Saturday, December 15, 2007

one month in

today marks a month since i've been here on site.

unfortunately, it is also marked with some disappointment as in the past week or so, i have developed some increasing frustrations with my life here. perhaps the romanticism of village life has worn off and the city girl in me is growing restless and impatient.

i am learning -- or quickly realizing -- the reality of "social change's" slow moving ways and as i am 1/3 of the way through my "community integration" stage, my progress has been slow. my language skills have not developed. if anything, i feel that they have digressed as there are no patient speakers here to prod me along as there were at the training center in thies. i can't remember the last time i had a real conversation with anybody in wolof. most conversations here revolve around who i am (many times this can last quite a while because i must insist repeatedly that i am american and not chinese or japanese), where i am from, why i'm here, why i can't bring anybody to the states or give them money, and why i don't have a husband (which to most people is shocking as i am past the marrying age, here i am probably already considered an "old maid"). i have grown tired of these "conversations" very quickly.

life here is slow and monotonous. the daily routine of life is predictable and i have completely lost the anonymity and fast-paced life i once had in new york and i now realize that i should have treasured those aspects of my life far more than i did. my unhappiness here has nothing to do with not being able to deal with the lack of electricity or internet or the western luxuries that i thought i would miss. it doesn't bother me (too much) to not have a toilet or running water. in fact, that's been the easiest part of adjusting and i am pretty sure that i can do all of this for 2 years. turns out, it isn't very difficult to give those things up.

what is difficult is constantly being misinterpreted and misunderstood and having to deal with people's assumptions about me. there is little i can do to assert myself or make myself clear or to express who i am. moreover, nobody really cares to know the specifics. i can see how i have probably done this to others back at home. i think back to the times when i failed to recognize this and in my own curiosity asked somebody questions that probably everybody else asked. challenge: when you meet somebody new and clearly not from the states, don't ask them all those typical questions (where are you from, what are you studying, etc.) but something interesting like what did their house look like or who is their favorite national author. it gives them a break from the same old crap questions and also a chance to work on their language skills.

it is also hard to know what to do, as my incentive here are to integrate myself into the community, which is quite abstract. as a task-oriented person, it bewilders me to wake up to a day with no clear plan or idea of what to do or what to get done. perhaps i should undertake some projects, but i have limited resources and there requires steady patience as obtaining materials requires trips out to major towns/cities and this in and of itself is quite difficult to do.

we were well warned of the frustrations we would encounter in these three months but i suppose i did not prepare myself well enough. i am not happy just sitting around waiting for things to happen nor do i find satisfaction in a life of constant confusion and misunderstanding. for example, yesterday i went out to another village to witness a baptism but even though i was told where i was going, nobody actually explained to me what was going on. they used a word for the ceremony that i had not learned and rather than anybody trying to explain to me what i was about to see, they gave up and just dragged me along. i didn't figure out it was a baptism until the baby was brought out and i gathered some hints from the gifts that were gathered. why did nobody try to explain to me what was going on? because i failed to understand where we were going and what for, i arrived at the baptism improperly dressed, bearing no gifts, and completely unprepared for the enormous amount of people that i would have to talk to and introduce myself to.

it doesn't help that i have just finished reading nelson mandela's autobiography "a long walk to freedom" and working my way through che guevara's "bolivian diary" where there are these great revolutionary minds working and striving for active social change. meanwhile, my striving for active social change involves cleaning poop off of children and sweeping my hut.

one month in and i am unsatisfied and frustrated and somewhat unhappy in many aspects, from the stupid little things such as my increasing weight gain from food i don't even enjoy very much (empty carbs, empty carbs, and more empty carbs) to the more grandiose such as the somewhat apathetic attitudes about life and change i encounter in the village.

analysis (in the spirit of che guevara):
in the past week or so i have been plagued with nagging feelings of going home and it is not good for me to have more negative moments and thoughts than positive ones throughout the day. i can only hope that this is a phase and i will soon get over it and enjoy my life here again. i have also found myself looking for excuses, people, and situations to blame for my general unhappiness and frustration, and this is not good either as i am not taking responsibility for my own feelings and looking for scapegoats. i need to confront my frustration head on but often find that retreating and moping around in my hut is a lot easier than...what? i don't even know what to do in order to combat this slump.

1 comment:

Branden said...

I'm sorry that life has been frustrating. Seek comfort in knowing that JC (the Lord in this case ;) ) is with you in all things. He is by your side in both the beautiful and the ugly of this journey, and is growing with you. Your family and friends love you and are proud of you!