Sunday, March 11, 2012

The White Factor

Last week I had a revelation:  I literally do not look like I belong here.  Never in my life have I felt as exposed as I do now.  I mean, back in the states I am the brown girl, the Indian, but it doesn’t make me feel unusual.  Even though I was surrounded by Americans with white skin, I felt like I belonged.  I guess it’s just something I grew accustomed to as I was growing up.  When I was traveling in Peru & Nicaragua I felt fairly comfortable.  I am brown.  They are brown.  I speak Spanish.  They speak Spanish.   It all worked out.  I could blend in fairly easily while my American friends received the uncomfortable attention, Thanks Emma!

In Grenada, I stick out like a sore thumb.  It’s crazy to think about physical appearance here.  Most of the population comes from African roots, but, surprisingly, there is a large Indian presence on the island (the result of indentured servitude).  Everyone’s brown!  There’s even a kid in my class who’s named Sunil Ram.  You think I would fit in.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  I never, in a million years, thought that I would hear, “eh you! White Girl!”  I’ve heard this statement a couple of times now and every time I feel like I’ve run into a brick wall…white girl? Me? What? Hello, identity crisis.

I don’t want to be the “white” girl. The American.  The outsider.  However, that is my reality.  I’ve always had a problem with people going to volunteer abroad, spending some time working on pre-planned, distinctly American projects, and coming home happily satisfied by serving the poor in a developing country.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate their thoughts and the opportunities that their projects have provided.  What bothers me is the fact that these outsiders found a location, identified a problem, and fixed it.  What about what the community wants?  How do the people living in that environment view their existence?  What do they want to change?  How can the local population noy have any say in how development happens in their own community? 

…this is why I’m having such a hard time being the outsider, the “white” girl, the American.  I don’t want to be any of those things while I’m here.  I want to become a part of the community so that I can be the “co-facilitator” (fellow trainees, how many times have we heard that word in the last five weeks?)  I don’t want to be here working on projects I think would better equip Grenada.  I want to help them identify their needs and implement a program that addresses those needs; to help them help themselves.  I want their thoughts and their manpower at work, so that when I leave, the change continues to occur.  Unfortunately for me, I am the outsider and that’s something I’m just going to have to live with.

On a brighter note, here are pictures some of the other trainees have taken during the last couple of week.  My camera had a software issue and had to be reformatted so I lost a lot of pictures, but I’ll be sure to make up for it!

At Fort George after training.  (picture from Cara)

Some of the trainees went on a hike with an hiking group on the island. (Cara)

On the hike we at Cocoa! Chocolate is made from those white seeds.  You can suck on the slimy seeds, but if you try to eat it its super bitter. (Cara)
This was our destination.  We walked right through it.  Amazing & ouch. (Josh)
Enjoying the view from yet another Fort in St. George. (Megan)