Friday, February 15, 2013
Sometimes Benin tears my heart out and stomps all over it with soccer cleats, like a meat tenderizer. Sometimes I wish I didn't feel so much. This afternoon, I was approximately 30 seconds away from packing up and leaving after watching - and stopping - a mentally challenged child being beaten. Thank God for a few of my fellow volunteers on the receiving end of my text messages and for my dad, who assured me that yes, my being here is worth it. I know I'm making a difference here. I hope that doesn't sound pompous, but when your job is to identify malnourished kids, it's easier to see. Since October 1st, I've weighed 953 babies. I'm proud of that, especially since exactly none of them would have been weighed otherwise and the underweight dozens among them would have gone undetected. Dozens of moms wouldn't now be adding peanut butter to their soy-based porridge. Hooray for that.
I'm super thankful for all the tangible things I can do and track here, like those 953 babies, or the 44 radio shows I've written in French, or the 7 meetings of my new English club (with an average attendance of 5 students - a small but motivated group). What's difficult is not seeing apparent change in attitudes regarding things like (what we Americans see as) mistreatment of women, children, and animals. Even more difficult is when you start to question whether or not "cultural differences" excuse such behavior. Just as the "Volunteer Emotional Continuum" (a real sheet of paper) tells me, this is a normal reaction. So even though almost every second year volunteer last year looked like they were coasting, I don't think the real work of Peace Corps, which includes a doozy of an emotional rollercoaster, or the so-called "conditions of hardship" will stop until the plane takes off. Maybe it won't ever stop; knowing what I know now about the ACTUAL hardships (as opposed to First World Problems) my Beninese colleagues and neighbors face on a daily basis, could I ever go back to a normal desk job? Probably not, and deep down, beneath my current sunburn, sweat, and griminess, I'm almost certain that's for the best.