Sunday, January 6, 2013

Part II of "A Valiant Effort" Complete!

I finished typing up the second part of my memoir today.  I originally wrote it freehand, so it is in three notebooks.  I start typing up the third notebook tomorrow and will probably be done by the end of the month.  After that, I can do a grammar edit, print out a master copy, and then send off some other ones to my family and friends. 

I'm at the part where I got permission from my host father to attend the Baptist church.  I only did this as a formality: I would have gone whether I was granted permission or not.  Nonetheless, I wanted to be gracious and respectful, so I asked him anyway.  There really wasn't much he could do about it: according to Peace Corps policy, a volunteer can practice whatever faith they want, as long as they don't proselytize.  At any rate, he gave me permission, but later, he started to get upset about it.  Not everyone felt the way that he did.  Alokoa, the temporary host father of one of my clustermates, still treated me with a lot of kindness, as did my vice principal, Mixon, and Pomeroy.  That being said, they weren't the ones who I was living with.

This particular situation proved that people don't always say what they mean or how they feel.  In their culture, they don't say "no" because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings.  In fact, many people in America believe that, too, much to my annoyance.  At any rate, instead of saying "no" outright, they use the "qualified yes" on Kosrae.  Basically, if they don't want to do something, they still say yes, but then they give a long spiel on all the reasons why they really mean "no."  They aren't the only culture in which this is prevalent, just the one which I am the most familiar with.  In this case, my host father gave a long speech on church conflict on the island, ending by politely saying that as long as I went to a church that believed in God, he didn't care.  I naively thought that I was in the clear, but figured out in the thirteenth hour that he meant "Heck No!"

The whole "qualified yes" thing confuses me to this very day.  I'm a pretty direct guy, and usually say what I mean and mean what I say.  For that reason, I normally take people at their word.  Now I know better, and not just because of this incident.  Other lessons from the School of Hard Knocks have taught me to look at people's actions and body language before I trust anything that they say.  This doesn't mean that I go around stiff-arming everybody.  It only means that I stay alert to possible red flags.

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