Moreau Center: In Touch: Post-Grad Bulletin Board
Welcome to the Moreau Center's space for alumni and parents of alumni to share with us their own or their child’s post-grad volunteer experience (eg Holy Cross Associates, Peace Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps). We welcome experiences, stories, or anecdotes; impressions or memories; learning or advices; information you wish you'd known beforehand; reasons why your service was valuable; and anything else you'd like to share!
So it finally rained yesterday. It was the first time since I've been here and the people tell me the first time in over a year. I am indeed alive and well in South Africa. I've told you all before that it's a crazy place here, and it truly is. The contradictions between the first and third world are incredibly stark and often side by side.
It's not out of the question to see a man riding on a donkey cart holding a cellphone, taking a picture of you with it. For those of you who don't know, I completed training and was sworn in last week by the Ambassador as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am currently settling into my permanent site where I will be working for the next two years. It's on the edge of the Kalahari desert, about three hours north of Kuruman below the Botswana border (for those of you with a map). The paved road ends awhile before my village, called Gata Lwa Tlou in Setswana (it means Elephant's Skull) and Perth in English. It's in livestock country, and my host dad is a rancher. My host mother is a teacher at one of the local primary schools where I work. Our house is on the edge of the village, so I have a 180 degree view of the veld. I work at a middle school also in the village and then another primary school in a village called Kome about 5k away. I'm still trying to work out transport. Other than that things are normalizing. I got over my initial bouts of diarrhea and think I am stronger for it. I'm getting better at herding my family's goats into the kraal every night and hopefully my schools won't totally collapse when I start seriously trying to improve them (but I'm more worried about all the teachers leaving to go work in the mines). Anyway that's my life in a nutshell.
There's not a lot to do in the village other than the one lone foosball table in the shop, so I've been reading a lot. Mostly African history because almost no one has written me letters.
I am currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Kazakhstan, and no it's not like in the Borat movie:) I teach English to 4th through 11th graders in a town of 15,000 people. I wrote a grant for $2,500 to create a summer youth camp at my school, complete with puppet theatre and the kids and community really love it. I live in an apartment with a cat, and everyday I light a coal-burning stove to keep warm. For fun I hang out with other volunteers and local friends. The opportunity to experience a different way of life has been amazing for me and I am so grateful for it. Learning the traditions of another culture have helped me broaden my world view and get a much better perspective on America. I encourage anyone who wants to challenge themselves and lead a life uncommon to join Peace Corps, because it will impact who you are and how you think forever, for the best.
Then he said, 'Well that's what we think...let's see what God says,' as he opened his Bible. He read the passage of the call of the first disciples. Jesus says to them follow me, and they drop everything and follow him... committing themselves wholly and freely to God.
...I went to bed, uncomfortably close (so close in fact that spooning was inevitable) to my fellow volunteer, listening to a chicken cooing in the corner and a chorus of a family of twenty sleeping soundly. I've been trying for months now to succinctly communicate what it is I have learned here. His words clarifies it all...a life vulnerable only to love and founded on trust in God is the most joyful and peaceful life. Perhaps it was the desire to live that principle that brought me here in the first place.
Now it is our mission to bring this vivacious yet counterculture principle to the States and integrate it into our every action. It is a daunting task and perhaps more difficult then the two years of volunteer service in Honduras. I return a different person, both humbled and inspired by the opportunity of life!"
Confidentiality does not mean the same thing in Belize as it does in the states. It is as if Belize itself survives on shush (Creole for 'gossip'). Just on Friday I had a young first former come to me in tears, saying "Miss, a note fell out of my back pack and my teacher read it to the whole class!" The note depicted and explained some of her past abuse experience in great detail. I was flabbergasted that a person of authority, a teacher, could ever do such a thing that it took me a minute to respond. I am definitely not in the states any more! The principal and I came up with a solution that seemed to work, and the girl and I have a weekly appointment. I guess my role here is not to fix but witness the systemic problems I see in Belize. In that situation all I could do is stand in awe of her resilient spirit, and hope that what I said would leave her with a sense of security and hope."
"Like many people, when I think of community service and serving the less fortunate, I think of working maybe at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, at a food pantry or a hospital comforting patients; either way, though, there's more of that one on one relationship with the people you are serving. It's more of a 'direct' way of doing community service, and a lot of the time you can see the results of your work pretty quickly. It seemed, though, that more of the work that I was doing involved working with the people who were working directly with the community that the Robinson Center served. This was new to me, this more 'indirect' form of service and, since I only had experience with the more direct form of community service throughout college, it really wasn't what I expected when I decided to do community service after I graduated. My experience as a volunteer coordinator, though, has been nothing short of amazing.
...The South Bend house's co-facilitator Fr. Tom Smith told us [something] one night when we were gathered. He told us that it was incredibly hard being pulled out of Africa, where he was feeding the hungry, to be put in an office job at Moreau Seminary as the director of the Holy Cross Mission Center. He said, though, that any job you do, as long as you do it with love, will both aid and change the lives of anyone who may be involved in whatever job you may have. This is something that I now strive to do, and hope that all of you are finding that love in whatever you are doing."
The irony is, Alfredito didn't even live in Duran, he lives in Guayaquil and has lots of money. On top of that his party, the PRE, stole like bandits the last time they were in office. So what does he do to win? Buy stuff. He spent a ton of money and went on a public relations blitzkrieg. In my neighborhood the houses are made of unpainted cane or cement and the PRE went around painting houses in red and yellow, their colors. Alfredito made many posters of himself grinning behind his goatee with one fist raised high in a very fascist looking salute. Each poster reads, 'Alfredito, Mi Pana.' Roughly translating into, 'Little Alfredo is my homeboy.'
I couldn't believe it. Kids in our neighborhood had backpacks with his face on them, t shirts and soccer balls."
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