Pathetic Fallacy April 3, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Eco-goodness, Food, Peculiarities, Raaah!, The job, Weather.
Friday was our big Open Day for the community. The whole community was invited. I’d spent weeks preparing awareness material about the centre, with big colour posters in English and Otjiherero and various brochures which had to be painstakingly folded 3-ways.
I arrived fresh at 9, ready to start at 10, with our brochures neatly laid out on tables and posters adorning the Energy Trailer. Two local guys were lounging on benches with Tjono when I pitched up, and didn’t move for 2 hours. Whilst waiting for visitors to arrive, I got to try my hand at goat herding, which is much harder than first assumed (they can go 0-30 in a matter of seconds, and you can’t predict in what direction).
Our first visitors were 2 Australian tourists who were on a village tour with Milly’s boyfriend, Israel, who is a tour guide. Mother and daughter were terribly earnest and excited from their visit to a real homestead, where they had seen how the poor people live and had their photo taken with all the little black children (I am becoming ever more cynical towards these whistle-stop ethical tours to “where the poor folk live” but that’s a discussion for another day) and gushed with praise as I showed them round the project. They are in fact the only tourists I have seen in Ovitoto since I arrived.
Eventually the two loungers decided they wanted a tour of the centre as well, despite having spent many a day squatting under the tree. And that was it on visitors for our grand Open Day. I repeatedly asked Milly and Tjono where the people are, to be told “ah, people will come”. Around 1pm, I asked again.
“Oh, the people, they will not come.”
They then went on to explain that since it was the last Friday of the month, and therefore Pay Day, everyone will be either in the nearest main town of Okahandja, or in Windhoek, and therefore would not come to the Open Day. Strangely, this differs from what they said about 6 weeks ago when I started planning this event, saying that since it was a Friday and also Pay Day, lots of people would be passing through Okandjira, and would stop at the ECO-C to see what was going on. When planning these events, I had repeatedly asked people in the village about how and when to plan these events to make them appealing and convenient for the community to attend. I had questioned the date and style of the events during every week of preparation, and each time I was told that it was a good idea and that people would come. After 6 months of building trust and developing relationships in the community, I thought that they had overcome the whole agree-with-the-person-in-charge school of thought, and started asserting themselves; I also thought that I had mastered my questioning methods to extract real opinions from people who were all too ready to agree with me. I was clearly wrong, and the result was a fubar Open Day.
As it sunk in that a second of the week’s events had become a disaster through the confused concept of communication, thunder began to growl from the darkening sky on the horizon. Realising that packing up would take a while, it was all hands on deck to pack everything up to go before the rain struck, particularly the Energy Trailer. We were nearly done when the rain began to sweep in. Just as I was battening down one of the hatches of the trailer, metal rod in one hand, gripping the metal door of the hatch with the other, lightning struck the ground barely 30m from where I was standing, just on the other side of the large tree from where I was standing. Terrified, I tossed the metal rod into the hatch, slammed the door and secured the latch, before running for cover in the shack. Since many of the trailer doors were still open, I spent the next 10 minutes dashing out to secure another hatch, by this time, being pelted with icy hail stones the size of thumb nail, then cowering for shelter in the shack. It was an hour before the rain let up enough to even think about leaving. We passed the time eating the rice we had cooked in the solar stove (but was only almost cooked due to clouds and rainstorm) with baked beans and ketchup, soaking and shivering in the dark shack.
Finally the torrential rain lightened to a light drizzle, enabling us to pack up the now sodden army tent and fasten the trailer to the car. And finally we were off, crawling along the buttery gravel road, packed in with soaked equipment. My T-shirt was still soaking when we arrived back in
Windhoek 2 hours later, and I was splattered and smeared with mud.
It took another hour to return the trailer to the DRFN, the army tent and then drop Milly home. I was expecting to return buzzing after a week of empowering people, sharing skills and spreading eco-goodness, but instead felt deflated and just relieved that it was over. I go through phases of feeling heel-clicking-happy and positive about work, rejoicing when the community shows interest in the project and motivation to work with us to improve their livelihoods, which gives me hope that the project will be a success and sustainable in a few years. I felt that on Wednesday after the learners visited, but it vanished by Thursday. Bar knocking door to door in the community to personally invite them to our activities, I did everything in my means possible to make these events successful. It’s just so disappointing when people in the community show that they would rather hang out drinking Windhoek Lager, watch cows or sleep than actively learn or participate to improve their livelihoods. I know that there is a plethora of reasons behind their perceived apathy, which goes deep into their history and culture, which is strangling their momentum. I shouldn’t take it personally.
Phase 1 is now over. We have a range of activities to bide our time with until the funding for Phase 2 arrives. Activities focussing on community involvement, capacity building, enterprise set-up and empowerment. And hopefully, by the time Phase 2 starts, I can confidently sit back and say, “Ah, yes, the people,…they will come”.