Monday, January 31, 2011

Over a year in my village now!

I have been back and forth to the capital every week this month, yet have not found time to prepare a blog post despite all of my internet access. I've finally become "busy" in our American sense of the word!

In the capital, I've been helping put together the training for the new environment volunteers who will be coming in March. In my village, I've been keeping up with my weekly kids' science/nature club, and meeting with one of the VOIs who are now showing some interest in working with me, and weeding, doing laundry at the river, all that daily life that needs doing!

Going back and forth between my village and the capital so frequently has been challenging, since the two places are so different--one could use the cliche about "two different worlds" (which I don't like because there is only ONE world, despite all the differences and divides between parts of it!). I have been thinking, though, that this a good thing for me to practice, this mental--and physical--movement between extremes. It might help me to understand myself and my own niche in both spots.

The poverty of my village, and even more so of the community that I have been spending some time in four hours hike south of me, is set in contrast to the Peace Corps hostel that I stay in, the office in the nice area of the capital, and the pictures of life in the US that I look at on facebook.

I have been thinking about Amartya Sen's definition of development as ability to live to one's capacity. Which gets me thinking of my neighbor kids, one in particular is so smart and yet will probably not be able to go past elementary school, for the simple fact that there isn't a secondary school for 10km and her family can't afford to send her, or any of their 5 kids, to live in another town. Doesn't that impact her capacity? I can't send all the children in my village to school either. I begin to wonder what will this village be like in 50 years. Will kids go all the way through high school? Will the road have deteriorated to a footpath by then? Will someone have fixed it? Will people still be surviving on less that a dollar a day and dealing with a hunger season? Will the soil still support farming?

Too many questions. I can't answer them and I can't be responsible for them either, but I'm learning how to think about them in a non-overwhelmed, and non-guilty-all-the-time way.

For instance, my friend Sara told me that I need to laugh more often. So I discovered video skyping and made faces at my family, seeing them (on the computer screen anyway!) for the first time in 15 months. Also, there is the joy of a phone call laughing with a friends buried in snow in Minnesota. Then the pleasure of a day feeling like I have done something helpful at the office, followed by ice cream and English conversation. In the community I have been visiting south of my village, there are women that want to learn to read and write, they are interested in gardening, and are actively talking about things we could do together, so there is hope there too.

As an old friend once said, Life is good.

(except for the rat that died under my floorboards and stunk up my house all week...yuck ; )

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