Wednesday, October 27, 2010

10/19/2010 8:36AM My First Xade Thunderstorm

It seems the world does not want me to sleep. I spent the majority of
last week and this weekend running from office to office trying to
feel my way around the system here, only to find that what I was
getting was not what I was expecting at all, and the eager beaver in
me got really dissapointed. The Bots 8-ers who have been here a year
already were not surprised and urged me patiently not to feel
discouraged and to keep trying. By day 5, I was at my wits end trying
to find funding for the youth camp coming up in December and the VMSAC
meeting in a few weeks (ironically, the poultry project and the
community garden were thrown at me complete with funding for supplies
and consultants). I stumbled into my S&CD office and told my
counterparts, "I need help..." and next thing you know, I'm sitting in
the office of one of the ladies I already know well talking budgets
and proposals. Turns out, the program I'm planning already has money
allocated for it, I just didn't know because no one was using it. So,
all I have to do is call my "youth camp" a "youth workshop" (which it
was originally called), and emphasize HIV and MCP, and provided I do
my budget right (only allowing for food and stationary, no equipment
or travel allowances), it looks like the project is happening. Hip

Every morning the past 5 days I'd wake up with this project on the
brain-- how how how to find funding. I'd call a department or an
organization and get turned to someone else over and over again. Of
course this isn't a sure thing yet, and I sort of feel like I'm
counting my chickens before they hatch, but oh well. This morning was
the first morning I didn't wake up thinking about youth camps, vmsacs
and fundings; instead I awoke to waking dreams of getting broken into,
robbed, raped, and somewhere in there, my wedding day. It's 8:41 AM
now, hence the name of this entry, and let's just say work starts at
7:30... The work environment in Xade is extremely lax though, and if I
say I'm working at home on 2 funding proposals, they'll let me do it
without question (well, at least not questioning me to my face). 1
meeting today, 1 meeting tomorrow, lots of writing inbetween, a
meeting on Thursday, a meeting on Friday, running around getting
official quotations for budgets and BAM, baby! I'll have funding.

Last night around 9PM I was dozing in my bed, just finished talking
with my brother on the phone in the privacy of my own house, when I
saw a flash of light, like someone with a very powerful flash was
trying to take pictures at night. It was followed by a rumble, like a
large truck turning on gravel. It happened again, and again, and
before I knew it, raindrops were hitting my tin roof like a flock of
tinny bird feet. Tick tick tick tickticktickticktickticktick! I opened
my blinds and watched the lightening light up the clouds like
something out of fantasia. My first New Xade thunderstorm. Can it be
rainy season already? Ironically, when I woke up this morning, our
long anticipated phone reception was gone. Maybe the storm took out
the tower, or more likely, guys stole the solar panels again.

So I found out what happened, the little storm last night destroyed
our electricity which took out the tower. I asked if they were going
to see to get it fixed (not sure if they would given that the tower is
the only thing that uses the electricity in our village), my friend
said something along the lines of-- since the power's out, the tower's
out, and how will we tell them that the electricity's out?

I just got home after 3 hours of a meeting held in setswana where they
argued for an hour about whether or not they were going to take the
leftover food home, cause legally you have to give the leftovers to a
public institution. It astounds me how great the people here are at
meeting twice a week for hours on end to talk about logistics, and yet
no one can tell me what the content of the workshop is on.

I was talking to someone about what I'll need to add to the budget for
a Village Aids Committee workshop (VMSAC) I want to run in November,
and after our meeting today, a lady ran up to me. "The DMSAC meeting!"
she said, "when is it?" I was thrilled-- did she want to join the
DMSAC?? "There's one on Thursday, do you want to come? It's in Ghanzi
at 8am" "Yes!" she said. "Great!" I said. Then she said, "I want to
cook. Will you hire me?"

Why did it astound me that she aspired to cook for the DMSAC rather
than be on the DMSAC?

Why am I kicking my own butt? Why am I doing what I'm doing? Am I
really capacity building or am I just fulfilling a role that 6 years
of peace corps volunteers have established? Has the PCV role in New
Xade simply turned into a regular job, 'cause it seems that after my
needs assessment, etc,etc, I am still just doing the exact same thing
that 6 other Americans have done before me. No one is continuing the
projects that we leave behind, but they are all the more willing to
cater, build, and clean up after them for a small fee.

At 7AM this morning, Thato's daughter ate laundry detergent and
committed diarrhea on my lawn.

Yesterday, I ran into my new counterpart ("Nancy" has officially
transferred and her replacement, Go itse, a very chill girl, has
officially moved in). I helped her to buy casual clothes for our
hostel kids. They were each given P500 and lunch, and in waves of 40
at a time, they were brought to a store in Ghanzi to pick out what
they wanted. My job was to tally the items in their basket to see if
the total was less than P500 and, as I learned later, to help them
pick the right size. Unexpectantly, all the boys picked lots of very
nice expensive clothes while the girls struggled to find things in the
right gender category, let alone size. Almost every girl bought a pair
of boxer shorts and a striped collared shirt. Many I didn't recognize
as girls until I saw a bra in their basket (both boys and girls bought
girls underwear), and color didn't seem to matter. Boys and Girls
alike bought pink underwear and gray polo shirts. At one point, a girl
showed up and my counterpart mistook her as a boy. When she realized
her mistake, she exclaimed, "You're a Girl!? Where are the breasts??"
Another girl showed up with a child-size t-shirt at least 3 or 4 sizes
too small, "Ao, is this too small?" I asked. "No! I'm Sliiiiiiiiiiim!"
she said, moving her hands down her skinny torso. I wonder if this is
a side-effect of low self-esteem and no female role models to tell
these girls that what's happening to them: (puberty) is normal and
that they are beautiful just the way they are.

I'm trying to motivate myself to write those funding proposals, but I
have to admit, I'm finding it difficult. After my miserable mood this
morning and the phone network going down, I just don't want to do
anything. Plus.... while I'm whining... I'm so sore after 6 nights of
mediocre sleep and no exercise.

Woke up to a bright 6AM this morning and did an hour of P90X yoga
before commencing my day. Unfortunately, what results from exercise is
increased energy which, for me means, increased boredom and thus
increased boredom-eating, thus countering the effects of increased

I have to admit, I've been hiding a bit today. I went home at noon to
prepare to go to Ghanzi yet again tonight-- honestly truly completely
not my choice, out of necessity, I have to submit the funding
proposals after getting a gazillion quotes from a gazillion shops. Not
looking forward to the process. No wonder people don't do this more
often. In any case, I came home early to relax in anticipation of
another hectic 48 hours (dmsac meeting in there too) full of learning,
smiling, bowing a little, and thinking, "why why why why?"

it struck me that what I'm trying to do is mobilize people when for 6
years people have been trying to mobilize them just as I have and...
well... in the end... I'm still running around Ghanzi getting quotes
on my own. I realized that I should've asked someone to come with me
or to split up the work. Stupid silly arrogant me!
It's so hot now that a square centimeter of sun hitting my skin
through a gap in my blinds is making my whole body sweat bullets and
all I want is, strangely, a bowl of ice cold milk and cereal.


Just spent an hour lying on my floor in the middle of some kind of
exercise routine crying for God knows what. I've been busy the past
week and was looking forward to finally being home this weekend only
to find that I didn't know what to do with myself. Yesterday, suddenly
the people, friends, kids, goats, cows, and heat just seemed too much
and I shut myself in to clean, eat too much, watch movies, read, and
moan. I even hung my laundry inside because I didn't want to deal with
the sun, heat, kids, thorns, and hornets in my backyard. To be fair to
myself, I did spend some time with the neighborhood kids yesterday,
and I went to visit a friend briefly.
But by the time nightfall came, I got so restless I nearly screamed.

Couldn't sleep much last night because of the heat. I got up in the
wee hours of the morning to take a cold shower before crawling back
into bed, and then woke up hours later because it was too cold.
Finally around 6 or so a roaring cow and a family of goats came into
my yard, thanks to the children who don't close my gate properly, and
I was fully awake, over-whelmed stomach bloated and painful from
yesterday's antics. I looked in the mirror for a moment too long and
felt my self esteem swirl downwards too quickly. Short, fat, bloated,
bald, lazy…I managed to get through 15 minutes of some kind of
exercise routine before I broke down.
Peace Corps is a glamorous job, and nowadays most of the time I feel
pretty fortunate, but this morning I felt service pains rear its ugly
head. The self-esteem roller coasters, the health risks, the
loneliness, the ever-present wondering, "What if I never came…?"


It seems that all of these entries this time around are rather
depressing. I'm sorry guys for the somber tone of my blogging these
days. I can't explain why. I'm not miserable, but of course I still
have my moments. So here are some positive things! It amazes me how
much flexibility and power I have to do things here. Things I never
thought I could or would or would even want to do. Like guide full
grown adults in the way of project design and budgeting. Call
government officials out of the blue to request funding for projects I
haven't thought through yet. Run a youth camp for orphans and
vulnerable children. Teach people how to make pizza. Make popcorn on
the stove using nothing but a broken old pot. Make my own bread so
often that I know recipes by heart. Ride in the back of pick-up trucks
with 8 other people on a dirt road in the rain for 2 hours. Wake up to
the sound of horny donkeys and mooing cows every morning, be around
goats so much that I've memorized the way their asses look when they
take a shit on my lawn. Plan and host a going away party for my
counterpart/coworker in my own driveway. Watch an entire cow go from
alive to dead to meat to carcass in the course of 6 hours…

Maybe this means that I'm starting to take all these cool things for
granted. Yesterday, I took a walk around a familiar part of the
village and was greeted by the same kids I usually am greeted by. They
took my hands and told me, "mpha cap mpha shoes mpha madi mpha dijo
mpha drinki" give me cap give me shoes give me money give me food give
me drink. They said "take me to your house and feed me" they pulled me
this way and that way. They smelled my arms. They played with my keys.
They said "Give me your keys." They tried to make me stop when I
wanted to go, to make me go when I wanted to stop. To make me take
them home with me. As usual, I overshot my house and went to visit
someone else so they would leave me alone. Said Hi to a few friends I
missed during church, came home and took a deep breath. Every
interaction with kids here ends the same way, "mpha mpha mpha." I get
annoyed, sure, but now I'm starting to realize something important—I
don't know any other words that they are saying, so it could very be
possible that the reason I think they are brats is just because "mpha"
is the only word I can understand. I wish I knew Setswana.


Don't know why, but my self-esteem has severely plummeted this past
week. I also feel the coming-ons of a very bad cold. I've been trying
to sleep both ailments off, but can't seem to lose consciousness,
leading to making both ailments worse. I woke up last night (often)
but once especially at 3:30 AM to the sounds of two young girls
singing Beyonce's "Halo" at the top of their lungs. So far in the past
4 months, I've lost 2 tupperware, a bucket, a fork, and an umbrella by
lending them to people and forgetting to ask for them back. I've
received, however, a rubber rake and a traditional broom. Don't know
why I chose to fixate on that just now.

It's 9:45 AM and I just returned from another OVC support group board
meeting in which only 3 people showed up, again. I am currently
missing a planning meeting for the Youth Alcohol Awareness workshop,
and I just got freaked out cause I'm told that the timing of the OVC
youth workshop is such that no one will be here due to the
holiday—even though I was assured previously by the same person that
people will be here. So who knows! I decided just now that I'm the
only one putting myself under this enormous pressure, so, self, back
off! take a hike! and go do something to take your mind off of things
(what I wouldn't give for a go-cart track in New Xade right now, or
some decent cheap communication tools). Lying in bed feeling like
every part of my body is about to succumb to some feverish infection
is probably not the best way to relax. Unfortunately, eating is also
not a good way to relax. Thus I'm left with more movies or more books
or more music. God, I'm getting so tired of movies, books, and music.
Just like I'm getting tired of eating the same things every day. I
think I'll eat anyway. Because I can. This is why I'm fat. This is why
I'm fat. This is why I, this is why I, this is why I'm fat!

P.S. if anyone is trying to send text messages to my new phone, they
aren't going through :(

It's a cold hard world, I realized, as I walked past a recently deaded
donkey carcass whos insides were set upon by the village folk leaving
only exposed ribs, a lolling head, and a horrid smell.

It's a bad bad day. Terrific to complement my bad bad week. I have no
apologies this time for feeling and acting like a crummy person.

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