(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Adventures


It's A Parent Thing
I noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. Not for lack of anything to say, of course, but lack of time. Of course.
After my two work weeks in Rwanda, I now have a bit of a break in travel. I’ll probably have a rather quick trip or two to the field here in Burundi but otherwise I’m relishing the opportunity to reconnect with my wife and baby.
Speaking of, I have jokingly been ordering my little 8-month-old to crawl by Easter. She'll never set the women's world record in the 100m by being a slacker.We knew she was getting close to crawling. She'd be poised and ready to go. Then she'd lift her butt in the air, drop a knee and spin back into a seating position. But our little bundle of energy has finally had enough of 100% dependence and has taken matters into her own hands. Easter Sunday she busted out a legal crawl. Won't be long before she's asking me for the keys to the car.
On the down side, we in the parent business have to deal with things called a “bo-bo's or "owee's”. We had a good one a couple days ago. Kiran smacked her head on an open window while cruising around in her little wheeled walker thing. As she turned around to wail in the direction of her parents - during that big pause while she’s catching her breath to scream - her little walker tipped over and she went face down on our cement floor. My oh my. Bad sequence. God gives babies soft bones for a reason. Soon she was smiling and tossing my wireless mouse across the room. Ah the ups and downs up parenting.

It Is What It Is
So speaking of adventure, I’m reading a book called Undaunted Courage about the American Lewis and Clark nineteenth century trek to the Pacific Ocean. It was recommended to me a while back by my brother-in-law Pat and it’s taken me a while to get to it. While it’s not one of my all-time great reads, it’s nonetheless a remarkable book. The historical record is fascinating and though the basic story plays a key role in American US history classes, this particular account digs down into some interesting details. 
I can’t help but view these types of stories through the lens of a guy who’s been working in Africa for a while. One thing that jumps out at me is where the author discusses life in America during the late 1700’s prior to the expedition. He talks about how during that period in history, as with the centuries prior, people assumed that the way things were at the time was how they would basically be forever. Technological advancement was so slow that few people sat around pondering all the advancements that the future might bring. The West is untamed and always will be. The technology we have is basically what we always will have. The idea that things will likely be crazy different in the future is a relatively recent phenomenon that began in the 1800’s, taking flight as the industrial revolution began a chain of technological advancements, the pace of which has increased over time. I see this more than I would if I lived in Europe or the US. Every time I go I see snapshots of how much things are advancing since my previous trip. This happened when I first moved overseas in 1988 but the pace if far faster now. There is a certainty that life will not be the same in the future.
On the other hand, for the typical rural Burundian, there is an interesting similarity to life in the American West pre-1800. While there is a certain sophistication to life, it is not technology based. In fact, there are many parts of sub-Saharan Africa that are still largely devoid of technology except for, of course, the ubiquitous cell phone. There is not a constant thought as to how technology is shaping their lives and what lies around the corner that will change their expectations as to how things are done. The bulk of their day in many ways reflects how things were done centuries ago. It’s difficult for Westerners today to imagine how different imagination plays itself out in the mind of someone in that environment. Even among a lot of my staff, many of whom are fairly well educated, creative thought is a strained activity. The developed world has had a couple centuries to get their brains around this way of thinking. It won’t happen overnight here.
There are other interesting connections between the book and what is happening here. Another one is how Lewis and Clark drastically misunderstood how life works with the Native American tribes, particularly how with regards to dealing with tribal leadership. This is something that outsiders constantly do here. Humanitarian organizations arrive with naïve notions as to how things work here, lacking cultural understanding and often completely missing the power dynamics. In the process their ability to implement activities (or even determine them) is misguided. As with Lewis and Clark, the locals understood the game far better than the outsiders anticipated.
One adventure at a time. For now I must get back to the parenting thing.

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