Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Perfect Peace Corps Day

Today I had what I would consider to be the ultimate day as a volunteer. I thought I would share what that looks like. I want my friends and family at home to know that things are well. I want people thinking of joining Peace Corps to know what it actually looks like when you have a "productive" day. I want my Peace Corps friends to not mock me for my Pollyanna post. Mostly, however, I want to document the good times, because even though most days are good days, you end up with very few of them being what you hoped for.

My perfect day started at 7:40 when my cell phone alarm went off. Note that my morning gets to start a little later. I don't have to teach until 9, so I like to sleep in a little. One of the very nice things about being a volunteer is setting your own schedule.

At school, I had a typical morning in my math class. However, I did notice how my positive reinforcement plan has really taken off and has gotten my students to be good citizens. Rock on.

During my break between classes one of the teachers came to me with questions about 2-D and 3-D objects and I went over a few things and gave him copies of worksheets I had made for a similar lesson. I helped. Success.

Then, my Life Orientation class (a mixture of health and life skills) and I were talking about rights and in a single one hour period we debated the importance of freedom of religion, shared opinions about whether corporal punishment worked and if it is right, and then discussed human trafficking. I mean, c'mon. That's amazing. I felt inspired.

Next, I went to talk to the HOD (head of department-a vice principal of sorts) about a letter she wanted help on her English with and we ended up having a great conversation about how much we appreciate each other and how excited we were for all of our upcoming projects. I left school on cloud nine.

Speaking of clouds, there wasn't a single one in the sky on my walk home. This made me think I should do my laundry now instead of tomorrow because you never know when it's going to rain. It's finally gotten a lot cooler out which is wonderful, but it's been cloudier, which makes line drying your clothes much more difficult. Did my laundry rockin' out on my i-Pod. My host mother gave me some tips for stain removal. She's the best.

After laundry, I got started on a special dinner I was making for my nearest volunteer neighbor (about 7-8 km away) who was coming for his weekly visit. He had made a request for green bean casserole and even though I could only find packaged cream of mushroom soup and no fried onions, I was going to give it my best. I ended up frying my own onions which was actually kind of fun and really tasty. It came out decent. Not my best work, but a good first attempt. He seemed quite pleased and we had a good visit.

When it was time for him to walk back I went with him a part of the ways to get a little exercise, and on my way back I had two excellent chats. One with a guy who works at the clinic and we discussed me possibly getting in there and helping. The other was a student of mine who it was just fun to talk to casually and see her at home.

At home, I had a great phone chat with my hubby, worked on my grant re-write, and then wrote this blog which I had been meaning to do for months. So yeah, it was an awesome, gettin' lots of stuff done kind of day.

I'm not saying it was all grand. I dropped my cheap cell phone into the laundry bucket and it has yet to come back to life. The funny thing is, I didn't even get upset. In a way, that makes it more the perfect Peace Corps day. Because if I've gotten anything out of this experience, it's the ability to take all life's little problems as they come and not get too stressed or wrapped up. And aren't those just the kind of lessons we join Peace Corps for? That's right. Today I won at Peace Corps.

For the friends and family (a little 2 month recap):
-Went to a Peace Corps training, did the half-marathon (thanks for the donations!), did something called kloofing which is like hiking a river, went on a hiking vacation (never again), went to a girl's camp and tried to help out, went to a different training that focused on starting camps in South Africa, and finally made it back to my village.
-Andy went back to America. He got an awesome job. Ask him about it.
-I'm sticking around here because I have stuff to do unlike what I would have in San Fran. Things are going really well for me solo. It's giving me a whole new perspective on Peace Corps and I'm really digging the time I have to think and be quiet for a change.
-I'll be headed to the States in June for a little visit. If you're going to be in the San Fran or Kansas City area come see me!
-Current projects: finishing my last quarter of teaching, a library, an HIV/AIDS camp, a girl's empowerment camp, and a women's health/family planning seminar. Also, I'm perfecting homemade salsa.


PS-Please write me emails and letters. They make me feel loved.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Longtom Marathon

Or: We Are Exercising, So Please Give These Kids Money

Lauren and I will be participating in the Longtom half-marathon next month. The proceeds will go to the KLM Foundation, which is an organization that gives hard-working, underprivileged students the opportunity for a college education that they would otherwise not be given.

It's up to each runner to raise at least $100. If you have $5, and you'd like to help us out, we'd really appreciate your support. And if that's not enough emotional manipulation for you, I encourage you to think of the children; please won't someone think of the children!?

If you'd like to make a donation, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the KLM foundation website:
  2. Click on "Donate" in the upper right corner.
  3. Fill out the form. Please remember to put either my first and last name or Lauren's first and last name in the "Longtom Marathon" field.

We've been training for a few months now, and we're really excited to give this half marathon a shot. If you can help us make a difference -- even if the help is solely in the form of moral support -- we promise to repay you by having a great time.

Thanks. Much love.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I have inconveniently long femurs and other things I've learned from Peace Corps

The obvious first thing I've learned is that I'm not a blogger by nature. I've just been so busy having my life-changing experiences, you know?

Things I learned in November:
  • Transitions are hard. Okay, maybe this is more like a re-learn, but it always feels like the first time.
  • Having a bigger room can make you hate your husband less. We moved into our new bigger, nicer, permanent rooms which was a life-saver. Now if only the Department of Education would deliver our furniture...
  • Church is fun and you can sing whenever you want to.
  • Contact is actually a good movie even though it has Matthew McConaughey in it. It holds up after a decade.
  • Weddings are so much less about the people getting married and way more about communal memories. Also, they're sweet and fun no matter where you are.
  • In the same vein, Holidays are such a huge part of culture. I never realized how much until they were coming at me quick and all I wanted to do was watch the holiday episodes of shows and think about how ridiculous it was to have Christmas in summer. Luckily, Thanksgiving was unbelievable and we were treated to this wonderful meal by a local B&B lady who googled Thanksgiving recipes and even made green bean casserole! All arranged by Jonelle, one of my favorite people on this planet who said the most touching grace. She reminded me once again to be thankful for the opportunity I have to be here, the amazing friends who support me, and my family-both for supporting me and for raising me to be socially conscious and to fight the good fight.
  • Being 26 rocks, especially when you can turn a birthday into a birthweekend.
  • Naming a band is hard, but turning life into an album cover shoot is easy. Also, all you have to do to win a Garage Band competition is write a ballad with a round.
Things I learned in December:
  • Kindergarten graduations are internationally adorable.
  • I have a much higher boredom tolerance than most and can entertain myself within 10 by 12 room for longer than one would expect, but even I have my limits...
  • It gets REALLY hot in Africa, but you do find a way to make it through. Even if that way is just lying around in front of a fan wetting yourself down with a wash cloth every hour or so and sucking on giant, fancy Mr. Freezes simply called "ice juices".
  • There's a bug in the Genesis emulator Jeopardy that automatically gives the boys an advantage. Not cool. However, if you're with the right people, even village life can make for a really good time. Thanks K & T.
  • I have inconveniently large femurs that interfere with my comfort in taxis and buses. I need extra leg room.
  • Everyone should take three week vacations. In fact, many Europeans have already discovered this and I met them and they're really cool. They also taught me Americans have nasally voices. I didn't realize.
  • Surfing is really fun and quite the workout!
  • Twilight is the universal language for girls. I read all four books in 3 weeks, saw New Moon twice, and talked about all this with a girl from the U.K., an American missionary, a South African, an awesome volunteer from Peace Corps Lesotho, and the Edward to my Bella, Kim. We are unconditionally and irrevocably in love...
  • You can fit a lot of stuff in a backpacker's backpack and they are so much more convenient than luggage.
  • I don't really like talking about Peace Corps. A Brit that I met in Durban helped me come up with the best deflection, "I do work like you do work. It's long winded. It's boring." I have a feeling it will be like that when I come back to the states which I know will be frustrating for me and for the people that have to deal with me. But seriously, it's just a thing I did. It's long winded. It's boring.
  • You make the party, even if it's New Years at what could only be described as a family reunion at the VFW.
  • Though I am enthusiastic to get into a fistfight, I am not able to hold my footing.
Things I've learned so far in January
  • The South African bus system isn't-how should I put this-customer friendly.
  • Though I never would have guessed, I have a high threshold for B.S. Translation: I'm not nearly the brat I thought I was. Suck it, mom and dad!! Okay, maybe I'm still kind of a brat.
  • Vacation end blues are much bluer when life takes you back to the village, but once you get back, it's not so bad.
  • Teaching 10.5 hours a week is a lot better than full time. Plenty of time to plan and work on other projects. I'd say it's the perfect balance of stuff to do and free time.
The Serious Lessons:
  • I've entered a new phase of homesickness. I don't quite feel like I belong here yet, though I feel further down that path than ever. However, I also don't feel like I'm ready to go back to the US either. I've reached no man's land. Or no land for this woman.
  • Doing what you've always dreamed of is such a rush. It also calms the soul like nothing else I've found. I highly recommend it.
  • This experience really does change you, or maybe change is the wrong word. This experience makes you a mega version of who you were before you left. To quote a message I sent to a friend, "I have confidence now that I could have never imagined, strength coming from out of nowhere, more patience than I could have hoped for, and perspective. Oh man. Perspective."
Happy 2010! I can only imagine the lessons to come this year, not to mention this decade. Crazy to think that no matter where I am 10 years from now, in 2010, I was in Africa. You can't beat that.