Halfway but Not Halfway

Yesterday marked my six month anniversary overseas. Halfway through my placement. But not halfway. Why? Well, I've decided to extend my contract with EWB. In addition to my initial 12 month commitment, I'm commiting to at least another 8 months overseas, possibly another 12. Details are still in discussion. The good news is that this likely means I will be home at Christmas, and will hopefully be seeing many of you.

Beyond blogging, I also spend quite a bit of time writing in my own journal and notes. In honour of this six month occasion, I spent some time tonight reading through some of what I've written.

Given the occasion, I thought it might be fitting to share the first ever journal entry from this trip. In some weird way, it almost says more about my extension decision than anything I could say now. Enjoy.

March 1st, 2009 – Above the Mediterranean

Well, here I am again, on another flight. My three legs of travel are Toronto-Frankfurt (complete), Frankfurt-Johannesburg (in progress), and Johannesburg-Lilongwe. I should be in Lilongwe by tomorrow afternoon.

I’ve traveled a lot before, but I’ve never been away from home for this long – 1 whole year. Thinking about it is really hard.

The question I’ve been asking myself all day, and the question I’m still asking myself, is: why am I doing this? Why am I moving away from so many people I will miss so much? A year is a long time.

I’ve wanted to work in development – to work in Africa – for so long now that I’ve started to lose track of why. The desire and they drive, they’ve simply become a part of who I am, of how I interact with the world. I think it all starts from a fundamental desire to see fairness and equality in the world, and a visceral pain from coming face to face, every morning, with a world where it doesn’t exist.

More than any other generation, we can be the one to see an end to extreme poverty – we can make it happen. Further, people like me can be part of the process of unlocking the potential in Africa and Africans, assisting already intelligent and hard-working people to access more resources, and contributing to a stronger enabling environment for innovation and growth.

I want to be part of that, but more than that, I want to be part of unlocking my own generation’s potential in Canada, the potential to be better global and local citizens). I also want to be active in unlocking my own potential, to be better able to live out my ideals, as well as to be better able to influence others.

I also hope to be able to take some time for learning, and some time for conversation and interaction with a new culture, to further enlighten my understanding of current and ideal conception of the human condition, as well as gain an improved understanding of how social change happens.

This year is not going to be easy, but it is an opportunity to work directly on a way to help end extreme poverty, as well as leveraging that opportunity in order to influence Canada, and to learn and grow as a person.

I hope to use and enjoy this opportunity, and I have to be excited about it. I also have to make sure I keep in good contact with my family and friends. [note: how am I doing?]

The weirdest thing about this, is that one of the values I hold most dear – that no one should have their meaningful relationships with people threatened by factors extrinsic to those relationships – is not actually wholly consistent with my actions. I value other people’s relationships but have chosen to walk away from the most important ones in my life, for a year, to pursue external goals.

I think the only way to reconcile this contradiction is to make my goals here a meaningful part of my relationships back home. I want people to believe in this work. Moreover, through them and their support, I want myself to believe in this work. I want them to believe, like I do, that this is important enough to leave things in Canada behind for a while.

I don’t know where this process will end up, or what that place will look like, but for now I just need to take some first steps: land in Lilongwe, get a cell phone, eat some nsima, make some phone calls home, and start enjoying this opportunity.

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