Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Place for a Thing

Its as if she died. Absurd really, since Ive been receiving regular updates from her doctor. I cleaned out her house today. I explained the tragic accident to her neighbors. My promises that she will recover mean nothing as their eyes say "she's dead to us. we wont meet again."
Have you ever packed up a person's home?
The way they store things.
The things they hoard.
Her vocabulary cards for learning the local language were fabricated conversations.
The volunteer that saved her life was humble in recording the event.
When I took the job nobody told me what to do when a volunteer suddenly left. Theres plenty of advice of how to move someone in to their new house - but how do I destroy a home?
Buckets. And tupperware. And a place for everything. Everything is labeled. And measured. She probably never got a Thing until she had a Place.
A couple of project oriented men volunteered to hang a shelf and shower curtain in my bathroom. I awkwardly stood to oversee their work habits and in doing so looked around at my home as if I was seeing in through their eyes. I have a mirror in 3 broken pieces lying in different corners. I have 5 incorrectly balanced chairs in a pile against a wall. I have a single sized mattress on a double sized frame. More books on the floor than I've read all year.
3 harmonicas.
2 guitars.
1 amp.
2 mosquito nets stuffed on a shelf. 0 nets hung over my bed.
1 safe that I really should drill into the wall otherwise its really just a heavy box.
If someone had to pack up my home, I'd rather they just burned everything. My Things have no Place without me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Becoming a Leader

Its been 6 months. Halfway through a year of leading a group of people.
Ive never simultaneously worried about 28 people but now I cant stop thinking about each of them. How do parents do it?
Some of my friends want to know who I like the best. But they are each so hilariously unique that I have found small things I like in each person.
One guy can never sit still. He always wants to be tinkering on a project. Which is great since I "fix" everything with duct tape, Im learning to discuss construction methods and tools.
One guy loves 2 things. Bluegrass and Cooking. Im learning to love the mandolin twang.
One girl watches anime and enjoys scientific discussions about plants and photo something or other. Im learning to get into cartoons.
One girl constantly updates me on pop culture and whats in fashion. As if I was really sad to be missing the skinny jeans rage. Im learning the details of Lady Gaga.

Uniting a group of individuals is challenging. Each person with different talents and interests. Each person being selfish because they give so much of themselves in their village.

Learning when to say nothing has been harder than learning what to say.
Being the face of other peoples' incompetence has been humiliating. But nothing as close to learning to admit my own incompetence.
Watching people make the same mistakes I did but not intervening because maybe they need to learn the hard way.
Staying positive on the outside for them even though Im falling apart on the inside.
Saying sorry. Listening. Saying sorry again.
Not only saying no but giving a different option. Because sometimes I just dont care. Learning to care.

Becoming a Leader is Learning.
And I am still becoming.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Scars

A South African bar rant, "Those fuckin rich people that cut themselves are just doing it for attention. Because Daddy doesnt love them enough."

Why is that wrong?

The actions we take for attention. For control. Some people are workaholics. Some get tattoos. Some dress outlandlishly. Some drink and some fuck. But if thats not your vice and you dont "get it" then you shame the others.

The first time I hurt myself intentionally I was 14 and my family was going to move again. I didnt know how to express my disagreement for the proposed move while still supporting my family. As Ive matured Ive learned better communication skills and I dont internalize everything as I once did. But sometimes in extreme grief and confusion I am tempted and take the past actions of a scared and lonely girl.

When I visited the states I was amazed at the speed of life and the individual directions everyone moved in. We live in a time period and culture that demands movement and progress. To stop and feel and reflect is to stop production and spit in the face of the norm. Maybe in all this we are isolating the essential human cravings for love and community.

Sometimes I think of designs. Most days I think its ridiculous. Other days I can still see the faded scars on my skin. I go online and read blogs and articles aimed at helping those that self-injure. It always ends in frustration because the advice is for teenagers and that angst of youth. Which I feel far removed from. I may be merely 25 but are 30 or 40 or 50 year olds not haunted from their youth?

I have access to professional help and I have utilized that option. I just wish there were articles written by adults that struggled with self-injury. There are plenty of comments by loved ones of cutters that wonder why their child or sister or friend would do this. And to those loved ones, I say its ok. We all crave attention and search for a means to control our lives. Not everyone's scars are physical.

Sometimes if you cant receive the help you desire, you must first offer that to someone else.

Today I strive to reject the shame and love my scars. May you do the same.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spy on The Rock

Yesterday I brought women's skirts to a man named Seven on the docks of Alcatraz. Five minutes after meeting, all plans to seduce him were spoiled when he shoved a touch screen gadget slideshow of Milo in my face.
" have a kid?"
"Yes, 5 months old. His name is Milo."
The pictures were cute, as most 5 month old baby pictures are. As he rambled on about Milo's gurgling and smiling skills, I remembered that Milo is a brand name of hot chocolate in Zambia.
Ahh, Zambia. Im 3 weeks into a month long holiday in the States. Peace Corps sends you home for this holiday if you extend your service for a 3rd year.
It has been a busy 3 weeks. It seems as if the efficiency of technological systems distracts everyone from interaction with others and, more frightening, with themselves. Everything is presented with flair and meant to provoke a certain something within me but Im not given the choice or time for the reaction. I thought this was a free country?
Its that feeling in a dream. When things are happening around you. Maybe everyone is running a race. And you want to run. And you remember how to run. But you look down and find your feet are cement blocks.
So i stood with Seven on the docks. His dad is a Peace Corps Volunteer and sent me with a present to bring to Seven. We walked up the gates and Seven flashed his employee badge, saying "This is my cousin Fresh. She is with me." The gate keeper let us through as I giggled because his dad had apparently passed along my nickname, not my given name, but unsurprisingly a man named Seven didnt ask questions.
I had many questions for him though. For instance, how does one become a spy on The Rock?
But of course you cant just come out and directly ask a spy this because they will no doubt deny it.
"So what is your job here on Alcatraz?"
"I maintain the electronics. Mostly the headphones used for the audio tour."
Sure you do. And I live in Timbuktu.
"Would you like to take the audio tour?"
"Uh, duh."
He brought me a set of nicely maintained electronics and disappeared to his lair while I was left to wander the cell blocks solo. Normally, if I had to suggest tips on how to best walk through a deserted prison alone, I would place an importance on opening all senses and walking in a Pink Panther meets Tai Chi crouch. Because you just never know.
But when one is strapped into headphones, sealing off a most useful sense when walking through a deserted prison alone, one should spin with the energy of a Tourettes ADHD teenager in ballet class. Because you just never know.
The tour was educational and not as boring as a PBS special because one of the narrators, a former inmate, was down on the lower level signing books for all the meaningless tourists.
I found Seven in his lair, a former guardsmen office, and we got to talking about his dad and the village experience.
Why does everyone want to talk about the same thing?
The physical challenges. No running water. No electricity. Poor transportation. The bugs! The illnesses!
Because these things are security. To try and survive in a place where they are not assured seems ludicrous, preposterous!
When I say that actually you get over these physical challenges within the first 6 months, people look at me as if Im lying or Im a hero.
During my 2nd week back in AmericaLand I was in the parking lot with my sister at the high school she works at. She pointed at a Hummer and said that a 16 year old was given the car for her birthday. Other people in the conversation talked about how that much money could have been used for "better" purposes. I was stuck trying to comprehend the fact that a person so young could be in charge of such a responsibility.
Your lying. Your a hero......

I've been back in Zambia for a week now. I met Seven's dad on the side of the road. He was sunburnt, lean and smilely. He dismounted his dusty bicycle and gave me a big hug.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

If only we talked on Airplanes

Hi. Im the middle seat. And I will make you hate me. Im the one with the smallest bladder and the bad knees. The loud laugh and the disgusting table manners. Im fidgeting.
So go ahead and sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.
Hi. Im the introspective window seat. And I will make you jealous. My head blocks the whole brilliant view. I journal. I sigh.
Hi. Im the cocky aisle seat. I kick out my foot and I point out my elbow. Im relaxed because Im in control. Do not pass go.
Hi. Im the dumbass interior decorator of airplanes. I created a hierarchy within a confined space. The pilot may dictate your destination but my organization will dictate your mood. I got this job based on how many lego men I could fit in Barbie's playhouse.
We should wear stopwatches around our necks telling how long it has been since we left home. The person with the most time can choose their seat.
Because maybe today Im fidgeting.
Or maybe Im reflective. Or hell, I may even be cocky. People would cheat their stopwatches though. People would say...What does home really mean? My old man kicked me out when I was 16 and Ive been on the move since...
Hi. Im more special than you. I travel. I have those fancy neck roll pillows. Sure I look like a dandelion but I can sleep. I have the flight safety instructions memorized. I know the names of the airports not cities. Time zones dont apply to me. Im worldly.
Hi. Im the sweaty overweight mother with a crying baby. Its white noise to me so only all of you will suffer. You'd yell at me but my baby has the cutest little smile and when you stare in my desperate eyes you know my soul has already been sucked out to an island oasis living my other life.
Hi. Im the foreigner. I lean back my chair. I take dumps in the one tiny bathroom and its cool because you cant understand me and I cant understand you.
Hi. Im the sassy flight attendant. I dont breathe oxygen. I have perfect teeth and excellent hearing. I got this job because Ive always loved cheerleading and waitressing.
Hi. Im the pilot and I'll be your captain. Everyone knows computers really run this show. I got this job because I look good in a uniform and my voice sounds as reassuring as an ambulance siren to a victim.
So go ahead and sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I am

So today I turned 25. Im in the big city Lusaka for medical tests since Im extending my Peace Corps service into a 3rd year...more on that later.

But I was walking with a friend to the grocery store. And she (being older than me) playfully asked if I felt older and more mature and wise and all that playful witicism jazz that people say on the official recognition day of aging. This birthday was the first time I said yes. Yes I do feel older and more accomplished and wiser and all that jazz.

Maybe its the monumental number 25. A quarter century. Probably its that.

Its that I no longer feel focused on fixing myself. I've always been concerned with bettering myself. With trying to change. My skills. My knowledge. My beliefs. My personality? Always advancing and pushing for the latest model of Brittany. But lately and especially on this official recognition I have a concrete idea of who I am and what Im great at and all those things I suck at and for the first time its all OK.

For my 3rd year Im moving provinces (states) in Zambia to be what is called Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL). Basically its the person that is the middleman between the volunteers in that province and the Peace Corps administration in Lusaka. The PCVL takes care of the office in the capital, which is really like a frat house for the volunteers in transit. The PCVL has to handle a lot of details and listen to a lot of complaints.

And for that reason a lot of people think Im nuts to do this job. Hell, I think Im nuts.

But its all OK. Because its an important job. Its important for the PCVL to listen to the volunteers bitch about things that are really just products of being culturally tired. Tired of changing. Tired of adapting. Tired of always trying.

And its really nice to do this when for the first I've stopped trying.

I just am.

New Address:

Brittany Freitas
P.O. Box 710150
Mansa, Luapula

Friday, April 9, 2010


Loneliness has become my friend. No longer running. No longer denying. I’ve given it a name.
They told me to outline a plan. To construct a survival guide.
But what to outline? The spider web of emotions splattered against the walls of my heart like paintball explosions.
It is overwhelming to be surrounded by people. People that are ignorant of the noise within my mind. People that don’t understand the language of my mind.
The language of our minds describe concepts. Describe emotions. Describe ways of being that I once assumed were universal.
It is overwhelming to be bored every day. People that only know tired or lazy. I am not tired or lazy. I am bored.
The gap of concept. The gap of emotion. The gap between mind and heart.