Frustration, frustration, frustrated.
It’s hard to write about the hard parts of being a Peace Corps Volunteer without getting really negative, and negating all the good things—and there are many—but there are also some aspects of this PCV life that are intolerable. I’m in one of those moments. First and foremost, as a foreign volunteer one is at the bottom of the decision-making hierarchy, if you’re even included in it at all—that’s why I was powerless in the following.
Two weeks before the IGLOW (Indonesian Generations Leading Our World) camp was about to be executed, it got cancelled. I still don’t understand entirely why, but somehow, it got caught up in weird school politics. Also, I got caught inside the most frustrating part of Javanese culture and that’s the fact that people will not be direct. Instead, they say yes, when they really mean no—even though we asked repeatedly for clarification and seemingly received total support.
With this illusory support, my counterparts and I worked on planning this four-day activity for months and it was 95% done. All that was left to do was to, actually, conduct it. At first I was angry about the wasted time, but that was just an initial reaction. No time has been lost, nothing is wasted. I got to work with some beautiful people that I befriended and now, I’m really attached to. I’m proud of our efforts. We did our best. But, wait, the kids do lose here, which was why we were doing this camp to begin with. It’s sad that closed-minded people with limited information and understanding of a certain thing have the power to deny a good, and rare, educational opportunity to more than 100 Indonesian boys and girls.
Disappointment, disappointment, disappointed.
Yesterday I went with my counterpart to explain what happened to the 9 different participating schools around my entire regency. It took the whole day and hours to reach some of the more remote schools. I felt even worse thinking about how these schools’ representatives had driven their motorcycles through bumpy roads and rainy days, multiple times, to meet with us at my school in Bondowoso city. I thought about how much they had believed in this activity. How much they had lobbied it with their own school principals and administration. How they went above and beyond to collect all the money and permissions requested. Everyone asked questions: Why, miss? My students are so excited! They have much spirit to join, miss. There’s never been an activity like this before, miss. Is there anything else you can do?
There isn’t. It broke my heart. People cried. I cried. It was a mess.
Negative to Positive
While it’s too soon for me to be consoled for this ‘loss’ and disappointment, it’s striking to see how many people care about this activity and its goal. I keep getting words of encouragement and texts asking me if there’s anything they can do for me. I want to do something for them. They are the ones that almost made it happen, and I’m sad they won’t get to see the fruits of their labor. Still, those that support IGLOW seem encouraged to have it again in the future. I insist they can do it on their own, but they insist they need a PCV—so, future PCV in Bondowoso, I hope you get to see this camp (or something like it) through someday. (Tip: Work with Bu Holifah, Bu Lisa, Bu Leily and Mbak Anik.)