Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Future

My time back in village has been one of mixed feelings, rather very emotional. Maybe it’s the malaria medications (joking Pops) but it’s seems to me that I have been way more in my head these days. The reason….I’ve finally decided that I will leave Senegal after my contract is over. What does leaving entail? Holy stink, it’s worse than when I had to pack up and sell all of my stuff, get my wisdom teeth pulled, and move back to Hawaii all in 3 weeks. True story ask my mom. Yet, at the same time the feelings I feel are mainly liberating because I believe I will be a better person in any society. Therefore, I am not afraid like I was about coming to Africa but rather nervous I will get lost in all the different possibilities that the world has to offer. There is farming, volunteering, teaching English, going to grad school, just pain working and then where to live, how long to stay, where to visit, how does rent work again? Utilities? What the hell are honeycombs? So much to think about but for me it isn’t so much frightening as just a little overwhelming because I want to give each opportunity a chance when in reality I probably can’t and therefore, have to make a decision. Who knew deciding what you liked or what you wanted to do or even eat are truly difficult decisions. So, as I try to control my excitement, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve and I am not even planning on leaving for another 2 or 3 months, I need to finish up some projects that are in the works and do some things I’ve been saying I am going to do for a long time. As many of you know the Reading Room is being built. In fact, it has walls, a roof, and some cement. Hopefully, this Sunday the inside walls will get some concrete and I will be able to begin painting and decorating in order to liberate my mind from the constant thoughts of the outside world. I’m crossing my fingers because Ramadan also started today (Saturday) meaning people won’t be working as much. Another post will have to come once the Reading Room is done but for now I need to share a heart-warming moment for me. I’ve taken to writing down words and thoughts that I like or mean something as of recent. They serve as little reminders to do “good,” breath, relax, and understand that there are things much larger than not sharing my oatmeal and powdered milk with whatever cute little filthy child steps through my door. It came from a younger man who has a one year old boy a beautiful wife and as of recently has become the bread winner for his entire family due to his father’s death. Anyway, we began speaking about the weather and farming over some traditional Senegalese tea. It was typical banter. Then, the conversation turned a little serious and he asked me, “When do you go home?” Honestly, I answered in a few months and he asked, “Why?” Shit. Why am I going home? I answered as best I could, “There are more possibilities for increasing my education there, my family is there, my culture is there, and I want to see the world so that I can better understand people, farming, and our ways of life.” Usually I get the “oh! America is soooo great. Take me with you,” response but Hamadi simply gave me a Pulaar proverb. He said, “Ada memini Aduna e ada findini Aduna.” I couldn’t agree more. His words mean, “You are made to touch the world and you awaken the world.” That moment pretty much brought my Peace Corps experience full circle. I came here to learn, live, and begin to understand a new way of life and then, I came to take those new thoughts mixed with my original thoughts and share them with the people I meet along the way. I’ve never told Hamadi this so I guess I must have done something right with the past two years I’ve spent with him.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Blog June 29, 2012

Tanzania and PDC
My month of June was spent studying Permaculture Design in a place just below the equator but that never got above 80 degrees while I was there.
                Tanzania is home to the great mountain Kilimanjaro, the Maasai people group, great home grown coffee and, most popular, the Serengeti.  White people are in abundance in the more touristy places of Tanzania (i.e. Arusha and Moshi) meaning the local people then thrive on “catching fish” or approaching people on the street to ask if they need a safari, want to climb Kilimanjaro or if they’d be interested in seeing a meditation garden (puff puff pass). However, despite all the local people looking to reel in a big group the atmosphere of Tanzania is still filled with hospitality and a more than willing desire to help with whatever one may need help with.  If you could care less about hospitality or people then, the diverse scenery and breath taking landscapes are more than enough to visit or volunteer in Tanzania.  All in all, Tanzania is a great escape to clear your mind and enjoy the simplicities of life.
                My travel to Tanzania wasn’t really for any of the above mentioned items but instead for something called Permaculture Design.
                Permaculture is a compound word and sort of misrepresented. The term was created in the 60s by a man named Bill Mollison from the words Permanent and Agriculture. The idea Mr. Mollison had was to create food systems that are resilient and mimicked the way the natural environment provides for the human world, animal world and itself. His idea caught on and has been followed and researched for the past 50 years and is now be implementing all over the world in aid projects, at Universities, and most interesting for me is in the cities most of you reading this are now living in. Maybe the best thing about Permaculture is that its’s ethics and principles are based on simple things everyone can agree with: People Care, Earth Care, and Fair Share.
                 I won’t bore you with the details of the course or about the ethics and principles of permaculture but instead give you an idea of how it has solidified in my mind what I want to pursue in my life, planning/design.
                Before I left for the Peace Corps I had some small internships with organizations dealing in the planning of cities. During these internships I realized how little people actually know about their place as a whole. I mean complete whole from zoning, to land use history, and all the way to the migratory species and their seasons. Planning and Permaculture make these things necessities to know and understand. The internships I held forced me to look into a place’s history and really begin to see how that area’s policies became what they are today. Unfortunately, policies and words are the way traditional planning systems have been shaping the cities we know today.  Vision however, is how most people receive and begin to comprehend 90% of the information given to them (Don’t quote me if I remember I will look it up on the internet or maybe you should just try to do your normal routine with your eyes closed).
                Permaculture and some progressive designing codes are now moving towards a more visual representation of their proposed urban or regional plans. Personally I am all for it because the plans that will be produced are the best of policy and imagery. One who doesn’t want to read or get bogged down in policy can still have a great understanding of the codes guidelines just by looking at the proposed design where as the people who love policy can still have their regulation but now with a proposed idea of what the city should look like if said policy works. Permaculture design looks to combine classical knowledge (i.e. the science, facts, data that America is soo dependent on) with the romantic knowledge (i.e. arts, music, imagery the “cool” kids or hipsters usually have a grasp on) to produce a product that satisfies all the senses. That’s what I want to do. I want to satisfy all the senses and work with a system that is taking into account all of the surrounding outputs, inputs while still being productive. My only glitch is how I go about accomplishing this goal in the near future. Do I stay in Senegal for a third year? or Do I go off into the world, travel, work and volunteer for interesting people while living in the "real world"? I can't get past this question but need to make a decision by the end of the month for my sanity's sake. Wish me luck and stay tuned.