Why I Might Consider Africa

October 5, 2015

As many now know, I’ll be quitting my job at the end of the December. This is hardly the first time I’ve been set adrift in the working world, but overall, I think this will be good for me; the only reason I have so much debt now is just by trying to maintain the lifestyle to which I had been accustomed to abroad in San Francisco and Seattle. Although I can technically do that, it is well beyond my means, and not really worth it. So, goodbye to alcohol. Goodbye to eating in restaurants. Goodbye to tasty cupcakes. Hello, semi-nomadic life.

Africa has always been at the back of mind when I think about travel. Although it doesn’t have the same draw for me as Asia, I’ve been wondering for some time when I will finally make the journey. To Egypt, to see the pyramids. To South Africa, to see two oceans. To Kenya, to find the fastest runners going barefoot. To climb Kilimanjaro. To see a cheetah. To step foot on a continent so diverse it’s beyond most Americans’ and Europeans’ imagination. The closest I’ve come is Dubai.

I’m romanticizing it based on my perceptions of one African country, I know. Running with the Kenyans at the break of dawn is a life experience I’ve always known I would undertake at some point. Just as I knew I would fly into Kilimanjaro Airport, meet a few people climbing the mountain the same time as I was, and make friends.

However, this is not the primary motivation taking me to Africa. If I were still employed and seeking escape, I’d just book a few weeks over there, get my travel on, and come back. Because I am looking to make a difference, I was forced to accept that I need to do something I’m passionate about, even though I can’t guarantee I will have a lasting impact. To that end, I’m considering volunteering for six months in a village in rural Tanzania with the Red Sweater Project.

Teaching in and of itself is not a passion of mine, at least when it concerns children in Korea and Japan, most of whom are forced to learn the language by misguided parents, believing this will give them a better life (they already have one). However, furthering the education of young women and getting them more involved in the sciences is something in which I believe strongly. RSP mentions this as one of their goals, with many female students the only ones in their families to attend school, not to mention an English immersion school.

My only concern is that despite their intentions, this project is still clinging to the same educational model as schools in the US; math and science above all else, even if students’ aptitudes lie elsewhere. I would hate to be a teacher pushing this agenda on future generations, as I believe some of us – a select few, I’ll admit – grow up knowing our talents and abilities. If those few are destined to go to Mars, I’d be happy to open their minds with orbital mechanics and problems concerning gravity. However, if they’re meant to be poets, actresses, dancers, singers, composers, athletes… stifling someone like that with algebraic equations would be torture for both student and teacher.

Three months to go. I’ll keep you informed.

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