Thursday, July 29, 2010


The word 'rafiki' has many meanings.  While the dictionary may fool you by saying that it means 'friend,' other variations exist.  They include:

1. Dude
2. Person
3. You, as in "Hey you"
4. There, as in "Hey there"
5. Rich foreigner

Way back during training, in response to a lecture regarding the identity of a volunteer, I asked "how can I overcome the tradition that identifies me as the helper/ pseudo-savior, and the local people as those who absolutely need my help?"  And in response, she recommended me to think about the meaning of KOICA's new brand "World Friends Korea."  Instead of such dichotomy, think of myself and the locals as friends.

Friends, as in dude, person, you, there, or rich foreigner?  Despite the new warm and cuddly PR initiative, volunteers struggle to break free from the asymmetric relationships and conceptions formulated by the people around us.

Saba Saba Secondary has a new headmaster.  I've met him twice and at both times, he called me rafiki.  In fact, he said "ooooooooooh rafikiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii."  It's an odd feeling, especially when there is a strict hierarchy in the school system.  Hearing the word rafiki made me feel both foreign and uncomfortable.  On the second occasion, after greeting me "ooooooooooh rafikiiiiiiiiii" again, he asked me whether there was anything my organization (ie the government of Korea) could do to assist him in painting and cleaning up the school.  Volunteers dread questions like this because we're dispatched more as human capital rather than santa clauses with huge gift bags.  Am I being classified as definition number five?

Hey let me introduce you to my bathroom!

There are a couple of rules in regards to using my bathroom.

1. Never flush the toilet.  Water comes from the pipes once every 3 - 30 days, so I need to be strategic with my 500 L water tank.  Use the water from the buckets instead.  In most cases, 1-2L will be enough.  In case of number 2, see below.

2. Collect the shower water.  It'll be enough to flush the morning business.  Plus it cleans the toilet, every day. 

I think that's about it. To summarize, why let the water go down the drain, when you could use it to flush your toilet?


anne said...

another great one tom tom... which is really saying something, because I always enjoy your blog... especially now that i'm back in the land of the free and have no need for VPNs to catpult myself over the great firewall in order to access blogs.

Narae said...

:D! I just remembered when we went to a Vietnamese rest. I asked for a napkin, and you really gave one thin napkin. Alice and I made fun of you for being "Chinese" style, and now, you are saving more! I guess it's good though! :D
P.S. I always miss eating pho with you! Pho in Korea sucks!! yuck!