Thursday, July 22, 2010

knowing a thing or two

hello.  and welcome.  to the hundreds of people who have passed by my corner of the internet these past couple days.  i suppose i should have had this message up before, well, now.  but instead all those newcomers to my blog, thanks to a rather kind link from flotsam, see me whining about my life and being in a funk...

but (but!) here i am, trying not to be wah-wah-wahing for once in a bit of a while.

what a day i had.  it started off with a message that my slow cooker had arrived and was ready for pick up. and a day that starts off like that is bound to be a good one.  what is better is that my slow cooker was free (remember that laptop i bought?  i put it on my credit card and earned enough points to order a slow cooker!) and that it matches the rest of my kitchen appliances, which pleases my obsessive sensibilities.

i began my workday at noon (because i can!) and headed to a townhall meeting with some of the executive of our company and was thrilled that some of my work was not only mentioned in the quarterly update, but praised as good company practice.

but that is not all.  i was mildly dreading heading to yet another meeting with an organisation that i volunteer with after my shortened workday, but was again pleasantly surprised to find that i was regarded as an expert and advisor to a locally based international foundation.  this was all well and good, however, until i had a one-on-one conversation about an upcoming initiative that i not-so-affectionately called voluntourism-lite.

the same qualities of voluntourism are apparent: the focus put on the travellers' experience, no lasting impact or clear outputs of the visit, short term stays in communities, and time and energy put out by the host organisation that is likely motivated by a desire to show that they really are a great organisation doing really good work (a sort of self preservation and marketing to the foreign visitors).

i got in quite a heated discussion about this and i just kept coming back to the question of why?  why is this happening?  to try and head off those who would otherwise seek out a true voluntourism experience and offer them something a little less corrupt and possibly more meaningful?  but that is not what a foundation should be doing.  a bad idea remains a bad idea.

and why is it so hard for people to accept my opinion that if you want to go to africa, go on a wicked vacation full of beaches, safaris, museums, and sights?  there is no requirement that you visit a slum, an orphanage, or a hospital to make it worthwhile.  we don't expect tourists to canada to visit our poorest communities or our underdeveloped first nations reserves so why do we expect canadians to do similar things on their holidays abroad?  and doesn't this continue to perpetuate the same stereotypes that africa is nothing but a continent full of dirty, black kids with flies around their eyes?  and (and!) offering such a programme doesn't acknowledge that many middle and upper class residents of africans don't feel compelled to visit those communities in their backyard, so why would canadians?  and, more than anything, what right do they have to go sniffing around in someone else's backyard?  and again, for what purpose?

eesh.  the whole conversation just made me want to bang my head against a wall.  but (but!), it did make me feel good in the sense that i actually know a thing or two about this and i felt strong enough in my opinions to express them and stand by them.  and that i can make some things better, just by being a part of them even if they frustrate me at times.

and that, along with today's positive feedback, has made me feel as though the wobbly moment might almost (dare i say it?!) be coming to a close.

1 comment:

La Cabeza Grande said...

Outstanding! Way to state your case and be recognized, Lu.