Dec 7, 2012

Feeling Small, Stories - Day 36

it’s interesting to be able to see the kids’ personalities begin to seep through. even though i cannot understand them most of the time, i can see their nonverbals, their mannerisms.  it’s interesting to realize what people here typically see you as. a white person = a rich person. 99 percent of the time that is probably true. most of these people will never have close to the material wealth i have. that makes a few things cross my mind. i am small and insignificant in the world. not to say i don’t matter, but my worries and problems are so tiny, its hard to understand. i can never feel guilty for what i cannot control, nor embarrased. i was born into the wealth i have. i should feel thankful, but never guilty.

mama looked sad as she read a story tonite. i told her the nite before i wanted to record her story. tonite, rather than repeating the story she told last nite off the cuff, she read a story by flashlight. she looked proud but shy as i filmed. she laughed her usual laugh at the end, but i felt embarrassed for asking her to do that for me. i think abdallah asked if i wanted the other story, and i said yes, and wanted to set better lighting. mama seemed annoyed/impatient, and trying to humour me. i said maybe tomorrrow.

the scenery is beautiful here. yesterday i was feeling  bit whiney, annoyed i couldn’t get my precious internet and not wanting to be here. today was a new day. i spoke plenty of kiswahili, went for a walk with my brothers and sister and a new boy named jon, ate a good dinner, looked at the stars (which made me feel smaller, still) and generally enjoyed the day.

Dec 6, 2012

Social Norms and the Protestant Work Ethic - Day 31

abdallah seems to be the lost child. overlooked by the oldest boy, muhammed, and the young anifah. he is quiet, picked on occasionally, and looking for attention. he’s a very loving child.

i see the division of gender roles even in abdallah and anifah. he often angrily tells her to do something, and she complies without any recourse.

i think it’s interesting how muhammed fits in. he often runs errands for mama and baba, which seems like he wouldn’t, given he’s a boy.  he also assumes the role of the man of the house if baba is not home. i receive an “eric! mambo vipi?” rather than the respectful “shikamoo.”

never thought about the concept of doing in america. is my aprehension towards english and music because i don’t see the practicality in them? a resounding yes. is that because i feel like a protestant? i guess so. i need practical, concrete results. leaving something permanent. truth and beauty are trumped by pragmatism.

wow. i need to ruminate on this concept a while. i may be at odds with a deeply conditioned cultural norm. maybe i am not even debating my future with myself, maybe it’s just with the protestant work ethic. art is undervalued, i suppose.

I FEEL CREATIVE. I can imagine writing plays, stories, music, the like. Is there anything wrong with that?

Dec 5, 2012

Random Thoughts - Day 30

why can i not catch my breath? always short of breath lately. am i eating too much? pressure on the old lungs? di dunno. it’s annoying though. i want it to stop. i want easy breathing. i shouldn’t have to think about it, ya know? just one of those things that should be automatic. but instead i have to take these random deep breaths and i consciously must, at that…….

part of me feels disenchanted with carving out a hyperspecific dissertation, and the other part of me thinks, if i found something i enjoyed that much, i would love it. absolutely.

climate change is real and needs to be stopped. a tangible, practical thing. no sense in overthinking things in some philosophy class, climate change needs to be stopped.

i went to bed thinking, i guess i should just be a high school teacher.

Dec 4, 2012

My African Siblings - Day 26

just another one of those times… “two years? i cant make it. if i don’t enjoy this, life is too short to be here two years.” then something pops up to show me why i’m here. it’s not about me.

steve and i organized the teams for sports and games day and played soccer, frisbee, and volleyball. great to run around! so needed. hopefully we can do it again next week.

came home and took a shower, and my siblings abdallah and anifah took me on a walk. it was so interesting and beautiful. they just decided they wanted to take me somewhere, i guess. we stopped at steve’s to see if he was there. i assumed we would just walk around the neighborhood a bit, but instead we climbed up the mountainside. what a view. africa is gorgeous. makes me think, gee, these kids really need to understand their environment and why it’s important to take care of. i’ll never forget that walk, that sunset, my brother and sister, the piglets crossing the road! it was great.

i think the endorphins were quite needed.

i guess i have to go to a funeral tomorrow? interesting. they typically last three or four hours?

Dec 3, 2012

Happiness - Day 25

the abolishion of poverty seems the key to happieness for everyone, and i suppose you can do that through education. it’s interesting to compare poor american kids to poor tanzanian kids. wildly outspoken to extremely introverted and innocent in so many ways. but both seem to have to grow up too fast.

took a bunch of pictures of my family today.  funny how they want to pose and stuff. so cool. in front of their broken down truck, arms crossed, mostly straight faced. or acting things out, they love to act things out. pretending to open the door or stir the food. then they immeadiately want to see what the picture looked like and laugh and safi sana it.

an african faimly doesn’t show phyiscal affection. does that make them less healthy than one that does? i realize i would love to know more about the physhological or sociological data of african families, but it’s probably more important to raise them out of poverty first.

what does it mean to be happy? i just wonder how that can be achieved globally. is there a global standard of happiness? is it a universal? we all smile. the purpose of life is to be happy, to be able to look back on a life well lived. an examined life. let’s all get there.

Nov 30, 2012

A Recap of PC Training - Day 21

the last several days have been language training, english teaching training, and then either the bar or internet cafe or home.  dinners have been good. tonite we had the standard pea sauce with rice, potatoes, and a veggie of okra and something else i couldn’t tell what.

i showed the family my camera today and they were loving it. interesting to see them have no idea how to work something like that compared to american kids.

i have plenty of dandruff at the moment.  weird.

new wilco song is cool.  i might. i love my label cover.

i feel ready to be at my site.  i don’t feel ready to be far away from americans. i feel ready to be on my own schedule.  i still can’t believe i’m going to be here two years.  i feel ready to do it, though.  not missing home as much.  trying to be here and now.

i think it’s still the honeymoon phase with the country.  i do feel the dirtiness at times and i wish i could get cleaner in the shower.  i think it’s going to fly by.  already week 3.  cool.

i’m not looking forward to actually teaching english.  i think it will be fun, but it seems weird that i have to make lesson plans and stuff. i am going to be a real teacher! i take that back, i am looking forward to seeing how well i like it.  i’ll say again, i am proud and ready to do the 2 year commitment.

reading a brave new world. finished outliers a few days ago. i like the pace at which i am going through books.

i need to clean all my underwear, stat.

tonite i feel as though these next two years are going to be great.

Nov 29, 2012

Montezuma’s Revenge - Day 24

had the first case of montezuma’s revenge today.  we went to the market on a hot stinky day, and my tumbo was already a bit disheveled, so to speak.  i finally decided, walking back with steve, that i needed to find a choo, stat.  i stammered through the daladala stand, remembering a choo by the stadium.  but once i was there, my stomach felt fine.  so i went to the internet cafe for a 30 minute session. after about 15 minutes, i couldn’t take it anymore. the diahrrea was back, and i had to leave.  ran to the choo. there was an old man inside and two guys sitting outside within view of the choo. i attempted to open the door and they yelled, wait. oh. a person was using it. i shikamoo’ed the man on his way out and dropped trau. first time i had to use old lefty to clean myself.  i felt better.

Nov 28, 2012

What I Believe - Day 21

i know i believe in music.

i can believe that deep, meaningful, long relationships are the most important thing to bring contentment.

i believe in family and sticking together and taking problems head on and controlling them, not vice versa.

i believe in education. it is the most important life skill we can acquire though the years. 

i believe in progress and that everything can always be made better. 

i believe that the world needs to be protected and enhanced by humans, not plundered. 

i believe anything with a face should not be killed.

i believe in the abolition of poverty. 

i believe that there are great leaders and thinkers that have been stifled by their lack of opportunity (poverty).

i believe that there is no otherworldly reason as to why we are on earth.  the feelings and problems we have are here and must be solved by us.  we control the future.

i believe in god, and he exists in all of us. our connection with one another is god.

i believe in choices and individuality. 

i believe that we are all connected, and every decision affects everyone else.

i believe in leaving the world better than when i entered it. 

i see the world as a beautiful, curious thing, boundlessly rife with possibilities.

life is experienced through emotions, hard ones to bear and happy ones to enjoy.  without the hard times, happiness would not exist.  the key is to be content through even the good and bad, that this too shall pass.

i believe in living each day as your last, and carving out a life that allows that day in and day out. contentment. enjoy the gifts of this earth.

Nov 27, 2012

Rural or Urban? - Day 21

it was a good hike up the side of the mountain today, to a waterfall.  nice to be outside and break a sweat.  endorphins are important.  i appreciate nature and am happy it exists. 

do you think that humans are their happiest surrounded by nature?  they are probably their happiest when having meaningful strong relationships, but maybe even happier when they have those relationships in a park or something.  it just seems that since we rely on the living things of the world to feed us, sustain us, clothe us, shelter us, we would feel best surrounded by said things.  that’s an interesting idea, and it goes against everything i had once thought about where i wanted to live. 

urban cities are bursting with human life, but not with life in general.  it seems if you lived in nature, you would lose something important that urban cities offer.  maybe it is more important for us to surround ourselves with other people rather than nature. where you live determines a lot about how you live.  does urban versus rural, nature versus steel play more of an impact? or is home where you make it?  could you be just as happy anywhere?

it is easy to romanticize being surrounded by nature, living rurally with your family, being happy. a steward of the land.  is it easy to romanticize simply because i haven’t experienced that?  conversely, why is it that i feel as though i love grand rapids so much, that it has everything i would want?  is it because people i love are there, and we could have transplanted ourselves in yale, mi and been just as happy?  we love the restaurants because the food is good.  they’re local.  you feel a connection to them.  would i feel a connection to a local diner in anywhere, usa if i lived there long enough?  would i enjoy the food if i lived there long enough? 

nature seems too important to decide that i would like to live in a city and be far away from the forest. but cities offer so much human interaction. so many pros rather than cons. nature versus humans. on to the next chapter….

Nov 26, 2012

Vegetarianism - Day 20

it’s tough to avoid the numbing effects of alcohol/drugs. it’s the easy way out. but we would all be better off if we dealt with problems head on, as initially painful as that may be.  perhaps people that join the peace corps recognize that. 

i see that in the food we eat, us avoiding the problem.  if we all had to kill chickens to eat them, would many of us do it? 

this trip is surprisingly reinforcing my vegetarianism.  some people are culturally conditioned to kill animals by hand, and i don’t have a problem with that.  those of us that aren’t, however, shouldn’t eat them.  ideally, i would hope for a world that eats no meat. 

brave new world has brought up a few things for me.  one, being as close to “nature” and “natural” as possible is best.  that brings up a dilemma as far as the material i am using right now.  typing on a computer? a highly artificial piece of equipment. but this applies more to the ingestion of food into the body.  humans just by living have a negative environmental impact on the world around them.  so how can we live as progressively as possible, moving humanity forward, while still staying in tune with nature?

another point taken from brave new world (so far) is: how far is too far for civilization? when is it no longer civilized?  everything is circular.  when you become good at something, you risk becoming bad at it, ending where you began.  the test tube babies of bnw seem barbaric, not civilized.  natural is civilized.  the way we are made is automatically civilized.  to go against that is not.  to augment that can be civilized, and it can also not be.

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