The opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and mine alone. They do not represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Honest Truth About Challenges

On this blog, I think I have always tried to talk about the positives of my life here, even when talking about the challenges. I have written about cultural differences that can be turned into teachable moments. I have mentioned missing great events at home, like births and weddings. I said that service is difficult, but mostly for reasons related to my own personal journey--not mostly due to problems with integration or language learning. And people talk about how hard it must be to leave family, friends, and the life we know for two years. I think that is one of the main reasons why Americans respect those who have completed (or even attempted) Peace Corps service. But I have always said that I love Shoshong, I love my work and I am happy to be away from the United States. But sometimes that is just not true.

In reality, sometimes life is just hard. That is obviously true when you are living in America as well. Problems with your personal life and problems at your workplace are normal regardless of where you are living. Daily struggles are a part of the human condition. But there are times when there are challenges in one's personal life, one's family and one's work. I am lucky enough to be having one of those weeks.

Issues with life and work just take some time. As we are eager to become members in our new community, we don't necessarily know who to trust. And sometimes that means that we agree to help people who have bad reputations within the community. Navigating those situations is really difficult. Do we assist someone even if being seen with that person reflects poorly on ourselves? Sometimes we get caught up in village drama simply because we are spectacles; we stand out. And people want things to talk about. But all of these issues within our villages will hopefully pass with time.

The honest truth is that there is one challenge that makes you feel utterly helpless--serious medical issues with loved ones back home. There isn't any way to sugar coat this one. This shit is just hard. It makes us want to jump on the next fight home, even if there is plenty of hope and not all is lost. But sometimes you can't go home. And I suppose this is part of the sacrifice when you join Peace Corps--knowing that you may miss someone's last moments. But unlike most other challenges, this one never gets any easier.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pictures in London

This is an addition to the blog before it. So if you haven't read the earlier post today, scroll down first!

The Shakespeare Globe Theatre, where we saw Much Ado About Nothing

Me posing in Camden Town

Mom, dad and I in front of Parliament/Big Ben

Uncle John, Uncle Kris, mom, dad and I at the Tower of London

Mom and dad in China Town



I apologize for the lack of posts the last few weeks. Surprisingly, I had less internet access in London than I do in Botswana. Or I would have had to go to a Starbucks or internet cafe to access it. And I wanted to spend time with family instead of going online. Also, this past week I hosted a Peace Corps trainee from the Bots 11 class. We were so busy! It was such a pleasure to be able to share my work with someone else. My trainee was so receptive and supportive. It was a great re-affirmation of my work (something we all need sometimes). I will write another post about some things that I realized this past week. But first, I want to talk about London.

Oh, London. I have only been one time prior, for a weekend while I was studying in Berlin a couple years ago. This trip was lovely. I was able to get a real sense of the city. On the one hand, I really liked it. On the other hand, a trip back to the west was really overwhelming and made me contemplate the real meanings of civilization. I will talk about the beautiful parts of the trip first.

My mom and dad met me in London, where we went to celebrate my uncles' civil ceremony and 20 years together. I celebrated my 23rd birthday there. I got to see some old friends. Mom, dad and I had a jam-packed week. We saw two shows--Much Ado About Nothing at the Shakespeare's Globe and Legally Blonde: The Musical at the Savoy Theatre. Both great. We took pictures in front of Parliament and Big Ben, toured the Tower of London (where many Queens of England and other important people got their heads cut off). We went shopping on Carnaby street and walked through Camden. And probably the most important: we saw Stonehenge.

As usual, pictures are not uploading well. Internet is being slow today. So I will upload my pictures as my next blog post.

Once I got used to it, I did enjoy being in London. However, it was a real cultural shock, which I was not expecting. In my village, everyone greets each other. People know their neighbors. Life really revolves around human interaction. Even stepping into the Johanessburg airport on the way to London was very difficult. I remembered the western life that I had been a part of--the iphone generation, the men with their rolling suitcases walking a mile a minute to get to wherever they need to go. I felt this way especially in the tube in London as well. People would get very annoyed if someone was in their way, as if the world revolved around them. It's not as bad as New York City, but it still made me feel uncomfortable.

I do not mean to criticize anyone living in that world. I was THAT GIRL. I pushed my way onto trains. I walked around with my headphones in. I didn't really give a damn about the people around me, didn't want to talk to them, didn't care about their lives. Not in a mean way. That is just how we are. But I had an immediate visceral reaction to being in that world again. I don't know what that means for my future, or for where I may or may not want to live. I do know one thing: I couldn't wait to get back to my village, where many people know my name and ask me how my day is going.

As I alluded to, the experience made me really think about what we define as civilization. Obviously a large part of it is literacy, existence of the arts, and reaching a certain level of development. But people also talk about civilization in relation to technology. I have heard many people, on numerous occasions, connect going back west to going back to "civilization." But as I sat in Starbucks looking at everyone on their computers, iPads, and iPhones, I really began to question this notion. Is this really civilization--where people do not interact with each other? Or is there a certain level of humanity that is missing in this technology-dependent culture?

Something to think about :)