Sunday, August 5, 2012

ACCT International: The Trouble with Expectations

When Cale and I were in the Peace Corps, we went through two months of pre-service training (PST). During this training we learned about counterparts. When we got to our posts, we would have counterparts. We had entire sessions on what counterparts are, what working with a counterpart means, how to work with a counterpart, etc. All this talk and training about counterparts certainly created the expectations that there would, in fact, be counterparts. This expectation initially caused me no end of frustration when I got to my school and no one was interested in working with me. At our mid-service conference, I discovered I was not alone. We all complained of the lack of counterparts. That was when our program director said something that initially angered me and has since become a matra I live by.

Instead of fixing the problem with the counterpart, we needed to fix the problem with our expectations. If we stopped expecting someone to work with us, we would stop being so pissed off when no one did. It is so much easier to change your own mindset than that of everyone else around you.

During the training before the ACCT interns left for Kenya, I shared this profound life lesson with them, feeling like a wise, old sage. Here, I thought, learn from my mistake, and avoid the pain of expectations. Have no expectations and rejoice!

I managed to make it through nine weeks of ACCT International in Kenya confident in my expectation-less wisdom. Issues, problems, weirdness, I was able to let them all just roll off my back because I had no expectations.

And then, in the last week, I lost it.

It all started with our bus ride to Nakuru. On our way back to Nairobi, we were stopping in Nakuru for several days to visit the national park and learn about the local wildlife our partner organization, ANAW, is working to protect. Two weeks before our departure, Cale and I visited most of the coach (read: bus) companies with booking agents in Mumias to find the best bus and prices from Mumias to Nakuru. We eventually went with Tahmeed. Nice bus, reasonable price (though 100 Ksh more than Easy Coach). Best of all, it left at the time we wanted. All the other buses left either at seven or eight in the morning or at seven or eight at night. We wanted to leave in the afternoon (so we still had time in the morning on Monday and so we didn't arrive in Nakuru at an unreasonable hour). The bus left at 4pm. The booking agent told me it arrived in Nakuru at 8pm. This was actually one hour shorter than the time the other agents told me. Either way, I figured we should be in Nakuru in about five hours. And that is when I formed an expectation.

Fast forward two weeks and we are all on the bus heading to Nakuru. Just past Eldoret (a two-hour drive from Mumias), the bus pulled over to the side of the road to let people out to pee....on the side of the road. Obviously, it was mostly guys who took advantage of this pit stop, as it is slightly more difficult for girls to pee in the open. I decided not to go, as I anticipated being at our destination in two or three hours. Not long past Eldoret, Megan pulled out her handy Kenya guide and read that it was a four-hour bus ride from Eldoret to Nakuru. Hmm....but this was supposed to be a four-hour bus ride total and it took us two of those hours just to get to Eldoret. Things did not bode well for an arrival in Nakuru at a reasonable hour...or eating dinner. Usually, I would let this roll off my back, but in this instance I could not. I became increasingly agitated the longer it took us to reach our destination. "Why tell me the bus would arrive at 8pm," I thought to myself as 9pm came and went. It wasn't like I had indicated that I wanted to arrive at a particular time. I just wanted to know how long the trip would be.

When we finally rolled into Nakuru after 10pm, I discovered I had another expectation to cause me consternation. We originally planned to have our partner organization pick us up at the stage (read: bus station....but see: random spot in town where people are dropped off). However, at some point, Dr. W had spoken with the manager of Tahmeed and he had indicated that they could drop us at our hotel. How handy, considering the ridiculous amount of luggage we were moving with us, it would be nice not to have to unload it into a van and then unload it again at the hotel. We even went so far as to put the bus manager on the phone with our partner organization so directions to the hotel could be provided. And, the bus manager was on the bus with us all the way to Nakuru, so surely there wouldn't be any miscommunications with the driver about where we were to be dropped. Dammit....that's an expectations.

When we arrived in Nakuru, they unloaded us at the stage, not our hotel. In a flurry of hectic, unorganized activity, they began to unload all our luggage and jam it (violently) into a matatu. I scrambled to get the interns to put eyes on their bags. "We are not leaving this stage until everyone can confirm they have seen their luggage!" Once all our baggage had been manhandled into the 14-passenger van (which was literally stuffed to the top with all our bags), they crammed the rest of us into another matatu and drove us at top speeds through the damp streets to our hotel. Once again, why insist we can be dropped at our hotel if we cannot? We had other arrangements that would have worked fine if you hadn't insisted we could be dropped at the hotel. I fumed from my cramped seat on the matatu.

The rest of my week would consist of similar instances. Me making plans, me having expectations that these plans would actually work, me getting frustrated and angry when they did not. Days later, sitting on the chartered bus that will take us to Nairobi (and to the elephant orphanage that is only open for one hour each day, so we better not be late), already half an hour late, I wondered out loud what had happened to me. "I knew we weren't going to leave at 7am. There was no way we were really going to leave when I planned. Why am I still so surprised and angry?" I let those expectations get the better of me.

— Sara


Gopal Yadav said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hello - we are trying to get in touch with you here in Samoa - we'd like to use one of your Lalotalie images to promote them on another website - can you please email us at
Olsen & Jane have given their okay - just need to get your approval!

Julya Doyle said...

Kind of reminds me of days I HAD to get into Apia from my village in Savai'i. Sitting at the bus hut for two hours being told by adults the bus was surely coming. Only to learn later from a child, there would be no bus that day because they were all rented out for a local funeral... Go with the flow. Forget your own agenda.