Sunday, September 23, 2007

Davidson profs impart final words of wisdom, and I didn't even pay them for it!

On my way up from FL to NJ in late August, I stopped in at alma mater Davidson College to visit professors and see if I wouldn't know any students.

Mike Goode challenged me (naturally since he's Mr. challenge course guy) when I mentioned my consternation after Dr. Flanagan telling me that my purpose as a PCV was not to be happy. I had considered that my happiness should be a primary consideration, but Dr. Flanagan seemed to be implying that my fulfillment should be more linked to my mission or goal. Paraphrasing, Mike is of the opinion that people worry too much about being happy when really life encompasses a lot of things that might not make you happy, and you're less able to enjoy the entirety of your life when you're cherry picking for the happy parts of it. In striving for your goals you might even forego happiness to have the experiences that beckon you.

Dr. Hess compared our guesses at the next step in life or career to turning a magic 8 ball over. Eventually the answer to where I'm headed floats to the top as an answer to the question or what have you, the path reveals itself in this way.

Dr. Menkhaus. Angola's oil and farmland make good prospects if they can avoid the cleptocracy. Apart from private sector interests in Angola's resources, he suggested that development organisations may be interested in making Angola the breadbasket/cashcow of the region for the other countries around. I shared my naive thought that maybe starting PC in Angola would curry favor with government diplomatically as a way for the U.S. government to earn Angola's favor and get more of its resources, but he indicated that there are bigger fish to fry and that PC would most likely not be a bargaining chip in this oil deal. Touche

Keyne Chesire shared with me a book recommendation: "Waiting for theBarbarians" by Koetze

Dr. Holland: On the subject of travel writing, he recommends that after travelling to China, you should write your book within the first 6 months of returning, or else you will break your pen. The meaning of "break your pen" heclarified: the things you thought you understood about China at the time or at first will reveal themselves as far more complex and you will realize that you don't know what to write for lack of the ability to sufficiently comprehend China.

Dr. Flanagan insisted that I take my medications since she almost died from malaria she got in Chad. She recommended that I ask a lot ofquestions, and that I don't wait too long to start writing myimpressions because after just 3 months or so the newness andstrangeness will become familiar and won't be as recognizeable assomething different or shocking.

Dr. Paradise had lots of good news to share about Environmentalism at Davidson. Many of the projects that I had worked on are still going on, and what's even better is that there are new projects and a good amount of support from the administration. The students have made an "Eco-op" ecologically-minded co-operative house (think MTV's Real World). I crashed the first dinner party and was really happy to see that so many students in their most extracurricularly active year (sophomore year) will be working together so closely on greening the campus.

Speaking of students, I met Rex Salisbury whose brother Grant is in MZ as a minesweeper. After having spoken with Grant, I'm not as worried about the mines left over from the civil war, I was kind of worried when I first heard about them.

I asked Dr. Martin what books he might recommend considering that I never got to take his class and given that Africa is notorious for the paradox of abundant natural resources and economic hardship, he recommends:"Ecological Economics" by Daly and Farley "Environmentalism of the Poor" by Martinez-Alier "Choosing Environmental Policy" by Harrington, Morganstern and Sterner

While talking with Dr. Miller, I recalled what it's like to write non-fiction prose and thought that the context i was giving him verbally would be an important thing to write in the blog--about Portugal being the last to give up its colonies and how that perhaps exacerbated the civil war.

My favorite tidbits from the “Welcome to Peace Corps” materials:

ON BEING A PCV
All of my income will be taxable (luckily I’ll be in a low tax bracket)
Real estate speculation is prohibited, so it looks like I won’t be buying any beachfront property in MZ after all (yes, I really was considering it, bummer)
No dating other PCVs (under the “Fraternization” subheading, Bummer)

Training will cover how to:
Teach English effectively
Communicate in Portuguese
Stay healthy (avoid disease)
Stay safe (avoid crime)
adapt to MZ culturally


ON MOZAMBIQUE
The northern half of MZ is a matriarchical tradition, the south half is patriarchical.
Key cash crops are sugar cane, cashews and corn.

HISTORICAL TIMELINE
Arabs arrive along the coastline in 300 A.D. The Portuguese arrive in 1498.
Portugal refused to give up its colonies after WWII and MZ. The war for independence began 1964 and ended in 1975 with a Marxist government in control. The civil war began in 1976, hostilities ended in 1992 and in 1994 they had peaceful elections. The government adopted free market policies, free press, privatization of state-owned enterprises and open to civil society (NGOs).
Peace Corps has been in MZ since 1999.

How to mail me in MZ

Letters from the U.S. could take up to according to the USPS. My address until December 10 is:

Greg Harris, PCT
Peace Corps
C.P. 4398
Maputo, Mozambique

I'll update this when I get my address at my post.

Please write “Par Avion” and “Airmail” on the letter.

If you’re planning on sending me several letters, number them so that I will understand if they arrive out of sequence. Some of the mail might get lost, though this is supposedly a rare occurrence. I’m reminded of the scene from Mark Twain’s book Roughing It. The narrator is riding out west as a passenger in a mail wagon when a part of the wagon breaks and the driver explains why: "Why, it happened by trying to make one coach carry three days' mail-- that's how it happened," said he. "And right here is the very direction which is wrote on all the newspaper-bags which was to be put out for the Injuns for to keep 'em quiet. It's most uncommon lucky, becuz it's so nation dark I should 'a' gone by unbeknowns if that air thoroughbrace hadn't broke."