September has been a whirlwind so far, so this is gonna be a rough hack update rather than something nice to read. Oh well.
First I went to “posting”: helping the 12 new health and education volunteers in my province get oriented to the province and do all their shopping before moving into their new homes.
Bounced straight from that to GLOW camp. Girls Leading Our World is a female empowerment curriculum set up through Peace Corps that takes the form of a school club for girls grade 6 and up that can have sessions including stuff like sexual health, reusable padmaking, healthy relationships, budgeting, nutrition, etc… Peace corps volunteers organize camps at the provincial level where each volunteer typically brings two student campers and a community member counterpart from their village to a central location. During the week volunteers run the sessions in the program and get everybody geared up to go start their GLOW clubs back in their village. As well as you know all the warm fuzzy bonding stuff. Our camp was at a boarding school in Livingstone, so for a lot of people there it was the first time they’d been out of a rural setting. We did a field trip to Victoria and a supermarket and for a lot of people it was the first time seeing either of those awesome wonders of the world.
The camp could have run smoother. Some of it was stuff that was no one’s fault — some PCVs got pretty sick which was rough. Then again, things turned out ok but there was some serious ball dropping in terms of PCVs/the camp not having adequate medical supplies on hand. And then there’s also some stuff about the way we approached our relationships to the campers and counterpart that bothered me.
The first night we ended up with a situation where at lights-out campers were locked in a room from the inside and being completely silent/unresponsive to volunteers Hammering on the doors and windows trying to get them to open it. Things escalated pretty fast and people were getting pretty sure this was one type of emergency or another. Then for just a second I thought back to being a 12 year old girl. I thought of being away from home, my family, in a weird bed and imagned having a bunch of strangers from a different country banging on my door. I wouldn’t open it either. In all the din and freaking out I said simply “Maybe they’re just scared?” I asked our awesome translator to tell them: ‘You’re not in trouble. We were telling because we are worried about you and we just want to see you to talk to you to make sure everything is ok.’
Sometimes empathy literally opens doors.
The week involved a surprising number of high pressure situations in the middle of the night and by the end of it I was completely exhausted. One way or another one of my backpacks got lost on the bus that went from camp back to the prov house. There wasn’t any of the “important” stuff like passports and wallets and whatnot. Just the Important stuff like my coffee/coffee making system, all my medical supplies, and my notebook/journal from my first 4 months in the village. It’s a bummer but I’m pretty good at not being attached to stuff.
The lost backpack meant I had less stuff to carry out to Eastern Province for a three day beekeeping training. It was pretty awesome. Bees are amazing and it’s crazy that people have got all this figured out. And honey is so delicious. And beeswax is incredible. And after busting my butt to try to make this happen and then halfway giving up, I ended up with a female counterpart who made it, a bit late, but made it. Her presence brought female counterpart representation to 5/20. The last training we had maybe 4 women out of about 35.
Some of you may know me for shenanigans such as flying across the US with a carryon full of raw potatoes or traveling the streets of New York with a bottle of ginger vinegar I made in my basement and pouring shots for strangers. I’ll have you know that my packing priorities are still very much en pointe. At this very moment I’m sitting on a bus in Zambia, my backpack almost bursting from holding in close to 15 pounds of deep yellow wax. Honey bees, come find me.
Otherwise so far September has brought some funkitude. Recently I’ve been through a string of disappointments based around the communication of fellow volunteers. A surprising number of PCVs don’t vote in elections. A volunteer in my intake and province is medically separating next week. Meanwhile the US is apparently both on fire and underwater.
Personally, it feels pretty touch and go figuring out what it means to be an optimistic nihilist in 2017. I’ll say this: for all the messiness of Glow camp, it was pretty amazing to be there with those young women and get to know them over the course of the week. I also got to know a few volunteers better who are incredible and inspire me to no end. I got to work with and observe one of them running a special set of sessions for “junior counselors” who came to glow last year and were getting sort of more advanced leadership training. One of the things he did was give them riddles and fables at the end of sessions for them to puzzle through until the next day. They loved it. I’m grateful to all of the people who made me feel like putting words together like so:
Riddle Me This
What comes twice a moment?
Maybe it’s a chance
Or, rather two –I guess
At least sometimes there are seconds
Not always, but sometimes
So don’t be afraid to just ask
Chances to make someone feel
seen and supported,
heard and held,
known and named
Chances to tell the tough truths we all
Learn hard ways some days anyway
Never say never:
The journey of a thousand years begins with a single step
So think of who might follow yours
And take just one more if you can
I’ve heard walking
Is really just the process of falling
And catching yourself
And over again
So catch yourself another time
And make a path so that some day
No one will get
And when we tire of being told
To Tame our tongues,
When our politeness is a prison
I’ll tuck her in but tell her
To keep speaking before
Sleeping in the sky
Where prisms scatter shatter —
When morale is low
Look up and find
Fogginess births colors above earth
Overarching looooong and weary
But wait a minute, this is an activity!
We need all hands on deck
To bend things towards the right direction
So who can volunteer?
Hands up! I love to see them in the air
Each beautiful, unique
I don’t believe in reading fortunes
Only writing and revising them
But when you feel empty handed
Remember that we can find
meaning in creases,
In just a few lines
on paper and faces
If we choose to look for it
Or even on hands
The future and each other
So we’ll say life is riddlous
What comes every moment?
If you still don’t know
take a guess
If you get a chance
If you think you’re lost
Take a step
And if you feel stuck
Take my hand,
We’ll get there