Managua, Nicaragua is an unexpected treat. I’ve posted some pictures of where we are staying. We are all here together for the week for orientation, getting to know both each other and Mennonite Central Committee. So far, it has only been half a day and there is already much to process and to think about.
Spanish, however, is not that overwhelming yet. Everything is being done in both English and Spanish to start with, and most people actually speak both languages. However, it will be much more challenging as time goes on. Small talk is a little awkward, but everyone is friendly and I am looking forward to getting to know people better. We represent a wide spectrum of cultures, personalities, and beliefs. However, this was done intentionally, so we will have to put in practice everything that we learn about peacebuilding among ourselves before we go to our communities.
More overwhelming is thinking about the future and about serving together as a part of MCC. Darrell, the program director, is giving us an introduction to the values and mission of MCC, challenging us to think about our own values and the ways those connect, or not, with the institutional values of MCC. He encouraged us to think of MCC as an organization that would partner with us in carrying out our own purposes and goals in life; working together to further our vision for the world.
As part of this, we are therefore exploring the connections between ourselves and what it means to both from our home backgrounds and also members of MCC. Darrell reminded us that going somewhere with the backing and label of MCC gives us as individuals a power and reputation that we would not have otherwise. This is not a neutral fact, but will impact the way others view us and the way that we view others. Where we come from and the documents that we carry, whether they are Canadian passports or membership in an organization, does shape who we become and what we can do. How will this take place during my time in Colombia? Even within Canada, what does my graduating from a certain university or coming from a certain place do to shape the interactions I have with those around me?
Power is not neutral. We are all part of certain structures and they have shaped us in certain ways, and the results can already be seen by exploring the interconnections that we have with one another. For example, the Canadian government, through CIDA has decided that MCC programs that focus on peace work no longer fit with the priorities of Canada. Many of the programs in Colombia are all about building peace, but they are now looking for new sources of funding that are not so dependent on the priorities of the Canadian government. In this instance, I can see how my passport and the political system that I operate under impacts the lives of others. I may have had nothing to do with the decision of CIDA, but I am still a representative of that decision and am therefore not a neutral player. In the same way, when the word Canada is mentioned in communities impacted by Canadian mining companies, I become a part of that conversation. Although some of the roots of these interactions are out of my control, how do I choose to interaction within them?