Saturday, September 25, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
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
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, do it with all your heart and soul."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.
- Bernard Baruch, Huletts sugar packet in the Kgale Views Motel
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
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...
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.
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
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)
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.
Some things you have to go through to learn...
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?