Sunday, July 18, 2010


Since arriving home on May 25th I’ve employed multiple strategies to bring together the loose strands of memories and experiences that I have had into some form of coherent and brief answer to the question, “how was your year?” So far I have had little success. I have an infinite number of stories and questions that have arisen in my mind and given me a sense of hope for the world coupled with a regrettable sense of despair. I stopped blogging in early March because, frankly, I didn’t know what to say. For many of my readers I may be their only first-hand view into Africa. I’m cognoscente of the great responsibility that one has as a blogger to present an accurate and responsible, while also moving, perspective of the truth and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to fulfill that lofty goal. Here’s the problem: I observed a lot of really really terrible things that left me scathed yet, I had a tremendously positive experience. I don’t want my tales of friends being mugged, malaria, being beaten up, and navigating society in a country where there is almost no participation of the citizens in government to encourage anyone to stay away from Africa. I promise that I left Africa a more fulfilled, happier, more compassionate, and more spiritual person than when I came. I would go back and I would send my future children into the same situation in which I lived. I’ll never forget the hugs that my students gave me, opening my door to a sunny African morning, or sharing meals with strangers in West Africa. It was a great semester in ways that I don’t yet have words to convey to others. I’ll talk in person, if you’re interested.

Today I began what will be the arduous task of compiling the ticket stubs, pamphlets, letters, and multiple copies of my travel buddy “Flat Stanley” into a single scrapbook. I have made scrapbooks for every year of my life since I could operate a bottle of glue unassisted and have always appreciated scrapbooking as an art. Scrapbooking allows one to interpret significant events in one’s life in the context of the space and time in which the event occurred. Five of us could visit London together and make vastly different scrapbooks of our experiences. My scrapbooks feel so alive; they remind me that I wasn’t just a tourist in awe of the Egyptian Pyramids but I was a young person who saw history through the lens of my life experiences, hopes, and dreams. Westminster Abbey wasn’t just another European church to me but was the first European church I saw, a place that I had wanted to visit since seeing it pictured in the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen film, “Winning London.” The memories that are not illustrated by ticket stubs: the amount of times the girls made fun of me for making references to Mary Kate and Ashley films, the emotions associated with seeing Meggie again after being apart for a year, and the excitement of spending the first of about twenty weeks in Europe are sometimes the most important part of the journey. My scrapbook, like my life, will be a piece of art that I will cherish forever.

Each living environment I’ve had in the past year: going to school in England, Ghana, and interning with Organizing for America in Missouri are each vastly different components of my life’s story. Just like chapters in a book, each experience is not independent in time but is influenced by the chapters that surround it. Chapter 7 is inevitably shaped by the events of Chapter 6. My pending move to Puerto Rico will call for a new page in the story that is my life but I’m glad that the preceding chapters will in effect come along with me. I hope that I never forget how much my undergraduate experience, as unusual as it is, means to me.