The opinions expressed are mine and do not reflect the positions of the Peace Corps or the US government.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


April 2, 2014

April, and it's autumn (think October). The maize harvest has begun. This means folks go to the fields, use a slasher (similar to a machete) to cut the maize stocks and lean them against each other to form heaps - sort of standing - piles. Had to go ask what they are called. The next crew comes in the morning, working about 7:00 am to noon, before it gets too hot, with a nail sharpened and tied to a string which slips over a wrist. Then the stalks, which have one ear apiece, are pulled from the pile, the husk cut with the nail (from the center towards the top), the husk removed and thrown to one side, the maize thrown into a pile. If it looks like rain, the husks are then pulled over the pile to protect the maize. Otherwise, it's left until the kids get out of school; then one will drive the tractor pulling a trailer, and whoever is around goes out to load the maize onto the trailer. From there it's thrown into the crib to dry. The husks are left in the field, along with the ears that aren't fully developed, for the cattle to eat. Later, the dried maize will be taken off the cobs and either stored or ground.

As I work with the family, they ask if this is something we do in America. It's so hard to explain that No, we don't have fields around our homes, we don't even really have some kind of staple, as they do. I ask if they ever grow sweet corn, and they say no. I don't know how to begin to talk about how we don't live on homesteads, most homes are not multi-generational, and consist of one building housing people. We have no outdoor kitchens, we don't cook over open fires, we do barbecue (called braii), but... If we have a garden, it's small, mostly for our own homes, and not a required part of survival. When I say I've been driving since I was 16, and have had a car most of my life, it sounds like I'm really rich. It's difficult to describe the lack of public transportation in rural areas - or anywhere except big cities, and even then (think Los Angeles), not necessarily. I know they don't imagine the beater cars I've been known to drive (do any of you remember the 1970 Toyota that had a beer can in the engine compartment to catch the dripping oil?).

So life has its own rhythm here. Today I was helping get the maize before it rained, and we cut it a little close. I was walking back to my hut, the rain already beginning gently, soon to be a downpour, when I heard a sound that made me stop and let the raindrops soak me. I was going past the pumpkin patch when I heard the rain playing sweet melodies on the leaves. Once again, I went home, walking in the woods, transported by sound alone. Made me smile all the way inside.

I am learning so very much. I wrote this when I got home from school the other day.

March 25, 2014
In the morning I leave my homestead,slip-slide-sway down the path to the road, then begin the 1 mile trek to school. It's almost all uphill, so I put in my ear buds, try to stay out of the sand and the obvious ruts and avoid cars by guessing which side of the road they will pick as smoothest.

On one side, the land rises, on the other, it slopes gently down, but my main view, straight ahead of me, is the road and whoever else may be traveling on it. I arrive warm from the exercise and steeped in the music filling my ears.

Ah, but the journey back is very different.

I walk the shady, muddy drive, past the pre-school chorus of How are you?'s, past the primary school, then turn onto the road. A few steps and I begin to descend. What appears is brand new each day. The valleys and rolling hills stretch out before me: rich greens and endless sky. I am transported to a land both open and secret: fields interrupted by buildings, tree-lined creeks, distant hilltops and valleys. Colors blend indescribably and the world suddenly holds adventure, promise, tingles of joy and something intangible - something - more.

Now, as I walk, the music is background, as something inside slakes its thirst for beauty and peace. Moving to some unknown rhythm, I make my way back to the path leading to my hut. I begin the climb, looking uphill. To home.

Work projects morph and evolve - some seem to be disappearing, others to be growing in new directions. The job search seminars are petering out, but individuals are asking me for help. We'll see if they really want it. The pre-school teacher has asked me to read a story to her kids, and I hope to get the primary school involved in vision screening. I'm going to be working on a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp, helping with food organization and teaching interviewing skills one day. We continue to prepare for the 1,000 books arriving in May or June from Books for Africa. I'm still mentoring my sisi from my training homestead, and playing with the kids here on my current homestead. I hope to take them to the library over school break, and have been bringing home books to read with them. I'm even doing a bit of tutoring as needed. And of course, I'm still co-teaching the careers class, which is really fun. We've been dividing them into groups and having them report back, and we decided they're getting tired of that. Think for decision making we're going to divide them into 2 groups, tell them what decision they have made (We're still deciding on the question, but it should have decent pros and cons for either way. Maybe whether to have a sugar daddy, or to try alcohol. Half will decide to do so, half will decide not to do so). They will have to work backwards on how they made the decision, then tell the other group why their decision is a good one. We'll give them guidelines to address, but rather than have one person reporting, anyone who chooses may speak. Don't know how it will work, so keeping our fingers crossed. And next month will be a training on positive discipline/classroom management. I may even be able to invite more than one counterpart. Hope so.

It's all so scattered, but I feel it's all good. Little baby steps. So much of life here is teaching me patience. And to let those I'm trying to serve decide how I may best serve them. Life lessons that I will certainly bring home. I wonder what else Africa will send home with me.