Showing posts with label CD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CD. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2011

saved by hope

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope."
...a quote from CD Strauss' swearing-in speech in Dschang, 2002. that is what this - us being here, the peace corps - is about, isn't it? hope. for the future. what we ought to be working for.

he said he was asked why peace corps cameroon is still here after 40 years. the quote answers that. 40 years is short. not in our lifetime is anything worth doing achieved.

pleasantly surprised

good day today. feels like a pleasant summer afternoon back home. the last few days have felt like this, as we move into the dry season. these transitions between seasons here are great. such pleasant weather.

my APCD paid me a visit. a "how are you?" visit, as he put it. but we talked about quite a few things. in fact, i'm really very happy with the entire thing. go figure! between this visit today and my talk with the CD, our administration is actually being receptive/responsive.

i was pleasantly surprised by my APCD today. the things he said about the teacher training program i would've never expected from him. same man i had that conversation with in Yaounde a few weeks ago? it's like night and day.

i guess he'd heard it from enough people (and seen it himself in Nkambe, at least) that our teacher training program... well, sucks. to put it a little less than technically. i vented about students, teachers and school admin. he listened. talked, too, of course. and i even asked and got answers to long-time questions:
  1. Q: why not primary school PCV teachers? A: because we're over-qualified, capacity building is low, and their needs too great or numbers too big.
  2. Q: why not educational consulting PCVs working in an entire town at various schools? A: because we'd have to work with a local delegation office (Lord no!) and need PCVs with skills which aren't easy to find.
these aren't absolute/final answers... but they were good to hear, regardless. i still think we could diversify our approach, and take PCV placement case-by-case. placing some here, some there. according to their skills. that's probably tough to manage, though. they are thinking about placement in technical schools. SARs [i've forgotten what this acronym stands for?], too. but who'll have those skills coming in? anyway. at least i got decent answers. acceptable. and no doors shut.

i'm telling you! this was a different man. i wonder if the CD spoke with him? he even copied down the numbers i showed him on NW/SW TTC [teacher training college] admissions. he said he'd take them to MINEDUC [education ministry] in Yaounde and speak to the man in charge of TTCs/ENIEGs. ask him why they're so low and what they're going to do, if anything, to change that.

so he'll get it from the horse's mouth, instead of all this local speculation about whether the government will or will not do anything about our situation. no assimilation. low attendance. low motivation. if not apathy. too many teachers. i'd love to hear what this man in charge has to say about all that. i'll have to follow-up with my APCD.

hmmm... we also spoke about extension. transferring to Morocco, 1st. extending up North, 2nd. he'd hoped i'd entertain staying on as PCVL [peace corps volunteer leader] in Bamenda. ummm... no. i don't know??? all that - transferring, extending, etc. - seems distant now. a remote possibility. what changed? me, family, grad school? God knows.

get this. my APCD even told Auntie that if she didn't get more students next year, no PCV. i think she just won't get a PCV, regardless. we went out to visit GBSS [govt bilingual secondary school]. my APCD knows the principal there well. seems they were classmates. seems he had a PCV in Bafmen before. even asked my APCD to send another his way. good for him. i'm going to strongly recommend one. will fill out the site prospective form in december, insha'Allah. after i do some more research on the school.

i hope to be as blunt with Auntie as my APCD was today. should've seen how deferential she was to him! really, though... why do we humor her? protocol, yes. but i should just tell it like it is. i ain't gonna lose a job. she needs to hear why she (not she, our school) isn't getting a PCV. it's complicated. a shame, also. i don't want to see us pull out of training teachers completely. to lost that capacity building. maybe things will change? in other schools, if not ours.

so my APCD is leaving that option open. and the option for PCVs to teach at a TTC if they wish. he'll make a teacher training component available in PST [pre-service training]. albeit limited. i doubt secondary school teachers will look for more teaching hours at their local TTC, though. and vice-versa.

so... some questions answered. some questions remain. all in all, i'm quite satisfied.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

out of touch

at one point in our brunch convo last Sunday Robert asked me how school was going. right. good question. i gave him my honest, biased, unabashed and scathing opinion. good answer. we discussed the issue. he asked some questions. i answered. we spoke about our program [PCVs at teacher training colleges] briefly. said i'd speak to my APCD about the situation again. this time with the most recent issue of meager student succession at the GTTC. Robert asked for feedback on the meeting.

i told my APCD that students are disenchanted and no longer interested in TTCs, b/c they're not being hired when they graduate. he, as an APCD of Education (a senior staff member of an int'l development org) says, "sure they're hiring teachers. just look at all the ones here in Yaounde..." no need to even finish the sentence. in fact, i was caught so off guard by the comment that i couldn't react. he didn't even realize what he said/was saying.

are we here to encourage teachers to move to Yaounde to find jobs? are government trained teachers to rely on only private schools for employment? how do any of these alleviate the development issues we face? rural, uneducated, unemployed masses migrating to already overcrowded urban areas. my APCD doesn't even have the #s from this years GTTC entrance. he was quoting COSed volunteers' quarterly reports. file those! they're out-dated. so are you. out dated and out of touch. c'est dommage.

my problem is feedback to Robert. can i be honest, biased, unabashed and scathing?...

Friday, May 27, 2011

a long lunch at the hilton

just before 10pm here at the Hilton in Yaounde. mama will be gone in less than 24 hours. that still hasn't really sunk in. probably not until i get home. we had a pleasant lunch with Robert Strauss and his mother-in-law. a Lebanese-American woman of Syrian origin. she and moms got along well. she hasn't been back since the war. smart, well-spoken older lady. i liked her.

Robert and i spoke a lot at lunch (had the buffet here at the hotel). about peace corps, of course. but i felt good about all we talked about. ETs [early terminations], extending, PCVLs [peace corps volunteer leaders], GTTCs [govt teacher training colleges], APCDs [assoc peace corps directors], etc. etc. etc. he can talk! moms can talk! both told stories... it was a long lunch, 12:30-3:30pm. but, again, a very pleasant one.

i especially liked that Robert's mother-in-law was there. such a nice woman. she said that moms' ya3nees and yallas warmed her heart. that's funny, because Ibrahim asked about the former. Patrick actually made a song about the latter! Robert thought one was my nickname. mama, God bless her!

we ended the day at the mosquée in Tchinga. for isha' [evening prayers]. moms, too. then we sat down in the lounge and talked. a lot. about a lot. mama listened patiently. God bless her.

i plan to fast tomorrow, insha'Allah. 15 شعبان

Monday, August 2, 2010

we don't judge

also 10/1/2002:
mama said hello to a few people around the office. met the CD. spoke for while. about politics, of course. America. here. Mideast. i think mama pushed the "we don't judge people" and "we treat everyone equally" tip a little much.

two interesting points:

1st... we're back to worrying about volunteers in Muslim areas as attacks on Iraq may be imminent. i don't see that, at least not here. one never knows though. just look at the Ivory Coast. who would've thought?!

2nd... the CD's mother-in-law is coming to visit, and she's of Lebanese-Syrian origin. not been back since the war. he wants her to meet mama. for lunch, in yaounde, on sunday 10/20/2002. small world.

mama and i ate Indian today. at Taj Mahal. all right food. they didn't have but can make sweets, ras malai and gulab jamun. yum!

OK. tired. need sleep. we'll see how tomorrow goes. we leave for Bamenda by car on Thursday. may need to call Paul and Maggie, to assess the Bamenda-Wum road. then call Alhadji to arrange a ride with him.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"grow up: how to fix the peace corps"

robert strauss just published yet another article on "how to fix the peace corps" (American Interest, Jan/Feb 2010). this is something like his 3rd or 4th public piece on the topic. as always – though i'm sure not everyone in the peace corps community would agree – i found the article intelligent, insightful, scathing and well-written.

i agree with just about all of the main points strauss makes, though i'd take the edge out of the piece if i was writing it. but that's robert's style. it stings... just to make sure you're paying attention. for the most scathing peace corps critique, however, one still has to go back to ivan illich's 1968 "to hell with good intentions."

again, i don't agree with everything in strauss' article. but i do think his major suggestions for "re-imagining" the peace corps are right on point. that idea in and of itself, for the peace corps to re-imagine itself anew, is a compelling one.

here are nine of his main "fixes" for the peace corps (eight more suggestions can be found in the original piece):
  1. tabling any discussion of enlarging the Peace Corps until it fixes the basics regarding administration, recruiting, country selection and volunteer placement;
  2. reducing the number of political appointees from around thirty to two or three;
  3. getting rid of the Peace Corps’s unique-in-government rule, which forces 85 percent of all American staff members out of the agency, along with whatever expertise they have gained, after a maximum of five years of employment;
  4. exponentially increasing support to volunteers so that they are visited and supervised directly every six weeks rather than every six months, as is currently the norm under the best of conditions;
  5. getting serious about doing meaningful, quantifiable work that makes a difference in standards of living overseas;
  6. demanding a much higher standard of volunteer performance (and a much lower AWOL rate);
  7. providing post-service benefits, comparable to the GI bill, so that more Americans would serve in the Peace Corps in the first place;
  8. focusing on a limited number of technical fields that would give volunteers true expertise to offer; and
  9. allowing terms of service shorter than the standard 24 months so that, again, more people could consider serving
all that said, i disagree with a point strauss makes in the article about peace corps' "unwritten 4th goal" (here are the first three PC goals). perhaps not total disagreement, but i'd state the point differently. strauss writes:
And forget the unwritten fourth goal of the Peace Corps being a place for young Americans to “expand their horizons.” Host countries aren’t interested in Americans who are searching for life’s meaning; they’re looking for people who can get stuff done. Americans who are lost, whether young or old, don’t often “find themselves” in developing countries.
i agree that inexperienced, unprofessional and immature volunteers aren't going to learn much about themselves or do much to help others. but i do think experienced, professional and mature volunteers learn a good deal about themselves through their peace corps experience.

and here's where i really emphasize my difference with robert's take... that if such volunteers aren't learning something about themselves, then there's something wrong. precisely b/c that would mean that they're not open to learning from others as others learn from them.

if they aren't open to that deep reflection and learning about another culture (or people or way of doing things) as they work together to "get stuff done," and to learning about themselves in the process, then something is very wrong.

i frame this in teaching-learning language, b/c i'm an educator. for robert strauss and others, it's about development. but there's international development and its focus on results (with facts and figures, monitoring and evaluation), and then there's internal or self-development that facts and figures can't capture. but that relationship, between "development agents" and "recipients," can. in both directions.

i suppose this comes down to what part of the relationship/results (or process/product) pairing one chooses to emphasize. robert strauss is emphasizing the importance of results for peace corps. a major point of neglect for an organization that thinks of itself as an agent of sustainable development.

on my part, i'd emphasize relationship for peace corps volunteers as agents of development. i wouldn't disparage that unwritten 4th goal, b/c the kind of cross-cultural learning implied by goals 2 and 3 isn't enough. americans need to learn more about themselves through more open, engaged, and unprejudiced relationship with other peoples.

but ivan illich's words still haunt us, in that regard: "The damage which volunteers do willy-nilly is too high a price for the belated insight that they shouldn't have been volunteers in the first place" (from To Hell with Good Intentions, 1968). i have two points to make about this. the first is cynical... maybe it is important for other people to learn how "lost" young americans can be, in spite of all the stuff we bring along with us!

my second response to illich's argument is that, in this day and age (though surely even in his), it isn't simply volunteers going abroad that "do damage." our american lifestyle does enough of that, without us even having to leave the comfort of our homes, cars, supermarkets, schools, suburbs, etc. i'm making a social, politico-economic and ecological argument here.

with that in mind, perhaps it is important for a generation of americans (not immature and inexperienced) to learn about themselves and their lifestyles... and about what it means for other people in the world, who can only dream about living that life. and what it means for a world that couldn't sustain it if well all did.

training americans to be change agents is what the peace corps is about. but you can't bring change if you're not open to it yourself. in fact, if you're not open to changing first. as i've written before, my notion of change starts inward and reverberates outward. in both directions. in my case, that means for both this young american and for his cameroonian friends and colleagues.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

both beautiful & bitter

8/26/2002: 4 and 5 of 5
3+4. talk w/Shawn about sustainable development and Small is Beautiful: OK... Shawn and i spoke about a lot on the way to swearing-in in Dschang. development, of course. economic, social, educational, etc. interesting. a lot came up from Small is Beautiful. it's opened me up to more of an economic opinion on such topics... an economics with a human face! :)

basically both Shawn and i were for more efficient/effective development. cut the BS. if it doesn't work, get out. but don't give up. change the angle. here's my point: big-towns/big-schools (i.e. GTTCs) are inherently, for right now at least, inefficient & ineffective (let's not go there on why). let's get out. but not give up. how?

work with GTTCs from without... seminars/workshops/consultation w/admin. and, staying on the educational issue, put volunteers in the smaller towns/villages (w/villages meaning places like Enyoh/Weh/Befang, etc.) where teachers are needed and can be productive. not stifled.

but where is the CD or APCDs to hear all this? as for the latter, ours is chillin' up in the air-conditioned 4X4 and fancy hotels (out of reach and out of touch). the former... he promised to visit every PCV at every post. he got to Bamenda late... and, as Shawn put it, it's hard to get love with a bad road [i.e. the Wum road].

i'm bitter, yes. bitterly so. and growing angrier at the man by the incident. why so? don't know. projection, perhaps. i'm frustrated.

i've said my... PEACE.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

call it a day

same day [as the last journal entry/blog post], the 23rd.

swearing in was fine... good to see PCTs, now PCVs! they were happy to see me, too. saw Mike and Todd off. kinda sad. also saw Mirabelle [my host-mother]. still not sure when she's coming to visit? puet-etre the 4th?

didn't make it back to Bamenda in time to catch the bank or Jum'aa [Friday prayer]. the CD spoke for way too long! in English and French. he said they wouldn't take Paul's IVP stuff this cycle. that really pissed me off!

he, the CD, is coming to visit us in the NW province. Sunday or Monday Wum, it sounds like. you know, i don't like the CD... i don't like my APCD... the SDO thinks i'm a spy...

but it didn't rain today and tucker's sheets and my clothes from last night are dry! take what you can get and call it a day... right? right.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

FONCHAM Paul Babila

This will be a personal letter of recommendation. That is, predominantly, the nature of my relationship with Paul. We are counterparts at the local government teacher training college, but what I have come to know about Paul as a person, much more than just a professional, is what impresses me most.

Having said that, I feel obliged to note that Paul is by no means an unimpressive professional. He is a diligent, creative and experienced teacher. Both his current position and past experience attest to that. Paul is, by far, one of the most dynamic teachers at our school and an asset to our institution.

What I would like to attest to, however, are the personal qualities and values that set Paul apart. The important imperceptibles that only a next-door neighbor or close friend can perceive. I am both Paul's neighbor and his friend.

Paul is a man of honesty and integrity...

Paul possesses a strong sense of family and community...

Paul has the complement of foresight and work-ethic to plan and achieve...

Paul is committed to these values on all levels. Individually, he is committed to bettering himself and his situation by no other means than honesty and integrity. He is committed to contributing to the well-being and support of his family; no matter how distant the relation or significant the contribution.

This sense of duty then extends directly into his commitment to community. Paul has never, in all our discussions of future plans for self or family, expressed any desire other than to live and work here in Northwest Cameroon, in his place and with his people. He wants the best for himself and his family, but that cannot mean loss of a sense of self or identity.

That is what impresses me most about Paul; his values and commitments to them. What I hope a visit to the United States will do is impress Paul with the values we are committed to, allowing him to take back those he deems fit and incorporate them into his own. These will no doubt be transferred to some of his family, friends, colleagues or students and, I hope, translate into ever more committed individuals such as himself.

got this letter and Paul's biodata form out to the CD. seems they've already begun deliberating on candidates. hope it's not too late!

oh... my APCD thinks the CD will pay us a visit here [in the Northwest] to the posts along the ring road.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

bamenda to dos

what to do in Bamenda...
  1. bank (withdraw cash)
  2. post office (buy stamps)
  3. photovictory (develop 2 rolls, by new one)
  4. cyber cafe (email letter of rec and ask about computer)
  5. helvetas (inquire into water protection project)
  6. PC office (1/4 reports to APCD, letter to CD)
  7. jum'aah [friday prayer]
too long to-do lists (e.g. 9/01 & 7/02)! when will i ever learn? ce'st dommage. yet it was beautiful, the long ride back up from Bamenda. i'm back in Wum now. 8/16/2002

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

administrative grievances

10 past 1AM. latest i've been up on my own since . . . had a long apres-midi nap, rain and a visit from Todd earlier this evening. a little tired. should sleep. tomorrow will be busy. need to get my 1/4 reports done, a letter of recommendation for Paul and the GLOBE lectures. small-small...

had a long talk with Todd just now. PC Admin gripes, of course. around that letter from the CD. so here's the "specifics" he was asking for:
  • pre-service training (PST) interview... be frank about what the administration cannot or will not do for the new volunteers-to-be. be more transparent about posts and the requirements they may have.
  • general feedback (including in-service training (IST) and site-visits)... be forthcoming with information from past experience with PCVs and posts... don't just say this hasn't worked in the past, explain why it didn't work. give suggestions and explanations based on this.
  • open to "new" ideas and approaches... basically, get us off the need to know basis. share information. develop a mutual give and take, within the context of a supervisory relationship. explain why you do things this or that way, or why they're done at all.
Todd also got me thinking about any association with admin... WHY BOTHER? do your job. less frustration. more contribution. job satisfaction. we came for service and cross-culture, not paper-work and bureaucracy.

and i'm thinking about this EE position, NW Provincial Rep... WHY? travel, long not-so-fruitful but frustrating meetings and what else? i have done and will continue to do EE. someone else can attempt to coordinate. i'm unsure... maybe i'll keep an open mind through the first meeting.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

dreaming of the north

last night i dreamt of the North. that i joined the Sahel Agroforestry stage up there. i spoke to both the agro APCD and the CD about getting it all worked out. not my [education] APCD, though. i was gonna let him down easy.

the whole thing started when the agro APCD got 5 PCTs less than he expected. so i volunteered, of course... what a martyr! courtney and julie [both argo PCVs who've spent time in west africa], as well. i ended up being posted in Maroua [the Far North], in the city proper. as an agroforester!

anyway... i fell a little short of dreaming of the sun and sand. of the athan [call to prayer] floating on the desert wind. of hot tea and floor mats. of boubous and mud huts with grass roofs. Lord!... 2 years and i'm still dreaming of another place.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

things to do in yaounde


check out how wide the lines are in this new book!

in Yaounde. at the volunteer house. left Wum for the reason stated on the 'permission slip.' met Mike in Bamenda and found out the meeting wasn't on, though. got his 2 notes out of chronological order.

down here anyway... a few things to do around the office. i'll list them below. then what? dunno??? people going North. i'm not. Douala? Limbe? Littoral? will find out. hoping kristen will come down. i think she said she would. we go see.

To Do in Yaounde
-talk to PCMO [Peace Corps Medical Officer]
-talk to Boniface [secondary project coord.] about EE proposals and nursery school PTA
-talk to CD [country director] about Morocco and a visit to Wum
-talk to APCD [associate peace corps director] about Morroco and 1/4-ly report
-write lesson plan for EE newsletter
-research on PC Morocco programs (environment & youth?)
-change home address

Thursday, July 10, 2008


been a little while since i've written here. guess i’m adjusting to the Ramadan schedule. my APCD came around a week early for site visit. he and our PCMO [Peace Corps Medical Officer]. no big deal. house and yard were clean. mosquito net wasn’t up. the Doctor wasn’t overly concerned about that. said i should get it up though.

the APCD observed my Year 2 EE lesson on Biotic Interactions. no TELE-aids today, of course. no big deal. he said it went fine. it did. i tried to talk to him about some of my concerns but nothing came out or across clearly. GTTC issues. house issues. site issues. they’re not really ISSUES, just things i’d like him to know about. things a good volunteer “should” (?) be critical about. but, again, nothing came out right.

not surprising when i think about it, though. just finished writing a Peace & Freedom entry about it. the APCD only wants to hear that we’re happy, healthy, safe... and working to some extent. all else bounces off his shield of “i’m the APCD, the man with all the answers.” that’s not fair though, b/c i suppose that’s the case with Admin in general. only PCVL Mike has sat and listened enough (and empathized... i guess that’s the key) to allow me to vent with satisfaction. the rest of the PCVs too, of course.

it’s funny how we learn, with time out here, who to vent about things to. it’s sad that the people who listen are only the ones in our shoes and, in many ways, as helpless to do something about the status quo as us. so we learn to bite our tongues and keep all those things we want changed (no matter how trivial or grand) inside... we just say what they want to hear. the easy/simple/clean/comfortable answer. “no, all is well... no complaints.” God forbid we be dubbed complainers.

it’s sad b/c that’s exactly how things don’t get done. how they don’t get changed. strange how we adapt to so much of the culture. even the notion that you can’t change things... at least not with your voice/tongue/words. that’s too bad. b/c it’s a good thing in American society. all the higher-ups need critical, constructive and regular feedback. here it’s not thought of as feedback but complaints. and it’s not wanted and looked into but dealt with on the spot with some half-assed answer. “good, on to the next point.” bounces off people like a dud.

only once have complaints (no i’ll use grievances) been dealt with effectively... our 'gripe-session' at the end of stage with the CD. but you get the sense that he listened and took in the difficult, uneasy answers b/c he could do something about them. would be quick/easy for him to follow up and change things. so is everyone else who has grievances bounce off them just doing so b/c they really can’t change things? or don’t want to go through the trouble of getting the ball rolling to do so?

this has been a journal entry about grievances and the art of accepting/handling them. this journal entry itself is a grievance. not to some higher authority that can change things. but to/for myself. at least i listen. at least i let myself vent. at least i don’t attempt to answer every grievance even when i can’t. at least i can admit that some things cannot be easily answered or realistically/effectively/efficiently dealt with. but i listen and i let myself speak my mind.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

and afghanistan

also 10/14/2001:
i have one more thing to say about the trip to bamenda. about how our meeting with the CD went... basically, it just went. no surprises. nothing i hadn’t head before in terms of safety and security protocol, "being vigilant." we observed a moment of silence for the victims of September 11th... i had an urge to add “for the innocent victims in Afghanistan, too.” but not sure that would’ve been appropriate or appreciated. so i kept my peace.

spoke to the CD afterwards. tried to say something about how i felt. wasn’t sure what i wanted to say. it didn’t come out right. said something about wanting to vent. wanting to speak to him. to let him know how a person in my situation, with my vantage point, feels/thinks. i suppose i wanted to give him (someone in a position of authority) my 2 cents.

i believe it came out sounding like (and he saw it as) me wanting to be counseled. comforted. a “diversity issue” is what he labeled it. i guess it is in one sense, but it’s not just that... it’s also me no longer wanting to bite my tongue or keep my peace about thoughts, perceptions and actions that bother me. the stuff coming out of the radio and coming from his mouth, as well. but i sure didn’t convey that.

i want to have just one conversation with him. not so much as a PCV to CD. but i feel compelled to let him know where i, as an arab muslim peace corps volunteer, stand. i feel he needs to know. maybe he won't want to know... maybe he will. who knows?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

peace corps blues

quick note: here's more from my former peace corps director on the peace corps "losing it's edge" in assisting developing countries: NPR audio interview.

Monday, May 12, 2008

think again: the peace corps

In the eyes of Americans, no government agency better exemplifies the optimism, can-do spirit, and selfless nature of the United States than the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, it’s never lived up to its purpose or principles.

think again: the peace corps... an article in foreign policy magazine by my former country director, Robert Strauss. it's worth reading. like the recent NY Times op-ed, too many innocents abroad, he's extremely critical of the peace corps on a number of points: the quality of volunteers, their placement, the agency's lack of strategy, etc. and like the op-ed, this article has generated a range of responses from the peace corps community. some positive, some negative.

i won't respond to strauss' article here. suffice it to say that i think he's doing this with good intentions. i.e. wanting to see the agency change for the better. i recall him saying that he came back to the peace corps b/c he believed it could actually make a difference, and he wanted to be part of that. i believed him when he said that. this is what strauss has to say at the end of the article:

[Peace Corps] must go out and recruit the best of the best. It must avoid goodwill-generating window dressing and concentrate its resources in a limited number of countries that are truly interested in the development of their people. And it must give up on the risible excuse that in the absence of quantifiable results, good intentions are enough. Only then will it be able to achieve its original objective of significantly altering the lives of millions for the better.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


we ended tech training today with a PCV-run session on sustainable development. seems our CD (Country Director) really stresses this point – that we are, indeed, here as development workers and should see ourselves as such. we went into development projects (our primary and secondary projects, that is) and how to accomplish things... or not if the time just isn’t right or “ripe.”

it was one of those meetings when ideas brainstormed are filtered and integrated into a definition or statement, usually all inclusive and very general. today we attempted to define sustainable development in our context. didn’t feel all that strongly about what we came up with. did feel very good about listening to PCVs talk about their experiences.

caught myself daydreaming about one of those moments... a grassy field, light breeze, talking to a cameroonian colleague about the work we were up to. no stress, just sharing ideas with each other. one of those moments that sustain, no pun intended. not an epiphany. just connecting. 2 years.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

too many innocents abroad

please pardon the extended absence... it's been a while since i posted something. more than a month, actually. in that time an interesting op-ed came out in the NY Times that got quite a response from the peace corps community. like many of the people who responded to Too Many Innocents Abroad, written by my former peace corps director in cameroon, i think the piece was a little harsh.

that said, i also think CD strauss brings up a point worth considering about quantity versus quality of volunteers. one that i found myself struggling with at some point during my own service. i won't say much more about the op-ed piece, except that i wasn't all that surprised by it. i had a couple of extended conversations with CD strauss while i was in cameroon and this theme of quantity vs. quality came up even then.

the same theme comes up in my journals, as well, i think. but if i remember correctly, i approach it from a different and more PCV-centered perspective. i'll do my best to make note of it when it does come up. until then, let me start from the beginning...