Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just Remember...Beeeeeeee Yourself

The tally is in.  I have now lived with 62 different women, by the end of the summer, I'm pretty sure I'll be hitting 70-75.  This has probably been one of the greatest challenges and blessings of my life.  It has allowed me to get to know numerous amazing women and also many who struggle to see how amazing they are and/or could be.  It has given me a pretty clear picture of what kind of people I work best with and has also given me great practice in working with those I don't click with easily.  Living with all of those women has helped me get to know and become more comfortable with myself.  It has forced me to stare down my own insecurities and address things in my habits that probably should be adjusted.  With each individual, I have learned something new about myself and developed something I wanted to make a part of myself.  Each of those individuals has brought light and clarity to my perspective.  Some formed large portions of that picture (shout out to my soul sisters) while others did an amazing job of adding depth, color, and accents to views already formed.

I have been incredibly blessed to have the chance to live with those individuals, and I think one of the greatest gifts they have given me, collectively, is security.  That may seem odd considering the high turnover rate having 62 roommates requires (I've moved 14 times), but I'm not talking about the kind of security one experiences from things never changing.  I'm talking about the kind of security you can find once you accept that things are always changing - and that with God supporting you, they can always change for the better.  It's a great faith/hope builder, and also a great source of strength.  It's that security that keeps me calm amongst the unpredictable waves of life.  It's the strength that allows me to 'just keep swimming' when I'm not sure where to go next.  I owe more to those individuals than any of them could ever know (and not just because they somehow managed to survive living with me).

But this new group is a different kind of batch.  For the first time, I'm living with women who are much younger than me.  The average age of the 10 volunteers I live with is 20.  It's a fascinating dynamic to be in because I've never seen it from the older point of view.  It's interesting to see how they are addressing the same issues I dealt with just a few years ago.  Some amaze me by just how far ahead of the game they are, while others I feel more concern for because I know exactly where their particular brand of thinking leads.  Some have an impressive amount of independence and self surety, while others seem to really struggle understanding what all they have to offer.

One girl in particular, I think about a lot.  She's a strong personality; outspoken, direct, and very social.  She's a definitely a perfectionist and therefore incredibly talented, driven, and intelligent.  There's just something just a little off.  After the first week, I noticed that her interests kept changing and shifting closer to mine.  I started seeing a pattern that seemed like she is trying to use me as some sort of role model without any clue as to what kind of role she's looking to fulfill.  (fyi - I'm not okay with that)  She just graduated in political science, aced the LSAT, but didn't want to go to law school.  She also happens to have two men at home incredibly determined to marry her, and doesn't know which to choose.  Every life choice she has been trying to make seems to be an arduous and impossible process.

It's an early assessment, but I'm starting to see how she has no idea what she really wants.  Based on how she adapts her interests and passions to whomever she's around, I'm betting neither of the guys waiting for her have any idea who she is either.  Watching her drama is like watching the movie Runaway Bride.  I guess I think about her a lot because I see how precarious her situation is.  She has so much going on it's hard for her to focus on who she is or what she actually wants.  She's distracted by all of her possibilities, and therefore ironically blind to which of those possibilities she actually wants.  She's tortured, but she doesn't understand what is torturing her or how to find solace.  She's not the first person I've seen in that kind of a situation (goodness knows I've been there myself a few times), but it's still difficult to watch.  I just want to shake her and tell her to slow down, spend some time with herself, and figure out what she wants before trying to choose from what's available.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Otherwise, things are going well and moving along nicely.  We met with the World Health Organization Tuesday and Wednesday in Rakiraki (this is the sunset there).  We helped them train the headmasters of local schools on how to make strides toward a healthy schools policy.  It was an enlightening meeting and I understand much better now how Fijians structure their food habits.  My job with WHO will be checking in on the plans these headmasters came up with and help them troubleshoot any problems that might arise.  One of the most shocking things from the meeting was seeing just how uncreative these men were.  I was forced to come up with as many questions as I could think of just to get one idea out of them.  Getting answers to those questions was very helpful to my personal project brainstorming, so all in all it worked out well, but I can see how any progression in Fiji is going to be a long, slow, and arduous process.

One other project I'm going to be working on with WHO is creating a Zumba workout video for the South Pacific.  Saula (the head of WHO in Fiji) wants me to create some dance routines with a south pacific flavor so that he can market them to the older (and incredibly inactive) Fijians.  We also talked about making other videos, one for young adults and one for children.  After our meetings we actually did a little Zumba and I loved seeing how excited these old educators were to dance.  Needless to say, I'm incredibly excited about this.  Hopefully I'll be heading to Suva either this week or next to get started. :)

So besides WHO, I also started working with an organization called PRISM.  It's a group that travels to the villages around Lautoka to provide basic health screenings, nutrition and exercise advice, and as of recently, gardening tips (gardening being a form of exercise the women will actually do).  It'll be a good precursor to what I want to do working with the Gold Foundation for Women's Empowerment.  I also took it upon myself to start shopping for our house's food this week.  I think it's pretty safe to say, it's going to be a busy summer, but the latter responsibility seems to be necessary.  It has become apparent that our country directors are not used to thinking about how to feed 15 people a day, let alone how to do it nutritiously. One of the directors has a really hard time knowing how and when to spend money and many people have expressed frustration by how often we run completely out of food.  We'll see if I can keep the mutiny at bay a little better.  

Oh, I almost forgot.  After our conference with WHO, we decided to spend the night in Rakiraki at a backpacker resort nearby and celebrate Tacy's (one of our team members) birthday.  We invited Saula, Ben (director of Fiji's Ministry of Health), as well as Tikiko (director of the Ministry of Education) for dinner to further discuss possible ventures for other Help volunteers.  It was a fantastic dinner, and I pretty much used the whole time to pick Saula's brain clean.  To celebrate Tacy's birthday, I made a TimTam Slam cake.  With the help of the resort staff, this is how it turned out.

The best part of the night was definitely teaching these men how to do TimTam Slams.  Ben, an incredibly manly and huge Fijian, was hilarious about it, and Saula and Tikiko definitely enjoyed them.  It was a great time with plenty of good laughs.  Who knew partying with distinguished old men could be so much fun.  It's going to be a good summer.

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