Please note that the opinions reflected on this blog are solely MY opinion. They do not reflect the Peace Corps or the US Government in any way.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Roundabout Way

I was reading through some of my old entries the other day and I think I’ve failed to talk about what actual work I’m doing here. That is, besides the work of everyday getting up and speaking/talking/thinking in several different languages while doing my best to integrate into a small African village (patting self on back, hehe). I have explained my program and the work that I am supposed to be doing but that has become different than reality. Yes, I am still a community economic development (CED, acronyms, love them) volunteer but I live in a village meaning my projects are not quite on the same scale as other CED volunteers. My primary sector was supposed to be eco-tourism but the main hotel I was going to work with is having issues with financing and it is unfortunately more than I could hope to write a grant for. Key words used being supposed. Therefore, I have begun to forge my own way and discover different outlets for better utilizing my time here. My last post was a bit despondent and I’m going to try my best to not go to that place again. I think I was still in shock with my parents leaving and getting back to my village. It was almost like leaving Utah all over again except the first time I was at least excited and unaware of what I was facing. Anyway, I currently have a few things going on that are keeping me… somewhat occupied; busy is too strong of a word.

I have started an informal English class with some artists. My class consists of 5 full grown men who make and try to sell artwork, dresses, little statues, jewelry and other stuff to tourists. They want to learn English so that they can increase their client base. I have never taught English before or anything really, so this has been an interesting process. The first class I proceeded to just try my best to gauge their various levels and the most successful way I could go about teaching them. Each week is a learning experience but so far they have been very receptive and seem truly appreciative of the time that I’m spending with them. Another project that I have is an English/Environmental Club at the middle/high school. We have only met a couple of times and each time the number increases slightly (I’m up to 5 kids now…). The purpose of the club is simply for the kids to have a place to play games, review lessons and practice speaking English outside of school. I am going to do my best to implement projects such as learning how to compost and starting a school garden to make them more environmentally conscious. That sounds so boring when I write it out like that… I promise that we have fun too. This week we are reviewing body parts and playing Simon Says, talk about a good time!

The final larger project that I am working on is teaching a course called Junior Achievement at the elementary schools in my village. Junior Achievement is, “an organization dedicated to the education of students on the knowledge of the economy and business. The goal of Junior Achievement is to inspire and prepare the youth for success.” It’s also about getting kids thinking about their future and possible career paths they might want to pursue. My class is about 25 kids between the ages of 9 and 14. Kids here all start school at different ages depending on when their parents let them go and/or can afford it. I think this also depends on how much their French improves as time goes on. Oh yeah, did I mention I’m teaching this completely in French? Good thing I’m at about the same language level as these kids. A highlight of my first lesson was when I proposed the question of what these kids wanted to be when they grow up. No one ever asks them something like that. Most kids weren’t even sure how to respond but I had one who was confident and quick in his response. I thought that he said a doctor; turns out he wants to be a wrestler, classic mix-up.

Along with the previously mentioned projects I’m working on some smaller scale things such as trying to formulate a grant for a possible youth center to be built in my village and I’m also serving as a co-coordinator for my work zone. This basically means that I am in charge of possible cross-sector collaborative work, projects and the facilitation of these things. Soooo if you’re still reading this, that pretty much catches you up on all of my wordy work-related info.

Anyway, lately I’ve been feeling real philosophical and thinking a lot about fate and how crucial of a role that timing plays in our lives. This might be largely due to reading some interesting books and possibly also due to the fact that every time I log into Facebook it seems like someone else is getting engaged or some other life changing event. Is there something in the water over there in good old America? It’s pretty crazy though to sit and wonder where I might be and what I’d be doing if this Peace Corps thing wouldn’t have worked out. I know this experience is going to shape the rest of my life, how could it not? The question is how much is it going to shape?

At times I find myself jealous of the normality that I see every day following other peoples’ lives. Did they have to get up this morning and heat a pot of water to make their bucket bath lukewarm? Do they have to think through almost everything they say, before they say it, but then still walk away after conversations with a dumb-founded look on their faces? Do they have to constantly prove their worth being a woman living in a male-dominated, chauvinistic society? Yes, I chose this, and most days I’m happy about my decision. My fear though, is what if I’m never going to be content settling down? Most of my life has been spent chasing after the next adventure. What am I really searching for?

I wonder how much will and won’t have changed by the time I come back home. I wonder how much I will have changed. I already find myself flabbergasted by some of the things that used to seem so important. I don’t think I was ever that concerned with make-up, fancy clothes or stuff like that but here, I don’t even own a mirror. I guess all I can really hope for is that one day I will look back and be proud of the decisions that I made and the person that I’ve become. Right now, I can’t help but feel like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Sure, sometimes it’s really hard to see the normalcy of other peoples’ lives but maybe my life wasn’t meant to follow that “normal” path.

I suppose I’ll end this post by saying that I am not accusing anyone of living a lesser life, or a better one, than anyone else. I think we all feel where our paths are leading us and some of us are maybe just taking a more roundabout way. I also realize that not everyone has had the opportunities that I have had to be able to follow my adventurous itch and for that, as I’ve stated many times before, I am incredibly grateful.

Until next time,


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