I had always thought of myself as a conflict avoider. I avoid conflict as much as possible, but sometimes this ends poorly. By avoiding conflict constantly, I tend to internalize the struggles and then those struggles come out inappropriately and at the wrong time to the wrong people. In my home culture this means I have an angry explosion and loudly state my complaints with not very nice words. Here, however there is a cultural aspect that I struggle with. I cannot respond the same inappropriate ways that I might back home, now I have to focus and calculate my words and actions.
Being an unofficial ambassador for the United States and our culture is exhausting, I will not lie. I have had several minor struggles in my site, at least I viewed them as minor. However, PC staff brought me into Kingston when the last struggle happened and I said I needed to find a place to feel safe/normal again. I originally had come in to ask to be reassigned to the school and even got approval from the principal to say she was willing to step in as my supervisor. After speaking with staff and really thinking it through we decided that enough “minor” challenges have happened that my mental health and ability to remain calm have been pushed to the last stretch. In a decision that I am saddened by, we have decided to move me to a new site.
So for the past two weeks I have been in Kingston in a hotel. I am literally bored out of my mind. I do not know how it is in other posts, but there are massive rules on safety here. I am not allowed to walk far, I am to use a charter taxi (read more expensive) and I am limited to the areas I can go to. At night I am under even more restrictions, which has made me pretty much a couch potato the last two weeks.
On top of these struggles, I have had to process my removal from site. I loved my site, I had many successful projects/programs going on. A site change is typically devastating but with only 8 months left it is even more of a struggle. The only silver lining is that my new site/project partner are with a job that is my dream job. More about this soon. Also, I have had time to process what has happened at my original site and I have concluded that the struggles were much more than I recognized. I struggled emotionally and mentally with the things that happened. The struggles, also were the same basic struggles and it was not going to suddenly, magically just work.
So what happened? Many things happened, but mostly I moved ahead with projects that I thought the community wanted. I had the support of a few people, but in the end there was just not enough support. Maybe they did not understand the project, maybe I miscommunicated? Maybe somewhere deep down it was MY project and not the community’s. Maybe nothing really happened except my personality was just not a good fit, or my ideas or my skill set.
The continual struggles were not going to end. Even if I moved down a community my reputation and perspective was tarnished. Like the idea of finding happiness in a new relationship, only to simply end up with the same issues. You must look at the constant in your life, yourself. Once you lose trust, it is impossible to work and move anything forward. This is what appears to have happened to me. I am devastated to leave the school farm, but I have seen posts that my supervisor and the new JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) volunteer will try to ensure it continues on.