On the Plane: Washington D.C. to Ethiopia
Saturday, May 7, 7:20 pm EST
I'm currently sitting 35,000 feet above sea level over the Mediterranean sea. Thunderstorms below are making the clouds glow like florescent lanterns.
Our first flight left Toronto 13 hours ago. I was in a cab to get to the airport 16 hours ago. I finished packing 16.01 hours ago, and before that EWB National Office threw us a send-off party. In last 40 hours I've gotten a shaky 6 hours of sleep. But my mind is still only on one thing. How I ended up here.
Some turbulence are shaking the plane side to side as we fly between Annaba and Tabarka, Tunisia. I am officially over the continent of Africa for the first time. It is Saturday, May 7 at 7:36 pm EST. Local time: no idea.
My mind wanders to how I ended up here. Not just the physical here, but the mental, and emotional here as well. From the initial uncertainty whether I would apply to be Junior Fellow, which lead to long inspirational conversations with Lauren, Helen, Anne and other chapter members; to the chapter at Western taking a huge interest in what Alex and I will be doing. There are so many people who have influenced where I am. It's nice to think I got here purely on self motivation, but if I did I would be lying. I'm in the midst of a pretty major leap forward in my life. Without Lauren and Helen, the Chapter, my parents and family, I'm not sure I would have been able to find the ledge to leap from. Not at all am I saying this isn't self motivated. It's just sometimes you need a little guidance. Someone, or some people, to help you find where to apply it.
I look up to the screen on the back of the seat in front of me. We are now over Tunis, Tunisia. The thunder clouds are behind us and the city lights below are as sporadic as my thoughts. The cool glass of the window gives me a chill. I pull the Chitenge Lauren gave me on the first night of pre-departure out of my bag and pull it over myself. As I pull out the Chapter heirloom, which is passed down from generation to generation of JFs, a large envelope full of letters from Chapter members falls out of my backpack. I can't help but smile as I put the letters back into my bag for later in the summer. They will be my parachute when I find myself falling uncomfortably fast away from that familiar ledge.
Thoughts From Under a Bug Net
Sunday, May 8, 8:12 pm
In the last 30 hours I've gone through multiple ups and downs. Cycling between real and surreal. I'm laying under a bug net in a guest house on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi. At this moment it's surreal.
We caught our flight to Lilongwe shortly after we landed in Ethiopia. After we gathered our bags, the 17 of us made our way outside the airport to hired mini busses that took us straight to the guest house. Coming from downtown Toronto, the Malawi country side could not be greater a contrast. Trees randomly dot farmers fields covering rolling hills. In the distance outlines of small disjointed mountains are visible through the haze. The contrast between urban Toronto and the Malawian countryside gets me thinking; and my mind wanders.
When it comes to international development in the class room, I'm pretty okay. I have a solid grasp on the basic concepts and theory. Like the urban sprawl of downtown Toronto, in my head they are structured, linear, organized, and familiar. "On the ground" field development work however is more like the Malawian countryside. Unfamiliar territory dotted with some personal stories and tips from previous past JFs, and a vague outline of what this summer will lead to. This contrast, also, couldn't be greater.
I can't help but be excited. This summer gives me the chance to explore the difference between theory and practice in international development. Explore the culture, make mistakes, test some hypotheses I have, and maybe reduce that contrast. But most of all, just see if I can actually do it. I'm on the threshold of an experience that will shape the rest of my life. How can I not be excited? It's now real - cycle complete.
From the warm heart of Africa,