Sunday, May 16, 2010

Three Thoughts from my Week...

St Thomas McPurry Purrkins the 5th
A new and welcome part of my family.
Decreasing the rodent population one day at a time.
All in a good days work Thomas!
Its been a while since my last post. I've been back and forth between Dakar a few times since then, doing pepiniere work in my village, and having other random meetings. Now I am in Tamba ready to welcome an entirely new group of volunteers to the region. There will be five official "newbies" and they'll be placed throughout the entire region some in new sites some replacing volunteers who recently left. Life goes by quickly (even though sometimes it can be painfully slow) and things change, especially throughout the peace corps community.

So this last week lots of things have happened causing me to think about life in general. Not sure how much they correlate with one another or even how well thought out they are but wanted to get them out because they help describe what i am experiencing but also challenge me to become a better person.

1. Greed. Sometimes, don't get me wrong I live in an impovershed country, I get angry and upset at the people i live with because I feel like and (sometimes rightfully so) think they are greedy. Within my interactions I often get the impression I am looked on as the American, the white, the one with the money who is here to give that money (not in the job description of a Peace corps volunteer) and its easy for me to generalize I am being perceived in that way throughout my community and outside of it. Its the little kids going up to you in a crowd of people to collect money for their local koranic school because you are white and obviously you have more money, its people treating you differently than they would any other person, its the day to day being overcharged for something thats half the price for the average Joe, its a lot of things. In my house I get angry/frustrated because i am always being asked to use my phone because i have credit, or to use my soap, or sugar or random small things. And I sit and I think about all the little things like this that cause me to get mad...... Why am i getting pissed? Why is the asking of something i have or maybe even don't have creating anger in me? I wish i could say its anger at the injustice that I do have those things and others struggle to have them as a luxury. But I dont think thats why. I think I get mad because its an inconvenience to me. I guess I am a little ashamed to write that. Its an inconvenience to me to give someone soap. Thats pretty pathetic when you write it on paper. I mean here I am college degreed, (which by the way my four years of college would probably feed my entire Senegalese family their entire lifetime, I'm not kidding), with the whole world in my hands to do with what I please, and a little bit of soap pisses me off. Maybe instead of pitying those in need I should start pitying myself because I often can't see past my own things to the other sitting right in front of me. I guess i am trying to learn "To he whom much has been given, much is required."

2. Born in the dirt. So we all know the story of Jesus born in the manger among all the animals. A quiet, simple, dirty, maybe even humiliating birth for the Son of God. Yesterday I heard a friend of mine gave birth so I went to visit her knowing i would be leaving for Tamba today. I visited her in her compound. She was in a hut right next to the kitchen hut. It was about 5pm and the heat from the wood burning in the kitchen was seeping through the mud walls into the room where she and the baby were laying. And I found this woman with her newborn sun; she fanning the baby who was wrapped up in colorful fabric. I sat on one bed, she was on the one right across from me, and i held this little thing that earlier that morning had been safe inside its mom's womb. And here it was in my hands, alive, kicking, moving and breathing. And get this, the floor between us was where she had given birth. She, alone in her hut, gave birth to her son with no medical equipment, no coaching, no one to help her catch the baby or what ever medical people do in delivery rooms. It was simple, natural, probably dirty, and 100% completely normal. And i started thinking wow this is crazy. This little baby is having a completely different (maybe less scary and frightening in my opinion) experience than other little babies being born halfway around the world. Coming from America I appreciate and think we have come so far in medical technology but I guess i have an appreciation for just doing a natural human thing, giving birth, without a bunch of bells and whistles. She gave birth to her son, what women have been doing for centuries. Yeah it was in a hut on a dirt floor but you have to admit some pretty great people have started in places like that. I guess I just realized the potential that exists in the people i live and work with. That some great people come from simple beginnings.

3. Joy from the small things. I was joking with my friend the other day who recently got a job with a local health organization. He was talking about being paid for his work and then going and celebrating in Tamba with his first paycheck. I asked him what he would do to celebrate. He told me he would go to the local "convenient" store (usually for toubabs) and buy himself a pineapple pop (i guess you could compare it to fanta but pineapple flavor) a little cake and a Vicco, another beverage that is sold locally kind of like a root beer. I like that. I like that a celebration here can be simply buying a pop/soda. I like that those things haven't become common place, that someone can find pleasure in them. What a huge descrepency between standards of living throughout the world. That would never count as something special to the average westerner. A pop is a drink the average american has every day (am i right? or maybe a starbucks coffee?). I guess what im saying is i don't want to lose the mindset of finding joy in the simple life. I don't want to miss out on the beauty in the small things. I want to be outside on a hot hot day, walk down to the nearest store with friends, with money saved up from working hard, and buy a pop that is icy cold let it slide down my throat and maybe the throats of those I'm with and think, man life is good.