Saturday, September 25, 2010

I wrote too much...

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

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.

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.

"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,


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?)

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