Monday, March 9, 2009

The promised update

I arrived in Philadelphia a day early, and met some of the people with whom I was going to Madagascar. In particular, my roommate, Annie, is absolutely wonderful. So are the other people that I've really gotten to know, so far.

This morning, we were excited. Annie and I went to the hotel's gym for an hour or so. Incidentally many thanks have been called down upon Bert today, for teaching me to use the gym equipment and structure a workout, because it was the best part of my day, and I wouldn't have been able to deal as well with the rest of it without that this morning. When we got back, we checked the Facebook group's wall, and a current PCV in Madagascar had posted a message to the effect of "You're not going to come here." We minorly wigged out, and then decided that lots of rumors happened often, so not to worry. We had lunch, came back, and went to the meeting.

The Associate PC Director, the woman in charge of placement, got up at the meeting and said "Hello. I'm Rosie (I forgot her last name), and I am the APCD in charge of placement. I came up here specially for this meeting today, and am bringing the best from my department to you all here. Unfortunately, I will not be able to take your best back with me to them, because I'm here to tell you that we are not going to put you on the plane to Madagascar tomorrow. You're not going."

It was a shock. It was uplifting to see how, in the question-and-answer session that followed, pretty much everyone was calm, everyone was courteous and to-the-point, and everyone was focused on dealing with the issue. It was the first indication of what we might all have in common that makes us possible PCVs. So, that was good. It was better than good--it was amazing and self-affirming. One of those instances where you don't feel like the only member of your species.

The dealbreaker, in terms of what the Peace Corps felt comfortable supporting us in doing, was that the Malagasy military no longer supports the president. They have stated that they will no longer intercede to quell riots, or to protect people or their property. There is tension between the Armed Presidential Forces and the Gendarmes (military), and the current PCVs are on standfast. Again. Rajoelina is under UN protection after a botched arrest attempt, which to me seems odd, because he's an insurgent trying to oust an ostensibly democratically elected leader. When was the last time the U.N. supported that? Maybe I'm missing something. Anyway, they're not evacuating the current PCVs because they're all safest at their sites at this point, but adding >30 untrained people to the mix just increases the danger and liability. Especially because we'd all be in the same place.

So, we're not going. The placement agency is working on nothing but our files, and I'm planning to call tomorrow or Wednesday to find out what they can do for/with me. I'm a little mixed up about my priorities now, because what I'd like to do most is go to Madagascar. The location has wormed itself into my heart, largely because of the amazing biodiversity, but also because of the wonderfully funny language and the culture and and and...but it may not be wise, plausible, or even possible to try to get into the next staging group for the country. At this point, that could take years. For a lot of personal reasons, and one large one in particular, I'd rather very much not go to Western Africa. Burkina Faso is a wonderful country, but I want to go nowhere near it, because (a) I'm tired of having to explain that I'm not Just Like anyone, and (b) I have too many painful memories of being there. That's not really fair to Mali, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Mauritania, Cote d'Ivoire, or Guinea, but when you have a known emotional hangup, in my opinion it's best to be up front about it. Peace Corps is going to be challenging enough without trying to deal with that particular can of worms at the same time. I hope nobody from PC reads this and thinks that I'm inflexible, because I think this falls into the category of a "conflicting interest" which is not unfair to have. On the third hand, I'd like to speak French. I'd love to speak French, actually, and I have several options of things I could do over the summer, and one is volunteering on an organic CSA. So, I haven't gotten my priorities straightened out, but the next step is to figure out where/when I want to go, and with which priorities, and call the placement office and talk to them.

Tomorrow, I fly back to Colorado. I hope this gives a more complete idea of what's going on.

1 comment:

Tamara Hudson said...

I'm really sorry to hear you guys are not going... I can imagine how horrible you all must feel right now. Thanks, though, for the update. Best Wishes.