Nov 12, 2009

On complaining

The APCD (associate Peace Corps director) visited me today, and we had a very nice chat. A subject that came up was the amount of complaining relative to other countries that we had visited. He brought up Uganda, where teacher salaries are genuinely meager, where most teachers have to take a second job to make ends meet.

Yet here, where my principal makes $2400 per month (with zero housing cost), and even a normal teacher can afford a house and a car, complaining is like the national sport. From my parents I have a deep dislike of whining, a kind of British stoicism that I value highly. (Of course, I like to sit around and bitch the same as anyone--I'm talking about serious complaining, like when one's house has burned down.) My principal teaches one class, goes back to the staffroom, and spends the rest of the day talking about how tired he is. I just have to bite my tongue and smile.

A lot of people here seem...spoiled, I guess the word would be. Of course, they're not spoiled in a literal sense, as in having lots of material things and taking them for granted. They're spoiled in the sense that they don't know how good they have it, especially compared to countries like Zimbabwe or Sudan, and they don't value staying strong and not whining all the time. It's a weak, sickly kind of attitude, always demanding help from the government, and complaining bitterly when it doesn't come.

I suppose this like many other problems can be traced to Apartheid, which while stomping down the African tribes also kept them at a bare minimum of existence. I imagine this would quickly lead to a loss of motivation and an embrace of victimhood, as there was mostly no other option.

One of the tenets of adapting to another culture is accepting or even enjoying facets of that culture. The example they gave is bargaining, which I don't like much, but could imagine getting used to. Yet I don't think I will ever appreciate this aggrieved atmosphere (or the constant begging for money). Knowing where it comes from may help me tolerate it, but I'll never like it.

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