A Healthy Dose of Realism

Naomi Wright - Senegal

December 28, 2010

“The work we do is hard. If it were easy, it would be done already.” –John Wood

I heard this statement way back when, in San Francisco, from Room to Read founder, John Wood. He was referencing the efforts of his organization to expand education opportunities in developing countries.

As I lay in bed today, victim of some unidentifiable tropical nasty, Wood’s statement seemed all too applicable, though the development in my situation is entirely personal. At some point after running to the hole-in-ground toilet to vomit up the contents of my stomach and after running to the hole-in-ground toilet to void the contents of my stomach in a more southerly manner, it occurred to me that this work I’m doing is hard-er than I’d bargained for.

A subsequent self-diagnosis has determined that I am suffering a bad case of food poisoning, exacerbated by a condition known to experts as The GCY December Dulldrums. I’d been well warned of by GCY staff as well as last-year’s fellows to expect this third month to be most trying of a young Fellow’s resolve. However, there is little hypothetical mental preparation that could prepare one for… this.

Away from my family just four days before Christmas, not having had internet access to see them for over two weeks, the weight of the phrase “four more months” seems just that much more heavy. The frustrations incurred by my constant lingual blunders are less easy to alleviate with a laugh. Though the customs and routines of my tiny West African village are continually more familiar, they remain perpetually foreign. As for my apprenticeship with the Millennium Village Project? Right on time, Senegalese style, I will “soon” be connected with a coordinator in my declared sector-of-interest, though for now the frustratingly stagnant observation stage looks to be continuing.

Despite this pile of not-so-fun thoughts, my inherent nature steers me away from the negative: You are not allowed to think about those things! Put on the smile! Banter in Wolof! Enjoy those burrs wedging into your flesh as you peel bissap!

But the thing is, what I am doing, what all 33 GCY Fellows are doing, is hard work. If it were easy, every high school graduate would be living and learning in a developing country before moving to the next step in their educational career. However, I know that even if I don’t maintain unwavering optimism through every tough spot, I will eventually move forward. And with each setback, I learn and grow. It is this perspective that allows me to continue on until I’m once again rolling on the floor, laughing with my host sister.

It appears that in some cases, a spoonful of realism is just what the doctor ordered.

Naomi Wright