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“So that’s my life—or my life before I stopped sleeping—each day pretty much a repetition of the one before. I used to keep a diary, but if I forgot two or three days, I’d lose track of what had happened on which day. Yesterday could have been the day before yesterday, or vice versa. I’d sometimes wonder what kind of life this was. Which is not to say I found it empty. I was—very simply—amazed. At the lack of demarcation between the days. At the fact that I was part of such a life, a life that had swallowed me up so completely. At the fact that my footprints were being blown away before I even had the chance to turn and look at them.”

Haruki Murakami, “Sleep” in The Elephant Vanishes

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Quote

“I am not a scrapbooker, not somebody who tried to organize what I will remember. After all, there are a lot of years I want to forget. Nor did I want to shape something after it happened […] It seemed like my interpretation of what happened would get in the way of the actual experience. I wanted to remember things as they were, and not as I created them, by choosing certain photos, or saving certain items, or labeling certain moments.

Of course, I had it all backwards. It turns out that most of what I remember are the things that accidentally did get labeled, or pulled out, or sorted. How is it possible that I can forget the dearest moments of my life? […] I never wanted to forget those things; I never thought I could forget those things. Turns out, forgetting is easy.”

-Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

Integration is…

  • deciding that, actually, you’ll sit and read outside today.
  • having a three year-old cry because you have to go teach and can’t play right now.
  • learning to give a formal handshake to a passing neighbor on a bike without stoping.
  • sitting with teachers and shooting the breeze without needing to rush home.
  • a “how are you?” text from a friend.
  • making the conscious decision to be present and content in where you are physically and mentally.
Quote

“Mary Jackson could see the air moving around the ever just as clearly as if she were looking at the Schlieren photograph taken in a wind tunnel. Levi’s car was well made; the only adjustment it required between heats was ‘a drop of oil on each wheel bearing.’ Mary and Levi Sr. and four-year-old Carolyn held their breaths as Levi Jr. got into position for the final heat. It seemed like an eternity, but at the end, Mary and Levi Sr. shouted in delight: their son had finished first, saving his best time for the heat that mattered most. Wearing a black-and-white crash helmet and the official race T-shirt, Levi Jr. sailed across the line at a relatively blazing seventeen miles per hour. His family fell upon him in a crush of hugs and celebration. To the inquiring and surprised local reporters who came to hear from the [first black] winner of the Virginia Peninsula Soap Box Derby, Levi Jackson confided the secret of his victory: the slimness of his machine, which has helped to lower wind resistance. What do you want to be when you grow up? the Norfolk Journal and Guide reporter must have asked. ‘I want to be an engineer like my mother,’ Levi said.”

Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures

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“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man. But the only reason he is god instead of Nyame or Chukwu or whoever is because we let him be. We do not fight him. We do not even question him. The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and that thing was really good? They say you are an African witch, and so what? So what? Who told them what a witch was?”

-Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

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“‘I’m getting better.’

The sound of his own voice, confident in the silent afternoon, reassured him even though he hadn’t meant to speak aloud. He was getting better. It was possible to graduate from passive to active, to take the thing that had once driven you nearly to madness as a neutral prize of no more than occasional academic interest. And if there was a place where the thing could be done, this was surely it.

He went down the ladder to get the bug bomb. They would pay. They would pay for stinging him.”

-Stephen King, The Shining

Highlight Reel: November 2017

Double feature! In the interest of catching myself up, I’m posting a photo dump and highlight reel on the same day [waits for applause]. Thanks for being patient with me!

Cute and Flirty: I recently bought three ducks, and currently have two (the travel to my house from their farm was sadly too traumatic for one of them). I absolutely adore them! They live in a little pen between my house and garden, and I just love watching them waddle around. Are they as entertaining as chickens? Nah, but they’re more chill and don’t eat all the seeds I plant. Pictures coming soon!

Something I learned from my community: I attended a Food Preservation workshop in late November, and while I was finding a counterpart my host mom decided to show me her own Food Preservation techniques. One of my favorites was how to preserve extra mafu (leafy greens), which I have a huge problem with. With onion greens, she hangs them up to dry, and once they’re browned, she pounds them, adds salt, and you’ve got yourself some delicious onion powder! It’s amazing, simple, and delicious! Why am I here again?!

Something my community learned from me: During Grassroots Soccer with my Grade 5s, I decided to add some LGBT sensitization into the mix. I was nervous, because the existence of queer people in Zambia is adamantly denied in rural areas, much less gay rights. But, during a session about gender roles, we were discussing the difference between gender and sex, and I saw a window. We defined “sex” as “male or female” and gender as “man or woman.” Then, we talked about babies who are born with both male and female genitalia, and added “intersex” to our definition of sex, meaning both male and female. Then, we added “transgender” to the definition of gender, and I explained that while “inter” means “together,” “trans” means “going from one thing to another” (thanks mom for teaching me vocabulary from classical roots!). Then, when we went into gender roles, I explained that while gender is an identity, gender roles can change depending on culture, and I explained that in some American cultures you can still be a man or woman if you date people of the same sex. I was really proud of how respectful both my Zambian counterparts and my kids were during the lesson, and it led to a lot of questions about gender norms in different cultures (ex: the difference between men wearing skirts/kilts/etc., men performing in drag, and males identifying as women). It made me really happy to share that part of myself in a subtle way, and has motivated me to do more of this kind of work!

Shower Insights: I’ve been thinking a lot about what I joined Peace Corps for and what I originally wanted to get out of service. I noticed recently that I’m a lot angrier and reactionary than I used to be (I’m sure a couple people will laugh at that), and I don’t think that’s helping myself or my community. So, I’ve decided to check in with myself every month and ask myself “am I being the kind of person I wanted to be here? Am I doing the kinds of work I wanted to do? If not, is there anything I can do to change that? If I can’t change it, is it beneficial to me or my community to stay in Zambia?” When I tell people this, many get worried, but it’s been really helpful to assess where I am and where I want to be. And I think, because of it, I’m moving forward in a way I’ll be happy with looking back.

Something That Didn’t Totally Fail: I am finally done teaching Grassroots Soccer to my basic school’s Grade 5 class! We taught the program with the 5Bs this month, and I think it’s safe to say that having a class every weekday for two months was a little too much to for my two voluntary counterparts (who are both in college). Fortunately, the deputy headmaster filled in when needed, and the kids learned a lot. Phew!

Hero of the Month: Latrice Royale for providing a beautiful visual example of drag queens and blowing the minds of my kids!

Villain of the Month: Army ants! They took over my garden and I couldn’t weed anything without being swarmed and bit. These things will kill any animal and when they enter people’s homes people just move out until the ants have hunted everything. Bugs Life lied to me!