Daily Prompt: Come Fly with Me. Memories of Swaziland

  I have been in an unmotivated funk for a few weeks now, where writing is concerned. I have run out of ideas. I could just let this blog fade off into nothingness, but I really want to follow through, if for no other reason than the importance of following through with your projects, something I have not always done consistently. 

So lets try a daily prompt. Its from yesterday, but who cares? Its an idea that actually penetrates my writing lethargy. 

Stories from the furthest I have traveled.

Swaziland what the most difficult trip I have had. Partly it was my own limitations and expectations, partly it was I had some rather obnoxious travelling companions, mostly it was just confusing. It came at a time in my life when I was being pulled in many different directions. I wanted to save the world, and Africa seemed a good place to start. Life at school was getting complicated, as I buried my personal issues with the school environment being not a great fit for me by taking on more academically and extracurricularly. That was a bad idea, since I have always struggled academically, and juggling several part time jobs, plus leading a student group, plus internships, plus as many classes as I could fit was a recipe for burnout. But I was going to save the world, I would campaign for peace and health and idealism. So when the opportunity to go to Swaziland for a few weeks came up, I jumped on it. 

The result was I have really no desire to go back even to visit to the continent I once dreamed of growing old on. 

I was traveling with a student group comprised mostly of super religious white southerners, who also believed they were going to save Swaziland. Seeing the behavior of these kids, whose ambition was similar, if less focused than mine, really caused me to rethink my approach. Seeing how they treated the children we worked with, as if they were dolls to be held for pictures, for whom our service was an ego boost for us but had no lasting benefit, depressed me. The fact that the one black guy traveling with us was passively ostracized, while the Swazi people we met were fawned over, disgusted me. In the pictures I brought home, people even commented and asked about it, the problem was that apparent. When creepy dudes inquired as too how many cows we cost, they were flattered. When a gift or donation was distributed or a service rendered, gushing over how much good we did ensued. God was thanked for using us to bless others. It was all about us (or them, I wasn’t exactly popular with the group either, being from New York and asking too many questions and all) not about the people we supposedly came to help. I felt physically sick at one point when one girl was planning to go through a TB hospital singing “It is Well with my Soul.” I know that song was written by a man with TB, but its one thing for a patient to accept their illness as being well with their soul, its another to announce to someone that their illness is well with our souls.

Even still, hands were held, children played with, buildings worked on, prayers given, kind words spoken. I should feel good that I went, right? I would except it seemed that all that happened was orchestrated for the benefit of my travelling companions and myself, many of whom went home to speak at churches about their experiences, and go on further trips, either back to Swaziland or elsewhere.  

Maybe I should go back, on my own terms, to reclaim my dreams. Perhaps I was too easily dissuaded from what I wanted. I have been trying to figure out just what I have to offer the world ever since. I guess what the experience really taught me was how very complicated everything is. The world is not made up of good people and death eaters bad people. Motivations are never purely altruistic or selfish. We all make questionable choices, even with the best intentions. Those kids I traveled with, despite the fact that most of them seemed wholly unconscious of their own impact or the feelings of others, it is still better that they be well intentioned, as they were. And as for me, while I am a committed navel gazer, I need to keep working for the good of the world, despite disappointments. 

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