02 juillet 2012
Big changes and big challenges ahead: part two
Note: Yesterday, I started a series of posts discussing some major changes to the nature of my service. Read it first to get a sense of background.
After I returned to site from IST, I was faced with something of a conundrum: I was now being required to introduce an agricultural element to my work, but I had been placed in an urban site where that wasn’t really possible. Furthermore, my supervisor with my ‘job’ had specifically requested that I intensively study French, but now I was being asked to learn Mooré instead. Finally, I had to deal with the fact that the business work that I had prepared for during my etude was now a secondary consideration, and I did not as yet know any solid contacts for the agriculture that was being emphasized.
Nor did I especially have any tools in place. My homologue is a businessman who could care less about farming. My community is a crossroads town with very little interest in tree planting. Knowing this, I decided to strike a balance between the two: I would help local businessmen begin and fund a number of chicken farming projects that they had been asking me about. This, I felt, would strike the best balance between agriculture and business, and would respond to both a community want (chicken meat) and a community need (increased access to affordable protein) in the process. I attacked the projects with gusto, and felt confident that the results would more than justify the effort.
Unfortunately, when the time came for me to submit my quarterly report, in turned out that Peace Corps did not agree with me. Although chicken farming is indeed an important local economic activity, in their view elevage does not fulfill the strictly agricultural requirements that they had in mind. Being somewhat surprised by this, I commenced on a series of meetings and discussions with my supervisors, in hopes of getting a better idea of just what it was that they were looking for.
The results of this were…significant. Long story short, I was being asked to become a more strictly agricultural volunteer, doing projects like gardening, soil conditioning, and tree planting. When I replied that 1) I know literally nothing about such activities and 2) my site is wildly unsuited for such things, I was rewarded with a site visit from my APCD. At first, he was inclined to lecture me on the shortcomings of my decision-making process, but after a full day, we were in agreement: my site is indeed not suitable for the new project plan, and both Peace Corps and my association felt that it would be better if I relocated to my regional capital. They feel that this will give me more work, access to a broader range of activities, and will allow me to better fulfill the new Daba project plan.
Which sounds good on paper. The only problem is, I don’t have the slightest desire to move to my regional capital. Yes, it’s larger, wealthier, and has more food and activities, but it’s also kind of a hole. I like my site now, I love my homologue, I like my house, I like my community, I like my site mates, and frankly I like the work I’ve been doing. To dump all of that purely because I need to dig in the dirt more – something I didn’t even come here to do in the first place – is a bitter pill to swallow.
But I’m an adult and a professional, and sometimes adults and professionals do things they don’t necessarily like or want to do. It comes with the territory. I may not want to move to my regional capital, and I may not want to work more with agriculture, but the alternative is quitting early and that also is not something I’m interested in. So I have a choice: suck it up and accept big changes, or call it quits and go home a lot early than I ever planned on.
Tomorrow: what I chose, and why.