Sunday, February 1, 2009

January life

January 17, 2009- Writing a Grant: This month is about meetings; I have one a week. Maybe that’s why it’s already mid-month and I’m surprised it’s half over. The clinic committee met with me last week regarding how I can help them. They are in the process of building structures to house additional nurses. More housing = more nurses assigned to the clinic. So I will help them write for funds from a Peace Corps grant called PC Partnership Projects, which requires a community to contribute 25% to the total cost of the project. The remaining 75% is fundraised by PC headquarters in Washington from private donors in America. One of those private donors will be Holy Family Schools, where I went to primary and high school. This past year for Christmas, instead of gift exchanges, they held a book sale with proceeds going to three charitable organizations. They identified my community as one recipient. Since I knew the clinic wanted to expand it’s housing, I thought that would be the perfect project to help get off the ground and the best way to use Holy Family’s contributions. With the grant I submit to headquarters, I also identify groups, organizations or individuals, in addition to Holy Family, who might consider contributing. I may also utilize funds from the Friends of Swaziland, a group of returned PC volunteers who previously served in Swaziland, that help fund current volunteer projects. If anyone is interested in contributing to this project or knows of groups/organizations interested in donating, please send me their name, address and phone number; I will include them in the grant as possible donors PC may contact. All contributions may be made online—PC will contact you with information on how to log on if you choose to donate. All donations are tax deductible.

January 20, 2009- Learning your status: I’ve been shadowing the Baylor Doctors at their outreach clinic in Nhlangano since November. So far I’ve learned a lot about tuberculosis and the clinical stages of HIV, including the sign and symptoms of each 4 stages. This clinic only sees pregnant women, children under five, and lactating mothers who come for: HIV testing; HIV and medication maintenance; TB testing and maintenance; and counseling. Since coming, I’ve only observed clients with appointments for initiation, which means they already know their HIV status and are ready to start ART (anti-retroviral therapy) or for weekly/monthly check-ups. Today I watched Dr Dan tell a 20 year old mother that she and her 16 month old son were both HIV positive. For the Baylor Doctors, giving bad news has lost its shock value but my first time watching someone learn their status. I felt sick.
She didn’t seem surprised but I saw sadness and defeat in her eyes. Her son also had a fairly enlarged lymph node under his left arm, which the doctors drained to release pressure and for a culture to send to the lab. They wanted to rule out advanced TB. They also grew 2 vials of blood for a CD4 count and basic blood work-up. The mother stood in the corner biting back tears as her son screamed with fear. I fought the lump rising in my throat and the tears forming, while questioning my potential effectiveness as a doctor if I got too emotional with patients.

January 21, 2009- Volunteer Advisory Council: In November, Group 6 voted for representatives we wanted in several volunteer committees—Peer Support Network, Volunteer Advisory Council and SoJournal, the monthly volunteer newsletter. I was nominated to represent my group, with another Group 6’er, on the Volunteer Advisory Council, aka VAC. It is a position I was interested in holding, as I am eager to be a liaison between volunteers and PC staff. Our job is to relay volunteer concerns to staff, brainstorm solutions, and take staff responses back to volunteers. The first meeting was today, and I am excited by how receptive staff is to our opinions and constructive criticism. The acting Country Director, the Associate Director/Programming, and Associate Director/Admin were all former PC volunteers. They get it! It’s nice to collaborate with staff that is amenable to candid dialogue about things that aren’t working. I think I’m really going to enjoy serving on this committee. It helps me feel more invested in this program. And I’m looking forward to making it a better program for future groups. I truly believe the first 10 or so groups to Swaziland are really about building the foundation for future groups. That kinda stinks for us, the block builders; we are continual trial and error guinea pigs. I try to remember it is for the greater good. Greater good. Greater good. Blah!

January 25, 2009- Things I got in emails and decided to reply in blog format: BUCKET LIST*Please send back it will be fun!!!!!*Hit forward and place an X by all the things you've done and remove the X from the ones you have not, and send it to your friends (including me). This is for your entire life!
(x)Gone on a blind date
( X) Watched someone die
( ) Been to Canada
( ) Been to Mexico
( ) Been to Florida
( ) Been to Hawaii
(X )Been to Europe
( ) Been to South America
( ) Been to Central America
( ) Been to Asia
( ) Australia
(X) Been to Africa
(x) Been on a plane
( ) Been on a Cruise
( ) Visited All 50 States
(X ) Been lost
(x) Been on the opposite side of the country
( ) Gone to Washington, DC
(X ) Swam in the ocean….the Indian Ocean, Atlantic and Pacific
( X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X ) Played cops and robbers
(X ) Recently colored with crayons
(x) Sang Karaoke
( X) Paid for a meal with coins only…happens quite often in Africa
(X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't…don’t we all. Will I ever learn?
( ) Made prank phone calls
(X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose.
(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
(X) Danced in the rain
(X) Written a letter to Santa Claus
( ) Been kissed under the mistletoe
(X) Watched the sunrise…but I don’t do it often enough
(X) Blown bubbles
( ) Gone ice-skating…but I wanna learn!
( ) Been skinny dipping…I know….how could a farm girl NOT have gone skinny dipping?!
(X) Gone to the movies..but not recently and I’m jonesing to see one
1. Any nicknames? Jenny from the Bloc, Jenny from the Swaz, Jenny G, Chica, Gina, Playa
2. Mother's name? Kathleen aka Kathy
3. Favorite drinks? Water, coffee, dark beers, red wine, white wine spritzers, mojitos, gin and tonic, gin martinis, champagne with fruit puree, aQuelle flavored water- it’s a South African thing
4. Body Piercing? Ears, and contemplating getting my nose pierced or one of my ears gauged while visiting Capetown!
5. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you love your job? It’s a love-hate relationship, and really depends on the day
6. Birthplace? Genoa, Nebraska
7. Favorite vacation spot? Right now, anywhere away from site
8. Favorite movies? Amelie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, anything w/ Johnny Depp, classics, romances and comedies
9. Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving
10. Favorite desserts? I love sweets…apple pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, really moist cakes w/ buttercream frosting, most anything chocolate, ice cream w/ chocolate sauce, gelato……..
11. Favorite food? Right now, anything that’s not maize-based. Generally I love fresh, local produce, home-made bread, a really good slab of steak grilled to perfection, juicy hamburger topped w/ everything and loads of fries on the side, authentic Italian, Mexican, Thai and Sushi, and Runzas!
(Okay the food questions aren’t fair! I don’t really have access to variety so I’m craving everything!)
12. Favorite day of the week? Any day I spend w/ volunteers
13. Favorite brand of body soap? Anything handmade
14. Favorite toothpaste? Tom’s of Maine Cinnamon and Clove
15. Favorite smell? Clean clothes; me after a much needed, yet rarely taken, shower; the air after it rains; freshly baked bread; lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree oils; coffee brewing; candles burning16. How do you relax? Go for a run, practice yoga, read, watch a movie on my laptop, crochet, journal, have a cup of tea, and take a bath w/ oils and salts…that is if I could
17. How do you see yourself in 10 years? Hell, I’m just trying to get through the next 18 months! Ten years out, the possibilities are endless.
18. What are you currently reading? Glimmer Train Press’ Winter 2008 Issue 65 edition- a series of short stories and interviews by various writes that my sister Karen sent me. I’m loving them!
19. View from your window? A field of corn, a hillside scattered with homesteads and trees, my little mountain, and the cell phone tower
20. Furthest place you will send this message to? America

Welcome to the new 2008/9 edition of getting to know your family and friends. Here is what you are supposed to do, and try not to be lame and spoil the fun. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person who sent it to you.
Some of you may get this several times; that means you have lots of friends. The easiest way to do it is to hit 'forward' so you can change the answers or copy and paste. Have fun and be truthful!
What is your occupation right now?
Community Health Education Volunteer for Peace Corps
What color are your socks right now?

Not wearing socks…too hot!
What are you listening to right now?
Durban’s East Coast Radio…my new favorite radio station
What was the last thing that you ate
Can you drive a stick shift?
Sadly, no
Last person you spoke to on the phone?
I usually only talk on the phone once a week when my parents or sisters call. Usually I txt message…they call it SMS here. I just SMS’ed w/ Jaclyn
Do you like the person who sent this to you?
How old are you today?
What is your favorite sport to watch on TV?
I watched a rugby match yesterday w/ my bhuti in the main house. It was kinda fun to watch but I really don’t know the rules. I also enjoy Nebraska football and Colorado Hockey. But I prefer to watch sports live.
What is your favorite drink?
See answers in previous questionnaire
Have you ever colored your hair?
Yep. Right now my hair is partly bleached by the sun. Can’t wait to have someone highlight it red again!
Favorite food?
See answers in previous questionnaire

What is the last movie you watched?
Blue Crush with other PCV’s at Jaclyn’s hut; makes me want to learn to surf.
Favorite day of the year?
The day I COS aka Close of Service w/ PC.
How do you prevent anger
Can’t remember the last time I was angry. I’ve been irritated, and when I get irritated I remove myself from the situation, journal or go for a run.
What was your favorite toy as a child?
Barbie’s, coloring books, dress up clothes, Angel doll, Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Merry-Go-Round, and sand box
What is your favorite season?
Cherries or Blueberries?
Last vacation you took?
Spent Christmas in Maputo Mozambique
When was the last time you cried?
Recently…let’s just put it that way
What is on the floor of your closet?
Closet? What closet? I have a stick attached to fishing line hanging from the beams in the roof with a large plastic bag over the top to protect my clothes from dust. It will only hold 6 hangers. The rest of my clothes is in my suitcase
Who is the friend you have had the longest?
My sisters, Annette & Sharon. Second longest, my cousin Anne

What did you do last night
Watched the Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash 2008 DVD Anne recorded and sent to me. Hilarious!
What are you most afraid of
Afraid? I ain’t afraid of nothin’….well I really hate snakes but I’ve already killed a rat so bring it on!
Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers
Cheesy and spicy
Favorite dog breed?
Collies, Labs, German Shepard’s, Alaskan Huskies, Malamutes
Favorite day of the week?
Any day I spend w/ other PCV’s
How many countries have you lived in?
Diamonds or pearls?
Gemstones, preferably ones that are retrieved responsibly without harming anyone in the process and with fair wages given to the collectors
What is your favorite flower?
I love all flowers! Really miss having a flower garden. People don’t grow flowers in rural areas. I’ve only seen affluent neighborhoods in Mbabane and Manzini with flower gardens.

January 28, 2009- End of the month: Today marks my 7th month here. If I continue with my current plan of COS’ing in July 2010, then I have 17 months left of service. Seems like a long time to me. However, today the nurses at the clinic, when asking about when I am going back to America, said, “Oh, you’re leaving next year! That’s soon.” I guess it’s all about perspective.

January 30, 2009- Blessed again: I received about 5 packages right after Christmas. Today I picked up 3 more! I think the workers at the post office are beginning to wonder about me. Almost every time I pick up my mail I have a slip indicating a package is waiting. And when I present a postal worker w/ package slips, he/she smiles and shakes their heads. They allow me to open my packages at the counter; I put the contents in my shopping bag and leave the boxes there b/c the boxes are too cumbersome to lug to the bus rank. They seem as eager as me to see what’s inside. Sometimes I show them pictures if there are any, which they seem to enjoy. It brings a smile anyway. As they return to their other customers, they usually comment, “Your family must miss you” or “They love you.” Yep. Sigh. I miss them and love them too. I have the best family and friends. I am blessed.

My dear, sweet friend Renee sent me paint pens. I’m painting the words Patience, Clarity, Open and Trust on my wall…patience waiting for answers; clarity to interpret them; remaining open to receiving; and trusting that the answers are what I need.

Side note…an interesting encounter at the Post Office: Today another customer, eyeing my packages, asked me to share the chocolate as I was transferring things into my shopping bag. I said the package was a gift. He asked, “Aren’t you a Christian?” I didn’t feel like arguing so I gave him a candy cane to leave me alone. But he didn’t leave. He wanted to know what country I was from, and what I was doing in Swaziland. As soon as I told him I am here to teach about HIV and AIDS, he asked about how a person contracts HIV. I told him through blood, semen, vaginal fluid or mother-to-child transmission. Then he proceeded to very bluntly describe a detailed scenario about having sex with his girlfriend, and if he could get HIV from having sex with her for the first time without using a condom. It’s possible, I said. Then he asked if he was safe using a condom but had a cut on his penis. Could he still get HIV? I told him the possibility is there b/c of transfer of body fluids, and condoms not are 100% reliable. But what if he didn’t have a cut on his body? How could he get the virus? I said it’s still possible he could get it through the transfer of body fluids. He didn’t like the answer, and I’m not completely sure he fully grasped what I was trying to convey. He walked off with the candy cane in a huff. Most men I encounter here want to know everything about your life, where you’re from, why you’re here, and generally get in your business. But the minute I say I’m here to teach about HIV and AIDS, they get defensive. I get asked or told: Why did you have to come teach about that? Don’t YOU think WE know about HIV and AIDS? Didn’t Americans invent it to kill off Africans? Don’t Americans get better drugs to fight the virus than what Africans get? No one in America really has HIV. The real problem here is that we don’t have clean drinking water. Can’t you start a water project? The real problem here is that no one has money for food. ARGH! Sometimes I feel so ill-equipped to tackle those questions.

No comments: