Archive for May, 2008

I never thought I’d…

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

I thought the Peace Corps would give me opportunities to do things Iwould never do in the states. In my mind most of these things were either cultural activities like ethnic African dancing (check) or being self-suffient, like hand washing laundry (check).

Yet, I am always surprising myself.  A few weeks ago, I sang “We are the world” solo in front of 60 high school students.  One day I found myself using a hand meat grinder to make hamburgers (Does that nullify my vegetarian credentials?).  

One great thing about being a Peace Corps volunteer is I am constantly amazed by what I’m capable of.

Fat in english = grosse in French

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

      Yesterday a friend looked at a picture of me taken in California just before I left.  “Look,” he said “at how fat you were.”  The other day someone stopped by to give me some mangoes.  If I ate them all, he said, “when you go home your mother will be pleased and say that Rebecca got fat in Africa”. 
      Like many countries where a significant portion of the population struggles to meet minimum caloric requirements, it’s considered a good thing to have some meat on your bones.  Rich men emphasize their prominent bellies protruding under lose shirts as if they were sacks of gold, rubbing them for emphasis as they make speeches. Having a large waddling wife with immeasurable hips and swinging underarms is the African equivalent of having a skinny blonde model at your side.
      Despite the frequent fat comments, I find it nice to get a 2 year break from calorie counting, weight watching, and discussions about cellulite.  Last week a male friend nearly choked on the idea that, according to Americans, I should want to lose weight.  He looked at me ruefully and admitted that fat women were his downfall, making clear that in his mind I hadn’t yet risen to that lovely category

my work is unstructured

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

So my uncle asked:  “… how much of your mission is structured and how much do you just make up in situ? ”

Well, I essentially make it all up.  I don’t have a job to go to everyday, I don’t have an office, and I am responsible for finding and developing my own projects.  This can be hard; it means cold calling on school principals, NGO’s, and businesses, trying to figure out what they do, and then explain my goals in French to strangers who may think that Peace Corps are either a good source of money or we are agents for the CIA.   (For the record, we are neither.) 

Then, when starting a project it takes a while to figure out just what people are trying to get from you.  It is not always clear if someone is actually excited about the project or they just want people to see them around town with the white person (oh the prestige).  Men like spreading rumors that they are dating me.  Some people don’t believe that I really don’t have millions of dollars and a room full of computers to give them, or at least considerable influence at the embassy which will grease their way towards a visa. This creates an aura of yes men and I need to figure out who is genuine.

This is harder than it sounds, and I love it.  Well, ok the latent racism and inferiority complex is extremely troublesome.  But I love the challenges, the freedoms, and the creativity.  I have several mini projects (most English related) and several bigger projects ( most computer related).  Some are more successful than others, but I’m learning and laughing as much as possible.

Club web site

Monday, May 5th, 2008

OK, Here is the web site that my computer club wrote and created. 

This is all their effort, I just watched. You see here their words, time, logo design, and money (for internet time).