I haven’t written too many meaningful blogs since I’ve been away – I have mostly been focused on attempting to describe my experiences in Botswana and the various projects I’ve been working on. However, as my time in Bots is nearing its end, I’m left with thinking about my experiences here; what have I learned? How have I changed? What have I left behind for Mochudi? What have the students at SSI learned from me? What will I be leaving behind? How have my future goals and plans changed?... and literally a million other things. As silly or strange as it might be, one of my fears in doing this whole thing was that I wasn’t going to feel like I had learned anything – I wanted it to be more than just a summer doing something kind of cool... and now that I only have 2½ weeks left, it feels overwhelming with how much I have grown and learned, I’m actually having a hard time trying to sort everything out. In organizing my thoughts, it doesn’t help that the last 2 weeks and the next 2 weeks have been/will be the busiest weeks since I’ve been here... so much left to do in such little time!
Recently I read a novel called The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz. It took a while for me to get into it, and it wasn’t necessarily my favourite book I’ve ever read, however I did learn a lot from it and it has most definitely allowed me to see the possibilities of adding an international development component to my future career.
After reading about Jacqueline’s experiences and thinking about my own (both in Canada and Bots) I have come to realize that my Beyond Borders professor, Joanne, has perhaps given me the best advice I have ever received, and something that I will keep with me for the rest of my life: “If you’re not frustrated, then you’re not learning anything new”. Maybe it doesn’t sound so profound at first glance, but believe me; when you find yourself overcoming a situation where you felt massive amounts of frustration, you will no doubt understand the truth behind it. Moreover, reminding myself that frustration = learning has been something that has definitely helped me get through more than a few days here in Bots!
There was an interesting quote used The Blue Sweater, by Lao Tzu: “Go to the people: live with them, learn from them, love them. Start with what they know; build with what they have. But for the best leaders, When the job is done, the task is accomplished, the people will say: ‘We have done it ourselves’ “. I think this idea is exactly what the theme is behind the Beyond Borders program. It ties in closely with Paulo Freire’s ideas from Pedagogy of the Oppressed. A simple as it sounds, though, it is definitely harder to implement that I had expected. Unfortunately I don’t know if I was able to carry out my projects so that the people will feel as if they have done it themselves. To be honest, I think 3 months might even be too short to effectively invoke change in this way. BUT, I do feel proud of what I have been able to accomplish while here and the way in which I have been able to go about it – Friere and Tzu’s ideas will indefinitely be something I practice in future projects that I participate in.
I just wanted to write out the last paragraph of The Blue Sweater. I feel like it has so much hope in it and is important for everyone to hear. It’s also a good representation of why I am here and why it is important for everyone around the globe to do their part in being a global citizen:
“Today we are redefining the geography of community and accepting shared accountability for common human values. We have the chance to extend to every human being on the planet the notion that all men are created equal, and this will require global structures and products we are only beginning to imagine. Though the average citizen cannot, of course, match the enormous gifts made by successful entrepreneurs such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, each of us in his or her own way can contribute something by thinking-and acting-like a true global citizen. We have only one world for all of us on earth, and the future really is ours to create, in a world we dare to imagine together.”
So as I wrap up my time here in Botswana, I am left feeling as awkward and vulnerable as I did when I first got here. There are a stir of emotions I have, ranging from excitement of travelling and getting home to see family and friends, to scepticism that the programs I have helped implement at the centre will continue, to disappointment that I can’t stay longer, to sadness that it will be time for me to say goodbye to many friends that I have developed real relationships with over the last 3 months. I am also worried about talking about my experiences when I get home... I am so excited to go through pictures and videos and talk about my time here, but I only hope I will be able to find the right words to give justice to this place I’ve called home for the summer of 2009. I also hope I can effectively explain my experiences such that you might have an understanding of what this trip has meant for me.
Anyways, the next 2½ weeks will fly by, as my entire time here has. After that, I will be off on my 2 week travelling adventure with Maryam and Ruby, and then I will be heading home!!!!!!!!!! If I don’t get another chance to blog before all this, I will make sure I wrap up this blog space with an update to how life is back home by the end of August. In the meantime, I’ll take all your prayers and thoughts in helping me conclude this crazy summer I have had!