11 May 2008

Ambassador to the Boonies

“Ambassador to the Boonies” - Is that my job title? I forget that just being here is doing something. I am discouraged because it seems that WWF already has a handle on things: they have already done a lot of participatory rural analysis (one of the things we are trained to do), already helped COBAs create development projects, already know how to survey the forest, already speak Malagasy (my whole team is Malagasy), etc. And I have no idea, yet, how I can really make a difference in their efforts (yeah, yeah – I’ve only been hear two weeks). So I just try to talk. I share a little bit about my love of coffee and my French Press (thanks again, Tanya), about how I don’t like cars, how we don’t eat rice 3 times a day in America but how my mom prepared me well in this department, etc.

Is just sticking it out success? I don’t think so. I am starting to feel like I am doing some sort of self-imposed penance. But for what? Being born into an affluence and not doing anything with it? For having no clear vision, no vocation? Obviously I came because I want to help people, help the environment… but that is so vague. Supposedly I am gaining skills here that will be useful towards that end in the future but I am not sure what they are. I don’t rightly know if I am helping anyone by being here, but I am not willing to leave.

Hopefully I can grow to enjoy being a star, in a freak show kind of way. Right now it is a definite challenge. I am sure that with time I won’t feel like I am in a zoo. There is a fence around my house and always when I am home little eyes staring through the bars at me. Many aren’t polite (or Western) enough to stay outside the fence – maybe if I bite them and post a “Don’t stick your fingers through the fence – Vicious Creature” sign then they will stay out. It reminds me of how we treat monastics back home: with a sort of awe and respect but a definite barrier due to lack of understanding. Back home I was sometimes apprehensive about going out and interacting superficially with strangers. Here, it is my job but the apprehension is worse. It is definitely something to work on. I am finding aspects of the Peace Corps experience, like social interaction, more challenging than I anticipated. I’m up for the challenge and am sure I will come out of this having grown a lot – the real question, though, is whether I can find a way to make a difference in the short time that I have here.