"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." - Jawaharlal Nehru

Monday, October 17, 2011

Age is just a #


Greetings for The Gambia, as always I hope this blog finds all of you in good health and high spirits.  This is just a short blurb about one-of-the-many things that have been running through my mind lately.

What I'm starting to see is the significance (or not) of age.  I am experiencing a new perspective on this thing that we seem to be bound by in the Western world.  I say this because I've known many people that get trapped in their age-mindset.  For example, I know someone who just turned 27-years, and he feels like he is "too old" to really do what he wants to do in life (i.e. travel) because it's "too late".  SAY WHAT!?  27.. that's nuts.  There are 65-year old women serving with me here in the Gambia as Peace Corps Volunteers, roughing it and simply living - what a badass.

My host mother, who is guessing to be around 62-years of age, is one of the hardest working women I know.  I say this because she has had over 5-children, most of which are older than me; she is a grandmother to many and treats them as if they are her own.  She goes to the farm and works alongside her children for hours at a time, sometimes all day.  When she comes home, she tends to the one of her many, many gardens.  During the rainy season, she helps with all of the farming and if she's feeling up to it, she'll walk over 5-miles to deliver the foodbowl to the rest of the family.

When I think of 60-year olds+ in America, most (NOT ALL) I would think are retired, dependent on one if not many medications, and pretty sedentary.. excuse me if my perception has been skewed. 

Anyhow, what I'm getting at is when you stop focusing on "how old you are getting" and you just live, NOW because you still can, you begin to see that age is just a number...  Sometimes, I feel like I'm 5-years old - hula hooping, playing in the dirt, laughing, care-free and blowing in the wind.  Sometimes I feel about 70-years old - full of contemplation, insight, wisdom and settled in the ways of the world.  Sometimes I feel 23-years old, full of creative energy, adventure, passionate and spontaneous

What I'm getting at and what I'm coming to see is if you get "trapped" by a number given to you, you are likely to prevent yourself from living to the fullest, in every single moment; we are here, now.  It's easy to fulfill a role that is given to you (or perceived to be), but that's just it - IT'S EASY.  Well, I could go on repeating my thoughts, writing the same conclusions in a thousand different way, but I think you all get what I'm trying to say.  If you want to be 5-years old for a day, do it - go rub some paint on the walls and buy a spongebob popsicle.  If you want to be 80-years old, spend the day looking through photo albums, reading philosophy books and thinking about the "good ole days".

Never get stuck in the past or in the future - be here, now.  Never get "stuck" in what everyone else your age is or isn't doing... just live! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On the uP and uP!


I have so much good news that I want to tell you all, so much that I'm about to explode with excitement.  I just had four successful and productive meetings with potential partners of a few projects that I have been hiding up my sleeve.  So.. I was inspired to write a post about it.

The primary health team in my village, mainly my counterpart (Demba Secka) - the community health nurse, have decided to have the first ever Health School for Women in Bati Njol!  The school will take place in January for 6-months and includes 5-MAJOR health topics.  Each month will have a different health topic dedicated to it complete with songs, drama, classroom style learning and fun ways to see what the women have retained (like practicals/exams).  Keep in mind that none of these women have ever been to school, or if they have it was while they were under 15 years of age and have not continued past that.  You can imagine how fun it will be to have almost 100 women "enroll" in the school, have a competition point card (gain and lose points for certain things), and attend CLASS.

The topics include:

1.  Nutrition - benefits of moringa, three major food groups, adding variety to the food bowl, nutritional benefits to local dishes and foods, and weaning foods for babies
2.  Personal Hygeine / Preventing Illness - basic first aid, hand washing, oral rehydration solution, coveringa  cough, brushing teeth, cutting fingernails
3.  Reproductive and Child Health - how to read a clinic card, exclusive breastfeeding, male & female anatomy, menstruation and pregnancy, birth spacing, birth control options
4.  Environmental Sanitation - proper trash disposal, compound sanitation and maintenance, pit latrines, open defication
5. Malaria - transmission education, signs & symptoms, neem cream, mosquito bed-net care and usage, weeding compounds and eliminating stagnant water, care-seeking behaviors

I am also linking up with a local lower-basic school to form a health club, so they can join in on the Health School festivites!  And for the best news of all, The Bati Njol Health School for women has now been funded by FRiends Of Gambian Schools (FROGS) - and organization based out of England!  I came across a God-send of a woman who fell in love with the idea of a Health School up-country for women and helped me figure out funding and logistics.

I will not be teaching any of the lessons.  The other wonderful thing about this project is the fact that it will be community led and implemented.  My counterpart, Demba, has volunteered the 6-months to teaching the lessons ON TOP of all of his work being the community health nurse.  He's my hero.  This will allow me to be in the shadows, helping to develop the lesson plans and figure out all the "behind the scenes" work to make this school roll smoothly.

Rest assured, I will be keeping you all updated on the progress of the school.  Yay for good news, eh?!  Also in the world of meetings today, I have met up with the American Embassy in hopes of getting a vegetable and fruit market funded for Bati Njol.  So much produce, nowhere to sell... we'll see how this goes! 

I feel like a real Peace Corps Volunteer!!

On top of all this work to come, I was able to work at an amazing camp run by Peace Corps volunteers - my coworkers.  The camp was called "CAMP GAGA" (Girls About Global Awareness) and blended lifeskills curriculum with environmental education.  I helped to teach a few sessions and run activities & games.  It was so much fun I am finally starting to get over my fear of public speaking.

Outside of the "work" world, I have picked up a new hobby and introduced it to my village. HOOPING.  Yes, hula hooping.  I found some local materials, had a friend help me put it together, and the magic happened from there.  The women and children have learned to LOVE it, and so do I.  I want to get really good at hooping, full of tricks and fancy spinning stuffs.  I've also been making dream catchers out of trash and beads sent from home (THANKS SID!).  Ubbb, frisbeeing with kids is fun too.  I know, I know - I am still a 5-year old.

So that's just about it kids.  I want to post pictures but internet is not strong here.  Soon soon I will post pictures of hula hooping and frisbee throwing kids, including myself.  Peace and Love