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the low hanging fruit principle

April 5, 2011

Blogo-Soundtrack: paying new attention to Yo La Tengo

Life here has been peachy keen lately. I don’t quite know how to describe what is clearly a tangible change: on what day, at what moment, do things somehow fall just oh-so-slightly more into place?

Don’t get me wrong: all of those large, looming, Peace Corps questions are still always on my mind. What is the right way to proceed? How can I help? Where do I fit in? What is my role? I guess the difference is that I am suddenly feeling a little bit more at ease with all of these uncertainties. In the end, I’m here. When all is said and done, I should be able to tell myself honestly that at the very least, I put myself out there, I opened myself up to others, I let go just enough to make myself accessible to those who are looking to take advantage of whatever skills or pieces of knowledge I may be able to transfer to them. In the end, I’m nothing but a connector. What I’ve realized is that the truly difficult part is not finding ways in which life can be improved upon in the face of poverty and difficult conditions and always-present obstacles; the difficult part is becoming a member of the community, acting in a way that is non-threatening to those around you, and above all opening your heart and your personality up so as to create connection and trust on the most basic level. It seems to me that if I can achieve this, then the rest will slowly come tumbling into place.

Upon reaching this conclusion, I’ve been making a conscious effort to just jump into this reality. I can’t quite find the right way to describe it, but the feeling is something like standing at the edge a very, very high diving board and finally overcoming that fear of jumping that sits like a tight knot in the center of your stomach. With this comes a huge loss of control, and so is a very scary move to make. But it’s so worth it. I guess this is why I’ve felt so much more stable and content lately: I’m feeling more prepared to just let go and see what happens.

On top of this newfound calmness, it’s mango season! Yesterday I spent my lunchtime with two girls from my organization, Julienne and Sarata, underneath the huge mango trees surrounding our neighborhood catching mangos being tossed down to me from the highest reaches of the trees. At times like that, I can’t help but think to myself that life can’t really get any better than this: here I am, in a village I am beginning to call home, in a small little landlocked country in West Africa, catching delicious fruit being flung at me from the depths of huge trees. Even better is the fact that nothing on earth seems more natural to them (or to me in this moment) than to spend a lunch hours shimmying barefoot up a huge tree to collect succulent fruit.

This is when I realized that the reason my favorite economic principle is the Low Hanging Fruit Principle. I love this one most for two reasons. The first is plainly because of the awesome imagery that you can’t put out of your mind when you say it: you can only think of being in an orchard somewhere, or under a huge mango tree, searching frantically for the best and ripest fruit to satisfy your hunger. The second is because this is essentially the way that I’ve been functioning these past few months here: everything has felt so difficult, so I’ve tried to counter the simple challenge of growing accustomed to my new life here by taking advantage of all of those brief, little moments when things feel a little less difficult. I have found myself taking full advantage of the moments that feel easiest, that way I can conserve more energy for all of those moments that seem insurmountable. I think this is a huge factor in my newfound contentedness: make use of those opportunities to go climb a tree, because that’s easy! Don’t opt out of those small moments where it’s all too simple; there will be plenty of other small moments where things are all too complicated.

So for those of you back home wondering: am I having an impact out here? Have I made a difference? The most honest answer to this is: absolutely not. This isn’t an easy thing to say out loud, to own up to, but at the same time, I know it’s the natural process of things in this nebulous world known as Peace Corps. And who knows what will come in the months and years to come. All I can assume is that if a person can leap from a first week spent in tears and in utter terror of what’s ahead (not to mention a severe feeling of being so far out of place) to a place of what can only be described as normalcy, calm and contentedness (despite a true grasp on what exactly is in store), then who knows what else is in the realm of the possible.

Much love

PS. The latest in a collection of the most wonderful Burkinabe tees: The image: Barrack Obama (with a glorious bald eagle regally sitting behind him) wearing a cool set of shades. The print: Barrack Obama. Changed!!!! We Need. Or, A yellow shirt with a blue heart on the front. Inside of the blue heart is written: Red Heart.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Abbo permalink
    April 5, 2011 1:43 pm

    Love youn and miss you Kailey! My letter is on the way!

  2. April 5, 2011 1:51 pm

    Interesting how you talk about now you feel you are most comfortable accepting the uncertainties as they come, and dealing with them. This seems to be a pretty global business trend at the moment as well: companies are seeing that you can´t build and establish a structure in order to Control the situation. Nowadays, with fast changing technology, fads and new industries popping up every day, the best strategy that executives are going for are flexibility and fast reflexes.

    I think it´s a good lesson for all of us, to really just go with the flow, and constantly evaluate what you can control and what you can´t.

    “the difficult part is becoming a member of the community, acting in a way that is non-threatening to those around you, and above all opening your heart and your personality up so as to create connection and trust on the most basic level. ”
    — This is something you´re already exceptionally good at. You befriend people at your coffee shop, grocery store, every where. and you´re completely yourself. something i admire, as i´m usually hung over and don´t want to speak to anyone. 😉 If you think that´s the key, you´re pretty well-equipped to getting it done!!

    Affecting the world: this is a bit of the surfrider mantra, acting local. Don´t for a second think that only big actions create change. It´s so easy to knock ourselves down for not making big waves, when half of the battle is making ourselves better within. so even if you´re working on yourself, it has a positive impact on everyone else.

    i seriously am starting to feel as if i´m a born again eckhart tollean. really creepy. preaching his word on blog posts???? ahhhhh. and “his word”? omg!!!

    It´s funny about the t-shirts, i used to play that with my friends here in BCN. good stuff.

  3. April 5, 2011 1:52 pm

    PS. moving back to SF in June, and talked to Jenna a bit about BCN! hopefully we´ll grab drinks when i´m back!

  4. dad permalink
    April 5, 2011 3:27 pm

    Fun reading. Now I want to see a picture of you up in a mango tree picking mangos.

  5. Auntie Bug permalink
    April 5, 2011 11:44 pm

    You have a huge difference, even if it’s not apparent there, you have changed all of us for the better! Your unselfishness, sence of adventure , your kind heart and your letters home are delightful and make us smile and proud of you eveyday. Love you honey. Auntie Bug

  6. colleen anthony permalink
    April 6, 2011 3:12 am

    Hi Kailey,
    I rec’d a letter from you in March that looks like you might have sent it early on in your stay? It wasn’t dated so can we assume it might take 3 plus months for letters to arrive? Can you address it in your blog?
    Another manager has left the Brannan, 😦
    Keep in touch, Colleen

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