03 juillet 2012
Big changes and big challenges ahead: part three
Note: Today’s post is part 3 in a 3-part series on a number of big programmatic changes in my Peace Corps service. Read the previous two posts for context.
The choice to accept a site relocation normally isn’t a difficult one. One girl in my stage was relocated because of a mine near her house that was attracting all sorts of shady types; since her choice was between potential assault/rape and a better site, she moved with alacrity. Likewise, another PCV I know was relocated from a regional capital to Ouaga, in order to perfect and complete the large project that has become the crowning achievement of his service; since his choice was between doing a better job in better conditions and languishing in obscurity, he had no trouble making the decision.
My choice, however, isn’t quite as clear cut as all that. Yes, my new site is potentially larger and better, but I have real concerns about both my living arrangements there and the work that I’ll be expected to do. For starters, I’ll no longer have the amazing homologue and site mates that currently make my service so congenial. Nor will I have my accustomed patterns of living, etc. Finally, there’s another simple fact: I can’t see any way that I can move without feeling like I’m abandoning my current site. And that bothers me.
But I’m going to do it anyway.
Why, do you ask? Simple. I’m making the decision to change sites anyway, not because it will be easier but because it is the right thing to do. I love my community, but it can in fact live without me. I love my homologue and my site mates, but I can still visit them. What I can’t do is have even 1/10 the amount of work here that I will in my capital. It’s just not possible. So my choice isn’t so much between an awesome site and a potentially better site as it is between an awesome site with no work and a potentially awesome site that definitely has more work.
The only real remaining question for me is the work itself: I still didn’t come here to do agriculture, and I still don’t especially have any interest in it. But I’m going to give it my best shot anyway. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help growers choose crops that are better suited to market conditions, or I’ll be able to help farmers’ associations better market their goods. If I can pull that off, then I’ll be combining the best of both worlds: doing the business work that I came here to do, while still achieving the more agriculturally-oriented focus that Peace Corps now expects of me. Sadly, elevage doesn’t meet that definition, but maybe those projects will. Time will tell.
I don’t know if I’ll like my new site or my new job, but uncertainty isn’t a new thing in my Peace Corps service: every PCV lives with uncertainty on a daily basis, and if there’s one thing we definitely learn from living in West Africa, it’s that nothing is ever guaranteed.
Wish me luck.