Thursday, June 24, 2010

6/15: So I am clearly a walking example of not being able to stop working even if every red flag and blaring light is flashing in my face. In my defense, I had helped plan the awareness campaign on human trafficking today and was slated to present so I couldn't just skip out though I probably didn't need to be the first one there and the last to leave... Well that aside, my positive moment would definitely be teaching over a hundred kids about one of South Africa's dirty little secrets and being able to word it in a way they understood and which was age appropriate. I also played all sorts of outdoor games with orphans as part of my organization's plan to get them off the streets during the World Cup break from school. When my go go remembered that it was my birthday tomorrow she apologized for not having the money for a gift or even a cake but the light bulb went on when she thought of something she could give me that didn't cost a thing. Before I knew it I was sitting for four hours while I got my hair braided like 'a real Zulu'. She wanted it to be perfect so she would finish then take it all out so that not a hair would be out of place.

6/16: My go go woke up at 3:00am to make me this fried dough that neither her nor Zindle like but she knew that I loved for an extra special birthday breakfast. Today is a national holiday in South Africa to honor the riots in Soweto over forced learning in Afrikaans so I was able to relax at home which was a gift in and of itself. I also got a flood of well wishes in every form which just really filled my cup up especially after feeling a bit beat down the last few days. This love fest culminated in a KFC date with one of my favorite Peace Corps Volunteers. For the record, I had never experienced that gourmet dining establishment before coming here and now as the only 'restaurant' for miles in any direction it has become quite the delicasy reserved for the most special of occassions. But my positive moment had to be my dad calling to say that him, my sisters and my aunt are coming to visit for Christmas, best birthday present ever!

6/17: Today I helped evaluate the awareness campaign that happened on Tuesday and planned for another one on Thursday. So it dawned on me today how much time I spend organizing and facilitating awareness campaigns and already how redundant they've become. With this epiphany, I went to ask the handful of people I know with strong English skills why, if the young people here know that condoms will almost certainly prevent both HIV infection and pregnancy, why then do they fail to use them? A social worker that I worked on the previous campaign with, Musa, said that so many of the young girls want the latest hairstyle or the cute clothes or frankly food on the table and a lot of them can't get that at home. So they date older guys in the village. But if a guy's giving you a place to sleep and food on the table (in exchange for sex) you lose the power to demand condom use. Women's empowerment is a bit more messy than a few condom demonstrations. Moving on, ever so eloquently, to my positive moment. So I picked Zindle up from the neighbor's and as I had her in my arms she threw up everywhere. To her credit, she tried her best to dodge the malungu (white person). Since she has basically moved in and my go go was MIA I tucked her in my bed and she was out like a light. Little did I know, my go go saw the whole episode unfold and went to the witch doctor for some muthi. This she quickly ground using rock on rock, then put it in boiling water, gave it to Zindle, a toddler, who knew exactly what to do: drink it and purge it. Fascinating.

6/18: Today I had a series of little frustrating events that all disappeared with some chocolate cake and peanut m&ms but put me in a pretty foul mood all morning. After my chocolate reprieve, my afternoon made quite a come back when I listened to the USA vs. Slovenia game on my short wave radio in my hut fist pumping and circling in Mia Hamm-esque celebration (minus the shirt ripping, my hut is currently an ice box) when the US would score. I'm also crossing my fingers (which I enjoy teaching anyone who will listen) for the US vs. Algeria game. Consider me a shameless band wagon soccer fan.

6/19: So today I immersed myself in the South African Indian culture which I hadn't been exposed to before. It was a blast. We went to a Bollywood-esque talent show, I had a hot shower, ate at a real restaurant with menus!, drank an absurd amount of Coke and befriended a woman dressed in a traditional sari who dropped more f-bombs than anyone I've ever met. I was so stunned, in fact, that I noticed my mouth had been gaping for some time. She seemed to notice it too and said, "What? I like it raw."

6/20: So even though I wasn't exactly in the Western world, it has still been difficult jumping from one world to the next. I'm honestly so thankful that I can't go to and from 'America' in minutes like some of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. In fact, I told a Yale University researcher the closest town to where I live, the other day, and he said, "Wow, you really live in the middle of nowhere." I then clarified that I'm actually an hour away from that town. He said, "You're an hour away from the middle of nowhere?!" And that's exactly how I like it.

6/21: I continue to relentlessly and against all better judgment burn the candle at both ends which of course doesn't allow me any time to catch up. Worse is that I continue to run on fumes so things like waiting five hours outside in the middle of winter with the flu and a fever for a bus ticket I could have walked up to the counter and paid for in under five minutes (as evidenced today) is even more exhausting. And my bugs are back. Though the funny thing is that they eat my ceiling (straw) and fall once they're, I don't know...full I guess. Anyway, now that it's so cold, they fall and they're DOA. Dead on Arrival. It's hilarious. It's like a bug armageddon. In my hut. I'm cracking up just thinking about it.

6/22: So today was part two of an awareness campaign that I helped organize and facilitate. This event was held at the building where caregivers of orphans apply for their foster care grant. The social worker, Musa, has taken Bantu Time to a new level and the campaign was four hours late. The HIV/AIDS presenter spent her session discussing the likelihood of transmission when you scratch someone during sex and how your scratch and the person you scratched would invariably come in contact with each other and transmission would occur. I voiced my concern to several people over the probability of infection in that example and they all seemed quite convinced of the prevalence of his and her scratches causing transmission. After a bit of a frustrating day of carrying someone else's poorly planned campaign then watching that person hide in his office during the event and sneak out early my positive moment would be when Tshengie said this all-too-true statement "If I wasn't hardworking lady, Zamimpilo would fall over."

6/23: So I have a pretty mean cold which I undoubtedly got from having no heat in the middle of winter. This has caused me to completely abolish my self-induced 3 cups of tea limit. If that wasn't a positive moment in and of itself, the limitless tea part not the cold part, then this next discovery sure is. I feel like I'm starting to get a better grasp on the needs of my community. There's definitely a method to Peace Corps's madness. There's a reason why they insist that you observe and integrate into your community for your first three months at site before pursuing or implementing any projects. I feel confident now that I'm moving in the right direction. That direction as it stands now is focusing on extensive training for the home based carers, planning a girls empowerment sleep away camp and subsequent girls club and intensive case findings for HIV and TB infection. Test early and often!

6/24: I just woke up and had a full on Newsies moment. As soon as I realized that I no longer had snot pounding out of my temples I reinacted, complete with impromptu newspapers, the Seize the Day scene. Open the gates and seize the day! Yes! I'm back to loving life.


  1. You got your hair braided! Pictures, please!

    Also, my friend who was in the peace corps in Ecuador worked a lot in anti-human trafficking, so if you need any advice, I can put you in contact with her.

    I also like that this is the first time you've ever gone to KFC ;)

    Keep up the great work!!!

  2. Oh I love Newsies - that image just brought a huge smile to my face :)