Saturday, July 14, 2012

There's whiskey in the jar

It's mzungu season in Africa. By that I mean that all over the world, short-term volunteers are packing bags full of crayons, donated clothes, toys, bibles, and hand sanitizer and boarding planes bound for my home. They are buying all of the granola, cheese, and cheap powdered milk that I so viciously hunt for on my once a month shopping trip.  They are hiring drivers, playing with children, drinking bottled water, and giving things out. They are making me look like an asshole. There are about 50 white people in my village currently, when I'm usually one of two, it's weird.  I watch them laugh and chase the primary kids, and think to myself "wow, I really suck, I never do that" but then I remember that the primary kids usually chase me when they see me on my morning run.  I feel like crap when they talk about building a new dorm or fixing the roof that blew off in February, but I also know the financial workings of the college better than they do and know there is no such thing as a maintenance fund and that upkeep is non-existent.  I know that until those things are in place, fixing a ceiling that's collapsing is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot.  I can't imagine what it would be like to have the resources and energy of a short-term volunteer over the entire stretch of the 27 months I'm here.  I wonder how much either of us is actually accomplishing.

Last night I cooked dinner for my Irish neighbor girls, and I absolutely left the spread outside on the table when they all left and I went to sleep at midnight.  A dog got into my trash and the vodka and wine bottles were still on the table when 30 PTC students showed up to slash my grass and sweep my dirt at 9:15 this morning.  I grumbled and ate my oatmeal sitting on my bed so they wouldn't stare at me, most likely silently judging me for being such white trash.  I debated using my night bucket so I wouldn't have to walk to the latrine past all the girls who were in charge of maintaining my yard.  It was an awkward morning. Then one of my students showed up clutching his Peace Camp application and asked if I thought he'd be accepted.  I read it over and saw he'd been abducted by the LRA and was a child soldier from ages 10 to 13. All of the sudden nothing I've done here felt important, and I wanted to start over so I might actually be useful.  It gave me chills to type his application to email it to the camp coordinator. His brother and sister were killed during the war. He wants to start a peace club. He isn't allergic to any foods except poisonous ones. His education was interrupted. He went back and finished his education.

Most days here I read and clean and chat with the other tutors and formally greet 63 people. Occasionally I lecture and play games with the students if they're in class. I text other PCVs the silly things I see around me. Some days, however, make me rethink everything I know about the world and my own life. I have so little to complain about and so much to be thankful for, and I need to do a better job of conducting myself in a way that reflects that.

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