Saturday, September 29, 2012

The point is not to change it, and other musings

My last post was basically a life summary, something I feel obliged to give. Trips, project progress, that kind of stuff. This one is different, introspective. Just a warning.

Peace Corps service has given me a lot of time to sit with myself, especially during holidays when I can't lose myself in schoolwork. Things aren't always sunny in sunny Guyana. In high school I had my busy routine to insulate me from loneliness; in college, with my awesome friends, there was no space to be lonely. Here in Guyana, there is nothing but space, time. I've battled with self-criticism and depression over the past few months, and it's been a tough fight, but I think I'm growing stronger for it.

Another thing: the title of this blog is a lie. The point is not to change it. Make change the prize and keep your eye on the prize, and you won't see anything else. Live to fix things, and everything will look broken. I did that for a while, and it was miserable. (Still do it, and often, but less than before.)

So what is the point? The point is to be here, to be as here as I can. And change is part of this, but so are good conversations, so is giving an honest hug, laughter, watching the sunset. I am here when I smile at the baby staring at the strange lady with white skin, forgive the men sipping me because they don't even realize it offends me, appreciate the teacher who showed up to substitute for my summer school class instead of berating the one who didn't.

Being here means that when I realize that I'm wrong about something, I stop focusing on covering my ass and instead look to see how this new information changes the way I'd been looking at a situation. It means turning off the problem-solving voice in my head for a minute or two to just listen. One cannot be a force for positive change without a commitment to deep understanding, and one cannot understand without being here.

I will never give up on wanting things to be better. The challenge is striking a balance between striving for progress and recognizing that the world, however flawed, is whole, not broken.

Yeah, that's the point. But all that would be way too long for a blog title, so we'll leave it as is.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Old news

(Wrote this post almost a month ago, before my trip home. Finally posting it!)

This happened last year, too...where did summer vacation go? It's the end of August, summer school's done, and in less than 24 hours I will be on American soil.

If you recall, my last post was pretty sunny, talking about all of the projects I had planned. A quick update: the girl's camp fell through but will hopefully be rescheduled. The art workshop was a roaring success, and my exercise buddy and I have been meeting sporadically. Summer school was...rough, but worth it. I've never taught kids that young before for any extended period of time. My students were wilder than I expected, and didn't learn their letters as quickly as I had hoped, but they did learn, and they had fun, and (most of the time!) I had fun, too. I'm definitely glad I did it.

My reading home visits have been going well, too...I've been able to conduct them more frequently with my easier schedule, and I found a new interested parent to work with. Part of me wishes I could keep with my half-day schedule during the school year so I could work more with parents! I love teaching, but the goal of Peace Corps is sustainable development, and when I see a parent help her child sound out a simple word (something that I've never seen a teacher do here), I know that's happening, even if it's in a small way.

As for finding a market for the ladies' baskets, some progress has been made, but we have a problem: no more internet in my village. (Long story.) We might get it back, but we might not...and I'm not sure how feasible it would be for the craft center ladies to communicate with a North American retailer without easy access to internet. At this point, I'm leaning towards ONWARDS!! and we'll cross the internet bridge when we come to it.

My visit to Barbados was AWESOME...snorkeled with sea turtles, ziplined, stuffed myself with delicious food, drank fancy cocktails, ran on the beach, got seasick on a fishing boat, and got to spend time with my family.

And then...Mom's visit to Guyana...slightly less awesome. Protests about increases in light bills in a town called Linden, about an hour from my village, turned violent when the police shot and killed three people. As a precaution, the US Embassy blocked the road my village is on for all American citizens. (My village wasn't actually affected at all—Linden is on the highway, we're in the bush!) Fortunately, I was allowed back home at the end of the week, but Mom didn't actually get to come to St. Cuthbert's, which was why she came to Guyana in the first place!

We did go on a day trip to Kaiture Falls, a gigantic and beautiful waterfall in the middle of the rainforest. You can walk right up to the edge—no guard rails or anything, just a sign saying to stay 8 feet from the edge which the guides don't even pretend to enforce. Pictures don't do it justice.

I have two more posts written, and they will post automatically on the next two Saturdays, so keep your eyes peeled!