Sunday, August 29, 2010

Now, for Round 2......

I made it to London!!! Even more, I made it through security :D Funny, this is only my second time flying. Funnier, I've only ever flown internationally and I managed to get spoiled both times (what can I say? The Swiss and the Brits take care of you!). I do have to say, I love flying. I have not yet found anything more exhilirating.

For some reason, I've never feared flying. Maybe I'm just lucky and happen to have good flights, maybe I just had to get over it (knowing I had to cross the ocean somehow), maybe I just have a sense of adventure, but I've never felt frightened by the prospect of flying. In all honesty, I love it. I love take off, I love landing and, dare I say, I find turbulence to be quite the adrenaline fix (who needs caffeine after THAT?). It just amazes me that we have created something that allows us to stay seven miles above the ground without completely disintegrating. Sometimes, it's like sailing in the arms of God.

I tend to find this attitude manifesting in other areas of my life. I've never been one to run from adventure in favor of the predictable. Quite the opposite, actually. I believe we should all take chances at what we want, despite how the rest of the world thinks we should feel about them. If I had listened to the rest of the world, I would not be en route to Kenya, now would I?

Halfway there.........It's never felt so incredible. It feels good to be alive.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two Days...........and I have no clue.....

So, I have about 46.5 hours till I fly (but who's counting, right?). You know what I just realized? I have no clue at all what's happening when I land...or even in between, for that matter. I, Ms. Regimented, Must-Plan-Every-Minute, have no idea what's going on. And for once, I don't seem to mind.

You see, I have only flown once. I flew to Europe on a guided tour three years ago. I didn't need to know what was going on. People told me where I needed to go, what to do, and I did it. Now, I'm flying solo, from NY to London, then maybe I'll meet up with some Kenya mates and fly out to Nairobi. Unlike Europe, I'll spend 18 hours total trying to get across the Earth's diameter. So just going from airport to airport will be an adventure.

I've also never had to apply for a visa. Of course, this time, I'll be going through customs with $50 in my hand to apply for it. I'll be going through customs by myself, which is a little intimidating. Then, I'll be meeting my country director, who will bring me back to my apartment, somehow......Did I mention I also have no idea who I'm rooming with?

Oh yeah, then we have orientation. Which "may be" out of the city. I have no idea where we're going, what we're doing, what's to be expected. I don't even know if I need to be on my malaria pills yet (oops............). Did I mention I have no idea what's going on?

This will be a good thing. If life was entirely planned, there'd be no adventure, no excitement, and no happiness. This is what Kenya is, it's an adventure. One I will enjoy every second of.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three Days and High School Memories

So, three days, two crises and a suitcase to go. Thankfully, technology crises have been averted, though I'm marveling at the truth of Murphy's Law in regard to life changes. Suitcase still needs to be packed but at least most of what I need is together. The truly important stuff (passport, visa money, traveler's medicine) is already packed and most of my clothes are at least out. Finally, a moment to reflect on some memories, namely the memories I have of traveling with my parish youth group in high school. I found that many of these experiences helped shape the path I have chosen. This is not meant to proselytize, but just some thoughts and experiences I've had.

When I was in high school, I was a very new Catholic, trying to find ways to implement my faith. I knew that service was at the core but I was not sure how to apply that. Our parish had been involved with Group Workcamp Foundations, an ecumenical Christian organization that provides opportunities for teenagers to get involved in service. What we did was we went as a parish to complete a project that could be finished within the span of a week. For example, we may be painting someone's house or building a wheelchair ramp. To accomplish this, we were placed in work crews of other teens from different churches, backgrounds, regions of the country, you name it. In addition, we were immersed in our faith. Prayer/praise and worship in both morning and evening, devotions at lunch, and, for all of us Catholics, Mass at least three times that week (not including Sunday, provided our priest came with us. Yeah, that was a lot of church ;-)). The point of the trip was not necessarily to completely restore a broken neighborhood, but to learn how our values and beliefs translated into action.

Despite the heavy immersion of our faith, we never proselytized. It was completely contrary to our values to force people to pray, even suggest conversion or make passing out Bibles as our primary mission. Really, more than our religion, more than construction, we were supposed to get to know people, to see them as nothing less than human beings like ourselves, despite the obstacles they faced in life, despite the presence of money or how readily they accepted us. That went for both our residents and our work crews. The point of the week was to open our eyes to people's realities, to come to new understandings, and to learn who we are outside of markers such as social status and privilege.

Looking back, I am eternally grateful for the three years I participated. Those lessons, experiences, memories, and emotions have remained with me in ways I could not begin to comprehend. As I examine issues of poverty, privilege, values (Christian or non-Christian, Global North vs. Global South), I will take these with me. I think we all need to constantly examine our motives and values, to realize what truly helps rather than make ourselves out to be saviors (and thus hurt more than help). The world is not the white man's burden, it is everyone's blessing and one all must fight for to see that it is truly cherished and valued. We have this common duty, this privilege. Let's take advantage of it.