Sunday, January 13, 2008

Catching Up

Finally, after months of struggling, long nights sobbing over my lack of internet access, I have managed to force my cell phone and Mac to work together to make my dreams of email and regular blog updates come true. I am trying not to get too self-satisfied, but just take advantage of the time I have. Who knows what will happen next.

However, it has been an eventful couple of months, and, along with internet access, every other component of my life has changed. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Last time I wrote, I was still processing all the changes that had taken place in my situation and trying to figure out how to make this all work for me. I kept on trying to make the most out of it, to keep my optimism, but one thing after another happened, and I saw myself slipping into a funk, just waiting for something, anything, to get better. But then Lulu decided that enough was enough and got herself another job. The struggle was just too much. This was after finding that the general manager of one of the projects we were working on was a very slick manipulator, the type that would stab you in the back then convince you that you had done it yourself, and that my boss was likely to resign as soon as she got back from leave (this was the end of November, and she took the whole month of December off). I updated Peace Corps on my situation and Kori, my PC boss replied that she could find a better situation for me.

Then comes a breather, a week of training when all of your Peace Corps peers get together and swap stories and commiserate and watching Simpson’s episodes on your laptop and remind you that you’re not crazy. I felt like I was grounded again, gulping down fresh air, surrounded by love and understanding and a bunch of people who were all a little stir-crazy. But lots of people were struggling and it’s a little hard to figure out exactly what’s going on. Is it Peace Corps? Is it us? Is it bad luck? All of the above?

One thing that was also lovely about our training was that I got to speak with Brioni, the Training and Programs Coordinator. Abby and I had worked very hard to writing up suggestions to improve the technical training portion of our pre-service training. It was something we were both passionate about, and came up with a very detailed training schedule and list of recommendations, ready to run the training ourselves if it came to that. Peace Corp was a little less enthusiastic, correctly assessing that it was not our responsibility to train the incoming volunteers, but to get down to the business of being volunteers ourselves. However, Peace Corps is dealing with staff turn-over issues and when we talked to Brioni, she really solicited our help and we ended up spending a day with her after our week of training.

While we were working on this, I got another blow: one of my best friends, Lauren, had to go back to the States. We’ve been together since the beginning, and were planning our New Year’s Eve get-away to Durban, but life interfered and I struggled with another loss. Ironically, after Kori found out about this, she encouraged me to consider moving to Lauren’s site. She said it was fabulous, the organization was excellent, and that it would be better than what I was currently going through.

This was a lot for me to take in. First of all, I was really in no frame of mind to make a huge decision about my life. Also, I don’t like to quit projects until I’m in intolerable pain, and I was considering how much I could learn working with manipulative project managers. After, there is an abundance of them, and if I worked with one for two years, imagine how good I would be dealing with them! I talked to Lauren about it for hours and recognized that they sounded like a great organization, and Kori finally decided for me that I would move. It wasn’t easy going back and telling my boss that Peace Corps decided that I needed a new site. After all, she hadn’t resigned yet, and there was work I was supposed to be doing, but I can’t tell you how happy I was to leave my small, dank, mildew-y room and say good-bye to Bushbuckridge, the town, through no fault of its own, was the site of much sorrow and frustration.

However, there was another complication. I had the best holiday plans ever, spending Christmas with Lulu’s family, then off to Durban with Lauren. Well, Lulu with her new job decided not to go home for Christmas, and Lauren had just left, so I had no plans in mid-December, when things have been booked for months already. My emotions were shot, and South Africa was starting to look like a corrupt, racist sinkhole where nothing good ever happens. I didn’t know how I was going to make it for the next year and a half. But then the good side of SA showed itself. The fun, funky part that is often just out of reach of us volunteers. SA has a Vipassana meditation retreat center that gives 10-day silent retreats. I had read about it in the States, and one morning while I was meditating, and realized “I need a hell of a lot more of this if I want to be happy here.” And whaddya know, they just happened to have a retreat from Dec 27-Jan 7. I called, and they just happened to have a ride from Jo’berg down to Grahamstown that I could connect with. I signed up on the spot, and the results of that retreat will be the next installment of my blog... Stay tuned!