Please excuse me for not answering your letter sooner, but we're nearing the end of our training program here and life is quite busy as I prepare to take up my assignment. After all these months of anticipating (years), if you count all the time I've been thinking about joining the Peace Corps-it's finally going to happen: I'm going to walk into a village, find a place to live, and start saving the world. Well, maybe not the entire world. And maybe not on the first day. But I'll do my best.
Actually, if we have learned anything during this training (and we have learned a lot) it's we have learned a lot-it's to have realistic expectations of what we can actually accomplish here. Some of us, and I count myself among this group, were probably a bit ambitious about our work and the difference we could make, but I'm much more grounded in reality now. Thank goodness.
I know that making changes and improvements takes time, so I don't expect to see any results for the first few months. You've got to get people to trust you, after all, but once they do, then you can start to have influence. I think that once they're aware of my training and experience in the field, I'm bound to become more credible to them. People are basically well-intentioned, after all. You just have to give them time and the benefit of the doubt.
I know there will be obstacles, but I also know I'll be able to overcome them. If you put your mind to something, and it's something that means as much to you as this does to me, then nothing can stop you. I can give you an example of this from a recent incident here at the training program. We [trainees] wanted to set up a little co-op inside the training center, where we could buy soft drinks, snacks, etc., because the closest store is about half an hour from here, and we don't have time to go there and back on our breaks. When we approached the people who run this place, they said the stores in town wouldn't sell directly to us but only to the training center, i.e., to them, and they would arrange it for us. But we told them we wanted to do all the talking and arranging ourselves, so we could practice using the language in real situations and probably have a few cross-cultural experiences along the way. They said nothing like that had ever been done before and they didn't think it was a good idea.
But I wasn't willing to give up so soon, so I approached some merchants in town. And found there was no problem at all! They were happy to sell to anyone, and they would give us a bulk discount! It's a small example, but it shows you that you don't have to take no for an answer, and that the way things have always been done doesn't have to be the way they're done hereafter.
Maybe I was lucky this time, but I think a positive attitude (along with my stubborn streak) can get you a long way.
Well, there's a lot more I want to tell you, but it's time for class. You probably won't hear from me for two or three weeks now, until I get moved and set up in my town. But don't use that as an excuse for not writing! We LIVE for our mail around here.