Monthly Archives: March 2006

The OC is not real life.

But if only! I mean, not that Peace Corps Benin isn’t chock full of delightfully salacious scandal, but really, it’s just not the fuckin’ same.

I mean, not that I want to go through the MISERY that these kids put themselves through (not that I also haven’t had my moments of complete and utter self-inflicted misery). And my friends are just as witty (okay, more so), and our lives are certainly funnier. It’s just that we’re not as rich. And while we may beautiful inside, we’re certainly not as hot as Misha (sp?) Barton. And our names are easier to spell too.

Actually, to be honest, our lives are MORE interesting. We’re livin’ it up in West Africa. And we’re having a fantastic time. But if it WERE the OC, I’d DEFINITELY be getting some ass right now. And he’d be HOT.

But also underage.

Motherfucker.

I miss you, sweetheart.

There’s a Kings of Convenience song that I absolutely adore. I don’t know the title, but the first line of the chorus is “I’d rather dance with you than talk with you.” The song is all about how it’s tough to make small talk and can’t we just “let our hips do the talking.” It’s a cute song, and because I know EXACTLY what the singer’s talking about, it never fails to make me smile.

*sigh*

That sigh was totally unrelated to the first paragraph of this post. The sigh is because I spent a great deal of the weekend working, and I’m working through lunch today. This is a conversation I had with my cat this morning

Franklin: *swats at Theresa’s nose*
Theresa: *throws Franklin off the bed*
Franklin: Meow! (You never want to play anymore! You’re too tired. You’ve got a headache. Sweetie, what’s going on?)
Theresa: Oh, baby, I’m so sorry. It’s just work and all. I’m stressed. And it sucks. Believe me, I miss you too.
Franklin: Meow! (Do you really have to work those long hours? Can’t you talk to your boss?)
Theresa: This is the Peace Corps, cupcake. Work is why I’m here
Franklin: Meow! (I guess I just feel like I never see you anymore.)
Theresa: Yeah, pumpkin, I know.
Franklin: Pppupuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. (I love you, no matter what.)

Unconditional love is a beautiful thing.

Finding “flow”

I’m stressed, which means the last thing I should be doing is indulging my twin additions: nicotine and caffeine. Unfortunately, sitting in a café (sort of), drinking coffee, smoking, and working on my laptop is strangely comforting. It’s . . . familiar. There is one public (read: not my house and not Peace Corps property) place in the ENTIRE country where I can plug in my laptop and work. It’s a restaurant that caters to foreigners and really fucking rich Beninese. Normally I avoid it like the plague (no atmosphere!), but it’s a great place to get work done. And nobody fucking BOTHERS me (the reason it’s hard to get work done in the office and at home). And the food’s really great.

So I’m here working. It’s absolutely insane to have this much to do. I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer! It’s kind of polemic, because I’m supposed to be teaching people how to do this stuff instead of doing it myself, but at the same time, I have to sell people on doing it WELL and RIGHT the FIRST TIME (you’d be surprised at what a big problem this is). Getting that idea across means showing people that doing it the “Theresa way” gets real, fast, profitable results.

It’s so strange. There’s an enormous debate about what volunteers “should do” and “should not do” for their work partners, but in the end, I don’t feel like I’m actually teaching SPECIFIC skills (outside of computer related stuff, of course). Sometimes I feel like the best thing I can do as a Peace Corps Volunteer is just to set a good example. Good work habits. Project management. Conflict resolution. Time management. Work flow. Personal organization. Critical thinking.

This isn’t to say that my work partners don’t already have some or all of these skills. They do! But when do you apply them, and how? How do you integrate all of that together to find that magical state of “flow”? How do you take what many see as “Western” work habits (which, unfortunately, is all I know, and thus, all I can teach), and make them work in a Beninese context?

A good example of this: I’ve talked about salutations before. They’re daily greetings and they’re enormously important here. Skipping a salutation is fucking rude. On the other hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a 5 minute conversation every morning, instead of 15 or 20 minutes. Besides that, it’s normal for coworkers to stop by and have a chat, just like in the States, and just like in the States, they’re likely to last 20 minutes if you’re not careful. It’s not a big deal to spend 30 minutes in the morning reading the paper as people filter into the office. The only difference is that management doesn’t really frown on these breaks. And people don’t realize how much time they spend chatting each day, so they don’t plan for it. My coworkers plan for an eight hour work day, but the reality is somewhat shorter than that.

I really enjoy the social aspect of my workplace, and I understand that taking that away would make for an unpleasant work environment. Never-the-less, I’m still not used it, and I still like to plan for eight-hour days. And for the first few months of work, it drove me nuts when I’d be really into a project, and one of my coworkers would stop by and talk for half an hour.

My solution was to take all of the chairs in front of my desk, move them behind my desk, and stack books on them. If you want to sit down and chat, you have to move my books, move the chair, and most importantly REALIZE THAT YOU’RE DOING IT.

A few weeks ago, someone I work with started doing the same thing. The point is not to stop the chatting. That’s a necessary part of life here, and Africa wouldn’t be Africa without it. The point is to make people stop and think about how much time they’re spending doing it, so that when we set deadlines and plan meetings, everybody knows how much time they’re REALLY going to have to prepare, not just how much time they THINK they’re going to have.

It’s made an enormous difference in the way some of my coworkers think about their time and their work flow, and that’s probably the most important thing I can do as a volunteer. Teaching people skills is all good and well, but it’s not knowing how to use a computer that helps people become better entrepreneurs. It’s knowing HOW and WHEN to best APPLY those skills that makes the difference.

But first I have to convince people that this mentality is worth having, which means that I have to prove it before I can teach anything.

Fan-fucking-tastic. Working over the weekend it is.

I need a motherfuckin’ hug.

Nothing like being stood up for a meeting AND a formation in the same afternoon. Life in Benin is so fucking great like that!! Especially when I spent hours preparing for BOTH!! Yes!!

Welcome to Benin, Carpenter. It took ya’ fucking long enough.

Happy Int’l Women’s Day!

Around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) marks a celebration of the economic, social, cultural and political achievements for women.

The first IWD was held on 19 March 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark and further European countries. German women selected this date because in 1848 the Prussian king had promised the vote for women. Subsequently over one million leaflets calling for action on the right to vote were distributed throughout Germany before IWD in 1911. Now IWD is always celebrated on 8 March and is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. Women in every country, often divided by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate this important date that represents equality, justice, peace and development.

International Women’s Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women seeking to participate equally in society on an equal footing with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for “liberty, equality, fraternity” marched on Versailles to demand women’s suffrage.

The idea of an International Women’s Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies.

Until women are fully represented at senior leadership levels of public, professional and economic life, women do not have equal rights nor an equal voice.

From IWD.

Whatthehellwhynot?

Four jobs I’ve had:

  1. Waitress at RJ Bentley’s (never again)
  2. Community Assistant at UMD
  3. Intern at Alabanza/ TruePresence
  4. Peace Corps Volunteer

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  1. Pirates of the Carribean
  2. Mulan
  3. Jurassic Park (I’m such a nerd!)
  4. Auberge Espanol

Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Taylorsville, MD
  2. College Park, MD
  3. Grenoble, France
  4. Cotonou, Benin

Four TV shows I love (this one was hard for me!):

  1. The West Wing
  2. Animaniacs (oh, I MISS YOU!)
  3. Law and Order
  4. The Daily Show

Four highly regarded and recommended TV shows that I’ve never watched a single minute of (gimme a break, I’m living in Africa):

  1. Project Runway
  2. Oprah
  3. American Idol
  4. Grey’s Anatomy

Four places I’ve vacationed:

  1. Kitty Hawk, NC
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Budapest, Hungary
  4. Newport News, VA

Four of my favorite dishes:

  1. French Fries. I freakin’ LOVE French Fries.
  2. Fried chicken.
  3. Crab. Crab ANYTHING.
  4. Steak and potatoes. Dammit.

Four sites I visit daily:

  1. GMail
  2. AskMe
  3. Del.icio.us
  4. News@Google

Four places I would rather be right now:

  1. Chez moi
  2. Hanging out at a workstation
  3. Tissue shopping
  4. Working on my internship project

I’m tagging Lyle, but I don’t know if he’ll see it. Heh.

In which t wonders why she bothers

Why bother spending hours preparing lessons plans and supporting documents when nobody’s going to show up to my formations? When my colleagues can’t be bothered to give up four hours a week on a schedule that THEY suggested (after vetoing SEVERAL that I proposed), I have a hard time being sympathetic when they complain that they’re not as tech-savvy as they’d like to be.

Want to learn more about “informatique”? Try actually showing up to the lessons that you requested. Try not wasting an afternoon your volunteer could have spent on other projects. Try doing the exersizes I suggest. Try having any necessary materials prepared before the lesson actually starts. And most of all, try genuinely trying to learn, instead of expecting to use me as a crutch.

So frustrated.

Get off my woman!

Tom: Squeak! Meow! (Hey! I’m visiting! Play nice!)
Franklin: MEOW! (Get the hell off my woman!)
Theresa: Shut the hell up, both of you!
Tom and Franklin: Groooowwwwwllllllll! (You stay out of this, woman.)
Franklin: Hisssssssss. (You better not touch her again.)
Tom: Meow! (What are ya’ gonna do about it, huh?)
Franklin: Meow! *takes swipe at Tom* (I’ll rip your head off, how about that?)
Tom: Squeak! (Oh.) Meow! (Well, in that case, I might as well enjoy life while I can!)
Franklin: Meow! (WTF?)
Tom: *jumps up on Theresa’s bed and starts nuzzling her*
Franklin: MEOW! (You BASTARD!) *jumps Franklin*
Tom: Meoowwwwww. (Haha, you can’t beat me, you spoiled city cat!)
Franklin: *takes a chunk out of Tom’s hide* Meow! (Oh really?)
Tom: Squeak! (Okay! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I won’t do it again!)
Franklin: Meow. *links Tom’s ear* (It’s okay, all is forgiven.)

Tom is the cat of a fellow PCV (soon to be RPCV). Turns out, my apartment isn’t big enough for two cats, certainly not two male cats, both of whom are attention and affection whores. Fan-fucking-tastic. Tom’ll be gone today or tomorrow, thank goodness, but I think Franklin’s going to be scarred for life. The two cats are actually getting along pretty well (they were adorable as they huddled together in fright during last night’s storm), but . . . they still have their moments when I want to fucking drown them both.