Tuesday, October 4, 2011

i'm third.

If it were up to me, Africa would be the only thing I talked about all day every day. The topic is more interesting than my classes at Ball State, more exciting than who’s in a relationship with whom on Facebook, more important than the Muncie local weather, and I think I may even love it more than my boyfriend (Sorry, Jay).

However, as supportive as my friends and family are about my passion for Liberia, I don’t think I’d have anyone left to listen to me if every word that came out of my mouth revolved around my love for a country most people have no interest in ever visiting.

(Bless you, dear reader, for being one of the few who have an interest!)

Nevertheless, the fact I traveled to Africa does come up every so often, and when it does, those who are unaware of my story are always surprised.

* eyes widen *

Africa? You went to AFRICA?

* head cocks to side *

Was it hot?

This is the first question 99% of Ball State students ask me- I kid you not.

Yes,I reply. Hot and poor.

At this point I usually laugh at their predictable naivety and my dry humor as I begin to explain that, while clichĂ©, Liberia was a “life changing” experience and that if they ever have the opportunity to go, traveling to a developing country will change their view of the world and consequently, their life.

I’m absolutely thrilled on the rare occasion that someone takes an interest in my experience. Not because I like to hear myself talk, but because it’s awesome to be able to teach. I love learning, especially outside the walls of the classroom. I think most people secretly do.

Occasionally I’ll meet someone genuinely interested in Liberia, but more often than not, the conversation quickly leads to our stress over next week’s exam, or the inconvenience our essay’s due date has on our social lives.

It’s easier than you can imagine to get caught up in my daily life here at school, where the hardest part of my day is getting up in the morning and the toughest decision I’ll make is Jimmy Johns or Subway for lunch. I worry about what I’m wearing, how I look, what I say, and how I act. I care what other people think of me- many of whom I don’t even know and will never meet. I strive to impress my professors and parents, and hope to stand out as either smart, pretty, funny, or some other quality that I feel people will accept and love me for.

I hope writing in this blog will not only be an outlet for me to talk about what’s interesting, exciting, important, and what I love about Liberia- but to help keep me focused on the fact that I’m third.

It’s an idea I learned while working at YMCA Storer Camp this summer.

God first. Others second. I’m third.

Every day of my life I put myself first 99.9% of the time.

"Look out for #1."

"Stand up for yourself."

This is what we were taught to do since grade school. "Look out for others" or "stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves" don't flow off the tongue as easily I suppose.

I hope that in writing about Liberia, I won’t lose sight of what I learned during the short time I was there. I hope it will help me remember that I’m third.

Monday, October 3, 2011

what took me.

This afternoon, Bryan PapĂ©, Founder and CEO of MiiR Inc. asked me, “What took you to Liberia?

After emailing him my response, I continued to roll around the question in my mind the way you roll around a Jolly Rancher candy in your mouth. You can’t simply spit out the hard candy and suddenly stop savoring its flavor. Similarly, I couldn’t simply spit out Bryan’s question and suddenly stop thinking about my answer.

Hence, the blog is back. After four months of abandonment, I am not going to pick back up where I left off, but instead, start a new chapter. Lessons of Liberia, Part 2, if you will.

I think it was a combination of factors that took me to Liberia. Not a combination like a Wendy’s #1 value meal, where the quarter pounder, hot salty fries, and ice cold Coca-Cola go perfectly and obviously together- but more like the combination of nucleosynthetic elements scientists predict produced the Big Bang; an unpredictable and unreplicable scenario.

In a nutshell, it was a cross between my endless ache for adventure and my desire to see the world outside Midwest America. And after seeing many of my friends borrow and waste their parents money “studying abroad” in the pubs, clubs and other drunken corners of first world nations in Europe, I knew I wanted to do something different than “see the world” through foreign beer goggles and meaningless humanities credits.

Traveling to a developing nation struck me as a kill-two-birds way to see the world and embark on a guaranteed adventure. However, due to the lack of universities and increased safety risk in third world countries, study-abroad programs in developing nations do not exist.

I started looking into volunteer-abroad programs instead. After some research, I realized due to the same safety concerns, most programs do not travel to many of the poorest nations in the world either.

I decided I didn’t need a program. I wasn’t thrilled about walking in the footsteps of hundreds or thousands of past volunteers anyway. I was going to go road-less-traveled on this adventure, and try to “change the world” in whatever small way I could while doing so.