Friday, March 14, 2008

Hey All

Just a little friendly reminder that my BIRTHDAY is coming up ...
and for my BIRTHDAY present, I would love it if you could help me raise some funds for the Longtom. I need to raise at least 75 bucks if I want to enter the race, and it'd be really embarrassing if I wasn't allowed to run on my BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!

To help me not look like a big DORK:
- Go to http://www.klm-foundation.org/
- Click on the "Donate" photo
- Donate!
- Make sure that my name, "MEGAN CLAPP" is in the box asking for the runner's name.

Come on, guys! You don't want me to look like a fool out there, right? Right?!?!?!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I'm going to put myself a little bit out there for you all right now

It's been quite a day.
I'm getting my Peer Mentoring program off the ground. The mentors, about 12 high school students, have been chosen, and they're a really great group.

But this post is not about that. I am sure you'll hear about my projects in more detail later, when they're up and running.


There is a boy in my program. He is really bright. He is very compassionate, and he is motivated to help people. I am proud to have him in my program.

I had a conversation with him and it was ... I have a lot of feelings about it. But first, I want to talk a little bit about my life.




I've had a good life. I've had really excellent parents (shout out to mom and dad- what's UP), and a near perfect childhood (still wish you guys would've bought me that EZ Bake Oven). My parents are damn good parents. Heck, they even went to almost every single sporting event that I had, even through college- traveling to Texas, Canada, Washington, Utah ... they've been there for me a lot. My parents supported me in practically everything I did, except for when I dyed my hair red. Mom didn't support that.
I've had a lot of privilege, and not only because I was the youngest child. First of all, I grew up in America. I'm beginning to understand the implications of what that means. Second, I was born with white skin. As much as I hate what it means to say this, that has given me a tremendous advantage, and will continue to give me an advantage, in most parts of the world. I came from a supportive, functional family, that has been financially stable. The only other factor that would have contributed to the privileges bestowed upon me from the world, would have been being born a boy. Of course, I am not saying that I would have had an easier life, but instead that I might be earning $0.15 more an hour as a male.
Growing up, I was pretty smart, athletic, and didn't have any severe disfigurements. I had a blessed life.


Despite all of these things, during my adolescence I was severely depressed and even suicidal. This was a major episode in my life, and it has played a huge part in who I am today. I can't totally pin down all the reasons why I was depressed- but I can think of a few.

First, I was angry that I wasn't perfect. I am not going to lie, this still irritates me a little to this day. But only a little.

Second, I couldn't hang with the superficial world that was high school. I wasn't the prettiest girl, I wasn't the most popular, and those are the things that seemed to matter most at the time! Ridiculous, I know, but I think that I had a fundamental resentment towards the whole situation. I knew there was more to life, but couldn't quite put my finger on it, and it was frustrating.

Third, and I think, perhaps most important, I was angry at God. I didn't grow up strictly religious- but my grandma used to take me to Sunday school, I was baptized, etc. Entering into the real world from childhood is not an easy thing- especially when you had one as reasonable as my own. Once you start recognizing that all the world doesn't operate on reason, and with a sense of fairness and justice- that is an awfully hard thing to accept. I hated that there was suffering in the world, and I thought that God was just being a big, giant jerk.
I've grown up a little, and come to a few realizations on this matter, but I wont go into it. Basically, I will now just say that, God and I- we've come to an understanding.

But beyond all of that, there was also an underlying sense of guilt for feeling the way that I felt. I felt miserable for so long, and for reasons that I still sometimes think are a little bit silly. Of course, that didn't mean that they weren't real feelings, and that they weren't justified in their own way. What it did mean, though, is that I knew that I was living a charmed life, but STILL couldn't stop suffering feelings of profound misery.


Thankfully, those feelings are in the past now. The experience of being suicidal was not an easy one to go through by any means, but to this day, I consider it to be one of the best things that happened to me. I learned a lot about myself in that time, and I think I came out of it as a better person.


I've brought all this all up for a reason, I promise.


Today, I had a conversation with the aforementioned boy. He came to me to talk about life. We sat down, and he started to unload some of his story. This kid ... he's been through a lot. When he was 12 or so, his mother ran away, and later died of AIDS. He used to get beaten, and is currently being emotionally abused at the house he is staying at now. His father is sick.

Here he is, though, this incredibly bright boy, with so many challenges in his life. Just the simple fact that he is where he is, living how he does, speaks volumes of his resilience and wisdom. I believe that in his heart of hearts, he truly wants to face his demons, and help others while he's at it.


At one point during the talk, he admitted to me that he had had thoughts about ending his life. I couldn't help but feel a profound connection with him on that level.

Part of me thought to myself "how could you even have the AUDACITY to compare what you went through with what this boy has gone through?" The other part of me acknowledged that all beings suffer.


I think that that has been one of the greatest gifts that has been bestowed upon me. I have lived an extremely privileged life. But despite all of my privilege, despite my caring and competent parents, despite my relative social grace ... I was still miserable. I've learned that privilege does not necessarily equal happiness, and that has been the greatest privilege of them all.
I have learned that the only way for me to feel like I've earned any of the privileges that I've had is to do whatever I can to help other people to have the same ones, or even better.


I don't know how to end this entry, because I don't feel like this is the right place, or the right way to end it- but I cannot think of anything more to say.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why hello, everybody! Do you want to do something for me??

I know that you do! You love me, and you think what I'm doing is great! And I think that you're great! And that combination means great things. GREAT THINGS.

So. Before I give my update on my day today, I am going to tell you a little bit about the Longtom and the KLM Foundation.

On March 29 (my BIRTHDAY- for further incentive to help) I will be running in a half marathon (21.1k) held in Sabie, Mpumalanga, just outside of Kruger.

The main reason for taking part is to support the KLM foundation. Their website is: www.klm-foundation.org ; please check it out. I won't go into all the details of what they do since you can read that on the site, but I'll just say that the organization was founded by two PCVs who served here in South Africa a few years ago. They decided to hook up with the Longtom marathon as a fundraiser; they fund a worthy, needy child to attend an excellent secondary school in Mpumalanga - Uplands College.
The child they choose is very carefully selected, going through a four-tier process of elimination.
The four children who have been chosen in the past four years so far are excelling in all respects.
And god. The one thing that this country needs most are competent leaders. Giving these kids a chance to get a good education can mean one heck of a difference.

Any amount is appreciated. And it is tax-deductible. 10 bucks, 20 bucks, 8,000 bucks ... it's cool because YOU get to decide. And remember, the amount of money that you donate is directly proportional to the karma points you receive!!!

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


Without further adieu, I'd like to tell you give you a run down of my day today.

Today:

It wasn't a spectacular day. Instead, it was pretty typical. But it was EXTRA typical today.

The local municipality was to play a soccer tournament today in Vryburg with 3 other municipalities in the region. Here's how the events unfolded:
I woke up and left the house by 7 a.m. with the intention of meeting someone- and upon arrival to his house, he's gone. Of course! He said to meet me at 7:30, and I arrived at 7:29. How on earth did someone leave AHEAD OF SCHEDULE in this country? Anyway.
I figured he went to the municipality. Nope, not there. Wandered around some until a guy called me over and asked me if I was going to Vryburg to play. I was then reunited with my friend who, oops, told me the wrong time.
We hang around for about an hour, pick some people up, which takes another hour. Drive to Vryburg (an hour), get to the field (no one's there), look around for other fields for about an hour ...
So what time is it now? 12? Well, somewhere in between all those events, another hour had passed- it should've been 1.
So we go to the grocery store to get some food for the day and we hang out there for about a half hour before I decide that, hey, some guy had gone off to buy a table just now, so heck, I need to get my running shoes while I am here.
Got my running shoes, and was stressing out a little (residual Americanism) about making the guys wait for me. Of course, when I get back, there are three or four other dudes out doing something else, so we had to wait for them. All together, that excursion was another hour and a half.
So it's 2:30. We finally get ahold of someone from the local municipality and get a game organized (surprise, the tournament didn't happen).
3:30 rolls around, and we play!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5, game ends, we get out of the stadium and the guys decide to go to a pub to watch the end of the Chiefs game (I stay in the bus to read- I don't like being around men who have been drinking). From there they decide to go to KFC to hang out for another hour.
7 o'clock, we head home, get back to the village by 8, drop people off- hit a donkey with the bus (he was fine), and one of the men shouted out in English, probably for my benefit, "Oabile, you are committing DONKEY GENOCIDE."
Then we went on to hit a pig with the bus (not as fine), and some other guys in the bus shouted "PIG GENOCIDE!!!!!!!!!!"
We stopped to survey the damage, and put the dead pig in the trunk. He'll make a fine dinner.

And now
I am home.
at 9.

Quick summary: I took 14 hours of my day to buy a pair of running shoes and play one game of soccer. Yup. Africa.


Final note:

Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who've sent me packages ... Mom, Dad, Soya, Uncle Allen, Jeanie. You guys have played a very big part in keeping me sane!