use the word jokingly, "welcome to civilization" etc etc. But I'm starting to really realize what "civilization" actually IS.

I'm exhausted as I write this because I've been overwhelmed this week by the onslaught of information, feelings, events, homesickness and overall physical strain that 3 months in the desert here have taken on me. I have 3 wonderful looking tan lines. I'm pretty sure I smell. and I definitely need to do my laundry. (I've just been washing underwears... lol)

8-28.2010 IST

Time certainly flies when you're traveling. I can't believe it's already the 28th. The kuru dance festival (the 20-21) was a really interesting time. I got a lift with the dancers there, so 30 of us crammed into the back of a freight truck with a shit ton of blankets, buckets and food and drove in the sun for 4 hours around the surrounding settlements picking up more people before finally depositing at the Dae Quar Game Reserve (Spelling?). We got there and un folded ourselves from each other's crotches-- we sat in 3 rows of about 10 people each fitted into each other like legos or pez. On the way there, we passed by a tourist safari vehicle. The dancers all got up and boobies jiggling, waved their arms yelling "sweets! sweets! mpha sweets! (give me sweets)." The Tourists all crammed into the windows of the vehicles and camera flashes went off like paparazzi. Within a few minutes, the whole intereaction was over and we all sat back down, assembled each other like pez, and carried on.

At the dance festival, I met some Canadian volunteers/ researchers and stayed with them for 2 days and 2 nights, watching the dances, listening to jazz, talking politics, culture, and the culture of volunteerism. I got some really good advice and some kudos-- all in all a nice break from the internal pressure of living alone in the New Xade environment and feeling like I had to try to "save the village" by myself, with a few slaps on the back and financial nudges here and there. When it was time to go home, I waited 5.5 hours at the designated hitching tree and cried for a bit about my bad luck getting home and my complete and utter lack of sleep and the overwhelming stress from the weather and what i've learned about the world lately.

I ended up getting a ride with the dancers back to Xade, the only people travelling there that day from Ghanzi. It was an overwhelming sense of relief and joy to see my fellow villagers after their triumphant performances. They were happy, familiar, and drunk-- an old man I had often come across in the village but was always too shy to speak to and visa versa, welcomed me into the truck by throwing his arms out and motioning for me to move into the back where someone was saving me a "seat". I was overwhelmed by his smile which I had never seen before and enjoyed the ride back immensely, even though most of our folks were utterly drunk and we had to stop every 30 minutes or so to stop the same girl from throwing herself angrily out of the truck bed because she wanted to pee.

Next morning, I hitchhiked back to Ghanzi to prepare for a 7 hour drive to Gabs for our 2 week in-service training. All in all, after over 30 hours in a moving vehicle over the past 4 days, I still feel like I'm moving. As I said in the last update, I'm "in" Gabs now (neighborhing village) and am trying to remember what it's like to be surrounded by 50 Americans. And I have to put a disclaimer here, Not that I don't like Americans-- or rather these Americans. I think they are all brilliant and we are all in very difficult, challenging places, but sometimes, the tension and stress of all of our services seems to weigh down on the whole room and I feel like I'm suffocating. The issues. methodologies, and other things we talk about (right off the bat we started with our seminars and workshops-- 5 a day nonstop, no exercise all day) were so heavy coming out of an already pretty tired and burned out state, I'm trying not to be a debbie downer so to speak. I'm trying not to be antisocial. And i so desperately want to connect with my other volunteers and create those bonds that I know will support me for the rest of my service here.

The dynamics within the volunteers as a result, are so weird. We all know each other, miss each other, respect each other, but with half of our group leaving today and the other half just arriving tired and saggy eye-d, it's so hard to really give these halted relationships the attention they deserve. As a result, we tend to isolate into small pockets of people who maybe already know each other well, who have been keeping in touch for the past 3 months. Polite smiles and half-tired conversations all around resulting in some awkward moments, some apologizes, some big waves followed by thoughts of "oh please, don't come here, I'm so tired I just don't feel like talking to anyone."

Polite people hanging out with polite people, trying to assuage the guilt of not being able to keep in touch with everyone we should have, people partying at night to make up for all the social anxiety we experience at site, people showing up bleary eyed and exhausted the next day, people ready, so ready, to go back to their sites, people confused about why we're here in the first place and adjusting slowly to being around americans after being alone night after night for the past 2 months, people sharing stories about how every day they think about leaving early. We've already lost 2 more quality PCVs, which brings our grand total to around 7 lost, a number equal to that of our predecessors, except the amount of people we lost in 4 months is equal to the number of people they lost in 16 months. It's an alarming number which makes us all depressed and nervous, and anxious; and without the strong bonds of support and family that I feel that we should have at this point, I'm nervous about what my own service will look like in 1, 3, 5 months to come if more people start going home.

I'm not going to lie. I certainly have my own qualms about the way we Americans behave and act sometimes (And for that same matter, the way the people behave here sometimes). But for every instance I point at someone and shake my head, 3 fingers are pointing right back at me. At this stage in the game, my own self confidence, sense of purpose, sense of identity has been hammered so many times, both by myself, the strangers I come across, and the sometimes hopelessness of our situations, that I felt the need to go back to my room after seminars today and just be sad. Except I don't completely know what it is that I'm sad about. The feeling is new and different and I can't quite figure out where it comes from or how to aleve it. It's just there and it forces unexplained tears from my tired eyes once in a while. I feel dirty, down, smelly, fat, unsatisfied, and worse, unable to express how I'm feeling and suspicous that, this time around, a simple bar of chocolate, ice cream, or latte won't do much to make me happy again. The good news is, people still call me "Sunny," and though I haven't been able to engage in conversation like I used to (without some liquid lubrication), it means people haven't totally forgotten about me.

When we get cell phone service soon (estimated October 2010), things will be different-- it'll be my responsibility to document the fascinating changes that these technologies bring to our little village (ours meaning: mine, the villagers, and the 6 other PCV's who came before me, because that community is as much theirs as it is becoming mine). At least that's what I have to tell myself here when I think about how nice modern luxuries are and how nice it is to talk to people instead of sitting alone and paranoid in the dark of my own home at night.

8.29.2010
Some things you have to go through to learn...

8.31.2010
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
And the dreams that you dream of, once in a lullaby
Oh somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dream of, dreams really do come true
Someday I wish upon a star, wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops high above the chimney tops, that's where you'll find me
Oh somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dare to, oh why oh why can't I?
Oh some day I wish upon a star, wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops high above the chimney top that's where you'll find me
Oh somewhere over the rainbow, way up high...
And the dreams that you dare to, why oh why can't I?