Not sure whether I should be committing this article to blog, but obviously I have!
And I have done so in the interests of recording my true feelings and thoughts as I continue on my VSO journey – and not just the good bits. Also because I think and hope that anybody reading this who may be considering taking up an overseas placement as a volunteer, will gain from it a sense of the realities of volunteering that could, I suppose affect anyone – so here goes!
For the past week I’ve been designing a series of training workshops for secondary schools. However, I don’t know if I will ever deliver them, and if I were to, who to, where, and increasingly, why? My original placement description has been found to be unworkable in practice for a number of reasons. For a start, it would have meant at least four hours a day spent on a Nigerian bus getting to and from the ten schools allocated to me. I have tried it over a one week period and, as previous blogs will have conveyed, the experience is not one I would recommend . Its rather painful on the bum muscles.
Having had all this time over Christmas to think and ponder , I am still uncertain as to whether this is really what I should be doing at my time in life. Baby Jesus would have been nearly a week old by now, 2010 years ago, and probably out of nappies, eating solids and discussing the meaning of life with church elders, whilst I can’t seem to get started on a placement which I should be completely comfortable about delivering.
And yet I am having anxieties. I had been getting over the ‘travel-to-work-in-this-vehicle-at-your-own-risk’ scenario, the daily grind of food shopping on foot, of smiling and waving enthusiastically at every adult and child who calls ‘Oyibo’ at you in the street, of the constant noise of generators, motorbikes, beeping, bleeping car horns, the grinding of heavy machinery used next door in the process of making bread, the thudding of woodchopper-man, the evangelical praise and song from a dozen churches delivered through ear-bashing speakers to the entire community, the incessant crowing of cockerels who don’t seem to have heard or grasped that dawn does not last all day and that after about 9am it would be a decent thing to do to shut up! My nostrils had been sort of getting accustomed to the daily assault from plumes of smoke from garbage fires and vehicle exhausts, the whiff of something foul lurking in street drains, the burning of rubber tyres for no other reason than to get rid of them. I had almost resigned myself to not being able to enjoy a peaceful walk in the countryside, watching birds, admiring trees, feasting my eyes on distant hills and feeling a fresh breeze on my skin.
But the past two weeks has been spent ‘on vacation’ in a fairly well-off suburb, house-sitting for a friend who is on leave in the UK. This, I feel now, has softened me up, set me back, spoiled me, if you will, and soon I must attempt to rebuild my inner fortress. Not that I am ungrateful – far from it. I had been suffering greatly from footy-deprivation and the past couple of weeks have been wonderful in reconnecting me to the beautiful game – Liverpool results not withstanding.
It’s also hard not to be envious of other volunteers in other parts of the world who we trained with who have been enjoying beach parties, visiting far flung places, absorbing wonderful cultural experiences etc. I am genuinely pleased for them, of course, but it makes me wish our placement wasn’t so hard to endure day to day.
So it’s hard to push away thoughts of an early return, especially when we know we could be helping our family through a difficult winter – and saving ourselves a load of money.
There, I’ve said it! The ‘R’ word. Maybe I’ve got it out of my system now. Maybe having verbalised it and accepted that it is a realistic option, I can be more philosophical about things out here. We are not in a prison, after all, and we are not prisoners. But a sense of duty, instilled in me from an early age, is a hard burden to bear.
Now that I have given myself licence to moan and probably embarrassed myself to millions – well tens – of people (OK , so there’s 9 of you!), and hopefully having given myself a bit of a talking to, I must now welcome in the New Year. Time to get over it and start focusing on the positives! (Someone please remind me I wrote that, when I revert to a morbid state of mind somewhere down the line!)