What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Heart of the Dilemma

I guess what it really all comes down to is that I am up against a seious dilemma. I came here to spend three months walking through the country learning, and looking for opportunities to help facilitate what people here want. I also wanted to raise awareness of life here in Sierra Leone and Africa in general. The last part I feel I have completely done at least for the people reading this.

As for the first part, I havn't walked anywhere. I havn't even taken my hammock out or set up my stove yet. This was going to be my way of meeting people and learning. If I don't get some of this in I will feel as though I would be coming home defeated, or somehow having not having fulfilled my purpose. As for the identifying opportunities, I have identified more than could possibly be feasible to work on now. So in this sense the trip is a smashing success.

The issue that makes all this a dilemma is that I have realized that there is little I can do from here under these current conditions. I have no funding, I have no resources to pull from, I do not have an established team here, and I do not have functional connectivity here to the information that could help me circumvent most of these issues. I am prepared to walk, not to make a business run and excel. My partners here think I should go back to the US early and set things up there, including funding. I see exactly where they are coming from. I have wanted to stay here and get things here set up. But realistically this could take months of unpredictabilty that I am both not prepared for and not so certain I would last through. The machines "should" come in January, right when I should leave.

So what do I do? The cost of an early trip home is a lot, hundreds of dollars that I would have to put on a credit card. And I still want to get some hiking in. I have to at least get up Mount Bintumani - the tallest mountain in West Africa. I also have the possibility of a grad student from UCONN that has been contemplating coming in mid December to join me on the hike - which at this point would be a very welcomed scenario. I am realizing that this would be a better excursoon with a partner to hike with. But the social scientist in me just liked the methodology of the single hiker walking into a village!! Reality.

So again, what do I do? If I leave early I will feel like I've cut myself and my trip short in some way. Almost like I've given up. But at the other end, I've learned so much, and actually can probably do more in the long run if I head back to the states and make some things happen there that will benefit things here. There also is the frustration deep down inside that I feel this was getting the best of me. Logic can make you feel like you're making a good decision, but the heart and the soul don't lie. What if I'm just trying to find a way out of this scenario right now?

I feel that I have made such a sacrafice to come here, even to the point of accepting in the back of my head that I may not come back. I have given a piece of me to be here to try to help people that say they want help and opportunities. But at the same time they do not seem willing to make simple changes or alterations, nevermind sacrifices, in their daily lives. I don't mean to sound like a martyr, but as David (a Brit expat that works here in a cushy position) came out of nowhere and said to Lindsay and I yesterday that he would NEVER do what we were doing here. Wouldn't even think about it for a second, NOT ONE (his emphasis). Yet I am here doing it, on my own, with just some cash in my pocket. Most people wouldn't do this, and I'm not doing it for myself, but for other people. I guess I'm just frustrated that these "other people" don't seem to appreciate it. I know, different cultures. But don't tell me you want help if you're not willing to partake.

Case in point: I said to myself this morning, I will ask them to get prices on the other bricks in the market and what we could charge for our bricks. I was very adament about the need for this and about the urgency I thought it had. I made a mental note, if they come back they are serious, if they don't then I should start thinking in different directions. It is 9 o'clock at night here, Kaps just got in. I asked him how his day was. He answered about random other things. Then I asked what he'd heard about brick prices. He gave me some blah blah story that didn't add up and kept changing. He'd talked to someone, but then was on the internet. He said something about talking to the machine company. No then it was the brick company he talked to, but he would find out more tomorrow. Oh, so you spoke with someone? So how much did they sell bricks for? Oh, well I blah blah blah... He didn't REALLY call anyone. And Yapo said he would call me later and let me know. I spoke to him at 12, and nothing since. Their entire tone and demeanor has changed since yesterday. Like they realized this was going to be hard. Why should I spend my day fighting with a computer virus, and all the other things life here is for an opotu, when the people here are not willing to change their daily agenda enough to help their helper? If I do all the work, how am I "helping". And if I'm not helping, what am I doing but telling?

So do I stay and see unpredictable projects through? Do I leave and go on my hike? Do I get an earlier flight and hit Mount Bintumani while I wait? No matter what happens I'll feel defeated unless I stay the whole time I'm supposed to. But sometimes it is in defeat that we find our path to victory...

"Rather than advance an inch it is better to retreat a yard... ...when to great forces oppose each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield." - Lao Zi

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