May - June 2003 -- Volume 16, Number 3
Dramas of South Africa
Angela Farr, a young friend of the editor from San Diego, recently went abroad to Cape Town for her senior year in Theater Arts through UC Santa Cruz. Her goal was to expand her studies in drama and to broaden herself by becoming a global citizen. She can be reached at 12 Bedford Rd, Observatory, Cape Town 7700, South Africa.
I attended a protest march in support of HIV/AIDS medication for all patients, not just those who can afford it (a very small percent); 30,000 people attended the march--an amazing sight: 30,000 people singing in their native tongues songs of unity. The whole community participated from second graders to senior citizens. It was beautiful.
Every day 600 people here die from AIDS-related complications, an epidemic problem, partly because the government hasn’t acknowledged that HIV causes AIDS. Worse, medical attention is very scarce for the poor. One man who directed a mobile medical clinic told me that if a township has the clinic once a month, they are considered very fortunate.
Basically a shanty town where people collect whatever materials they can find to build little shacks, a township can shelter from 50,000 to a half million people. Usually in the outlying areas of major cities, developed during apartheid and the forced removals, they also usually lack electricity and running water. The mobile clinic director told me that the clinic is usually the only medical attention that these communities receive and, if there are too many people and you aren’t seen when the clinic comes, you could wait up to two months for medical attention: whether your child is sick, or you broke your leg, or who knows what.
I am going to volunteer with a group that goes into townships and provides HIV/AIDS prevention education. It targets everyone in the community to elucidate cultural myths and stereotypes. I am very excited about this!
It is also really exciting to see how pro-active the culture is here. My fellow students are among the latest generations to have grown up under apartheid, and I have met many who have begun community centers, medical clinics, or legal aid facilities in their communities. They are getting their degrees and returning to their townships and making huge differences.
The largest club on campus, SHAWCO, a service organization, was started by a medical student who one day drove his car to a township and began giving basic medical attention to anyone who needed it. Next Tuesday is a university-wide holiday for a SHAWCO fundraiser by a sister organization and everyone has the day off to participate. It blows my mind that a university would do that. There is a lot of hope for the future of South Africa; slowly but surely things are happening.
I can’t believe that I have the outrageous good fortune to live in such a beautiful paradise. Last year a BBC article listed the top five places everyone should go in his lifetime: the Grand Canyon was number two and Cape Town was number three or four. Cape Town lies at the point where two oceans come together. Huge mountain ranges tumble softly down to white sand beaches, similar to Hawaii; here are some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, dense luscious forest landscapes, and hillside upon hillside of delicious vineyards and wineries.
I joined the surfing club, I’m also joining the scuba club, and lastly I joined the choir. Members sing in all the eleven different African languages. It’s really challenging because some of the sounds are expressed in clicks and there are words that my brain has a really hard time even attempting to put my lips around, but I’m trying. We are going on an exciting ten day tour to Botswana later. Last year they went to Canada. We are also going to be recording their second CD which I will get to a part of. Yeah!!
It is a really weird and empowering feeling to be apart of a majority population. In the States I am always in the minority; I don’t know what it is to be otherwise. It is so wonderful to have professors that look like me. In America I don’t see a lot of black people that are praised for their intellect and here there are so many! It is also empowering to see my image or people that look like me as a standard of beauty. This image is everywhere within the art, the literature, the magazines--everywhere.
I live in a wonderful little old Victorian cottage with lots of charm in a neighborhood called Observatory. It is a very trendy, funky, and eclectic little area in a major state of transition. So I get to see all of Cape Town here: professionals, lots of students, families, homeless, everyone. I live with four other international students, a real blessing because we are really good matches for each other. We have two beautiful patios, lots of little flowers, palm trees, a cute little swimming pool, and a nice little family room with a fireplace. I have my own very spacious room I have decorated with pictures of family and friends. I feel really good here. I think that when our lease is up in July I am going to move to another neighborhood just to get a feel of a different part of the city. But we’ll see. I really enjoy going out and talking to all the shop owners in the neighborhood about all kinds of things: good places to eat, apartheid, politics, everything; people are very open here, sharing about their experiences.
So, this is the beginning of my second week of school [3/10]. The University of Cape Town looks like an Ivy League university, very beautiful with ivy growing everywhere, luscious botanical gardens, and stunning Dutch/English architecture. The theatre department is like a conservatory and the best in the country, auditioning hundreds and admitting only twenty students a year at the beginning level. They said that it would be impossible for me to get in and to be able to be placed at the level I wanted, the graduate honors level. I begged and pled for an opportunity to audition for them. They granted me a slot and I got in! They said this never happens so I am very, very fortunate. I attend classes and workshops six hours a day taking acting, voice and movement training and some theatre theory as well. I love it!!!
So, while I am still adjusting to all the cultural differences, I am really enjoying Cape Town. The other day we went to see all the little penguin families out on the beach; now, you don’t see that everyday! Our bus driver warned us to make sure that all the windows were closed on the bus before we got out to see the penguins because the baboons would get on the bus and once they get on aboard, "good luck getting those bloody buggers out!"
We don’t have a television at my house but we have been reading a lot; it is so hard to read about the war. There is a huge controversy on what information the US press can and will show the American public, due to sensitivity issues. Here we get extremely graphic pictures of the war. It makes me feel so sad for everyone involved.
The first week that I got here there was a record heat of I think about 100 degrees, abnormally hot even for South Africa. I was so sick of my hair, which is naturally very wild and curly, that I decided to cut it all off. Not shaved but really, really short and very natural. I’ve never had the guts to wear my hair like this before. I feel extremely liberated about this decision. A lot of people had asked me why I wear my hair so conservatively. (Conservatively???? I‘m thinking if you only knew what it took for me to just go and sit in a strange hairdressers chair and say “cut it all off.”) Anyway, I say this to point out that since I cut and wear it naturally people can’t tell that I am American until I speak. Now often I just go places and sit there, incognito, and observe and listen quietly.
Everyday someone asks me, “So, what do you think about Cape Town?” And every time I am asked this it gets harder to answer. The longer I am here, the more complex and layered my experience and interpretations become. I don’t know how to answer without engaging in a lengthy dialogue, which I’m sure they weren’t wanting: in some parts of Cape Town there are stores that have security gates in front which require you to get buzzed in.
Well, I walked up to one salon which I walk past often and thought since they are somewhat close to my house it might be a good place to get my hair done. So I walked up to the gate, and normally when you walk up to the gate, the sales person will automatically just let you in. Well, I walked up and looked into the salon at the hairdresser, expecting to be let in. She didn’t even get up from her chair; she just looked at me and said, “What do YOU want?” And I said, “I would like to come in.” She replied, “What do you want HERE?” I replied, “I want to come inside. Is that okay?” “Well, what’s your business here?” she asked. “I wanted to see your salon,” I said. And she replied,”WE don’t do YOUR hair here, okay, bye.” I didn’t even know how to respond to that. I just stood there on the outside looking in dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe that she would be so rude to me AND that she wouldn’t even let me in her store. And now everyday I walk past this place and am reminded that this is a store that I cannot go into. At first it just made me feel really really angry and now it makes me feel very sad for her and her little world that she lives in.
I have told everyone I know to boycott this salon and I am going towrite her a letter to let her know exactly what she made me feel like when she did that. Now what she wants to do with that letter will be her business but at least I will have said something.
But on the flip side of this I have also met so many people that have been incredibly kind and open. It just makes it hard to give a standard black or white answer to the question, “What do you think about Cape Town?” after an experience like that. And I know that I am not the first person in the world to ever have an experience like that, but I still take it rather personally; I think that it would be hard not to.
I am trying to get out and see as much South African theatre and performance as possible. Currently there is a huge two-week arts festival happening all around the Cape. Also in July I am attending the Grahams Town Festival, which is supposed to be one of the largest theatre and performance festivals in the world, second only to the festival in Scotland. I am really excited and inspired at the diverse and rich theatre and performance scene here in South Africa. I feel like I am getting so many new ideas left and right.
Two housemates and I bought a car, and boy is that a new adventure. For starters they drive on the opposite side of the road, which is so weird, I can’t tell you how many near misses I have had while merely walking across the street and looking in the opposite direction than the traffic. Yikes!!! But I am slowly getting the hang of it. My housemates and I have been out cruising the streets of Cape Town just getting a feel for the city, which is stunning, amazingly beautiful. I just got a couple of rolls of film developed and put on disc. So my next project is getting them all sent out to all of you. Thanks again for all of the love and support; they mean more than you can ever know. With Oodles and Oodles of Love,
A decision is a risk rooted
in the courage of being free. --Theologian Paul Tillich GO FOR IT!!:
Ahna Olsen-Fender left San Diego in December for northern India in a climate of impending war, against all her elders’ advice and concern, to study Indian poetry and to write. She has endured--without training or support-- all the cultural and physical difficulties that Westerners experience in South Asia (illness, culture shock, privacy deprivation, bureaucratic nightmares) and those of you who have been there will understand. She has traveled throughout northwestern India at this point, including a journey on camel back in the deserts of Rajasthan. Here she writes of the disconcerting-to-Westerners celebration of Holi in Varanasi. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been difficult for me, while in India, to be the kind of correspondent I would like to be with each of you. You see, I myself am having trouble keeping up with what's happening here! I am in Delhi, as I write to you. The several days I have spent here have revealed to me a whole different side of India. I have landed rather serendipitously into the house of an American FBI agent’s family, friends of my relatives. After several months of backpacking, hopping trains, moving in and out of dingy hotels, eating at little dive restaurants and now and then enjoying the exotic hair-wash, suddenly I have somehow ended up with a cook, a driver, and a marble-tiled shower. Yesterday I experienced the shock of accompanying my host to the private Embassy supermarket: Bisquick, Dr. Pepper, Skittles, Log Cabin Syrup, Lucky Charms, Animal Crackers, Pop Tarts... I almost passed out.
Holi, March 18, 2003
Something rises with the fever of the day. A bull gone mad in the narrow grotto thrusts its head, a mass of bucking muscle, we are thrown aside--something wild, something wild rising with the fever of the day. At night, the street fires: as I lower my eyes, lean arms stretch and flicker toward me, stretch and flicker. Something wild is rising. I walk the noon-still ghats, water buffalo cool in the shallows, submerged, trod underwater over plush mud and decomposing flowers. The orange-clad babas come and go beneath the enormous blue sky. I feel sleepy-surreal, like the water buffalo, my whole body water-weightless, only my head above surface, huge and bobbing.
Suddenly the color explodes over me from above. I don't even see the balloon, just feel the force of impact and the wetness bloom on my back--arms, feet, cheeks spattered turquoise. I spin around: spindle-legged goats sit princely on the stone steps of the ghats. Clusters of young boys mill about, eyes flickering in my direction. My cherry red salwaar kamis with white polka dots is completely drenched in turquoise color. Flustered, enraged, I flounce up the steps of the ghat, and march through the marketplace, past the marigold garland-makers and chai wallahs and boys playing cricket in the sunlight, trying desperately to maintain my dignity as men caw at me "Oh, madam, you play Holi already?" Holi: the festival of colors, delivered two days too early, direct to my person. Had they no tact? My clothes were ruined. I felt humiliated. Holding my wet, limp dupata in my hands, my cheeks spattered with blue drops, I slunk like a wet dog back into my guesthouse.
The festival energy had taken the city. Music blared from scratchy speakers on the streets and the boys flailed their arms, hips gyrating in tight circles. Little girls strutted about beneath bright parasols. Many foreigners fled the city, feeling the friction in the air, having heard the stories: last year a Danish tourist left his hotel for five minutes during the morning of Holi, and returned two hours later, stripped completely naked and smeared in cow shit. Those of us who chose to stay in Varanasi have caught like a contagion a strange strain of agitation, making us jumpy, paranoid, eyeing the high balconies as we ducked through the streets. The hotel owners warned us not to go outside.
We rose before dawn on Holi, when the streets were still bathed in blue semi-darkness and the chai was just boiling on the stove tops. Down the corridors we strode, a pack of four, armed with eight water bottles of liquid color: red, green, pink, handfuls of balloons, and a pump gun. We painted each other's faces, military-style, with stripes of brilliant red powder. My uniform consisted of the ruined red salvaar kamis, still patterned with turquoise splotches, a swimming-cap type hat fashioned out of a plastic bag, bug-eye sunglasses, and my soiled dupata draped over my head, like a bizarre 50s film-star.
On Sonapura Road bands of men were beginning to assemble. As we sped along, one man pushed himself right up into my face, hissing "Madam! You are fool to go out!" Then the color was let loose. It flew from our bottles, and we were running, my back soaked purple; we tore round the corner toward Harischandra Ghat. Halfway down the street a fire smoldered still from last night's ceremony and boys caked in ash and silver paint, doused in purple color, danced wildly, flailing, flinging color.
We cut through the mass and burst out on the other side, purple liquid in our mouths, ears, running down our arms. We ducked inside a hotel. The man behind the counter greeted us with a smirk. We bounded up the six flights of stairs, to the rooftop. Below barefoot children in purple and green party hats scampered along the edge of the building, into their houses to reload their water pistols. We leaned over the side and dropped the first round of balloons on a cluster of them. A little boy in a gold mask danced madly, legs jittering like an insect, pounding his chest, taunting us. On the main road a foot train of drummers and sundry brass band members flooded down the street, surrounding and absorbing the purple ash-covered boys for an instant in one throbbing, dancing throng.
Suddenly we spotted below a crazy German couple who had set up a barricade behind a rickshaw, and with a bucket brimming with purple liquid and a plastic bazooka, were fending off a crowd of whooping boys and men in spattered white kurtas. The music pounded, the crowd closed in around them, and they were doused in color, entire buckets dumped over them from the balconies above, while they poured out purple ammunition. A young Indian tore open a whole plastic packet of brilliant yellow powder and emptied it all over the German man. There was a single shocked moment of pause, then the two men suddenly embraced, limbs smeared in yellow, laughing, and the crowd cheered, hailing them with waves of water.
Upstairs two pretty, platinum-blond Swiss girls with powdered skin and carefully lined eyes sat, pristine and pastel in the sunlight, sipping coffee. One girl was whining how yesterday a man had dropped a balloon on her head from above, leaving an orange skunk-stripe in her platinum locks. I looked at them, then glanced down at my arms dyed blue and purple, my soggy pant legs, my clownish spattered uniform. There was no going back now. I saw in their fear and disdain myself, two days ago, hit by that first turquoise shock of color, hit by the terror of losing control, of becoming the fool, of being swallowed up into the wilds of that insurmountable energy.
I took a deep breath, and with friends Byron and Pascal, and two sacks full of rainbow-colored water balloons, plunged downstairs, joining the bazooka-wielding Germans. At once the color began to fly, splashing on the street. Suddenly a shiny-eyed Indian with silver paint on his hands set his gaze on me and barreled my way. I threw one and then two red balloons right into his face, exploding in his eyes, but he was unstoppable, tackled me, his palms smearing silver down my cheeks. By the time I broke away, another small boy had already latched onto my back like a mad koala bear, smearing motor oil on my face, in my mouth, on my teeth. From out of nowhere appeared a pack of lank Italians from our hotel, the tough, raspy brunette girl drenched head to toe in color, face smeared, emptied a bottle of blue water over my head and we screamed and hooted and doused each other. And the street had gone mad, pulsating: a drunk, maniacal, grey bush-headed sadhu raving in his rainbow-dyed dhoti, kids throwing cow patties, a frazzled, tie-dyed group of Japanese tourists straggling by.
And all the while chanting packs of mourners carried bodies on bamboo stretchers down the street to the burning ghat, the corpses covered in metallic gold paper and draped in red, patterned cloth like strange, garish gift-wrapped packages. Colored balloons exploded mercilessly on the hood of the white funeral car and the white-clad mourners. The dogs wrestled and tore scraps of gold paper in the alleyways, while a toothless grandma rocked on her doorstoop to the deafening music.
We ran toward home on the ghats, the sound of breaking glass on the streets, color-spattered policemen standing about, cows, goats, dogs splotched with color. We had come face to face with our fear, with that potent, wild energy we had felt building in the city's core all week. And I knew then that I had been called to Varanasi for this purpose, to be immersed in the marketplace, bathed in the wildness, absorbed into the elements, the water, the shit, the ash, that I had had to let go of everything, for the transformation to occur. Wet, limp-limbed, shaking from exhaustion, heart throbbing, I returned, having broken through layers of fear and dirt and ego, I returned, having touched something down in that crowd, and deep in myself, something uncontainable.
Letter from Palestine
sad times of conflict, we are honored to offer the courageous statement
of the parents of young peace activist Rachel Corrie of Oregon, followed
by a moving "letter from Palestine" which Rachel sent them on
Feb. 7, 2003, two weeks after her arrival in the Gaza Strip and before
her brutal intentional death by an Israeli (IDF) bulldozer while protecting
a Palestinian family home. Read more about Rachel online; there are many
sites, search on her name.
March 16, 2003: We are now in a period of grieving and still learning the details behind the death of Rachel in the Gaza Strip. We have raised all our children to appreciate the beauty of the global community-family and are proud that Rachel was able to live her convictions. Rachel was filled with love and a sense of duty to her fellow man, wherever he lived. And she gave her life trying to protect those that are unable to protect themselves. Rachel wrote to us from the Gaza Strip and we would like to release to the media excerpts of her experience in her own words at this time. Thank you.--Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, Olympia, WA
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States--something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere.
An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me, “Ali”--or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me "Kaif Sharon?" "Kaif Bush?" and they laugh when I say "Bush Majnoon" "Sharon Majnoon" back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn't quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: Bush mish Majnoon... Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say "Bush is a tool", but I don't think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago--at least regarding Israel.
Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving.
Nobody in my family has been shot, while driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint--a soldier with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.
They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven’t wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you’ve met people who have never lost anyone--once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing--just existing--in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world’s fourth largest military--backed by the world’s only superpower--in its attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.
As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees--many of whom are twice- or three-time refugees. Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are, or are descendants of, people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine--now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt. Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.
Today as I walked on top of the rubble where these homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and "what's your name?" There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting-- and also occasionally waving-- many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away.
In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count--along the horizon, at the end of streets: some just army green metal; others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous; some hidden, just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners. Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian-controlled areas under Oslo. But as far as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another. Certainly there is no place invulnerable to Apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.
I've been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the "reoccupation of Gaza." Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents, but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here, instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities.
If people aren't already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region, then I hope they will start. I also hope you'll come here. We've been wavering between five and six internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O.
There is also need for constant nighttime presence at a well on the outskirts of Rafah since the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells. According to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week provided half of Rafah’s water supply. Many of the communities have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about 10 p.m. it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few.
I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-community relationship. Some teachers and children's groups have expressed interest in email exchanges, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that might be done.
Many people want their voices
to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals
to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the
filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning
to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the
ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against
San Diego’s Newest PC Volunteer
PCV Kendra Goffredo left Escondido in February for Nepal, one of San Diego’s latest PCV deployments. Visit Kendra in Nepal, or on her website: http://www.geocities.com/kendragoffredo/Nepal.html where she has beautiful pictures and exquisite journal pages. She can also be reached at email@example.com Since the Editor and her group were Nepal IV (PC used Roman numerals in those days), this makes her feel ancient but oh, so nostalgic.
Namaste: February 28
My Peace Corps group is the 196th to serve Nepal where PC has been for over 40 years. I have been in Kathmandu for a few day with my group of 23 members. The vibe between all of us is very positive. We each have something unique to offer and the group has become like family.
Author (on left) with another volunteer. (from author's website)
This week we have done a lot of administrative stuff: getting vaccinations, learning the rules we can't break, getting a medical kit, which is actually the size of briefcase, getting ID cards to enter the US Embassy and Phora Dubar. Tomorrow's training topic: how to use a charpi, which is the Nepali word for latrine, otherwise known as a porcelain hole in the ground, very different from the western toilets we are used to.
Sunday we leave Kathmandu and head for the border town Baierahawa where we will meet our host families with whom we stay for the next three months. After training is complete we are sworn in and become official volunteers (now I am technically a Peace Corps Trainee, not a PCV). Then we are sent out to our posts. We have a little say in where we are sent, but no guarantees.
I had my first official Nepali meal yesterday which is called dalbhat (basically rice and lentils). The Nepalis eat dalbhat for every meal. Language courses are going well so far. My name, Kendra, has a meaning in Nepali: "center." I have been told by many Nepali trainers this is a very good name to have... thank you, mom and dad.
Tissues for a Runny
Nose: April 6
We finally made it to my Nepali grandmother's house of brick, held together by uneven cement that could have only been mixed by hand. The floors are dirt, the windows the only source of light, except evening candles. The "stove" upon which my daal bhaat was prepared was fueled by gases derived from cow dung (of which the village certainly had no shortage). Oxen and cows, abundant in the gaau, invite flies, which in turn were thriving on this plot in particular.
As I sat on the back porch, sipping milk boiled on the cow dungstove, taken from the ox minutes before it was boiled, I was in the company of many strong Nepali women and most importantly, Baabu. The nickname Baabu is used for the baby boy of the family. One young woman in my Nepali family was the proud mother of this darling one-year-old Baabu. Seeing this happy baby, along with the recent news of Carson back home in the premie ward, was almost too much. It might have been the flies swarming, the same flies that persistently landed on Baabu, giggling unaware; it might have been the dirt on his hands and face or the snot dribbling from his nose that begged for a tissue's attention; it might have been his clothes, full of holes and faded from years of outfitting other Baabus; or the crackers that fell on the ground and somehow made their way into Baabu's mouth.
This image of Baabu may lead some people to think he was neglected or unloved, but that is far from the truth. His mother loves him with all she has. Baabu's circumstances are simply proof of how hard life is in the gaau. Flies and dirt are hard to chase away without running water, tissues simply don't exist, babies with clothes, even worn out and faded clothes, are the lucky ones, and crackers will provide nourishment to a hungry little body, even if those crackers have fallen on the parasite-infested ground. Baabu is happy and loved. He has made it past his first birthday, quite a milestone in a country where 25% of children never make it to their fifth birthday.
Sitting out here, hours away
from a hospital, I wondered if Carson would have made it. This brought
tears to my eyes. I thought of the million outfits hanging in Carson's
closet, waiting to be worn for the first time. I thought about the special
products in his bathroom--the baby bathtub, the baby shampoo, the baby
lotion, the baby wipes, the diapers--all designed to keep him clean and
healthy. I thought about the baby food he would eat and the juices he
would drink when he reaches Baabu's age. I thought about all of this and
wondered how one baby could have so much, while another baby has so little.
I can't say I found an answer. I also can't say much time passed before
I selfishly thanked God that my little nephew was in a clean hospital
with all the soft tissues a tiny runny nose could ever need.
"Do not wait for leaders; do
it alone, person to person."
It has occured to me that America has lost, in beginning the Iraqi conflict, an extraordinary opportunity to perhaps create a new world order.
Envision for a moment a year ago, before the concept of the current war, the many directions history could have taken: we were, by a combination of circumstances, the only functioning world power at the time. As such we could have done so many things as a leader for good in the world. With few questions or challenges due to our strength. And we had much of the world behind us in empathy and support because of 9/11. Such moments are rare.
There would have been no strong “internicene” challenge to our leadership if we decided to create something really different, like, for instance, a PEACEFUL global unification against Sadaam. Or a global coalition for an End to Terrorism. Or a coalition that “bombs” the threatening entities with food, medicine, water purifiers, hand tools, and all the things we RPCVs know are necessary for basic survival. Or, better, answers these needs before the threat arises. A position that did not take up arms, but stood, united and strong, for global good; there is great power in that sort of strength that history has never known.
America is known throughout the world for its benevolence and courage
as well as its mistakes, so this leadership would have been welcome by
virtually all nations. Rather than taking the traditional role of the
biggest cowboy with the biggest lasso and guns. We had the power, the
position, the ability, and, by Grace, the opportunity.
Just a thought. Meanwhile, log onto this site and light your own candle
Attendance: Gregg Pancoast, Marjory Clyne, Frank Yates, Justin Berger, Brenda Terry-Hahn and guest Gregg’s daughter Sofia attended both meetings. Ted Finkel, Rudy Sovine and an International Observer from Costa Rica attended 3/3; Tony Starks, Gail Souare, J. Lopez and guest David Fogelson (Regional Recruiter) attended 4/7.
President’s Report: Greg Pancoast discussed a request from the Los Angeles office to provide help in recruiting new volunteers. The Board discussed and gave background that it had always assisted to the LA group when asked. Gregg will answer the survey emphasizing that we have helped all along and will decide when it’s appropriate. Gregg reported that he would submit SDPCA’s application for re-affiliation with the NPCA by Friday, 3/7/3. The re-affiliation money had already been sent.
Financial Report: Frank Yates first presented the rough draft of the budget for review and then reported on the budget for next year. Brenda Terry-Hahn moved to approve next year’s Budget as reported. It was seconded and approved.
Membership: Frank Yates reported that there were 144 Current SDPCA members, 64 SDPCA members past due, 108 Current NPCA members, and 53 NPCA members past due.
Fundraising: Marjory Clyne reported raising $19.25 by Rudy from his Super Bowl party from bets on the game’s winner. She will man the SDPCA booth at Earthday, April 27th, in Balboa Park. The Archival Project is up and running, with 9 committee members.
Global Awards (formerly ISF & Domestic Awards): Frank Yates reported that the checks had been sent. Ted Finkel proposed that the board fund 3 of 7 requests for this round of ISF. The proposals were:
$1100 was approved unanimously for the three projects. The Board also discussed the “Domestic Award” and its inclusion with the ISF committee. The Board approved combining oversight of the “Domestic Award” with the ISF calling the new board position and committee “Global Awards”.
Newsletter: No Report.
Web Site: No discussion. Evite has been used to notify the membership of events and will continue to be used to notify the membership on upcoming events.
Social/Community Action: Gail Souare stated that they had a wonderful and well-attended social event last weekend. The committee will prepare for the annual meeting. Among the ideas discussed will be a potluck, a silent auction, outdoor activities, and games. Marjory Clyne will work with Gregg Pancoast in heading up the preparation. We will be providing support at the Rock & Roll Marathon in June. Volunteers are being requested, four of whom need to be there at 3:30 am or 4:00 am. An event is being planned in July to help the new Social Committee. It will be a dine-out at an El Salvador Restaurant, Pupeseria, which is west of highway 15. Social Hour (was held) at Tio Leo’s, March 13, at 5:30p.m. Desert campout (was held) April 5-6. Annual Meeting, May 18.
Communications Committee: Brenda presented numerous proposals (3/3) that came out of the Communications Committee meeting. The Board decided to review the proposals and be prepared to discuss and vote on them at the April meeting. The Communications and Newsletter Committees were combined into the Communications Committee at the March meeting. In April, Justin Berger moved that we approve the two new committees (Membership and Communications) with responsibilities as drafted and changed during this meeting. Motion was seconded and approved. Justin Berger volunteered to check the SDPCA voice mail during April. Dave Fogelson provided a list of RPCVs who are not members of SDPCA--Frank Yates will make sure they get the next newsletter. Gail Souare is sending out an E-vite concerning Earth Day. Brenda Terry-Hahn presented the Board with a “Rice Protest” idea to encourage President Bush to refrain from war. The Board approved $36 to send color copies of the newsletter to the NPCA newsletter contest, while making it clear that members receive black and white copies most issues.
Speaker’s Bureau: Justin Berger reported that he has put in several free ads in the Reader to promote the Speakers’ Bureau and the SDPCA. He received two requests for speakers in the month of February.
Unfinished Business: None discussed.
New Business: David Fogelson provided a brief introduction to his background, purpose and aspirations. He will be having a party to honor the new volunteers. He would like a new “Recruitment Corner” in the newsletter and would like to help our association.
Next Meeting: Annual meeting on May 18, 2003 from noon until 4:00 pm at a location to be determined. It is likely that this meeting place will be Santa Clara Point, which will cost the SDPCA $5.30.
SDPCA News Bytes
SDPCA Board Positions
Plus-- SDPCA still needs volunteer
accountant-types to informally review the financial records (a legal requirement).
Please contact me if you can help.
SDPCA Campout at Agua
Great food, outstanding company, stories and conversation (lots in Spanish), live music, night winds to 70 mph, mad dogs and Englishmen who went hiking in the noonday sun of 80-plus degrees, great birdsongs, teenager cottontails risking their tails doing things parent bunnies warned against, stories around the fire till 3 a.m., glorious skies and stars with star maps and clear air, and wildflowers: composites bursting gold and ocotillo tempting us with its beginning blaze. The rest of you missed a GREAT time, so don’t let it happen again!
SDPCA Beach Potluck & Annual Meeting
It's time again for our annual meeting. This year it will be at Santa Clara Point on Mission Bay, Sunday, May 18 from 12:30 p.m. to ??? (the building closes at 4 p.m. but we can be on the beach later). In addition to our official meeting, we will have a pot luck lunch, a silent auction, an election of the 2003-4 board, plenty of fun activities for the whole family including hopefully a beach fire for s’mores!
Here’s what to bring for the potluck (by last initial) and silent auction:
SDPCA will provide plates, forks, knives, spoons, napkins. To donate your auction items to this always exciting event, or to work on it with the social committee, contact Gail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Boats, beach game equipment, and all manner of fun stuff encouraged.
Watch your evite for any further updates. (If you don't get evite, then we just haven’t received your Emil address!! Please send your e-mail address to email@example.com Don't be left out!!)
Directions: I-5 to Seaworld Drive exit & go west. Follow signs to Ingraham/West Mission Bay. Loop around onto West Mission Bay Drive. Go right at stop sign by the roller coaster, and right onto Santa Clara Point at the stop light.
Watch for Salvadoran
I requested and have just been assigned as the San Diego Regional Recruiter for Peace Corps Los Angeles. I'll be spending some quality time down here raising awareness about PC, helping new volunteers get underway, and strengthening the RPCV community in any way I can as a member of SDPCA. I hope this is the start of a great relationship. I also am happy to provide brochures or cover community events you'd like to me attend.
About me: originally from Chicago, I served in El Salvador's Agroforestry Program 1998-2000. I came home via an epic Mexican road trip and began working as the North Coast regional recruiter in the San Francisco PC Office. It was a little cold for me up there so I transferred down here to work with San Diego. Aside from PC, I'm an avid surfer, struggling musician (sax/vocals), and enjoy a good time (you'll see me at RPCV events).
If you are interested in sharing your experience (and slides) with students, community members, or have a great idea for PC recruitment, please contact me. I'm still researching activities for summer; suggestions are greatly appreciated. Also, Kris Kohler (the part time UCSD campus representative) and I are planning a potluck party for RPCVs and future now-applying Volunteers around late May/June.
Any ideas for venues? We're also looking for RPCVs to enjoy the day with recruitment staff (it will be hand in hand) at the San Diego County Fair Peace Corps table in Del Mar from June 17th-22nd. In exchange for a few hours of talking to folks about Peace Corps, RPCVs will get the day's admission, a $10.50 value, for free! I look forward to hearing from you!
Please, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call Peace Corps Los Angeles, 1-800-424-8580, opt. 1, ext. 1114 (SDSU
phone number coming soon).
Program Needs SDPCA Interpreters!!
Volunteer Interpreters assist us on an as-needed basis with a variety of activities, including client interviews and translation of official documents. The typical case requires two to four hours of translation work, scheduled flexibly to accommodate the busy lives of all our volunteers.
If you are interested in participating in the Volunteer Interpreter Program or have any questions, please contact me, Justin Berger (Ecuador, 1999-01) at (619) 231-7788 or email@example.com
Let’s Rock & Roll with Chris Isaacs
Elite Racing and the Suzuki Rock’n’Roll Marathon® welcomes the SDPCA to make the June 1, 2003 marathon the best ever! In five short years, this event has raised over $60 million for leukemia research!
The Marathon offers over 40 rock bands, 40 high school cheer squads, a chance to support all participants (world competitors, fast amateur athletes, disabled athletes, “Elvis” and “Dolly” runners, and first-time marathoners) and many surprises on the course and off.
Team captain (myself) sets up our station at 4:30 a.m. (I need 3 or 4 brave souls to help me; please contact me if you can make it. Bribes of food included!); volunteers begin about 5 a.m. (NO later than 6), depending on location, and we end about 1:15 p.m. We’ll serve energy gel, water and/or a fluid replacement drink at mile 16 on the 26.2-mile course.
All volunteers receive: a marathon T-shirt, an 6/1 concert ticket, a goodie bag, fun, satisfaction, and a moving experience. We need a group of 20-30 people (families/teens are welcome; for safety reasons, no children).
Bring a brown bag lunch and we’ll organize ourselves to bring a cooler of drinks (something besides water!) You’ll get a water-station-confirming evite the week before the marathon. We also need a canopy so we won't broiled by the sun.
To register or for questions
contact Xandra at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 619.291.8419 immediately.
My Name Is Tyler...
Historically a number of RPCVs have served in the military either before or after PC service. Tyler Phan Orsburn, Philippines (1997-99), serves on the USS Stennis as ship’s photographer, currently in port in San Diego. He has agreed to write us during the Iraqi conflict about life aboard and this unique perspective, omitting classified data. Write him at: ORSBURN@stennis.navy.mil
San Diego at nigth from Tyler's ship...
As I sit staring out a second story window, overlooking a crisp-and-clean-with-no-caffeine sunny La Jolla, California, all the while sipping on a large vanilla latte from Starbucks, I can only ask myself one question: I wonder if Mr. Sadaam likes caramel machiatos in the morning with his Sunday Baghdad Post?
Although I would have preferred to make our introductions at an ice cream parlor mulling over the options of 31 flavors: My name is Tyler and I am a Navy photographer, a 31-year-old Honduran-American born and raised in the bluest of Kentucky grasses. My connection to you, other than loving baseball, ping pong, soft boiled eggs and drinking ice cold beers out of a sweating cooler, is that I am a returned Peace Corps Volunteer: Philippines 1997-1999.
One may ask, How does a bilingual boy from the hills of Kentucky, with a degree in biology, travel the world doing biology stuff with his alma mater and as a PCV, and ultimately wind up on the high seas with the world's strongest navy promoting the idea of enduring freedom? And if I were to look you square in the eye and answer that question I would have to simply answer that I truly do not know! I guess the gods really are crazy!
One ship replenishing another, at sea....
Now if I were a commanding admiral, or a good third grade teacher for that matter, I would have some sort of objective for writing this article, and not waste my audience's time with such randomless flotsam. Fortunately I am glad to say that I do have guidance: the nurturing hands and ears of RPCVs that would like to have a first hand account of what it is like to live on an enormous, steely-gray aircraft carrier, all the while interacting with the most innocent of America's youth as a vector that launches death from mile-high steely cold birds circling dusty lands.
Never in my wildest dreams
would I have thought that I would have the opportunity to write as a war
correspondent - but this is exactly what I will do, sharing anecdotes
from the men and women that have ideals and dreams, and sprouting families
throughout this great land of ours, and let you feel how it is to be floating
at sea for six to eight months at a time. Currently the ship that I am
on is not scheduled to embark anytime soon; but, depending on the current
events of Baghdad and North Korea, that could change with the outgoing
View from a carrier...
PC News Bytes
NPCA in Chicago 2004
CAPCA will be inviting leaders in peace and advocacy to speak on international affairs, stateside advocacy of international projects, global education and international business practices and will be presenting awards of recognition to strong legacies within the Peace Corps family.
Potential presenters, volunteers, sponsors or those with anyadditional questions should contact the NPCA 2004 Conference Planning Committee Chair, Trina Janes, at email@example.com or 312/645-9400 ex. 35 or CAPCA President Stephanie Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org
NPCA Resolution of
Peace Corps alumni have a special responsibility to the people of the United States and the world. Few Americans have had the privilege to live as closely with the citizens of other countries, and to learn as much about other cultures, as Peace Corps Volunteers.
Most of us know the remarkable experience of being welcomed intoa stranger’s home, in a foreign place, far from our families. We know the feeling of overcoming language barriers in order to communicate as human beings. We understand the rocky road that must be traveled to overcome suspicion and misunderstanding that result from cultural and ethnic differences. We know, firsthand, that living together as citizens of a common planet is not an easy task. But, we know that with effort it can and must be done, a lesson reinforced by September 11.
Acting on this knowledge, the National Peace Corps Association, the nonprofit membership organization representing returned Peace Corps volunteers and Peace Corps staff throughout the United States, has issued a statement on international peace that it believes reflects the views of the great majority of Peace Corps veterans. That statement can be found on the NPCA website at http://www.rpcv.org.
[In this statement, NPCA calls on the US Government, the IraqiGovernment to take specific steps to avoid conflict and “to improve human understanding and promote international peace.”]
Peace Corps Suspends
"The flaw I have discovered in philosophical systems is that reality is always lurking in the shadows and slipping through the brush. Reality has never read philosophy." –W. Michael Gear, Coyote Summer
World Neighbors and Honduras An early July study visit to Honduras is being planned. Small in landmass, Honduras offers a great diversity - from tropical rainforests, to pristine beaches, to Mayan culture. We will visit remote villages where farmers are increasing crop yields while protecting the environment.
Our journey will also take us to one of the gorgeous coastal areas. Though filled with much natural beauty, Honduras' greatest asset is the relaxed, friendly people you will meet. Contact leader Gregg Biggs, email@example.com or 415-648-9577 or go to the World Neighbors website: http://www.wn.org/
Friendship Force is an international group which pairs you up with local residents in the country to which you’re traveling. Join the Force at a nominal charge, then get a listing for available Friends in all localities. Call Walter Butcher at 619.465.8969 or go online to the Friendship Force website at: http://www.friendship-force.org/
NPCA HosNet (Hospitality Network): The RPCV’s available pad, HosNet offers RPCV homes, both domestic and international (and local lore) for RPCVs, Americorps, and PC Staff. For more, email Alan Burrus at burrusNMPC@aol.com or call 505.983.7342.
State Department Info online at the US State Department’s website http://www.state.gov/ under Countries & Regions, will give you updated country-specific security information, disease warnings, and other important information for overseas destinations. It’s invaluable for a brief updated overview of what to expect.
High Drug Costs?
I found your Peace Corps Association
listed on the internet and I am hoping some SDPCA members could help.
Each of our interpreters must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident,
but besides that anyone is welcome to call. I look forward to hearing
Welcome, New Members!
We of SDPCA extend a warm welcome to our newest members. (If we received your membership late because you joined us through NPCA, this is beyond our control but we apologize anyway.) We’ve seen some of you at our events already and we want all of you to get involved in our activities. Let us hear from you!! You can reach us by the contact information listed on page 2.
New members are listed (whenever this information is given) by name, country and years of service, current occupation, area of residence, and email.
The PC Palate
The typical barrio street outside gives no hint of the charming pristine interior, but you can smell the wonderful food a block away. Authentic Michoacan, Guerreran, Jaliscan, and Oaxacan cuisine, deliciously prepared by Sra. Ibarra, a biology teacher from Acapulco.
Caring service, excellent prices, handmade tortillas (yes, even corn) and salsas. To splurge, we recommend the camarones in garlic butter which undid our cholesterol level for a month.
Share the wealth!! Submit YOUR favorite PC Palate Restaurant to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Pacific Waves is published six times a year by the San Diego Peace Corps Association which is fully responsible for its content. Except for copyrighted material, articles may be reprinted without permission with credit to the SDPCA.
Contributions are encouraged: e-mailed text file on disk- Mac preferred, or typed copy.
Please send to Editor, SDPCA, P.O. Box 26565, San Diego, CA 92196 or e-mail: email@example.com
Layout / Production
Contributors this issue are:
Gail Souare, Rudy Sovinee,
Frank Yates, Tyler Phan Orsborn,