Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"the african way"

the CD passed by PST [pre-service training] today. he wrote me back in regard to the letter i sent him. interesting points. wants specifics. spoke a lot about HIV/AIDS in his "monthly mailing" and his talk with PCTs [peace corps trainees] and trainers.

i wondered how much sunk in today with the trainers. specifically with regard to one comment about jettisoning the parts of the "African way" that make HIV/AIDS such a problem. for me that translates into things like staying quiet about domestic violence, infidelity, sexism, etc.

i was talking to one of the PC trainers about all this on the ride back from Santa to Babadjou. about how we shouldn't be quiet or "indirect" about what happened happened [domestic violence at one of the trainee host-family homes] in Babadjou.

i know there are things like social norms, customs and community perception BUT all these need to take a back-seat. WHY? if those things keep us from tackling the vital issues (those stated above: HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, infidelity, sexism, etc.) head on, then they're just in the way.

yet part of me cannot deny the power of culture and, even more so, the hurdle of cross-cultural communication. often, "things just don't work that way" and if you try to force them (be it condoms or more direct communication) people and entire communities close up. it's counter-productive.

so where does that leave us? somewhere in the middle, no doubt. somewhere between beating around the bush and forcing it down people's throats. an art, if you will... subtle, flexible, courageous and compassionate. like giving your mother a condom and telling her to protect herself. ya Ilaah... [O Lord]

1 comment:

  1. this post really took me back... i almost forgot i'd written it. and now i do and don't agree with the sentiments expressed.

    that said, i can see clearly how these experiences have influenced my thinking on other "community-based" development projects i've been involved with.

    what i'd like to explain (what really warrants an explanation) is that last comment... about "giving your mother a condom and telling her to protect herself."

    i'm referring to my host-mother here, in Babadjou. this isn't actually something i did, but was thinking of doing. the only other reference i make to the situation is tangential...


    ...it's the awkwardness and dysfunction i refer to in the "family dinner" above.

    that's it.