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October 7, 2004


I had another bout of homesickness yesterday–only now I’m realizing that the primary cause is not just that I’m homesick, per se, but that I don’t feel like I’m a contributing member of any particular community here, which I need to feel in order to be fulfilled.  So my homesickness is really more of a frustration that I’m not doing what I was expecting to be doing here, so at times I start to feel as if I’m wasting my time when I could be back home contributing to my family, to FISH, to State College, and to my Harrisburg communities.  I’m just a floater here.  I know I’m not wasting my time because I’m learning SO much simply by being here… but at the same time, what satisfies me most in life is not just to learn, but to contribute.  One of the primary reasons I applied to this program is because I was told we would be involved in some sort of community project for which we would use our skills to lend a hand to people in some way; but that is clearly not going to happen.  So far, all we have done is conduct impersonal interviews in the neighboring city/town–which is poor and lacking in many services but nonetheless charming in its own way (at least to me it is)–and relentlessly discuss the interfases (interphases) of the city–the interfase of city/highway; the interfaseof city/campo (field); the interfase of this and the interfase of that.  But who the hell besides architects thinks that way?  The people who live there certailny don’t.  According to our interviews, they think of their home and their workplace.  They think of the need for a hospital.  Some think of church.  I guess all of this is to say that I’m getting frustrated with abstract discussions and want to start doing something real

But since I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon, I’m going to have to keep reminding myself that the things I’m learning simply by being here, and by reading some of the books and articles I’ve gathered about Participatory Budgeting, will enable me to better contribute to various communities in the future.  Paul, I guess you were right on the phone last night–I AM impatient for the time when I’ll be able to do that again, as hard as I try not to be.

In other news, the campus Banco do Brasil office was on strike yesterday.  Strikes are a big thing here–you can never count on a particular office being open on the exact day you need to run an errand.  For example, the first week we were here, the police station was closed because the administrative workers were on strike, so we had to wait until the second week to register our 4-month stay.  When I was in Salvador, Bahia, the Universidade Federal da Bahia was on strike.  Both the students and the faculty members were making demands.  The faculty members wanted better pay, and the students were protesting the government’s desire to charge fees to attend school (currently, federal universities are free for students who pass the vestibular, the extremely difficult entrance exam–which, btw, is no less discriminatory to poor students than charging fees to attend school).  I like that co-workers and students are obviously in tune with each other enough to organize strikes, despite the inconvenience it occassionally causes.  Our own individualistic society seems to have successfully isolated us from each other, convincing us that it’s in our best interest to look out for ourselves as individuals and let our co-workers do the same for themselves.  In the meantime, we’re allowing many of the safety nets that workers of the past risked their lives fighting for to slip away.  Overtime pay.  Health insurance.  Even social security is now at risk of being abolished, or at least severly compromised by our government’s reckless spending of our tax dollars.  It’s time that American workers unite–again.

All right, time for me to get to work now.  Send me a comment or an email to let me know what you’re up to when you have the time  

From → Brazil, Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. hang in there, cori…i know you can find or make your own community (blarp) while you`re down there, bit by bit…so often i am feeling the same way but maybe there`s some other additional program you could get involved with? 
    i know you miss your loved ones, and you other communities (blarp), me too.  but every moment is worthwile. 

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