Friday, March 29, 2013

Urinary Freedom

Way back, when I was in training in Kanye, I was walking to a kids party that a friend was having at her host home. On the way, I met three nicely dressed women who happened to be going my way to the same party. Walking and talking was pleasant enough until one woman just stopped in the middle of the path, paused our conversation, spread the legs, wizzed, and then just moved on like it was the most natural thing in the world. Well, in her world it is the most natural thing, but in my world it's a different story---I thought about the little spray that got on my leg for weeks on end!

Not that this is all bad or anything, but come on lady, there's a technique to peeing outside, you activate the glutes and quads, bend the knees, drop your ass like your name is Viola, get as low as you can so it doesn't spray, and above all, aim away from your feet, and please, not on my feet! I felt like I had just witnessed the human version of my cat peeing all over the place---a primal way of communicating. The lady even perked her face like my cat Alex does when he's peeing in front of someone. “Hey lady, would you do that in your mother's kitchen too?”

It's funny that first world countries like the USA tend to believe that third world countries have it bad when it comes to personal freedom, when they actually have far more freedom and liberty than we ever do. I mean, imagine the sense of independence that comes with just spreading the legs and letting things fly whenever and wherever you want. We, in the US, however, live in a policed society that enforces the belief that peeing in public is shameful, dirty, obscene, and disgusting, and that's really a shame because more often than not, peeing in public is out of necessity, not pleasure. You don't have to be a Law Grad to know that it's a bad thing when your government makes a human necessity punishable. If you think about it, it's really not a nuisance if nobody sees it---maybe we should be practicing pee respect, or start a pee anarchy.

Growing up, as most of us have, in a city, or those suburbs in Jersey, we just didn't learn about being in the wild, and consequently, we're not usually comfortable out in nature in the true sense of the word. But here in Africa, or at least Botswana, people just don't even care, they pee everywhere and anywhere, in the villages and in the city, and they don't necessarily turn away from you. It used to bother me a bit, but the other day walking home after our school function with my favorite police man, and he just stopped, unzipped his fly, and cooly took a pee---I just thought to myself how normal this has become since my days in Kanye. I've learned to act like I presume men do in a public bathroom---it's the no look policy.

 I can't tell you how many times I've peed in my pants here for one stupid reason or another, and I've also peed in the bush in times of necessity, but still, as used to things as I am, I have not mastered the urinary freedom that most Africans seem to possess.  Though my own personal philosophy on pee and liberty is that urinating is a biological necessity, as long as one behaves reasonably, no measly gender wall should stop someone from getting to where they need to pee so they can get on with their lives.

 I guess I have 6 more months to see how well I can drop my pants!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Month of Youth Against Aids

What have I been up to lately you ask----well these past weeks my counterpart and I have been hustling to hold an all day special event at our school to commemorate the Month of Youth Against Aids, with our central them being "With Safe Male Circumcision, we are driving towards ZERO by 2016." The day turned out to be a wonderful engaging and entertaining mix of HIV based activities with an emphasis on personal discipline arising from self-awareness.  The campaign urges youth to abstain, discourages multiple sex partners, and encourages safe male circumcision.  Our activities were all intertwined with a jaw dropping musical performance by Johnny Mokhali who is a famous South African Pop Musician.  How we landed him is beyond me, but his music and inspirational messages, not only made us dance the day away, but also touched each and every one of us.  For the first time since I"ve been here, I looked into these kids eyes and saw motivation and hope for the future. 

No one can lead our lives for us, so really it's up to each one of these kids to be responsible.  This is the generation that has the ability to break the cycle of stigma, gender roles, poverty, AIDS, and neglect that prevents youth from reaching their given potential.  

I for one was so moved by the events of this day, that I came home, sat on my porch with a glass of South African wine, watching an African rainbow after a brief thundershower, and thanked my lucky stars that I am here in Botswana and lending a small hand for change!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Living Life in the Fasting Lane

“Fasting brings you to that point of asking, “is that what I'm really like Lord,”--and Lord answers, “YES.”

Yikes! A few days ago I get a text from a fellow PCV asking me if I wanted to join in on a days fast with some others. Sure, why not, there's nothing to eat here anyway, there are no spiritual directors, and the idea of fasting and sacrificing, all with the hopes of growing in heroic virtue and deeper thought sounds enticing right now---I'm in! The night before the fast was to begin, I thought about how it's so interesting that in other cultures fasting is a normal part of life, like Ramadan, or the Jews fasting on Yom Kippur. Yet in our culture, you are often looked at funny if you want to fast for the hell of it, or for the pure act of cleaning yourself out. It's almost hilarious to me that gorging at a MacDonalds is okay, but drinking pure nutrients for a few days is very strange.

So here I go, it's not the Jewish Holidays, it's not Lent yet nor Ramadan that I know of, its----PCV's in Botswana wanting to stir their day up to yet another challenge! Ok, I'm gonna start off my day setting my mind to the fact that fasting can be a catalyst for establishing other good habits, it takes tenacity, will power, it can be fun to challenge yourself to see what you're capable of. Not that I haven't fasted before, but fasting, I hear, can allegedly give you miracle powers. Right on, I'm ready for my miracle powers!

It's 9am and I'm already wanting to dirty my digestive tract. My inner domain is running on automatic, it has a life of it's own that's taken over and telling me it's time for breakfast. Oy, it's only 9 and I'm dying here, but I persevere, and start doing an hour long yoga routine. OM, I'm feeling better, I'm breathing, I'm gonna conquer and reboot my thought patterns. I then do my tai chi, and take Keoki for a long, hot walk whether he likes it or not—I haven't given him breakfast either, we're in this together boy.

It's almost 1pm, the effects of yoga have worn off, and I'm wondering how to compensate when I come face to face with deep fried samosas and their co-conspirators. Ok, so there are no samosa's here, my mind is playing tricks on me, and so I'll forget the samosa's and wonder if I'm shedding all the excess baggage I have, if I've grown spiritually in just 5 or 6 hours. I wonder if my fellow PCV's are thinking of deep fried samosa's.

The day wore on, and after all the inward dialogue, I began paying attention to how often my thoughts were centered on my needs, desires, cravings, my version of fulfillment. The imbalance of my thoughts were almost overwhelming. But at the end of the day, even though my thoughts were all over the place, from samosa's to hot dogs to hiking in the himalayas, fasting broke up the stagnation of my existence here lately, it added a little something out of the ordinary, though I'm still waiting for the miracle powers to come!  The only bad thing---Keoki is sitting here growling at me, wondering why on earth he hasn't eaten all day! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

America the Broken

While I'm often discouraged by the state of our nation, I still have moments of intense pride and feel it's still proper to support our country, after all, patriotism is a virtue, is it not? Sure America has much to offer, beautiful varieties of landscapes, a melting pot nation where people of every culture is welcome, we're the champion of freedom, democracy, hard work, social mobility, fabulous food, and we have the New York Yankees! However, we are also individualistic, God-less, against life, materialistic, and petty. The problem is people don't live their day to day lives with remembering the God given gift of America---we have become broken and fractured. 

A big part of me used to like it when things broke down---there was just something about long weather delays at the airport, a dead stop in a traffic jam, or any shift where the earth stops rotating the way it's supposed to. For those moments in time, I can relax and be like a kid again, curious, starry eyed, wondering what will unfold next, but realizing that my will and actions can't or won't force anything. Still, the weight of the world is off your shoulders, you enter a state of pure being---that is, until the snow starts to melt or the traffic picks up.  Those moments and happenings were different break downs than what we see now. Those times offered a mesmerizing look, a peek, a glimpse into what is real and tangible and eternal about you----current times scare the heebeegeebees out of me.

I write this because living in another country for awhile surely opens your eyes to what we look at as just our nature, and what really is broken.  Sneaking glances of the news in the USA doesn't seem so pretty, and what folks say about us, doesn't seem so glamorous anymore.  The other day in an English class, the kids were reading a short story out loud. In the story a teen had gone to America, and upon return, he told his class, among other things, that marijuana is everywhere, and that all the students do is get high. The teacher stopped, turned to me, and asked if this was true and to please explain to the class. My lord, I felt so embarrassed, but with 44 sets of eyes staring at me, waiting to hang on my every word, I went on, in a nutshell, to say that the words in the story were somewhat of an exaggeration, and that sure, there are drugs everywhere, but it takes a good person, one with inner fortitude to just say no.

Sometimes, like what happened in class, or if I read about yet another shooting in the US, I feel like the world is currently immersed in a prolonged moment of things breaking down, yet simultaneously, being in Africa, it feels increasingly like a return to the natural strife—the musical soul of the ebb and flow of the universe.  I didn't think I'd like the mundane village life for so long, but boy am I ever glad to have a  break from the broken world outside of my village. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

100 % OJ

It's in the dead of summer here, clear skies stained watercolour blue, the days are long and full, aches and pains have receded from the chill of winter, it's the time to relax, slumber away the days, have a picnic, go to Whole Foods and scrape clean the scrumptious salad bar. I purr like a cat at the very thought of summer, it's a kind season, and I used to wonder why it couldn't last forever.

What I remember most about summers past is ice cream and watermelons, but I'm in a part of Africa where summers aren't like I remember back home---good ice cream doesn't exist, there are no salad bars, and not only are the watermelons grown here stringy and pit ridden, they are way to heavy to carry back on a hot kombie, then lugging it back and stumbling to my house with people gawking that I have something edible to eat. So what to do, I decided to grow my own watermelons thinking they would do so nicely here in the heat, and I tried to grow other summer veggies like zucchini. I honestly thought that I didn't have a bad relationship with plants, but these assholes here seem to hate me---we just aren't compatible. In fact, I helped several neighbors start a garden, shared my organic seeds from home, and I wonder why, 100 feet away from me, their crops weren't killed by the lightening storms or intense heat of summer as mine were, and why one woman comes to my door holding a gigantic, beautiful, mouth watering zucchini, saying “now what.” I wanted to grab the thing away from her, telling her it was to big to eat, and she better give it to me now before I kill her.

Longing for something edible,  I take the long trek to Gabs in hopes of getting some decent fruits and veggies, even if they aren't organic, and some good juice to quench my thirst in the sweltering African heat. I noticed in the past few months I finally found something that says 100% Orange Juice---alright, I'm in big business now. I check the labels, it's all good, I buy, I'm happy. The next time I go to Gabs, the label on my 100% OJ changed a little---now it's 100% OJ but with mixtures of pear, grape, and “other fruits.” Hmmm, I wonder what those other fruits can be? But at least the labels say no preservatives, no added anything bad for you. I'm good with this---but then I went this past week, and I see that the label changed yet again, and I'm starting to have one of those incidences that have given me personal pause for thought. I swear, whoever put these labels on are really trying to spoil all my fun. Why can't I just get a really cool African Basket and put farmers market produce in it and be happy. 

Ok, so even though my dopamine receptors are off now because I don't really have my 100% OJ, maybe I'm not taking the time to celebrate what is here. It's not exactly like I'm some the classic middle class, menopausal woman in my expensive bohemian cardigan clutching wine at 3pm. Labels schmabels---who cares, it just causes problems anyway when I bring food into my village. People here aren't starved like in some parts of Africa, but they are hungry, they don't like having to eat porridge all the time, or having to run all around the yard chasing a skinny chicken just to get a little protein.  So I sit here, living on the level of the locals with my reconstituted OJ, or whatever it is I'm drinking, and thanking my lucky stars that I even have the opportunity to drink this junk on this amazing journey called the Peace Corps.