Thats What She Said

I'm supposed to be doing something else right now.

So, Here It’s More Like The ‘Inter-NOT’ June 26, 2008

Filed under: *Daily — thats what she said @ 11:38 pm

Well people world, I actually wrote this over a month ago, but various trips to the ‘cyber cafe’ all left me post-less and with a burning desire to stab something with a fork. So, even though there are updates I could share with you since I orginally wrote this, I have neither the will nor the patience to write them. But, here you go! This is what my life was like…in May!

Baby Steps <!– @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } –>

Baby Steps

WARNING: I would like to apologize in advance for my excessive use of CAPS LOCK, italics, underlining, and boldAND OFTEN IN TANDEM—throughout the following narrative. It seems I am a little worked up—worked up enough that I feel its only fair to warn you that if I could make all your computers SHOUT THESE WORDS AT YOU I would. Thank you. Those of you who still want to may proceed…

* * *

It’s difficult to describe just how difficult I sometimes find the simplest things to be here. I’ve mentioned, for example, how excited I was to start a girls group. I pictured us sitting around together in my living room, chatting and sharing and generally being cozy, and also solving in an efficient but caring manner the gender crisis that is responsible for so much heartache on this vast continent. Alas, the group isn’t going as planned. It turns out my living room isn’t nearly cozy enough.

My plan was to set up meetings at the three ‘high schools’ in my village so I could explain my idea for the group and then hand out applications—that way I could be sure to have motivated members. Should be simple enough—I would just go to the schools and ask the principles to set up meetings for me. Anyone could handle that, right? Oh the naïveté of the volunteer who’s only been at post three and half months. Now that I’ve been here five whole months I know better. Turns out asking to have meetings arranged is, well, too much to ask. In spite of the fact that I went to each school and picked out dates with the principles to have the meetings, and then went and reminded all of them one week and then again two days before the ALREADY SCHEDULED meetings, they all pretty much managed to flake on me.

At the lycée the woman I was working with was just, you know, GIVING FINAL EXAMS when I showed up. Sweet. When she spotted me lurking casually outside the door of her classroom she came out and explained to me that she was busy. I can only assume that it was one of those surprise final exams the kids are so fond of today. She pointed to a large group of teenagers and said ‘They’re free right now. You can go talk to them’. Now, I have to ask you, dear reader—is there anything more terrifying than a large group of teenagers? The answer is no. Unless it is a large group of teenagers with machetes.

So I walked up to the large group of (machete wielding) teenagers and smiled my best smile and said ‘Hello! I’m here to discuss the idea of creating a girls group here in Ngoulemakong. We would work together to win the war against gender discrimination using a variety of entertaining games and activities designed to encourage critical thinking! Is anybody interested?’ Although in actuality I probably said something closer to ‘Hi! Me I call myself Kim! I work you! Girls strong! If one plays a game well poverty is bad and we will be together!’ I think I got my message across.

At the CETIC (still a high school, but more like a pre-vocational school, for the kid who wants to learn mechanics rather than German) they were apparently confused because I was silly enough to try to present a mind-boggling TWO projects during my initial conversation with the principle. Therefore when I showed up for the SCHEDULED meeting, there were about 11 kids in the room—three of whom were girls—all there to, apparently, hear me present my other project, the writing contest. The writing contest which I had just presented two days before, after which I reminded the principle I would be back in two days TO ANNOUNCE THE CREATION OF A GIRLS GROUP.

At the final school, a private Catholic school, there was just no one there. Let me be clear—there was not one person present on the entire campus at 9:30 on a Thursday morning. Which makes sense because I had just confirmed the date with the principle two days before—had in fact readjusted the time of the meeting because ‘more girls will be available if you come at 9:30’. Apparently by ‘more girls’ I was supposed to infer that the entire school would actually be shut down in preparation for the next weeks Independence Day fete and I should just not bother coming at all.

Perhaps you can sense my frustration. No…wait. CAN YOU SENSE IT NOW? I AM FRUSTRATED. A little. I think I’ve actually handed out 25 applications. I printed 125. We’ll see how many I actually get back.

But worry not, dear friends. It’s not all CAPS LOCK and italics here in The Kong. Because weeks ago, at the beginning of this whole mess process, I happened to be talking to my neighbors about my idea for starting a girls club. I was explaining, in my eloquent and—lets be honest—spectacularly sophisticated French, that I was going to go to the high schools to recruit interested girls and that I would have an application process and blah blah blah when suddenly my neighbor said ‘Great! What time should the girls come on Saturday?’ Excusez-moi? Ok then.

So the next Saturday afternoon eight eight year olds came to my house. I figured I could use them as sort of a practice group, until I could find some real girls.

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

We’ve had three meetings so far. I’m using a book (a fantastic, fantastic book) called Choose Your Future that is full of exercises designed to get girls thinking about themselves and each other and their lives in general. At the first meeting—which was total chaos, by the way—we each made nametags, which in addition to our names were supposed to have drawings symbolizing our good qualities. I made an example, where I drew books because I am smart, two people talking because I’m a good listener, and a pack of cigarettes because I can blow excellent smoke rings. I thought I had explained fairly well what I was after, but sadly my communication bubble was burst when the first girl got up and presented her tag. She had drawn a skirt. Because she likes skirts. Ok. Only the first meeting—surely things will get better.

At the second meeting I wimped out and had them draw maps of Ngoulemakong. Aside from the fact that I learned there are probably no budding cartographers in the group, it was a fairly uneventful afternoon.

Alas, at the 3rd meeting I decided it was time to get back on the gender empowerment horse. What’s ironic is that, throughout the entire session, until the very end, I thought things were going pretty well—a remarkable improvement over the skirt incident anyway. I had them all imagine it was 15 years in the future (making them all about 23 years old), and then tell me what kinds of things they want to have accomplished in that time, and what they want their good memories to be. We made lists and talked about which of the things on the list were more likely to happen than the others, and what they could be doing now to help prepare for their futures. Like I said, I thought things were going well. Until the end of the session when, like any good facilitator, I asked them to tell me what they had learned.

Girl #1: “Science.”

Me: “Science?”

Girl #1: “Yes, like plants and animals and stuff.”

Me: “OK.” Pause. “Anyone else? ”

Girl #2: “I learned that no matter what you do you can’t change the world.”

So as you can see, difficult or not, I am single-handedly changing the world, one eight year old at a time. Stay tuned for meeting number four, where I will be letting them in on the amazing fact that if you jump up and down really fast after sex you can’t get pregnant.