I often find myself caught in a conversation with ego about “being an expert in something” because, according to the story, that would mean I could be of value. However, my experience through the Africa project is that being an expert is actually not helpful at all.
When I went on my first trip to Zambia, we were looking at English language learning. Prior to my trip I did all this research about the best tools for kids and how technology could be a partner in language learning, etc. This was ego’s attempt to make me an expert.
Filled with this information, I arrived ready to go but quickly realized how most of that information was of no help whatsoever; all that “knowledge” didn’t translate into the particulars of life in Kantolomba. For example, using technology in the ways all those articles talked about wasn’t really going to work. The electricity is turned off periodically because there isn’t enough to support the whole city/state. Having computers or iPads for all the children at the property could lead to theft (other schools and programs in the area have had this problem), and there was no Wi-Fi available in Kantolomba at the time (though this is changing now).
If conditioning has me caught up in a better idea because of what some book said, or how someone else did it, I’m not actually available to what is. Therefore, what was left to me in that moment was to drop all of that and simply pay attention to how this community worked, what resources were available, and see what was possible based on the experience in front of me, not the “knowledge” up in my head. The beauty of the work in Zambia is that to be of assistance, I had to drop any desire to be an “expert in something” and move towards being an “expert in knowing nothing,” because that is what creates the ability to be open to everything.
So, as I began packing for the most recent trip this past February, where we would be focusing on the Girls Program, I heard that familiar voice come in and say, “Okay, you need to start doing research on other girls programs out there and how they do this and what’s been successful, and….,” and I just kept on packing.