Last-minute information and getting over it

I have a confession to make. When I am out of the States, I become a massive U.S. sports fan. I go to great lengths to catch games. For example, I stayed up well past 4 a.m. two weeks in a row to watch the 49ers successful run for the 47th Superbowl from an Irish Sports Bar in Cambodia.*

Last week, I learned that the 49ers would be playing the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football, which my host family receives via the cable channel, ESPN Vivo. Upon learning this, Paco said we would have popcorn and beer to watch the game. I got excited to share a likely win by my favorite team with Paco.

Until Thursday night, when I bumped into my supervisor, Tulia, after work. I informed her that I would be attending the evaluation period, which starts Monday. The evaluations determine the scores of those participating in the CEDAP’s development competition, with modest monetary prizes for the winners. As I understand it, I’m headed out to talk to various families about their economic lives. Tulia asked if I had a sleeping bag, as we’d be staying overnight in the communities. I responded that I did, but I felt a moment of weird, out-of-place panic.

THE EVALUATION PROCESS IS AN OVERNIGHT AFFAIR AND I ONLY JUST LEARNED THIS NOW? My previous trip to the rural community had been a daylong event and from casual observation I had started to think this was the norm. My shock manifested itself as dread that I would miss Monday Night Football. Somehow, I thought, I had to find a way not to miss the game and my plans with Paco.

Then, I thought that perhaps overnight stays occurred in the three or four communities with evaluations in the afternoon. As most communities had morning evaluations, I felt less panicked. After all, Tulia wanted me to survey communities in both districts and so I’d need to be quite mobile during the week.

The next day, I spoke with Hiladio, who is directing the evaluation, to clear up my ignorance. They in fact would stay overnight, but he had not realized that I needed to go from district to district. That was a little confusing, as I remember him being involved in the conversation when Tulia said it would be best for me to survey throughout the districts.

So we set to work trying to figure out a way to get me between districts. I suggested, somewhat selfishly, a plan that would let me come home Monday night. It allowed me to get to an even split of communities between both districts; however, it also involved me traveling back solo to one of the districts on a 3 a.m. bus, Tuesday morning.

I’ve never done that before and I’m not comfortable going the road alone just yet, so I scratched my plan to watch the Niners.

I don’t want to dump on Hiladio. My ignorance could be my fault. It may be that he said to me in passing that we’d be staying overnight and I’d have to dedicate to one district, but I missed that. Maybe he assumed it was obvious, I mean had I even looked at a map? No, this isn’t all on Hiladio. No, Hiladio

Instead, I want to note the monumental scheduling effort that he and Silvia (another co-worker) put in to ensure that I would be able to first visit the Totos district followed by the Maria Parado Bellido between October 13th and October 21st. I’ll even get to stop back in Ayacucho Thursday night, to check the score and watch some highlights.

Yet, I’m still feeling a little apprehensive about the trip, which is disappointing. I mean, this is basically why I came to Ayacucho. I’ve pictured myself in this role professionally. So where is my excitement? I started find the answer through conversations with a few trusted supporters, a fellow Niners fan, my father, Jed and Jenny, and God**. Their support ranged from snarky, to understanding, to logical.

“[The 49ers] will probably be fine without you,” my friend and fellow fan, Alex, said.

“You’re just a little too used to being settled,” my dad suggested. He went on to discuss his own similar struggles with leaving the familiar and comfortable.

Jed and Jenny pointed that this is an amazing opportunity before me to step up and participate more within the organization.

And God, I guess God, reminded me to stop being so whiny. To remember that I’m here to accompany. To keep in mind that I’m hardly sacrificing much for the opportunity to help CEDAP secure further funding through a comprehensive economic evaluation.

Of course, that last bit scares the crap out of me. While I’ve found a good social atmosphere at CEDAP, I have to admit they haven’t provided the most vocational support. Learning I’d be staying overnight at the last minute is dwarfed by the fact that I still have no idea what an “economic evaluation” means to the members of CEDAP.

Where I would have preferred conversation, I was mostly handed documents pertaining to the various projects. I’ve got lots of questions, some of which I’m aware of, others I’m not (i.e. didn’t realize I should ask if I’d be staying overnight).Come Monday I have to dive in and start evaluating and hope my work pleases.

That being said, I haven’t sat passive in the office. I wrote up a survey to be completed during the evaluation which will include information on the incomes and general economic facts about each participating family. My hope is to create general statistical representations and possibly utilize some econometrics in my economic evaluation. Hiladio approved my final survey, though he was highly resistant to the idea of offering this to each family, which I understand. In fact, I had to insist that he make a copy for each family.

Of course, I’m expecting something to go wrong with my survey. There are far too many pitfalls that we didn’t get a chance to cover. Perhaps the income information will be separated from their relative family? Perhaps most families will not be able to fill out the income information? Perhaps the evaluators won’t understand what I was getting at? The fact that Hiladio only made enough copies for each family on Friday only adds to that worry. I wish we had talked more leading up to Monday. But we didn’t, so no use operating on wishes for the past. I just have to operate on hope for the future.

This might help explain why I’m feeling “apprehensive, but excited” as I told Jed and Jenny. I’m hoping that after eight days in the field I’ll move toward “hopeful and inspired.” Even if my survey completely falls apart.

Mainly, I think I just have to do as much as under my control from now forward. For example, I can ensure that in the 11 communities that I visit, the evaluators understand to keep the survey attached to each family’s score sheet. At least that way, I can ensure that half of all communities will be surveyed correctly.

I’m kind of disappointed in myself to write this blog. That I struggled this much with being pulled out of my “normal” to go do what I actually kind of came down here to do. Yet, writing this is part of my process. It’s helping me move from perceiving this as a challenge, to a grand opportunity.

And more importantly, it’s helping me realize that getting information like this last-minute, doesn’t really change much. Yeah, I’d prefer to have known more about how the evaluation period operated two weeks ago. But what does it really change? I’m still going, and outside of missing out on a little homeland, pigskin, comfort, I’m not sacrificing much. That’s sort of the joy of being a YAV, there’s not much keeping me grounded and unable to work for justice and one particular manifestation of God’s vision.

So, unfortunately, I’ll miss the game. And I’m operating on hope that I’ll get the best information possible from these evaluations. Yet no matter what, I learned to be a bit more proactive moving forward. The burden of my knowledge shouldn’t fall on the members of CEDAP. It may be in their best interest to help keep me informed, but they can do that best when questions point out my ignorance.

* I realize that’s problematic, given recent scandals and systemic problems within the NFL, but I’m going to put my thoughts about that side for now.
**That statement felt odd because I’m still figuring out how to openly acknowledge my faith.

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