Friday, April 03, 2015

Workshop Woe

My journal entry from Monday:

Today this week was incredibly challenging, in all likelihood the toughest day I have had in Lesotho yet. It was the day of our mini-PDM workshop. It was going to be long and difficult no matter what.

Then I learned this morning that Ausi Mareisi, my counterpart, had to work...but, 'M'e Mamphatsoe saud someone was calling her supervisor to get her the time off to join me in co-leading the workshop as planned. Despite this reassurance, I could not help but be anxious.

This was my nightmare. The very idea of doing the workshop effectively with people who speak no English, using only my decent but inadequate Sesotho skills has literally been my worst case scenario for the last month. It was a concept so awful I tried not to consider it a possibility at all.

It turns out that Ausi Mareisi could not leave her other job as her supervisor had disappeared. My worst case scenario was now my reality. Rescheduling was not possible as we had chairs, supplies, and meals provided by WorldVision. I wanted to laugh or to cry.

I wanted to cry. I wanted a magical ability to speak and hear Sesotho fluently for a day. I wanted to have been assigned an organization full of English speakers, like more of my PCV peers. Part of me even wanted to quit or at least to hide in my house and ignore this reality.

By I did not join Peace Corps to quit or hide in my house, I joined for challenges and new experiences; to fully immerse myself in another country. And, the reality is, nothing I have done thus far in Peace Corps would be new or challenging without the language difference.

So, I took a deep breath, or five. I apologized to the nearly twenty people present for speaking Sesotho poorly, and I started the workshop.

We worked within my language abilities until my supervisor and another leader in the organization arrived. I let them know that Ausi Mareisi would not make it and they promptly suggested I walk across the street to ask my friend to close his shop so he could help with translations when needed.

Lucky for me, Abuti Sama is in fact a good friend and he was willing to do just that. Unlike Ausi Mareisi, he had never seen the material we were covering let alone attended an entire training on it, so I really challenged him with my translation requests. Often times, while he tried to figure out a way to say the complex things I threw at him, I came up with easier explanations that I could manage in Sesotho. Then, I would use him to confirm what I said made sense.

In the seven-hour workshop, we did not get nearly as much completed as we had ambitiously planned, but we reached a unanimous conclusion to pursue an income generating project of egg-laying chickens and to hopefully reinvigorate the previously successful Vaseline project. Both of these meet with the outcome of the Needs Assessment Ausi Mareisi and I previously completed. The egg project has the benefit of also increasing food security in our communities, a second need brought forth in the Needs Assessment.

Despite wanting to both laugh and cry many times throughout the day, I cannot call it anything but a success. I managed to go far beyond the language abilities I recognize within myself, expressing hard topics in ways that everyone understood. We shared an incredibly camaraderie throughout the day, being playful with the language in ways I would not have understood or joined a few months ago. Bo-'M'e all agreed upon a project, which was completely unexpected. And, I had the excellent reminder that people want to see my work here succeed and are willing to stop everything to help.


It is pretty great to not only meet a challenge, but also be forced to recognize how many people are there to support me when I think I am going to have to deal with something on my own.


MCCC’s Egg Laying Chicken Project has been in development since March 2015. After many delays, MCCC and I were able to write a successful grant proposal for a VAST grant through Peace Corps. VAST grants are funded by PEPFAR to help with HIV-related work and OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Children) care. It is due to MCCC’s work with OCVs that qualified us for the VAST grant. Otherwise, we would have applied for a PCPP [Peace Corps Partnership Program] grant and would have been asking for assistance in funding this grant proposal. I encourage you to consider supporting other PCPP projects.

Posts about this project include:
Workshop Woe, Busiest of Birthdays, Checking Out Chickens, A Day with Bo-’M’e, Chicken Coop Construction Day One, Day Two, Day, Three, Day Four, Day Five 

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