I know that I have been a poor poor blogger as of the last four months and I apologize. I can always fall back on the excuse that my nearest computer with internet is about 100k away but to be honest I just haven't really been inspired. However, I feel that I should, for the good of my family and friend who still are interested in my life, fill in the four month gap since I gave you Zambia's "top of the pops."
May was reasonably unremarkable. I was wickedly sick for about a week with some crazy staph infection. I couldn't be around anything light, i.e. the sun. At one point someone came in and toweled me down with cold water because I was a bit delirious. But, like usual, I bounced back and could not wallow in the self pity of illness for very long.
In June my doting and very thoughtful mother came to visit me in the deepest darkest jungles of Africa. We visited Victoria Falls, my shack sweet shack, and the Bangweulu Swamps to see one of the most rare and awkward birds on the planet. We were accompanied by the Crypt Keeper--our guide--and his trusty man with the plan Cuba. I would be lying to say that it was a perfect and stress free visit, but what can you expect? (What I really wanted to say is what can you expect it's Africa, but that so cliché' and the root of all problems was the crypt keeper who was actually Swedish ex-pat.)
Victoria Falls is deservingly one of the natural wonders of the world. If not to see me, I will tell you to visit Zambia to see the falls. You walk through the park on the Zambian side and across the knife edge bridge and it is what I would imagine being inside a washing machine is like. We were both wearing ponchos--rented for the low low price of a dollar twenty five-- and still ended up completely drenched. Luckily I was not dressed in all cotton khaki safari attire and my clothes dried relatively quickly, the same cannot be said for my mom. I'm sure that she will recommend renting flip flops for an additional dollar twenty five. For those of you with any experience at Cedar Point you may recall that bridge by the log water ride. You stand on the bridge when the log comes crashing down that last hill and you experience an almost equivalent soak factor. So obviously that’s fun. I really wanted to do the bungee jump into the gorge but I realized that would not be family friendly activity. I think it may still be exciting enough for my mom to know that I live here without me jumping off bridges.
Following my mothers emotional rollercoaster of a visit (which ended on a high note) I loitered in Lusaka for a bit. Then when I realized that I should be saving babies, as is the Peace Corps mission, and I made my way north and east to my village. It was just as it was when I left except colder. June is the cold season. Cold cold season. For the next month and a half I slept fully dressed with a winter hat on under two wool blankets with a fire going in the house. I pretty much kept my little fire thing going all day and sat inside my house to avoid the wind and colder cold outside. I read a few good books, Four Quarters of the Orange, Dreams of my Father, Harry Potter 5 and 6, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and others that I can't quite remember.
So on to July. As many know July is my favorite month. In Michigan it is the most superior month of the year. If I had to rank months in order of greatness, July would be on top--followed by September, December, May, April, October. Mainly I enjoy July so much because my birthday sits nicely in the middle. Also it is far enough after life ended for the summer and far enough away from life resuming for the fall. Everyone can be Huck Finn in July. So in July I took another little vacation and skipped down to Jo'Burg South Africa. It was a little of this and a little of that. I took my GRE exam, went shopping, relaxed, and stuffed myself full of delicious food and wine. The GRE was strange; I didn't even realize that I was finished when I was finished. Then your score just kind of pops up. I think that I did really well but I don't realy have anyone to compare it too. I actually have some anxiety about it. I feel like everyone in the States has prep courses and coaches and tutors for this exam and that they must all be scoring 1400 and above. The writing section, which I was the most unprepared for—since I don't find myself writing many critical assessments or essays in general—rattled me. It's even worse when I have to think about all those kids who take it right after undergrad or with the guidance of Kaplan.
South Africa is strange. There is just something not right. You can put your finger on it but at the same time you can't. Obviously, there are race issues, but it is the way that they are manifested in the public and public mind that is so strange. I was on vacation there with my boyfriend who is ethnically Zambian but culturally Norwegian and Zambian and a little bit of everything else along the way. He had racial epitaphs hurled at him in the restroom of a nice Irish Pub in a really nice shopping and eating center--which happens to be the same place that is currently hosting "The Lion King." People were looking at us walking around together with this kind of bizarre contemptuous awe. But other South Africans were really nice and couldn't believe their country mates behavior. Our taxi driver, as nice as he was, was undeniably a product of pre-aparthied. Racism is so ingrained into the culture. I wonder what it would be if more Americans visited South Africa. If seeing and experiencing a racism similar to our own would help us to make longer strides toward equality? Because honestly S.A. is the closest thing to a time warp today. Except that in S.A. it's absolute destitution astride huge shopping complexes and not indentured servants quarters behind sprawling manors.
It was disturbing, and I'm white. You can't be much more typical white than me; I look like the poster child for the Aryan nation—without the blind hate for Jews, Gypsies, Africans, and every other ethnic group except my own. All I was hearing was people talk about how they view the problem in that us vs. them mentality. The taxi driver actually said, "There was none of this hatred and violence during apartheid, everyone got along." Meanwhile I'm trying to keep my brain from exploding into a million pieces. Yeah, everyone got along during apartheid, really well from what they write in pre-post apartheid text books, until, oh black south Africans decided that it was messed up to be holed up into the worst land, and kept from economically achieving. But as long as no one getting to say that face to face everyone got along really well. While he was saying this I looked at Archie and I thought that he actually had thrown up in his mouth. The driver thought it was great that we were together and had "no problem with the blacks." For me, in my mind, I can't hold all of that together. People in that country have some tragically competing views on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And what’s worse is that I feel like I am not even entitled to empathize or be angry—at least as angry as—because what would I know I am the white oppressor. It's very true that I am not an ethnic minority and statistically am less likely to be pulled over, arrested, and harassed. But I have been pulled over three out of four times with my friend John when we were driving to the movies in Lansing. I know that we weren't speeding or breaking any other laws so it seemed pretty clear cut that it was racially motivated. (Not even to mention the fact that living in Africa and being white I can kind of get the idea of being a minority.) But because I'm not black I can't be angry or as angry as he was. I don't think that you should have to be "black enough" to have moral outrage about racial profiling. Enough about all that, I could go on and on...
August just came and went. I trained a bunch of my communities and Archie came to visit me in the bush. I finished the proposal I had been working on for the previous five months and submitted it. The proposal is for funding to host a week long camp for orphans and vulnerable children. This is the first major thing that I have coordinated in my life and I'm nervous. It will be the crowning achievement of my service--if I can pull it off without losing a child on the way or my mind in the process. I'm brining 21 kids and seven social counselors out of the district to an outdoor camp to learn about health, coping with loss, abuse, and other fun things. They will get to canoe, climb a rock wall, play games, and experience a different kind of lifestyle.
September is just staring to happen. I've taken a detour to Lusaka for a few days to relax with Archie before he goes gallivanting around the globe for work and I put my game face on and start preparing for the camp and start a mosquito net project with my community. So that’s about it for right now. I’m slowing putting together my defense against not going back to America. I bet you can’t wait to read that!