Sunday, September 18, 2011

From my facebook

ME: someone just came to my door and started laughing, "were you sleeping?!" he asked between guffaws. Is that his way of saying that I look like shit?

SOMEONEHERE: yah.its a polite Tswana way of saying u r looking awful

2 nights ago, I stayed up till 11:30 PM working on my grad school resumes (11:30 is super late, relative to my normal 8PM bedtime). Prior to 7AM the next morning, I was awoken by our weekly "driver convention" next door. Blasting music, 10 or so guys, lots of trucks. Couldn't get back to sleep so I reluctantly got up and went about my day. Couldn't focus on anything, couldn't finish any task I started. Sat around, lay down, worked out, read, sat around, sat some more, felt miserable. After my daily work out (which was punctuated with lots of pauses, heaving, pacing, and brow-wiping) my body ached all over and I decided the day was doomed. Housework would have to wait.

I went to bed (after watching Die Hard I, Die Hard II is scheduled to run in the Sunny Theater tonight) at the healthy hour of 8PM last night and woke up at 8AM reluctantly refreshed. Half an hour later, I got a knock at my door from a friend come to charge his phone at the Sunny Cell-Phone Charging Stand, and the above facebook situation happened.

So, I look a little haggard lately. I guess that's what comes from being drained. It's amazing how little I can do here compared the bustling crazy person I was back at home, every moment of every day scheduled to the max. I've been told lately to enjoy the next 8 months, do everything I want to do and not look back and say I wasted my time. But it's hard. I'm limited. Physically, emotionally, opportunistically. My village isn't exactly "the village."

A friend lent me the book "The Boy who Harnessed the Wind" and I finished it in a few days. It was a good, uplifting read. For those of you who haven't heard of it, the book is written by a boy from a small farming village in Malawi who survived a famine, had to drop out of school, and built a windmill out of junkyard scraps. People thought he was crazy, but out of sheer will power and creativity and a knack for engineering, the boy finished the windmill, generated a lot of press, and got sponsorship to go to school (he was 2007 TED fellow).

It's amazing how one child in a tiny resource-less village could do something so amazing. It gives me hope and makes me want to go out there a build a windmill. Or at least help some young genius boy to build a windmill. His story could never have happened without a lot of help from his friends and later, strangers who heard his story. Life is funny isn't it?

Sorry this isn't one of my more poignant entries. I'm mostly rambling. I've lately been questioning my role and my impact here. William Kamkwamba's story and the story of most of the youth here has made me realize that people can not "be made," they can only be given lucky breaks to become the people they were meant to become. Maybe that's what we Peace Corps volunteers (and not just PCV's but anyone in the right place at the right time) is meant to do, help someone else get to the next step in their life journey.

Case and Point: "Leon" is a pastor from Zimbabwe who, when he wad a child, was asked by a local PCV to water his garden while he was on vacation. Though the whole community laughed at the PCV, saying the boy was too young, Leon relished the responsibility and grew up to be a pastor and humanitarian, working to help relieve poverty among the San living in squatter camps by giving them jobs, relocating them to better plots in proper settlements, handing out food and plastic sheets to those who live in shacks made of grocery bags.

Case #2: My friend Dr. Chawarwa is a native-Zimbabwe scholar and teacher for D'kar, a nearby settlement. He fills various capacities, so it is hard to give him an actual title. On a long 8-hour car trip to Gaborone one day, he told me the story of how he got his big break, or rather, many many small breaks. He was originally enrolled in a University in Southern Africa. One winter, after visiting various offices in search of better opportunities, his nagging paid off, he got a break, a one-way ticket to America. Unfortunately, without a round-trip ticket, he wasn't eligible for a U.S. visa. So a friend in England turned his one-way into a roundtrip to London, where someone else traded it in for a roundtrip to America. He then forged an invitation letter from a Peace Corps volunteer who was his teacher when he was younger, got a visa, and showed up on the front steps of his PCV friend who had no idea that he was coming. The PCV was teaching (or enrolled in?) a university somewhere in the midwest, where Dr. Chawarwa (then a young teenage Mister Chawarwa) got a partial scholarship to study. Mr. Chawarwa got his degree while working full time as a dish-waster. Eventually, Mr. Chawarwa got a scholarship from a local church to pursue his doctorate, and now he is Dr. Chawarwa with a lovely wife and 2 beautiful daughters making a huge impact in the D'kar area.

After telling me his story, Dr. Chawarwa went on to impart some wisdom. "Some people are put into your life just to help you get on to the next step. When that step is done, you may never see them again, but it is okay to let them go."

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