Friday, May 8, 2009

I moved my mountain

It may be a bad idea to put this on the internet for the whole world to see, but I think it is important for people to know service as a Peace Corps Volunteer doesn’t always involve saving the world and making a difference. You do have situations which cause you to question why you are here and figuring out what to do about the situation isn’t always easy. While most people really do want your help, you get others who do not make your service easy. Only putting up the fun stuff I have done as a volunteer would be a disservice to all those back home who wonder what being a PCV is like. So here it is: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A big shakedown occurred here in the village and I caused a bit of drama. I have had some serious issues with a matai who just so happened to be on my PC committee (the committee is made up of people from my village who were selected by the matai council and their job is to take care of me and help me with projects). I never really liked the guy (I always had a bad feeling about him) and then he added to my dislike by coming over drunk and doing some things he should not have done (Note to self: trust your instincts). That happened in January and somehow he was still on my committee. I’m still trying to figure out how and why the village allowed him to stay on my committee, but I’m sure I will never be able to figure it out because like most things here it doesn’t make any sense what so ever. I put up with him being around and tried to move on, but he continued to make comments which were inappropriate and downright disgusting. Basically, the guy is a dirty, creepy, old man who is single and old enough to be my father. When I have another matai on my committee ask me if I want to sleep with this matai, something needs to change. I am not 7,000 miles from home to be sexually harassed. That is not in the Peace Corps Volunteer job description. Putting up with general Samoan cheekiness (like comments about me needing a Samoan uo or how I should marry one of the matai on the committee) is one thing and I do have to be culturally sensitive, but I don’t have to put up with being sexually harassed in my village. I was really motivated to act when the matai lied to the office and said there had not been an incident at my house. Last time I checked coming over to my house drunk and doing things you are not supposed to do would be classified as an incident. He knew he lied and just didn’t care. This tells me he thought he did nothing wrong and will probably do it again. I was pissed and then realized I needed to not be around this man anymore or I was going to be driven insane or be really angry all the time. The PC office was hesitant to come out because they didn’t want the situation to blow up, which is usually what happens when the office comes out in situations like this. I knew I needed to get him off the committee and if I didn’t there was no way I was going to stick around for the 15-16 months left in my PC service. So I figured I had nothing to lose, I either take care of it myself or leave. Leaving was not really an option I wanted to pursue so I flat out told the committee and pulenu’u I didn’t want him on the committee anymore. Feeling uncomfortable around a man because he is sexually harassing me would have gotten me no where here in Samoa, but when I told them I was angry he lied to the office that got things done. Villages in Samoa are kinda terrified of the office and really don’t like for them to come out. So the mention of me being angry because he lied to the office worked. I never would have even tried this if I didn’t feel reasonably well integrated into my community, but I’m in good standing with my village so I figured I might be able to get away with kicking someone off the committee. I am so much happier now that I know I don’t have to see the matai on a regular basis. This is wonderful; it will make my job and my life so much easier for the next 15-16 months.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you, this mongrel broke the cardinal rule of the village to provide for your security. And dont forget to approach the women's committee for protection if you feel as if the boyz are not taking you serious. Tell as many people in the village possible, so they are more aware and become more vigilant in the neighbourhood policing.