Wednesday, December 17, 2014

X Bee X (#ThinkKit Day 17)

I've been doing my end of the year organizing, and one of the things I've been starting to go through is my box of photographs and sentimental items I've saved over the year. So today's #ThinkKit was timely:

Let's Get Physical

Time to go through your (actual) desktop, junk drawer, or coat pockets and share an artifact from your past. A half-torn ticket stub, once-washed receipt, coffee-stained map, anything in a frame: it's all fair game. What springs to mind from your artifact? The smells, sights, and sounds? A specific feeling? Hold it in your hand, close your eyes, and go back in time to a moment.

I dug into my box of sentimental things and found this bandanna, and memories came rushing at me like a wave. It was given to me by a fellow Peace Corps volunteer back in 2004. I joined the Peace Corps immediately after college. I'd wanted to sign up for the environmental program going to Eastern Europe, but it filled up before my paperwork was finished processing. They offered me the chance to go to the Philippines instead. I'd never even thought about the Philippines before. I guess I was aware it was out there, but I had no sense of what it was like as a country. So of course I said yes.

I wanted an adventure, and a purpose, and something that would force me out of my introverted shell. The info sessions at my school were led by women who were taught beekeeping, and then went out to other countries to pass the skill along, or who worked on preservation in African national parks. I was excited to learn something new, and to make an impact. It didn't quite work out that way, but this bandanna reminds me of the good stuff.

I met my cohort in San Francisco, and we traveled to Manila together. There were 40 of us who would all train together for the next couple of months before being dispersed throughout the country to work on various projects. I've always been an introvert, and I've always wished I wasn't. Luckily everyone was incredibly friendly, and I made friends fairly quickly

The person that gave me this bandanna was my best friend in the Peace Corps, and the person who helped me get through the rough first weeks once I reached the town where I was assigned. He was kind, and extroverted, and he let me know that even someone like him didn't find it easy. It made me feel infinitely better, and less alone.

This bandanna came from an environmentally themed weekend camp for kids that the Peace Corps volunteers put together as a group while we were still in training. It may have been the only productive thing I did as a Peace Corps volunteer. The bandannas were from an activity about bees, and the volunteers all had their bandannas embroidered with different plays on the word "bee". Mine said "May Bee". This one was given to me by my straight edge friend, based on the X's he used to sport on his hands back in the day. It made complete sense if you knew him. He gave it to me before I was sent off solo to my assignment: a little town up in the mountains, many hours away from another volunteer. And I still have it 10 years later because it reminds me of the camp we put together and the activities explaining how water is absorbed in vegetated areas but runs off pavement, among other things, and because it reminds me of someone who made a real impact on me when I needed a friend.