Monday, July 17, 2006

System failure; reboot..

Today; today was hard. I’m not sure I have it all figured out yet, and I’m still holding some pretty hostile and uncoordinated feelings in my mind so I’ll not discuss it quite yet. Let’s just say that it wasn’t a “learning experience” or “a place from which to grow” but just left me confused, angry, and upset.
I cried in front of my family for the first time (they didn’t even see me crying with the malaria, I did it all secretly); and I had to listen to The Song.

Everybody has something special from home that they will turn to if they are terribly home-sick and culture shocked; the equivalent of a teddy bear or a hug from your best friend, except neither of those because both were tragically left at home in Canada. Anyway, mine is the song “Plea from a cat named Virtue” by The Weakerthans. It’s a beautiful song, and the lyrics have gotten me out of pretty much any sort of horrible emotional mess I’ve ever been in. The added joy is that The Weakerthans are from home (Winnipeg) and they remind me of home and a lot of good things I love. I haven’t listened to that song since I set foot on Ghanaian soil: I left it as that Special Last Resort. And to be honest, I haven’t really felt the need to….until today.

So I don’t know what I’m doing here, I don’t know if I’m wasting my chapter’s money, I don’t know if I’m being effective – I would trade somebody else’s first born child (hee hee – I hope my sister Megan won’t mind! :P) for my teddy bear or just to see Sarah Jane or my family or someone who believes in me, because I don’t believe in me very much right now.

The only good thing about today was that we won at football, and that was heartening. We played USA, who to be honest played a pretty mediocre game – I haven’t seen them play before and I expected their men’s team would be like their very famous women’s team. They weren’t. We celebrated a little. I went on a walk to Kpembe to buy milk with Megan. I balled my blanket up into a small ball and pretended it was teddy and lay in my bed for a while. I started reading more of “Future Positive” by Michael Edwards, the phenomenal development book I’m reading right now – but I didn’t want to read or think about development. I wish I could pick up the phone and call Kelsey or Melanie right now. I want a hug.

This is dismal and I don’t know if it will go in my blog. It probably will though, because I’m sick of writing perfect entries about only awesome things, because I’m not some model development worker. I don’t know the answers and despite wanting to present a “better” picture of Africa to the people reading the blog, that picture has to include the truth.

So I’ve evaded what the issue is long enough so I might as well attempt to detail it in an objective fashion. My workshop today went craptacularly. It just crashed and burned in my opinion. It’s a biased opinion, but yeah. It started off with rain in the morning, a small drizzle, but I guess that gave the people living a 5 minute bike ride away an excuse to not come. Out of a projected attendance of 23, a grand total of 5 people came. That means that tons of budget on food and stuff was lost. Okay. I gave the best possible workshop I have ever prepared; brilliant examples, participatory and inclusive and made “Results Based Management” about as exciting as possible; for my 5 people. Then the football match; they demanded that I finish a full day workshop before the football match at 13h00 – or else they would leave anyway. So I finished, and then they complained that I was rushed for time. The fuel money was “unfair”, the food was “bad”, the refreshments didn’t have enough choice – where is the Guinness? They didn’t like Coke. One man was annoyed that I didn’t have extra food for his “starving” children – his brother is the chief. Out of 5, two were either severely visually impaired, or almost illiterate. I couldn’t tell, but they couldn’t read or fill out the feedback form I sent out. My director was there but he didn’t come into the room for more than 5 minutes. The worst part is, the people who live in Salaga town itself, they didn’t come. The day before, when I saw them in the office, I inquired whether they would come for my workshop tomorrow. The answer? “With your fuel allowances? HAHAHAHAHA!!”. Okay.

One workshop going off with many challenges; I can handle it. Those are learning experiences. Those are places where I can improve in the next workshop. But two failures in a row? System Failure – Reboot. I have tried so hard. I can now speak Gonja haltingly, I visit these extension staff, I inquire with genuine concern and affection about their children, about their favourite football teams. I design and attempt to implement, if I might say so myself, excellently prepared workshops on tremendously useful topics. Its not even my call that the topics are useful – MoFA itself had decided that. What am I doing here? Why am I here if they don’t need my cooperation in any way at all? Nobody comes to work; even Megan has noticed and she doesn’t really have much to do with the office. They all have attended “gender sensitization training and workshops” but they actively discriminate against women. There are no women in my office. None. The closest is Madame Janet, because she takes care of the “Women Farmers Demonstration Home” where I live, and they don’t even respect her.

There is inconsistency, inefficiency, lack of cohesion and accountability across the board with the Ministry of Agric in my district. In fact, out of all the NGOs I interviewed for the District Food Security Network, most of them spoke of MoFA laughably – they are so used to picking up MoFA’s dropped threads in this district. How do I change this? It seems over my head. I don’t even know where to begin. Can one person do all this – what’s more, an outsider? In four months? I have failed before I have started.

I have failed to win the AEA’s trust and respect, but I don’t have the kind of funding they seem to demand to “reimburse” their fuel and provide lavish spreads for workshops. I don’t know what more to do. I am waiting with bated breath for Robin to return to Tamale so I can call her (yet again, to say that I’ve failed. Maybe I just suck at development work in general…), or Louis, and ask them to visit.

I want to stop writing this. There is no way I’m putting this up. I’m going to cry and I’ve just gotten more depressed reiterating this. Enough: more Weakerthans and then sleep. I’ll dream of teddy and big, happy doggies, and my friends and my bicycle Wembembe and my mom and my dad and my brother. I want a hug. I want a friend. I’m not a superhero anymore, I don’t have any answers – I give up. If I got this district because you thought I was confident, I apologize a hundred times. I lied – I don’t know anything. Give me a school full of children, I will teach them. Give me – I don’t even know. A hug. Because as of today, I am close to quitting. I won’t quit, I won’t even type the words “I quit” without the quotations because I don’t do that. But I’m so close and I’m sad. Good night.


At 11:20 a.m., Anonymous Shelley said...

We know you can do it. Use your Apoorva ninja skills and you can do anything!!! Martin says so too :D


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