Sunday, January 8, 2012
I read this article while I was still serving in Kazakhstan about a month before I received word that the program was being suspended.
So many things in this article could be attributed to my service and probably just about every volunteer’s service. Failure is not something I necessarily thought about as being an everyday obstacle when I signed up for the Peace Corps. I felt like I had realistic expectations. I knew it would be incredibly difficult and challenging. It would be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. I also knew that success would likely be made in small steps, and I might not be there to see the benefits of my service. The real gains might be years down the road after I was long gone. But knowing all of that, I didn’t really consider that failing, on a consistent basis, would also be a huge part of my service. Now failure can be big or small, and in the Peace Corps it definitely runs the gambit. Some things are minor and there are others that are the definition of epic failures.
The reason I found this article to be so important, was because it makes it clear that failure is a part of being in the Peace Corps but also that failure is okay. As Americans, we are brought up with the mindset that we must succeed, at everything. When we say we are going to do something, we do it. Failure is not an option. So going into the Peace Corps with that same mindset only to be slapped in the face with reality definitely takes you by surprise. I’ll say it again. Failure is a huge part of the Peace Corps. My first organization was, well, an EPIC, EPIC failure. On paper sounded like a rock star org., or so I was led to believe. In actuality, it was me and one other person who was my director/coworker/counterpart all rolled into one, but I can only count a handful of times that I actually saw her and we “discussed” work related projects. This organization was pretty much only on paper, and I had a hard time determining what I could do to fulfill my obligations as a Youth Development volunteer. My director wanted me to do things but couldn’t tell me the purpose of the org. What were the goals? Where was the focus? It’s a youth org so what’s the target age group? Do we want English clubs? Projects about healthy lifestyles? The answer I kept getting was “you do whatever you want to do”. In theory, that kind of flexibility is pretty awesome and something I love, but not having anyone to work with made it pretty impossible. I still worked as a part of this org and I needed the support and help of the “staff” a.k.a. my director. I got the feeling that she just wanted me to run the org and do everything. All the trainings, all the work, everything. And that just didn’t work. I could do everything, but how would that help her in the end? It wasn’t sustainable. I eventually ended up moving to a new org a few months later after my director and I had a pretty nasty exchange. She really didn’t quite understand the focus and goals of the Peace Corps, and it was best for everyone that we just part ways.
This was my first experience with failure as a VOLUNTEER. I emphasize that because I experienced quite a few during training when I hadn’t officially begun my service. My situation with my org was not unique by any means. There were several other people who experience similar situations and plenty of volunteers before us who also went through the same thing. In America, this wouldn’t happen. The org would have been vetted much better. Actually, it would never have been created in the first place. Non-profits have to have quite a few things before they can register for non-profit status. The main thing is a mission statement which is more or less the goals and focus of your org. What do you do and who are doing it for. My org didn’t even have that. All it takes to be an org in Kazakhstan is filling out some forms, so really anyone can be an org…on paper. Whether the org actually functions is a whole different story.
Anyway, back to my point. I was really disappointed during the first few months. I didn’t have a place to work and mostly sat at home feeling like I had made the worst decision of my life. I put grad school on hold to travel half way around the world and sit around watching TV. I was not a happy camper. I did move to a new org eventually, and things got better. But there were still failures. All the time. I lost track of how many projects or ideas never came to fruition for one reason or another. You come to accept that 9 times out of 10 things don’t work out. You stop letting it get you down so much and you just move on to the next idea, because eventually, one of those ideas does work. Even when something does happen, it usually turns out a little, or a lot, differently than you planned. Which is another thing. Forget the planning because more often than not, nothing goes according to plan. So you might as well just throw that away right now. For example, we had a Halloween party back in the fall. We talked about it with the kids and they were supposed to plan it. We had one the previous year so they were familiar with what it would be like. 2 days before the party nothing had been done. Not a single sign had been made. No decorations or games had been prepared. It was a nightmare. We scrambled trying to make it all happen. I had been in service long enough to know that somehow it would come together. My site mate hadn’t been a volunteer that long and was still worried it would be a huge disaster. I still had a few doubts, but I had also come to learn that somehow things just magically get done in Kazakhstan. So we bought a few things for the games, but the majority of the planning was left up to the kids. When the day of the part arrived, we still weren’t sure if it was going to happen. We arrived in the gym and nobody was there yet. A few minutes later, some of the 10 grade girls walked in with decorations and signed they had made at home and one of the coolest scarecrows I’ve seen. Another group brought apples and buckets for “bobbing for apples” and toilet paper for our mummy wrap game. Thanks to my 2 amazing, former site mates, we already had face paint and candy. Somehow it all managed to come together, and the party was a bigger success than I had imagined. There was a little structure problem with starting the games and keeping things organized, but like I said, it never quite happens the way you plan so just throw the rulebook out. It actually was better than anything I could have planned. So many kids showed up to the part y and had a blast. It was definitely one of my favorite experiences of my whole service. Did it go exactly as planned? Absolutely not. But it was still a giant success and one of my fondest memories.
Which bring me back to the original point about failure. Definitely there are many failures in Peace Corps. It’s a part of life and it’s absolutely a huge part of Peace Corps. There are also many, many things that don’t turn out quite like you hoped. This is another important lesson that I learned in the Peace Corps. Just because it doesn’t turn out the way you planned, doesn’t mean it was a failure. So much of the Peace Corps is about being flexible and making adjustments. As Americans, we often have a very set view about what is considered a success. If something doesn’t turn out exactly the way you planned, it’s not successful. That logic really doesn’t work in the Peace Corps. There were so many times things didn’t work out the way I planned, and no one knew the difference except for me. It’s all about making adjustments and adapting to ever changing situations.
Failure happens. It’s what you do with the failures that more important. Do you dwell and wallow? Or do you learn what to do differently and move on to the next thing?
Peace Corps will give you a beating like nothing else will, but you will learn to be resilient if you stick it out long enough. You can learn to endure any situation that may be thrown your way. It’s definitely a roller coaster ride. That was true until the end. My service was cut short. It was a complete shock and totally out of my control. To me this felt like the ultimate failure because I hadn’t served the full 2 years. Having been home now for a little over a month, I don’t feel that I was a failure for not completing the full service. I had time to let it settle and reflect on all the things I had done instead of all the things I wanted to do that never happened. Looking through pictures I took made me proud of the time I spent in Kazakhstan. It still makes me sad to think about all the people I left behind. Sometimes I miss the kids so much it hurts. I spent a lot of days after I left site thinking about them and worrying what would happen to them. Of course, they were just fine before we came and they’ll be fine after we are gone. But I thought about how much they opened up to us and how much they changed while I was there. I remember them telling my site mates and me about all these dreams and goals they had, and how many of them said their parents didn’t support them. I wondered who would encourage them to go be a fashion designer or dancer now that we were gone. One of the greatest things I was able to do was encouraging the kids to go after the things they wanted no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
After I got back to the States, I found out that one of the girls who had taken a test that would allow her study abroad in America for a year, had made it to the final round. (if you're curious she is the red head in the bottom picture) When I left site, none of the kids who took the test had a received a call for an interview, and I assumed that none of them had made it to the next round. Hearing that news after I was forced to leave early was by far the greatest moment of my entire service. I said way back when I started that if the only thing I accomplished was helping a student get to America to study, it would all be worth it. I’ll find out in April if she was accepted. If she was, she’ll be somewhere in the US by July, and come hell or high water, I’ll do whatever it takes to see her. Even if she doesn’t make it, words cannot express how proud I am. This took 3 years, the collaborative efforts of 4 volunteers, and some amazingly talented and motivated kids. This is a huge deal for the school and the community. I don’t think anyone from my town had ever taken that test much less studied abroad in America during high school. If nothing else, it’s proof that they are capable of achieving those dreams if they want it bad enough. That desire was always there. The talent was always there. It just took a few Americans to bring it out and make them believe that it is possible. Hearing that one of my students may be in America next year is the greatest success I could have asked for. All the failures and disappointments make this one success all the more memorable and that much more special.
Peace Corps is always saying, “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love”. I’m not one to like corny slogans, but this one is absolutely perfect. Peace Corps is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever faced. I still have a lot of life to life, but I’m betting that it will stay that way. I haven’t hated any job more while simultaneously loving it. No other experience has given me that amount of growth. I learned more in 15 months than many people learn in a lifetime, and I’m still learning from all the experiences. I’m glad I decided to stay even when I thought I had made the biggest mistake. It turned out to be the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
P.S. Go read the article I posted at the top. It's really amazing.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I posted this on Facebook yesterday. It was written by a 21 who finished her service this past August. She gave avery eloquent, insightful, and pretty accurate picture of the situation(s) that led to the suspension of Peace Corps Kazakhstan.
KZ is an amazing country with powerful resources and an expressed desire for increased access to global exchange... in skills, knowledge and culture. I know that for the 19 years it existed, PC contributed greatly to these goals, however imperfectly, through the individual relationships built between volunteers and their communities. I am confident that without us, the amazing local people we have worked with will continue to instigate change where it is needed in their country. I'm not a PCV anymore, so I can say this unabashed to everyone I know in KZ: stand up for your voice, for gender equality, for fairness and rule of law, for freedom against bigotry, nationalism, discrimination, xenophobia, sexism, violence and corruption. Do not believe that the injustices you see are perpetually beyond your control. All around the world, including in the U.S. today, normal citizens are refusing the status quo and voicing the need for change, contributing to it in ways that seem small but are ultimately large. Become a peer educator, a tutor, a mentor, an advocate...become your own volunteer in your own community. I always believed that на самом деле change in Kazakhstan is coming from within, in a gradual and peaceful manner.
Thank you to every PCV who sought to share their curiosity, open-mindedness, democratic values and professional skills, and for every person in Kazakhstan who welcomed us and taught us so many things we would never have learned at home. >>>
I want to clarify this a little more and also tell you how I feel about all of this. I'll address this point by point. 1. Yes there have been several attacks or bombings in the country over the last 6 months. The government is reluctant to label these incidents as terrorism. They do not want to instill fear in the country that there is danger from an organized terrorist group. From the best of my understanding, it is not organized or even a group. All the incidents have been led by individuals, and I don't believe there is a clear and cohesive reason connecting all the incidents. The extent to which this affected the decision to remove all volunteers from Kazakhstan is unknown. We were made aware of all incidents immediately upon PC being notified of such incidents. They gave us as many details as possible and were always clear about the safety situation in the country. None of these incidents were directed at Peace Corps. 2. Yes Kazakhstan does currently rank number 1 among all Peace Corps countries for incidents of rape or sexual assault. Again, the extent to which this affected the decision to remove volunteers is unknown. I do not believe that Kazakhstan is an overly dangerous country. I have never truly felt threatened or unsafe. 90% percent of my experience has been positive, and the people here have ultimately expressed nothing but warmness, kindness, and hospitality. That being said, we did unfortunately have 4 (that I know of) incidents of rape/sexual assault within a 1-year period. While incidents do happen in every PC country, I think it is very rare to have this many incidents occur in such close proximity. PC handled these situations swiftly and alerted volunteers of any safety concerns and provided support for the volunteers affected. I want to reiterate that I do not think Kazakhstan is more dangerous than other countries. That has not been my experience, and I do not believe the majority of the population condones these actions. Unfortunately it is the reality of the world we live in. These things do happen, even in America. 3. A final point not mentioned specifically in the excerpt deals with the current political situation. Over the last several months, it became increasingly more difficult for volunteers to conduct their work. This did not directly affect me at my site. Again, I'm in the south and have experienced nothing but openness and encouragement from my community. However, several volunteers were directly affected. Many were prohibited from working for months at a time and ultimately they were moved earlier in the fall to new sites. A few months ago, we were also informed that the Youth Development program (me) was being discontinued because of concerns about volunteers working with youth who were not teachers. This was not a huge surprise for me, but sad nonetheless. The EDU volunteers who were scheduled to arrive in February were also postponed until our staff could reach an agreement with the ministry. I assume no such agreement was reached since the entire PC program is being disbanded. With that being said, I cannot definitively say why we are leaving. I believe it's a combination of all of these factors, and right now, Kazakhstan cannot meet the goals and expectations of Peace Corps. I do hope we will return in the future. I know many, many people who were touched by Peace Corps volunteers in a positive way. As with all relationships in life, there are ups and downs. Sometimes space is the best thing. Perhaps some time apart will be a blessing for both Peace Corps and Kazakhstan. This country is full of resources and people who are actively working towards the future of a better Kazakhstan. It really is an amazing country with an incredibly rich history and culture. Now on to my feelings about all of this. It's been 24 hours since I got a phone call alerting me that I needed to pack my belongings and prepare to depart site for the last time. I was initially in shock and paced my apartment for half an hour after I got off the phone. My mind was scrambling with all these thoughts, and my heart ran the gambit of emotions. I was sad, angry, excited, scared, nervous, and a million other things. I cried, freaked-out, cried some more for the next couple hours. Then I had to pull it together, put on a smile, and walk into English club like I'd done a hundred times before and pretend like nothing had changed. I was surprisingly composed, but in my mind, all I could think was "I won't see these people everyday after next week". Of course, I knew this day would come, but it was supposed to be 10 months from now, not a week. Honestly, I think sadness is the emotion that is the greatest right now. I'm sad to leave, sad to say good-bye, and sad to have it all taken away so abruptly. I wasn't done with my work, and I'm not ready to leave. I'm leaving a place that made a HUGE impact on my life and am going back to an America that is honestly pretty depressing. The economy and rampant joblessness is daunting. Through the roller coaster ride that is Peace Corps and my life over the last year, I found a home here and found my footing. Unfortunately, that is my reality and I can't do anything to change it. This is not the outcome I expected when I joined the Peace Corps. I fought for 2 years through the application process before I was finally accepted. It seems ridiculous that I spent more time in the process to get here than I actually spent as a Peace Corps volunteer. I made a commitment to 2 years, and I feel I honored my end of the bargain. I had a really rough time in the beginning and thought about leaving so many times. Ultimately, I chose to stick it out, believing that it would get better (it did). I made a commitment to Peace Corps, Kazakhstan, and myself that I decided I couldn't break. I kept my promise, but others didn't. It's more than a little disappointing that this is the way it is ending, but that is life. There are disappointments in life, and sometimes things don't work out the way you anticipated. I probably won't fully be able to articulate everything until I'm back in the States with time and distance between PC and myself. But for now, I'm just sad. The next week is going to be rough for us all as we say our good-bye prematurely and prepare to leave for the last time. I will say that I have no regrets. I'll find my way with time and move on to the next phase of my life. PC seems like an eternity when you're in it, but really it's just a small blip over the course of your life. Mine is an even smaller blip. But it will forever hold a huge place in my heart. The impact of this past year is greater than so many years combined. Its an experience I will take me with for the rest of my life, and despite the ending being sad, I will choose to look back on this experience with nothing but joy. 10 years from now, I won't remember my experience being cut short. I'll remember all those smiling faces in English club, all the scary dogs I ran from, avoiding the infamous manhole, seeing how excited people are to meet an American and hear you speak Kazakh (and getting free taxi rides for it), the countless gostis and endless cups of chai. With that I bid Kazakhstan farewell and hope we meet again somewhere down the road.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
*Side note for any potential Peace Corps volunteers: Bring a sleeping bag. It’s probably the best thing I brought. I’ve slept on the floor many times and that sleeping bag was awesome. And if you end up somewhere cold like me, it will be a lifesaver.
Enough gripping about the weather and miserableness that is the winter season. I am going to be in U.S. in exactly 1 month! Yay! It hasn’t really sunk it yet what that means. I’ve been away for too long and America seems like this distant, abstract memory. I remember my house and neighborhood and everything, but it just doesn’t quite feel real anymore. It probably won’t feel real until I’m actually there standing on American soil. I imagine I’ll be walking around in a daze for a few days trying to get my bearings again. For all you peeps I will see while I’m home, please be patient and excuse my social awkwardness. I will probably be freaked out a bit in American settings. So if I start eating with my hands or exhibit any other weird behaviors, just ignore me and know that I have been Kazakhfied.
In English Club this past Monday I was had a major success. Monday is song day, and I opted to play a country song and expose the kids to a whole new genre of music. Basically if it’s not to 40, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, or MJ, they don’t know it. And country has never reached Central Asia to my knowledge. I picked “American Honey” by Lady Antebellum. It’s more pop country and pretty slow, so I thought the kids would actually be able to understand the lyrics. I also love this song despite the cheese-factor. It reminds me of growing up in the south. It was a good opportunity to explain how regions and lifestyles vary in the U.S. and that most of America does not look like MTV. To my surprise, the song was a major hit. I mean major. They LOVED it. I must have played it about 7 times. They kept saying “one more time, one more time”. It was great to give them a little glimpse of what it was like for me to grow up in the south. I also tried to explain the word “Boondocks”. It’s the title of a song by Little Big Town and a true southern word. I failed pretty badly at trying to explain it. I think it’s just one of those southern things that only people from the south understand. I told them to ask Heather what boondocks means and see if she knows. My guess is no since she is from New Mexico. Most likely she has never heard that word before. I’ll have to do a little more research to try to get them to understand that one.
Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and it looks like it will be a Zhetisai only celebration this year. For various reasons, Thanksgiving in the city isn’t happening unless us village volunteers can manage to organize something in the city on our own. But, Thanksgiving in Zhetisai sounds pretty sweet to me. Heather’s mom and boyfriend will be here so it will almost be like an American Thanksgiving. I even saw a turkey at the supermarket yesterday. I’m still trying to stick to the vegetarian thing here, but I was convinced there was no turkey here and got really excited to see it in the supermarket. What says Thanksgiving more than a giant turkey right? That sucker was huge too. I swear it could feed 30 people. Well... maybe in America. Here maybe 5. Kazakh people can put away some serious amounts of food.
That’s all from me. Hope you all are well.
Love you all!
Peace Corps Kazakhstan
Youth Development Volunteer (2010-2012)
Friday, October 28, 2011
As with planning anything in Kazakhstan, it’s always up in the air until the actual event gets going. Of course, it never seems to go exactly as you had anticipated; nevertheless, things always manage to come together. It’s the mystery of Kazakhstan. Overall, it was a huge success. There were so many kids, a lot of whom I had never seen before.
It took awhile to get the mob under control. They got a hold of some face crayons (thanks to my former sitemates Tes and Katharine for that) and went nuts. After we finally managed to wrangle them together, we started the games.
First up was limbo. I expected a lot of the kids to be quite good at this because they have this dance (Kara Zholga) that all the kids know which requires a fair amount of flexibility at various points. There is one specific part in the dance where they do a backbend sort of move, and they literally look like they bend in half. Taking this into consideration it would follow that they should be quite good at limbo. Most of them were much better than I could ever be, and surprisingly the boy did much better than the girls. Heather took all of those photos so I’ll have to post those once I retrieve them from her.
Next was the mummy wrap. I’m fairly certain this is a very American thing so it shouldn’t require an explanation. I was fortunate (maybe unfortunate) enough to be one of the mummies. Each team had 3 minutes to wrap their mummy in toilet paper. My team won of course because we’re the best. I have plenty of photos of this. The kids thought I was particularly hilarious because they wrapped my face but left a small eye opening. Me being.... well me, I kept giving them weird looks through my one eyehole.
The final game was bobbing for apples. We played this game last year, and it was highly entertaining for the volunteers to watch. The kids were pretty good considering most of them had never played this game.
After all the games, I once again tried to wrangle the kids together for a group photo. You wouldn’t think this would be as difficult as it turned out to be because they LOVE, LOVE, LOVE taking photos. I finally managed to get them together, but then I ran into the problem of needing someone who could take a decent photo. I gave one of the younger kids the camera and that failed miserably. Everyone here has a camera on his or her phone; so using a digital camera is overwhelming sometimes. Then I found an older kid who managed to get it right after about 3 tries. He then came in for a close-up and about 50 kids piled in around me. It was slightly terrifying, but it turned out to be a cute picture.
Of course I’m going to drag Halloween out a little longer, especially considering Halloween Day is not until Monday. For Friday’s English Club we are going to watch the great classic that is Charlie Brown. I downloaded “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” from 1966 and English subtitles, so the kids can understand better. I don’t know if they’ve ever seen Charlie Brown, but he’s Charlie Brown, so of course they will love it right?! I am also making use of the pumpkin from the party. I have about 4 different recipes involving pumpkin: cookies, scones, pies, and muffins. Last year we cooked a pumpkin and made puree for pies. Guess what? Pumpkin makes a lot of puree so the remaining puree went towards cookies. This pumpkin is bigger so I will have a schmorgasborg of delicious, pumpkin, baked goods. Man I love the fall.
In other non-Halloween related news: Last weekend we took 5 kids to the city for a FLEX test. I mentioned in the previous blog it’s a program that would allow them the opportunity to study in America for one year. Anyway, 1 of the kids was too young and couldn’t take the test. The other 4 passed the first part of the exam and took the 2nd part the next day. I was blown away that all 4 qualified. Now we wait for the results to see who will move on to the 3rd and final phase. In 3 weeks they will call the students who passed the 2nd round to set up interview schedules for the 3rd round. I’m really hoping at least one of them makes it. It’s an opportunity that not many kids from this area of the country get especially from the more rural areas. Anyway, nothing to do now but wait. You can be sure that as soon I here any of them made it to the 3rd round, I’ll be posting it all over the place.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I am reconnected to the outside world. The lack of blogging this time was due to circumstances beyond my control and not just me being at this whole blog thing. The power-cord to my computer fizzled out sometime back in mid-September, leaving me computer-less for the better part of a month. I finally received a new cord, charged up the ole Macbook, and I'm back in business. The internet has even been working fairly well.
Some exciting things have happened since the last update. My regional manager came for a visit to check up on me and my site mate, Heather. As expected, it was very fast, with lots of things crammed into a roughly 4 hourish period, but overall it was a successful visit. I started making some materials, in English, for my org. The biggest barrier has, and will continue to be, language. It's hard enough trying to learn a new language trying to learn really technical language about health and how to plan projects is a whole different challenge. We came up with a pretty ingenious and simple compromise. Isn't it always the easiest solutions that are right in front of you that you seem to miss? Anyway, I can do trainings in English for older school students who hopefully will know enough English to get the big picture, but I've also been making a lot of visual things. To teach kids about nutrition, I made a big food pyramid and printed pictures of the food. Visuals are pretty self-explanatory and a lot more interesting. I found a cool smoking demonstration using a plastic bottle, some cotton, and a cigarette. Why it took a year to figure this out, I don't know, but it's right on target I suppose. Everyone says that you accomplish way more in the 2nd year because you spend the 1st year mostly figuring out what is happening. This is pretty accurate. I've definitely got a much better grasp of things these days.
Other new, exciting developments: Heather has moved into her own place! We've discussed all sorts of fun things like girls' nights and Thanksgiving festivities, and of course baking and cooking delicious foods.
In other news, 2 of our English club students are taking a FLEX test on Sunday. YIKES! We started working with them last spring when Tes and Katharine (former Z-sai volunteers and fellow bandits) were here. FLEX is a study abroad program for 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students in Central Asia. It's a 3-phase entry process. The first 2 phases are tests that gauge students' abilities in writing, grammar, and listening in English. If they pass this phase, they move to the 3rd phase, which are interviews. Students are then selected from this final group to study in an American high school for 1 year. Fingers crossed that they both pass the test and get into this program. If they do pass, they will go to America next August.
That's all the happenings for now. I will be visiting America in less than 2 months for Christmas and New Year. It's a little daunting but also exciting.
Hope you all are well.
Till next time…
PeaceCorps Kazakhstan (2010-2012)
Youth Development Volunteer
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
With a decade having passed since 9/11, I am still no better equipped to say what I think about the matter. Maybe because it doesn’t feel that close to me, at least not at the present. I’m a million miles away, living in a country that was not affected by 9/11. I’m not around all the memorials and tributes that are happening all over America or seeing image after image on the TV screen. My connection has only been through Facebook and all the status updates from friends back in America. Most of them were positive: support the troops and God Bless America, but I came across a photo of a burned cross in the center and a burned city in the distance. The caption was something like “All I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11”. That photo got to me more than I thought it would. I don’t want to get into a political or religious scuff and certainly people are entitled to their opinions. I also don’t want anyone to think I’m anti-American or any less proud to be from America, but I found that picture to be ignorant and distasteful and the reason why people from other countries have a negative view of our country and it’s people. I have been living in a Muslim country for over a year now, and it in no way resembles the images that are constantly bombarding the American news channels. I have never felt persecuted because I’m not a Muslim. In fact, the people here have been nothing but open and hospital to me wanting to share their culture and in tern learn about my life and experiences in America.
With that being said, one question kept floating in my head after I saw that photo: “Where is the Love?” Now before you think this sounds way cheesy, it’s actually the title of a song by the Black Eyed Peas that we did in English Club the day after 9/11. This song summed up what I was feeling when I couldn’t put them into words. It was definitely on my mind that day as I was reading post after post on FB and headlines on every news or blog site. I sat at work preparing for club that afternoon and kept watching the video over and over and over. I swear I must have watched it at least 5 times. There was a point where I almost lost it in my office, and I had to turn the video off and do something else for a while. I’m sure being the anniversary of 9/11 enhanced my emotions, but it’s not uncommon for that kind of feeling to swell when I watch videos or hear songs like that. I often find myself asking the same questions that the artists are asking in the video. A large part of why I joined the PC has to do with me truly believing in the importance and value of building relationships across all borders be they international, cultural, religious, political, racial, whatever. Too often we close ourselves off from those things that are different out of fear and create views about things based on other peoples opinions without having ever really experienced it for ourselves. Ignorance and intolerance breeds hate and that hate too many times manifests itself through violence. And this is how I view the events of 9/11. It was a horrific act carried out by a group of madmen fueled solely by their own hatred. Events like this have happened countless times throughout history and continue to happen today. I’m sure everyone has heard “you learn from your history or you are doomed to repeat it”. I wonder if we are just that dumb we haven’t learned it by now or if there are just too many people who don’t care to change it.
Anyway, I want to wrap this up before I really get on a soapbox. The point I want to get across is we could all exercise more patience, tolerance, and love to those around us. With that I am posting the lyrics to the song below and the video if you want to check it out.
"Where Is The Love?"
What's wrong with the world, mama
People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA fightin'
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y'all, y'all
People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love
The love, the love
It just ain't the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don't belong
Nations droppin' bombs
Chemical gasses fillin' lungs of little ones
With ongoin' sufferin' as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin' really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin' wrong
In this world that we livin' in people keep on givin' in
Makin' wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin' each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin' on but the reason's undercover
The truth is kept secret, it's swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where's the love, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the truth, y'all, come on (I don't know)
Where's the love, y'all
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I'm gettin' older, y'all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin'
Selfishness got us followin' our wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead of spreading love we're spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under
That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down
There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
Now ask yourself
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love?
Sing wit me y'all:
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That's all we got)
One world, one world
And something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something's wrong wit the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That's all we got
(One world, one world)