The sun has forgotten something. Its shining too obnoxiously into my window this afternoon, as if the category four cyclone that hit the island just two days ago never happened. No, Giovanna didn’t hit so hard here in the highlands, thank God, save for the tops of a handful of homes here in Imito, and the hoards of trees lining the main dirt road into the village. Fields of corn stalks lie flat, defeated, and oh- the outhouse of the main hospital in town now has a functional sunroof. The large meeting/ping pong room in my house flooded a bit, and for most of last Tuesday I had little to no cell phone reception. But as far as I have heard and seen in my part of the island, the damage has been minimal. It could have been a worse Valentine’s Day. Or at least, less eventful.
The New Year has brought, along with the temperamental weather, a spirit of productivity and new beginnings. As much as I try to reason cynicism into 2012, somehow something, someone, always comes along to bring me up and force me to see the good and right in life right now.
I have so much happiness for those around me right now, it sounds cheesy, but I can’t help but feel myself enlightened. Most notably, over Christmas, as some of you may know, my cousin and closest friend, Hope, became engaged to her long-time love, Jon, and you are now reading the blog of a freshly christened Maid of Honor! I’ve been excitedly beginning to plan my trip home for the fall wedding taking place later this year, and posting inspiration for Hope on my newly acquired PINTEREST page (why was I so late on this fad? Love it). Though I wish I could be home now to preview the wedding dress fittings, and other fabulously fun details, I am so grateful to be in some way part of this special affair. I keep daydreaming about the day we can both lay out on Lanikai beach with our iced chai lattes or acai bowls, getting our tans wedding ready. Sigh.
Also, in keeping with last year’s WRITE 2011 impromptu vision boarding workshop, I recently led a modified version with a small group of young girl students, and Madame Angeline, a Malagasy teacher, as well as Wallie, my sitemate—the workshop for the most part conducted all in Malagasy, which made for an interesting intersection of words and ideas.
The day began with a visit to the Chef de Commerce in Ambositra, the largest town nearest to Imito, about an hour away. The girls prepared some really well-thought out questions to ask Madame Hanitra, about her work and education as related to goal setting—for example, how she got her job, what kind of education she needed, and what advice she had for them. Then we sat down to a simple but filling lunch I had set up beforehand, at a cozy restaurant in town (no Chad Lou’s in Kailua but it sufficed). I had the girls complete a few ice breaker activities, and together went through a workbook I prepared on goal-setting and visualization; later, over juice and popcorn, the girls were able to create and share their own vision boards, which they took home with their workbooks.
It was a really special event for myself, and the girls as well. I think we really bonded, and that each girl got something out of the experience. To put things in perspective—very rarely do these girls leave Imito for Ambositra, even though its only an hour by car, and often when they do leave, they walk by foot as they often cannot afford the fare (roughly $1.50). Many thanks has to be given to the language coordinators at Peace Corps for helping me with translation of the workbook, as well as the $10 Club of the US Embassy here who helped fund the entire event. Without their help, this small yet significant event would not have been possible.
I hope to work with the same girls this summer in a more entrepreneurial project called Vacation Enterprise as well. Its a really cool idea that many volunteers have implemented at their respective sites here, and I love the premise of it. Basically each girl receives a small seed of start-up money in which to begin a small business. The girls are required to attend a series of business trainings (conducted by myself) in areas such as management, finance, marketing, etc. At the end of the program, about two months, the girls get to keep their profits to be put toward a fund for their higher education. Its the exact kind of thing I wish I had growing up! Back when I was convinced I would be selling ice cream from a cart called “Island Flavor” at the Aloha Stadium swap meet every weekend (another blog post in itself).
And speaking of business, I have another ongoing project I am very stoked on. My work with the weavers has been put on hold, and I have pursued VSL instead—which stands for “Village Savings and Loans.” Its a simple yet effective solution for all kinds of businesspeople, farmers, merchants, teachers, to help them save and borrow small amounts of money. There are some great resources on the subject (The Poor and Their Money, for example) but in short, it works kind of like a small scale credit union.
Basically, a typical VSL consists of 10-25 members with an elected board of President, Secretary, Money Holder and Counters. Each member commits to purchasing at least one share each meeting—this is their savings, and the bulk of the Loan Fund. Every month, members may borrow up to three times their savings, if all members agree to it, and the interest collected from these loans is distributed to each member, respective of their shares, at the end of the cycle (9-12 months). Its a really simple program, but its had success in many developing countries, in greater Africa and Bangladesh (Grameen Bank).
Anyway, I’ve spent the last couple months preparing meetings and translating documents for this project. I’ve held three large community meetings, and the response has been positive and encouraging. The people know I am just a facilitator, not a money lender, and still they are interested. Its been great. Already there are seven separate groups in four different communities who have signed up to begin training in March! So I think I will be busy with that for awhile…wish me luck!
On another note, I’ve decided to start making lists of relevant things in my life right now.
Hunger Games trilogy (finished in like, a day)
Round Ireland with a Fridge
CURRENTLY READING (always a revolving list)
100 Years of Solitude
Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn
Crazy Stupid Love
OBSESSIONS (see correlations with above)
All things Irish
Avocados- in season again!
Fripped shoes (most recently, $20 New Balance running shoes and barely worn Diesel floral flats)
PINTEREST (follow me NOW)
Plane ticket perusing
Books on Ireland
Travel books- Europe, Middle East
New music! Pleeeease! Good acoustic stuff, pop, indie, HAWAIIAN, hip hop
LOOK OUT FOR
Cookbook project…more details soon
Videos of life here