2016 Rolls Relentlessly Onwards

I just returned from a quick trip home to attend my cousin’s wedding in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My cousin, Maryn Lewallen, who is now one year into a Masters of Public Health, met her – pretty cool – husband Luke Willson while they were both PCVs in Kyrgyzstan, where they both extended for a third year. So it was a very Peace Corps wedding, between Maryn and Luke’s several PCV friends who came out, my dad (who served in South Korea, I think 1979-1981), my brother Jim (in his third year in Senegal) and myself in Fiji.

It was a blast, at a beautiful county park, and Jim, Brynn, Maryn and I and all the young folks danced until they shut down the dancefloor. It’s always fun to swap stories with PCVs of other places, and I got moments to chat with Luke[1] and another RPCV Kyrgyz pal of theirs[2] which I really enjoyed. Luke struck me as a compassionate, grounded, genuine, bright, forward-thinking guy – and it filled me with joy that Maryn has founded such a suitable partner.

Flying using miles meant taking the long way home, though. I spent 30 hours flying each way and as much in transit, instead of the 15 were I to fly first to California then on to Chicago, going 2/3 ‘round the world, rather than 1/3 the other way. I also took a six-hour Megabus from Chicago to Ann Arbor and back again. My first night back I went to a packed church service and between jet lag, a long first day back, exercise and a good meal I kept nodding off in the back row. So partly, it’s nice just to rest and not have to think about the next plane I’ll get on.

Back in Sabeto barely 36 hours, I’m hustling around to kick both my projects (the WWII monuments + the dictionary) into high gear. I am planning to have the monuments done by mid-July, and the dictionary printed and distributed by mid-August. I think this is reasonable, though I still expect those deadlines to get kicked at least a little further back. Originally, the dictionary was to be finished in mid-July, before COS conference at the end of the month, and the monuments were supposed to be done by mid-March.

The plan Tai Samu and I drew up for completing the monuments before Christmas was supposed to be take two months, not six.[3] I’d say at least one month of that is due to the US Embassy’s slow response and mistakes in filing paperwork, one would be Tai Samu’s insistence he could just drop by the chief’s house for his signature on a letter of support because they’re cousins,[4] and two would be the vast and often seemingly meaningless meanderings of life itself.

To address the title of this blog more, here is a quick wrap-up of what has happened before the halfway mark of this year

  • Stephen, a kind, generous man and good friend from Knox, died while teaching English in China. I visited his grave with Forrest, and I couldn’t cry, so she did for me.
  • Cyclone Winston, the second-strongest storm in historical record globally smashed through Fiji, killing fourty-four people, making around ten thousand homeless, turning off the electricity for tens of thousands more.
  • Then Sabeto was flooded in early April, and a schoolgirl and old Tai Vilive both drowned.
  • The Republican party nominated a crude entertainer who spouts the racist, sexist thoughts we all have in pursuit of a voting base, who is governed not by even any sort of ideology or coherent worldview but a boasting personal ego, with all its whims and feuds. The scariest part, perhaps, is that enough people could plausibly be scared into his voting corral. Democrats, on the other hand, have chosen (I played my part in this support) the “safe choice” of the first female presidential candidate of a major party.
  • Went by the farm earlier today, and Chodhtu told me about coming across the body of a boy in Sabeto who had been thrown from the back of his dad’s pickup when he was speeding, and showed me the pictures.
  • A gunman/terrorist[5] walked into a gay club in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people, wounded 53 and died in a hail of bullets this past weekend, in the worst mass shooting the US has seen. This unfortunately coincided with Maryn’s wedding night, and it’s what we read about the morning after. Nonetheless, love must shine through, and so I send extra love to those I know in the LGBT community. I do not know what it feels like to be oppressed or targeted because of who I love, but I do know love and grief and so I send the former to all those who’ve lost people recently or are struggling to make sense of this hateful crime.
  • Other people we have lost so far in 2016: Mrs. Beveridge, the college counselor and wife of the chemistry teacher; Alan’s host mom, a sweet lady; five or so elderly folks from the village; Lissie’s mom; Carissa’s dad; Monty’s brother.

Also though

  • Everyone else, which is most of us, is still alive and kicking.
  • I have six months left in Fiji, I am three-quarters through. It has been hard in many unexpected ways I am still trying to understand.
  • Though I feel there are many ways in which I could have been a better PCV, namely in integration to my community, I am fairly content with the work I am doing. Despite a wide variety of obstacles we are still plowing ahead, and I look forward to the opening/completion ceremonies we will have over the next few months.
  • This is also six months I have in which I need to figure out the next step. Currently, I’m thinking of a back-to-Africa trip, at it’s basic including visiting fellow Knox PCVs Charlie & Erin Megenity in Ethiopia and going back home to Moshi and Tanzania with Jim; some WWOOFing[6] in Latin America, hopefully with fellow Fiji PCVs; and then finding a gig, maybe teaching English, to sustain myself in a Latin American city (Medellin, Colombia is the strongest and only candidate for now) for a year or so, depending if I can find good work.

[1] at the marriage brunch thing that I didn’t know was a Western marriage tradition. He also grew up overseas, especially New Delhi, where he was from 2nd to 12th grade, and there were two other pals of his who had been together that whole time (what a thing, we both said; international schools have such turnover rates.)

[2] Sat at the wedding dinner with one fellow whose name I of course forget, who lived at the edge of a lake and helped a local museum in their quest to protect a historical site from vandals and litterbugs. It was cool to hear of other PCVs helping host nations with cultural preservation.

[3] Peace Corps Lyfe.

[4] Everyone’s cousins. Eventually, I got the guy from the chief’s circle of advisors who arranges meetings with the chief to make it happen.

[5] Other people who fit this description are Anders Brevik, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, etc.

[6] Volunteering at organic farms


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