Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas Update

... it's late, but it's here

Hello everybody!

I’m not usually one for mass emails or Christmas letters, but considering there are so many wonderful, supportive people out there, I thought it’d take much less time (and a lot less copying and pasting) to write all of you at once. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean I appreciate you less as individuals (wink, smile combo). I may very well have enough time on my hands to write one hundred individual letters within a few days, quite frankly, I’m feeling a bit lazy (which may have something to do with the bike ride to and from Bolga). So forgive me just this once.

I hope this email finds you well and surrounded by fluffy, white landscapes – if there’s one thing I’m missing right now, it’s being able to drink a cup of hot chocolate without sweating amounts equal to my weight. Right now it’s Harmattan. This means no rain, lots of excess dirt particles floating around (requiring me to sweep multiple times a day and making clean toes a distant possibility that may or may not have ever existed), but surprisingly chilly nights. They’re lovely (like, require a fleece blanket lovely) and, because I know they’ll not last much longer, I drink them in and stay in bed as long as possible (which isn’t as easy as it sounds when you live in-between two family compounds the size of Texas). Soon it will be dry season, which is without the blissfully cold nights. I plan on spending the hottest few weeks (when the temperatures reach well over 100 degrees and Africa provides limited tree coverage) sprawled out in front of my tiny fan, melting into the cement floor. Ghanaians love hearing this, by the way, because they like to insist it’s not a biological possibility – I think they worry for my sanity.

I’ve just returned from my In-Service Training and, after learning about how to write proposals for grant money and where to find them, I’m really motivated again. I hear this happens after any mid-service training, but I’m lucky to have a really motivated supervisor and I have no doubt that, in the very least, he will pester me until I write what needs to be written. My first project is going to be a world map on the side of a school computer lab (built by the last volunteers) – complete with a red ribbon, a few HIV/AIDS statistics, and health lessons for the students. I’m hoping my fellow volunteers will help in this. Next it’s a monthly radio show on AIDS related issues pertaining to gender and youth with my supervisor and, hopefully, the big project of the next year is a People Living with HIV/AIDS support group in Sherigu – complete with income building projects to help pay for medication and the acquisition of an office. I’m starting the process of this next week, so I’ll keep you updated on the status of these projects (and the amount of hair I have left).

I’m starting to feel much more confident in my village (and with the thought of village life). I truly enjoy every easy (who am I kidding?), difficult (that’s more like it), and challenging minute here. I’m so glad I ran full speed in the direction of this dream – I even have an idea of what I want to do when I get home. Learning as much as I can from this experience is as easy as remembering my humility (which isn’t hard when I’m constantly embarrassing myself). Sometimes it’s difficult struggling between my new, adoptive culture and the one I brought with me, but I can predict a lot of behavior now (which I think is a step in the right direction when it comes to accepting that behavior). I haven’t done anything really significant, just yet, but I’m working on it. Just living here is pretty cool, if I’m being honest. I could do absolutely nothing of value (by way of proposal writing and projects) and I’d still be completely satisfied with the fact that I managed to immerse myself into a completely different reality (and survived). This marks a change in how I’ve viewed my time here (though this is an ever-changing, yo-yoing feeling) and I’m quite proud to graduate out of anxiety-class and into acceptance of my life here.

What’s an average day in the life of Emma? I wake up, often to the pounding of children at my door wanting art supplies for the day, and sweep my house. I drink my British tea and then I hang out. Hanging out usually involves reading – a lot – and sitting under lots of trees with people doing nothing but listening to them talk (and trying to follow along). Sometimes I head into Bolga (the district capital of my area) and spend a few hours near internet connection, a mostly-English speaking population, and white people. I can speak simply in the local language and I can understand what’s spoken slowly (which is really exciting when I get it right). I have two cats, both of which are pregnant a majority of the time, and two kittens I’ve yet to find homes for from the last batch. Soon after Christmas I’ll be fixing up my house and finally making it something I’d like to live in (versus squat in).

So, that’s my end of the world. A lot slower paced that what you must be experiencing. If you’d like, I’d love to hear from you – tell me how you’re doing, what’s new in your world – in America, everything. It’s comforting to have normal conversation, so anything you’ve got: throw my way. I miss everyone and I appreciate all of the support I get. It gets a little lonely being the only white person within a five mile radius sometimes, so you’re emails, Facebook messages, and (sometimes) packages are the highlight of my day when I get them. I know I am slow to respond sometimes, but know that you are all in my thoughts and I miss everyone. Think of me – sans a white Christmas and sweating my non-existent balls off – and I will be sure to think of you while I’m singing Christmas Carols with the other volunteers in a week.

Thanks again, La eni fii (small time)