As you may have figured, the previous story is about myself. I can safely say that this story and the events, experiences, and following actions have defined my life. Yes, defined my life. Traveling to Africa four summers ago after conducting a project that allowed me to meet so many incredible people and truly believe that I, and many others, have been able to make a difference in the world, has created the most indelible impression on who I am and what I do.
Therefore this blog will be my expressions of thought set down in text as I continue developing and searching for my path in this great world. I could say that my life is well mapped out, but that would be a lie. All I have are ideas of what I would like to happen, but no one knows for sure what I will do, or where I will go.
This blog has been named ‘When not in Africa…’ because, although I have only been to once, one of the ideas I have for my future is that I will return to Africa very soon (hopefully Ghana, summer 2007) and I do plan to live the majority of my life on the continent of Africa or working for the people that inhabit its lands.
As I write there is one thing that has been on my mind for a long while. About a week ago my grandfather passed away. I was very close to him and although he had been gradually getting more sick and it was not a sudden death, it has still been very hard. I believe that grandparents make up a significant section of the core of our being; a section that parents, friends, role models, and leaders cannot touch; a section where no matter what happens you always know your grandparents’ touch will be with you forever. However, even with all that, I cannot help but think about the countless number of lives lost in the countries of Africa. Every day in Africa, 6,600 people die from and another 8,500 contract the HIV virus – 1,400 of whom are newborn babies infected during childbirth or by their mothers’ milk. Africa is home to 25 million people with HIV – 64% of global infections. There are more than 13 million children in Africa have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS; this total will reach 18 million by 2010. (UNAIDS) Every week, it is estimated, in Uganda over 1000 people die in a conflict that has claimed over 100,000 lives in its now 20 year span. In Darfur, with over 400,000 already murdered by their own government, tensions rise over a UN peace-keeping force. Tensions are still fresh in the Congo where countless, thousands of lives are lost unknown to the world. Due to the intensity of the wars and diseases and just plain poverty, children are lucky to make it past their fifth birthdays. (Sorry I do not have the links to all of the relevant news articles.)
Preventable diseases – preventable conflicts – and preventable circumstances end the lives of so many invisible people on the African continent. Invisible people who it seems have no pull in the worldly system of quest for success and competition at any cost. People are people. Whether in Africa or Asia or the Americas, people share the same pain, the same loss, the same wants and fears, people everywhere want to have the ability to live without fear of avertable worries. And as I think of how my grandfather died; surrounded by friends and family, without pain, after living a long and happy and productive life – I cannot help but think about the countless others in the world who do not have such a luxury. At his funeral service I played TAPS, on the bugle which he gave me when I was 10 years old. After playing the solemn tune I could not contain myself and broke down, because as I played I could not help but think of all those others who passed with my grandfather, I thought of how supportive my grandfather was of my work and how he loved every person he met, how he shared something with everyone. As the tears for my grandfather streamed down my cheek, my body shaking with loss, those tears messed with the tears for the world’s invisible people.