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.

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