Thursday, March 26, 2009

Movin on the east siiiiiide!

Brief update: I FINALLY got a job out in DC, and will be moving out there in a few weeks! I start in about a month!

As much as I have complained about being unemployed for almost 6 months, I must consider myself very fortunate to have been given the perfect opportunity to get my feet wet. The job is with a global young leaders conference for which I will be a program coordinator, and it is only temporary, which is wonderful for me, because it gets me over to DC (which I've been hoping to do) to start the networking game. My hope is to stay in DC working with either refugee populations and/or international NGOs until I can get a chance to return to overseas work. Once I get over there, I'll have a better idea of how feasible that is and how long it will take. I've become very good at rolling with the punches and being flexible while still maintaining my lofty and unreasonable ideals.

Soooo, off I go to wrap up the professional project (hopefully 1-2 more days of work and I'm done!), pack my things, and head for the east coast! Don't worry, I'll always be a west coaster at heart, PNW born and bred. But it does seem as though I'm not the only one drawn to the energy of the capitol city--people have come out of the woodworks that I didn't even know live in DC! I'm not's comforting.

Okay that's all for now. Here's hoping I get to meet the President!!!

Monday, March 09, 2009


Apparently in America I suck as a blogger. 

But I'm back for more, and here to start with an update as to what I'm doing. It shouldn't take long. I've continued to "enjoy" unemployment since I got back in late September, meaning my savings is quickly becoming nonexistent and I'm starting to consider employment in the fast food industry....okay maybe not that last part, but certainly my range of employment considerations and jobs I'm willing to apply for is expanding by the day. For those who aren't yet sick of hearing it, this economy blows. Suffice it to say this was probably the absolute worse time I could have come back to the US. Even if I came back highly qualified for various areas of employment, my competitors have increased more than ten-fold, and many of them have been working at least 10 years longer than I. It's a crazy unemployed world out there.

More specifically, I have been recently trying to relocate to the DC area, after having visited a few times and fallen in love with the energy of the city, along with the networking opportunities running rampant in the streets of the capital. You can smell the overachievement and name-dropping. Anyway, I think I could survive it for a couple of years to get my foot in the door with international NGOs before I try to get back overseas. This is option A. Option B is working in the Seattle area, a great city, my hometown, and also the home of multiple development agencies and intl NGOs. Option C (which is secretly the option I want the most but falls at the end of the list merely for feasibility issues) is moving to Brazil and finding whatever work is available, and/or hiding in the Amazon for awhile. Thanks to stringent Homeland Security regulations from the past 8 years (obrigada, Sr. Bush, a.k.a. B-dawg), it is a bit more difficult to move to Brazil hence its falling third on the list, but if I don't find anything in the next 2-3 months, I'm doing it. Period.

Aside from job talk, I suppose you could say I am kinda maybe sorta moving "successfully" past the cultural readjustment period associated with reentry. I hesitate to use the term successful, as it precludes the avoidance of all prolonged thought regarding Cape Verde or my life there lest I burst into tears and enter any form of depression. I've learned to compartmentalize, because if it comes at me all at once, I'm done for. And I admit that the "remembering my life and friends in a foreign country" compartment has been a bit neglected for the reasons mentioned above. Yes I keep in contact with people (sort of). Yes I have been doing presentations for students about Cape Verde and the Peace Corps (to keep myself busy, share my stories, and increase my odds of working as a Peace Corps recruiter, all very practical). But too much thought and I lose my ability to socially interact with others. Hmph. It is not as if my memory has erased all perspective of the difficulties I faced and the struggle it was to live and work in CV (those who read my blog know otherwise)'s just been a lot of loss to face all at once. I grew so much, made a life for myself, and enjoyed the people I was around. I miss speaking Kriolu every day, I miss being challenged, I miss just having something to do with my time, too many things to do with my time.

But all that said, I am keeping perspective. I know that I need to enjoy this time, allow myself to debrief, relax, watch a few episodes of Law and Order, hang out with my parents, finish my masters project report. It's all very necessary, and I'm having a good time with it all, but after 5 months of's starting to lose its appeal. Not to mention making student loan payments isn't getting any easier when money only goes out without coming in. At least I'm not paying rent.

All these months and overindulgence of political commentary and The Rachel Maddow Show have given me time to stew over my situation in the context of this political transition and economic meltdown. Though as I said before, I am staying positive and really could have found myself in a much worse situation, it's all seeming like I fall under the radar. Let me see if I can make this make sense: It gets exhausting hearing about Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the war in the Gaza strip (because foreign affairs and international relations ONLY refers to the Middle East, so f-ing annoying), hearing about the troops and supporting veterans when they come home (necessary of course, lest I sound unpatriotic), the need to create jobs and stimulate the economy, etc. etc. I feel bombarded with discussion of things that have nothing to do with me. When they talk about the stimulus plan they talk about creating jobs that won't affect me in the slightest, unless I'm planning a career change to construction or renewable energies. When they talk about supporting and employing veterans, that obviously doesn't involve me, as I am not even eligible for unemployment benefits having been a "volunteer" and not employed within the U.S. When I feel in the mood to indulge my soapbox, stepping up to wax poetic about the importance of Peace Corps and how under-appreciated we are, I think about how frustrating our national (or human) priorities are. Someone who dedicates their life to promoting peace, diplomacy, the development of marginalized populations, and all without getting paid or receiving recognition or the symbolic pat on the back, is so much less important or even noticed than someone who fights and kills largely because they have been convinced it is their patriotic duty by a country who is still convincing itself they should be somewhere they shouldn't. Don't worry, I'll quit while I'm ahead rather than deconstructing our nation's military or begging for attention for development or aid workers. I don't even know how I got on this track, a gift of free association and unplanned writing. I sympathize with the troops, I know that they put their lives and families on the line, trying to create a better future for themselves and others the only way they know how. But is it so unheard of to sacrifice for other, less glamorous objectives? I served my country, just in a different way. I guess this is the closet pacifist coming out in me.

Anyway, moving away from self-indulgent diatribes on the state of our union. All I mean to say is it sucks to have sacrificed two years and feel like you came out of it no better (in terms of competitiveness for employment, financial standing, or even social appreciation) than when you went in. This all sounds so self-serving I'm almost embarrassed to write it. No one who enters the development, relief, or aid scene, or who seeks to work in social services or with under-served populations does so for the recognition or financial remuneration. If they did, they'd be severely disappointed. I did not enter the Peace Corps hoping for applause as I stepped off the plane to come home, or a medal or plaque, or to gain immediate employment. I did so because of a passion for service, for youth, and for international development alone. So I'm not complaining, per se, nor am I surprised at this outcome, but am merely pausing to point out the inequality of it all. Messed up priorities in our world, has been like that for centuries. Probably not going to change any time soon. 

So as not to end on a depressing or overly ponderous note, I will say that life is not so bad. I am getting lots of experience interviewing (one more coming up on Friday), exploring all kinds of employment options, getting back into drawing, and cuddling lots with my cat who I believe will never let me leave her side again. I am still experimenting with the Cape Verdean foods I remember how to make (or that we have the supplies to make...sadly I can't find midju kotxidu or congo beans), finally found an actual map of Cape Verde (harder than you'd think), and am teaching kids from Seattle that Cape Verde even exists. Peace Corps Third Goal team, take note.

With that, I will sign off for now. I hope this finds anyone out there who still reads this doing well and making it through potentially difficult times all over the world. Ki nos tudu djunta mon pa sobrevivi, ki nu ka skesi ki nos e capaz di fazi munti kuza.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How about some of those whiney blogs....?

Well, as promised, the whole process of coming home and dealing with my still-crazy emotions hasn't eased up too much yet. Anyway, I thought I'd upload some of the writings done along the way. Not profound writings, just expulsion of feelings. Beware, I don't seek to hold back, these are the raw emotions, guys.

September 23, 2008

So much buildup to what seems an inevitable climax, life-changing in all its grandeur, and then…suddenly…you’re just….there. So quickly you feel yourself shutting out the shock, barring up the windows and hunching down for the fight ahead. It’s too scary to let all the senses awaken at once, too much to let it all enter, coming at you full speed. And so it becomes easier to shut off emotions, push those tears back, focus on other somethings.

It becomes dichotomized so easily: my reality vs. this reality. There—warm, brilliant, life, color, familiarity, relationships, hope, music, culture, language, beauty, challenge. Here—cold, frigid structures, strange, unwelcoming, alone, separate, crisis, failures, anxiety, unknown roads that lay ahead. There good, here bad. There was so familiar, so wonderful in all its imperfection and thinly veiled chaos. Here is overtly falling, crashing, strange and foreign, and disappointing in its lack of functionality. Why did I expect it to be different, better here?

I have this strange feeling that there is nothing I want here, that everything I want is back there. This feeling that I don’t belong and that here isn’t where I need or want to be. It doesn’t yet feel familiar and comforting, but instead distant and threatening. Threatens to suck me in, threatens to offer the normality of a life once known and never loved. So easy to fall back in, like everyone else. Yet there beckons me, and won’t give. Must go back, must get back out there, must make these longings and passions articulate.

How do you deal with so much loss all at once? Losing one of the best opportunities to come your way, losing a close family member to dreams you wish that you yourself were realizing. Losing the people who understand you to other more important preoccupations and other more important somebodies. Losing direction, losing vision, losing the people who walked alongside you and became your family. Losing the everyday things that you knew and loved, the language, the day-to-days, the everything that seemed to make up your core for who knows how long.

How strange that you can so easily fade into the background and become invisible. No excited “You’re back!”s, no inquisitive wonderings as per the thing that made you…you. It all adds up to too much free time alone, isolated with your thoughts. Which you thought at one point you wanted, but now don’t know what to do with. How does one be alone? It’s easy to feel alone, but not so easy to be alone and know how to fill that void, particularly when no one cares to help extract all the entrails of a changed and deflated life.


October 21, 2008

So many reasons to be sad, it's strange that I'm still here, that I haven't spontaneously combusted. Every moment is excruciating pain. Every minute unbearable without sufficient distraction. I've faced so much loss in a short period of time, it overwhelms my heart. They say to keep busy, but with what? How do I get back out there? How do I fill my day? How do I share my experience in a meaningful way? I ignore it, stuff it inside until it becomes too impossible to articulate. Until I can't really analyze it or process its importance. Until it fades into the background, loses its meaning and it's exactly what I don't want. 

Lost the Gambia, which means the loss of not only a great opportunity, but the loss of certainty, the loss of stability, an entrance into the abyss. I wasn't expecting to have to figure all this other shit out so soon.

Lost Paige, which means losing a part of myself. I'm used to being far from her, but it's not just the distance. With every step she becomes someone I hope to recognize but don't know if I'll have the permission. 

Lost my home. Leaving Cape Verde and everyone I know and love, my whole reality, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Everything comfortable, everything that supported me, everything that defined me for over two years, the life I created. Words do no justice. 

Switching worlds into something that no longer feels comfortable, natural, or normal is more complex than one really imagines. People say they understand, but it just can't be explained. Slowly you switch mental compartments and you remember what it was like to be here, but it never feels the same. I feel so out of place, unhappy, like everything here is cold and unfamiliar. Nothing waits for me here, nothing keeps me here. 

Lost the surety of my decisions, no longer confident that what I choose is without consequence, feeling that even though I am confident and independent, I don't yet have what I want. And trying to get there seems to bring just as much heartbreak as joy. One simple choice turned my life on a different course. Lost so many opportunities and all for something I thought I wanted. 

There I felt confident and proud. Here I have nothing to hold my head up, I feel shame, embarrassment, and unsteady. There I had an answer, here I hold no answers. Here I feel useless, unneeded, and unimportant. Weak.  Nothing here makes me feel satisfied, fulfilled, excited. Trying to get psyched up about nothing, trying to act normal and self assured to fit back into a world everyone expects me to know. 



I keep getting so mad at myself. Why did I foolishly get my hopes up? Why didn’t I listen when so many people said it was important to truly develop your plan B? I nodded confidently, secretly believing “I don’t need it, this is what I want, therefore it will work out”. Foolish. So many times my resolve and determination to do something I set my mind to has resulted in accomplishing what I want to do, but all that it produced was overconfidence. Cockiness. And now I have all this loss to deal with. I did the research, I read the blogs, I talked to people, I planned out what I wanted to do, I started learning the language, I had culturally-appropriate clothes made, everything. I was there in my mind. I had made the leap, there were no alternatives in my brainwashed psyche. Foolish. So how do I choose to respond? Do I take myself down a few notches and continue to blame myself, repeating the mantra that “I should have been better prepared”? Do I chastise my idealistic overconfidence and seek to be pessimistic or at best realistic next time? Or do I not let it affect my stride and continue to see myself as capable of anything, ready for the impossible, and meant for greater things? My heart doesn’t feel arrogant, but I guess just feels the need to hold myself to higher standards. Or feels that in order to accomplish great things one needs to be at least moderately convinced that they are a step ahead, of a “different” nature, made of a different grain. Delicate balance.

It’s hard to feel confident in the middle of nothing. Accomplishing nothing, contributing nothing, knowing no one, having no concrete leads, everyone telling you kindly “it’ll all work out” yet giving no specific advice. I am starting to feel like nothing. Not low self-esteem necessarily, but just here, a waste of space. It will pass, I know, because I am doing something (i.e. finishing the masters), but for the first time I don’t have a concrete to look forward to. All my unemployed moments have been a brief break, a holding pen, before the next thing lined up. Nothing is lined up now, I am defining my future, and what if I miss something? What if something giant is waiting in the hedges, and I walk right past it?

My mom made a comment that struck me this morning. I usually pride myself in being so self aware and courteous of others’ feelings, almost to a fault. Always saying what will please those around me, always making sure not to offend. Apparently Africa really did change that as I was starting to suspect. She said sometimes I expect too much of people, expect them to feel the same way I do, expect them to understand what I mean without a patient explanation. I expect them to have changed their views, or at least expect them to understand why I have. And all this time I thought I was hiding it well. I know intellectually that they haven’t changed and that I have, I expected that dissonance in conversations. But I suppose I thought I would be better at wading through the frustrating interactions, I thought I would be more patient. But I think at some level it’s just too difficult to be surrounded literally 90% of the time by people who think and feel drastically different than I do. It’s too much, too overwhelming to try and explain it all or to try and let everything slide, when almost everything they do or say makes you want to cringe. I feel the need to put the tape over my mouth, and part of me feels that it’s not fair (or healthy, as I will be prevented from truly processing and digesting it all), yet knows that it’s imperative so as to nurture relationships that should be important to me, and so as not to drive everyone away from me. That crazy girl who can’t stop talking about Africa and how much Americans don’t get it. I know I haven’t done a good job of tempering my frustration, depression, disappointment. But who do I talk to about it? I don’t see any allies around me, and it makes me feel desperate. Then I feel the need to resort to hiding, secluding myself reclusively in my house/room/local Starbucks, taking care of myself in my own way and suddenly without outlets. It’s hard to go from one large group of people (i.e. PCVs) who to some extent shared most of my beliefs and viewpoints, or at least could provide stimulating discussion to enrich my own views, to absolutely no one. I need to get hooked up to a group, or move to a different town, or do something. Because I’ve lost a network, and living without one doesn’t cut it.

And so I am disappointed in myself in so many ways. Despite all my training, all my supposed self-awareness (which admittedly fell to the side the last several months), despite all my firsthand knowledge and experience in cross-cultural adaptation and reverse cultural shock, I did not handle it well. Too much has changed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What pride really feels like

Seems likely everyone around the world knows by now---Barack Obama is our new 44th US President! Not surprisingly I imagined millions of people in forgotten countries huddled keenly around shortwave radios, perhaps even more anxiously awaiting the final words, knowing that their own fate would be largely affected by those words, and the fate of many others. I'm pretty sure joy could be considered an overall reaction in many of those countries.

I find it difficult to express my emotions in poetic enough words. I feel so privileged to have been home in time to have watched the tail end of this process, just enough time to get me hooked, hooked on Obama, enraptured by his genuine inspiration, and swept away with charged hope. I remember the first time I read one of his speeches, made at a graduation commencement ceremony at Wesleyan University. I was moved to tears in the middle of the public internet cafe. No one is a perfect President, no one can make the perfect decisions, but I am overwhelmingly of the belief that he is capable of doing great things. He has unified so many Americans, and largely people who needed unifying. He has brought together people who never thought they'd consider themselves in the same "camp". He has something in him that so many can identify with. Yes there are still many who criticize, whose ideological hangups and insignificant issue ranting prevent them from seeing the hope and what it means around the world. Yes, there are many who begrudgingly claim that he only won because of his skin color and that the only ones who can be excited and affected are fellow African Americans. I couldn't disagree more. I somehow feel I can identify with him every bit as much as African Americans in this country, though perhaps in different ways. I feel as though I elected him every bit as much as the rest of the nation, that my voice for the first time was heard.

During the last election, I was abroad, and having never received my absentee ballot, was unable to vote, rendering me impotent and useless in one of the few aspects of the political process where I DO have a say. It felt so disabling to see something occur that you could do nothing about, and watch it develop against all your hopes, against all your beliefs, sweeping you inevitably with it merely because you share a similar citizenship or national affiliation. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I watched my and so many others' decision to mark a significant and beautiful name finally demand and affect change. I couldn't remember the last time I could honestly say I was proud to be an American; in fact, I spent most of my years running away from it, denying and ignoring it, regretfully admitting my nationality and immediately justifying "but I don't agree with what has been done in our name". A shame, and surely due in part to a certain level of immaturity. But all things aside, last night was the first time I can remember that with streaming tears I felt truly proud to be an American and to say that I took part in the first good decision we've made in awhile. I felt proud of the people that make up this country, rather than feeling a "WTF?" moment and wondering how I could feel so differently from my peers.

I feel proud to say Barack Obama is my new President not because he is "historically" the first African American President (although that does send some happy shivers down my spine, particularly the fact that he comes from mixed ethnic, religious, and national background)--this, though significant, is in some ways not the reason he was elected--but because he is a man of honor, steady calm, extreme intellect, ingenuity, courage, and so much more. Instead of feeling lukewarmly happy that we got a mediocre Democrat into office, I feel elated that we got the perfect candidate in there. I don't feel that he is the "typical" Democrat, certainly not just any candidate, but I feel he embodies the best of many worlds. I truly believe he will take us in a new direction, one we need to go in. One that involves pride through community and international service, fairness to a larger population of Americans, increased importance to education and healthcare. 

It will get harder before it gets better; hopefully no one is too disillusioned as to believe that it is cake and ice cream from here, or that every single set of hands won't be needed in order to affect this change.

But for this moment, I just want to treasure how I feel. Seeing hundreds of thousands of Americans on TV blissfully crying at our new hope, leaving the plaza without one occurrence of violence or disrupt. No bitter fighting, just unity. Thousands of faces in every shape, size, and color, holding hands and cheering. Powerful. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Can't look away from a train wreck

I don't know how to start this. I'm not only backed up on events but backed up on emotions. This may end up a series of entries, randomly processing the craziness that things have turned out to be.

I am back in the US. I got back on September 18th, staying a little longer than my fellow volunteers under the presumption that I would have some home leave before returning to Africa. However, I was informed that I had a recent medical development that could interfere with...well, my life. Which it turned out to do. No more transfer to the Gambia. No more plan A. Much less certainty as to where I will go and what I will do. I am still doing further testing and possibly procedures to clear it up, it's certainly nothing to worry too much about. But needless to say plans have changed a bit. Devastated? Yes. What can I do about it? Nothing.

I've been back for about a month now, and have been wandering around seeing people, had a family reunion in California, saw aunts and uncles in Spokane, spent a week in Arizona with family, and just spent this last week saying goodbye to my sister and best friend as she left for India, Nepal, Cambodia, and Thailand with her boyfriend. We dropped her off at the airport this morning and I'm not quite ready to explain the emotions yet. Later blog.
There are way too many things to attempt to address or deal with right now, needless to say I'm trying to take everything one day at a time without losing all concept of the future and the big picture. Leaving Cape Verde devastated me and my heart remains broken. I don't feel at home or happy here, nor do I truly want to stay here much longer than necessary. Not to be super negative, but truthfully it is hard being back. I felt there was nothing waiting for me here except my family and a few scattered friends still in the US and still remembering my name. I expected that, I've moved around too much to have any kind of stable friend base. 

Anyway, before digressing into a rambling mess of unprocessed feelings about being back, this brief update will just serve to let you all know where I'm at. The plan for now is to hurry up and finish final touches on the Masters so that I can officially have it and apply to jobs, since now is prime time to get international jobs in my field. I'm exploring all my options, but am preferring to stick to international work, either for Peace Corps or an NGO, whichever works out. I'm still trying to decide if I want to jump into a bigtime job to help get rid of school loans, or if I want to follow my impulsive heart and be young, artistic, and travel around playing anthropologist. So many things to work through and so much quicker than I thought...thought I had another year to work all that out. 

So here I am, dealing with so many things trying to rip my heart out, and I'm just trying to maintain calm for as long as possible. They say to keep busy, which makes perfect sense, except with what?? I have little to busy my time with it seems. Watching political commentary? Reading books and drinking too much coffee? I want to speak to people, groups, schools about my experience like everyone suggests, but how do you do that? I have this giant irrational fear that no one wants to hear it and I'll be unwelcome wherever I go. There are a lot of parts of you that become irrational after things like this. My English also sucks.

One day I will become articulate again, gain back my vocabulary. In the meantime, expect several whiney entries about my feelings and sorrow, using the few words that make sense to me now.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Parabens to me and my girls!

The Fotovoz (Photovoice) exposition came and went this past Saturday, July 5th (ironically also my official 2-year anniversary in Cape Verde), providing the culminating moment of over a year's worth of pondering and planning this elaborate photo project.

For those who have followed my experiences within the CJA (girls' center) and have read my descriptions of the girls' behavior and backgrounds, it should be obvious that, needless to say, this project has not been the easiest to carry out. The planning, proposal-writing, seeking of support, etc. was hard enough considering the context and difficult lack of infrastructure, but once starting the training sessions I felt as though I literally had strapped in for a roller coaster ride (cliché but so true). I had some of my favorite moments in Cape Verde (seeing the excitement of receiving their first camera and experimenting to see how it works) and some of my least favorites, including sessions where I threatened to cancel the project if behavior and attitudes didn't start improving. I had volunteer youth come to help out and then quit, with a few sticking it out to the end. I had a change of three CJA coordinators who had to be re-oriented to the project and convinced to support me (by the way making this more "me-run" than I had originally intended). Among plenty of other set-backs and challenges, we charged on. Poku a poku we were able to get where we wanted to go. Not all of my goals were accomplished (I doubt I was even remotely successful at promoting leadership and responsibility, though seeds were surely planted), but in the end, we produced something I think was good.

So about the exposition. At the end of one of the most exhausting days I have had of late, we finally started Cape Verde-style, an hour late. The President of ICCA, who has been more or less involved in the project since conception, was supposed to do the abertura, or the final part of the opening ceremony. She cancelled at the last minute, failing to even call and let us know personally, and sent no one in her stead. So not even our own institution was accurately represented on our important day. But this is how things go, nothing to be done now. So we shifted around some roles, got our stuff together, and started the show.

The turn-out was less than we had hoped, with our invitees not all present, and a lot of the girls' family members absent. But those that were there were very supportive, and the girls were able to present their work.

After presenting the center and the importance of education (the theme the girls chose for the project and took subsequent photos regarding), I presented the project and its objectives, followed by three girls who participated, sharing their experience and what they had learned:

It was great to hear their perspective, and I think it really made the presentation much more valid or meaningful. Jéssica, the girl in the middle, made everyone laugh as she described how in the beginning they cut people's heads out of pictures, but then improved as they learned.

The master of ceremony was another girl from the CJA, one who had to drop out of the project because she contracted tuberculosis (she's fine now).

After we presented the project, we uncovered the photos, which were placed on three different placars, so that the audience could come see the work the girls did.

Each girl had their own section, showing the three photos they had chosen for exposition, along with a small profile explaining who they were, where they were from, and what they liked to do.

The audience and whoever else passed by were free to check out the photos for the rest of the afternoon. This was the advantage to having an open exposition in the plaza, as people were bound to come by that weren't aware of the event before.

The following is the kick-ass banner I made, myself, freehand. Yes, it is awesome, and yes I am awesome.This is the new CJA coordinator, Magui, who was very helpful in organizing the exposition and who likely was as exhausted as I was at the end of this day.
I put these poor CEJ youth (and many many more) to work this day, carrying this and that here and there. The big placars were pretty heavy, so I am grateful for my jovens. Even Booby helped, the lighter-skinned "DJ"; he is developmentally handicapped and so very sweet.

This is Ercília, my famous and adored psychologist, who was the other essential element to planning this exposition. Without her support, it wouldn't have been successful, or at least not as smoothly run as it was.

Even Aguido, my Peace Corps boss and APCD, came up to support me and my girls. Yeah, it's part of his job, but it was nice to see him there, cigarette in hand, smooth as ever.
Other Peace Corps friends showed up as well, which meant a lot to me, as I had spent so much time on this project. Jay, as you can see, was there as well:).
And here's my famous group! Aren't we all so lovely?
Okay, so I just had to include egotistical and vain pictures of myself, because I had such a beautiful skirt, made by Eneida's dad.
In other miscellaneous news beyond Fotovoz, we finally said goodbye to Eneida, though she refused to have a party. So we offered her framed photographs with space for all the youth to sign and write little messages for her. We presented it to her the Saturday before the exposition, and she loved it.

Also along Eneida lines (I feel like I must look obsessed with her...). She has recently and with my help, started her own bag-making business. I have helped her out with marketing and publicity, and we are starting to make her a catalog and website to open up her clientele. Everyone is in love with her bags, she does quality work, and I have no doubt it will take off beyond her expectations. She makes bags from the traditional panu di terra as well as almost any other material she can find. She takes requests for styles and colors, and she is able to make them quite quickly.
For publicity, we take pictures of all the bags she makes (also for the catalog). Trying to be creative, I turned her into a baglady for this shot.

And finally, here is a shot of my friend and CEJ youth Nelcy at her confirmation party. She has helped me out massively from the beginning of the Fotovoz project to the end (although she couldn't make the exposition).
Okay, I think that's enough for now. I'll try to update again shortly, or let's say I'll make as much effort as you all do in leaving comments! Haha. Okay just kidding. I'll write again soon.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Goodnight, sweetheart, well it's time to go......

I tried to write this blog twice. Difficult to formulate words…and then once formulated, I lost the blog I had written. So here I am, attempt #2.

My Chefia is gone. By Chefia I am referring to my dear, amazing, coffee-drinking colleague at the CEJ, Eneida. I didn’t talk about her too much in the blog, but she became a core element to my life in the last 9 months. As we were gearing up with tons of new projects and a massive restructuring of our youth corps, tragedy occurred. Granted it was slightly foreseen tragedy, but abrupt nonetheless. I just realized as I said tragedy that you all probably think she died. No, no, thank God no. She left the CEJ. She applied for a position working with the Peace Corps during PST, thinking she had permission from the CEJ to do both PST and work on continuing projects during her “extra” time (granted not the most realistic perspective, but could have worked). She got the position, only to be told by the CEJ that it wouldn’t work for her to do both (permission rescinded), and she had to leave the CEJ, dropping all of our projects on….me. Double sad. Now I’m stressed and alone at work.

It’s frustrating for so many reasons. 1) If I had known she wouldn’t be allowed to continue projects while doing PST, I would never have recommended her, and Peace Corps would never have hired her (they are now in an awkward position, stealing employees from their partnering institutions); 2) We worked SOOO well together and work was 10 times easier because we spurred ideas, creativity, and productivity in each other; 3) I am not a full-time CEJ employee, meaning I don’t have the time or energy to take on everything by myself—I was support rather than the forerunner, which is how it always should have been, no?; 4) So many of the youth had rejoined the group because of the team we had made, and many of them because of her open and wonderful spirit. They may now become a little more unmotivated; and 5) No more daily coffee breaks, though I have been meeting occasionally with my good friend Nitcha for coffee in her stead.

I was pretty sad about it all at first—really more exasperated, because as if I didn’t already have enough to do?? I am not just at the CEJ, but at the CJA (a place that increases your stress level by just walking through the door), and I have this huge photo project. Time is almost nonexistent. For the first few weeks I was so overwhelmed just about everyone I know made some kind of comment about my over-working. However, after a few weeks of adjustment, I am doing well with it all. Still stressed, but well. The youth are showing a bit of determination on their part, which makes me excited, and they still come to visit, which means they aren’t going to quit just because Eneida left. On another positive note, Paulo and I presented the youth corps restructure project to the National Coordinator for Volunteerism within the Secretary of State for Youth, and she was so excited and impressed, she wants to use it as example to be implemented in youth and volunteer institutions throughout all of Cape Verde. So that was nice validation. Would’ve been nice to have Eneida by my side to enjoy the praise, but life moves on.

Anyway, that’s done, and I’m pushing on forward like any good (or crazy) volunteer would do. As I mentioned, the photo project is wrapping up, and we have our exposition marked…drumroll, please….for this Saturday!! It’s finally happening, and I am neck-deep in preparations for the big event. Hopefully it will all go more or less according to plan and I can wash my hands of this deal. I am exhausted, and as much as I have enjoyed certain parts of the experience, it has been nowhere near easy. I will try and take pictures and then post them in the next few weeks.

Also, the Gambia is a go!! I am all kinds of mixed up about it, wondering if I was crazy to sign on for another year in rural Africa, coming up against many of the same frustrations I have felt these last 2 years, but I think I am ready for it. I think I will gain so much wonderful and valuable experience to then bring with me wherever I go. That alone is worth any “suffering” I can claim to go through. I am mostly excited for the new adventure, knowing it will make or break me officially in my career or non-career in international development. Assumingly after this I will either push forward or retreat to the American life. We’ll see.

For a long time I was more ready than can be expressed in words to return home, to leave this country, and to be done with the hardest 2 years of my life. I dreamt of America, counted the time, and became impatient at all the over-exaggerated annoyances of Cape Verdean culture, assuring myself that things would be better once I went home and moved on. This is changing. I am now a bit more reluctant to leave, realizing what all I have here, what all I’m leaving behind. I have so many wonderful relationships, have had so many experiences, I don’t quite know how to confront saying goodbye. And I’m worried that I will be so busy these last few months of service that it will all fly right by me and I’ll be on the plane, regretting the lack of time spent nurturing friendships and giving a proper goodbye. Because really the last few months will still be busy. I don’t foresee a great pause, though perhaps the whole number of things to do may decrease a little.

Anyway, I’m rambling, and not so articulately, which I hate. Suffice it to say that all the things that need to be said don’t know just how to come out of me yet, and will probably all come barraging at me at once, knocking me off my feet in a tumble of tears and confusion. Save that goodness for later.

I’m signing off for now, with more news hopefully to come. I am awaiting an official COS date, but it will probably be in mid-September.

Here’s a few pics to hold you all over.

Oh yeah, and last night we had our first rain—not a big one, but rain nonetheless, and today it is brufa-ing (a light sprinkle), all of which means people will run for the hills with frantic joy to start planting…and I’ll probably lose a huge quantity of my youth to simentera (planting seeds). Catch 22.