“Six strangers…living together, working together…in a foreign country. What will happen next?”
If I were to tell you that we’ve renamed our MAP “Real World: Jo’burg”, I doubt any Rosser that’s experienced an international seven-week jaunt in Winter B would disagree with our decision. It’s not an indictment on my classmates or the project, per se, and through the evening rant sessions I have with fellow classmates on other projects I realize that we all have our own method of coping with the maelstrom of logistics and work-related activities.
I mean, let’s face it: spending twenty hours with five other people in a country none of us has ever visited is bound to generate some acidic tension, and I’m pretty confident when I say this: although the project we’re developing for Microsoft is going to literally change lives if we implement it correctly, the amount I’ve learned about South Africa and the NGO spectrum pales in comparison to the deeper understanding I now have of who I am and how I react in a vacuum. One of my teammates made a poignant observation this morning as we returned from a village drive about an hour outside of Jo’burg: “You know, m@, you have a bit of a temper that needs to be controlled”. I wasn’t necessarily floored, per se — I’d be the first to admit that I wear my emotions on my sleeve — but it was the fact that he chose to offer me advice on how to resolve it that really hit home.
And see, that’s where I often see a separation between people, even moreso than along racial, religious, social, and political lines: there’s no doubt that we’re all occupying a little swath of this globe, and while some choose to simply consume, others find a way to contribute in a way that their consumption isn’t an entirely sunk cost (there’s some econ for ya…) We all find ourselves straddling this chasm, but a pattern of behavior can somehow seal the deal in a lot of ways.
Where this evaluation comes in is where I realize which types of people I can befriend, share life with, and feel free laughing around. Sadly, not all of my five teammates fit into this category; I quietly reflected this morning on the fact that a small portion of life has been drained from me these few weeks simply because my jokes aren’t laughed at, my willingness to take photos and interact with the locals is met with derision (both verbal and non-verbal), and the windows to escape and be “m@, human being” instead of “m@, faculty liaison and team moderator” are pretty rare.
I have no doubt that, regardless of the program I attended — or even if I was in the Peace Corps right now — that I would encounter such challenges. It’s not classmates with whom I’m at odds, it’s a small slice of humanity. It’s a beneficial lesson I’ve learned, attempted to decipher, and have ultimately understood with a burning passion this month: I’ve spent 27 years attempting to please others, and now there’s no doubt that I won’t be able to make all 6 billion of ’em happy.