Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hangin' in, in Cajamarca

So I guess it would be a good idea to talk a little about my recent struggles at site because development work isn't all puppies and roses and British Children running through daisies.

Last Friday night we had a meeting with the committee. My counterpart wasn't there, neither was Rosa, and some of other members were unable to attend as well. The meeting didn't go well, but let me back up because you have to understand how quickly things compounded and how much I felt ambushed in the midst of all this.

About a month and a half ago, my host father sat me down and explained to me that I would need to move out because they don't own their house. I thought, fine. We don't really have a connection, and they have financial and marital problems. So, I figured, it was about time to look for something else. Well about three weeks ago, my dad sat me down again and told me I could live with them, they didn't think they were going to have to move. Then five days ago they told me that I could stay, but they're both going away for the summer vacations. Peace Corps rules state that I need to be with a family for my security. And trust me, I like that rule. So that same night in the meeting of the CAID committee, the topic was brought up that we all needed to talk about my housing situation. Well, my host dad, who was upset about something else, stated out and out that I needed to move out of their house. That he only said that he would take me for three months and those three months are up and now I was the committee's responsibility. His sentiments came out of nowhere, but I can't say that I'm not ready to move. They're good people who have let money get the best of them and their marriage. It's unfortunate, but a reality of life in all of the world.

So as we were discussing my housing prospects one of the committee members said, "and when you find a good house you'll start turning out better work." Well this caught me. I have been opening the CAID everyday for a few hours, but I haven't been giving workshops or "talks" because I'm waiting for the committee to help me find someone who can work with me. Peace Corps policy (and any good development policy) says that I should be second place and that I shouldn't be doing all the work, let alone all the work alone. So I brought this to their attention, and in essence the five of them that were present told me that all of the problems of the CAID were my fault and that I need to work because I had the time and it was my responsibility. I got upset. Left the meeting, went home and cried, slept poorly and woke up the next morning, marched to Llamapampa to call my APCD in Lima and ask for a site change. Well, after a half an hour or so my APCD talked me down from the ledge. She supported me and my decision to not work for the CAID until we figured out a better working situation for me. She also had the foresight to send me away for awhile to decompress and process.

Hence, I went to San Miguel for a few days, received the support I needed, and am currently in Cajamarca hoping I'll get to talk with my counterpart about all that transpired in Catilluc in her absence. I'm worried about what she'll think, but I know there is work in Catilluc even if I'm not working with the CAID. There are a number of health initiatives that I could help the medical staff work on. Also, some members of my community have approached me about cocinas mejoradas (better kitchens) as they cook over lena (campfire) in their homes. Smoke everywhere. Long story short, I have hit a wall, but I think I'm going to try to find another way to work in Catilluc for awhile. I haven't given up on the CAID, but until the committee and I can reach an agreement about how the work will progress I will find other ways to be useful in Catilluc.

And one of the important lessons has been to separate the problem from those things I love about Catilluc. And the truth is, I don't want to live Catilluc, I have just reached a roadblock in my work. The people of Catilluc are good people, as is my host family and committee members. The problem is the mentality behind their desire to lay all the blame, responsibility, and work on someone else's shoulders. It's more a statement of their culture than it is about the "bad guy" role I am required to play for (hopefully, a short time). Wish me luck.


Julie said...

As I was reading your blog I could totally picture your reactions, which sucks, because what I was picturing was not happy Ari. I'm glad you're able to reflect upon it now and you're not upset anymore, but it sucks that you had to go through that in the first place. It totally reminds me of everything we've read about the Peace Corps and volunteering abroad and all that stuff--all the things we read and then think (during the good times, at least) that we're not going to experience. I guess it's all good in the end. I miss you!

NoraBee said...

Hey there, my name is Nora and I just moved to Cajamarca. I will be here a year, working with a microcredit NGO. I was a pcv in Guatemala a couple of years ago - would love to meet some pcv's here, get the inside scoop and have a churro buddy. Send me an email -
paz, nora

Tiffany in Peru! said...

Wait, whoa, hold on... there aren't any British children here?! What in the hell did I sign up for? Dude, I'm out.

Hang in there Ari, you are an awesome volunteer and your community will eventually come around. And if not, you can come to San Miguel.. three gringas isn't too much! :) Love you, Merry Christmas!