Friday, March 04, 2011

Ends of the Earth

I often think how incredible it is that I get to see places on earth that only a handful of people may ever see. And I may very well be one of a few westerner, maybe only one of two or three a year, maybe not even one or two every ten years. Statistically speaking, I’ve got to be the only Canadian. Ever. There just aren’t enough of us to go around – we’re no Indian subcontinent.
In truth, sometimes I feel like I really am at the ends of the earth and in its secret pockets.

I used to think the same thing in Bolivia, when I was doing my research. The seditious thought came into my head while I was writing my thesis that I could say anything, for who would drive 5 hours into the Bolivian jungle to check my facts?!? (Note: to preserve my academic integrity, I didn’t conduct my research alone so it is all verified and reproducible).

I don’t think I have the particular spirit of an explorer, which makes this all rather funny. Sometimes I think it may well have been more comfortable to stay home and enjoy my cup of coffee at leisure, knowing that I will be safe and no unpredictable misadventures will befall me. In short, I am a hobbit - a very tall hobbit.

But one can’t shrink from it. You can’t say it’s not worth it, at the end of the day – even if at the beginning you sort of dread it, and only partially enjoy the time spent in the blistering heat of the middle of nowhere. After all, you do come to the realization at some point that you are enjoying it.

I think at this point I could go one of two ways: I could finish it off with the simple and truthful point about how the views alone are really worth it. They are. The end.

Or… I could be brutally honest about what it’s like being alone on the other side of the planet trying to work in development (loosely) and how I’m feeling at this point. Here’s that option: It’s like that view at the top of Cypress Mountain when you get off the chair lift and sit at the top of the run. On a clear day can see mountains and mountains for days and days and days to the north and the east. They are absolutely terrifying. There’s no one at all on those peaks facing you – just trees and bears and crows.

But you still want to go and you think, actually, if I just stretched my arm far enough, I could touch that next mountain over. I don’t think I’m breaking any major news here by telling you that every person working in development notices that projects seem go on forever and ever without the certainty that they’re making a difference. And we wonder if people here would have gotten along just fine without us (we all have a hunch on that, don’t we?).

But you know that there always is the flip side of that coin. Just as often we think: if I just give this one a good stretch – maybe there is something at an arm’s length that will make it all burst forth.

K – promise the next post will be less melancholy. Really!