When I grow up
Over there on the right side of the page, under my self-portrait entitled “Weary Wayward Traveler Trying to Look Glam In a Black Hooded Sweatshirt in Her Mom and Dad’s Bathroom Mirror,” you will see this little blurb about when I grow up and Africa and stuff. Thanks to AJ, who thought to ask, “What do you mean by ‘stuff’, oh Vague One?”, I am now going to answer some questions I’m sure you don’t have about me since only one person played along and asked me a question.
1. Why Africa?
Good question. I often ask myself (and G-d) the very same thing. When I was very little, my dad was considering a position or being considered for a position (I was too young to understand) in Niger. To my little, tiny, growing-up-in-a-one-horse-town brain, that meant the destruction of all the harmony and balance in my life. No more chi for me. I agonized over the thought of moving to a place where it was Oklahoma summertime times a thousand, twelve months a year. In the end, we stayed put and my chi returned.
Since my father worked in the plant pathology department at an ag(riculture) college, a steady stream of international students passed through his office and labs. And since I was a daddy’s girl, I spent a lot of my time in his office and labs as well. The only student I remember was African. For the life of me I can’t recall his name. He was the sweetest, most handsome man I had ever laid eyes on (I was all of eight). I was mostly fascinated with his accent (beautiful) and his skin (very, very dark). I want to say he was Ethiopian but he could’ve been Sudanese. Aside from a few fuzzy memories of him in the lab tolerating my unabashed stares (I was a smitten kitten), the only thing of substance I remember is my parents throwing one of their huge keg parties and my mom cooking him a huge bowl of rice, per his request. He ate it with his fingers. And of course, I sat right next to him the entire time.
Fast forward many years. At some point, I’m not sure when, the idea of one day visiting Africa became something I gladly entertained. The country smacked of diversity, untamed beauty, and a world completely different than my own. While living in California, the opportunity to spend several months in Africa cropped up twice but nothing panned out. (One of the opportunities involved writing for a non-profit.) And then I watched Hotel Rwanda.
2. Okay. And…?
I was a sophomore in high school when the genocide occurred in Rwanda. I paid absolutely no attention to the news because I had more important things to do, like hate the world and listen to Stone Temple Pilots at an ear-shattering volume. I recommend that everyone see this movie at least once. I’ve watched it three or four times and each time, it is a new experience for me. I most recently watched it on the anniversary of the genocide in April. Having read Romeo Dallaire’s book beforehand, so much more of the movie grabbed my heart and stomped into the ground.
After seeing it for the first time, I felt disgusted. Disgusted and ashamed and angry. Roommate told me about Darfur. The walls of my naiveté began crumbling down. It’s fascinating to think that something as mind-boggling as genocide could still happen today. Given my morbid obsession with the Holocaust, it seemed natural to extend that obsession to current events.
3. You’re weird!
Yes, thank you for that observation. Next question.
4. What is it you plan to do in Africa, exactly?
Eradicate hunger and poverty. Give women equal rights. Protect little girls from being sold into marriage at age 11. Make everyone play nice. Adopt my Grace.
But realistically, I would like to work for a non-profit or a human rights organization and establish programs for widowed women/single mothers in post-conflict areas, starting with Rwanda. A whole host of issues interest me: child soldiers, education, HIV/AIDS (particularly among the women in post-conflict areas), forced or “early” marriage, female genital mutilation, refugees, and IDPs.
5. Do you have a plan?
Currently, my plan involves getting a second bachelors in International Studies. I’m applying for spring admission here but will probably take a class for credit this fall that will count toward the degree. Since my foreign language from undergrad is completely useless outside of a certain part of Oklahoma and parts of Alabama and Florida, I will be undertaking French, which I’m hoping won’t kill me. I’m also considering an Anthropology or Africana Studies minor.
Of course then comes graduate school and my lofty dreams of attending Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs to get my Masters in International Studies with the functional area of human rights and the regional focus of Africa.
See? I have a plan! I have to work very, very hard and make very, very good grades to get into SIPA. This is where I get discouraged. I haven’t found a second choice school yet. Sigh.
6. Shut up shut up shut up shut up
But I haven’t even told you about my ultimate goal of working for Human Rights Watch!
7. I don’t care. Shut up.