At the Starting Line: A pre-departure post
The Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011; Temperature: 12 degrees and sunny; Location: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Well here I am at the starting line of my great adventure. In just 9 short days, I will head to the airport for the first of nearly a dozen flights I will be taking in the next month and a half, which will bring me across many countries, lakes, an ocean and a sea. As I write, I am sitting comfortably in my temperature controlled room. It is well lit with the flick of a switch allowing me instant access to light and on days like today (with a slight chill present), I am able to turn on the heater to the optimal temperature. Today, life is easy. I am beginning to wonder, “what will life be like in Tanzania?”
We have spent hours preparing at the World WISE office at the Univeristy of Manitoba, reading articles, discussing expectations, mission statements, and brainstorming some ideas for the work we will be doing overseas. I’m certainly no stranger to travel having lived in 8 different places throughout my life and having lost count of all the countries I’ve traveled to. Touring Europe twice was exciting, and living in Korea was a great challenged that reaped many tremendous rewards, mainly travel confidence. In fact, my student exchange to Korea for 4 months is likely why I feel as calm as I do now about my impending trip to Tanzania. Korea was filled with so many unknowns and I had little to no preparation for it. I truly felt that I was standing on the top of a high dive convincing myself despite my immense fear, to dive in, and I did. I came out of it feeling more alive and empowered than ever before. There’s something to be said for feeling such a strong fear, a fear of not being accepted, of getting into serious trouble, of being more homesick than you can deal with, and a fear of the trip not being worth the cost and work put into it: to be able to hold that fear but still take the plunge and have it pay off bigger than you ever imagined is empowering. I feel much more able as a traveler than ever before, but I am also mindful of the unknowns of Africa. My biggest fear for this trip is that I will not add value to the team or to CPAR (the NGO we will be working with). The last thing I want is to let anyone down. This fear lies in the back of my mind, as on the surface I am able to tell myself that of course I’ll add value with my marketing, business and psychology know-how, but never-the-less, the fear is there and can only be removed after experience. I think I will harness this fear though, using it motivate me to push harder to do as good a job as I can. After all, the more I put into it, the more I and those I’m working for, will get out of it.
Africa is my dream. I always knew I would get there one day, and when Korea was finalized, I knew it was the right choice and Africa would have to wait and that was ok, because I knew it would come. Sitting in the interview and hearing a more detailed description of the Tanzania trip, I knew in my heart that this was the trip I was waiting for, and I wanted it more than anything.
With the experiences I gained from traveling alone and with others, with the hours of preparation that we given,and with my own personal research, I feel prepared for what lies ahead. I cant help but wonder however, if I am only seeing the tip of the iceberg? You can never fully prepare yourself for something. Much of the fun in fact comes from the unknowns, and simply trying new things and being in places you never thought you’d be. I am excited and filled with anticipation for this trip. It will be interesting to see where this trip takes me and how I will change because of it. It will be the trip of a lifetime. Though I can never know for sure how I will change after this trip, if I could guess I would say that I will be humbled immensely, and I will gain a greater appreciation for the earth and what it has to offer, as well as gain a greater appreciation for my own country and how it is structured. I expect I will be more aware of the realities of “doing good” for others, and more enlightened in how and when to do so.
As a part of our pre-departure preparation, we were asked to write a personal mission statement for ourselves and this trip. I ended up re-writing mine a number of times, constantly asking myself what I wanted to achieve. I ended up with this:
“My mission is simple: to gain knowledge about the world that I cannot get from home, and to not cause harm to those I meet while doing so. I will take a hands-on approach to gain a more realistic view of the field of international development and its interconnectedness to various issues. If I achieve this and gain any new insights into myself, Tanzanian culture, and development work, than I will be able to view the trip as a success. Essential, my goal is to take new steps on new lands, so as to talk a walk through Tanzania that resembles a local perspective.”
Throughout the trip I will be referring back to this mission statement, checking in to see how my experiences fall in line with it. I will be writing frequently, describing my thoughts, feelings, experiences and sharing many stories, pictures and videos with all of you. Follow me on this journey, and share with me your thoughts about our happenings. This isn’t a trip that just Mallory, Scott, Katherine and I will be going on. It is a trip for all of us. We will be writing so that we can all challenge ourselves in how we think about people, development work, culture and many more topics. Lets ask questions, seek answers, and discover what’s there.
We’re at the starting line of something great, a journey that can be shared with all thanks to the wonders of modern technology. I feel so blessed to be able to share in this experience with you, and I can’t wait for the weeks to come.
Take our mark, get ready, get set, and let go.