Peace Corps fucks up your life in the best way possible.
I think that sentiment expresses how I feel in this moment. I am lost in a vortex of emotions: anger, denial, sadness, regret, excitement, joy, longing, and frustration. This last week at site has been one of my toughest weeks in-country. I feel as if all I want to do is finally say goodbye to my neighbors; however, I’ve been stuck in my house and with my reflective thoughts. Saying goodbye to my Year 2 students was anti-climactic. They were in a session with the academic registrar concerning behavior during exam period, and as they were dismissed I said goodbye to them. Less than half of them turned towards me to say goodbye. I felt a bit disheartened, but would it have made any sense for them to have made a bigger deal out of the goodbye?
There’s a side of the world and a multitude of perspectives that I will never be able to forget even if I wanted to forget them. The concept of a homogenous Africa no longer makes sense to me, I will give different cultural attitudes the benefit of the doubt, and I will be much slower to judge an action as being either right or wrong. I have ceased to see things as being black or white. It’s all a mixture of variant grays that all have a background and a story.
For example, what will I do if someone asks me to donate $5 to a charity dedicated to feeding starving children in Africa. I think that I will first have to look into the organization to see if the feeding is humanitarian and if it is relief based. Then I will also look into the organization itself to see if the majority of the funding goes towards the relief effort. But then I will have to see if the food is being disbursed in an ethical way that eventually leads to self-sustenance on the part of the recipients. However, this is rarely the case as conflicts and civil wars lead to refugees who rely on the food deliveries. In this case, would it be right for me to donate to a cause that may help satiate the hunger of a few children if the larger issue at hand isn’t being addressed? Is it still alright to blindly throw money at an issue if even just one child benefits from the money?
I don’t think that there are any easy answers to these questions. Yet, I believe that I am better off for seeing a different side to issues that I used to see as being one-sided. Despite the grander complexities of social issues, one tenet still remains true to me: that compassion and the acknowledgement of the humanity of another human being is paramount to the discussion of said issues.
After all this, how can I possibly go back?