What do you do or how to you feel when someone you meet basically tells you that your job is impossible to realize, or impossible to even make a dent in?
One lovely warm day in the campo, I wandered up the neighboring grassy hill with my little host brother to play soccer. It ended up that he went off to pick and chew on sugar cane, so I sat on a wood bench in front of a friend's newly constructed house, watching two cows mow down a lawn and wondered why we don't do that in Illinois if we care so much about low-lying grass. Then one cow pooped and my host brother's soccer ball plopped directly into the fresh paddie. Maybe that.
The cows' owner came back and sat down to talk. His question: How long are you here for and what exactly are you doing? I explained and like many other times, he focused on trash. He told me what all us volunteers already know - how people toss trash on the ground even when a trash can is a step away. They do it when they're kids and they do it when they're adults. It drives him crazy and he's all but given up trying to get people to put trash in its place. And what was saddest was when he reminded me of that time not long ago that I helped him pick up trash in the center of town - he said that in all his six-something years of living here, that was the first time anyone helped him pick up trash.
He went on and told me how some visiting teachers from outside the country had completely changed the way kids dealt with trash. The road outside the school was clean, every room in the school was spotless, etc. (to make a note the school IS pretty clean now). Apparently a month later, when the teachers left, the school fell back to being dirty. Same thing happened with another volunteer 'like me.' And there once was a recycling program in town but people just got bored, or disinterested, unmotivated, or something...and now there's a small recycling shack and no one recycles. The governmental organizations that promised to take their trash out of the valley never followed through either.
He shook his head and said my job is impossible, or maybe doable in a hundred years.
I went home and took a nap, feeling unmotivated myself to go out and do much that day.
Then some bizarre things happened this week:
-Went to wash the dishes and found a skinned pig head (plus eyes) floating in the sink.
-Found cardboard in the toilet and had to fish it out myself.
-Lightly scratched my nose and suddenly it was gushing blood. People found this hilarious.
-Cracked open an egg and found blood. Host mom says that's because it's the hen's first egg. This is one of many reasons I prefer veganism...
-Made chocolate chip cookies that melted into one tasty cookie blob. Still learning how to bake without measuring cups or spoons in an oven without a thermometer.
-There is something like a garbage shortage because half the town is making recycled art.