Little Victories: So time can be our friend and our enemy. With the same kind of perspective, the development work that Michelle and I are trying to accomplish can be equally frustrating and rewarding depending on the day. We just spent a week at a Peace Corps conference with other volunteers around the island and it seemed that we all seemed to agree on the importance of celebrating the “Little Victories”. The little victories principle in short is about focusing on the little things, the little wins, the small, but meaningful events. For example, Michelle and I really like the fact that after 6 months of being on the island, several taxi and bus drivers know us and look out for us. Sure the relationship in many ways is purely business but they do go out of their ways many times to make sure that we get to where we need to go safely, even if that means asking everyone to squish together so that we can literally fit in the bus/car.
Sometimes it’s the conversations we have with Jamaicans. It’s the sharing of different cultural norms to find a mutual respect and understanding of each other’s culture. I love sharing my cultural knowledge, especially the language with Jamaicans. Thankfully they enjoy listening to me butcher yet another word or phrase in patois (the unofficial Jamaican language) or expertly use a Jamaican proverb to describe a situation. The smiles and laughter shared between all parties involved truly exemplifies what Peace Corps is suppose to be about, mutual cultural respect, understanding, and friendship.
We need these little victories because on a daily basis there is a lot of frustration and challenges. This might be true for all Peace Corps Volunteers around the world, but I know in Jamaica, we face a lot of high highs, and low lows – the roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Some of this is caused because of cultural differences. Some days I do wish that things were different here, that Jamaica would change and conform to a world that I understand or think is right. Of course, I do recognize my arrogance in this way of thinking and often am humbled to learn yet another lesson from Jamaica. A safe example to speak of can be of time. In many ways, I do wish that things were more reliable here in regards to time. Yet, at the same time, I am often amazed at the grace and forgiveness people afford each other regarding time. In the states where most people would get chewed out or fired, people are more understanding here. You might have not been able to get a ride to work, the rain flooded the roads, or simply, it wasn’t your fault. Regardless of the issue, people here are more understanding.
Due to my personality, I am naturally impatient. I want change to happen tomorrow. I want to see the results of my hard work and efforts now. I don’t want slow evolution, I want an immediate change in mindset. It’s from this perspective and attitude where I find myself struggling the most as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica. First off, development work in general, is a slow process. Couple that with the cultural norms of time that I talked about in my last post and you simply realize that certain things take time. That is why we celebrate the little victories. Those seem to be immediate forms of gratification that lift our spirits and changes our sometimes negative and frustrated attitudes. Of course our hope is that collectively, these little victories will make up something much bigger in the future.