Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Fearless Vacation

Hi everyone, and sorry it’s taken so long to update this thing. I just got back from a two-week vacation with Angela (my step-mom, for those of you not in the know) and in the midst of elephant herds, beautiful deserted beaches and long bus rides, my cell phone got stolen, which means no internet, no email, no blog updates. For those of you keeping track, I AM having lots of pickpocketing “incidents.” Frustrating, yes, but as long as I stay intact, I’m a happy camper. Well, maybe not happy… I mean, it is my cell phone and connection to the outside world after all.

So, I’m back at the Peace Corps office for an exciting meeting (all Peace Corps meetings are exciting!), and first on the list is a cell phone, and warm pants are a close second. It’s fall here, and the evenings are starting to get nippy, and the office and my house are no longer saunas. The sun is still warm; it just means that I have to get outdoors to warm up.

So, my vacation was fabulous. Angela played the adventurer role extremely well as we experienced almost all Southern Africa has to offer (i.e. elephants, giraffes, pick-pocketing, crowded backpackers, mosquitoes, palm trees, turquoise oceans, noisy buses, poverty, luxury, and the occasional cockroach). It also gave me a chance to think about my time here as well, to process why I’m here, and why I choose to stay on a daily basis. It’s such a mixed bag since I have such a wonderful community in the States, and I’m the permanent outsider here. South Africa is no piece of cake, but I love the work I’m doing here. But life is also extremely tough. There is no escaping the crime, the racism, the corruption, and all the legacies of apartheid. The loneliness is like carrying a heavy blanket all the time, and it clouds the beauty that’s all around me.

One thing Angela said to me has given me lots to think about. She called me fearless, and I laughed out loud when she told me that; I’m scared or anxious or neurotic every single day here, but I realized that being fearless doesn’t have to mean I don’t feel fear. It just means that I keep going, keep making tough choices regardless of the fear. That’s the way you learn who you are, what you can and can’t do. I feel stretched to my limits almost every day, and facing my limitations isn’t my cup of tea. I’d much rather feel competent. Here that means looking at the little things: I’m competent at not getting head-butted when I walk through a herd of cows on my way to work, at fixing the printer at my office, at writing grant proposals, drinking tea with my co-workers, and knowing when I need a long nap. There are so many things that can't be changed here, at least right now, and at least not by me, so I look for the things I can do. If all goes well, Makotse Women's Club will be funded to start a job training and business skills program for the orphans they care for. We'll start a organic food garden to bring fresh veggies right to the village, and strengthen the community in a lot of little ways. And that's what I'm helping with; sometimes it doesn't feel enough, but it is.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Whew! Made it...

This will be a quick update since I'm off to pick-up Angela, my step-mom, from the airport. My first international visitor!

But before I go, I just wanted to thank everyone for their support for the half-marathon fund-raiser. We raised over $20,000, enough, we think, to send two children to private school. This is the best fundraising total yet, and I thank you again for your financial and emotional support.

I realized that I'm certainly not an athlete, especially since my exercise has been the occasional yoga and a slow, African saunter to and from work. So, I started last and never looked back! But still, walking 13 miles is no easy feat. My feet got swollen, my toes got bruised from all the incessant walking, and there were many times where I was ready to call it in. However, I guess I have enough pride to keep going in spite of achy feet and general grumpiness.

It was a beautiful walk, though. As soon as I figure out how to upload pictures, I will do so. So, I'll write more on the flip side!

Peace and joy,