Thursday, April 26, 2007
Reflection after 8 months
Eight months ago, I could never imagine being at this point: two months to go here in Ethiopia. I like to think that I’ve had a unique experience, unlike anyone else, but I’m afraid that I’ve experienced the generic Intern emotions and revelations. And then some, perhaps.
Usually, when sent overseas, a young intern either falls in love with the world of a development worker in the field, or gets completely disenchanted with the process and outcomes of development. I find myself in the middle of these two perceptions. I still thoroughly believe in development- its positive impact on local communities and its importance in ending poverty. But I see my place in it more clearly than when I left. The most rewarding moments of my placement have been when I collect case studies of CPAR’s beneficiaries, when I write about my observations here on my blog, and when I prepare articles for the CPAR website and newsletters. Perhaps my role in development in the future will be in promotions and communications, rather than in programming and implementation. In my ideal world, I’ll spend the next years of my life working to get more Canadians (and others) interested in the issues I’ve become familiar with here, and helping youth to become more involved in programs like the one I’ve done.
I’m afraid of going back to North America. I feel like as soon as I get off the plane I’ll be faced with someone who will complain about their difficult life (a job they don’t really like, credit card debt, general Western frustrations) and I will react- “You have nothing to complain about, compared to my homeless neighbours, my colleagues with HIV/AIDS, and terrible public transit!”. I feel like I’ll walk into a shopping mall, shiny and orderly, and get overwhelmed by just how much we have in Canada, compared to the people that live in corrugated iron boxes on stilts, that hold all their worldly possessions, just outside my house. It’s not that I’m trying to belittle the issues and stresses in Canada- everything is relative, certainly. It will be a shock, though, to arrive in a country where poverty is not the norm. Where I’ll be able to walk all day without a single person asking for money, or bread. Where no one will say “Hello Foreigner” when I walk down the street. Where I’ll be completely normal again, and not different from anyone else.
And I dread the utterly unanswerable question, “How was Africa?”
School children stop for a drink at a water point developed by CPAR