Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thoughts for the End of Ramadan

“Suffering is not bad. If you understand it rightly, suffering is a cleansing. If you understand it rightly, sadness has a depth to it which no happiness can ever have. A person who is simply happy is always superficial. A person who has not known sorrow and has not known sadness, has not known the depths. He has not touched the bottom of his being; he has remained just on the periphery. One has to move within these two banks. Within these two banks flows the river.”
- Osho

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars." - Serbian Proverb

“Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.”  - Serbian Proverb 

"Happiness, not in another place but in this place... not for another hour, but this hour" - Walt Whitman

"Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity."

"Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity."

Things I've lost

This place makes you think you are going crazy. First, people think you are dumb and incompetent because you simply do not speak their language. Speaking and comprehension are two different things. You are able to comprehend a language way before you are able to speak it. It's frustrating to know what people are saying to you or even about you but unable to say anything back or make the thoughts in your head known.
Unknown artist, found in dumpster in U.S.

This happens for quite a while. Actually I'm not sure when it stops, if ever.


So far the list I made of thing I have lost so far. In no order of importance
  • 2 leathermans (As handy as these are I'm very sad that not just 1 but both are gone)
  • small notebook with vocab, notes, names and telephone numbers
  • my sense of humor
  • quotes I had taken from a book I meant to write about
  • ability to write/speak English with ease (due to Senegal-haze, everything is loud here and busy, it takes a while to get used to it and while learning another langugage makes it harder to remember things, why I MUST read)
  • my mind
  • many pairs of shoes due to crappy manufacturing (this place is a good testing grounds for products
  • my stomach due to unclean water
  • idea of what development is
  • my sense of purpose with in frame work
  • weight
  • ability to give to children
  • sense of privacy
  • the want to care-sometimes
  • handkerchief
  • bracelets
  • money and camera in Gambia
  • sense of control of life
  • time
  • bag
  • solar charger, ipod, camera, laptop due to climate and wear and tear
  • French/English dictionary
Minus 1 bag, what I brought with me to Senegal
If someone would have told me I would have lost some, a lot or all of my possessions that I brought with me to Senegal, I would have packed the same. Knowing what is here I would of course packed less. But hindsight is 20-20.

Most of these things are not that important, the others wax and wane depending upon the day, week or month. It might sound strange but I think it's good to remember what you've lost, see where you've been and even then see what you've gained. And in my case I've gained a lot.

"Law of conservation of mass implies that mass can neither be created nor destroyed, although it may be rearranged in space, or the entities associated with it may be changed in form."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Reviews: Letters from the Peace Corps & Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at Twenty-Five

 So in our office library I found this gem of a book. Letters from the "Peace Corps: Collection of letters from various areas of the world written by members of the first band of Peace Corps volunteers" by Iris Luce in 1965. Written a year and a half after Peace Corps was started.

Peace Corps has been in Senegal for 50 years being one of the few first countries opened.  Sadly one of the things I've misplaced is the notes I took on the book. I found the book have strangely the same feel as we do now with Peace Corps. Unknown what successes or failures might await us along with homesickness, pride for our work and what our counterparts and work partners must/have thought of us when seeing and interacting with Americans for the first time. 

Soon after I started reading "Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at Twenty-Five" by Milton Viorst. In which the introduction the statement was made " There [volunteers] enemies are hunger, ignorance and disease and serves humanitarian interests and Americans." p.21

This statement I completely agree with. We deal with it in ourselves and in the countries, villages and people we worth with here. And many others struck a cord as well.

"You never have real privacy...Your every action will be watched, weighed and considered representative of the entire Peace Corps." p.36

"I think I may have solved, or at least partially solved the problem of students making disruptive noise while I teach. The other teachers told me how to do it. "Tappaille le badmas haru lie pitnu parcha", they said, which roughly translates as "You have to hit the bastards."...Adaption isn't a matter of choice out here. You simply have to do it, and this includes the adaptation (adulteration?) of your most strongly held principles." p. 65-66

Of course these are only briefs of larger stories, lifetimes of 2 years wrapped up in a 200 page book that you expect being about a government organization to be a biased and feel like a marketing tactic rather than what is is. A very fair and balanced view of what the Peace Corps is. Crazy, developmental, governmental public relations organization with a built-in high turn over rate.

Many of the stories, antidotes and ideas still ring true 50 plus years later, which is crazy. How has this experience, with so much changing world wide, remained similar over the last half century?  Mind blowing and of course I'm proud to be part of it.