Monday, February 18, 2008

F#$%^ing February. Or: Comments on comments, with some added alliteration for your amplified amusement.

First, comments on a couple comments. I am attempting positive-commenting-reinforcement, since there are STILL LOTS OF PEOPLE WHO COME TO THIS BLOG AND DO NOT COMMENT. This blog is a LEARNING tool for you, dear readers. A learning tool so that you can know More About the Peace Corps and More About the World and More About Important Things. It should be a conversation! Nobody enjoys me talking endlessly to myself (Except me. I enjoy this immensely). So, I shall respond to the most recent comments. Ruth commented on the post that questioned the Meaning of Everything:

Hey you got your wish to start a band by going to Georgia! Congrats. Will you do a Georgian version of the sandwich song? Was it "Make Me a Sandwich"?
You'll probably start to feel better when the weather improves. Being cold really ruins attitudes.
Realizing you don't know everything is a sign of maturity. I don't think anyone expects you to have figured out too much at this point in your peace corp career. At the end of 2 years though, watch out! (kidding). I think we're all just impressed that you went and you're trying your best in a difficult situation. Maybe someday you'll be able to sum up neatly what you've learned, but even if you can't I don't think that means you have changed or learned anything.
To clear up any confusion, "Make Me a Sandwich" was not the name of a song, but instead the name of my band, which is on hiatus until we can all learn how to play instruments and write songs and do heroin ambidextrously. Rest assured, MMAS fans: my new band, Mzis Chasvlis Sikhvarulit Momgherlebi, is more of a side project, and our album Bakhakhivit Mgherian will not affect the recording schedule of MMAS' debut album Pastrami on Rye, which is still on target for its "never" release date.

As to Ruth's other points: being cold does seem to be affecting me more than I thought it would. We heard, from G6 volunteers, that February was the worst month, in terms of morale and motivation. One volunteer (the one and only Tom Schreiber) told me that, at one point last February, the hot water went out while he was showering, and, if there had been anyone else in the bathroom, there might have been a homicide. This despite the fact that last year was, apparently, an unusually warm winter. Not only has this winter not been unusually warm, it has been the coldest winter, at least in Chokhatauri, that anyone can remember. A coworker of mine just complained to me that, usually, there is one big snow per winter. This year, I have lost count of the big snows. There have been at least five, probably closer to ten. I knew, from the aforementioned G6 warnings, that the winter would be difficult. I didn't anticipate it being this difficult. Either the other things that are making this month difficult are making it really, really difficult, or the winter is affecting me more than I thought it would. I'm not totally sure which it is. I'd prefer to attribute it to the winter, though I know that the winter is not entirely to blame. I suppose what I am saying is: perhaps home, office, and automotive climate control are more of a factor in the economic success of the western world than one would think. It's hard to be productive when you're cold and/or really hot, and most of the world is one of these things most of the time. But, whatever the case may be, Ruth: I appreciate the encouraging words. The difficult thing, for me, is my tendency to conflate success with effort. If something doesn't work, I feel like somehow I have failed in my effort, and I wonder whether I'm trying hard enough. Maybe I am, and I just have to accept that what happens, happens. Or, maybe I'm really not. Who knows? It is February, after all. I think I am going to rechristen it, "f#$%$%ing February," because I enjoy both bad language and alliteration.

The second comment comes from "Linda," which is the nom de plume of my mother, regarding the post about the criticism of Peace Corps in a New York Times op-ed:
The Peace Corps is a very large organization working in a very large number of dissimilar countries throughout the world. A world that is changing very quickly. That PCV's need to be better qualified for some of the posts that they are sent to is a point well taken and I believe accurate. However, there are also many areas where PCV's are not only useful but a great benefit to their host country, city, town. It's a matter of fit and some rethinking of some of the more technical posts that PCV's are sent to.
I can't really speak to some of the more "technical" posts that PCVs are sent to in many countries; in a lot of countries, PCVs work in forestry, agriculture, medical, and other quite specific and technical fields. I hope that the volunteers sent to work in these areas have the experience to make a difference in their host sites, but I have no idea whether or not this is actually the case. Georgia is not a Peace Corps post with highly technical programs; volunteers here either teach English, or work as consultants at business or social organizations. Some volunteers here are highly qualified for their work; some of us are either directly or recently out of college, and got all of the specific knowledge for our work from two months of training. I don't know a great deal about how other volunteers feel about this, but the conversations I have had about it lead me to think that they feel much like I do: when things are going well, it seems like what we thought before coming here is true -- that merely coming from a good educational background in America allows us to transfer knowledge and ways of thinking that the people here really need, but have had little access to. When things are not going well, we think something else: what am I doing here? Why me? How can I help this town and this organization? And I suppose such thinking is inevitable. It is, again, f#$%#ing February. My program manager said something to me recently, in an email. She said, "You may not be seeing the results of this yet but you have changed [the members of your organization, local youth, and the town in general]... and trust me it is a change for the better." Slow change can sometimes seem like no change, or not enough change, and that can make a person think, "perhaps someone else could be doing this better." And perhaps someone else could. Hopefully, at least, I'm doing enough. Maybe ask me in March.

Speaking of "someone else" -- not of someone else instead of me, but rather of someone else in addition to me -- I would like to acknowledge a crazy reality: there are going to be new volunteers here pretty soon. We have been here for eight months, now, and in a little less than four more, there will be a whole new batch of idealistic trainees who have no idea what F#$#$%ing February 2009 (this sounds like the theme of a bar crawl) has in store for them. It's hard to believe we've been here for this long. Regardless, these volunteers will soon be finding our blogs and reading what we wrote for an informational CD that Peace Corps will be sending them, and they will start to ask us questions about stuff. This is frightening and exciting at the same time. I am sure that it is obvious to those of you who know me and those who do not alike: I enjoy being seen as a person who Knows Something. But the responsibility is daunting. What if they read this blog and think that all volunteers do is complain about the weather and talk about toilets? Could I live with myself, knowing that 60 idealistic still-in-America pre-trainees have such a correct notion of what is in store for them? Maybe I should start writing about how I've taught everyone in my town to recite Shakespeare in English and how we built a community center with no materials except sweat, companionship, and increased intercultural understanding.

Oh well. If any newly-invited American is happening across this blog, feel free to email me with any questions you may have. I will try to be as idealistic as possible in my response. And, for your edification as well as that of anyone else who might be interested, I think I may post my contributions to the alternative handbook (that informational CD) on this blog, because they were on the fascinating topics of the Georgian alphabet and supras. Also because I have already written them, and it would be a shame not to pad my post count with things that have already been written for another reason (I may also post something or other from the January edition of The Tamada, the volunteer-written satirical attempt-at-a-publication, because I know people love reading collections of inside jokes that they may not find at all amusing). I am happy to be a resource for you almost-almost-volunteers in any way that will be helpful. But, a warning: I might, if I were you, either wait until the weather warms the #$%^ up, or take any response with five or thirty grains of salt.

It is, after all, f#$%#$ing February.

Tomorrow: my Alternative Handbook 2008 article about the Georgian alphabet. Finally, after all this time (I am too lazy to look up exactly how much time): a new installment of Better Know a Georgia! Dream happy dreams until then, friends.

1 comment:

People Power Granny said...

Wish I could be there. I was picked to go to Eastern Europe, but was turned down for medical reasons. I tell my story at Vote in my poll if you have time.