Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why I Like You (Yes, YOU!)

I’m still young in The Aid World. I don’t even have a salary (yet!). I have worked in Senegal for 2 months, in The Gambia for 7 months, in Northern Uganda for 4 months, and now in Congo for 6 and a half. I’ve been bouncing.

All those positions before, in West Africa (intern) and in Kitgum (research associate/student) – I signed on for them thinking of them as non-permanent. I thought of them as A Thing To Do for A Little While. I made friends, but I never worried about making friends, because after all my real forever friends were back in America. I did my jobs, and I loved my jobs, but I didn’t think about Career Moves or The Future.

When I moved here to Congo it was different. Even though I’m still a volunteer, I don’t imagine myself that way. I imagine myself as a colleague in this organization. (Most of the time) the organization I work for treats me (more or less) as an employee. My friends back home are still my friends and still love me. They are getting married and giving birth to mortgages and babies. (Are they leaving me behind?) Me, I am getting ready to bounce to another spot on this globe. (Am I leaving them behind?)

Choosing This Life, The Things I Get:
  • I get to work.
  • I get to be part of a team.
  • I get to see some really bad things and thus some really good things. The really good things are often the responses and resilience and love that flares up in reaction to the really bad.
  • I get to meet really really neat impressive people. I get to sit around dining room tables with them and discuss Aid Work and Ideas and Fears. I get to go to parties with them and yell conversations across loud dance floors and strobe lights and feel as if I am accepted by them, One of Them, one of these really really neat impressive people.
  • I get to work, in theory and somewhat in practice, towards protecting children. I get to talk with fellow women about what They Need, about how I can Stand Beside Them (if they want) and help them in their fight (if they desire help) for a safer world. I get to feel Good about my Intentions and I have people beside me to help me guide my Good Intentions toward helpful action.
  • I get to go to people’s homes, my colleagues here, and be greeted so warmly, be the recipient of such hospitality, and learn small words in local languages and learns small pieces of customs and cultures that are not my own. 
  • This is less important, but also: I get to buy beautiful jewelry in airport lounges and fly on tin planes chasing the Congo River to its origins.
  • I get to live in a breathtakingly beautiful spot on Earth. Someone makes my bed for me every morning and brews my coffee at lunchtime. I have a generator which (sometimes) works and water that (often) flows from taps and access to cars and drivers, and these things combine to mean that, in reality, I lead a softer life than the pharaohs of ancient Egypt and the emperors of ancient Rome.
  • I get so much.
The Things I Give Up:
  • Time with family. My mom has recently promised that she will get a computer camera so we can web chat. My dad reads this blog. But my college roommate lives down the street from her parents and gets to see them every week. I am jealous of her for that.
  • Friendships. I will leave Congo soon and go somewhere else. My friends will stay here and then they will go somewhere else. Wherever I end up, I will meet new friends to call when I need companionship or to joke around. I will keep in touch with some people from here (you can never predict who) and others I will not see again (that’s hard). But I am giving up having the same group of girlfriends to get brunch with on Sunday mornings. I am missing out on having guy friends that you get to know so well that over time they turn into brothers. It’s a whole, whole lot to give up.
  • I give up continuity.
Which Brings Us To YOU:
That is part of why I like all you guys out there. No matter where I will be living in one month time, you will still be here, here in the same place, inside the tubes and wires of the interwebs, writing and reading and thinking and caring and partnering and arguing and getting mad and getting snarking and rethinking and joking and theorizing and chatting.

It’s a small bit of permanence and stability for me, when I get lonely thinking about all the work to be done and all the Social Change to be made. And when I get sad thinking about what I am giving up, you faceless voiceless people out there make me feel a little less alone.



s said...

rachel,the important things in all this is that you have given up good life back home to serve humanity.what can be compared to course you do make friends where ever one is and you move on.Thats the way life is,and earlier one accepts is ,happier he should not have any regrets at the end of the day of missing out anything

mary said...

creative post, as always - i continually look forward to seeing what you're saying about what you're seeing, thinking, and feeling.

Rachel said...

Thank you so much, mary! :o) That's really sweet.

Carly said...

It is difficult to leave your family behind, and your friends who start growing up and having babies. And though it feels like sometimes their lives are moving along so fast, home is always the same whenever you go back. The revolving door of people you work with can be trying, but at the end of the day, you amass a collection of wonderful friends all over the world. And that's a pretty great perk of the job!

Rachel said...

Hi Carly!!! Thank you... and you're right, friends all over the world is FUN! And thank god for skype & facebook...

And you're also right, every time I go home babies might have grown bigger but my friends are the same...!