i want to preface this blog by saying this is not to offend anyone...there are a number of wonderful and incredible things happening around me...but today...today was difficult...and i needed to share.
in relation to my last post i would like to expand on some things i am struggling with today...things that have always been present...but are boldly shouting at me in this moment. peace corps is an amazing experience overall. the ability and expectation of embedding yourself into a culture that is not your own. of working to help create change from the inside out. of building lifelong connections and friendships that root in ways you never imagined. but no matter how deeply you integrate into your community and your workplace...you will never be of this culture. there are ways and means that will always allude you...and on days like today...haunt you. when i signed up for this journey i had an entire two years planned out in my mind. i knew what i would be learning, what i would be teaching, and what i would most likely struggle with. all of those presumptions were off by a million miles. here i am...a year and a half into my service...and i am continually struggling with the same social issues i have been since day one...okay...that's not fair...in the beginning i was definitely on my honeymoon with saint lucia and she could do no wrong...so let's say since month four.
i think one of the greatest reasons peace corps is still in saint lucia 50 years later is to address the social issues that everyone is talking about but no one is doing anything about. today, the problem is...how can i be an agent of change as an outsider to a world i don't understand with issues i vehemently disagree with?
today i was on the bus when this whole dialogue started in my mind. i was watching things pass out the window when i noticed a group of guys sitting on the block. i see guys sitting on the block all the time. twenty to thirty somethings with no job, no education, nowhere to go...nothing to do. this isn't a new site for me. but today for some reason it struck me that i will never understand the issues those guys face. i will never understand what it's like to wake up day after day with nowhere to go but the stoop down the street and nothing to do but smoke herb all day and watch things pass you by. i can listen...if they wanted to share...but i will never understand. i am here as a peace corps volunteer. with a masters degree...that granted i have yet to pay for...but it's mine. no one will ever take my education away from me. and i worked for that so i am in no way discounting the importance and power of that education...but i will never be able to understand the plight of those guys..sitting all day. content with watching the cars and people and life pass them by.
when i got to work one of the girls was passing me on the road...i asked her where she was going as i knew she was supposed to be in school. she told me she was going home. when i arrived i asked if they knew she was on the road and explained what she had said...it was a joke. no harm done...but it turned into an issue of disrespect. and therefore she was reprimanded and asked to apologize. i don't really understand what she did wrong...but due to the difference in culture didn't want to overstep and insert my opinion.
later in the day i faced the dilemma of another girl who has left home because of the incredible abuse she has to endure from her mother. this time...she left because she feared for her life. she has been the recipient of all forms of abuse...heinous abuse...but she is still in her mother's home. and at this point i realized...i have no leeway here...i have no idea what to do or where to direct her. the only thing i can do is let her know i am there...share with her what i know...and pray that the center supports her in her need for safety and security. but it got me to thinking about my deepest issue here...personally. the violence masked as discipline.
i cannot go a day without seeing a child being yanked, pulled, hit, kicked, knocked down...in the name of discipline. discipline for things as simple as being a child. being a normal child who does what children do. it's beating. it's what people do here. but i don't understand it. and i will never understand it. and when i hear lucians talk about how they don't understand why the country is turning so violent...why youth are so aggressive and quick to act out...i have to purse my lips...and not share my thoughts. violence is a cycle. if you learn it at home you will repeat it out of the home. and i look at this beautiful girl who has the world ahead of her and she has been beaten down. given the message over and over again that she's worthless. no good. unloveable. and then when her mother comes back with affection...she gets confused. and then she perpetuates this cycle in her life...through promiscuity...living what she's been taught. and then she is beaten for that.
there is no discourse. there is no deep delving into the issues at hand. there is violence. and anger. and it's becoming...at least for today...incredibly hard to swallow. i love the career path i have chosen. the work that i am doing here assures me that this is the work i have been called to do. but days like today...i wish i had a different perspective...a different group of kids. or...now that i think about it...i wish more that i could expose these kids to what "normal" feels like. what it's like to be heard and appreciated and loved and respected. what it's like to be disciplined in a way that makes sense...a way that you can grow and learn from. discipline from love not anger or fear.
i know i will not make the change i sought when i first came. i will not change the structure or the social setting. i will not change people's speech or belief in corporal punishment. but i hope...i pray that i will help these kids change the way they see themselves. and change the cycle that has taught them they are less than and worth nothing more than aggression. i pray that they will choose a different route than the one presented to them so that they may be the agent of change everyone talks about but does nothing about.