I’m Sardonically Happy!
First, I feel like I ought to start this e-mail with a disclaimer. I’ve gotten feedback from my loyal readers that a few of you are concerned about the “cynical and bitter” tone of my letters, and have consequently made the deduction that I am not quite happy here.
I need to explain myself. First of all, I am quite happy here. In fact, the more absurd and ridiculous things are, the happier I am.
But I’ll admit, I can get stressed out here. Sometimes there will be some little incident, usually involving 9A, and I’ll come home saying, “I hate everyone,” flop on the couch in a fetal position and become quite comatose. Most volunteers deal with these moods by quaffing large quantities of low-quality alcohol. Unfortunately, I don’t like alcohol, but I do like words a lot. I think some famous satirist said something to the effect that “satire is the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.” So that would apply to me in the sense that I am powerless to change Namibia, or the world for that matter, so I’ve just got to make fun of it. And I do this with all due respect.
So yes, I’m cynical, but not really bitter. But I was cynical even in the States, and I don’t see why this is necessarily a bad thing or an indication of unhappiness. Besides, I prefer to think of myself as sardonic: “Disdainfully or ironically humorous; scornful and mocking.” Finally, if you do think I am cynical, let’s at least give it a euphemism so I don’t feel bad about myself, something like “optimistically challenged” or “skeptically inclined.”
To further prove my state of happiness, let me say that I am truly happy with my Palaver Club. We had our first meeting Friday night and the learners seem genuinely interested in my wealth of useless knowledge and ideas. John, who is perhaps the impetus for my club, commented at the end of the meeting, “But Miss, how do you have such a broad general knowledge about everything? You teach us about Abraham Lincoln, and you can do math, you know about god, you were talking about geology, psychology, philosophy and now anthropology…” You see, most teachers here are educated of course, but it is only in their particular subject, and so you could say they have no broad general knowledge. I tried to explain to John about how in American universities, you can learn many, many different subjects in addition to your main one. If nothing else, this club should feed my ego since I’ve got these kids convinced I’m some sort of genius (relatively). Anyway, my intent with the club is to “corrupt the youth” in the manner of Socrates by encouraging them to ask questions and think about things—ie, develop critical thinking skills in lieu of memorization and conformity. The topic they chose for next week is, “Why is life like this?” I think we’re off to a good start.