Saturday, March 21, 2015

Development Dilemmas

The cumbia beat blasts throught the makeshift sound system above me and the warm wind welcomly blasts me in the face as we crawl through the city slowly making our way to the highway. I'm on the bus headed out of town for the second weekend of a four weekend tour to give presentations about social entrepreneurship and promote the national initiative Paraguy Emprende, which I am now putting a lot of my time into. 

On top of that I am also mentoring a young girl to strengthen her youth group, working with a collegue at the office of employment to implement a continuous series of job coaching workshops, attempting to write an NGO consulting curriculum, preparing to teach business planning classes, supporting the tourism office in organizing a community farmers' market, teaching a little English here and there and basically whatever else pops up around me. 

Staying busy keeps me level, gets me out of the house and gives me a purpose.  Although sometimes progress is slow, it might take a week or two to get a follow up meeting or a response to an email, I think I'm making headway. Sometimes it's difficult when I get overly excited about an opportunity only to find that I may have misread the situation or didn't recieve an entirely honest overview.

Development work is tricky, and on top of cultural and language differences there's the huge challenge of finding people who are open enough to be inspired to try something different. Then pair that with the desire to be self motivated enough to follow through and you've got the magic but rare combination.  I can't help but reflect on who I interact with and I wonder if I can make an impact or if I'm even reaching the segment if the community who could benefit from my work the most. 

It's hard to quantify, to see the long term possibilities and to arrive at the strategic outlook I am trying so hard to impose upon my projects. It doesn't hurt to take a step or two down the symantec ladder to get my head out of the clouds and my feet back on the Paraguayan ground.  At this level I'm the one benefitting, with the lessons I'm learning, the relationships I'm making and the idiosyncrasies I'm accepting. 

Today, I'm perfectly content sweating profusely on a crowded dusty bus, listening to the same reggeton songs I've heard a thousand times. Although I still look like an outsider, I'm starting to really feel Paraguay in my heart. And that's a development dillema that's not quantifiable, it's hard to articulate, and perhaps it's not even a dillema at all.