Saturday, March 6, 2010

American Efficiency

Four days since I found out that the Embassy had changed its policy and can no longer clear our container. Théo from RIDEV was in Douala the next day after the news to meet with someone working at the Embassy to learn the process, and in attempt to find a solution. Yet somehow, four days later, no real progress was made.

Meanwhile, yesterday I received an email from a staff at Books For Africa. Apparently a board member who follows my blog forwarded my previous post about the frustration. They contacted me to see how everything was progressing. Within the hour, I received 6 emails from every person at Books For Africa who was working with my shipment, including a very encouraging email from the Executive Director who said they will do everything they can to facilitate us in this process. They immediately asked follow up questions to the situation, offered to write a letter of support on our behalf for the customs officials and change documentation if necessary.

American efficiency, how I've missed thee.

I am beyond frustrated, and as much as I've been trying to contain this frustration, I can no longer bite my tongue. This is not the first time that I've asked myself on what planet I find this project to be a good idea. Yes, it may benefit lots of kids, promote literacy, blah blah blah. But why didn't I just enjoy the quiet village life like most volunteers and simply do small projects?

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, we don't HAVE to do anything. We are volunteers after all. But when we do put forth the effort to implement a large-scale project, the support is minimal. The fund-raising process was frustrating as it was, but that was only the beginning of it. The Peace Corps staff who had agreed to help us in this process a year ago has yet contacted me with ways him or the Peace Corps could facilitate. Due to the lack of follow up on his part, I am now left with this ginormous mess in my hand and very little resource or information to resolve the problem.

If the Peace Corps wasn't going to provide the support that we volunteers need to carry out the project, then they should not have approved our project via the Peace Corps Partnership in the first place. Even if Peace Corps had told me they will play no part in the container clearing process from the beginning, then at least I would have had time to plan for private clearance. But now, we are in the worst situation possible, and I want to scream. Nothing worse than someone offering help but do not follow through. I know it's not their fault that the Embassy changed policies, but someone could have found out the change much earlier and informed us.

This is a blog on life as a Peace Corps volunteer, and this is a part of the tribulation that we face. My advice for future volunteers: think carefully before you jump into an ambitious project.

I am holding onto what little bit of faith I have left in me and believing that somehow everything will work out. How? I am not sure. But I don't have a choice, it has to work out. Hoping karma will reward us for the efforts that we have put forth thus far. Hope, that's all I have left, unfortunately.

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