Saturday, 29 March 2014

The challenging little (?) things

In attempt to give a more balance picture, I feel I should try to summarise what felt challenging during this experience. Despite the amazing moments and the overall, very positive spirit with which Im leaving, there were issues that felt difficult.

Monday lunch
Always being with other people: although Im a very social person and I enjoyed getting to know the rest of the volunteers, suddenly being with others on a non-stop basis can become tiresome. The everyday schedule also means that we have all meals together, and the volunteers do most of the other activities together. Sharing a room after a busy day, filled with lots of activities and lots of people results in very little personal time and almost no privacy. It is practically only after dinner that one can take a moment for oneself. Inevitably, sometimes even the good will of others can feel heavy and too much and in those moments it can be a challenge to respond nicely.

I’ve wondered if it would be easier or more difficult to do this as a couple? That would mean having your most important “support system” with you, but in terms of having enough space within the couple it doesn’t sound ideal to me. There is almost no space for having conflicts for example, and Im sure it takes a lot of effort on all sides to have the private and professional spheres so closely linked.

Daily schedule revealed before dinner
Always having a schedule: having a predictable schedule can be very helpful but it can also become a nuisance. My days were mainly marked by the meals and I could relatively freely deal with my tasks as I please in between. For the diving volunteers every morning is scheduled and for most weeks the afternoons as well. I assume the majority has much more flexibility in their normal lives, so this kind of timetable-driven existence is at the minimum unusual. There were days when we thought it was merely to “keep us out of trouble”, based on some past experience with a less cool group...

Level of comfort: I think we all adapted really well to the Andava reality, but there were a few things we couldn’t get used to. One of these was feeling that our clothes and matrasse are always a bit damp. Another one for me was feeling that my hair was becoming really dry. Something I usually don’t care much about, but if I were to return, I’d bring some hair-moisturising product for sure! ;-) I also suffered a bit from my matrasse at the beginning, but I have to say I got used to that by the end.

Midnight operation on an exploded toe
Health inconveniences: muahahaha, this is the moment of truth! I, the one who was warning everyone at the beginning about eating carefully etc etc, I was the only lucky girl to get parasites in Madagascar! Im not quite sure what kind they were, apart from the fact that they were the kind that eats you from the inside and gives you severe diarrhea for a good two weeks. Luckily I was treated in the Italian hospital and have been eating like a maniac since then, but I did lose a couple of kilos and spent quite a lot of time close to bathrooms. The others had different troubles, a few occasions of vomitting and feeling weak, a few day long diarrhea, infected wounds that wouldn’t heal because of the constant diving, blisters from the sun, being stung by crazy fish but we all avoided serious problems (and these provided the perfect excuse to seek some additional sympathy from one another).

Finally, two more personal challenges:

Questioning my contribution: me being me, this kind of question was to be expected... As the expedition neared its end, I started wondering how much did I really contribute, did I make a difference? These internal questions and the nearness of the end did manage to undermine my motivation for a few days and I felt guily about that. I recently read somewhere that a job done is much more valuable than the perfect job imagined/planned, so I tried to tell myself that having contributed whatever I’ve done is much more than not having come at all. (And, if I want to be slightly ironic with myself, I can find comfort in the fact that the money I paid to be here supports the projects as well, so if, for nothing else, I was useful for that...)

Living in the present moment: as much as I loved experiencing this, it also brought mental discomfort- to what extent can I disconnect, leave my responsibilities behind? I didn’t always find it easy to establish the balance between my “normal life” and my “Andava life”. After a while I developed a rythm and dealt with my personal, long term issues in the morning and focused on the present for the rest of the day.

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