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?