Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Educational Value of Travel

The question is much discussed whether it is good for young people to travel. A better way of putting it would be to ask whether it is enough for educated man to know only his countrymen. For my part I am firmly convinced that anyone who only knows the people among whom he lives does not know mankind. But even admitting the utility of travel, does it follow that it is good for everybody? Far from it. It is only good for the few people who are strong enough in themselves to listen to the voice of error and not let themselves be seduced, and see examples of vice and not be led astray. Travel develops the natural bent and makes a man either good or bad. More come bad than good because more start off with an inclination to badness. But those who are well born and have a good nature which has been well trained, and those who travel with a definitive purpose of learning, all come back better than they went away.

Emile by Rousseau

Jambo everyone, this is Katie's sister Amy. I am currently visiting Katie in Kenya so I have decided to take over her blog for an entry. I have been here for two weeks and am leaving on Thursday. Oh what to say, where to begin.

While Katie and I were at the Indian Ocean I read Emile and came across the previously mentioned passage. I think it applies well to Katie. Volunteering in Africa is not easy, especially for an entire year. Don't get me wrong, I am very glad I made this trip but it was hard adjusting the first week. I knew I would suffer from culture shock and I knew my internal time clock would be out of whack for the duration of the trip. I also figured that since I've spent my last three summers in rural West Virginia that I'd be better able to adapt than most. With all the inner preparations I made I still was not ready for what I encountered. From always having to calculate prices from shillings to dollars, hearing the word mzungu and knowing people are talking about you to being followed home by a crowd of curious kids; I give kudos to Katie for all the little things she puts up with on a day to day basis.

Now that I've been here longer, I really like Kenya, especially Malava. There's still the frustrations of being one of the twenty-one people in a fourteen passenger van as well as not having running water for a few days as the water pump broke but things here are quite pleasant. All these are great experiences for me to have under my belt but I feel satisfied that in less than a week I will go back home to having meat in my diet again, a dishwasher, and my mosquito net free bed. I don't really enjoy watching tv but I'm really looking forward to sitting down in the living room and just kicking back in front of the tele.

I know Katie has already mentioned some of the stuff we did on our vacation but we have done some cool stuff! First, they drive on the left side of the road here! I have always wanted to ride on the left side! Second, Nairobi is south of the equator so it is currently winter. I have never been in a winter outside of the States! Also, for those of you wondering, I can't tell if the toilet flushes the opposite way south of the Equator. I felt so dumb but for the life of me I couldn't remember how a toilet flushes back home. Don't worry, I took a video of it so we can compare. There was nothing in the toilet when I flushed it in the video, I'm not that weird...

Onto bigger things, Katie and I went on a safari! It was by far one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life which says a lot because I have lived and continue to live quite an amazing life. We went to the elephant and rhino orphanage and saw the cutest babies ever! We got kissed by giraffes at the giraffe center. Talk about sloppy kisses! I went to the market and bought some cool stuff including custom made tire sandals. Katie and I also rode the night train to the beach and we stayed in chalets that had monkeys on their property. We rode a glass bottom boat and went snorkeling. I even got stung by a jellyfish! Yesterday we went to the rainforest and even got rained on! So many cool experiences!

Africa is not what I expected. It's not as different and isolated as I thought it would be. For instance people I have seen two Kenyans wearing Northern Illinois University gear. I really wanted to go up to them and say, "hey, I went to school there!" Also it is weird to see cars drive by with pictures of the Obamas on them and hear typical American music on the radio. At the same time, the poverty gets to me when I least expect it. Today when we went to church, the pews were literally pieces of wood made into benches and we complain how uncomfortable the pews can be back home. I am hoping when I come home to continue to appreciate everything in my life for as long as I live.

I don't think I could spend a year volunteering in a third world country. Actually I know I could but I just don't think I want to. I could handle the sacrifices of material items but it's just too far from my family and friends. I don't want to sound gushy but I really missed you Mom and Dad! Knowing I'm halfway around the world makes it feel that much farther.

I will soon be out of Africa and I feel I will be coming home a somewhat different person. I have opened my eyes and now see with a better global perspective. The world is not as big as it seems and people on other continents are just like us. We all struggle and work and laugh and love. I really do want world peace.
One more quick note, if anyone out there is looking to adopt, there is the cutest little boy here! Katie and I don't know if he'll ever get adopted because it is anticipated that he will never walk. He's really cute! Talk to Katie for more information!

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