Every month there is what we call the Empress phone call. It is a group call that is an opportunity for the female volunteers to discuss those issues in their lives that are dragging them down, or even up. It is for women only. Female volunteers have a greater struggle than the male volunteers do, I think this is true for almost every post. Americans were raised to respect women as equals and that is not the case in much of the world. Not that women are not respected but they are not viewed as equals. It is an underlying piece of the culture that, even here in a more modern site, still exists. I do not typically participate in these calls, mainly because I thought I had to call in and dial a number to get into the group text, I still cannot switch my call waiting over. To say the least I am phone technology challenged.
This week I went to see Whitney in James Hill, Clarendon to show a group of adults how to grow potatoes in a bag. It really was about showing mothers who have no space or time how to grow some vegetables of their own to feed their children. The Empress call happened the first night I was at Whitney’s and we participated, and now I know that all I have to do is answer the phone. The theme this month is the holiday blues. It seems that most volunteers are on the struggle bus, as Whitney likes to call it. I do not feel that I am struggling, per se. I feel overwhelmed with success, and I suppose that in itself is a struggle. The weird thing for me is the holiday blues. This is because I have completely detached myself from family and holidays in general. I am not saying I do not miss my children and my friends, but the idea of becoming depressed seems so foreign to me. Maybe this is part of what my friend Peter used to call my cancer protective shell. (I am a late June birthday.) Maybe it is many years of crying over failure to fit into family as I believed it should be? Or maybe it is my aged cynicism! Whatever the reason, spending holidays on the beach alone is not that unattractive to me!
This year I plan on working on Thanksgiving. I plan on going to the schools and giving a short presentation on what it is and what it means to most Americans. Hell I can fake it ’til I make it! I do hope to do a Facetime call with Richard and with my friends that all gather together that day. (My small contribution to the world, brining orphans together for the holidays!) That Saturday I will travel to Melissa’s to have what we are calling Friendsgiving! About 8 PCV and 6-8 Jamaicans in a potluck style feast. I have decided to bring a kale and tahini salad with me. It seemed the easiest and the freshest thing to create.
As I listened to others and their struggle with depression, frustration and homesickness, I sympathized. Yet I am not having those feelings. My struggles are just too many projects. Projects that are taking off and moving into the next level. Projects that are starting to become self-sustaining. I am struggling with activities daily and not getting time off. I am struggling with having morning and evenings booked up. Yeah, I am struggling with too much success. I hope this bus does not crash and burn. Whitney said I was crazy for signing two schools up for the REAP program. I see a great opportunity for this program to change the course of education in the rural schools.
I had a small number of men show up to help me build raised beds for the school gardens at one of my schools. We got two beds completed and ran out of bamboo, so we wait until we can harvest again soon. The thing here is that I was told the farmers would not break the ground due to the grass on it. They would insist on spraying, and to me spraying around areas that children will be in is just a crime. So as I struggled with this, it occurred to me that I have a Masters’ with a focus on urban/small space farming. At that moment not only did a light go off the idiot bell dinged. I decided at that moment that raised beds was the most logical course of action. I wanted farmers to help with this project because I was going to make them Hugelkultur beds. Sadly the farmers have lost faith in my ideas, mainly due to them not truly embracing anything outside of using chemicals to farm with. It is hard to convince them to try other options. They would rather just use chemicals and burn. I have also become frustrated. This is my struggle bus. Trying to find a way to change behavior when the people do not want to change. So I focus on other options. To me the fact that three men showed up and participated is a great thing. One guy just wants to learn more about farming. The other guy wants to build a food forest and use permaculture principles. This to me was a great collaboration. The other guy, yeah that was my supervisor! He is almost always helping me out. I do appreciate his willingness to embrace new ideas.
I intend to move the potato box up to the farm and restart that again. The income generating plot was planted, but I am under the impression it is not getting watered enough. And here I have a great many pumpkin and melon starts ready to transplant. Good grief, no wonder the farmers group is often in chaos. The inability to embrace change and new ideas keeps you exactly where you are, never moving forward. I am not saying my ideas are fantastic and sometimes they do not translate to large-scale farming. But to get frustrated over two projects seems sad to me. Maybe I need to reevaluate how I present them.
In my mind failure is a learning tool and never to be underestimated! Every single one of us as at moments are struggling. This is the natural course of things, these are our learning moments and we need to embrace the struggles or we can never enjoy the successes.