Searching for a ‘routine’ by Gina

 

On Sunday, I paced back and forth in my kitchen spilling my heart out to my Mom and Dad. I tried my best to describe Jany’s vibrant personality and our barbecue feast with some of the Lost Boys and how welcoming they were. I tried really hard to paint the image of my class gathering around families, patiently listening to them share their refugee experience. I threw scattered stories at them across the counter, “the hostel was peaceful and so was the woman who owned it, we hiked up a mountain, like twice, and our tour guide Chad, this spiritual man who loves nature as much as I love pizza (a lot!), even our waitress at the restaurant shared her story of traveling around Europe, did you know that South Sudan is going to participate in the Olympics?”

 

My parents probably didn’t understand a good chunk of my gibberish but they did see my eyes widen and my volume rise up when I got to a really inspiring moment. Mmmmm, those moments. You know? That moment when your head jumps eight steps in front of your body because it’s racing with thoughts. To me, personally, the moments I felt the most were when education was brought up and its importance. When Mahamood  told us that a solution to a safer country is to focus on education. They are the future of the country. When Kuol told us to share the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan and South Sudan to everyone. When we bombarded the refugees with questions about their experiences, in a good way. Mohammed teard up when he was telling us his journey to America and how he came here to save his family. We were on some level of a language barrier but his actions spoke louder. Grabbing his heart when he said family, I looked over to his wife sitting next to me across the room, her eyes watered up. His mother got emotional too. At that moment my heart was shaking.

 

There are too many daydreams I fall into, remembering those moments on the trip.

 

 

I have yet to get back into my routine here, I’m not even sure if I have a routine. As a freshman, this whole year I’ve been trying to figure out what I can get out of college. Filled with scattered thoughts, I see so many people around me who get it. They work their butts off in school and I just shrug because I don’t have the passion that they do. I’m embarrassed of my blunt apathy. After discussing this in class, I realized that I’m not alone in feeling ….a lack of passion. Koor is a nurse and he uses that to give back to his country, he delivers babies! All of the Lost Boys have used their education as best they can and are circling their skills around the love for their country.

 

The conversations that happened in the world’s best hostel,

The strongest people you will ever meet,

The craziest stories you will ever hear,

The fastest talking man,

The passionate Lost Boys of Sudan,

The light in their eyes when they talk about their new country,

There are too many things I went through that week with twelve other people that I don’t think I will be able to accurately verbalize nor do I think you will feel what we felt. But I hope you understand my thoughts here. I can be insecure with sharing them.

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Struggling … by Becca

have been putting off this blog post since the moment we got back from Phoenix. It is not because I am being lazy or dont want to, it is because I am frustrated. I went into our trip already on a bad note. Well not necessarily a bad note, but I was not in the frame of mind that I wanted to be in. I felt as though the material was not affecting me the way it should be. I did not leave class feeling exceptionally upset or dark. It did not really phase me. We talked one day in class about trivialization and that actually made me feel a lot better. To know that learning about genocide so much could affect my outlook made me more optimistic about our trip. All week I waited and waited to feel something more than I had felt in class and it just never happened. And then to hear everyone else’s reactions made me more frustrated. To hear 12 people talk about how the week changed their lives further highlighted how it didnt change mine. To just say that makes me mad. We met amazing people, heard unbelievable stories; it should have changed me. Everyone else hates talking about it because they cannot fully explain what they experienced. I hate talking about it because I dont feel like that. Everyone that I have shared this frustration with says, well you have seen so much, been so many places, heard so many different stories. Yes, I have, but that should not make this less impactful. Is there a limit on how many life changing experiences someone can have?

Is this whiteness and privileged? I so badly want to say that I do not have a lot of whiteness. I do not think that I am someone who looks down upon others of thinks less of those who are not like me. But if not whiteness, that what is this?

I was hoping that class last week would help me feel better about all of this but it didn’t. And then I stopped listening (sorry Aaron). It wasnt because I was trying to be rude it was because I felt defeated. Everyone tried to tell me that it was ok. That I am frustrated which is some sort of impact. That I am not totally indifferent. But I have a hard time accepting that. To me, not being affected is indifference. Our whole mission is to erase indifference yet I cannot do it myself. It is not that I want to be indifferent. How can I want to feel some way and not be able to make it happen?

I have been hesitant to write this and talk about it because it is really putting myself out there (which is not something I am typically comfortable with). I don’t want to be the hypocrite or the downer. I do not want to offend anyone or seem like this class or erase indifference doesn’t mean anything to me. It does mean a lot to me. I truly hope that in the next few weeks something will happen that will help me be more on the same page as everyone else. To see how much everyone cares, how much Aaron cares is inspiring. I want to be moved and changed. And I am sad to say that I may need to accept the fact that that just may not happen.

What’s the World Without Enigma? by Sam

Fear and misunderstanding, discussed often, can be a bridge between the possible and the impossible, between disappointment and satisfaction. What now? I’ve lived. I’ve been altered. I was in a dream the first week back, but now I’m here, back at JMU, and the dream world is vanishing.  Addictions are back. Relationships altered. Love gained. Friendship made. Now what? Now it’s fading, but I’m desperately trying hard for it not to change. Week three back from the trip; the journal still in my possession, for Aaron can’t read it till all possible pages have been filled with the blunder filled ramblings that attempt to make sense of my life ahead, of the thoughts stirred up from a week long excursion in a cacti filled desert. What’s left after you’re captured in the moment but then the moments been released, and you succumb to the rigors of life’s other paths?  Some memories survive, change your entire being, and change your life path creating new goals, new movements to get behind.  Other memories or ideas, they die, slowly waning away like a balloon left to float into the sky. They are lost, unable to be recounted for. So how then, with these issues pressing, can I make sense of it all, can I make myself literally not forget the experiences and the care held in my heart during those talks with some of the Lost Boys?  How can I make a lasting impression within my own self, my own mind? Where does it start? This blog? More readings in class? Having impromptu lunches with my ASB family? Yes, family, not just friends, but family.  They helped mold me into something new, something unique; they were there for the altering experiences.  My group, I adore them. They mean so much to me, I truly appreciate relationships created with them, for they share an experience others can’t begin to image when I speak my stories.  With every evocative word pronounced, the images will not come to the others; the feelings will be lost on them. I just hope that these memories and emotions aren’t lost on me.  How can we hold on?  I want this happiness to keep coming, the joy felt after hearing Koor’s words that I’m in control of my life each day I wake up.  How must I make the stressors, which constantly drain our glasses half empty, be concocted into something making the glass half full? Overfill it with hope and education on the topics at hand.

When the voice gets suppressed from its human counterpart we begin to lose something powerful within us; we begin to lose an expression of ourselves.  Non-verbal emotions are yes, a key to understanding; but sometimes, things need to be voiced, heard out loud, and heard from the masses for an effect to be made.  When voices rise together, it becomes harder to stifle the sound.  However, when voices begin to be heard, disparities evolve. Often times, when an individual or a group brings up new topics, distinctly separate from the daily world they participate in, questions are posed by their societal counterparts.  Many of us from the trip have seen this first hand.  We’ve come back to our home at JMU, where friends have expected us to act one way, and now, after this experience, we find ourselves hiding in separate rooms at a party to discuss topics such as Joseph Kony, how much our group loves one another and how much we loved that trip.  “People just don’t get it” we say to ourselves, through the friendly banter held.  But now, I ask, how can we make them get it?  It’s a simple stated answer but a long winded practice; “we make them”. 

The newly popularized, media madness created Invisible Children video is inspiring millions. This 29 minute, 59 second long video created to discuss the movement to stop Joseph Kony has over 85 million view hits, and is stirring up controversy with each click of the download button.  Society is based on different spectrums in which we live. Therefore, none of us can share the same viewpoint on every topic.  Obvious, yes.  There lies agreement, disagreement, and of course indifference.  But which is worse? Our class now feels an agreement towards the movement. We’ve learned of the different struggles that life presents to people who aren’t as blessed as others.  Some feel disagreement, arguing that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are actually making bad messages more effective.  I guess the question then becomes are these bad messages?  Is knowing about something happening in a different country that doesn’t affect your day-to-day life worth knowing about? And taking it one step farther is it even worth caring about?  When people don’t understand the different ends of the spectrum, let alone the muddle in-between, then they don’t want to support the movement.  There’s ultimate controversy over if the money collected by the Invisible Children organization is actually going to Uganda, to help stop Kony.  When new voices begin to be heard, ears begin to speculate.  However, we must keep educating ourselves and others on the issues.  The indifference shall be erased, for these issues do matter, because not everyone has the resources to create a means to the end.  

Sometimes, things can be so misunderstood.  But what’s the world without enigma?

 

Speechless Humility by Jami

Almost 12 days ago, I woke up slowly and glanced around the room. For a second I didn’t know where I was. Then I realized I was home in Ellicott City, Maryland in my very own bed; home sweet home. I laid there for a few minutes and contemplated the possibility that I had just woken up from a very long, vivid and emotional dream. But then I caught a glimpse of my big blue and black suitcase that sat across the room. It was all real. I had just returned home from what had seemed like a weeklong dream. As my feet hit the floor right below me, I immediately missed the ladder of the bunk bed from the Hostel in Phoenix that I had climbed down every morning for the past week. I was extremely jet lagged waking up that morning, and to be quite honest, I was having a really hard time convincing myself that I had just lived through such a surreal experience. I went downstairs and immediately my mom said “Good morning! Let me hear about your trip!” I wanted to respond with so many things but all I said was, “…..I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Since then it has been over a week that we have been home from our spring break trip to Phoenix, AZ. Without a doubt, I have needed every second of the past 12 days to even process everything from the trip. At first I felt bad that I had nothing to say to my mom the next morning after returning home. But now that I have had time to reflect and get back into my routine life, it wasn’t that I had nothing to say that morning, but that I had too much to say and not the words to say it.

In my pre-reflection before going on our trip, I expressed my fear of being “silent” in the presence of the refugees that we anticipated working with simply because I thought it would be impossible to relate to them in anyway, therefore causing me to not say anything. However, now that we are back, as a post-reflection I would describe myself not no longer silent, but speechless.

The dictionary defines the word “silent” as an adjective meaning, the absence of noise or sound, not inclined to speak, not talkative, unable to speak or, refraining from speech. In my pre-reflection, I would say I was correct in describing my fear of silence. I was afraid I wouldn’t want to talk, and that I would purposely refrain from speaking out of fear and uncertainty. The dictionary defines the word “speechless” as an adjective meaning, lacking the faculty of speech, temporarily unable to speak, as through astonishment, unexpressed or inexpressible in words. I would have to say that if someone was going attribute any experience as the cause of becoming speechless, it would definitely be an experience like our trip to Phoenix. Now more than ever I am not silent, but speechless. As the definition states, I am astonished, and my experience has left me unable to find the right way to express my feelings, emotions, and thoughts. The English language might be the most prominent language around the globe right now, but that definitely doesn’t mean it is easy to find the right words to describe what I want to say.

Aaron was exactly right when he told me that I was going to have a hard time explaining everything to people when we got home. We were living through such an incredible opportunity in Phoenix, meeting inspiring people and I was expressing my worry that I wouldn’t be ever be able to explain the degree of awe I was feeling. Aaron said, “Welcome to my world.” It has been one of the most frustrating experiences coming back from Phoenix and answering the question that a million people have asked me, “How was that trip you went on?” I haven’t received one reaction from other people that I have been ok with. Not even the people that I am closest with. There truly aren’t the words to relay to them how amazing our week actually was. Most people that I talk to don’t even fully understand why we went. After a few nods, almost everyone moves on to brag about how crazy their week in Cancun was or how much fun they had in Panama City, FL. It takes all of my will power to bite my tongue and just move on with the conversation.

It’s so obvious to me now how privileged of a life we live. I thought that I always knew it and appreciated everything I had but after our trip it is a daily thought that I am thankful. I am thankful for my life, for everyone that I met in Phoenix, for their openness to share their stories, for my classmates, and for Aaron too. I wrote in my journal that in the matter of 5 days, I got the chance to meet more remarkable people than I ever have in the entire duration of my life thus far. To me that is such a hard concept to wrap my head around because I never thought in a million years that 5 days could affect my life this drastically. Just by doing selfless things and actually listening to other people instead of just worrying about yourself like most people typically do, I am a better person with a very different socially constructed world than I had before. My roommates turned on MTV this week. Before our trip it would have been a normal occurrence and I probably wouldn’t have even paid much attention. But now that it is after our trip I just look at things differently. The show Rob and Big happened to be on. The episode basically consisted of Rob, a pro skateboarder gone fearless comedian, doing outrageous, pointless, drastic stunts. It was normal for that show, but it made me so angry. The thought of how much money is spent on all of the worthless nonsense that they do on that show literally made me so upset. The show Rob and Big is just one example of how much money is spent on pointless things but now when I see money being spent carelessly, I notice it and can’t help but think to myself how badly I wish all of that money could be put towards all of the refugee families that we met or just the cause in general. I think I began to see money differently the day that we were working with Catholic Charities and went to the 99 cent store to spend $1,000 dollars on supplies for refugee families like laundry detergent, toilet paper, and soap. One of the case managers named Sandy came in to give us some of her families for us to distribute the supplies to and I will never forget when she said, “Oh, the toilet paper is a luxury item, they will be lucky to get that.” From that point on, the word “luxury” really stuck with me. So, toilet paper is a “luxury” item for refugee families that were forced to flee their country for safety due to genocide and violence, but spending an absurd amount of money on worthless stunts just to be funny is the “norm” for people like Rob and Big and many other insignificant “celebrities”? I don’t think I need to elaborate any further about why that upsets me.

 

Our trip to Phoenix taught me a lot but one thing I think I was really able to learn and internalize is how to deal with stress and frustration. Global issues are everywhere and studying them in depth down to their core is inevitably going to cause anger and frustration. It’s hard to understand why things are they way they are but leaving our trip I learned that it’s not about the frustration, it’s about what you do with it. The Lost Boys that we had the pleasure of interacting with it said it best. They told us that we were making the biggest difference because we were spreading the word and advocating for the cause. We are taking part in diffusing awareness. Apart from that, I now define the word stress differently. You can walk around the JMU campus on a daily basis and hear thousands of complaints from students about a paper they have to write, or how their roommate didn’t do the dishes. I myself still have my moments of complaining and stress, we all do, but I am now truly able to take a step back from my “problems” causing me stress and be thankful that my stress is from a paper and not from having to run for my life and my safety in my own country. The people I had the honor of meeting during the week in Phoenix were able to put things back into perspective for me. They taught me the meaning of genuine humility. They brought me back down to earth in a sense. I think we could all use a little more humility sometimes. There are things out there bigger than yourself. I am so fortunate to have experienced and lived through something so incredible and I now can say that I have a true passion for something. My passion is no longer a sport, shopping, or cooking, but a global issue that deserves it.

Hope Springs Eternal by Bits

Two weeks ago I was heading off to Arizona not really knowing what to expect. Part of me wished I was going to some beach spot in Cancun with all my friends for one last senior hurrah. Another part of me longed to visit my ailing Grandfather, since time is precious. And yet another part of me was ready for a new adventure, ready to be shaken and confused. But what I wasn’t ready for was an experience that would cause me to struggle with the person I have become, a person almost 22 years in the making.

I began the trip eager to be active and to be involved – at the beginning of the trip we did just that. We went to the 99¢ Store and purchased $1,000 worth of laundry detergent, bar soap, feminine products and toilet paper by the cartload. The group was bonding, the work made us feel apart of something bigger than ourselves and the joy of giving back was contagious – but this was not this experience that changed me.

We met with refugee families and individuals from all over the world (Burma, Bhutan, Thailand, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia), listened to their stories, their struggles, their woes – but this was not the experience that changed me.

We bonded with the Lost Boys of Sudan, chatted as if we were best friends, listened to their stories, taught two of their elders – but this alone was not the experience that changed me.

The entire week I wanted to join in the reflection and say I have changed, grown, been hit by a title wave of understanding and compassion, but it never came. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and jump up and down because the culmination of experiences or even one experience changed me so greatly that it was worth sharing, but I didn’t feel any differently. Making even worse I couldn’t join in the conversation when my fellow service learners stated that they were out of their comfort zone, but the experience was rewarding and changed them. I felt vastly alone and frustrated in myself, one night I broke down, I cried and cried so furious with myself that I was not able to share in what my classmates discussed, was I not seeing what everyone else was seeing?

I came back to Virginia, ready to relax, decompress and sleep in my own bed (although the ten bunk bed room was an adventure). But my journey was not over, for it was the next several days that brought my long awaited wave of change.

Hanging out with my pals, making dinner, going out for a night on the town, typical weekly activities that were a part of me before Arizona. But after Arizona those experiences weren’t the same. My friends would ask me about my spring break and I would attempt to spit something out about refugees and the Lost Boys of Sudan and they would quickly move on to how wasted they got on the beach, or how they met a cute boy and did I want to see a picture? This was the experience that changed me.

All of a sudden it dawned on me, no one will truly understand what I am trying to say. No matter how hard I try to explain my week in Phoenix, no one will understand for they weren’t there with me. Now it was I, not the refugees that was having the language barrier, and I spoke the language!

Like being hit over the head, my change struck me.  Coming back to my friends and trying to connect and share was the experience that changed me. Fueled by week in Arizona, I realized that learning and listening are wonderful tools that help to gain insight, but at the end of the day, no matter how many stories you’ve listened to or books you’ve read, you can never be truly prepared to understand where someone is coming from or what they are trying to say, this changed me.

Post ASB Syndrome by Lauren Vacca

A week back from our Phoenix trip and I am still finding it tough to put into words exactly everything my group and I experienced during our spring break.  Anxiously awaiting my roommates return the next day and to see all my friends and partake in the calls to my parents just so I can share everything I learned, experienced and encountered during this forever memorable week of mine.  Where could I even start?  From the simplicity and carefreeness of the hostel and Gerayldean, to vortexes with Chad everyone we met I could talk hours about.  Yet, I still have been finding it so hard to express exactly what this past week meant to me, and how it will forever affect me.

To start off, I said pre-ASB trip that I wanted to step outside my sheltered world, and find out what there is beyond what I always knew.  I can say I most definitely can check that off.  I met so many incredible refugees from all around the world.  To hear their stories first hand is something I can never compare to.  To see their self-lessnes and drive to better their kids’ lives is something so motivating and inspiring.  I will forever remember Mohamed’s, the father of adorable children and husband to a beautiful woman from Bhutan, look in his eyes when he talked about everything he went through and how hard it was.  When he said he was happy even through the evil and cruelty he was exposed to, there was no other emotion I would ever wish to feel.  It put so many things into perspective and made you realize what truly is important in life.  Family after family opened their doors, hearts and arms for us and I feel honored to have met such inspiring people.

The Lost Boys of Sudan. I genuinely cannot even think of a word that can express how much they all mean to me and impacted my life.  Our BBQ Thursday night was something I never will forget.  After the endless smiles, stories, laughs, empowerment, and joy our group went to bed on cloud nine.  I wrote in huge letters at the top of my journal just, “WOW.”  I couldn’t again, put into words what that night felt like besides just wow. I could have sat there for countless hours just listening to everyone’s stories.  The warmth that was circling the room that night is something that doesn’t happen too often.  At one point I just sat back looked around the room and just took it all in.  Seeing my classmates that have grown to mean so much to me, and my professor who probably has the most open and biggest heart out there, so happy interacting with these most amazing new friends is something that can never be replaced.  When talking with Sam, we got into a good conversation and his words are still left with me.  When talking about everything he had to go through, I asked him what his attitude on it all was, like how he is so motivated to do so much with his life (which was a trend with all of the Lost Boys—working so hard to better South Sudan while creating such respectable names for themselves as lawyers, accountants, pharmacist etc.; here in America).  He told me that the true measure of the character and depth of an individual is how you act after defeat.  Unfortunate things happen, but you cannot let it define the person you are.  You have to live to honor the people who didn’t make it, and live to not allow this evil to happen again.  This is such an incredible and aspiring outlook.  So many people play the pity me card, and let life make the decisions for them.  The Lost Boys of Sudan are a true example of how to not let life control who you are and what you will be.  You have power to control your destiny if you make that your mind set.  Their outlook in life is something that I aspire to have just an ounce of one day, and I genuinely feel blessed to have met every single one of them.  I can go on for hours explaining how each and every one of them affected me.  When I share their stories with everyone back home, I feel a sense of pride talking about how inspirational my new friends are.

Besides al the incredible people I met this week, one of the best memories was becoming so close with our awesome ASB group.  I went into this trip not thinking such strong connections and relationships would be formed within us.  However, a week later and I have shared something with my group that not even my best of friends can relate to. Our big family dinners circled around our giant table filled with highs and lows, intellectual conversations, laughs and memories are engrained forever in my heart. It was so nice to have such deep conversations about so many topics that we all shared a great passion for. I can’t even fathom how much I think we all grew individually and as a whole by each other’s words and motivation and experiences.  I am proud of my whole group for stepping out of their comfort zones and continuing to grow as such amazing people.  We could not have done any of it without Aaron either, and although he might not have loved hearing being called Dad by 13 of his students, he really was the biggest role model to us, and I will forever try to emulate his persona and passion in my daily life.  WWAD, represent.

My heart has forever been touched by this unexplainable experience, and I am eternally grateful.  I hope to one day make everyone I met over this break proud and truly help them make a difference in this world.  I learned how different everyone out there in the world is, but I also more importantly learned how underneath it all we are all the same.  We are all humans that want to be loved and want to love.  Life is going to throw you curve balls, some more nasty than others, but in the end it is what you do with those curve balls that measure your character. I have been grateful for the curve balls I’ve received not to be so detrimental, and therefore I owe it to everyone I met this week and whom I will continue to meet to help make a difference even more.  I wish I can erase all the pain from these precious souls I met this week, and promise them eternal happiness.  However, since I cannot, I will use their stories and their strive for life as my motivation to spread love and happiness to everyone I come across, because after all, like I said we are all human and yearn for love and happiness.  Dealing with PAS (post ASB syndrome) has had a weird lingering feeling over me, yet I have to continue to promise to share my experiences to my friends and family to help continue to ERASE INDIFFERNCE.  To quote Invisible Children, “Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.”  I met the most incredible and empowering people this past week, gained an impactful group of friends who I know are all going to continue to make a difference and I stepped outside my comfort zone.  Stepping outside of my comfort zone could have been real scary and intimidating, but with my group, Aaron and everyone met this week I know that the only way to go from there is to continue on and help individuals feel the happiness they deserve.  This trip did not end in Phoenix.

Attempting to Adjust … and Reflect by Lindsey

On this Sunday evening, one week after the trip to Phoenix, I am sitting in my room feeling quite lonely. It’s never something I’ve thought of before. Being by myself has never bothered me. In fact I often enjoy being alone after spending a lot of time with a group of people. However, after our trip to Phoenix, I feel as though I cherish the company of others so much more. The fellowship on our trip was genuine and refreshing. Our conversations with each other and with our newfound friends were engaging, and I found that just taking the time to be in each other’s presence was a great way to connect with one another. The overwhelming sense of community was alive during our trip, and as I settle back in at school, it is something that I feel is lacking in my everyday life. I run on my own schedule, worrying about my individual errands I have to do each day, and in return I feel as though I forget to make time for those around me. Before Phoenix, I would come home after a day like that and feel relieved to hide away in my room. Now, I feel lonely. I miss the laughter around the dinner table each night, and the open atmosphere we established, that made it so easy to speak our minds without the fear of judgment.

Why is that atmosphere so hard to create now that we are back at home? Shouldn’t my own apartment, a place where I should be most comfortable being myself, automatically be an open and warming place? Probably, but it isn’t. There are so many environmental pressures that subconsciously affect the way I communicate and interact in college. I find myself talking about things that only those around me talk about. Bringing up different topics, well that might make me weird. I’m not going to bring up an in depth thought I had earlier that day with a roommate, because its cooler to just laugh about what we did last Friday. There are so many little factors that I am never even aware of that prevent me from having an open and truly engaging environment like we had in Phoenix. These pressures, which really have no rhyme or reason, keep me from truly opening up, and truly engaging with others. And in conclusion, I fall into the individualized culture we see in our country.

I think of the Lost Boys, and how they must have felt first coming here after leaving the community of the refugee camp. You often hear them refer to the camp as one big family, where everyone attempts to help one another. Coming to this culture that I know could not have been easy. If I feel lonely here tonight, I can only imagine the loneliness they must have felt as they became accustomed to a brand new lifestyle. What inspires me is as I met Kual, Koor, Jany, Sam, the Gabes, and all the other Sudanese men, is that the pointless social pressures that I feel, they do not succumb to. These men don’t dwell on whether something makes them seem weird or unusual. They don’t let the pressures defined by others define how they live their life. They simply live. They have seen what life can be like, and they understand their blessings. And with that in mind, they focus only on what is important to them and they give that cause everything they have. Their outlook on life is refreshingly simple, and it is an outlook I have always strived for, but have never come close to achieving. Meeting these amazing men have put my life and the social pressures that come with it in perspective. My new friendship with them has allowed me to begin the journey of assessing what is most important in my life, and how I want to make a difference. There will always be social pressures that can affect how I accomplish this, but thanks to this trip I am more aware of them, and inspired to not allow them to hold me back from achieving what I want in life.