Over the past year as a Peace Corps Volunteer serving on an island in the Atlantic I have had more time for self-reflection than I have ever wanted. We constantly judge ourselves and compare ourselves to our counterparts and colleagues. I have been in this self-reflective mode heavily over the past few months, but never to the point of depression. Recently, I have come to a conclusion that changes my attitude, my demeanor, and my overall mental health; I don’t care what other volunteers are doing. Don’t get me wrong, as the administrator for the country’s PCV newsletter, and as a friend I care what other's projects are, and I wish them nothing but success. However, personally it doesn’t matter to me. My service, my life, and my projects are mine, and I don’t care about other people’s integration and sustainability of their project (both classic Peace Corps words that tend to turn us all into the egotistical and judgmental volunteer). I do what I do, because I can. I have actually found some peace and no longer see the need to judge my success as a volunteer to what others are doing. I can’t increase agricultural production by 200% because we don’t have crops, I can’t stop malaria, because we don’t have it. I am forced to focus on projects that wouldn’t exactly be my first choice, but have become surprisingly successful.
|A year to the day I returned to Regina's for some pizza|
I spent two weeks in America back in July and, as many of you have pointed out, I have fallen silent on my blog. I think there are two reasons for this. One, I think that after seeing everyone (I assume that my readers are mostly people I know) that reads my blog, I didn’t see the point in writing to you about what I have been doing when you already knew. And two, I have been really busy trying to get my life back to some semblance of “normal”. The day I got back to my island after several plane delays in Texas, Boston, and Cape Verde (about 19 hours in total of delays) I was on my way out to a small islet, Curral Velho, to assist a Cape Verdian retrieve and replace the GPS locators on the Cape Verde Shearwater. The islet is just off the coast of the southernmost tip of Boa Vista. Curral Velho is protected nationally and inaccessible without written permission from the Cape Verde government, because it is the nesting site for many endemic (only occur here) birds. I spent a week on this islet with Samir collecting blood samples, wingspan length, weight, and of course changing the GPS units. It was an incredible experience; we spent our days fishing for lunch and dinner and our nights with the Shearwaters collecting data. I had some of the best conversations that I can remember having in months. A week alone on a tiny piece of land with one other person and you begin to understand each other intimately. Samir is an amazing person who has real potential to be a leader in the science community of Cape Verde.
|Replacing the GPS band on a Shearwater|
There seems to be something about the year mark in a PCV’s service that makes us feel uneasy. I am definitely not the only volunteer that I know of who seems willing to move on. I enjoy my life and time here, but there is only so much exploring and learning that can occur on such a small piece of land in the middle of such a large ocean that lies in between such large continents. The island I live on could fit inside of Bryan-College Station, home of Texas A&M University, if you are unaware of this area, “google it”. However, I am not too worried about all of this; I’m still doing my thing, regardless of my “feelings”. This little piece of land that I call home has also been experiencing major water problems the past few months, but the giant all-inclusive resorts still have that sparkling swimming pool, thanks RIU for giving us the shaft. The tourists continue to be ignorant and get served by locals whom are underpaid to begin with, only to return to their homes and be slapped once more with a water shortage. I had a discussion with an English guy here recently who sells luxury condos and time-shares on the beach that was originally a protected area until the government decided they could use the money. I don’t blame the English guy, it’s not his fault the land was sold, but he tried to convince me that he was practicing sustainable tourism and development! Here is a definition for those of you who are unfamiliar, “sustainable tourism is tourism attempting to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate future employment for local people”. This is a personal opinion, but I don’t think “luxury” suites and condos fall in that category. The word luxury itself is gluttonous. On top of all of this, I am tired of environmental organizations spreading rumors about one another, and I am tired of the stale mate style of conservation that seems to come with this. I get it, there are personalities that clash, and there are strained relations, but they are all fighting for the same thing… in different ways, but still fighting to conserve any way they know how. I guess I am just tired, in good spirits, just tired of constantly hearing rumors and bickering, pettiness really.
On a brighter note, the women’s basketball project that some of you know about is coming together nicely. I received funding through the United States Embassy of Cape Verde for jerseys, balls, cones, and other miscellaneous training materials. However, I am still looking for the money to get some proper shoes and for at least two activity days in which myself, Gilson, and Huberta and the rest of the basketball team will raise awareness of the women’s rights issue here in Cape Verde. I constantly find this to be one of my biggest struggles with culture here in Cape Verde. Not that we have women’s rights figured out in America, because we don’t. However, I think that the issue is seriously lacking publicity here. I have found myself highly motivated by this issue, and it helps to keep me focused on something that I can actually help, maybe.
I would like to give a shout out to my mother, Paula Acre, today is her birthday. She is wonderful person and an even better mother. I love you mom.