9/1: Today I had my best GLOW club meeting yet. When I was home I heard Beyonce’s latest single, “Run the World (Girls)” and regardless of your affinity for the Top 40 (or lack thereof) I think you’d appreciate her attempt at a girl’s anthem. The girls in my village worship her and for her to say lyrics like, “Who runs the world? Girls,” was incredibly empowering. I played it for them today and one of the girls said, “I always think girls are just good for cooking and cleaning but Beyonce just said that girls can run the world. Maybe they can.” We talked about what the women in our lives taught us about school, careers, our appearance, marriage and children. We then made collages out of old magazines I got in care packages and the girls chose pictures of women and girls they admired and then presented them. Many of the girls wrote, “Girls run the world” in crayon on their papers. It was one of those days where I could just see the pieces of the puzzle clicking together in many of the girls’ heads. Awesome. It was just awesome. It also didn't hurt that I was able to download the latest Beyonce and Rihanna albums while I was at home which we blasted while crafting. : )
9/2: So I’m currently cooped up in my hut because gale force winds have turned my village into a dust bowl. Unfortunately, I learned just how severe the winds were the hard way. So I was attempting to hang dry my wash and not only was I getting whipped by wet clothes (and quickly soaked) but soon enough I would have to chase after the newly dirty item after it got torn from the line…again. There was really no going back for if I let my wet clothes sit in a bucket overnight (or until the wind died down, who knows how long that could take?) they could get moldy. So I trekked ahead. It was pretty humorous actually. Gotta love Africa.
9/5: My family donated backpacks and school supplies to all 22 of the girls I took to Camp GLOW so I had a blast playing Santa this week. I told the girls that these bright pink backpacks were symbols that they were strong, beautiful, intelligent young women, passionate about bringing change to their community. So that when they wear these backpacks not only are they representing all the GLOW girls but they’re telling the world that they’re a leader and a change maker. It could be in my head but I could swear when they walked out of that room with their backpacks on they walked a little taller.
9/8: So I prepared all day for a rockin’ girls club lesson on nutrition that was equal parts fun and stimulating when I went to the storage area that houses our art supplies donated to us by a Dutch youth group. And the cupboards were bare. I was fuming. Not only do I regularly use those supplies for art lessons with the orphans on our feeding scheme but they were a part of the lesson I had planned for right then. Thankfully I had a few packages of crayons that were donated by my family but I wanted to give those packages away as gifs. Sadly, none of my co-workers could look me in the eye or give me a straight answer about yet another incident of theft at our organization. Trust me, I understand that they probably just wanted to give a little joy to their own children who most likely have never had art supplies but there has to be a line somewhere.
I am happy to report that my girls club, as always, was a cure to my frustration. We had a great discussion about the challenges to eating a healthy diet (fruit and vegetables are expensive, they aren’t commonplace in Zulu diets so are deemed strange and there are very limited options in the market or store). We also reviewed the concept of a food pyramid which I was shocked had changed shape since I last checked and the idea of putting good food into your body to give it vitamins and energy not just to feel full.
9/9: I am so excited about this new training I’m planning on doing for out-of-school youth. I hope to give them a three day training on HIV/AIDS so that they could become peer educators in our community. Once trained, they’ll be asked to go on a pre-determined amount of home visits. During the home visit they’ll first give another youth a pre-test. Once completed, the educator will then talk to the youth about AIDS and review any answers that were incorrect. Then the youth will take the post-test. Not only do I feel this is a measurable, tangible way to educate my community about specific points concerning AIDS but I also think it’ll be incredibly empowering for the peer educators who currently sit at home all day but I know many of them see the ravages of AIDS and want to make a change.
I’ve discussed this idea with a fellow PCV who did this training in the past, informed the local municipality (as a formality) and have had several meetings with Tshengie to discuss logistics. Today Tshengie and I introduced the idea to the caregivers who will be asked to bring 1-3 candidates to our informational meeting next week.
I mentioned in passing that refreshments will be served during the training and Tshengie balked. She deferred to the Management Committee which is ironic because a typical meeting ends in a screaming match with no decision ever being made. The one male in the group, Mpostol, decided that the trainees couldn’t eat off the feeding scheme as per usual, but would need to bring lunch boxes. Of course the room was full of women; none of whom dared to challenge him. This, in effect, rendered the training DOA. Sounds dramatic, but trust me, after a year and a half here I know what incentives are necessary to entice people to come to a training and they are: printing an attendance certificate at the end and food. Take one or the other away and you’ll be lucky if three people show.
They said we wouldn’t have enough food for 20 adults when there are 20-25 adults that come for weekly reporting and eat off the feeding scheme twice a week. Every week. I let go a long time ago about trying to help people who don’t want to change but it’s one thing to not do anything to support my work but it’s quite another to sabotage it.
9/10: My host mom called me this morning and asked me to come to the neighbors (my host cousins). When I walked into their compound I realized immediately that there was a ceremony going on and there wasn’t some lazy Saturday morning chit chat or card playing like I’d assumed. Now even though being a slave for a day is exhausting I love ceremonies and would normally be thrilled to stumble upon one but today I was wearing capris and was immediately self-conscious as to how grossly taboo my pants were. I felt that I would have made an even bigger scene if I went home and changed so I decided to play it cool. Well the father of the house later pulled me aside and said, “I know you’re from a different culture but you’re in my culture now and I don’t ever want to see you at a ceremony at my compound in pants again, disrespecting my culture.” I was appropriately shamed. With that incident aside, the ceremony helped remind me why I’m here in the first place after a rough couple of days. I felt a part of the family, I had a place with the young women and connected with the culture even with my fashion faux pas. In short, it was exactly what I needed.