Saturday, October 30, 2010

Post U.S. visit reality check

Visting the U.S. was great.  My home country is a foodie paradise.  But, after spending an extended period of time outside the country, there are some changes that I notice...
1. Everyone is on a smart phone
2. Facebook is advertising on even had a logo on my box of cheerios
3. There is a Survivor reality show based in Nicaragua...hah

I heard a This American Life episode about Frenemies and I thought of my experience in Nicaragua.  They pointed out the fact that many reality TV shows include, sometime along the way, the line: 'I'm not here to make friends...'  This pop culture observation really made me laugh.  I thought: Peace Corps is certainly more like reality than Survivor and I would hate to say 'I'm not here to make friends!' in my village.  The sad part is, I am sometimes tempted to say just that.

One of my top goals IS to make friends, to integrate into the community and foster cultural exchange.  I certainly have made many friends.  Like friends and family, sometimes the people in my community bother me, sometimes they are wonderful.  Often though, in this job I feel I am almost obligated to force development or force ideas of change.  This is the wrong way to do development, but it often seems like the right thing to do.  It seems like the people do not know how to help themselves...but, I am of course judging, based on my reality, that they need and want help and change.  I might be tempted to say I AM HERE TO WORK, NOT TO MAKE FRIENDS!--because I want to measure success by my North American standards.  I want some tangible progress; if not, should I not be home supporting my family Stateside?

The temptation to be paternalistic and lead development efforts in my own way is a reality with moral dilemmas.  It seems this temptation to act is the demise of many development schemes, both past and present.  But, I understand why it happens...To actually build capacity, sustainable projects, increase quality of life, and not be a colonialist, one really must search patiently for appropriate interventions.

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