Many friends know I’ve been in quite the limbo these past months. Frantic like a mouse in a maze trying to find a way out of so much I’m unhappy with in life. Or perhaps unhappy is the wrong word…continuing to live a lifestyle, a career, making choices that go against my creative nature, my innate need for a sense of freedom and flexibility, and my desire to help, teach, inspire, participate in culture, community, life, in a way that enriches lives spiritually, artistically, epistemologically, and so on.
And now I am at a crossing. I’ve been accepted into WorldTeach’s program to volunteer in Bangladesh. I would be teaching English and possibly photography or creative writing at an all women’s university in Dhaka for a year. Most of my expenses would be absolved because I’d be living in faculty apartments on campus and be permitted two free meals a day in the cafeteria. Along with this, I would receive a $350 monthly stipend (yes, in our country that seems abhorrently insufficient. I agree it isn’t much, but it’s enough). This is all fine, except for finding a way to cover my financial obligations while I’d be away.
The program requires a $2000 deposit that I’ll be reimbursed upon completion of my year of teaching. Along with this, I have loans and debt that need to be accrued for while I’m away. One student loan can be deferred since I’ll be working with a non-profit. The other is a parent plus loan; so, that can’t be deferred since it’s not in my name. I’ve estimated that I’d need approximately $5500 dollars to cover minimum payments (it’s horrible I know) for that year. So that’s $7500 needed to go to Bangladesh. An amount that seems completely unattainable with only about 4 months before leaving, and many of my friends think this a bad decision to go, for many reasons.
Reasons Why Priscilla Shouldn’t be Crazy and Go to a Third World Country (Would Bangladesh be considered 3rd world?):
1: The pay is insufficient. 2: Why would you leave us (yes, many have said this). 3: Um…didn’t you know that you’re photographing my wedding in the fall? Oh, well, now you do. 4: What about all the work you’ve done to establish yourself as a photographer in Charleston? As a potential business of your own? 5. If you can acquire that kind of money in 4 months, why not just stay and payoff a good portion of your debt? 6. What about Colorado? Or Atlanta? Or somewhere in the continental United States where I want to move in the near future and you can tag along? 7. Bangladesh is an Islamic country? Did your dad spazz when you told him that? You almost killed the man when you went to India and that was just for a month. What is he going to do for a year?!
All those reasons I’ve weighed heavily. I agree there are potential downsides. Likely the biggest one for me would be my lack of mobility, to be able to just hop in a car and go or even venture into town alone. These aren’t things a Western woman should do alone in this country, at least it’s not recommended. And for those that are news savvy, there was recently a military uprising of sorts, rogue guards or something in Dhaka resulting in over 50 people being killed and the government having to initiate emergency action. I also know that two volunteers left the program early last year, but I’m not privy as to why.
I don’t have much time to accept or decline…basically several days. I was informed that fundraising is encouraged in order to ensure volunteers have enough money while they’re away for expenses or anything they may need. For some reason, I hate soliciting. I hate asking for money, for help in general. I’m not sure why. And I haven’t really raised money for anything since yearbook in high school. Though I was one of few to manage the sell of a full page ad, I wouldn’t say sales is my forte. But I have close friends that are very extrovert, very charismatic, and would hopefully help me in fundraising pursuits if I asked, but these are also the people that really don’t want me to go. So, I have some potential ideas to raise money…
1. Try my hardest to book 2-4 more weddings to photograph between the end of April and the end of June. If this happens, then I likely won’t need outside money, but I only have two gigs in May at undercut rates, which won’t be enough.
2. Tell my dad to sell the car when it’s paid off. It’s my gift for graduating, and once it’s paid off, it’s to be signed over to me anyway. It’s a Civic so the resell value should be pretty decent, at least enough to cover half my bills while I’m away. (Note: Many friends have voiced that they think this is stupid option. That I should keep the car because why wouldn’t I come straight back after my year is up?)
3. Sell. Sell. Sell. TV. Photo printer. Books. Thangkas. Decor. Anything that I don’t plan to take with me, that has no sentimental value, that I will not really need when I comeback.
4. Fundraising Ideas: 50/50 raffle, setup a donation website, sell magazines (gags), perhaps see if close friends can throw a party or two with a small door fee, ask businesses to sponsor me, etc.
5. Sell a part of my body for advertising purposes. A nice tattoo on the hand/arm with some website or company. (Yeah, I can guess the look on your face).
6. Sell advertising to put on my car. Magnet decals shouldn’t be hard to get.
7. Hook for a Cause…I’m kidding, but that is a catchy phrase for some reason.
So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I feel a bit rushed. I hate not having more time to prepare for expenses, for leaving. I wouldn’t want these next several months consumed by my current full time job along with the stress of raising money and the photography commitments I do have. That is precious time I’d lose being with friends and family, and taking in the nostalgic and tragic beauty I have so intimately found in the many facets of Charleston.
My sister thinks this all an illusion. That I think happiness will be halfway across the world, and that I’m trying to escape or runaway from thoughts and feelings I associate with this town and my current life status. She fears the hope I’m putting in Bangladesh to free me, to save me, to renew me, will not come to fruition like I thought and that I’ll discover it isn’t where one is, but how they live that fosters happiness and wholeness.
As for my decision…my instinct is silent. I hate it when it refuses to stir whether it’s in favor of or against a choice, an idea. But all that is there is silence. And all I’m left with are conflicting emotions and a mind that constantly weighs a judgement scale that refuses to teeter for one side or the other.