Wednesday, June 18, 2008

T -minus 2 weeks

As my time here in Mama Africa is winding down, I find myself in the same sentiment as I always do when I have to leave a place I love: denial.

¨Real life¨ of busy schedules and work obligations and processed foods and $4 gallons of gas and Hollywood writer's strikes is about to hit, and I just want to soak up the culture that I've been steeped in for so long. Yeah, I'll admit, I've fallen in love with Senegal. I've fallen in love with Morocco too, and Africa in general. My mom, who has been to Africa, told me before I left that once you visit Africa, a piece of it stays with you always and you'll have to return sometime. This is so true.

Like most college students, I've had my share of Future Freakouts. However, the Future Freakout that comes on the cusp of reverse culture shock may be vicious. I mean, when I think about returning to America, there are just so many details that need to be taken care of. This summer, I want to, of course, spend quality time with friends and family, I want to learn to bake gluten-free bread, I want to frame and organize my photos, spend some sweet one-on-one time with my guitar, and go camping in my granny's cabin up north. I'm so excited to go to the dentist, to drive stick, to roadtrip, to get de-wormed (I'm serious. Just in case, you know?), to practice some serious yoga, to celebrate the Fourth of July. On the scary side, I have to find work for the summer, an apartment for second semester, and work out all the financial aid shenanigans that are waiting for me. Then, you know, graduate, etc.
In the midst of all of this, I have to write my 50-page thesis about the research I did on the Casamance conflict. It will be very interesting to dig up all my expereinces and emotions and try to put them into words worthy enough for the heroes down there, like I promised I would try to do.

Oh hey! Check out this blog:

http://www.cultureandpeace.blogspot.com/

This photography project, run through the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding in Amherst, Massachusetts, is all about the Casamance. All photographs posted to this blog are images of Bignona, Senegal, and the Casamance Province. They were produced by students at the Agricultural High School of Bignona as part of their idea that: ¨The 'Culture and Peace' photography project aims to highlight the culture and identity of the Casamance region, of southern Senegal, so that the people of this region may enter into a period of peace based upon a mutual respect with the rest of the nation. [It is our belief that] Respect for another is based upon respect for the self, which implies recognition of one’s own cultural heritage.¨

Kerry Coppin, the director of the project, contacted me and told me that they had used some of my work and writings as part of their exhibition. Spread the word: the more that people recognize that this is a living conflict that has consequences today, the closer we will be to a solution. Even if this region is small and seemingly unimportant in the grand scope of global conflicts, there are human rights abuses occuring. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the founder and director of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel once told me a piece of wisdom that I have guarded in my heart as a guiding inspiration for my life. He of course was talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but his words apply to even the smallest of situations:

¨No matter what your politics are, no matter what you belive in, no matter whose land you think this is,¨ he told me as we sat in his office in Jerusalem, the sight of one of the world's hottest and most complicated conflicts, ¨there are blatant human rights abuses occuring on both sides...and it's up to all of humanity to stop this.¨


I'm trying my hardest not to be nostalgic and sentimental in these past days. There's still a lot that needs to get done here. I'm off to go finish my last paper...

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