Sunday, February 13, 2011

Phones, Sparks & Giggles.

Hello and I hope this blog finds you all well. I had some thoughts over the weekend, and here they are, in 3 acts:

Act I: Calling All Readers. Act II: Sparks & Fire. Act III: Giggles.


Act I: Calling All Readers.

Scene: An imaginary phone conversation between you and me.

[Your phone rings]. You: Hello?

Me: Hey, it’s Matson, how are you?

You: Can’t complain, just finishing lunch, deciding what I’d like to do for the rest of my Sunday. How about you?

Me: I’m doing pretty well. My house is an oven, currently set at about 90 degrees in here, so I’m melting. But besides that, I’m busy writing a blog, but I decided to take a break to give you a phone call. Hope I’m not interrupting lunch.

You: No, not at all. What’s up?

Me: Well, I wanted to take the time to call and say thank you.

You: Thanks for what?

Me: Well, last week, you clicked on that PayPal button and donated to my fundraiser for the Longtom charity marathon and the Kruger Park Trip. I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated it. It’s being put to great use. With donations like yours, these kids are getting opportunities that they’d never get.

You: Well I appreciate the call. I figured $5 couldn’t hurt, right?

Me: Oh, it’s a HUGE help! Any bit helps, especially if many people think the same way. I know how hesitant one can be when considering making a donation , especially online. But, I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to raise about $125 of the $1000 goal so far in the past week with a few donations, but there’s still a ways to go.

You: Well, is there anything else I can do to help?

Me: You know, I appreciated your donation a ton! I hope you know that. If you could pass on the word, I’ve got a weekly goal for this week: $250 or 5 more people to donate, which ever comes first! If I can get either goal met this week, I’ll be thrilled!

You: I’ll spread the word! What’s the website again?

Me: They can visit: And please let them know that just $5 or $10 goes a LONG way here.

You: Great, I’ll do that.

Me: Thanks a lot once again, it’s really great to have your support. Take care. Bye!

You: Same to you, bye!


Act II: Sparks & Fire.

Sometimes I’ve found myself overeager to start project after project in my community, even if they may not catch on with the community in the long run. Be they computer labs, a recycling program, gardening, running clubs, a world map, newsletters, an A/V cart with video library, or any other number of proposed projects either alone or partnered with others, it just feels good to see a project become successful. This seems to be a common theme among PCVs, and it can get quite discouraging after long delays and lack of support if they don’t work out.

But I realized something recently that made things a bit more clear and manageable (*warning: cheesy metaphor ahead): these projects are like sparks in the community: the right spark can lead to a great fire, providing light and a source of energy. But if the wood and kindling for that fire isn’t prepared properly, that spark does no good. And that’s where I think I need to take a step back.

I’ve been so anxious to get projects off the ground that perhaps I haven’t been properly preparing those for which the project was designed. I’m the first Peace Corps Volunteer—and foreigner, for that matter—in my village. Especially in a such a rural and traditional village such as the one where I live, it’s going to take a bit more time to adequately prepare that firewood. The spark may have to come later.

I hope this makes sense. I knew that I was missing something, some key to why project success was not what I’d hoped it to be, especially compared with success back in the States. Aside from an obvious lack of resources (information, infrastructure, people, and finances), it was that preparation within the minds of the community that needs the most attention, first and foremost. A very valuable and sobering lesson.

So, in the end, I suppose I rely on corny metaphors I dream up while sitting next to the fire in my family’s outside kitchen (scarem) to help make these experiences more relatable and tangible.


Act III: Giggles.

Tonight I met the Giggle Monster. The Giggle Monster can possess any person with the heart of a child at any time. No one has ever seen the Giggle Monster (many believe it’s invisible), but tonight I saw what it did to a little six-year-old girl.

It was about 6:15pm this Sunday evening. We were sitting outside on the front stoop of the house. She was with her mother who was getting her hair done by my host sister. I brought out some toys for the little girl to play with while she patiently waited. I brought my box of small plastic animals—a wide and colourful variety of mammals, birds, dinosaurs, and creepy crawlies. Upon receiving the box, the little girl peered into the box and quickly threw a giant plastic praying mantis onto her unsuspecting mother’s lap, making her shriek for an instant before knocking it away then realizing what it was. This is when the Giggle Monster attacked. The girl went into a hysterical fit of giggles—one of the most adorable and contagious cases I’d ever seen. We, too, started laughing. The more bugs she pulled out, the more the giggles set in. And there was no stopping them (I mean, with giggles this cute, no one would!) The giant ladybug was the kicker, though. Nothing set on the giggles inside this girl like the giant plastic ladybug as big as a silver dollar. I wish I had a video camera. It made my evening.

I now know where the Giggle Monster resides: inside my big box of plastic toy animals.


Final thought…

I just wanted to end by saying thanks again to those that have already contributed to my fundraiser! And if you’d like to help, too, please visit: or go to the previous blog posting here to find out more information and see more photos on where the donations are going.


Will you be one of the 5 donors this week to help me reach my goal? ◊ Salang Sentle—Stay Well

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