Friday, September 17, 2004

Just Another Day...

It was expected that when I decided to embark upon my Peace Corps journey to a developing nation that I would encounter many challenges and be stretched in ways I had never known before. I was warned in my interview that I would deal with child abuse, alcoholism, being in a > fish bowl, and harassment and that I would have to learn to deal with it and accept that these things will not change because they bother me. Today's post is about some of the
usual barragement of harassment that I and every other female volunteer face day in and day out. Taxi drivers have special horns affixed to their vehicles to sound at women they find attractive, taxi drivers will ask if we want sex, and men make kissing noises and say "hey baby" at every white women they see on the street.

Yesterday was no different. As I was walking from a meeting at the Ministry of Education to the Peace Corps Office in town in the middle of the afternoon I noticed a young man following me on
the opposite > side of the street. I was the only other person on the road. He was approximately 20 feet behind, not that close, so I was not alarmed but just aware of his presence. I continued walking and I heard him say "Manaia susu" (Nice boobs!) I thought "Maybe he said "Manaia musica" (nice music) because we passed a house that was playing music. So, I continued on my way without even looking back. And then I hear him say in English, "I like your milk". At this point I realize he is speaking to me and I pick up my pace not saying anything in retaliation. As he turns right onto another road he says "Fa susu lapo'a" (Good-bye big boobs). Reminding myself of the advice I had received in training about harassment from men in Samoa and that I should ignore all verbal comments and to not turn around to swiftly approach him, clench one hand around his neck and put the other one fast and hard to his mouth took every piece of will power I had. I did not turn around and only kept walking without saying a word. I reminded myself that there are a million more women in the world that deal with worse harassment, abuse, and oppression than that. My reputation as a peace corps volunteer as one that upholds the Fa'a Samoa (the Samoan way) value of respect and not letting my temper get the best of me became more important in that moment than my ego. For this, I am proud of my growth. However, if this should happen in the States I can not guarantee that I wouldn't act on my impulse and throw him against the ground. One can only hope that I retain these new > habits learned abroad when I return home.