Sunday, January 11, 2015

Youthful Enthusiasm

Many times over the last decade or so, when nothing else has been going right, the fact that I work with young people has provided joy during what would otherwise have been very challenging moments.

The past week has definitely fallen into that category.

Coming off two weeks of relaxing village life without heading to work because of the holidays, I had been approaching this week with both excitement and a bit of trepidation. In addition to restarting my thrice weekly meetings with Bo-'M'e who want to start a knitting business, I was starting a three-week youth program to fill the gap between holidays and the start of school at the end of January. This meant I was going to be the busiest I have been dunce moving to the village.

And, I was.

Everyday, I got up with the sun (or earlier as I could hear my brothers getting the cows hooked up to the wagon to go work in the fields well before dawn.). I would squeeze in a workout and breakfast before spending an hour or two prepping for the day before leaving for work at 9:30.

The plan from there was to meet with Bo-'M'e and my counterpart from 10-1, eat lunch and set up for the youth, then work with them from 2-4, meet with the folks who are co-leading the youth activities with me, then head home with time to cook dinner before the sun sets a bit after seven.

Things do not go according to plan.

Instead, on Monday, I found myself sitting alone at work from 10-2, at which point my brother Thabo arrived to start our youth programs. No one else arrived until around three.

That night my counterpart and I agreed to meet at 10 the next morning, so there I sat at 10. And there I remained, alone at 12:30 when I returned home to finish some prep for the afternoon.

Wednesday, I headed to work, grumbling internally and wondering if anyone would allow up for our morning meeting. The answer was almost no, although one 'M'e arrived around noon and knit with me until I needed to prep for the youth.

Thursday, I didn't have any meetings planned for the morning, but my counterpart and I agreed to meet at 12:30 to finish planning the youth programs for that day. I arrived on time and began getting nervous that she would not arrive when 1:15 rolled around. Thankfully this time her phone was on and she assured me she would be arriving. With Thabo out of town, I did not want to do the youth programming without a Sesotho counterpart as we are doing everything in Sesotho and I have my limitations.

I asked about the Friday meeting and was assured that people would show up on time. So Friday morning I headed to work, where I sat alone for nearly two hours before three people finally arrived.

Obviously, I spent a lot of time frustratedly knitting and greeting people as they passed, trying not to show my annoyance when asked why I was sitting all alone. In reality, there were very good reasons that most of the women did not make appearances. Monday, many of them had to attend a meeting at the fields with our chief and the Ministry of Agriculture. During this meeting, it was decided that everyone needed to work in the fields in the mornings while the weather was dry because the Ministry of Agriculture had given them some soil treatments that needed to be tilled into the rows between the crops.

What actually bothered me about it was that no one told me this was happening and would impact or meetings. Everyone simply assumed someone else had filled me in. Thus, I spent over 11 hours sitting by myself when I could have been getting things done at home.

If I had not been for the afternoon youth programming and my Saturday teen support group, I probably would have wanted to scream or at least pull out my hair.

Instead, I spent my afternoons doing Grassroot Soccer's PC Skillz program with teens from my community. We have two more weeks of the program so I will wait until it is completed to say too much about it.

After working mostly with adults since my arrival, it is great to be working with teens again. Whether goofing off with them before and after the program or watching their facial expressions when we tell them something surprising during the program, I cannot help but be happy after spending time with them.

With over a decade of similar programming experience in the States, this program is providing some really unique challenges too. What is normally second nature to me-like rephrasing questions when people are confused-suddenly requires me to stop and think because I don't always have the Sesotho vocabulary to just go with it. Even though I have 2-3 fellow coaches at each practice, all native Sesotho speakers, I am trying to communicate effectively for myself and it isn't always easy.

It's fascinating to have something that is normally so easy for me suddenly become difficult. I am really enjoying the challenge in it. And, I think everyone else is enjoying my unintentional happy dance when I remember new vocabulary!

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You should choose as your life's work whatever feels the most like play.
-Harvey Oxenhorn