Saturday, December 24, 2011

This Christmas, I am going to do something a little different than usual (not that being in Africa is all that "same" as usual). This Christmas, in light of some of the tragedies occurring around me, including and especially the death of 2 young peace corps volunteers in neighboring Mozambique, I want to remember the blessings of my (now) 25 years of life...

So here's a Christmas toast to... being alive and safe... the prolonged celebration of my 25th birthday... being with new friends that ease the ache of the unknown and make you look forward to the next day... having old friends and good family that somehow know when to call or what to send... receiving phone calls from local friends updating me on the happenings of their lives... angry elephants on the side of the road and the men who are brave enough to step out of their trucks to scare them off... standing among a wilddog pack as it rips apart the remnants of an eland's insides and knowing that 5 brawny alpha-men are watching my back... a hand-raised meercat that took a cat nap in my lap... massive dogs who think that they are lap dogs and try to crawl into your lap... lions that start to pounce on you just to hear you scream...

...trips with crazy companions into strange countries... discovering that in Botswana there is, indeed, fine wine and good food and interesting company, especially when you least expect it... toasts with glasses of ten dollar bubbly in pink plastic cups... making thai green curry with pork found (with a yelp and a cheer) in the supermarket... watching iron chef duck challenge... my parents who helped me to appreciate Elvis Presley, Brahms, and Schumann before I discovered the likes NSync, Smashing Pumpkins, and Bon Jovi... Charles Schultz' Christmas Special... the hope of a storm on Christmas Day to cool off the ground as rain hits the pavement with a sizzle and a steam... Christmas music stashed on my computer as a last minute thought from friends and family... Christmas cookies... and of course, an infinite God who became finite and still watches over us even though we've distilled his life to weekly spectacles in a misguided steeples, silver bells, and silent nights

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ga go na "nna" mo "teame"

Dec 7, 2011, a camp with youth. Teaching them to work together-- actually, learning that the lesson will have to be more basic than that: work. Complaints that the activity is too hard, that the challenges were set up incorrectly, that we are not telling them how to succeed. The work is too dirty, we haven't been provided with tea, we're too tired, and my personal favorite, I haven't dressed correctly for this exercise, you didn't tell me to. Lesson #2: life is hard-- obstacles to what they want to achieve will be much larger than a gum pole, much heavier than a rock, much more difficult to maneuver through than a couple of ropes and a tire swing. To succeed, they will have to get dirtier, make more sacrifices, fail more often, and stop pointing fingers at those too meek to defend themselves. Day 2, 11 AM: Question posed. Change your attitude and keep going, or end this now? Commit, or walk away? I want to tell them, this is their choice. Don't do this to please me. This is not my mandate, not my community, not my life. Whether they succeed or fail has no consequence on me. This is not my fight. But instead, I keep my mouth shut as the facilitator brings each team member down notch by notch. Exposing their egos until they are forced to themselves as they are. Forced to decide: do I change, or do I go? Day 3, 6PM. A truck appears at the campsite with 3 young boys blasting music with wide grins. Thinking they can come crash our party for some free food and a tent to sleep in. I watch as the team's egos abruptly return, eager to please the young visitors. I send them home. The next day, I get a rude visit from the young driver I sent home and some youth, my youth. He's angry because I refused to pay for his little visit yesterday, that I told his boss about his rude behavior. I am given a verbal slashing, each of my questions met with more excuses, excuses so large I can feel the weight of them clamping my brain shut. Without the security and isolation of a remote camping ground, I can find no confidence to fight back. I lose face in front of the youth, my youth. I gesture with my arms. They point fingers at me, at the boss, at the facilitator. Finally I've had enough, take it up with your boss, this has nothing to do with me. Just get the hell out of here. As the truck drives away, I turn and punch the air with my fists. This is not my fight.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

10 Babies

I only have a brief few minutes to pen this cause i'm trying to conserve battery life for those inevitable idle hours when the sun is about set and the only thing I want to do is zone out with the Duffy family...

This week, New Xade received a lot of new residents, folks who used to be squatters in Ghanzi. The government is relocating them back to the settlements. My youth friend says this is going to have a lot of unintended negative consequences as most of the relocatees are elderly, poor, or orphans (also known to my horror as the Ghanzi streetkids). The New Xade kids are curious enough, but these kids have been a particular cause of stress in my life. The Ghanzi streetkids are the gangs of tiny people who roam the streets of Ghanzi diggin through garbage cans, climbing into white people's trucks, and touching me in inappropriate places if I don't give them food or money. Now they are here. In my village. In my home. They have already broke into the boarding master's house (in daylight in front of the guards?) and ransacked his place. My tent (which was being stored there) was taken out of its bag and kids attempted to set it up. The tent's bag and the rain guard are still missing, but luckily, it's still usable. So i don't really care. I just feel bad for the boarding master. He received notice of transfer a couple of weeks ago, so I wouldn't be surprised if he just decided "Good riddance..."  and hightailed it out of here with the traditional ceremonious drunken party. I got to meet one of the new relocated families today at the clinic. A really sweet wrinkled looking middle aged couple who smiled at me through the nurse's english introduction and laughed nervously when I acknowledged them. Skinny as twigs, with a newborn baby. Baby was born on 10/31/2011 but looked like he was only a week old. Baby is baby #10 and, to the nurse's chagrin, all 9 siblings are still alive and kicking. Which means, they need assistance. Furthermore, mother's milk producing abilities is severely limited, meaning that the baby needs formula, and asap. The nurse asked me where my counterpart (the social worker) was, so she could get them some help. I shrugged-- "Ghanzi."  I answered. "but I'll call her and tell her to come back..."

In other news, I had 2 simultaneous meetings today. One with the youth, we are going on a team building outing next week. And one with the OVC caretakers who are discussing a community garden. I'm not pushing too hard for any of these projects to come to fruition, but once in a while someone says something that gives me a glimmer of hope and a taste of excitement. Then, I can't help but be dreamy eyed for a moment and wonder at the possibilities...

I just hope no one breaks into my house while I'm gone.