The words are difficult to form because I’m still in a bit of shock, or maybe I am simply overjoyed. I’m going to Africa. Those are the important words. Here are a few more that might further elaborate. Below is a letter that I wrote to one of my best friend that explains things a little better.
So, for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to go to Africa. It’s a weird dream for a child to have, and I’ve never been able to truly put words to the desire except for that I simply feel a connection to this place I’ve never seen. During my college experience I took every class I could on Africa, even going as far as attempting to learn bits of Swahili. All this education did me very little good, however, because I had never even met a person from Africa let alone traveled there. Eventually during one of my anthropology classes the opportunity I had hoped for was presented to me. My instructor read an announcement that the Girl Scouts were looking for volunteers to mentor a group of Somali Bantu Girls. I jumped at the opportunity and it became an amazing experience. This somersaulted into even more opportunities and soon I found myself in the homes of African refugees on a weekly basis. Even when it became a job to me I still enjoyed it so much. I never wanted to focus on our lessons because I was so interested in finding out as much about them as I could.
I was reflecting on this unexplainable connection a few weeks ago and I started im’ing a friend. I just announced to her, “I’m going to go to Africa”. This friend has known me for quite some time, so I don’t expect she was surprised by it one bit. She simply replied back “good. you should”. This friend also has the past knowledge of understanding that at one point I had my heart set on the Peace Corps, but I got pregnant and the dream was no longer a reality. So here I was announcing that I was going to Africa but having no idea how this could possibly happen.
So I started doing what I do. Research. And I found that it wasn’t as unrealistic as I might have thought. I found an agency that I feel best suits my needs. They do volunteer trips to places all over the world. They are not religiously or politically affiliated, which was one of my biggest concerns. The best part of it all is that they do trips for as short of a time as two weeks. This was amazing because I can’t really fathom being away from the girls for any longer than that. They do amazing work in places all around the world. I scoured over information for weeks before finally deciding that I felt my talents could best be utilized as a volunteer teaching in a community school in Kenya.
I’ve basically researched until my brain hurts. Here is the short of it. I’ve been accepted into the program. I’ve gotten the time off work. I’ve ok’d the trip with Jeran who has agreed to take the girls for two weeks. I’ve corresponded with GVI (the agency) until my fingers are about to bleed.
[Ommitting long portion here about the ugliness/scariness of the financials. You all don’t need to worry about that mess. ]
But yet, I still REALLY want to do it. I know that I would never ONCE regret the decision. I just feel like it’s something I HAVE to do. I have never traveled outside the Americas. I have never had the experience of studying abroad or traveling internationally. And the timing is finally right. The girls will be 4 and 2, old enough for me to be away for 2 weeks. It will be right before I start grad school, which will be a two year committment that I am making. It has to be now. In addition to all of this, I have a co-worker who has a daughter living in Kenya right now. My co-worker has been trying to plan a trip to go there in June. I confided to her that I was trying to do the same because I was worried about overlapping schedules. She admitted to me that as much as she wants to go at that time, it’s a bit of a pipe dream because she doesn’t know how she’ll afford it. The reason she was planning for then is because her daughter is coming home for several weeks and she was going to help her with her two small daughters (5 and 3) on the flights back. It suddenly dawned one me… I could help her! I mentioned it to my co-worker and she was immediately delighted by the idea. It would allow her to save money and go at a further date when she hadn’t seen the girls in awhile.”
The most important thing about this trip is that it is truly is for me. The reason I chose a volunteer trip is because I don’t really know anybody in Africa, I’m traveling alone, and it seemed like the best way for me to travel at this point in my life. I’m in no way trying to “save Africa”. For starters I don’t think Africa needs saved, and secondly I don’t imagine for a second that I will make any kind of impact in two weeks. Not on Africa, not on Kenya, not even on the town I’m staying in. But I do think that it will make a life long impact on me. I want to see, experience, learn, listen, and love. I’ve never been challenged in my way of living. I want this challenge. I want to save Megan, more than anything.