That's what it just told me ... no idea what it means but seemed to be asking to be a heading.
Sitting here in the canned cool of one of Maroua's more exclusive hostelries pondering, not for the first time, my usefulness. Pondering, indeed, to such an extent that I've just 'penned' a letter to the country director to see if he can help. Idle minds have to keep themselves occupied, particularly minds like mine; minds that don't like sitting still.
Of late my mental facilities seem to have been surviving on a diet of e-numbers and tartrazine which has done little for my sleep pattern and even less for my enthusiasm for the job in hand. I'm not about to throw it all in and leave this peculiar country to its fate, but it has got me asking things.
Such things may be natural after a few months in placement; perhaps everyone goes through this questioning stage. The rose-tinted, wildly optimistic, and generally blinkered enthusiasm and excitement that keeps the adrenalin up during the pre-departure weeks and the first months post-arrival have been gradually eroded by the realities of my chosen role (English teacher as opposed to cheese'n'pickle, though what I'd do for a slab of cheddar and a generous serving of Branston ... or perhaps a spot of Lime pickle ... ).
"What do you mean? You haven't done anything yet!" and hence the reason for my not throwing in the towel. I haven't done anything yet, aside from see how it works in other places, ask questions of the school's 'Elite' and see what types of things they want from me that doesn't fold. The teaching hasn't started yet and I know that that will keep me occupied, but in the background will be the perpetual thought: "what's the bleedin' point?"
Is that really a questions someone fresh to the world of development should be asking? Doesn't sound very altruistic but at the same time it's been asked and there's no taking it back. After 2 years, what is going to have been gained by my having been here? Yes there will be a handful of Cameroonian teenagers who will understand the different uses of the present perfect, but aside from that I find it difficult to see that anything else I do will be sustained. I may be all puppy dog enthusiasm for this that and the other but if there isn't someone here to keep it/them going then give it a year and it'll all have vanished beneath the ever thickening layer of red dust that covers everything else.
The most disheartening thing is that I'm not entirely sure anyone - my director, the school 'Elite', the community - actually gives a shit. Strong words I know, but truthful me thinks. Volunteers are measured locally (not by VSO I hasten to add, but by the employers and their legions of yes men) by what they achieve at a physical level i.e. what gets built with foreign folding stuff. Buildings though, aren't the issue. It's teachers, it's school books, it's pens, pencils, rulers. It's desks and chairs. We've got two fairly well maintained blocks, 2 classrooms in each block. It's not a lot, and it's a bit of a squeeze but compared to some we're not doing badly.
Ask the 'Elite' what they want to see in the immediate future: a computer suite.
Great! Good idea! Any thoughts as to what might be more important than a computer suite?
An office for the director and a staff room?
Ok. Anything that might, perhaps be more benefit than either of those? I'll give you a clue. It falls from the sky in the wet season and everything on this planet depends on it for survival.
Yep, we got none water. I take three litres to school every day and would take more but for the fact the toilet facilities are a little on the exposed side and 420-student induced stage fright tends to put paid to any peeing efforts. Explodingbladderitis: not very nice in any language. On a good day, the students might get half a pint each. Most of the time they get nothing. There's a well half a mile away, but that apparently is enough.
Also, the fact that the school doesn't have electricity you would have thought might be thought to be a key part of the computer lab dream, but apparently they hadn't thought of that.
So, I don't know. It all seems a bit useless at times but I'll stick it out until such time as I can make a more educated judgement. It may just be the lack of sleep that's giving me these outbursts of soul searching and cynicism but I don't think so.
Oh, and just so you know ... 9 June 2007 ... that be the day upon which I reach green and pleasant lands. Until sometime mid-end August ... If you're about would be spiffing to see you.