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?