Well Hello Blogity blog blog.
Waste of a year or lesson learned? Well, I am an optimist (and would never admit PC being a waste) so I guess I will vote for the latter. Lesson learned. But what lesson did I learn? Life isn’t fair? Some people suck? Shit happens? I hope that wasn’t the point.
So what had happened waaaas… but I think this tale will be like a movie ‘based’ on a true story, no I won’t have someone much more attractive play me and make it more dramatic with a spin to make me look good… but the PC version will only tell you what well, is PC.
It is no secret the organization I was assigned to as my primary project was not rainbows and butterflies. It was a very low functioning org (most PCV orgs are) with little work ethic and little interest in improving. So, why would they apply for a PCV? We are supposed to make the org function better and train people, in turn, making people have to actually do their jobs. Ah, there is the rub, the part where they are supposed to work. Well, my ‘counterparts’ were not shy at telling me they did not want to work. Oh great, this will be fun.
We all come to Peace Corps with expectations, PC warned us to ‘not have expectations’ but I think that is stupid. We have to have expectations, of ourselves, of others, of work, living situations, we are human- we just do. After getting in country I began to understand why they want us to have no expectations, because we would have to lower them. Well, I did, and I did it with a smile and set realistic goals when I arrived at my site at the end of March, 2011.
So, what happened? Why am I no longer working with the org? Why did I have to leave the community, even though I had established work with the schools and clinic?
Well, I was threatening.
Around October/November the Risk Management of South Africa along with Dept of health, and Dept of social development began an investigation looking into allegations of fraud and embezzlement. Around this time was a noticeable change in attitude with the managers, now not only did they not want to work but they were, well, mean. The project manager suspended a caregiver who she thought might have called the department, management was purposefully hiding things from me and the best part this all coincided with a campaign I just started. Sweet.
I had been in regular contact with my APCD (pretty much my PC supervisor) for months, she knew about the problems with the org and the general attitude of my counterparts. After every meeting or discussion I had with her it usually ended with me saying “but it’s ok, ill be fine.” It would be far too much to go into what exactly happened at the org and what people said, but my APCD and I decided it would be best if I started working at the clinic. I established a relationship with them, and it was agreed I would work there a couple days a week doing health education and plan campaigns (yay, what I actually want to do!). After pulling teeth at the org I had three small projects to do there, it would take maybe 2-3 days a week there to complete them in a ‘sustainable’ manor.
I tried to go over my schedule with the management, and well, they flipped their shit. All of a sudden I was on the defense and tried my best to explain why I do not need to spend every day there. First of all, I am a community volunteer, so, I work for the community. I also had almost nothing to do at the org, and after a year of trying to find things to do with little results it was obvious I needed to branch out more.
Cut to a couple days later and Kori comes to my site. She met with the management, and I was glad she came. I was optimistic about the meeting and thought we would get some things clear and maybe set a schedule and work plan. I of course I felt like I could do this with the org by myself, but it was past that point. I knew my org wasn’t thrilled with my plans of working so closely with the clinic, but I really didn’t think anything was seriously wrong. After sitting outside of the office where Kori was meeting with the managers for an hour a half I began to worry. What were they talking about? What possible could they have to talk about?
Well, they were explaining to Kori how I am horrible and they want me to leave.
Pretty much the deal is, they think I was involved in reporting them to the department, and now they were getting in trouble and wanted me to leave. It was of course not said that plainly, they first wanted to paint a horrible picture of me. They told Kori some pretty horrible lies about me, which I later had to sit through accusations and try and defend myself. Luckily for me, Kori knows me and some of the accusations were so ridiculous it was easy to see they were lying. The two best parts were 1) the reason they think I was involved in reporting them is because a letter was written to the department in English, so it was obviously me (REALLY?) and 2) they would say these things to me, and asked Kori to not tell me certain things they said (mainly the part about me turning them in) but after it was clear I was not going back to the org she spilled the beans.
This led to me fearing my PC future and questioning, well, everything. The first thoughts that went through my head were leaving the clinic, girls club, and host family. Then I immediately thought about projects I had planned with a volunteer near me- then of course the horrible worry about what PC staff will now think of me.
Just like any situation I have been reflecting on what was said, and everything I have done the last year. Was I too pushy with them? Am I mean? Intimidating? Culturally insensitive? What if I had done something different? Did I fail?
Well, I had to answer all of those questions to head PC staff, which was tons of fun. It is no secret I sometimes care a little toooooo much about what others (especially authority) think of me, but how do I prove I am not a bad person? Shouldn’t they have to prove the accusation? Innocent until proven guilty? Well, I recognize the PC staff has a job to do, and they need to make sure I am not a horrible person and even though at one point I felt as though I was not being supported by PC- I am still here- so I guess overall it is understood that the org had a claim that was false which led to many other false claims.
Oh yea, and NO I did NOT write the letter or ever talk to department.
So I headed to Pretoria, then I went off to facilitate some lessons to SA25 PST (the new group who is training now), and two weeks later it is today and I am back at site. I should be packing right now, but that does not at all sound appealing. The GREAT news is, I ALREADY have a new site!!! This must be one of the fastest turn overs for PCSA, two PCVs just left Pretoria after two months of living at the backpackers because they needed a site change! I am very lucky that this crappy situation happened when it did and VERY thankful to a couple PCVs who pretty much pushed for me to get this site.
I am taking over a site outside of Phalaborwa in Limpopo, this area is described as “the surface of the sun” by a fellow PCV who lives near there, but I don’t care. I am STOKED! It is currently the site of a PCV who is finishing up her two years there, and although she is not done she thought I would be a great fit so she did me a favour and talked to Peace Corps. There are still a lot of logistics to work out, but I think I will be moving later this week and we will be there together for a little while (couple weeks? Days? I don’t know) then she will move. I am sad to leave certain things, not only the things I listed previously but also the three PCVs near me and our Saturday castle dates and the friend, Leah, who is a missionary who works around here. But bottom line, this site is crap and I need to get out. I don’t know too much about my new site but from what I have heard it sounds wonderful, as in, there is a functioning board of directors.
I am also very grateful of all of my friends and family, I have a wonderful support network that I am able to cry/yell/laugh with them. It is also really amazing how much I rely on my fellow PCVs, although we have not been together that long I have found such amazing people and would have probably freaked out (even more) if I didn’t have friends telling me I am not a horrible person and I will get another site. We have a lot of time in our heads here in Peace Corps and it is a great to learn and grow, but sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. I am still reflecting on what happened and trying to figure out why and making sure I make the best of it.
I haven’t told anyone is the community, but I am sure the past two weeks the project manager has said something, and I am sure I was not talked about it the best light. Tomorrow I will go into the org and clinic, pack up my stuff and say my goodbyes. Really not sure what I am going to say, should I give my side of the story to the caregivers I work with or just let it go? Should I tell management exactly what I think of them or just bite my tongue? And I am REALLY not looking forward to talking to my host family, that won’t be fun. And I can’t help but think how unfair it is I get to leave and go to a new site, but the caregivers at the org have to stay and all the of the plans for the kids for the next year are just, not going to happen.
So again, I wonder what this past year really was all about. Oh the emotions.