Right now I am sailing on the MV Explorer on my way from Ghana to Morocco, I have spent this semester circumnavigating the globe on the Semester at Sea, Spring 2013 voyage, thanks to the generous support of Foster Care to Success. In the last four months I have had the opportunity to spend time in many ports such as Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa and Ghana. I have had the chance to camp on the Great Wall of China, see the Taj Mahal, the Ganges River, and Ha long Bay, go on safari and do several homestays among many other things. While on the ship I take comparative global classes to give more purpose to all of these adventures, these classes include Education, Nutrition, Psychology and Drawing. I have also had the opportunity to visit and do service at 4 different orphanages, including an independent 5 day homestay/service trip at an orphanage in Ghana. I have met amazing people this semester including locals within countries, faculty, friends and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who sailed with us for the first 3 months of the voyage and has since been in contact with me via email.
While reflecting on the last four months there are a few specific moments that I feel have had huge impacts me as a person, most of which are too complicated to explain but there is one story that I will share with you, which is from about two weeks ago while I was in Cape Town. I spent my first 3 days in South Africa on safari on the Garden Route and then the two days before this incident doing a homestay in a township. It was my last day in Cape Town and I was on Long Street with a group of friends, Long Street is known for being an upscale touristy area, but also home to a lot of homeless people and a place for people from the townships to come and beg for money. All week I had been hearing my friends complain about “all the poor people who would rather beg than work for money” and at this time one of them was talking about that issue. A minute later a very very skinny lady approached us and said she was hungry- it would be impossible for any of them to deny that she was, she was wearing clothes that were falling apart, she was dirty and most likely under 90 pounds. We could also see her two children around the corner watching her ask us for money. My friends lied to her saying that they had no money, which was clearly not true as she could tell from the fact that we were all decked out with Nike, Northface and Abercrombie clothes. After telling her she had no money one of the girls turned to me and said loud enough that the lady could hear that she would never encourage a beggar by giving them anything.
I asked the lady to follow me and led her to the grocery store across the street, I gave the cashier some money equal to about $25 USD and told him to let the lady buy her family whatever food she wanted from the store and to give her the change, I told her to get whatever she needed, said god bless and have a nice day and then left not telling her how much I had given her because I didn’t want a thank you or to make her feel awkward. When I walked out of the store my friends commented that I wasn’t strong willed enough to tell her no. At lunch I decided to explain to them that I myself had spent time in foster care and wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for handouts and support from strangers, including scholarships that made it possible for me to do Semester at Sea. An hour later when another man asked us for money they all gave him some change. It blew my mind a little that these wealthy college students were so hesitant to help somebody because they didn’t feel like a person should be given money without earning it, when they themselves have never worked for anything and are supported entirely by their rich parents. This is what it’s all about- learning to break down previous judgments from experiences and the people around us, learning to be grateful for the lives we were born into and trying figuring out how we can improve the lives of the people around us who may or may not be less fortunate in that moment.
In one week I will disembark my new home for the last time in Spain and start on my journey home to San Francisco, which will include two days in Spain, two days in Ireland, 2 days in Scotland and 4 days in New York. I am honestly starting to get a little nervous about returning to the US as I have spent most of this semester in third world countries and haven’t seen a grocery store since New Years, I think after having culture shock 12 times in four months returning to the US might well be the hardest transition. I have had more incredible experiences and seen more of this planet in one semester than I could have hoped for my entire lifetime. Thank you to Foster Care to Success for making this semester possible, it has truly changed my life and I am so grateful for your continued support of my education.