I had intended to write a pretty detailed blog post last night about my experience conducting the questionnaires for the second time. After our full day, however, I ended up falling asleep with Senya while putting her to bed only to wake up bright and early this morning feeling refreshed but surprised that the morning is here. I do want to take a minute to jot down some notes about yesterday, though.
Yesterday’s questionnaire distribution was a pretty impressive experience for me.
60 pupils in Standards 6-8 (grades 6-8) participated at this particular school. As we went through the protocol and the assent forms one final time, I noticed that some of the kids looked incredibly young to be participating. I wondered if they would be embarrassed at the nature of the questions related to sexual behaviors. But the youngest-looking pupils asked some pretty involved questions during the questionnaire. At one point, one young pupil asked:
“what if we only took our clothes off and were naked together and deep kissing, does that count as playing sex?”
At which point, Terry (my good friend and research partner) turned to me and said,
“Lindsay. What if you take your clothes off and are naked and deep kissing with someone? Is that playing sex? Please explain what it means to play sex in detail.”
Oh, man. I knew she was cracking up on the inside. Terry has an excellent sense of humor which makes this job even more fun. So, I plunged in to a concise and precise explanation of what playing sex is–while Terry drew a diagram on the board, and both with straight faces because this is important stuff. We definitely want kids to be able to feel free to ask questions, but (internally, at least) I can’t lose sight of levity when it is present. I think it’s part of what enables me to do this kind of work. Because sometimes things do get really heavy; we got some pretty intense questions related to rape, related to HIV/AIDS, related to condom use, and other serious matters. We decided to have a Q&A after the questionnaires are distributed, and I think that this will be helpful. My experience there definitely underscored the need for an HIV/AIDS and sex education intervention in these schools.
After we finished work, we went to the beach around 3 or 4:00, and we had such a good time. Senya recognizes the beach now, and she gets so excited when we approach our pagoda overlooking the ocean where we always set up our stuff. She squeals and kicks her chubby little legs when we walk toward the ocean. She LOVES beach time. She has some tiny tan lines in the creases of her chubby little arms and legs, and this is possibly one of the cutest things my eyes have ever beheld.
We stayed at the beach through the dinner hour (the restaurant closes from 3-7, so we stayed until we could order our usuals there). By dinner time, Senya was fast asleep, so Collin and I enjoyed a moonlit dinner overlooking the ocean while Senya napped to the sounds of the waves crashing in the balmy sea breeze. That is, she napped to the sound of the waves crashing, and the sound of her favorite Arcade Fire song on repeat, but that was implied.
So there we were, eating some Swahili dishes at what feels like a mythical spot in the moonlight, after a successful and moving day of research, and I felt a warm feeling of love spread over me. Love for Collin, love for Senya, love for this life. I know I sound like a broken record, but it took A LOT to get here this month. That was the uphill climb, and it was grueling. Now here we are, though, on a beautiful plateau overlooking the scenic view of our lives. And I am filled with hope. I will have to see if it’s enough to get me through a final semester of work and school. I really don’t know; I feel like I made it to the end of this semester and my final work conference with my physical and psychological health barely intact. But there is enough hope and good filling my heart right now that it is soothing the parts of my soul and mind that were in anguish this past fall. And I am resting in that.