Sunday, February 13, 2011
Christmas break: Top, my parents with a snowman we all created at my house. Below, my boyfriend and I at Longwood Gardens in PA.
It's been two months since I walked off the MV Explorer in California, headed back to New Freedom, PA and ultimately, back to college in Ithaca, NY.
When I first arrived home, I felt extremely disconnected from things I once associated myself with and I still feel a sense of isolation, carrying my experience like a secret that I wish I could explain, but can't.
Saying "I traveled the world last semester" hasn't gotten as many questions as it has been my answer to why I don't know the progress of the new Ithaca College Athletics and Events Center on campus or the lyrics to "Whip My Hair" or the new restaurants downtown or why I've missed the deadlines to internship applications I should have completed.
Of course, a lot of people have been genuinely interested in the Semester at Sea program and my voyage last fall. Several people have asked me "What is your favorite place?" or "Was the program awesome?" or "Did you love it?" ... still, these questions have been difficult for me to answer. If I start talking about some of the raw realities I faced like the poverty, I feel like I'm letting people's expectations down. But, if I talk about the luxurious aspects of the voyage, I'm really not explaining the meaning behind the voyage. I've learned that the simpliest answers are usually the best in passing conversation. And, if people really want to know about the voyage, they'll sit down and talk with me about it. After all, it's hard to explain in a sentence.
Has the trip affected the way I live now? Yes and no. I'd like to think that I am often reminded of my trip through daily activities — like running the water to brush my teeth sometimes causes me to think of the townships in Africa that don't have anything close to this privilege. The trip has also given me a lot to think about in terms of how I should live my life, how to weigh what's really important and how to be thankful for the luxuries I frequently overlook.
Semester at Sea ignites a passion in students, like myself, to radically make a change, a difference in the world. But, when I moved back on campus, started going to classes, and got back into a schedule I've known for three years now, radically changing the world seemed and still seems like a bit of an unorganized dream.
The American bubble seems so far away from Ghana, South Africa, Vietnam, India and many of the cultures I encountered. I'm still searching for a genuine way to connect my life here to my goals last semester.
In a way, it's frustrating that I still haven't figured everything out — that I haven't solved world hunger, stopped the sex-trade or provided an education for all children worldwide. But, maybe it's not about understanding everything right now ... maybe it's just about keeping the conversation alive and staying dedicated to finding the answer one day soon.