Good days, and Not So Good Days
Today was not such a good day and I thought I'd share it to give a little incite into the culture here. I have been working with Donsol's local nutrition council to try to acquire weighing scales to properly weigh children in the municipality who are malnourished. Donsol has one of the highest rates of low and underweight children in the region. The council asked me to help them acquire the scales.
It took some letter writing and phone calls and an in-person meeting in Manila until I finally came across a doctor at Unicef that agreed to help us acquire the scales. The only requirement: Donsol needed to put together a proposal requesting the scales and detailing their purpose, etc. Seems simple enough. So after relaying this information to the officials and explaining what needed to be written in the proposal and giving a deadline...wala (nothing)! No proposal. They missed the deadline and the budget year for the Unicef request. No weighing scales this year!
I'd like to say this situation is unusual...but I have encountered this issue many times over. Many Filipinos live on what they laughingly refer to as "Filipino time." (Important meetings always start half-hour to one hour late!) Unfortunately, I think it is the very reason they are falling behind the rest of the world...they are living in a different time zone, operating on a different frequency. I find little interest in planning, preparing, setting and making deadlines. Perhaps this is the glaring clash of American and Filipino cultures...but I really think it is holding people back here. But I also wonder how much people here really want to move ahead. Maybe they don't and we are trying to push them into a world they don't want to participate in. It's hard to tell from my prospective sometimes.
Of course, it is hard to stereotype a whole group of people. There are some very hard-working, good people here. The school librarian on the library project, for example, is very motivated to bring improvements to the library.
The essential question, I suppose, then, is how do I motivate others to help themselves? It might take me two years to figure that out.