Saturday, July 10, 2010

“I’m half alive, but I feel mostly dead” 5 July 2010

I can’t grasp how I will be able to do much good when the majority of the people I work with seem to have no passion for what they do. Today I came close to having a regretful freak out. Thankfully I decided to just walk out of the office and go home to just breathe. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing an entry right now because I am so overwhelmed, frustrated and angry. My job here will no doubt be trying to show these teachers that the kids need them, that they themselves NEED to go to class and stop bullshitting around and TEACH the students, and that I am NOT here to do their jobs FOR them! I hate that realization more than anything. However, I can’t place blame on them, it’s just how they are and I know many teachers back in the States are just as bad. Of course not all of them are that way and some love the students and understand that education is key BUT that amount of people that show they care are far and few between. Right now I feel like I’m dealing with leeches that had no intention to suck the life out of me but have drained me to my last drop. I need the strength to get up, be strong and come back with a better attitude and a plan. That plan needs to come fast and that better attitude seems way too far off in the distance.

What a difference 48 hours makes. 7 July 2010

Well, well, well. I don’t think I stopped smiling yet today. Granted it’s only about 2pm but it has been a great day. I went to school with a whole new outlook on things thanks to an impromptu meeting that all the Life Skills volunteers had yesterday with Jane, the head of The Ministry of Education. I was able to tell everyone the concerns I was having and listen to theirs. We all have incredibly different experiences and I got great advice. My biggest concern had been the “sustainability” aspect of our service. I had been so hung up on thinking I couldn’t do anything at the school by myself but I was told that everything positive I do, whether or not I have a teacher with me will be setting a great example for the students and teachers. Now I know I can go into a classroom with the students and if I am by myself at least the students will be benefitting and learning while the teachers possibly recognize that being responsible means going to your class. Maybe the passion I bring to class will show others they need to step up their game or change professions. So, I went to school today with a new mission; Do it Dintle. The day started off with me telling my counterpart what I plan on doing and how excited I am now that I have new insight. We took a trip into the village to go and speak with a couple of students that haven’t showed up in quite a long time. Seeing these kids out of school and lounging around their houses made me sad. We all hated school when we were younger but the difference is most of us had parents or someone who cared about us telling us to suck it up and get to school. These kids seemed to be living with their families who almost pretended to be concerned that they weren’t going to school but at the same time sitting there with them. Both kids said that they’d come to school the next day and though I don’t believe they will I hope that they do.

Something else happened today that has both made me excited for tomorrow and terrified at the same time. A Form 3 student (15 yrs old maybe) came into the office and shyly asked me if he could have a counseling session with me. Of course, though I have no experience as a guidance counselor I happily said yes because even though I don’t know what I’m doing it’s my job. I am nervous I won’t know what to say to whatever issue he is having. I can’t even imagine what it is about…school work, teacher issues, home issues, sex, drugs, etc but I hope just listening and giving the best advice I can give will help him and allow him to trust me. It’s somewhat weird because this student clearly didn’t want to speak with my counterpart, the actual guidance counselor, so I wonder what is on his mind and what my counterpart thinks of it as well. Either way I have to report back to her anyways so I hope it’s not something too extreme or if it is I hope I can handle it.

I hope my feeling of happiness is not temporary. I would love to enjoy going to work everyday and smiling and laughing because I don’t know if I would come home the same person if I was as sad and frustrated as I have been.

Here comes another one of my random thought streams:

~ I’m back on the peanut butter train. I know I said in an earlier blog that I would never touch the stuff again but I felt I could hop back on because we had parted for a solid month. Making a sandwich reminds me of my Mom because whenever she made us all sandwiches when we were younger she would draw a heart in the peanut butter with the knife before she put on the other slice of bread. At home whenever I would make one for my brothers or sisters I would do the same and here I find myself doing it even if it’s my own sandwich. It’s one of those silly things that makes you feel good and being so far away from everyone I love it just seems right. Love you Mom.

~I really need to learn how to cook and learn what to buy because the amount of carbs I’ve been eating can’t be good. I tend to eat yogurt with granola or cereal every morning, then for lunch it’s usually a grilled cheese or rice and this vegetable soup-gravy and then for dinner it’s pasta and garlic sauce. I mean, they all taste great but it’s not good for me. Here, there are fresh vegetables available but it’s hard to know what to buy and what will stay fresh for how long. Plus, to get those vegetables I would have to take two separate khombi’s one way just to get them. Living by yourself you quickly realize that you don’t eat a lot of certain things and more of others. I have carrots and apples in the fridge and I occasionally grab one and I have these vegetarian chicken patties that I eat every now and then but not as much as I should I guess. I would LOVE some broccoli and an orange or banana every now and then but I don’t want to waste food and money if I buy them and they go rotten. Hmmmm, I have some Julia Child kind of thinking to do.

~I found out the other day to my great disappointment that during the long 9 months of summer here my freezing cold shower won’t help because the sun will constantly be heating up the pipes. So, in the winter I take a freezing cold shower and in the summer it will be nice and toasty, crud.

~Watching The X-files in the dark when you’re alone in Africa is a terrifyingly awesome experience.

~I want to learn to play the guitar here. If you’re lucky you can find a small (kind of ghetto) guitar here in one of the China shops for around 260 pula which is about 45 U.S. dollars. All I would need is some sort of “teach yourself” book and a lot of time…I have tons of time so that’s not a problem.

9 July 2010

I am still feeling like I’m riding the happy train. Ok, I apologize fully for my previous sentence. I guess I could just erase it but that wouldn’t show you how weird I am now would it? Most of you already know that fact about me anyways…

Yesterday I had a guidance counseling session with that student I wrote about. It was good. I won’t lie; I felt a little awkward sitting behind my guidance counselor’s desk trying to give him advice when I feel like a kid myself most of the time. This student, who was 16 I found out, was worried about his marks (grades for us Americans) slipping because he can’t seem to concentrate or retain information. At first I thought, ‘this is easy, I can talk to him about school stress no problem’ but it didn’t take long for him to tell me what was really bothering him. He told me about how depressed he’s been feeling for almost a year, he doesn’t want to hang out with friends or do the things he used to love. ‘Shit’ I thought to myself, I’m definitely not qualified for the deep stuff. However I felt all I could do was be honest and we talked for about an hour about things he could do to start feeling better. He said he used to write raps and rap often and he hasn’t been doing that. I gave him paper and told him I wanted him to start writing down his feelings over the weekend and maybe even turn it into a rap. He actually got excited and told me he wanted to show it to me when he was done. I honestly don’t know if I told him all the right things, especially when he said he thinks about sex a lot and it is hard to go near girls or concentrate. That was a shock; I wish I could go back in time and see the look on my face. Hopefully I kept it together and I didn’t look like a deer in headlights. I gave him the best advice I could; that thinking about sex, especially at 16, is completely normal and he shouldn’t be worried about that at all. Most of the children here in Botswana don’t know enough facts about sex and adolescence in general so it was good to give him some guidance that I don’t think he has heard too often. He also lives with a teacher on the compound because his parents aren’t around (whatever that means) so I felt like he saw me as someone he could trust and talk to which was fine with me. I hope I helped! Man oh man. And that only took me to 7:50 a.m.

Later in the day we had a class. I won’t explain how it went I will just give you a snippet of the conversation:

Guidance teacher: “What are some ways boys can control their sexual feelings especially when they get an erection?”

Male student: “Exercise!”

Guidance teacher: “Good, good, go for a run and if your little brother asks you why you’re running around the yard just say, ‘I’m exercizingggggg to control my feelingssssss!!!!!’” Of course there were some giggles, including from me. She then proceeded to say, “Miss Duggan will you tell the class another way the boys can control their feelings and erections?”

Miss. Dintle Duggan: “Well…they could masturbate…”

Guidance Teacher: “YES!!!! YES!!! Touch yourselves, pleasure yourselves! Release your sperms! Even girls, you can touch your private parts too!”

Female students in unison: “HOW!!?? How?!!!!”

Guidance teacher: “By massaging your clitoris, don’t be afraid. You will release the pleasure. It’s good, it’s good. And boys you will feel tired afterwards. In fact, don’t fall asleep in class; you will wake up with an erection!”

Saved by the bell, but maybe not soon enough…

I don’t think I’m even going to write a comment, it speaks for itself. All I’ll say is this: My future consists of erections, sperm, wet dreams, growing breasts, menstruation, and giggles. Jealous?

That evening I had a meeting with a Bots 8 volunteer and a teacher from my school who are working on getting a grant for the Reneetswe Happy Home Care Centre which is an organization that helps OVC’s (Orphans and Vulnerable Children). It was so great to see the change that is happening there. Father Tshiamo, the priest who is also working on the project is full of hope for these children and it was inspiring to see all of them so passionate about the cause. I am going to start being a part of the plan as well so I will be able to help keep the ties between Peace Corps and the Batswana at the centre going once the other volunteer leaves in a year. The OVC’s need the grant so they can fund the income generating projects so they can make money to buy food, get petrol for transportation, and be able to learn necessary skills. The project is extremely important and I am excited to be a part of such a great cause.

~Crickets, Ants and Spiders, OH MY! I will only write 7 words pertaining to this issue: GET THE F OUT OF MY HOUSE!

Have you ever heard someone say, “My heart is full.”? Well, unfortunately not only have I heard it before but I have been a user of the phrase. It wasn’t until today that I actually felt it. I know, I know, I’m a total cheese-ball! The boy I had a counseling session with came into the office with a friend and had the biggest smile I have ever seen on his face. He handed me a stapled packet of papers and said he wrote what he was feeling like I said to and put the words into raps. He wanted me to read them then and there. I was absolutely amazed while I was reading his words. The raps he wrote had to do with sex, feeling abandoned, not being able to concentrate and other thoughts. Reading them made me feel like I may have a place here after all, not so much with the teachers but the students, which is what I prefer anyways. His feelings were clear and touching and made me happy he was able to get them out in a healthy way. Some of his words were intense and I can tell he’s going through a lot of painful things but just expressing himself in the beautiful way he did was a fantastic start. He told me that he feels more confident and more like his old self now that he spoke to me and started writing again. His smile was infectious. I went to class later with happiness that soared through me like crazy! I hope I remember days like this when the hard ones creep back in.

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