So,Senior year is almost here,and I’ve started going through some serious self questioning about life after Wooster,and what path I should take,because I am that one person who plans way ahead of …my life. Being in Brazil has exposed me to a lot of issues that tie into discrimination,abject poverty,and racism.Contrary to popular belief that I spend all my time in a bikini at the beach,I have been able to see for myself through my study abroad program that social change and justice is not just a necessary phenomenon,it is a DESPERATELY needed movement that I feel I have an obligation to take part in.I have been told so many stories in Brazil of how educational opportunities are limited, how healthcare is not easily accessible to everyone,and how one can only aspire to reach up to a certain socio economic level in life,simply because of the color of their skin.
I visited a favela this past week( this community does not identify themselves as a favela-something to bear in mind),and I swear,it was if someone shook me and woke me up.What I saw,reminded me of Kroo Bay in Freetown,and for those of you who know it,you know it is one of the most impoverished places in Sierra Leone.I realized that I had forgotten, its so easy to forget though-right? With my clean and beautiful campus in Wooster, meals three times a day in an “all you can – eat” Cafeteria.My dorms are cleaned daily by a cleaning staff,I don’t have to think about fighting for transportation to go anywhere in town because of the free shuttle that drives me around .Even in Brazil,I do recognize the privilege I have in being a part of an American educational program.I live in a safe,clean neighborhood,with a middle-income host family.I am well fed and well taken care of,my clothes are washed,my room is cleaned daily and there is a constant supply of water and electricity in my house. It’s easy to forget. And that experience at the favela made me realize that I did not want to forget anymore.
And that is the point of my current dilemma: I am IN LOVE with my country.Yes,Sierra Leone does drive me crazy and whenever I go home during the summer, within two weeks I always say how I’m dying to leave .The slow WiFi irritates me,I always endlessly salute my sister on her skills on maneuvering sink hole sized pot holes when she’s driving, I still think my mum is a genius for fitting the monthly budget to never ending price hikes in food, and I am always disgusted with blatant acts of corruption and lethargy in the public service.Yes my country drives me crazy,but I also know it’s a work in progress. We’ve come so far politically and economically than where we were 10 years ago,and our resilience as a nation is still driving us forward,and I’m proud of that,and I want to be a part of that. At what cost though? Having a comfortable apartment in DC or New York or San Francisco with a good job after I graduate? I always tell myself that I can still help from afar…but…can I do that fully? I’m also a free bird-I love travelling,and even though I love Sierra Leone,I don’t see myself just staying there for even 5 years straight,because I would want to live somewhere else , preferably in Africa . And that’s where my continent comes in.I am in love with Africa and being African. I know my obligation lies with my continent, and instead of helping some one else build their empire,why shouldn’t I strive to contribute to ours?
About two semesters ago,I was sitting outside my college’s main cafeteria,Lowry dining Hall,waiting for a friend.I was next to a group of white American men,and one of them seemed to be having a dilemma about life after college. I overheard quite clearly his friend say to him ” I mean,you could just go to Africa and work there.You’ll make a shit ton of money” .At the time I remember being disgusted.But its true! There are so many expats in Sierra Leone-mostly white western young people ,who go to African countries,get paid “a shit ton of money” by international organizations or by their own governments,and they don’t really have the development of these countries at heart(yeah I said it). And how much can we blame them for that?They buy us in the value we sell ourselves.I am telling this story because I remembered that remark many times here in Brazil,when I’ve done field trips ,seen things similar to Sierra Leone,and remembered…remembered that yes,it would be nice to have an awesome paying job in NYC,DC, a cute apartment.I want all those things,I really do.But then who am I leaving my country and my continent to? People who just want to make a “shit ton of money” in developing countries,and are contributing not to our own economies,but to the growth and wealth of their own nations ? And I am very aware of the realities that will hit me if I do return-where will I fit in? How many frustrations with my own people will I encounter? I know stories of “returnees” who had to leave again with a bad taste in their mouths because they could not cope with the drama that is Sierra Leone. Corruption,bribery,lethargy are still realities in my country,but I want to be a part of the renaissance that I know is happening,but at what cost? ..HELP.