A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

Zulu church singing

(no image, just sound)

Posted byValerie at 3:28 AM 0 comments  

If my hair is any reflection of my state of frazzle

Then call me Valerie Frizzle, because it's getting more African by the day: curls are tightening and expanding horizontally. No wonder my grandmother called me Shirley Temple as a kid.

Monday morning I played social worker: 30 minute bike ride to work, 30 minute drive into community, 30 minute wait for Gogo (grandma of those kids: a social worker gave temporary custody to her Friday and told us all to return early Monday for a food voucher), Gogo says she thought she should go get her grant by herself (aka she doesn't trust us), 30 minute drive into town, 3 hour wait for social worker (who came in and ignored us until her supervisor saw us sit there so long she made everyone in the office look for the voucher book), 1 hour grocery shopping and car-loading (no way Gogo could've gotten those groceries home alone in a crowded taxi), 1 hour driving Gogo and my coworker into community, resulting in being 30 minutes late for lunch. Apparently when I came in I was cranky. Sometimes I need to vent. Without much company around to listen, I've been turning more and more to kicking my own butt with exercise. It does feel good to be getting back into shape! (Photo: local Zulu dancers)

It's on my mind that we're losing our almost-trained pre-school teachers left and right and getting reports many aren't working and some are lying about the number of kids they're teaching. Do you pay more to keep the good ones who leave for higher paying jobs in the fast food sector in town? Do you suck up the training costs and find new people to train who are more committed? Keeping in mind we're operating on a small seed fund and it's just running out. Really, I need to focus on fundraisers, like the Eco Saturday event I'm trying to plan in April, or designing and building toys to sell . The beauty (and beast) of NGO work is, you are everything: social worker, lawyer, mediator, toy designer, garden planner, event planner, manager, trainer, therapist... And speaking of therapist, last Friday as I dropped a Zulu coworker home we had something resembling the following conversation:

"I miss my son. He's in school in Wembezi [township nearby] with my sister." This woman seems to have an unlimited number of sisters. She is forever doing something for some sister.
"Why is he in Wembezi?"
"There was corruption between my son and his teacher. He didn't do anything. Many children are leaving. It is a problem." No contractions in Zulu, always "I am" and "it is."
"What does she do?"
"She is just causing trouble."
"And does the headmaster not do anything?"
"He is afraid of her. In the last 3 years 3 principals have died. We think she is a witch doctor and she wants to be principal. I am scared. I sleep alone at night without my son. I don't have money to take the taxi to see him every day. She lives very near to me."
"Shame, that sounds bad. I think some parents maybe need to tell the Department of Education what's happening if the principal isn't doing anything."
Eager face. "Can you call?"
"Well, I don't even know that teacher, so I think it's better if parents call. I can find a number for you." (Photo: local doctor's sign in town)

Shame, she's probably scared to report for fear of reprisal from the witch doctor. To anyone doubtful of the woman's witch doctor status, let me gently remind you of the power of the placebo effect. I generally believe that if it's real to someone, it's worth dealing with. And speaking of dealing with, I'm doing an n amount of conflict resolution and negotiation trainings and some meeting facilitation at the reserve to help improve management-staff communication, trust and respect and am part of a larger effort to avoid another staff strike this year. Living here is a medley of what I learned in school as historical time periods, from Bushmen and elands (3000+ years ago) to indigenous plants and organic farming (modern hippie) to the dynamics of unions and sub-standard educated workers (the early 1900s?) with dreams for their children clashing with the reality of finite funding and a recession. (Photo: reserve rhinos I biked past this morning)

PS Maybe it's payback for all the hitchers I've been toting around lately: thank you lovely lady who sent me home with a huge container or biryani when I went to visit her creche and said something smelled good and made me miss India!

Posted byValerie at 5:07 PM 1 comments  

Did you run into the rhino on your way in?

Thus my boss greeted me yesterday morning. Actually biked the long non-hypotenuse path into office, so I did not run into a rhino. I suspect if I had I wouldn’t be here to tell. Cycling strengthens the legs, sure, but you’d be surprised how fast those fatties can chase if they want to do. Thankfully they don’t chase. Lately the bush pigs have taken to poorly stalking me when I cycle. I see their busy little tails bobbing in the grass just ahead of me, then they scurry across the road with a grunt as if oops! I caught them and run along the other side. The tips of their tails look a bit like a lion’s with a cute little tuft. They’re so fast they’re hard to photograph. Hope this will do.

Meanwhile, there’s drama with the family I got the emergency grant for—the mother is still not making an effort to care for her kids, and her uncle who is the adult on the grant since the mother is unreliable, has locked the food in his room and is feeding his wife and children and still starving the kids we got the grant for. I could tell when I saw one of the kids—she was listless and when I was alone with her she quickly scarfed down the bananas and egg I brought. So, we’re having an emergency meeting with the community leaders tomorrow. These poor kids are getting it from all angles! I am getting too attached to the more ill twin—I want to take her home and love her. I want to hug her when she’s in pain instead of watching her to lean on someone’s legs. I want to kiss her head and hold her and feed her fresh food every day. Good thing I’m in no position to adopt. Gotta be careful I don’t turn into the next Angelina Jolie, picking up kids instead of souvenirs when I travel.

I’ve been enjoying doing conflict resolution workshops with another NGO and with employees here, and they’ve been responding and participating well, although it seems there’s so much distrust between employees and management that now there’s some suspicion I’m trying to influence employees in management’s favor with these trainings. At least I’m teaching conflict resolution and negotiation skills so when employees meet with the union or with management they can choose to use the skills and think about issues in a deeper way, think about interests instead of positions, for example. I’ve just come from India, a country known for castes, yet it feels much more caste-like here. The other day someone said it’s so nice I treat blacks and whites the same, and please keep doing it. I’m glad people feel that way, and it’s distressing that’s not the general attitude. I wonder how much race plays into issues and negative assumptions here. Maybe it helps that in India everyone is brown!

Sorry, this seems like a heavy post. I think I have been taking too much in. As people here say when something's too spicy or just too much: it's too hectic. So on a lighter note let me add that I spent Saturday with my boss’s kids playing cards, reading comics, making sushi, feeding fish and geese and bunnies, taking funny trampoline photos, sipping fresh juice, and drawing pictures. It was very fun—and then I spent Sunday doing pretty much nothing: reading and relaxing and chatting at home, mostly alone. I needed to refuel-. Definitely not ready to take on three kids full time. I do love borrowing them, though! (Photo: kids playing in psychomotor training at our Resource Centre)

Posted byValerie at 8:47 PM 0 comments