So did you build a house?

Returning from Spring Break to a college campus can be hard. Schoolwork piles on, procrastination starts to become a serious mid-semester issue, and all that anyone wants to do is to go back to a relaxing vacation away from the stresses of schoolwork and organization responsibilities. Roommates exchange Spring Break stories about their weeks and chatter fills the hallways, especially Harrison Hall being that it is the Communication major building, and everyone catches up on the funny memories made. I’ve had quite a few experiences at this point while exchanging stories about Spring Break trips that I have really been grappling with. What do you think the reaction is when I told my classmates that I went on an Alternative Spring Break trip? “Oh thats nice, I bet is was really fun”. While not every experience has been this way, a vast majority of people aren’t particularly interested in hearing about how I spent time volunteering and would rather tell me about the margaritas they drank or the dolphins they swam with. After spending a week listening to stories and forming meaningful connections with those who we visited with, I find myself feeling really defensive and a bit let down that people don’t want to know more about what I did. The worst part is when people ask me things like, “Well if you didn’t build a house than what were you doing?” Well, if you have a few hours I would be glad to summarize what we did if you’d like. It has just been consistently difficult to articulate into words what we did and I don’t think I could ever speak as powerfully as those experiences. So do I get discouraged when my friends don’t understand? Absolutely. How could you not be discouraged when someone who you love doesn’t want to listen those same stories you did?

Well, I have to remind myself that I cannot be mad at others ignorance because quite frankly, just about 2 months ago I couldn’t define a refugee, I couldn’t point out The Democratic Republic of Congo on a map, and I wouldn’t know what a “Lost Boy” is. I can’t blame my friends for not understanding, or not having a burning drive to become passionate about something that they are ignorant to. While I want to tell them, I struggle for the words to tell them how I feel, what I was feeling, and why they should care. Articulating words from experiences that are felt through emotion and not necessarily expressed through words is like trying to fit a square piece in a circle hole. They don’t fit and the only way they will fit is if you can package the square to be small enough to fit through the hole. I’m just not quite sure how you do that yet but I think this is something I find myself looking forward to though, is learning how to teach others what I have learned, how to sell others on the importance and the necessary attention that global genocide needs.

The trip was full of introspective recognition of my own privileges as well as a newfound understanding of genocide from the inside looking out. We have been reading articles about what is going on, how the issues started, and how they are affecting the countries that genocide is occurring in but we haven’t had first hand experiences with those who have the inside perspective. I can’t say that one, single person affected me this week as I felt deeply for each person I have met and each person brought to me a different understanding of the same issue. Each family had a different story and a different way of explaining their lives in America and what they struggle with but their lives in the countries that they love and once called their homes. Each person sang a new tune in the orchestra of voices that we heard and that gave me the best overall picture of a story that needs telling. While I might not know how to make someone’s “Aha” moment come into clear view just yet, I intend to help those who do not understand it, find a way to, and even if they choose not to pursue it, I hope they can find an issue to be an advocate of because advocacy is what fuels the stop to injustice of many of the social issues that our society battles with.

– Anna


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