Saturday, May 10, 2008

saturday morning musings (no cartoons)

it doesn't really feel like a saturday, but then again, when does it ever really? i managed to wake up early today but other than watering my trees, there isn't much else to do.

leanne called me last night and it was so good to talk to her. i cannot wait for her visit -- will i even be able to sleep? there is so much i want to tell her. it is going to be amazing to hang out with somebody who actually knows who i am. i'm also a little nervous because she will be able to see how i've changed -- either for the better or the worse. i sure hope that i have changed for the better: these past few months have been nothing but lessons in humility, pride, dignity, forgiveness, understanding, and patience. they say that we are here to help create change in the physical world here, but sometimes i feel like this is a latent way to straight up some of america's young people. i'm certainly being disciplined in ways i never have before -- 16 hours being crammed and jostled inside a metal box of a car or getting so ill that i lost utter control of my bowels were NEVER things i thought would happen to me in my 20+ years of life. and here i am now and i've done it and there are parts of me that hate this constant barrage of mental, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse and there is also a part of me that is amazed at myself and proud of the fact that i am here and trying to make myself a life of meaning and purpose.

i often want to go home. i am homesick. i can't wait to go home. i miss certain (many) luxuries, i miss the freedom of movement and self, i miss my family, i miss having an income, i miss having (or having what felt like) a certain amount of control in my life. but none of this is valid enough of a reason for me to actually go home. i can't go home just because its a little hot and the people are a little pushy and there is a little "issue" with the water and electricity. moreover, i simultaneously love being here. when i'm in the market buying vegetables and making friends or when i am riding a charette through the bush to go home or when i'm sprawled out on my stick bed at night in the compound under 3 baobab trees and all of the universe's stars with children crammed at all my sides lightly snoring and my sleek little cat laying by my head purring for no other reason to express MY content -- that's when i fall in love with this job, this experience, this country, this community, and this task.

persistence, self persistence, is much needed here and i often find myself wondering if i can really do this. i don't doubt that i can but it is more of a matter of how long i can do this for. i told leanne that after i go home, it will be a long time before i do something like this again. i am TIRED after 9 (!!) months of this and feel as if i could hibernate for an equal amount of time. i don't know if other PCVs feel as tired as i do, but all i know is that i am pooped. but there is still much to do and the task is far from done so i must continue and pace myself and rest when i can without indulging myself. what's interesting is that i don't know if i can consider myself a naturally persistent person. i am so terrified of humiliation or mortification that i have often been lazy and assumed the stance if that i'm not naturally good at something, to not even try at all. hence a string of unfinished business from my childhood like piano, soccer, basketball, math. but at the same time that terror of mortification is stemmed from my (sometimes not so good) pride and and in this case, i might be too proud to step down from this to go home because it is a little harder that i thought it would be.

being here has certainly defied my expectations. i went into this telling myself that i was tough and could handle it. i thought that i was ready: i had moved so many times, had a good ability with languages, could adapt, could "rough it," could remain cool and aloof enough to withstand the personal desires to break down and cry. WRONG. this is probably one of the hardest things i've ever had to do and there are some days when all i want to do is declare "MA BAN!" ("i refuse!" in wolof) and not get out of bed for anything other than the purpose of going to dakar and boarding a plane home.

so why AM i still here? it can't be a mere matter of pride but i have been reevaluating my goals and motivations. coming into this, i had a manifesto about change, social participation, equality, justice. i wanted to actively participate in peace making -- with peace corps being a form of aid and exchange. i also wanted the "field experience" required for most development careers and i also sought a break from the mundane routine of life i had acquired in the city.

most of these still hold true to a certain degree (aside from wanting to escape the city -- i never want to leave it again!) but i am starting to see that my real reason for being here, perhaps my primary reason for it is TO STRUGGLE. sure my struggle can be a bit superficial and shallow at times but its a struggle i have not before faced. i had family and teenage angst but at least i was comfortable, well-fed, in school. it is nothing compared to the constant uphill battle it is to be here to be acculturated, understood, and successful in one's work. but i need this struggle. how can i understand the world through the underprivileged's' eyes if i have never struggled alongside them?

we may be struggling differently, but we are doing so with each other. they are struggling for food and money while i'm struggling to fit in, grasp the language, and initiate an action plan that may help them in the struggle against hunger. the women are struggling against the unending domestic burden and i am struggling against living in a male-centric society as a liberated and free woman. they are struggling for teh right to certain luxuries and comfort of living and i am struggling at the loss of my abundance and the shameful discovery that i simply have too much and have lived a life of ignorant greed. we are struggling to understand each other -- through language, cultural difference, gender roles, age gaps. no longer is life in the developing world just an experience through a case study or a study abroad experience but something i wake up to every single morning. without this struggle, i cannot understand the complexity of issues like poverty and hunger and malaria and desertification and food shortage to the point in which i can make an attempt to do something about it.

i often end my nights lying in bed in the heat battling mefloquine-induced insomnia while shrouded by pure darkness and the sounds of the african bush and think that this is my 40 days and 40 nights. but if this is the path to enlightenment and understanding, then i willingly -- though sometimes with reluctance -- sigh, readjust my burden, and continue down this weary path so that i can discover something about this world that i did not know before. God, give me strength.


Dave Chen said...

Aw, mefloquine is not much fun. Your perseverance and strength continues to challenge and inspire me, thinking about that wiry, feisty girl wrestling with a bunch of trees. It also makes me more grateful for the things I do have. Med students are chronic complainers, and I wonder if I should do a stint out there to "toughen up" as you say. Hang in there, and I hope to see you soon.

treesaver said...

again, wow.