Friday, October 29, 2010

Is Haiti the Opportunity I've Been Waiting For?

Thursday at 1 a.m. PST, I had a preliminary phone interview for the position in Haiti with a non-profit organization (Outreach International) that is closely affiliated with the church I'm a member of (the Community of Christ). The person who made the call is younger than me and a son of a well-known church figure, who is big on peace and justice issues. The position is a reporter and writer for the organization. As he explained in more detail than the job announcement, the person selected for this 6 months to a year position will be involved in visiting sites all over Haiti (mostly schools that are affiliated with the church) and reporting the status to the organization. This includes getting personal stories and doing write ups for potential media releases. Grant writing is included in this.

I'm not sure I did a great job in the interview, because it was originally scheduled for another day and it was late at night. Though I'm up at the time nearly every night, due to the long distance nature (he was calling from London), I had limited options on phone calls. It was either early morning or late night. I haven't really had time to prepare for the interview. Just earlier that day, I went through a workshop about Interviewing (with the Oregon Employment Department). They covered phone, one-on-one, panel, and group interviews.

Basically, what they are looking for is someone with some journalist experience (I have none) or writing and research (which are my passion) experience, comfortable with being in poverty conditions, able to walk long distances (including up mountains), and not afraid of being in potential dangerous situations. The interviewer actually mentioned that kidnappings have been reported in Haiti, though no one who works for the non-profit has been victimized by crime.

It was an interesting conversation. I pointed out my experience in South Africa (he asked how long I was there, and when I said, "just a week", I actually cringed because he might think a week is not enough time to really test my endurance for being in a country similar to Haiti), and my degree in International Politics with a focus on Human Rights. When he asked me why I was interested in possibly working in Haiti, I explained to him that as a young man, I was stationed in the Mediterranean with the Navy when the conflict erupted in Bosnia-Hercegovina. I thought at the time that here we were, stationed in a safe place and able to do something, but our government did not utilize us. I also mentioned being affected by Rwanda in 1994 and how I wanted to get involved in human rights and international development. I spoke about how seeing the poverty in Soweto shocked me, especially in light of the extreme wealth of Sun City, and it got me interested in economic justice, which is what the final paper for my degree was about. I mentioned that I had presented the paper at the 2000 Peace Colloquy for critical review and questions by the audience.

I did not tell him, though, that Haiti had interested me since I was a teenager and learned that our church had a huge membership population in Haiti. Why Haiti? What is it about our church that many Haitians are attracted to? This has been one of many questions that have lodged itself in my mind for most of my life. Then in college, when I participated in the exit polling, one of the men on my team had served an LDS mission in Haiti and was fluent in Haitian-Creole (a dialect of French). I remember envying him of that ability, because the Clinton Administration was looking for Haitian-Creole speakers to work in the Executive Office of the President. He had no interest in working for the government, while that has been my one constant career goal.

A friend of mine in Atlanta (whom I met in 2001 through a spiritual discussion group) is some kind of doctor and he spoke of a transforming trip he had made to Haiti. He wants to do more about Haiti, though I haven't really talked to him in a few years. He also does amateur photography and took some amazing photos of Haiti.

At my last job, the middle manager who led a group of underlings to a strip club in February has a wife who goes to Haiti every year and her work has put her in Haiti indefinitely since the devastating earthquake in January. I bet she's still there with the recent cholera outbreak (hopefully her husband hasn't gone to any more strip clubs since getting caught by a reporter and almost getting fired for his lapse of judgment).

My uncle, who is a nurse, went to Haiti earlier this year as part of a team and had a great experience. He met a young man who is a political science student at college and admires Obama. He gave me contact info awhile ago, but I never wrote to the Haitian poli sci student like I meant to. Oops.

It seems as though Haiti has been on the periphery of my life, with knowing quite a few people who have been there. The interviewer mentioned that the person hired for this position will be required to walk long distances (up to 10 hours just to reach a village in the mountains) and be okay with sleeping in close quarters with people. A building in Port-au-Prince serves as base camp. The interviewer seemed to like my military experience, as that lends well to adaptability, which is important. The job advertisement indicated a preference for females and Afro-Caribbean candidates, but I don't know who I'm up against.

The things that might hurt my chances are: only two years of college French (though as most people know, being immersed in the language does bring it back, but if a candidate is fluent in both English and French, they'd have an automatic advantage over me); the lack of a journalism degree or experience; and I've worked for the Boy Scouts organization for almost a decade, which is about as far from international politics and international development as one can get. I've been in a cushy office job for nearly a decade, so the interviewer might think I may not hack it in extreme conditions. Certainly, an aide worker would have a huge advantage over me.

The things going for me are: military background, which implies flexibility and adaptability, my easy-going personality (I'm not obsessed with luxury or expecting to stay in places that meet typical western standards of living), my ability to walk long distances, my writing ability, my church membership, my interest in research and human rights, and my extensive travel experiences. I mentioned to him that I was robbed during my second night in South Africa, but wasn't harmed. I wanted him to know that I generally don't panic and tend to remain calm. I also indicated that I believe most people tend to be helpful of foreigners because they want to give the foreigner a positive impression of their country and hospitality is considered a sacred commandment in many developing nations (people tend to treat foreign guests better than their own family members). I told him that I wouldn't fear for my safety, because there are places in American cities that are just as dangerous. I would listen to other people's precautions and not take unnecessary risks.

When he asked about my experience in Washington, D.C., I'm not sure that I knocked the answer out of the park. He had asked a question in a confusing way, so I wasn't certain what he wanted to know. It was something along the lines of "How did you find the pace and work in D.C.?" I gave an example of being surprised when a handful of Clinton Administration officials invaded our office and stressed out over a rider to an amendment of a bankruptcy bill. They were getting stressed out over a few sentences and I thought it was a bit frivolous because it wasn't a life and death situation. It was just language on a piece of paper that they were stressing out over. I did tell him, though, that I loved being sent to Congressional hearings to take notes and write reports for my supervisor. Yep, research and writing are my main interest.

The interview was thirty minutes. Next, he will whittle down the pool of applicants to four or five people for a more extensive interview. I need to send a thank you email, re-emphasizing the points I wished I had made, and once again play my strengths (adaptability, passion for research and writing, interest in personal diplomacy).

All day on Thursday, I couldn't help but think about Haiti and the possibility of working there for a year. When this year began, I made a Vision Board for what I hoped my life would look like. My main goal was a career that includes (1) travel; (2) writing; and (3) spirituality. This opportunity covers ALL THREE!!! If I were selected, I would travel to Haiti and all over Haiti (on foot!), write reports and dispatches and essays and grant proposals, and I would be interacting with church members in Haiti and learn how they view spirituality (I'm especially curious what they think of Santeria / voudou, though it would be a subject that I would be very careful to bring up or not, depending on what people advise). Basically, this would be the greatest adventure of my life...something I desperately need before 40!

I found the picture above in a Google image search. Its a school for girls in Haiti, possibly an example of one that I would visit and report on if I am selected for this job opportunity.

Shown here is an example of a "shanty town" in Haiti (reminiscent of Soweto, South Africa). This is probably the kind of accommodations I could expect to stay in, if I am selected for this job. I have no idea what their timeframe is, but it could be that the person they select will start in early January, though I wouldn't mind going to Haiti after Thanksgiving. I'd be up for spending Christmas, my birthday, and New Year's in Haiti.

One question I asked the interviewer was the likelihood that doing this work for a year might lead to an actual job in the non-profit organization or with another humanitarian aid /development organization. He couldn't make any guarantees, of course. I'd have to network like crazy, but I don't mind. I see this opportunity as a chance to get my foot in the door to the career I have dreamed about for far too long. What job could be more perfect for me than one that includes travel, writing, and meeting new people who have a spiritual view of the world? Its sounds win-win-win to me! This opportunity would put to the test all the spiritual ideas I've read about, thought about, and tried to understand in the past four years.

Last weekend, when I attended the Body, Mind, Spirit Expo at the Oregon Convention Center, during one of the lectures, the lady gave the audience a guided meditation to access our soul's file in the Hall of Records in the spiritual realm. She had us visualize things like an escalator, a large door, a beautiful garden, a quick reunion with passed over family members and friends or animals (I was greeted by a cat, a Golden Retriever, a rabbit, and a raccoon). Then she took us into the Hall of Records (mine looked like the Jedi Library in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones). She had us find our shelf that contained scrolls for each lifetime we lived on earth and grab the one on the top for a quick peek.

When I did, I saw two words quite clearly: Haiti and Denise. I was stunned. Several years ago in a meditation session, I had come across the name Denise. I don't know what this means. I do not currently know anyone named Denise. Perhaps this is the name of the lady I am meant to marry. Perhaps its a future supervisor or someone who might play a role in my life. When I got home, I did a Google search on Haiti and Denise and learned that there is an organization that goes by the name Denise that operates in Haiti. Perhaps this is something I need keep in mind, for whatever might happen in the future.

Denise could also be De Nice (of Nice, France). Who knows, though? If that's the name of the lady I'm meant to marry, its kind of disappointing. I'm partial to marrying a lady named Nicole, just because I think it would be cute (Nicholas and Nicole). Yeah, I can be cheesy that way at times!

Yesterday, I finally made it back to the Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Portland to participate in the meditation group. One lady there remembered me from last year. I had kept missing it last fall because of work. She asked me what I've been up to and I told her about losing the job I hated to much. She then asked what kind of work I was looking to get into. When I told her about the Haiti possibility, she went all negative. I was annoyed. She realized what she was doing, though, and apologized for "raining on my parade." Later during the discussion portion of the session, one man had mentioned being surprised to learn when he was in India that the people in an impoverished village were more joyful than many Americans he has known. He said you can see the joy on their faces. The negative lady expressed her baffled disbelief about how people in poverty in developing world nations could find joy in their depressing surroundings.

I didn't share my opinion, but I could understand it. Every human on earth only knows their experience. When you grow up in a situation, that is your normal. A kid who grows up in Mormon culture believes that is how life is. Someone who grew up in the Amish community believe that's how life is. A person who grew up in a village in India believes that's how life is. If you have access to images of how other people live, then it can cause problems for people. That is why many Americans are not happy, because if you're living in poverty in the U.S., even though the poverty is considered a high standard of living by developing world standards, people in poverty are miserable in the U.S. because they have bills to pay, only low wage jobs available (if at all) and they see people driving nice cars, living in beautiful homes, having dream careers. The comparison can make one unhappy about his or her circumstance. If, however, you lived all your life in a small village and you have close relationships with your family and other members of the village, and you know nothing or very little about the larger world, you're not going to compare your lack to someone else's abundance. The joy is found through living and appreciating what you have or what nature provides or in the sense of belonging to a tribe or village.

So, this wasn't difficult for me to understand. The negative lady was annoying and was one of the reasons why I kind of did not make a point to attend the group anymore. I could meditate on my own.

In the meditation portion, I finally decided to try communicating with my "inner child" again, for the first time since that session where a psychic medium led a group in a meditation to meet our inner child. As I had written in a previous post, my inner child is me at age 4 who insists on the silly name of "Pooky". During this meditation session, I called for "Pooky" and he appeared right away. In fact, he ran and jumped in my lap and gave me a hug. Its amazing to be hugged by your inner child and being appreciated. He was a hyper little thing, jumping up and down on the couch. Anyhow, I'm trying to get my inner child to allow me the opportunity to find my dream job. I'm tired of the subconscious sabotage, as I wasted the past decade in three crappy jobs that had nothing to do with my interest. But, this session did not amount to much because I didn't meet every other day as originally promised. I was absent for two weeks. So, I need to make a regular routine of this. Five minutes a day, max, is what the psychic told the group.

Lately, I've decided to read for the second time The Passion Test, with the discipline to actually do the exercises. The writers swear that results will appear in your life if you get clear about what you really want in your life and keep your attention on how your dream life makes you feel. This is basic Law of Attraction stuff, with some nifty tips on how to define what you really want and keep the focus on what you want and love, while minimizing the fear. It was hard concentrating reading the book yesterday, though, because my mind is clearly focused on Haiti right now.

Here's what I believe...if I am meant to go to Haiti, then it will happen. If not, something better will appear. As Joseph Campbell once said, when the timing is right, a door will appear for you where a door did not appear for someone else. In the past month, I definitely feel like I'm in a higher spiritual vibration because I wake up grateful and happy, which I haven't felt this deep in a long time (since New Year's Day 2007, as a matter of fact). During the day, I find myself offering thanks to God for the blessings in my life. It is so easy for me to be happy and grateful when I'm not having to be in a negative energy environment 40 hours a week. This is my life lately.

1 comment:

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

This is it! This is your opportunity! I feel very good about this, Sansego.