Excitement. Experience. Exigence.
Those are three ideas that are lingering in my head that embody my emotions for this upcoming week.
Excitement. I am excited for what is about to come. I am excited for the incredible moments we will have as a class (although for this upcoming week I view us as a team). I am excited to travel, to learn, to encounter, and to grow from this. As a group we have made such progress internally, externally, and between one another since beginning our class two months ago. If that is the reality now, I can only image what it will be like after returning for our trip.
Experience. Similar to excitement, I am eager to just simply experience. I do not want to have expectations of what to experience, but I am instead looking forward to experience the unknown. Although it may be a paradox, I hope to expect nothing. In order to build lasting and memorable experiences, one must go into it with a blank slate and an open mind. This experience will only help us as a team to continue our growth internally and externally
Exigence. As recently learned in my Writing and Rhetoric class, exigence refers to the urgency of a situation. In this class, exigence refers to the urgency I, as well as the rest of the team, are feeling to go and be active for this social issue. We are eager and ready, to the best of our ability, to be hands on while keeping in mind everything we have prepared for. We are urgent to learn and to grow, and to hopefully somehow, somewhere, make a difference.
This excitement, potential experience, and exigence seems to only increase significantly as the days proceed. I read a quote yesterday that completely sums up this overall energy: “You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” – Clay P. Bedford.
It’s Tuesday morning and in less than four days I will be on an airplane headed to Phoenix. Did I say only four days? My head spins just thinking about all the things I have to do between now and then. I have papers to write, presentations to present, tests to study for, and on top of all of that, a bag to pack. Usually the week before a trip I have already begun preparing. I get my laundry done, and I begin setting out all the outfits and things I think I will need while I am away. Not this time. My room is a disaster, and I have a mountain of dirty laundry the size of my closet. My duffle bag is still tucked away under my bed not even aware of the adventure that is about to take place.
This all makes me very anxious. What if I don’t get good grades on my assignments? What clothes should I pack? Should I bring a hair dryer or will I even have time for that? What if I forget something? And then I remember the meaning of the trip and the reason for why I am going. The Lost Boys left Africa with a little less than nothing. They didn’t know where they were going or if they’d ever come back. Would they ever even see their family or friends again? It is so easy to get carried away in things that are so trivial. It’s embarrassing sometimes to realize the things that seem important to me. Am I really worried about a hair dryer? Whiteness.
This trip is going to be such an adventure. I cannot wait to hear the stories of the people I meet. This may sound selfish, but I need their stories. I need to hear the power in their testimonies and the hope in their voice. I want to hear something real, something above myself. I need to learn from these men, about what real struggles are and what true hope is. This morning I am struggling with all the things I take for granted, and all the things I worry so much about. When in the scheme of things they barely matter at all. I can learn so much on this trip, which is why I am so excited about it. I only hope that I can give something back to these men in return. With that in mind, there are a few things I know I must pack; open ears for listening, an open mind for learning, and a heart that is caring. But even more importantly the souvenir that I cannot forget to bring back is a means to spreading the stories of the Lost Boys that so desperately needs to be heard.
I am certain of one thing about next week–my uncertainty.
I do look forward to meeting faces of the people we are studying for and to hearing the stories we read about lived. And I am still excited, because I know that this once-in-a-lifetime experience will mean so much more to me than a cruise ever would. But my uncertainty is what’s constantly rolling around the back of my mind.
I am uncertain about what the days will bring, what my role will be, if I’ll know the right things to say, who I will connect with, what will resinate with me, and what I will leave with. It makes me nervous, because if I am anything, it’s a planner.
But I also believe that by taking risks, you get even more in return. I believe that when you walk to the edge, you see a beautiful view. And I know that there is joy in the journey. I have faith that my questions will be answered, and that the answers will be worth the wait.
So I am giving in to the uncertainty and letting it take me where it will. Just imagine what I will find when I have such amazing people to walk the journey with, some that I have yet to meet.
“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you, to leave this world better than when you found it.”
A camera ready to capture people, a pen that longs to write, articles prepared to educate me; all these shoved into my carryon bag.
Flying to Arizona and immersing myself in an unfamiliar setting, I can only imagine the friendships and experiences that will be formed and created. I have never before met victims of genocide or refugees. And although I consider myself pretty well traveled I feel as if part of my worldliness is missing, an experience that educates more than excites, an experience that concludes with a new found knowledge.
As for my camera, it has never seen the faces of refugees or attempted to tell their stories. But my memory card is cleared and ready to be filled with the moments and views of the Arizona refugees that I know so little about. Stuffed in its case, my camera longs to be set free and seize the moments in a flash.
A new pen filled with ink, ready to write about the adventures and to document the discoveries I have made and the knowledge I have absorbed. My journal will be filled with emotion, frustration and fear, but that will not stop me, I hope to share my story and the stories of the refugee camp. Making my mark along the way, I will broaden my horizons and take on a new perspective. Unsure of what lies ahead, the cap holds back the explosion of experience.
A stack of previously read articles, highlighted, marked and worn, ready to shed perspective on my experiences. Only knowing what literature has taught me of the horrors of genocide I am prepared to critique and analyze the writers before me and challenge their thoughts. Shoved in its folder, the articles are begging to be reread and critiqued.
I am truly honored to travel on this alternative spring break experience will my classmates. I don’t know what the future holds or what will happen when the opportunity of a lifetime arises, but I do know that Phoenix awaits and I am ready!
HERE WE ARE!! T-Minus 5 days! I remember walking into class the first day not fully knowing what to expect. We had to read articles with details that we couldn’t relate to and was scared as to what else we were going to learn and the extend to which we were going to do so.
This nervous/scared feeling quickly vanished as our class became VERY interested in the topics and started to think of ways to gain awareness. We all had moments where we were nervous about what we were going to say to the refugees, about asking a silly question, or being selfish and getting more out of the trip then we were giving. And now were are a few short days out away from using everything that we have learned and listen to the stories of those that experienced it. While this can be overwhelming to hear something so personal to someone and not knowing what to do next, we can put them in our “toolbox” for how we are going to make people aware of genocides! We can help the refugees get their stories out and hopefully get others to take action along with us!
This is our time! While others are tanning on a beach or lounging on the deck of a cruise ship we are going to be part of something life-changing. We are going to be giving the one thing refugees want more then anything-to listen. Something so simple but means so much to someone. This is what I am most excited about. And while the hard part, learning about such a deep topic, may be over the even harder part is right around the corner. While it may be the hardest part of our adventure together, it will be worth it in the end!
5 Days and Counting
Is it even possible for us to be prepared for the trip we’re about to embark on in 5 days? So far, I’d have to say no. We’ve spent 8 weeks and countless hours studying genocides and learning about the Lost Boys of Sudan, but I don’t think all the time in the world could prepare me for this trip.
I’ve spent three and a half years at JMU taking classes that have been preselected for me, completing assignments in order to earn a desired GPA, and doing things for everyone but myself. This trip was completely my choice and I could not be more satisfied with it. With that being said, don’t think that I’m not completely terrified about finally going to speak to the Lost Boys that we’ve heard so much about. These men have experienced more at a young age than I will in an entire lifetime and the very thought of this makes me worry that there won’t be enough time in each day to gain any understanding whatsoever. What if I get my facts confused? What if I say the wrong thing? Or worse, what if I have nothing to say at all? I can only hope that I find the courage to speak up and ask questions. I’d like to go into this thinking that the more open I am, the more open everyone else will be.
As I’m still somewhat confused about what we’ll be doing all week, I don’t want to lose sight of why we’re going on this trip and spending so much time learning about a topic that isn’t the most pleasant to speak about. We’re going to make a difference, but making a difference doesn’t end on March 10th when we return to Harrisonburg, but instead will continue through our lives. I hope to be able to speak about this experience with more clarity in order to share some aspects of the stories I will hear (because only those who experienced those stories first hand will be able to convey the true emotions and details). I want to be able to inform people of what we’ve spent so long researching and discussing in class and the most important part of informing others stems from face to face contact with the Lost Boys.
So to those of you planning an exotic spring break in the Dominican or on a cruise in the Bahamas, have fun basking in the sun and remembering your trip only from the pictures you take. I may not be getting exponentially tanner, but this trip to Phoenix, AZ will not only influence me and my life but also hopefully the lives of others beyond skin deep.
Thinking back to my first encounter with learning about genocides, brings me to my fifth grade class. This is where we read the diary of Anne Frank. I remember sitting in my little desk flabbergasted about the events that took place. How could this have had happened? How could this evil be allowed? I wanted to think the events were not true, that this story was fiction and that I could close the book and pretend like it never happened. From there on out I have always had an open heart and mind to learning about genocides and trying to understand how and why they occur.
This class has allowed me to see the other side to genocides, and has allowed me to be a small voice in telling the depth of how terrible yet occurring genocides are for all the sheltered minds that do not know anything that is happening with genocides. This class has allowed me to take a step further in not only understanding more about what is going on with genocides, and what they are but also after this next week, will allow first hand witnessing of the brave and precious souls of people who went through horrible evil acts.
Now, I have been to the Holocaust museum, and I have been to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, and although those were unbelievably moving and heart-wrenching experiences, I was not able to look into a survivor’s eyes, listen with my own ears their words or feel their pain, sorrow and passion. When we talk about in class what we are apprehensive about and or nervous about when meeting the refugees, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with excitement. Excitement however, that is very different than what I am used to. A lot of my friends are going to Mexico or Florida or on cruises and although I never would give up a fun in the sun trip with my friends, I think I will be coming back from Spring Break with the most rewarding and ever impressionable experience. Yes, I am sure my friends will have ridiculous stories and meet cool people and at first I was very jealous and second guessing my ASB trip. However, now, after eight weeks of preparation, supporting class members and a passionate professor I know that no number of piña coladas and sun rays will outshine the experience I am about to embark on. It will forever affect me, and I will bring their stories home to my friends and family to hopefully forever affect them as well. This is where my excitement comes in. Yes, I know the trip is going to be dark and depressing knowing what these refugees went through and knowing I can’t exactly do much to help. Yet, I have to go in there with an optimistic attitude. Change starts with one and is a rippling effect. Hopefully by my group going to the Lost Boys of Sudan center, we truly will never “leave” the center. We will have their stories impressed in our minds and hearts and then can’t not do anything about it. We become the center in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, where have you. The saddest and most evil of cruelties happened to these Lost Boys. Now I am not saying anything good is about their situation, but if their story affects one person, changes one person’s perspective for the better, they have made a difference.
I know if I was leaving for the tropics with my friends in a couple of days I would be beyond excited, but knowing the experience I am about to embark on makes me have a completely different sense of excitement that surpasses any fun in the sun excitement. An excitement that will lead to so much more and stay with me for a life time.