Saturday, September 10, 2011

Out of Africa

In fifth grade, I got really interested in this country in Africa that I'd never heard of before, The Democratic Republic of the Congo. I don't know how I happened upon it, but I started doing research on it and brought two friends on board. We eventually told one of our teachers what we were up to and, low and behold, she used to teach karate at a studio where one of the other instructors was from DRC. We quickly met Puma (not his real name, but no one can pronounce what it actually is) and became very involved with his organization, Able and Willing International Education Foundation (seriously, a great organization, I encourage you to check it out). Able and Willing builds schools around Puma's region because the school in the city are too far away for young kids to get to and usually too expensive for their parents to enroll them. Puma's school is open to everyone, very cheap, and provides scholarships. In fact, Able and Willing just opened a second school and got them internet connected. Anyway, after volunteering at events for the organization for a while, PUma invited Emily, Hanne, Ms. Venus, and I to cone work building one of the schools one summer. Now, we were sixth graders and didn't really think about what this would involve or the dangers we should be aware of. We started fleshing out plans, that we would travel only with a large group of adult and mainly male members of Able and Willing, that Ms. Venus would accompany us and we would always stick together, that I would eat pretty much nothing but tuna (DRC food involves peanuts or peanut butter in about 80 percent of the dishes and I'm allergic to nuts and peanuts), that we would fly in and stay for between two weeks and a month, that we would stay near the capital (where there is less violence than more rural areas), and that we would begin to learn French (their colonized language). Ms. Venus started teaching us French and we continued to make plans and learn more about the country. Turns out, the country got more violent and less safe for three pre-teen girls and we couldn't go, but it was my first taste of Africa. I have no African heritage, in fact I'm pretty hardcore Scottish, but I am in love with Africa. Our romance is a song with many harmonies. The scenery is one, and perhaps the loudest is my grand notion that it is a place where I could make a difference. But the harmonies are only gentle support to an ever-beating melody. Africa's melody is its spirit. It is hard to describe, but you can glimpse it between smiling women in bright headdresses, running children, and loud, definitive music. Africa is not quiet, because even when it sleeps the spirit whispers. It is a song of passion and heartbreak and togetherness. For an assignment in my Visual Literacy class we have to pick the best scene ever in a movie. I chose The Last King of Scotland. It embodies the power of Africa, and also its sorrow. Watching it, I fell in love again and I hear the song echoing in my head, calling me to a place which is neither my homeland or heartland, and yet feels like both home and heart.

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