Anyone who has spent significant time in more than one place knows that the moment you leave home; you never return. Sure you almost certainly may physically go back home but it will be different. With experience of life in a different place comes the fragmenting of your conceptualization of “home”. I’ve tried to define “home” before, but because I want to discuss something different here I won’t get caught up in semantics.
The problem with “The Problem with Little White Girls (and Boys)” is most people, maybe even Pippa Biddle herself, misunderstand what Pippa Biddle is writing.
First, to get this elephant of an issue out of the way, the title of Pippa’s piece is grossly misleading. “Little White Girls (and Boys)” is essentially used as a proxy for rich young do-gooder travelers. The assumption that these two characteristics are synonymous is categorically untenable and unjustifiably wrong.
While running down the main street in Kitale I run past the grocery market, past the piles of used clothes, past the lumberyard, and towards the coffee shop with wifi that just closed last week. A young man starts to run beside me. He begins talking to me in Swahili. This is pointless for two reasons. One, I’m running and really not in the position or mood to strike up a conversation. Two, the chances of me, a young, wide-eyed, muzungu knowing Swahili at a conversational level is almost statistically insignificant. Kenya has two national languages, Swahili and English. This makes the incentive to learn Swahili, past polite greetings for an English-speaking foreigner, very little.
This is it, I graduate from Calvin College this week. It is a bittersweet feeling. It feels clique to say this, but it truly is the epitome of bittersweet. The people who told me before beginning college that the next four years were going to be the best years of my life, were correct.
My time at Calvin has been fun, difficult, busy, challenging, affirming, and enlightening. It has been a time when I have worked hard and played hard, served God and served neighbor, studied what I loved and loved what I studied. I thought, learned, followed, prayed, built lifelong friendships, sang, worshiped, and took notes, a lot of notes.
At the same time Calvin has prepared me to create and follow a vision for my life, however vague and unclear it may be at the moment. Calvin has taught me how to leave this campus, go out into the world, serve God, and restore it. I am excited to put into practice what I have learned. Over the years I have learned that it is possible and even imperative to be faithful to God in every aspect of my life.
It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with school, trying to find a job, and spending time with friends. But I had to break the hiatus to share some thoughts on this topic. Last week Calvin College Philosophy professor James K.A. Smith wrote a fascinating article entitled, “You’ll Thank Me Later”: Paternalism and the Common Good. I suggest you give it a read (you will thank me when you’re done … really). For those who think they know what’s best for themselves and ignore my suggestion here is a quick summary:
It has been just over a month since I’ve returned back to my life here in the States. After spending four months in Ghana through a semester with Calvin College, I am back to life, as I knew it. After living, listening, laughing, and learning in a new country, a new culture, a seemingly new world; I am back to familiarity, friends, and family. The question begs however, am I really back?
David Foster Wallace, American writer and essayist, began his commencement address to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005 with this well known story about fish: One fish says to the other, “So, how’s the water?” The other replied, “What’s water?” The insight and brilliance of this story lies parallel to my experience in Ghana over the past few months. Just as the eyes of a fish are opened to the realities of the world by their experiences—say being caught on a fishing line—my eyes have been opened, my awareness of important issues has been deepened, and my appreciation for other cultures, namely Ghanaian culture, has grown. This has been a time for me to prune away the unnecessary and to add the required aspects of life. I have been challenged to move beyond my simple assumptions of how the world works and have developed a fuller understanding of reality. It turns out the world is much more complicated and nuanced than I ever could have dreamed. Through all this learning I have been humbled. I am smaller and more insignificant than I previously believed. Through all this however, God has ordained and designed this time in my life specifically for me to train and prepare me for a life dedicated to service for the purpose of building His Kingdom.
Last week our group returned from spending ten days traveling around the Northern regions of Ghana. Ghana is about the size of Indiana and it took us two days to travel from Accra on the southern coast of Ghana to Tamale the capital of the Northern Region of Ghana. This shows how difficult it can be, at times, to travel on roads here in Ghana. Especially as we moved more and more north the roads became more and more dusty and filled with potholes. We were very busy through the trip visiting several NGOs, (including a day with World Vision) observing the production process of shea butter and pito (beer brewed from millet), and even passing into Burkina Faso for a short time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself during this latest excursion. In fact this may have been my favorite trip I have taken so far in Ghana. I really appreciated the richness of our experiences, the fellowship with our group, and the time away from my ‘normal’ life back in Accra.
Tro-troing is a word I made up. It is a verb that means to ride on tro-tros with no real destination in mind. I did this Saturday afternoon. It was a nice day. I had most of my class assignments under control. I had just spent the entire previous week, including the internship days, in the classroom at the Institute of African Studies. I was feeling a little restless. So I walked down to the Opongolo bus stop and decided to get in the first tro-tro that came my way. I hopped on the old beaten-up bus and learned I was heading to Circle. I had been there once before but had only done marginal exploring so I was happy with my choice, luck, God-ordained-plan; whatever you want to call it.
I spent the previous week away from my usual residence at the University of Ghana, and stayed in the small community of Adenkrebi. Upon returning an interesting thing occurred. When I set foot back into the crazy-busy-crowded-calm of the University of Ghana I felt something comforting. I had spent the last week away from many of the people I had traveled to Ghana with. I was reunited with friends I had not seen in a while. I was back in the midst of familiar surroundings. It is good to be… home?