Monday, July 30, 2007

shut up

last entry was too preachy
sorry, won't do that again

these days, because of my own anxieties and fears, i try NOT to bring PC up in daily conversation
yet -- i suppose b/c i am a recent post-grad and all -- it tends to come up in conversation with all the random strangers i meet (it is universally accepted that i will talk anybody's ear off...)
(which leads to a sidenote question: why is it that adults seem to only have two questions they want to ask -- "where did you go to school" and "so what are you doing now"? can't they think of anything more interesting?? i'll be impressed the next time i meet an adult who asks me something like who's my favorite author or what do i think about GMO's...or maybe, shows me a drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant)

most times i am embarrassed about bringing it up because it gives people some kind of idea that i aspire to be a modern day hero sacrificing her life for the benefit of others...(which is not true!)
but truth be told, i am terrified
and much of me has no idea how i will confront or handle the situation
i think i have gotten over the euphoric giddiness of being accepted into the program and the feelings have quickly morphed into feelings of self-doubt, dread, and reluctance
i am only 22 years old
what do i know about the world?
last night i was looking at some pictures of a current volunteer's living quarters (in rural senegal) and my heart fell a little when i realized that this is the real deal and "substandard living conditions" is not just a euphemism to keep my expectations low

i remember the days when momma and i would laze around, daydreaming in her skyblue room thinking up all the amazing adventures i would go in the future and of who and what we would be in 10 years
now it is happening and it amazes me that part of me wants to refuse it and accept a life of status quo where things comes pretty easy (and there is running water and electricity at all times...)
but somehow i made my daydreams come true and now i have to stand up to the challenge

yesterday, as she and i were driving down river road, meandering through the post-thunderstorm haze as the chocolate water of the canal churned next to us, i was struck with hopes that the road would never stop, the gas would never run out, and that mommy and i could keep on driving and talking forever and ever and ever
later, i held my dad's hand as he and his friends prayed for me and my impending departure and as we stood there and i felt my father's firm grip around my hand, i wondered when was the last time i had held my father's hand like this and i felt myself shrinking back into the little girl who wanted nothing but to hold onto her daddy's hand -- so much to the point that he would have to shake me off with a loving but gruff "nie zhen ma fan!"*

*"you are so annoying!"

Friday, July 27, 2007

i always want more

somebody asked me today if there was room in my picture of PEACE for the notion that
*for the record, i don't think it was really a personal opinion, more just a question of clarity

peace = satisfaction

sorry, no room

sure, you can reach a certain level of comfortable acceptance of who you are and what you're doing and what you look like and what is and isn't happening
(i believe some people refer to this as inner peace?)

i was like this for a while
but then i started to realize that peace is less: how do you feel about yourself?
but: how do you feel about yourself as a participant in this world?

sure, this can be misdirected -
such as the peace a suicide bomber feels after he or she makes the anger-fueled decision to destroy one's own precious life and other innocent lives in order to come to terms with the idea that perhaps this is how life goes and this is the last action one can do about it
(it is amazing how ugly hate and anger can change a precious life into a weapon of destruction;
it is even more amazing how certain factors can push one to become so hateful and angry)

life "as it is going" should never be "how life goes"
shouldn't life always be evolving? changing? growing?

in this sense, how could one ever be satisfied?
subsequently, how could one ever feel at peace when all around you the world is in disarray
at the airport today, leanne witnessed soldiers who were either coming or going and went barely acknowledged by civilian passengers
(that budweiser commercial is a lie! and i cried over it!)
she was shocked
so was i
putting aside how i feel about the war, these are men and women who are doing something with their lives that i - and countless other americans - could never do (regardless of motivation) and i think that demands attention

once when i was younger, i was asked to describe myself and i said,
"i always want more"
my teacher scolded me and told me that i should be satisfied with what i have
maybe she misinterpreted what i meant by "more" but i was lectured into believing that i just have to accept life the way it is

satisfaction is not the pinnacle of achievement
peace is the pinnacle of achievement
(maybe unattainable, but who cares?)
and as people, we must always strive for more
more growth, more dreams, more life, more peace

actually, i am moved to think that,

ignorance = satisfaction

Thursday, July 26, 2007

weak sauce

this past week, a free adult english camp has been running in new brunswick for the spanish speaking immigrant community
my co-organizers and i have been developing this camp over the past few months and it has been quite the labor of love
we've been so proud of this work because it is one of the first times we are seeing our church partnering with another church in an attempt to reach out to a community unlike our own (primarily chinese-american),
for the purpose of a global church, unity, and social justice
it has been a thrill to see this project start as an idea and then develop into a full-fledged class

i have truly enjoyed the fruits of this ministry
sometimes when i watch the students and teachers at work, i can't help but think, "damn this is really happening!"
i love the volunteers, the students, the partner church we are working with, and all the stuff that has been happening

moreover, it's been great training for this peace corps thing
learning to deal with deadlines, organizing, conflicts of interest, last minute changes, being flexible, handling a huge endeavor with limited resources and time...
i voluntarily took on the role of logistics/administration primarily because i am not a great teacher and because i wanted to give to the project what i do best

but i must admit, today was hard
lots of stuff happened today/tonight that made me feel really young, really vulnerable, and really inexperienced
i panicked because it was becoming a fast reality that i am incredibly naive about the world and great endeavors and trials
correction: it did not make me feel really young, it made me realize that i am really young
i really am just a kid with a limited view of the world and minute understanding of people, society, culture, and human suffering

it makes me wonder...
can i do this?
how often will i cry?
will people respect me? my opinion? my knowledge?
what if they find out how little experience i have?
will they scoff at me?
will they just cast this little, naive, nerdy, inexperienced girl aside?

worse, what if i faint in the fields??

note to self: drink lots of water!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

i'm not much of a hippie

while there is a tendency to think that the "environment" is a matter of concern for the hippies and that "going green" is a new trend for yuppies who need an activist cause to attach themselves to, i made the decision to go into PC's agriculture sector primarily because i truly see it as a viable and sustainable means to assisting the world's poor in making a change for themselves

trees are magical
not only in the sense of an earthy crunchy appreciation for nature but also in an economical sense

for example, in new york city alone:
"Factoring in the costs associated with planting and upkeep,
New York City's street trees provide an annual benefit of about
$122 million, according to the Parks Department. The study
concludes that New York receives $5.60 in benefits for every
dollar spent on trees."
(from the nytimes' "maybe only god can make a tree..." 18 april 2007)

in senegal, (from what i understand) the country faces severe deforestation and subsequently, looms under the threat of desertification
with the climate's short rainy season and a rapidly increasing population, the loss of trees in senegal will have devastating, long-term effects: soil erosion, susceptibility to drought and famine, and the loss of the multitudes of forest products

lester r. brown, an agricultural economist, writes that "restoring the earth will require expenditures of $93 billion per year" which is a frighteningly high number, but in this excerpt from his book, brown explains (quite convincingly) why this investment must be made

my mother asked me not to be too bookish and nerdy in my writings, but i wanted to at least provide some kind of rational backing to my decision in joining an agriculture extension effort
perhaps the best way to put it is that i have studied the term "sustainable development" for a long time but never got the chance to try it out myself

while there is a certain level of romance involved in running off to another country to plant trees and "save the world", i did not make this decision on an idealistic whim
but with a certain intention to attempting social change in what i think to be one of the best methods of sustainable development

it's time to find out!

(so much for making this fun & not nerdy...)

Saturday, July 21, 2007


"you will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (isaiah 55:12)

and welcome to my blog about my adventures in senegal

on 4 july 2007 i was officially invited to join the united states peace corps as an agroforestry extension agent in senegal
at that point, my entire universe was flipped inside out
(before that i was just sidling through life, taking my time to notice the color of the flowers in my yard)

this blog will chronicle my pre-departure days, the 2+ years itself, and perhaps the days that follow
but i am getting ahead of myself (typical)
let's just focus on the now and current
aka i will be spending the next few weeks prepping myself to experience life in west africa

i understand that this opportunity is a privilege for me
luckily, i have all the education, support, opportunties, & amenities needed in order to pursue an endeavor like this
i have no obligations
no children, no job, no boy/man, no crises to take care of that is preventing me from escaping the torment of post-grad entry-level hell

therefore, this blog/journal/confessional
please journey with me as i attempt to make sense out of all that is about to happen
hopefully i will be able to update frequently and i hope to include photos, videos, and maybe a drawing every now and then (if i have the time!) so that you may experience at least a fraction of what life as a peace corps volunteer in senegal is like

forgive me for times of weakness
crassness (sorry daddy & mommy!), ranting, and on occasion, utter stupidity
but i'll try to make this as fun as possible

i'll admit
i'm scared out of my mind
so please stick by me by maybe reading my words...
but at least look at the pictures!