I have to be honest. Writing a blog is hard sometimes. There seem to be a few traps.
First of all, there is the danger of reinforcing stereotypes. We are all guilty. We seek out our preconceptions and our stereotypes and look to validate and reinforce them as truths. We immediately pull out our cameras when we see what we think is the “real Africa” or the “real” country X, Y or Z. When we see the World Vision infomercial in living colour right before our eyes. When we see the tribal women on the donkey. The cute naked children playing in the dirt. The lone mango tree in the sunset. The kicker is that these stereotypes do originate from some grain of truth. And these images do exist so they must be true. But, they are partial and over-simplified truths; and partial and over-simplified stories are so much easier to tell.
Another danger is always being negative, because, well, we are sent to war-torn, under-developed desperately poor places. With, often enough, an epidemic of some sort thrown in for good measure. Sure, there are laughing children and a perseverance of spirit which serve to inspire. But these things often exist in somewhat of a depressing and hopeless context and stand out only because of their stark contrast with what is the norm. Even if that is not always the case, it is easy to feel that way when you are working long hours, drinking warm water all day and have a multitude of insect bites.
Do I ever notice laughing children in Canada?
There is also the danger of superficiality. While the complete overtaking of our compound by hideous toads serves as valuable comic relief, it is at times too tempting to skirt the more complex issues and incessantly lament about how hot it is here and how my sweaty forearms stick to my paperwork and smudge the ink.
So, in the blogs that follow, please forgive my narrow presumptuousness, any cynical tendencies, and the odd lapse into the superficial.