I'm realizing that I am a development worker who's not completely sold on development. Maybe I'm just disillusioned with where all the newfangledness of Western life has gotten us. Maybe I see here what we lack: simplicity, community, a non-commercialized, revered culture.I have a lot of time to read and this is one of the books that I came across, and in particular this quote rang true to me. For anyone that is more curious about what life is like here definitely check out this book. This was written by a Peace Corps volunteer in neighboring Cote D'Ivoire and the similarities are unbelievable...you can definitely get an inside look on what it is like (emotionally and physically) to be here.
Community in Africa still works...it's the glue in the face of catastrophes like AIDS and unrest. In the village no one falls through the cracks...I don't want to watch rituals crumble. I don't want to see children's games replaced by insipid images on a TV screen. I want no hand in Westernizing this village.
-- Nine Hills to Nambonkha, Sarah Erdman
It goes without saying that I have found harships beyond belief here, and before coming here I had done all of my necessary research. However, I have stumbled upon something so unexpected and unbelievably beautiful. In most representations of Africa (in the news and in any other media outlet) you hear and see images of starving children, warring tribes, sad and destitute people living in conditions that are completely intolerable. However, upon coming to Burkina Faso I have realized that these things exist, but not in the way that I would have imagined. These people are not sad and they aren't wasting away. I have found a vibrant and thriving culture that makes the best out of what it has...which in most cases isn't much. It is truly amazing to witness. I was having drinks with the English teacher at the local school, and he put it so eloquently in saying that African's are rich because they are poor. It seems such an odd thing to say, but after being here only 3 months I see how that is true. I expected to come into a society and culture that needed my help and assistance, but what I found was culture and a society that I need much more than they need me. They understand the true simplicity and importance in life and community. They can make something out of nothing...and that is something that we as a developed society have lost. And as the continent strives to become like its Western neighbors, I fear its identity will be swallowed whole...lost forever in a stream of 50 Cent T-shirts and R Kelly CD's--I can't tell you how troubling it is that the idols for African youth are 50 Cent and Nelly...carrying smoking guns no less. Alas, not much can be done about it I guess...the ball is rolling and there is no stopping it now. Although I feel priviliged to at least get a glimpse into this society before it becomes something entirely different. I believe in helping these people to better their own lives, but I come up against a wall. I don't want to be responsible for aiding in their modernization (and inherent loss of culture)...I don't want to help Westernize them no matter how badly they think they want to be. So, where is my role here? What is it that I want to do exactly? That is something that I am still searching for...
I know it is so easy to get caught up in life and never think about these things, and believe me...I am not solely criticizing the United States. Honestly, I have never felt more fortunate in my life to be from the US. We have opportunities there that cannot even be imagined here, and I am SOOOOO thankful. I just can't help but think that rather exporting our culture, we also need to be taking cues from some of our "less developed" neighbors. It is a lesson that I never could have learned without coming here...and something that I want to challenge you to think about...you don't have to be in Africa to do that (but feel free to visit anytime!)
Anyway, thanks for bearing with me there as I got on my soapbox...I promise to follow up with a funny post soon. Again...THANK YOU to all who have sent packages and letters!!! I received 7 packages today...and I can't wait to open them. Thank you so much for all of your support. Things are heating up here...and I am getting ready to bunker down for the 2 hottest months of my life...then the glorious rains come. Stay cool...Although from what I hearabout weather in the States right now that isn't hard to do...Talk soon.