Saturday, December 26, 2009


It's been over three months since I have finished my service in South Africa and returned to the United States.

This last entry is pretty intimidating to try to write. I have so many feelings about my service, and so many of them are conflicting. My blog, when I've actually gotten around to writing in it, has only scraped the very surface of my experience (with the exception of the John Cena entry- one of the most profound and penetrating pieces written about South Africa in recent history).
As I am writing this, so many memories and images are running through my head. So many faces I want to see again, so many bodies I want to hug again, so many chickens I want to kill again.

I still have a lot of confusion about what all happened down there. There's still so much for me to process.
I've brought a few things back with me: a pretty table, the feeling of being an outsider, a thirst for chicken blood, an even more warped sense of humor, a little bit of outrage and indignation, an increased threshold for ambiguity and chaos, a few pounds, a passion for social and economic justice, a lot of incredible memories and relationships, and a parasite.

I'm just kidding about the parasite.

It just seems like most people I've spoken to about my experience in Peace Corps are intrigued about that above all else; everyone seem to know at least one person or another who joined Peace Corps and came back with a parasite. I wish I could be that person for all of you, but alas, I am parasiteless.

One of the most commonly asked questions I get when my service in South Africa comes up is, "was it fun?" I have such a difficult time answering that question. I think people just want me to say yes and be done with it.
Instead, my answer is an awkward, "uhm ... I learned a lot?"

I get the impression that people want me to perpetuate their image of Peace Corps Volunteerdom: getting stoned all day while digging holes and bathing in nearby streams (where you pick up your parasite.) I didn't do any of those things. Sorry, y'all.

I was going to try to keep going with what people expect my experience to be like and how my actual experience differs and what's it has been like to try to relate my experience to people who only really half care, but that's all, like, too hard.
I've written all I can write for now. It's too overwhelming and I've still got way too much to process. Maybe in another 3 months I'll work up the courage to attempt this again?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Death of a Chicken

It's been a while now since I've wanted to kill a chicken for myself.
I ate meat all the time, but I can hardly remember killing a living creature intentionally. The most brutal I can remember being is a time last year when the flies were out of control and constantly buzzing my face that I invested in a can of Doom. Most of the time, if a cockroach runs across my room, I'll sweep it out.
For a long time, I've been dedicated to non-violence, in many ways. But I still just couldn't bring myself to stop eating meat.
Anyway, I couldn't reconcile my beliefs with my actions (or more appropriately, my diet.) Something had to give, and since I apparently was unsuccessful with my vegetarianism the last two times, I decided it was time to try killing.

Anyway, the point is, I killed the thing. It felt right and honest, and it's made me think about the implications of violence and life/death in general. I could go into detail of how I killed it, and I could even post a picture here. (And I will, but I will only link it, for the squeamish.)
I wont go into it, though. If you want to know what it's like, you should do it yourself.

I will mention how cute it was when my 3 year old little host brother helped me pick the feathers off, though. He wasn't all that good at it, but I can't blame him- I mean, considering the appropriate motor skills for his age group and all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thugonomics in the Developing World

My "loving" sister, is holding captive a few desperately needed DVDs from me. She says that in order for her to send them, I must write more blog entries.
Withholding aid until I comply to her demands? What are you, Soya ... the World Bank?

She might be right, though. I probably should update more. It's just hard to think about what to write.

So I suppose I will just write about the important things in life.
One thing that pops to mind: John Cena.

Do you know who John Cena is? If not, allow me to introduce you.

John Cena is an actor, hip hop musician, and a professional wrestler.

John Cena is a multiple wrestling title holder (national and internation), and even won the 2008 Royal Rumble.
Most importantly, John Cena is an American.

This is something that few realize, but in 2007, approximately 1/3rd of all children's clothing produced here in South Africa was John Cena brand.
This may not seem impressive to you by just looking at the numbers, but the physical manifestation of these numbers is mind-blowing. John Cena backpacks, shirts, pants, probably underwear, jackets, sandals ... you name it, South African kids wear it.
Intriguingly enough, this phenomenon is not limited to the youth of the country, and sometimes you can even spot the occasional 70 year old gogo wearing a John Cena item or another.

While his acting skills in The Marine may have blown you away, the real spotlight is on his wrestling.

He has a plethora of impressive moves and a surprising number of finishing moves, including but not limited to: the Fisherman Suplex, the Spinebuster, the Driving Leg Drop Bulldog, and (the crowd-favorite) Attitude Adjustment.
You think the names are impressive? Try youtubing these babies.

There's no denying it, the man has both style and class in abundance.

John Cena, the official American Ambassador.

Being surrounded by such a thoroughly wholesome All-American icon gives me a real in here. While crossing paths, if I notice a young man has a John Cena brand clothing item, I can simply wave my hand in front of my face and say, "you can't see me!" and immediately, we are on the same page. It's as good as a secret handshake.
I once tried to immitate Cena when I went down to "pump up" my "Reebok sneakers," however I feel that this cultural reference just didn't quite make it here. Some things we must simply chalk up to being lost in translation.

Looking back at my two John Cena packed years here, I have realized just how much I have learned - and still have to learn(!) - from "The Doctor of Thuganomics." For example, the Five Knuckle Shuffle would be a neat party trick.

I believe we all have something to learn from The Doctor of Thuganomics, and not just Basic Thuganomics ...

... lessons about life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Closing of Service? What.

Much of the rest of my group is out at the bar having a beer, in someone's room playing music, or sharing a laugh over one of the three cheesy movies offered on television tonight. Many are chattering about all things ranging from morbid, depressing, frustrating, absurd or amusing (maybe all of these at the same time).

Then there's me, sitting here at my computer.

I guess I am in one of those nagging reflective moods.

We're at our Closing of Service Conference. This is the last conference we'll have with each other. This is the last that I will see of many of my friends whom I have shared a (sometimes treacherous!) path with for the past two years. And while I have only a limited amount of time with them, I have learned how important it is to get my feelings sorted out.

So if you haven't gathered this already, I am finishing up soon!

Yep, that's right, it's been about two years now. Go ahead and scan through my blog entries then, if you don't believe me. They're all there- starting from July 2007.

It's a little hard to believe that I'm almost going to go home. I'm ready, but I'm not.
It sure hasn't been all roses out here in the thornveldt, in fact it's mostly just thorns. But sometimes you learn just how tender those thorns can actually be.
Okay, that was a load of horseshit. Thorns aren't tender, they're sharp and painful.
However, when you have something stuck in your teeth, a thorn plucked off of a tree can be your best friend.
I hope you're not trying to read into this crap about thorns as any sort of metaphor, because I am actually just talking about thorns right now.
There's really only so much you can say about thorns, though.

Despite the tremendously difficult time I've had learning to adapt to this place, and perhaps because of it, I have come to love this country and my experience here.
Above all, I have learned a lot.

I couldn't expect that a breakdown of all the lessons that I have learned here from direct experience to be helpful to anyone else, but hey, this blog isn't just for you guys, it's for me too. With that in mind, I'd like to reflect upon my latest lesson.

Though it may sound pessimistic, cynical, jaded, or whatever negative synonym you prefer, I have learned to abandon hope. Hope, as useful and inspiration as it is for many people, has finally finished serving its purpose for me. If I insisted on keeping it, it'd only prove to be a burden.

A person can be compassionate and take action without being attached to the outcome.
Preferring an outcome, whether it is a surgeon preferring her patient to live, a professional athlete preferring her team to win, or a tightrope walker preferring not to lose balance and plunge to her death- if any of them have too strong of an emotional attachment to those outcomes, it can cloud their vision and end up being their downfall.
I prefer that the children at my school are able to read. I prefer that no one I encounter converts their HIV status. I will will work towards those goals, but suffering for someone else doesn't solve their problem.

Throughout my time here, I have battled not to internalize the problems of my surroundings.

This lesson, though it was something I understood intellectually before I came, took almost the whole two years to come to terms with. And even still, I'm struggling.

I've learned a lot here in this relatively short amount of time. I've only a few short months left, and I imagine I still have a few more lessons waiting for me.

I wonder if one of my next big lessons is going to be how to kill and prepare a chicken?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Trains, Planes and Babies.

I'm in Cape Town. What a wonderful city- it has captured my heart.

I took a train from Kimberly. Upon entering the station, there was a great commotion as I went to purchase my ticket. It turned out that a woman had abandoned her baby in a toilet on the train. I instinctively shied away from the center of the chaos, while others rushed toward it. People were calling dibs on the baby! "Give it to me."

Then, of course, I was approached by two men who asked me, "Don't you want a baby?" Saucer-eyed, I replied "NoooooOOOOOoooooOOOOOoooooo!"

Confused, they inquired further. "Why don't you want a baby?"
I was in familiar territory here. I replied with my typical response about how I had too much that I wanted to do, and a baby was just far too much responsibility for me to handle at such a young age. They didn't seem to buy it, as no one here ever really does (besides a handful of people).

Babies are apparently pretty important. Who knew.

I remember one time when I was conducting an HIV and Women session with a group of homebased care workers. The issue of whether or not a woman with HIV should consider having a baby came up, and we discussed it. Eventually, in perhaps questionable judgment, I brought up that I may not even have children myself- or I might consider adoption- but having a baby myself isn't necessarily something that I desire at this point in my life. Incredulity filled the room. I was told that I was not a proper woman.
Well, duh.

Anyway, I turned down the chance of being a mother, yet again. The police were notified, and the baby was whisked away in the ambulance.

I lied in the title of this blog entry. No planes, sorry.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Mystery Case of Why No One is at School Today

Walking to school today, I saw no children outside- in their uniforms but not in class. Unusual, for sure.
There was no singing in the morning.
None of the teachers' cars were present as I rolled in.
There were no children hanging upside-down dangerously from already-bending-too-far-tree-branches.
There were no dogs sniffing around the grounds in search of spare bits the zero-nutrient snacks sold by the hawkers just outside the school grounds. Nor were there chickens.
There were no children playing around the water pump that only has water every once in a while.
There was no one working on the new pit toilets.
There were no teachers in the staff room singing as they grade their papers.
There were no classes left unattended and chaotic.
There were no children to still be slightly scared of me and greet me shyly ... even after I've been here for a year and a half.
No belts being used as weapons, and no need for me to scold little boys to put them back on properly.
No grocery store bags, rice or mealie bag backpacks.
No "hello, how are you?"s followed by bashful faces buried in hands.
No one.

No text messages returned, no one to answer my phonecalls ...

Why the heck wasn't there anyone at school today????

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's That Time of the Year Again!

That's right.
It's time for me to shamelessly beg for donations for KLM. I've lost so much shame here.
It's time for the Longtom Marathon, and I need to raise $100. I know that we're all a bit tight these days, so I am not asking for much. $10 if you can spare it, more if you can, less if you can't. I'll even accept $1. I will. I'll accept it with extreme gratitude.

How to help me out:
Go to the KLM website ( )to make a donation- just click on the 'donate' photo. Make sure to put my name ("Megan," if you've forgotten!) in the white box where it asks for the Longtom person you want to sponsor.

As a thank you, I am planning to collect vials of my sweat during the race and send them to those who donated- so after you donate, go on and shoot me an email with your mailing address!