Working with others is hard, particularly when the people you work with don't necessarily want to be associated with you at all. This is conundrum I find myself in lately. For years, practically ever since the founding of the local mission, do-gooders have flocked to Loopeng from Europe and Australia to do, well, "good". They are usually white.
Hey, I'm white too! In the minds of my fellow residents of Loopeng, this means that I exist on the same wave-length as the Euralian visitors, we are all associated with the same organization, we have each others phone numbers, are in constant communication and get along great. Absolutely none of that is true, of course, but I can't seem to convince anyone of that. I've barely convinced people that New York is in the US of A, not Germany or Australia.
Generally, I'm untroubled by people's assumptions, but lately it's been putting me in a real pickle. See, people keep pointing out different projects they want done, and sites they want visited, by the Euralians. The local impression of the Euralians is that they have deep pockets, and so people are eager to invite them here and there to help out with various maintenance projects.
"When are the people from Germany coming? Australia? They must come... They must see... I want them to..." I'm asked this frequently. What makes it so uncomfortable is that I have no idea when they're coming, no idea if they're able or willing to do said projects, and very little in the way of contact information. I just smile and nod along. I do know a group, or two, is coming later this month, so I usually mumble something about June and hurry away.
I'm thinking about hanging a giant banner from my house for when the visitors arrive.
"Welcome back! Please visit Mampestad and Agrico! Thanks!"
Other than that, I'm not sure what else to do. I just hope it all works out, because if it doesn't, who will be responsible for cleaning up the mess and soothing the ruffled feathers?
I will. I may not be formally associated with the visitors, some may routinely trash myself and my colleagues as "unqualified", many others may leave a trail of missed opportunities and frustration in their wake, but since we're all white foreigners in Africa, we have to stick together.
Anyone have a large banner they'd like to ship over?
(Don't worry, I promise that's not my only plan. Plan B is much more traditional. I have three e-mail addresses for people I plan to grovel to. Good thing Peace Corps teaches humility.)