Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thorn fences, rising from the dead, and my very own Shakespearean drama

A family member has asked to see photos of my thorn fence.  It isn't photogenic, but it's my masterpiece.  I closed it yesterday, because my green beans are emerging, and goats are roaming.  Now it's up to my thorn fence and God to see if it keeps the goats out...

I was dreadfully ill all last week with some type of stomach disturbance. It began with vomiting early in the week but seemed to resolve itself with some queasiness lasting throughout the week. The bug decided to turn into awful diarrhea early Friday morning and left me with fever and chills late Saturday evening.

A phone call from a family member had me pleading for a “laying on of hands” from across the sea, I prayed to any other greater entity that might help me, and popped a pro-biotic my sister had sent.

At midnight I awoke and felt so much better I wanted to dance a jig. The fever was gone, the chills were gone, the blinding headache gone. I felt so much better that I didn’t mind the middle-of-the-night insomnia that ensued.

Sunday morning, I felt like Lazarus rising from the dead: I washed bed clothes, scrubbed my bathroom, dusted from floor to ceiling, and moved furniture! I couldn’t believe how much better I felt!

I felt well enough to finish my thorn fence and planted another round of beets and beans.

I feel so grateful to be healthy, mobile, pain-free, digesting, and absorbing! I feel grateful for an appetite! There is nothing like feeling so ill to make you appreciate feeling healthy again!

I seem to be averaging one severe illness per year. I was seriously sick about this time last year with H1N1. If I’m to be seriously ill every September, let’s hope I’m home in time next year to either miss my turn, or be surrounded by family and friends to comfort me.

There has been some depressing commotion around my household. I haven’t talked about this at all and perhaps shouldn’t, as it concerns my host-national colleagues. But here goes.

When I arrived on-site in September of last year, I was greeted and feted by the acting campus manager who had asked for a Peace Corps volunteer to come to his college. HE was invested with wanting a PC volunteer at his school; while everyone else was warm and welcoming, it was clear that he was really the only person invested in having a PC volunteer at his site.

Very shortly after my arrival, this man left for another position. Although the remaining staff was warm and accommodating, I found myself without a host-country national that truly wanted a PC volunteer on site and at the school. I found myself somewhat “lost” and felt more floating than grounded.

At the beginning of the new school year, January of this year, we were introduced to a vibrant young woman, coming from the outside, to assume the responsibilities of “acting campus manager.” I liked her right away, she seemed to be dynamic, pro-active, responsible, etc. In fact, I described her as like a powerful American woman: a get-up-and-go-er. I watched her do impressive things: she began making improvements to the campus (those alarming plumbing problems I was worried about), went about meeting the student requests, hosted campus activities for outside organizations (and therefore earned income for the college), and most impressive of all, to me, was that she seemed to rally the staff to begin the weekly staff meetings ON TIME. I was impressed!

Well, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but the staff at the college wasn’t too keen on her arrival: it seems that feathers were ruffled about who should assume the position of acting campus manager. In other words, some staff here felt they were overlooked and should have been appointed as the leader. (Or at least, this is the kind of thing I learn from the “grapevine.”)

Well, it’s depressing and defeating for me to think about it, but every since her arrival, there seems to have been dissention amongst our little college here, so much so that the students have been protesting. At times I feel that I’m in a Shakespearean history play, whereby the generals are plotting to unseat their queen, and at others, I feel that I’m in some ridiculous soap opera that can’t possibly be real. The allegations against this woman (and apparently believed by those in charge) are jaw-droppingly ridiculous.

But of course, I’m only an outsider, and an outsider unfamiliar with the native language, so I’m probably pretty clueless to what’s truly going on. I’m unaware of the history of the college and its relationships. And because I find the situation so depressing, and because Peace Corps asks us to remain neutral in controversial matters, I try to stay out of it.

What saddens me the most, however, is this woman’s family has been my next-door neighbors for a few months now, and I’ve gotten quite fond of them, especially her 15-year old daughter, who calls me “Aunt Karen.” She and her family have been very nice to me and generous to make me feel “a part of.” It’s no wonder I feel sided toward her cause.

It appears that the students’ demands have been honored, they have asked all along that she step down, and apparently she be removed as campus manager, and this family will be leaving quite soon.

I find all of it very depressing and the craziness of it makes me want to come back home. I’m amazed at the power given to the youth of this country and especially the power given the youth at this college!

Perhaps my physical illness this week has been a manifestation of the drama that is occurring all around me. It’s too bad that I can’t erect a thorn fence to protect this woman and her family from the goats that can, and are, eating her alive.


PS.  Goats, donkeys, cattle, and any other free-roaming domestic animals have since visited my garden.  I'm very happy to report that the thorn fence is working and keeping the hungry animals at bay!


  1. Wow, what a beautiful story. I hate that you are loosing your allies. It is puzzling and sad, and you must really hate being cast adrift in that lonely place. Thanks for the picture of the fence. One year from tomorrow, and you will be home, right? You are amazing.

  2. Hello,

    I know it has been a long while since you post this... I liked your story.

    In addition, I wanted to ask you if you could write me the name of the thorn tree\bush that you used for your fence.
    Thanks in advance,