Much like the tedious and tricky mountain, my experiences with Lynedoch have had its highs (yogurt facials, Cha-Cha lessons) and lows (absentee teachers, power struggles). We are close to the end and I'm attempting to make sense of it all. Why are we here? Are we making any sort of difference? If there’s no tangible result at the end, how do you measure your effect?
When I was in the Dominican Republic, we went into a primary school for just five days. With that short of a time frame, I expected from the beginning to get more out of the trip than the kids we were visiting. With a career in community development or the Peace Corps, where you are fully integrated for several years, I would expect the benefits to be more double-sided.
So where does that leave us here in Lynedoch? We are international students here for four months working with these kids once a week. We aren’t certified teachers; most of us aren’t even in school for education. So are we trying to come in and change lives? It seemed expected of us at the beginning of the course…that we were there to enable empowerment among these children; inspire them to rise up and break their cycle of poverty. Come into the classroom with enough planning and passion, and anything’s possible. But how realistic is that when 40 teenagers decide to only speak in a language you don’t understand? What about when you ask the teacher to stay and help, but he decides he’s not needed and leaves anyway? Who do you get your support from when the entire school’s faculty is overworked and can hardly find the time to answer your email?
It seems as if we are just now finding our stride with the kids, just now pronouncing their names correctly, just now figuring out what works to get through to them. I didn’t know what to expect coming into Lynedoch, but I did hold onto something idealistic that would have me feeling fulfilled and proud of how far we’ve all come by the end of the semester. Is that how I’m feeling now? Mostly. But sometimes I just wish we had more time.
Which brings me back to the beginning: four months. What do you accomplish in four months? During this time I have been, if nothing else, a fly on the wall of these students' lives. They have literally made me laugh and made me cry. They have shown me their intelligence, their resilience, their sassy attitudes that link teenagers all over the world. I've met their parents. I've heard their stories. More knowledge changes perspective, and mine is changing every day.
The more I see, the less I know. And that's a lesson worth learning.