Watching an unforeseen evangelical service unfold in front of my office today, on International AIDS day, I smirked at myself for having been so confident. Obviously I still have no idea what’s going on in my community, let alone what people think or whether they’re just humoring me. The AIDS/HIV workshop I’d been planning definitely wasn’t going to happen, and for more reasons than the Christian rock, dancing children and sing-alongs blaring through my window.
First off, let me clarify that I’m not disappointed. I actually saw this coming two weeks ago, back during the planning processes. Once I verbalized it, describing the possibility during a phone conversation, I realized that a failure to launch was A: probably inevitable and therefore B: definitely not worth fighting. So I shrugged my shoulders, planned the workshop, wrote the budget, requested the funds and waited for a response. Which never came, not directly anyway.
I started back at the beginning of November, working with a set of pre-elaborated activities provided by the Peace Corps. I patiently introduced the exercises to the ladies of the Municipal Women’s Office (OMM), intending to facilitate their proper ownership of the workshop. We took our time, read everything over, picked out an agenda they liked, and had everything ready – all we needed, theoretically, was about $6 to buy butcher paper, markers, tape and make some copies. It seemed fail-safe; how hard would it be to get 51Q approved for a politically savvy event on an international day of recognition? Why wouldn’t my mayor approve this?
Well, she wasn’t around to approve it – that was problem #1. She’s sort of chronically non-present at times, which makes it hard to get a straight answer (The Muni is also destitute, as I’ve noted previously) However, a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called Vision Mundial had suggested that we put on a lavish AIDS-prevention event for Dec. 2nd, which would be a day late but still meaningful. Politically speaking, it makes perfect sense to throw your weight behind one activity rather than two, especially if an international organization with deep pockets is putting on a big show with clowns, condoms, t-shirts and refreshments for 200. So I understand why my little baby workshop didn’t materialize, I just think it’s both funny and instructive how plans can mutate and how that reflects on my “capacity for change” (as a Peace Corps volunteer) . I’m still helping out with tomorrow’s event, anyway…
Yet the crowning moment came when I arrived at work today and saw a sign praising Jesus next to some plastic chairs and a stage made of rough-hewn boards and cinder blocks. Someone at the Muni had authorized a big celebration. I was, of course, clueless, so I strolled into the comedor where I eat breakfast and asked my counterpart what was going on. He snorted in surprise, and replied indignantly that we obviously weren’t going to get any work done today (Ha! Even HE didn’t know what was going on!)
On a completely unrelated note, the Muni stopped paying its bills because the internet got shut off about a week ago. Some people that it might get turned back on this month, maybe not…..lol