While my mind is conjuring odd memories and I’m surrounded by thought-provoking human emotion and expression, I thought it prudent to write you of one particularly interesting memory.
Last month (sometime around the 23rd of February at 10:14am) during our provincial collaboration workshop – a session designed to foster better communication, working relationships and sensitize local NGOs and government agencies on the role of the US Peace Corps – one of our [PCVS] counter-parts asked if he could share a story. We were all a little apprehensive as he’d been drinking but we listened regardless…In a train car headed from Lusaka toward Tanzania sat four people. All had luggage stored above in the racks and each had a parcel in their lap. There was an American, a Chinese national, an Indian and a Zambian. As they were riding along the American stood up, opened the train car window and bent back over to his seat – he started pulling out dollars bills and throwing them out the window – note that at this time the American volunteers were uncomfortable – then the Chinese man pulled out cellphones and electronics and did the same, from his bag the Indian started throwing medicines…
Now the Zambian (according to the story teller) looked around, he was confused and unsure. Seeing the American, the Chinese man, and the Indian all throwing away such valuable things he didn’t know what to do. So he ran out of the car and came back with 50 Zambian friends – one by one he started throwing them out of the train window. Note that the PCVs at this point were horrified – the story teller chuckled and said – what else was he supposed to throw away – Americans have money to throw at problems, the Chinese make everything, India makes our drugs….Zambia just has a lot of people.
I think he was trying to tell us that Americans value money, Chinese value productivity, and Indians value medicine (Well not sure on that last one), and Zambians value human capital above all else.
I hope that’s what he meant – there are a lot of dark, sad, hard ways to interpret that story. But tonight, against the eerie echoes of thunder and mournful cries carried from the nearby funeral into the wind, in the pitch black of my hut, that abstract moment, a totally unrelated story, during a conference on collaboration, floated clearly across my mind.
Now being that we were talking about collaboration – it might have meant that each nationality was throwing what they had at the process of development – and that Zambians contribution was human capital. But being a meeting about Peace Corps, and the fact that we don’t do monetary or hard development but give human resources of individual and group human capacity building, it makes that seem kind of strange. Maybe he was trying to say that Peace Corps is like Zambia – realizing the value of training people… Argh I don’t know.
Maybe you do! Let me know your interpretation.