Saturday, May 7, 2011
So, I would first of all like to apologize for my lack of updates/communication for the last two months as I haven’t had much to say. On March 12th, due to a security issue (in reality, Peace Corps being over-protective because of recent policy changes as a result of re-occurring bad press) I was pulled from my site. Since then, after spending a week with the new trainees, I’ve been in Lilongwe. I’ve spent the last two months in Malawi’s capitol trying to decide if I want to stay in Malawi, as well as trying to find a new site for me to live for the next year before my close of service in April, 2012. These two tasks involved me sitting around the Peace Corps office, bored, a lot. Anyway, under the saying, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” I’ve been silent (except for updates on the new trainees). So, here’s what happened (forgive me if I have already explained either partially or in full):
In December I found out some behaviors of my former counterpart that forced me to stop working with him because I did not want to be associated with him and those behaviors in a community, especially when we were both supposed to live a certain lifestyle, an example of development and behavior changes. I stopped working with him and cut off all communication between him, his family, and myself. I started working directly with the traditional authorities in the area as well as active community members (instead of a government-assigned forestry extension worker who only lived in the area because of a government assignment). After changing my professional associations within the community, I had become, in general, a more affective volunteer.
Some time after I had cut off communication with my old counterpart, I was informed, by the Peace Corps office, that he had been calling the man in charge of safety and security to ‘tell them what I was up to’. I was telling the Peace Corps office lies about what I was doing and who I was associated with at site in hopes of removing me from the area to make room for someone who would be more willing to work with him. After the 6th phone call, I was called into the office for an explanation. Rather than being unquestionably supported by personnel in the Peace Corps office, I was lectured for disrupting the relationship between Peace Corps and the department of forestry. After feeling I did, in no way, need to defend myself against the frustrated spouting’s of a rejected, and ego-bruised man, I went to the next highest authority to report my being unsupported by the staff in the office. Because of, what I can only imagine was a misinterpretation of my objections, said higher authority remembered my complaints in a different light.
Months later, when I was helping as the PCV of the week for the new trainees, I found out that the highest authority on safety and security for my region was coming to the college of forestry to lecture as an expert on safety and security. While he was in the area, a particular authority within the Peace Corps ladder decided it would be a good have me explain my situation to him. I explained it in the light of me not being supported by staff; he received it as a security report. After not more than a two minute conversation with me, he decided there was too much of a risk and I should be pulled from my site. One nightmare of a miscommunication.
All parties involved (except myself and former counterpart) had a meeting and decided to pull me from my village. The decision officially came from Peace Corps main office in DC. I spent the next two weeks trying to fight the decision and have it overturned. This process included phone calls, visiting my chief and community members, letter writing, ect. The decision remained the same. I started trying to find another site. I was offered three positions (including teaching abstinence-only education, working with a district forestry officer who asked me to do his job for him, and a village with a drunk for a chief), all availability due to the sub-par quality of the positions.
Update of the last two weeks: An ideal position has been made available to me but due to the amount of time I have already been out of site, the slow motion timing in which things here tend to run, and the unwillingness of my supervisor to do excess paperwork, that may not happen. Also, my old counterpart has been transferred to a different district, as per his request. These two situations are up in the air but will, with a little hope, find resolution within the next week.
In the mean time, I’ve been living in a backpackers lodge in the capitol in a room with 13 beds in it (most of which are filled with any combination of peace corps volunteers and/or travelers on any given night). The picture is the place where I’ve been sleeping for 2 months now (with exception of the few nights I spent in Blantyre or at Bri’s site). It has surely been interesting. No personal space, no alone time. I have, however, made contacts all over the world, which might or might not come in handy depending on the severity of my future hobo-ing. To protect any possible future contact I have made so to remain hospitable in any way possible. I show people around the city, I take them to the market, I offer myself up as a translator, ect.
All and all, given the situation (and day, of course) I feel I’m doing pretty well, especially considering the fact that I’ve been living out of a backpack for 2 months that when I packed I intend to be gone for 5 days.
Happy Easter, Happy May Day, Happy Cinco de Mayo, and more than anything…
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY, Mom!!!