Saturday, November 24, 2012
In all intended irony, community development is a lonely business.
The nature of the job is to drop oneself into an “undeveloped” community, and get to work; without being connected or established or possessing any knowledge of the way things are done.
The whole process of learning and adjusting and adapting that must take place before any doing can happen requires something precious: time. And so it is for a solid two-year stint that I’m signed up with the Peace Corps.
I don’t mean to start off this introduction to my journey on a negative note. And I’m not complaining, in fact, I love that I get to remain in one spot for two years with the mission of learning the ins and outs of life in this community. I just want to lay out the cold hard truth that sometimes, and sometimes more than sometimes, life here in Jerash, Jordan, is boring, or lonely, or seemingly ridiculous. Having been here for nearly a year, however, I’ve learned (and adjusted) to new ways of dealing with things like loneliness and frustration and boredom:
Problem No. 1: Loneliness. Solution — I show up at the neighbors’ house, unannounced, to take a nap and join in for lunch. This is not considered rude. It’s actually taken as a compliment.
Problem No. 2: Frustration. Solution — yell “Walla? WALLA?!” (translates as “Really? REALLY?!”) make the OK sign, throw my hands up in the air with a grunt, and then either settle into a chair or walk off. My choice.
Problem No. 3: Boredom. Solution — Clean something, doesn’t matter what: dishes, clothes, carpets, face, hair, etc. Any cleaning is a process requiring significant thought and strategy, and therefore takes up time. Al-Humdillallah! (Thanks be to God!)
Now that the issue of the rough side of life has been addressed, it is most likely that all you will ever hear about, from now on, is the good stuff. The great stuff. The stuff that connects all the rough days together and keeps me excited to be living and working in such a dynamic country.
My assignment is classified under the term “Youth Development”, which indicates that my primary focus should be anyone under 30, preferably over the age of 12.
So I work at a center where my constant and expected activities include teaching English to preschoolers and working alongside some inspiring middle-aged women.
The non-constant side of work is just as important though, for this is where I may find myself leading an English class with young adults that turns into a debate on gender roles, or I am struck with amazement at the creativity of high school girls during a drawing exercise at my summer camp on critical thinking.
This aspect of my work requires significant planning and flexibility, and it is where I am learning the value of having so much time to work with.
The center itself is tucked in the midst of several small villages in the northern part of Jordan.
Yes, much of Jordan is considered desert, and yes, sufficient water supply is an ever-growing issue. But I am lucky, for the village in which I live is surrounded by tree-covered hills.
On the walk home, the view of distant hills before me is strikingly similar to what I would see looking out at the Blue Mountains from the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Milton-Freewater.
Which, of course, can make me miss home. But it is also a reminder to me of how much this little community has thrown open its doors and arms to welcome me in, allowing me to find a sense of belonging here, in this new yet not-so-foreign place for the time that I am here.
Milton-Freewater native Ruby Mitchell is in the midst of a Peace Corps assignment in rural Jordan. Find her blog at ilbintfiiurdunn.wordpress.com.