Friday, February 29, 2008

Unlikely Matches (Pt 2)

If you've been keeping up with my blog, you'll soon realize that this post is mainly about my first entry into Honduras, which is obviously out of order, but I needed more time to reflect, plus I had an "Unlikely Matches Pt 1," so naturally I figured a Pt 2 was in order. Also if you've been keeping up with my blog, probably the last person you'd expect me to stay with is a white Christian missionary but hey, stranger things have happened. Admittedly not my first choice, I hesitantly sent Pamela a couchsurfing message with the fear that our religious perspectives would clash, since I've been prepped in the scholarly perception that missionary work was equivalent to colonization. In retrospect, I was very fortunate she was the only one to respond to my request. Apart from the generous hospitality I received, I also got the chance to reanalyze my beliefs, question and requestion my thinking.

Pamela runs a non-profit program that essentially allows local residents to achieve their high school equivalencies. Each night people come after their long days of being a taxi driver, tortilla vendor, or whatever commonly low waged employment they might hold, to learn basics in arithmetic and grammar. A 5th grade equivalency in reading, which is what some are working towards, honestly does not drastically change their financial situation, but it still means something. It reminds you how much those things you sometimes take for granted are actually worth. Now automatically you may think this was an alturistic case of "white saviorism", but to my surprise, Pamela had a consciousness about race, stating that she made sure she was always staying in the backdrop, ensuring it was mainly Hondurans helping Hondurans.

Perhaps it was my own preconceived notions that allowed me to be so astonished by her words, but my assumptions have been rooted in experiences with previous, mostly white, "human rights activists". The irony of this whole situation is that most of them would consider Pamela a neo-colonist due to her strong religious beliefs, yet she had more humanity than most of them by believing in the capabilities of local leadership. As long as religion no longer professes the racist belief that people of impoversihed surroundings to be less human, say like monkeys, then perhaps people can find some hope in it without any severe consequences. Sometimes I think in our search to understand these complex structures of exploitation, we become arrogant in our so called "knowledge". We overlook the fact that people simply want to better their lives, in whatever capacity, and forget that like those we condemn, we are rarely in a position to judge.

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