Wednesday, February 25, 2009

BONUS post! : )

A lovely Tuesday evening, and here I sit organizing my thoughts for some sure to be fun-filled culmination documenting my events as of late or just random snips of sheer madness.
Regina Spektor is blasting away on my little green Mac book, “and it breaks my heart, breaks my heart…” at this point I could agree no less. I mean yes, it’s clichÈ as it gets, but it about sums it up. I feel like I’ve been brain washed, just a tad, into believing that I can really help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS by education alone. I have a strong theory that the brain and the heart are attached, at least mine. So, when I find out that a person I know and love in the village who moved away to become prostitute, leaving their 8 year old child (who I want a mini version of to bring home with me) in the village with their dying mother, has the balls to come back home with AIDS…well, it breaks my heart. This would bum me out no matter what the circumstance, but here’s the biggest kick in the face, this woman was a member of my health club (like one of 12) who went around to other villages singing and educating others about HIV/AIDS…
So yes, a karate chop to my face. KAW POW!?! Batman style. I consider this case strong #2 against the effectiveness of just teaching about sexual health and condom use, monogamy and masturbation. So what’s the POA? Well, of course my wheels are turning at a neuron exhausting level, and this is what I’ve come up with.
First off, I am trying to figure out why just education is not effective. I think it has something to do with the fact that many of these people are living at the flight or fight response of life (okay, to be fair it’s really flight, fight or freeze, but whatever). In this mind of thinking nothing else truly matters except survival in the present.
So, lets say that you are broke; like broke can’t feed your children, broke can’t buy soap to wash your clothes, broke like your neighbors actually shut their doors when they see you coming. This will trigger the flight or fight response. In this situation you need money. You need money fast. In Tanzania it’s illegal to prostitute yourself. The problem is that nobody is enforcing these laws. I would go as far as to say that prostitution is basically a given in this country. Yeah, sadly, if you see a woman at the bar getting drinks bought for her by a man I’d say it’s a 2:3 chance she’s trying to make money. Anyway, you need money fast and prostitution is like selling sluprees in the states, it’s the a quick and easy way to make money, involving basically no skill set, so screw everything that you know and just “git er’ done”…right?
Okay, so maybe that’s one of the reasons why people just check the NULL AND VOID box in their mind when it comes to making “better” decisions about their sexual health, how about another. Speaking again from the woman perspective, as I have basically chosen this as my population for the next 2 years, in Tanzanian women don’t really have a choice. I don’t even want to begin to fathom the number of women raped daily in Tanzania because I think that it would to far more then break my heart, it would obliterate it. Women are expected to not only be the machine that keeps everything together, they are also expected to be the double expresso to keep the driver performing at a high, doling out commands, doing whatever he pleases. In fact, many Tanzanian men have more then one wife, and pretty much all will speak openly about the need for “more lovers then just one.” It’s like I can hear the crack forming, preparing for a drop, crash and nothing more then a broken heart.
Right, these are my two rough theories, but I see, and hear stories of their proof time and time again. I need to figure out what the hell I am supposed to do for the next year and half to “tackle the issue of AIDS” and “adequately fill out my PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) forms” considering I am a PEPFAR volunteer and all.
I am really curious for some input because I might be way too deep into this thing to understand the bigger picture. First, I must admit that I have no idea how to tackle the issue of flight or fight, expect to try and move people into the next stage of thinking. But how do I seriously do this when these people are living in fight or fight? What magical things can I do or bring, say or sing that will help people to not be in survival mode? Well, I got nothing. My only idea to is teach them about the modes of survival, the stages of the brain, how we work and hope a very VERY high degree of understanding occurs. In order to do this I need some handouts that I have left in America so if anyone who knows who Kathy Griffith is or who works with/at Oasis High School in Mount Pleasant would be so kind as to check that out for me….just kidding, I’ve got the internet, it’s already done. But seriously, I could use some input here. How do I show this, teach this, be an example of moving beyond survival in the here and now, especially when I myself feel that way sometimes. ……?!?!
Secondly, I am all about women’s’ empowerment. What does that mean? That means I am all about providing role models, CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS (this applies to men too! YAY for men, I do have faith in all of humanity!), a collective place for women to come together and be women, to feel happy to be born as thus. I want to just make women feel good for being women, and open up a dialogue about why we are awesome, and why we’re not (like when we don’t make a fuss when someone steals our most sacred thing, our body). I know that this is way to big of an idea to be successful in such a short time period, but hell I’m giving it a go with the hopes that I can pass the torch when I am gone.
I don’t want to sound like I have given up all hope and totally abandoned teaching about HIV/AIDS. I haven’t. I still teach, and talk, and make my fuss about how we all need to use condoms, and that is easy. That is the road that PC has so nicely paved out for me, and I will admit that I am using some of their ideas, but really come on guys, I’m over here in my little house, with a rain pounding on my tin roof, sitting by candle light wondering if that lingering smell is my unwashed body or the stink of rats ready to eat my face tonight, and basically, I’m just going to have to do this my own way.

So, that’s this week’s rant. In life news the mgahawa is rocking, but Mama Witi and I are still Witi’s slaves. It’s becoming comical. I can now successfully make every basic Tanzanian dish in express time! Cheers to a grand accomplishment, can finally check that one off the list.
Letters from my students to the students of Elmwood Elementary had reached the states and my students are totally geeked to get a response. They can’t believe that it’s for real. It’s this crazy high just to see them get so excited.
I held a village meeting a few weeks ago to ask my villagers what they want me to do while I am here. I split them up by age and sex and after each group made their list we made a whole composite from most to least important. #1 is, of course, finish building the school so yeah…watch out for some updates on that. haha!
I am getting a puppy on Thursday (after some trials and tribulations) and that will surly be, well…I have no idea what it will be. I haven’t had a dog since I was 7, so it should be interesting, hopefully something random and good.

Well friends, family, neighbors and otherwise, that’s a wrap. In case you were wondering my ESP (Emotional, Spiritual, Physical) is as follows: E, slightly let down, but really beyond the point of expecting anything less, but really still smiling at each day . S, amazing, re-reading “Eat, Pray, Love” and digging it just as much the 2nd time as the 1st (makes me think of Patty!). P, sunburned and very, very tired!
Peace and love flow to you all from my somewhat dented, not so terrible mangled heart!

Yesterday I was digging around in my garden/farm/weed pit of crazy and I dug up a raddish larger then my fist! Mama Witi was AMAZED! (And so was I...) Also, my sunflowers are starting to bloom and they are gigantic, most of them are taller then me!


aunta said...

Hey Margaret,

I feel your frustration. It's hard to believe that places on this earth are still so "old world". But believe me, even though you don't see it or feel it now, you will make a difference in at least one person. One young girl is going to hear your message, and it will change her life for the better. Just hang in there. Positive change takes time (and a lot of bumps and bruises.)

Glad to hear about the sunflowers. That should bring some sunshine your way.

We love you and miss you like crazy.

Aunt Anne

Patty said...

My dear Margaret, I am sorry that I have not corresponded lately, but I have been keeping up with your blog and thinking about you! I am glad that you thought of me while re-reading Eat Pray Love. You have your own EPL going on except your subtitle would be One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Tanzania… The book has a lot of what you are experiencing in it - gender roles for example are a large part of her journeys. It is so hard to witness first hand such a system and not even see an end in sight. Elizabeth Gilbert’s travels are full of growth and persistence as yours are too. One day you must also experience Italy and the quest for pleasure. The pasta and gelato are worth whatever it takes to get there. In the book she writes a petition to the universe and in it she says “…if even one or two souls can be free from discord, this will increase the general health of the whole world…” That is exactly what you are doing - you will not change the world, but you can enlighten one or two souls and therefore the world will be a better place for that. Thank you. Whatever your petition will say, I sign it. Me and St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Mandella and Jim Henson (those who have not read the book are probably thinking this is really strange). May you have la dolce vita!! Love and Peace, Pat

Patty said...

p.s. May your new puppy keep the rats from eating your face!!

Renee said...

I'm so proud of you! Love

Renee said...

Received you letter yesterday!! Writing you back right now hopefully will have it in the mail next week!

Love you
Renee :)