Friday, November 30, 2012

What Happened to my Peace Corps Personna?

My Peace Corps personna embraced patience, understanding, listening, non-reactive, non-judgmental pauses, patience, and more patience.  Why can’t I continue these pleasant traits here at home?

Take, for example, helping my grandsons Joshua and Kyle with their homework. In a panic Michelle calls to say Josh has a huge report, due tomorrow, yes tomorrow, and so does Kyle.  Can you work with Josh at your place, so I can work with Kyle at mine? 

Michelle with Kyle and Josh.
Above: Yahoo image.
Sure, I can do that. 

Josh comes over with his big Biology project, which involves making up a test, answer sheet and study guide, and some drawings and diagrams, for chapter 6 of his text, all about cells, their different parts, how they work.  Good lord.  I haven’t looked at this stuff since high school, which is a few years back.  I find the reading tough and the long sentences with scientific terms incomprehensible.   This is a high school text?

"Don't worry Nana, I get it."  I let Josh take the lead, and some 4 hours later, with several glitches, advice not taken, revising, correcting, and a few stressful moments, Josh gets it done.  I wasn't the saint of patience; I become rather insistent on two or three issues, which Josh argued about, and then we went on.  It would have been a lot easier not to argue.  

Where is my Peace Corps personna?  We went back to Michelle's to print out the assignment (my printer isn't working). Turns out Michelle and Kyle hadn't even started on Kyle’s report.  We have dinner and Shel asks if I can get Kyle started. 

Sure, I can do that.

Kyle and I read the instructions: Pick a planet and write a report on its history and climate and note 3 unique characteristics. Add drawings and photos from the internet.

Kyle picked Saturn.  Good start.  Then we went online and Kyle found a site with tons of photos.  Great, we’ll print out a couple for your report.  An hour or so later, Kyle was still on the photos; he couldn’t make up his mind which two to choose.  Good lord, Kyle, just pick two.  How about these. Let's just go with them for now.  Then we had trouble printing them.  Then he was back to choosing again.

Meanwhile, I’m aware of the time, and the need to get this project done.  Kyle didn’t want to focus on it. He wandered off and that was it.  He got interested in more photos. "Kyle, there are tons of sites and tons of photos, let's go on to the assignment."    

Trying to move the process along, I asked some questions.  Who discovered the planet? How did it get those rings around it? Is it cold on Saturn?  How far away is it from the sun.  How many moons does it have? As Kyle focused on the photos on various sites, I’d look at the text, and wrote down a few trial answers.

Kyle let’s focus on these questions.  Kyle got frustrated and teared up.  I got exasperated, and almost teared up myself.  Michelle came over to  help.  "Okay, mom, thanks. We'll take it from here."  Good thing.  I was about to tear out my hair, and it was almost 10:00 pm. 

I drove home asking myself why I couldnt be as as patient with Kyle as I was in Ukraine, where I didn't understand the people and they didn't understand me, and everything took forever? 

Maybe I got too goal-oriented, which I learned in Ukraine was NOT a good thing; it just caused lots of frustration.  Slow down, drink many cups of tea, have long conversations that you can barely engage in, call it a day, go back tomorrow and do the same thing.  

Missed a deadline? Cant be helped. Try for the next one. No one showed up for the grant meeting? Do it another day.  Can't get hold of the Library to cancel an English Club meeting.  Trek to the library through snow and ice and tack a notice on the door.  Broke your arm and the local Xrays are bad, the doctor unable to help, and PC headquarters orders you to Kyiv to see one of their doctors? So be it. Get your Tylenol and take the 2-hour bus ride to Lugansk and the 22 hour overnight train ride to Kyiv.      

"You did all that?"  Yep. 
"So helping the grandkids with homework is a piece of cake?"  Yep. 
"So next time you'll remember to unlock your Peace Corps personna and be a better helper?"  Yep.  
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