Monday, April 13, 2009

One Final Post then it is Lights Out on Gamecock in Namibia.

It is common knowledge that I am in the United States and you all know I was medically separated from the Peace Corps after 16 months. If you are interested in exactly why my service came to an abrupt end, read on.

I was medically separated from the Peace Corps because I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The original trauma happened 14 years ago. I am a survivor of a sexual assault that resulted in a pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. The miscarriage was something my friends and family were aware of but I did not share the circumstances leading to my pregnancy with anyone until two years ago. The flood of emotions associated with speaking openly about the assault (and other disappointments attributed to my reactions to that trauma) were staggering. I eventually sought counseling at a rape crisis center. I was fortunate to meet other survivors and began to feel a real sense of normalcy. About that time, I applied to join the Peace Corps. I discussed this option with my therapist at length. We both felt certain it would be a positive experience and I was emotionally prepared for what might occur in my two years abroad.

Weeks into my service, I watched two different dogs get tied up with wire and beaten to near death. It all happened within a 24-hour period. I intervened in the beatings before either was killed, but witnessing such an event triggered some deep-rooted issues in me. I stopped sleeping. I was experiencing vivid nightmares and anxiety attacks. It did not disturb my work. In fact, my work was a coping mechanism for me. I struggled at night alone. I struggled on the weekends alone. My symptoms of fear persisted and worsened, which led me to seek counsel with the Peace Corps. The medical staff was more than accommodating and sent me to sessions with a therapist in May of last year.

I attended the sessions and returned to my village feeling rejuvenated. Yet, I continued to experience ups and downs. My anxiety and fear did not ease. The attacks of panic and anxiety were becoming more acute, the fear more intense. It started to creep into my physical health. I began to worry it might start to effect my work. I began to worry I would never recover. I had to make a choice.

I walked in to the Peace Corps Medical Office on a Monday morning in February knowing full well when I explained my situation I might not be offered a solution that would keep me in Namibia. That would keep me in Lusese. Peace Corps policy states a volunteer is offered three therapy sessions and if not “cured” in that time frame the volunteer is sent home for further counseling. I knew they might do nothing more than put me on the next plane to the Red, White and Blue. I was hoping they might have another option. I was hoping I could stay. I could not. There was no option for me other than to return home and take care of myself. However, I am considered a RPCV in the eyes of the Peace Corps. I left in good standing. I can join again after a year. And it was the right thing for me to return home. I have no regrets.

So, here I am. Home. Taking care of myself. I want to thank everyone for being part of my Peace Corps service. I enjoyed writing about my experience and I hope you all gained something from it too. Thank you for listening to my story. I am doing well and am actively working to untangle what is tangled.

On a lighter note, I just returned from a 10-day Wilderness First Responder Course (you can check out photos from my class in Cullowhee, NC below) and will be heading to Virginia to work for Adventure Links in about three weeks. I am gainfully employed and headed to the woods to live in a tent and take kids on outdoor adventures all summer long. The journey continues…

Wilderness First Responder Course

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A look at Lusese from the eyes of Lusese...

I just developed some pictures taken by a learner at Lusese Combined School. He took care of Mulotu, my dog, while I was away over the December break. As a thank you, I gave him a disposable camera and told him to take pictures of whatever he wanted. The following photo essay is from him. I plan to mail him the copies.

Lusese through Ntanda's lens

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

She is sorta here but not really.

Hello my friends. I hope you are all doing well. After spending over 20 hours on a plane and countless more waiting in airports, I am back. Physically, that is. I am going through the motions of a daily routine: Pooping in a flush toilet that is mere seconds from where I sleep. Turning on a light. Turning off a light. Turning on a faucet. Turning off a faucet. Experiencing hot water on a daily basis. High-speed Internet. Cars. Traffic. Lines of people. Noise. Reaching for items at the grocery store I used to crave. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Adjusting is hard. And, right now, living happily in the moment is a tough one because I left so much of myself at home in Namibia. In Lusese.

However, I wanted everyone to know I did safely return to the United States. I am on the hunt for a job so I can save money for my next big adventure abroad, which is yet to be determined. I have an American phone number now, so if you wish to call or sms (text message) me you may do so. Just email me and I can give you my number.

I will be in touch. There might be less writing for a bit, but I will try to have some insight for everyone on what 15 months away from America can mean to an American. Below is a front and back shot of the t-shirt made for me by my Namibian counterparts who signed the back of the shirt.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Farewell Namibia...

In a few short days, I will be boarding a plane back to America. Due to medical issues that cannot be treated in Namibia, I am being medically separated from the Peace Corps. (And don't worry, I am going to be just fine, physically.) I realize this is a tremendous shock. It is for me. But, it is what I must do and life moves on and its important to adjust. In the meantime, I am trying to soak in the last week with the people who have become my family over the past 15 months. I will write more about my final days here when I have had some time to reflect.

All the best from Namibia, my home.

A picture days before I departed the U.S.

A picture from my last day in Lusese.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Namibian Holiday (part one)

Hello America! Click the link below to check out the first week of Warren/Chris visit Tina...

The Boys in Namibia

A Video of our adventures...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cultivating Patience on the Toilet, Genuine Laughter and Pythons...

People in Africa laugh. And do so with sincerity I have rarely seen. For example, Thursday, I went to the “sports field” or “the only spot where maize in not planted” to witness track practice. Kids ran barefoot in skirts and pants and dress shirts. The hurdles were two sticks in the ground with plastic string between them. Nobody knew how to jump them anyway. Kids held out vines to indicate a finish line. Kids laughed. Adults laughed. The sorta laugh that emerges from the soul. Sheer bliss. It is how it should be at sports event from time to time.

As a kid, I remember having a little jar to collect whatever insects inhabited the yard. I placed dirt and grass in it and poked holes at the top so the critters could breathe. The other day, I had an epiphany. I was inspecting the toilet for large spiders when it occurred to me that using a latrine during the rainy season is a little like taking a dump in an insect jar. The latrine has holes at the top, grass and dirt on the floor and every sort of flying, creepy crawling insect imaginable is housed within. Bugs fall on me. Fly into my face. Crawl across my feet. Sitting on the can is a fantastic place to cultivate patience. I owe any personal growth to the fact I used a pit latrine for two years.

Lusese was hit with a snake frenzy days before my return from Holiday. The highlight of which was the Python discovered in the wash area of a teacher’s hut. The snake was smothering its dinner, which on this day was a small dog. My neighbors walked in on the snake mid-squeeze. It promptly dropped the dog and made a hasty escape. Brave souls took chase and shot the snake in a field. I saw pictures and it goes without saying that anything that can devour a dog is large, impressively large.

I am teaching a Life Skills class. A learner asked me to teach him how to get a girlfriend. This is not my area of expertise. Wish me luck, or perhaps you should wish him luck;)

Warren and Chris arrive in a few days. I should have pictures of our Namibian adventures to share with you soon.

I miss you.