I have now lived in a small village called Nangara for nine weeks. Nangara sits next to a trading center called Kikholo (pronounced “chi-HO-lo”), which is in Bududa district of eastern Uganda, in the mountains right next to the Kenyan border. I am interning with a Philadelphia-based (located at 15th and Walnut!) non-profit called the Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) at their Bududa clinic. In my time here, I have been working on a range of projects, including training staff on Excel skills, improving community health education materials, volunteering at the clinic, and hiking out to surrounding villages to assess and develop the sanitation and hygiene situations in homes and schools.
My field manager here talks about “the first four rules,” rules that were passed on to him from his supervisor while he was doing Peace Corps in Zambia.
1.) If it makes sense it won’t happen.
2.) However long you think it will take, be sure it will take longer.
3.) Never trust a fart (because it will turn into a shart).
4.) Embrace the suffering.
When I first got to Uganda, rule number four was a particular favorite of my colleagues and mine. We would use it all the time—to complain about the lack of WiFi, the unpredictable power outages, the pit latrines, the bucket baths, the same meal of beans and rice served at the clinic every day. In hindsight, our excessive use of rule number four now seems naïve and selfish. But at the time, I think we used it because it helped us adjust to living out “in the village.”
I didn’t learn about the origin of rule number four until about three weeks in. Rule number four came directly from the Zambia Peace Corps supervisor, who spent her own Peace Corps years in a rural village where within a period of six months, the village went extinct because every single member died of AIDS.
I wish that I had some grand statement to make about international development for this blog post, but in truth this entire summer has been insanely overwhelming. Not in a bad way, but in a way that I haven’t yet been able to completely process and in a way that motivates me to want to dig deeper into ID issues and learn as much as I possibly can. I have seen (and maybe become habituated to) a large amount of suffering, but I have also seen a large amount of resilience and determination. And for me, I think rule number four means that we should not let the suffering grind us down, but really use it, and the hope that comes from it, to motivate us to do whatever we can to work through it.
In truth, I don’t know if anything I knew before had really prepared me for this experience. Not my global health classes, the SID general body meetings I’ve attended and organized, even the Harvard International Development Conference that the board and I went to last April. That is, all these experiences gave me a foundational knowledge, but it is crazy to me how new and unexpected everything feels, how much I feel as though I am just starting in square one, learning as much as I can from my experiences on the ground and the people around me.
When I get back to America in three weeks, I hope I will be able to finally process some of the things I have seen and experienced. But for now, I am excited to see how my new perspective situates itself into my everyday life, how it affects my role as a member and the Training Director of SID, and how it reshapes my motivations and goals.