Gives You Hell

Almost a year in and I suppose it’s time to take stock of my progress so far. So far things have pretty much gone as planned. I looked back at my aspiration statement I filled out before I really knew anything and I’m pretty much doing what I set out to do. Sometimes I wonder if I would have done anything differently but I don’t think I would have. It’s been a pretty insane year moving to Africa, learning a new language, and getting involved in several new communities (Peace Corps and my town here). The one thing that bothers me is that no matter how hard I try to explain what life is like here no one will know until they’ve actually come here. When I was with my parents I could talk about all the things I’m dealing with but life is just so different here it was hard for them to relate and I’m sure that’s true with most people. I wonder if people find what I do interesting. Conversely this whole experience has expanded what I thought was possible. A year ago I would have been perfectly content getting some boring desk job in the suburbs of Philly but all I’ve been thinking of lately is which country I can tackle next. Change is a good thing. It’s important to see what was done in the past and try to build on it if we can but if it didn’t work, then we need to figure out something else to do. Unfortunately it’s just hard to change the way things are done here. People are just set in their ways even though a lot of the time their ways are ineffective. That’s why it’s important finding the right people to work with. Luckily for me I have no problem trying out new things. I am literally days away from opening this restaurant here in Kita and I’m not terribly worried. I’ve done all I can in terms of building the restaurant and trying to get people understanding their roles. At some point you have to be able to walk away and have people understand the success of the project depends on them, not the volunteer. The whole point of us being here is to help others help themselves, not help ourselves. It’s tough dealing with the politics here. Just like in America everyone’s always trying to get theirs but here people are just more desperate. I do what I can but sometimes it’s a lot even for me to deal with. It’s tough when you meet someone and all you’re thinking is that they see you in terms of dollar signs. At least I’m not naive. One year down, one more to go. Let’s see what new fun stuff I learn in the year to come.


2 thoughts on “Gives You Hell

  1. i’m curious, was the restaurant idea part of your aspiration statement, something you had in mind before living in mali?

    • It wasn’t part of my aspiration statement. Basically after I went to Kita and found out I was going to work with a women’s cooperative I came up with a bunch of ideas how to help my women and this seemed like the idea most actionable and so we took it and ran with it. Originally my idea was to just have something very small and simple and it kind of got blown out of proportion but we adjusted accordingly. The idea is that the women would use the restaurant as a source of regular income that can be used to generate money for other projects so they wouldn’t be dependent on NGOs or Peace Corps in the future. We’ll see what happens but so far so good.

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