October 3, 2014
Had a GREAT day yesterday - co-taught a session on preventing teen pregnancy with one of my classes. We covered the physical stuff, but there's so much more- the whole emotional/peer pressure/poverty pressure etc. side. With HIV so prevalent here, it can make the decisions literally life and death. Knowing my limitations, due to knowledge of topic and culture, and the limits of knowledge (my co-teacher told the class they could get pregnant from sperm on a toilet seat) and of trust (she is a teacher... with a switch) I got permission to invite some HIV information NGO (non-governmental organization) speakers. I told the kids, and one (the one who keeps asking questions none of us can answer) asked if the guest speakers could stay for 2 periods rather than one. Okayed. So with some finagling and such they arrived yesterday. We introduced the speakers, divided the group into males and females, and left them to it.
I poked my head in a couple of times. The girls were laughing that woman laugh - the one we only share with other women that comes from all the way deep inside. The boys were solemn and intent. The facilitators had to kick the kids out for break. At the end, other kids came asking the speakers to talk with their classes (they had to go). I caught a lift back to town with them, and got a contact high! They said the kids were really open and that the wanted them to come back. I asked if they were able to cover some of the really hard topics, like what if the girls are pressured by their parents to have sex for money, or because they are the oldest, with no parent present, and feel they need to buy food for the others. Or their boyfriends say, if you really loved me... They said yes, they talked about those things. Judging from the students’ faces, it was really good.
I wish I could say, oh, yeah, I planned this. The truth is that I didn't - it was almost a last minute thought, finding someone the kids could talk with, based on the level of trust they extended when we did the first class, illustrated in the questions they asked. My stumble technique style of decision making works really well here in Swaziland, where being responsive works much better than trying to convince others my way is best. But I still feel a bit like luck, or Universe or something is at work. Maybe it's the magic that helps me get things done - the one where things seem overwhelming, but I just keep plugging away and then, suddenly - it's done.
(Thanks, Sueji, for telling me this is blog material <grin>).
American heritage realization:
Walking back to site today, listening to a song about how Superman never took any money for what he did. Yesterday, listening to an HCN (host country national) talk about a project he was doing I heard him say that he didn't get paid for it. Twice, he worked that into the conversation. And that he was really happy that he was able to do it. My initial thought was - um - did you notice that I'm a volunteer? As in, not getting paid? But then I realized that volunteering is a part of American culture - and it is not a given here. Sharing here is much more personal, done usually for extended family, and, I think, sometimes more because it expected than because it is done willingly. I found pride in that very American value.
And no wonder - look at the role models - at least from my generation. Start with Superman and extending to all the super heroes, doing the right thing because - because it IS right. The super-rich used to have a sense of noblesse oblige - giving to those less fortunate. Never mind that they got rich standing on the backs of those same folks - there were grants to make a better world... Support for higher education - And the cartoons... Definitely not high tech - the animated characters would face overwhelming obstacles, and, to classical music, try again and again, no matter how many times they fell or were squashed (and we laughed, knowing they would be fine and get up and try again). What messages did we learn?
It's so easy to focus on the things that we wanted to change - and so easy to miss those things that were positive and shaped me in ways which somehow escape my awareness. When they float to the surface, I am proud of the quiet heroes in my childhood.
October 16, 2014
Tonight I was working on a survey for my classes, listening to a Strauss waltz - I noticed some percussion I'd never heard before - sounded really good, fit in well, but... unexpected. Realized it was thunder. Gifts.
Normals are subtly changing. Here are some... Depending on when I walk home from school, I find primary and/or pre-school kids walking with me. My siSwati is still not up to having a discussion, but that doesn't get in the way of smiles, laughter - and playing. I start with little hops, kicks, turns. Then it's their turn to lead - we clap, jump, laugh and keep walking. Sometimes the littles hang onto my hands. The kids often walk long distances to school - more than the mile one way I walk. Even the pre-schoolers walk without adults. No one seems to think this is odd, and in the morning it looks like a river of kids walking up the hill to school.
The rains are starting. The dark clouds change the quality of light, and the air, which has been hazy with dust, clears. It's as though I'm in a different place. The trees are blossoming - garish jacaranda, which drops its petals to make a soft purple carpet, and the more sedate yellow-flowered trees. At dusk, people burn the fields - to get rid of the mice (who would otherwise eat the maize seeds) as well as the weeds; the fires on the horizon are golden. Then the fields begin greening up, slow and most welcome. People are shoveling out the season's kraals (corrals) and using the manure on the fields. All done by hand - such hard work! Soon the cattle will be harnessed to plow the fields.
October 22, 2014
Every time I wonder what I’m doing here, Universe lets me know. I’m so appreciative! Hope you enjoy the photos. Happy Autumn.s