Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Tense Time


It’s 6:30 am and the conch shell is being blown to alert the Village Council (Matais) that the Mayor’s Meeting or Aso Gafua is about to start. What makes this monthly meeting important is that our host father, who is the current village mayor, is seeking reappointment. The decision has great impact on our host family and for Mary and me. We operate under his guidance.

Last evening Mary and I had a long talk with the mayor on our porch. We discussed what he has done and what others think he should be doing. He talked about how difficult it is to be criticized by those who do nothing. We laughed at how people all over the world procrastinate, but once a decision is reached, want results now. His nervousness showed as he smoked one cigarette after another.

Our Peace Corps role in the village is also a factor in his reappointment. The Village Council seems to think we should be doing more, albeit what we should be doing they don’t say. The Council has failed to make the last two loan payments on the construction of our house and have not contributed food to our upkeep. The mayor was the main advocate in bringing us to the village.

We are like other Samoan Peace Corps in the Village Development Program. Expectations are high from the village when we first arrive. The Peace Corps is almost viewed as a silver bullet able to bring money and prosperity quickly. When the realization hits that we are not brining gifts or money, but instead are there to help them find ways to help themselves, enthusiasm fads as reality bites. This is the normal cycle of events, but it sucks when it happens. We must endure as the forces of expectation and reality come back into balance.

So, we anxiously sit and wait. Is there a new boss for us in the village to go along with a new Peace Corps Country Director and a new director for our program, or not? Whatever happens we shall try to do our best. It is an exciting ride if you enjoy speeding down the highway with your eyes closed.

1 comment:

Barb Carusillo said...

The whole situation sounds more than a bit stressful! Your final comment brought to mind what if felt like to run full tilt on a wire track at our local blind school. My girlscout troop got to try it out, with blinders on when we were there for an outdoor day. It is scary, despite having wires on either side to skim your hands over to keep you on course. Sounds like you don't even have the guidewires!