The Problem with Visiting

After settling in to the hote, Caroline and I walked around town – Rustik’s located off the beaten path, in a small mountain village called Furcy. The locals are used to tourists, though (it’s a popular weekend trip spot for Petionville aid workers, I guess), so one young boy walked straight up to us and asked if we wanted to go see the waterfall.

We decided to follow him, but I had a bad feeling and wasn’t surprised when along the way he asked us if we’d like to buy a flower. There were hundreds dangling from the trees around us, but I knew this was a standard “guide fee” and handed over some change.

Normally it would have ended there, but this kid was persistent. He took us to the promised waterfall (as you can see, nothing special, but water is indeed falling, and the walk there was gorgeous. I mentioned the flowers, right?), then offered to show us something even better for a small sum. By that time we were tired of the game and just started walking back to the village, with the kid following us and telling us about how he hadn’t eaten.

Along the way, a woman stopped me and straight-up asked me for my jacket. Like, “That’s a nice jacket you’re wearing. Can I have it?” (If you’re wondering why I was wearing a jacket in the first place, it gets cold up in the mountains). I tried to joke and explain to her that if I took it off I would be cold, but of course that didn’t work.

Here’s why it didn’t work: we were just visiting Furcy. I don’t really intend to go back there ever, or stay there for an extended period of time. So there’s no chance to build relationships – to get that kid enrolled in school, to visit that woman’s house, to be able to laugh along with what was probably a joke instead of being offended. Okay, spending a week somewhere like I do with most places I visit isn’t too much better than spending a day, but I know I’m coming back, I know I’m keeping in touch, and I think that makes a difference. I can’t buy flowers from all the children in the villages where I work, but I can fix up computers and train teachers and hopefully some of them will benefit from that in the long term.

I guess in the end, it’s just a reminder that a lot of life is about sticking with problems and showing up again. I already knew that, I suppose, but it’s good to be reminded.


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