On Doing Things, and You Do You

Over the past year I’ve cycled through a few activities. The longest-running one is teaching a computer class (officially five days a week but as it takes up others class times it sometimes doesn’t happen). And so today, when I reread a conversation I had with my brother, a PCV in Senegal, more than a year ago, I laughed out loud:

Me: why the [expletive] are you teaching a computer class?

Jim: you re right thats probably a complete [expletive] waste of my time here

Peace Corps is about, well, a lot of things. But finding what you want to do, a position that you enjoy and find yourself effective in, is key. I find it’s not a complete waste of my time to teach computer – it’s tough, but students love it, they learn a little bit (what with 4-5 kids on each computer), and their parents and teachers are appreciative.

When I went on my host volunteer visit to Vanua Levu, I met a volunteer from the last group who exemplified this. He had been placed in a rural government station, isolated from other villages and with a constantly-rotating staff that didn’t form the kind of community we all learned during PST. Needless to say, he was miserable there.

So, he said “f this” and asked one of the closer villages if there was any place he could stay there. They just happened to have a spare room off of their community hall that they weren’t using. So he moved to the room (much like mine, I imagine, but a bit smaller), and life drastically improved (though he doubtlessly has still faced his share of frustrations after the move).

When I started work here, my supervisor wanted me to teach half of his classes. Others wanted me to sub for them. I found teaching a full class exhausting and ineffective at best, day-ruining at worst.

So I quit doing that. I realized I was much more effective in smaller groups, and started small-group English classes. Though they got closed down for taking up class time, they were effective for a time, and I have since restarted one with the most dedicated group. We’re reading a short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and it’s pretty fun.

After hearing from my buddy Saki, who lives up in Nadarivatu, about a tutoring program that he started, I decided to copy him. I started last week – two out of three kids showed up, which qualifies as a success. I found myself pretty good at explaining math and shading styles, and actually really enjoying the math. It works for me and I get concepts across quite well, so it’s a program I’m excited about continuing.

Also, after being in Fiji for a year (at site for ten months), I’m a little more relaxed about things more generally. Toning back on the unhealthy comparisons with others experiences, and feeling overall extremely appreciative of my site and my friends, both Peace Corps and Fijian.


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