Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Conversations Over Lunch

There wasn't enough picturesque stuff in my day today to upload anything very good, so you'll have to wait til tomorrow for pictures. I thought that instead I would highlight some philosophical discussions I've been having in my head lately.

I put a call in to one of the guys I've been working with at my counterpart organization here in Samoa. I'm not really obligated to do work for him contractually, and it's not like the organization doesn't have lots of money. In fact, the guy I work with there is the treasurer of the organization, and I see the figures they bring in... and they could afford to pay someone for the work I do. That said, the guy almost always offers me lunch.

So I guess the dilemma I'm caught in here is twofold. First, should I really be spending my time in the Peace Corps donating my time to an organization that could (and perhaps should) be paying full price for the services I'm providing? Second, is it weird that I am whoring my Excel skills out for better food quality?

I think the first is one that many of us deal with here in Samoa. The second is a more interesting issue, I think. I don't feel too bad about whoring out Excel skills because I feel like I'm in a (admittedly mild) survivalist situation, and I don't feel bad leveraging what I can. Especially given the lackluster kitchen that was provided to me. On the other hand, perhaps the prospect of food is blinding me to the previous issue?

Another philosophical debate arose over said food. We got on to the subject of volunteers (Peace Corps, AusAid, or otherwise) and the way some are more willing to assimilate into Samoan culture than others. In training, we dealt with this issue peripherally in our cross-cultural discussions, but the thing that really interests me is flipping this issue and wondering whether there is a spectrum of acceptance of foreignors on the Samoan side of things. And while I can totally see a spectrum of assimilatability in group 81, I'm not sure I can see a good spectrum of openness to new peoples within our host families (Note: Firefox spellcheck has no problem with the word "assimilatability."). Probably openness to new peoples is easier to differentiate within your own culture.

There's a lot of downtime here. Lots of time for the brain to wander.

In any case, I hope things are well. I promise pictures tomorrow!

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