Sunday, November 4, 2012

USAID vs Kat or I Want a Sambusa

One of the many reasons I joined Peace Corps was because I wanted to gain experience in international development. Well, I have, and I think I never want to do international or any kind of development work again.

Why such strong feelings? At present I am working on a grant with my sitemates to do a girls' empowerment conference. Girls and boys conferences are a common thing for PCVs to organize to teach a small group of youth about HIV prevention, gender equality, and gender specific issues. It requires a grant- a very detailed, tedious, repetitive, confusing grant process that takes forever and is really difficult to do when you don't have electricity and live in a village! As I have completed my first year in country, and am nearing a full year in my site, I have been thinking a lot about the future. Also, I have a short attention span and am rather anxious to get onto the next adventure in my life, whatever that might be. I have been thinking a lot about returning to school, after doing something that will somehow accrue money in order to pay for that school. Do I want a masters in public health? Global health, or epidemiology? Do I want to face the dreaded MCAT and apply to med school? Do I want to do something completely different? What do I want to do with my life?! Another reason I did Peace Corps was to postpone answering this question, but unfortunately the question hasn't disappeared yet. Its rearing its ugly head at me, and I am as indecisive and flighty as ever. If my opinion of this grant writing business is any indication, though, anything requiring grants in my future is out! No, I do not want to write the same thing four times in different wording and formatting so you, Grant Coordinator, can tell me to fix it and do it again!

The other day I had a crazy time at my clinic. I had one of those days when I think wistfully of one day practicing medicine in America, where when a man comes in with crazy green blisters all over his hands that then turn into open sores and scabs and you have to test him for HIV, there are gloves available rather than stealing them from the fancy delivery kits (thanks USAID) and then getting scolded for doing so. Or a doctor who knew how to use insulin would be present, so we wouldn't have to ship the patient and insulin (which needs to be refrigerated) to another village an hour away, or at least if we had to do that, there would be ice packs or something, rather than scraping the ice build up from the sides of the freezer to pack around the insulin in a used mebendazole bottle. I love working at my clinic- its the thing that occupies the majority of my time, and I love working with mamas and babies, teaching, and then doing all the stuff I'm not qualified for or supposed to be doing according to Peace Corps. But there in lies the problem- I'm not qualified, I don't know what I'm doing, the people who are qualified don't know what they are doing either because this is Tanzania, and we never have the supplies we need. I can dream of medicine in America, where things are clean and there is money, but everyone else I live and work with can't escape these conditions. And in my puny little role as a volunteer, with a whopping 23 years of experience in absolutely nothing, don't know how to change that. I sound really dejected- I'm not. I know what I can reasonably accomplish in my two years here, and I don't expect more of myself. Peace Corps would be a lot harder if I did. My clinic debacles are funny in hindsight, experience, and make for great stories. If I do ever pursue development work in the future, I will be much better prepared for it by doing this now. And I am eternally grateful that I was lucky enough to be born where and when I was so I can go back to better conditions when I choose.

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