Two Steps Forward, One Back

In Armenia, and probably most other Peace Corps countries, progress is roundabout. There are no drives to the lane. Instead, the ball gets passed around, possibly bobbled, scrambled for, desperately tipped to a teammate, and then passed around some more. We all know it. The ability to accept that fact during the trials of daily life is the test of a volunteer.

It’s easy to forget that this isn’t America. It’s easy to lose your head. It’s easy to complain about things that don’t go quite how you wanted. Or about things that seem to be contrary to progress. But it’s our job to embrace those things as challenges that will somehow give us insight, perspective, or some other five dollar word that improves us. After all, it was our own decision that brought us here.

I sat there with pride. The pride was manifesting itself on multiple levels. I was proud that the meeting was even happening. I was proud that people came and seemed to be interested. I was proud of my counterpart for being a female leader in a man’s world. I was proud of the discussion that was taking place. I was even proud that I was able to understand enough of it to be able to take some notes.

Our strategic planning was finally finding its footing like a newborn colt. It was a beautiful sight! I felt like a volunteer in one of those hippy PC brochures. Motivation, readiness, and availability had all been improbably and delicately duct-taped together, allowing us to begin thinking about the organization’s past and future.

The funny thing is, as I was sitting there the translator’s phone kept ringing. I was oblivious to the fact that this was her new employer calling to congratulate her on earning her long-awaited for job. The next morning she came in, told us she was going to Yerevan, and was gone in a flash.

Actually I’m quite happy because she is my friend. Her new job will improve her life a lot. She waited for so long, often without hope. It’s terrific that she finally has a job that will pay her closer to what she’s worth.

The only bad thing is it leaves the YMCA in a bad position. We lose yet another qualified worker. It’s hard to get much lower on the food chain when you can’t pay your workers a good salary or even consistently pay them a low salary. That’s the reality of the situation here unfortunately. And of course the strategic plan gets delayed again. But that part is okay, because I know somehow, someway, we’ll get it done…just like Armenians always do.

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