Saturday, January 16, 2010

Perplexed-in-Zambia


Dear Advice Giver:

I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I toss and turn at night. What should I do about these strange feelings I’m having?

How much of a shithole am I when I spend the morning visiting malnourished children and then, later on in the day, go on a food binge because the experience depressed me?

Should I even complain about the skills of the people with whom I’m working when I’m here precisely because they recognize that they need help?

Should I feel guilty about having a rare night out with volunteer friends if what I’m going to pay for dinner and drinks is more than what a family of six from my program’s target beneficiaries spends on food for a week? Should it make a difference when I’m not in development work anymore?

Am I perpetuating the practice of sitting allowances by receiving mine without question or am I justified by spending it on necessary work-related expenses (like paper or internet connection) that I won’t be able to reimburse otherwise?

When everyone in a meeting – men and women, young and old – starts deeply probing inside their noses with their forefingers - am I the one who is impolite because I flinch, look away and still can’t accept this as normal behavior in this part of the world?

Between being a tourist and a zealot, which side of the scale am I closer to? Since I’m here for only a short while, should I be spending more of my time taking pretty pictures for my album or should I spend every single second trying to save someone, anyone? Does one choice make me a flake and the other delusional?

Should I just go ahead and offer my help when I can – especially if what’s needed isn’t something that’ll put a significant dent in my resources – or would I just be propagating a sense of entitlement and dependence that’s going to boomerang back in the future?

What am I doing here when there are millions of people in my own country who need help? How do I go back home and make this experience mean something?

And lastly, dear Advice Giver, are there more creative ways to say “No” the next time I’m asked any of these questions: “Is the Philippines in America?”; “Aren’t you from South America/ Central America/ the Caribbean ?”; “Can you give me money for my circumcision/ a water pump in my village/ carpentry tools?”; and “Do you want another helping of delicious nshima?”

Respectfully,

Perplexed-in-Zambia

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tarcs!!!!

Your facebook profile pic goes with this post. What a dilemma, ey? Well, I don't know the answers to your questions. Hope you find them.

We miss you!!

Daph

V said...

Hey!
For answers look inside...see post Dec 16.
Glad you are getting more in touch with yourself and soon enough you'll find the balance.
Keep at it...and be patient .. the answers will surface soon enough.
Warm hugs,
Vera

Al said...

Hi Sir Tarcs,

Don't know what advice to give. Just follow your heart.

We're always here to support and and pray for you.

God bless!

Regards,
Al

Paolo Viloria said...

Hi ninong. I've gone through the same dilemma in the past, while in the middle of "reforming" myself from my former life.

We will always be defined by the choices we make and how or what we do to act upon those choices.

You just have to remind yourself of the reason why you went there in the first place. Everything you do afterward should be driven by that reason.

Also, it doesn't matter HOW MUCH you accomplish while you're there. What matters is how much you INTEND to accomplish, and how much you ACTUALLY accomplish working with all your heart and what all your strength allows, driven by that intent.

We find peace of mind when we know we did everything we COULD with what's available to us--regardless of where we are.

We find peace of mind when we come to terms with the fact that we can't accomplish everything we set out to do due to situations beyond our control.

It doesn't matter what choices you've made in the past. What matters is what you do NOW, in WHERE EVER place you find yourself in, but try not to overthink everything. Sasabog lang yung ulo mo.

It's all in God's hands anyway. He put you there not just so you can help people out and enjoy the scenery while you're at it, but also to discover facets and talents and skills that you never realized you had.

I hope this helps. We're always praying for you and the success of what you set out to do.

Renee said...

Tarcs, I can only think of Mother Teresa's wise words for you: start only with just one soul...sometimes, in our excitement to extend help to people we target to create differences on as much people as possible...but making a difference on just one person is enough...the work is not ours, it is His, as most people say. We just leave the result of what we do to Him. You may get disappointed later on to find out that you have not really contributed anything or made any difference but just keep on...eventually you will realize that the experience is really more for you than for them. I am sure that you will leave Zambia a changed man. You may not create that change you have intended before you go there but I believe your experience would change you big time. Don't feel guilty too when you say no. I only have one simple rule: Do it out of love, not out of guilt or obligation or anything but love :) can't wait to see you home, tarcs!