Cupcakes and Corruption

In Peace Corps you have to confront a lot of difficult issues that you can’t possibly fight. Corruption, infrastructure, government policies. All of these factors can severely hinder your projects, but you just have to deal with it. Corruption is rampant in Ghana. You literally can’t drive for 30 minutes without finding some evidence of corruption. Chop money (or bribes) is a term used in many regular conversations.

You know that you can’t change it and you shouldn’t fight it, but there is a small part of you that refuses to listen. Imagine the core of your body is a sphere comprising all your ethical beliefs. Now imagine you are faced with a situation:

You work with a group of farmers. The farmers sell all their products to the group in hopes of getting a commission later or getting farm inputs. But the leaders of the group have access to the bank accounts and don’t have to report anything to the group. So they take out the money that was supposed to go to the farmers and distribute it amongst themselves.

What do you do? You can’t really do anything. But, your core, your sphere of ethics, tugs at you and tells you this is wrong. It burns inside you and you fear that the burning sensation won’t disappear until you fight back. But you can’t fight back, you can’t stick your neck out for fear of retribution. You can’t solve this problem, it is too ingrained in the culture. The farmers won’t fight back out of fear. The leaders sure aren’t going to change. So, you, as a Peace Corps Volunteer are left with a burning sensation and a tug in your chest. Some days you will want to fight back until your knuckles are coated in righteousness. Some days, you will sit back and just let the corruption pass by in front of you. Some days, you will choose to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Some days you will get so frustrated you want to scream. The worst part is that there is often an easy answer to corruption. Vote the bad guys out of the group/office. Enough people detest what they are doing, they are upset and angry, but fear often wins out. The difficult part is knowing that corruption is like a hydra. You can cut off one head, but another will always grow back.

Dealing with these issues can be overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. The people affected by corruption urge you to extinguish it (because you are white and foreign, you obviously have all the answers and solutions). You want to extinguish it, you want to desperately. You want to be able to work on a project without some form of corruption swooping in and stealing a major piece. Your sphere will tug at you and burn you alive if you let it.

I found that cupcakes help ease the corruption burn.

Yesterday, my friend and I made some rather delicious cupcakes. Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes with buttercream icing. Thanks for the chocolate chips Mom! For dinner, my friend made focaccia bread and I made the pizza sauce. Throw some street meat sausage, green peppers, onions, and garlic on top – and you have a real winner. It was sublime. After dinner we pulled out the cupcakes. They were so beautiful and festive. We had to put candles on them. We spent some time debating which song to sing, Happy Birthday? No one’s birthday. God Bless America? No one knew the lyrics. American Pie? 8 minutes too long. National anthem? YES! So with our red, white, and blue candles on delicious cupcakes we sang the national anthem in honor of the Olympics. I had to insert home of SOONERS (even though I am not truly an OU fan). That has been ingrained in me for 14 years. All those years of forced college football during the fall.

After dinner and desert, I felt amazing. The best I have felt in months. I felt like my old self. I felt like me. I felt alive, happy, and chipper. Could have also been the incredible amount of sugar I ate. But even hours later after the sugar crash, I realized that good food really does make a difference. I felt healthy. I didn’t feel lethargic. It was spectacular. I wish I could feel this good all the time.

It truly is incredible the impact food has on our being.

And now I have two more cupcakes to enjoy!


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